Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"Why We OccUUpy" (text of my Message/Sermon from the 11/27/11 Social Justice Committee Led Worship Service of the same name)

So.  What does Occupy stand for?  What are their demands?  What are they trying to accomplish?  That seems to be all you hear the media say about the Occupy movement and it kind of makes you wonder if the media has been collectively living under a rock.  The signs at the protests are clear as day.  The declarations adopted by the General Assemblies of many of the Occupy encampments are very explicit.  Wall Street, with help from Washington politicians they’ve paid good money for, are hijacking our economy and our country and taking it on a hundred and thirty mile-per-hour joyride with all of us riding unwillingly in the passenger seat.

This is why we Occupy!

This is a chart posted on a website called Mother Jones.  The title of the chart is “The Final Four Financial Institutions.”  As you can see, up until about 1996 there were dozens of financial institutions.  Then that list begins to shrink.  Citigroup swallows up all those beige ones at the top.  In that blue area, Washington Mutual and JP Morgan start swallowing up a whole bunch of banks and then JP Morgan Chase consumes Washington Mutual.  My mom knows all about this part at the bottom.  She worked at First Union when they were absorbed by Wachovia and then lost her job right before Wells Fargo took over Wachovia.  Then there’s this BIG grey area where the bank formerly known as BankAmerica devoured 12 other institutions to become the gargantuan Bank of America they are today.

This is why we Occupy!


This chart represents the average economic growth of the different classes over two distinctly different periods of time.  The five yellow bars on the right represent economic growth among the different classes from 1947-1979.  From left to right, that’s the bottom 20%, second 20%, middle 20%, fourth 20%, and the top 20%.  Notice how everyone grew together until 1979.  Then, something happens on the right side of the graph.  1980 rolls around and a guy named Ronald Reagan is elected.  Now look at the distribution of economic growth.  Those first five green bars are the same as the yellow bars going from the bottom 20% to the top 20%.  That big red crazy bar at the very end?  That’s the top 1%.

This is why we Occupy!

https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/315844_10100192652559708_18703830_46676797_435910620_n.jpgThis is Lincoln Statler from the UU congregation in Tuscon.  I met him at the UU General Assembly this year in Charlotte.  General Assembly, for those who don’t know, is the Unitarian Universalist Association’s yearly meeting of all the congregations around the world to connect, attend workshops, share ideas, worship together, and ultimately, vote on important decisions that relate to the Unitarian Universalist Association.  One of my favorite memories of my GA experience this year was sitting at a pizza place across from the convention center with Lincoln and several other fellow UU young adults and conversing over a few beers.

When Lincoln first heard about the protesters occupying Wall Street, he immediately posted on facebook trying to get people to carpool with him to New York so he could be part of this magnificent uprising for which so many of us had been waiting so long.  He was far from the only UU to be moved by the Occupy movement.  UUs from all over the country and, indeed, all over the world have been flocking to support the occupiers in their respective cities.  Many UU ministers have even been spending time at some of the occupation sites, providing pastoral care and even some holding interfaith vespers services.  

But I was never more proud of the leaders of my faith than I was when they publicly came out in support of the Occupy movement.  First, the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee released a statement in support of the movement with the headline: “Occupy Wall Street Is Economic Justice.”  Then they began circulating a petition urging UUs around the globe to join them in supporting the movement.  And finally, Peter Morales, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association, released a statement articulating his support for Occupy.  Here’s some of what he had to say:

"Unitarian Universalism embodies a long tradition of working for economic justice and workers' rights. Today is another opportunity for us to live our faith, and the Occupy protests are a first step on the road to repairing our country.

"I reach out to Unitarian Universalists everywhere to consider how you might be of service to any among us who are struggling to provide for their families, those who have been cheated and abused by financial institutions, and all those whose backs ache under a burden of debt, unemployment, and fading hope. Let the world see the power of our faith in action.”

This congregation’s Social Justice Committee has taken this charge seriously.  Two months ago, we agreed to make economic justice the focus of our work for the current church year and we will be specifically focusing on three pillars to support the goal of economic justice: workers’ rights, immigrant justice, and education.  As part of that agenda, we’ve actually been collecting donations of needed items for the Occupy Miami camp (also known as “Peace City”) and several of our members, myself included, have been very directly involved with the movement in a variety of ways.

However, when I speak of the parallels between Occupy and Unitarian Universalism, the conversation doesn’t start and end with social justice.  Occupy is, as much as anything else, a movement of compassion.  We are tired of an economy that treats many of us as second class citizens.  We are tired of seeing people go hungry and homeless in one of the richest nations in the world.  We are tired of a world where people don’t care for one another and have no sense of community.  Beloved community, too, is as much at the heart of Occupy as it is at the heart of Unitarian Universalism.

One of our faith’s most cherished documents is what we call our “Seven Principles.”  You can find them on the back of your Order of Service followed by the six sources of faith.  The second principle speaks of “justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.”  That’s certainly as much a founding principle of Occupy as Unitarian Universalism.  The seventh principle speaks of “respect for the interconnected web of existence of which we all are a part.”  Living together as one human race.  Recognizing that we ARE all one.  Living together in beloved community and taking care of everyone because we can and because they are all truly our siblings.  Our sixth principle speaks to “the goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all.”  It’s nice when something comes along to remind you what that looks like and if you pay attention, the Occupy movement will do just that.

Finally, our first principle invokes “the inherent worth and dignity of every person.”  What more fundamental principle could there be?  What is Occupy fighting for if not that?  Every person has value; middle class and lower class workers and immigrants and the unemployed deserve the same rights as millionaires and billionaires and until that is what they receive, we will continue to Occupy.  As they say, none of us is free if one of us is chained.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Occupy movement is that it is a movement driven by young people.  Certainly there are people of all ages, but there is definitely a distinctly youthful energy driving these protests that marks one more step in my generation’s journey toward our ultimate seizure of power from the old guard.  It’s the same energy I felt emanating out of the UU Young Adults at this year’s General Assembly and which I took home with me and have been doing my best to infect the congregation with ever since.  It’s the same energy I hope will propel even more of us to attend next year’s special Justice General Assembly in Phoenix in order to put our faith into action and truly Stand On the Side of Love.

Standing On the Side of Love--while we’re on the subject--is the Unitarian Universalist Association’s most successful social justice campaign and the ultimate embodiment of our first principle in action.  They advocate for immigrant justice, workers’ rights, LGBTQ rights, and so much more.  If you want to find out more about them, the website is on my shirt!

Now, it’s no secret that Occupy does not support ANY politicians, Democrat or Republican, however I hope they can forgive me for invoking these words spoken by President Barack Obama: “We are the ones we have been waiting for.”  There is no greater truth embedded in the very fabric of the Occupy movement than this.  “We ARE the ones we have been waiting for.”  And now we don’t have to wait any longer.

The world is changing.  We ARE unstoppable.  Another world IS possible.  A world where we all live in beloved community.  A world where we respect the interdependent web of existence by loving and caring for each other.  A world where we’re in this together, where labor has as much value as entrepreneurship, and where everybody has enough and nobody goes without.  Why do we Occupy?  Because we know--not believe, know--that this world is possible.  

I’ll leave you with the poignant words of author Kate Danley:

“What They did not want you to ever find out is that your generation, the generation born between 1980-1995, actually outnumbers the Baby Boomers. They knew that if you ever turned your eye towards political reform, you could change the world.

They tried to keep you sated on vapid television shows and vapid music.They cut off your education and fed you brain candy. They took away your music and gave you Top Ten pop stations. They cut off your art and replaced it with endless reality shows for you to plug into, hoping you would sit quietly by as They ran the world. I think They thought you were too dumb to notice.

Indeed, I thought They had won.

But I watched you occupy the capital of Wisconsin. I see you today as you occupy Wall Street. And I see a spark, a glimmer of the glorious new age that is yours. A changing of the guard, a guard that has stood for entirely too long and needs your young legs to take his place.

I watch you turn away from what is easy and stand up for what is right. I see you understand we as a society are only as strong as our weakest link. I see you wise beyond your years. And I am proud. Give ‘em hell, kids. You are beautiful.”

Amen and blessed be.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Mix CD: Music of the 99%

1. Darkest Hour - The Sadist Nation
2. Crestfallen - Nine to Five RSVP
3. Every Time I Die - Enter Without Knocking and Notifying the Police
4. Every Time I Die - The Logic of Crocodiles
5. Refused - Protest Song '68
6. Leftover Crack - Gang Control
7. Thrice - Cold Cash and Colder Hearts
8. Thursday - For the Workforce, Drowning
9. Rage Against the machine - The Ghost of Tom Joad (Bruce Springsteen cover)
10. Fear Factory - Securitron (Police State 2000)
11. Propagandhi - Purina Hall of Fame
12. Against Me! - What We Worked For
13. Bruce Springsteen - We Shall Overcome
14. The Beatles - Revolution 1
15. On the Strings Of - Brick By Brick
16. This Is My Fist! - Voice from Occupationland
17. Aus Rotten - Welfare Recipients
18. Refused - Deadly Rhythm
19. The Assistant - 93,800 Hours

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Boner Jamz '11

1. Baroness - Ogeechee Hymnal
2. Baroness - A Horse Called Golgotha
3. Envy - A Far-Off Reason
4. Elliott - Voices
5. Elliott - Calm Americans
6. Far - Bury White
7. Deftones - Around the Fur
8. Sevendust - Grasp
9. Alice In Chains - Would?
10. Stone Temple Pilots - Down
11. Queens of the Stone Age - Song for the Dead
12. Radiohead - Myxomatosis
13. Adele - Rumour Has It
14. Kanye West - Slow Jamz
15. (hed) PE - Bartender
16. Jimi Hendrix - Red House (Live from Woodstock)
17. Led Zeppelin - Black Dog
18. A Perfect Circle - The Package
19. Nine Inch Nails - Somewhat Damaged

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Hobbitcore's College Football Corner -- Week 3 & 4

OK well I procrastinated and missed my deadline on last week's picks so here's what I'm gonna do: I'm gonna go through and, as honestly as possible, I'm going to talk about what teams I would have picked last week (believe me, I can already see quite a few I'd have picked wrong and I'm gonna own up to that).  Then I'll do the rest of the column like I normally would.

Two Weeks Ago
Highlights: Absolutely NAILED wins by FIU, Texas, Arizona State, and Michigan.  Also 2-0-1 on the spreads (USC/Utah was a push)
Lowlights: Pretty much the only lowlight was the upset pick.  Guess I overestimated Jordan Wynn and the Utah offense.
The Rest: Thought Alabama and South Carolina would win more comfortably than they did.

No. 3 LSU at No. 25 Mississippi State -- ESPN -- Thursday, September 15th, 8:00pm

Definitely would have picked LSU in this one (as evidenced by the fact that I have them #1 in my Top 25)

No. 21 Auburn at Clemson -- ABC -- 12:00pm

I really thought Auburn was going to continue improving and take this one.

No. 15 Michigan State at Notre Dame -- NBC -- 3:30pm

No doubt I would have taken Michigan State in this one.  I fucking hate when Lou Holtz picks them as the underdog and they win.

Tennessee at No. 16 Florida -- CBS -- 3:30pm

I would have wanted to pick Tennessee here but I don't think I would have been able to...although I would have thought it would be closer than it was...


No. 17 Ohio State at Miami (FL) -- ESPN -- 7:30pm

I really did have this as my UOTW before the game was played.  Not hard to imagine considering what a UM homer I am.


No. 1 Oklahoma at No. 5 Florida State -- ABC -- 8:00pm

No way FSU was winning this one.  I could barely put them in the top ten of my Top 25 before this game was even played.  Although it would be interesting to see this game play out with E.J. Manuel playing all of it.

Last Week
Highlights: The only real highlight for this week would have been nailing another upset pick.
Lowlights: overestimating Auburn and Michigan State

Current Record
Last week: 4-2
Overall: 18-7
Upset of the Week: 2-1


-For me, the story of the week was the Georgia Tech offense.  The Jackets rushed for 604 yards and 7 touchdowns on 50 carries--an NCAA-record 12.1 yards per carry.  Their top 3 rushers?  5 carries, 157 yards.  5 carries, 110 yards.  4 carries, 72 yards.  These three guys rushed for 339 yards on 14 carries.  That's over 24 yards per carry.  I just...I don't know what else to say about this...

-I went to another FIU game.  This one against UCF and much more competitive than the last one.  Also a much bigger turnout (over 20,000 in the stands) this time with UCF filling their section and almost contributing to a sellout.  FIU proved they can win with defense with T.Y. Hilton sidelined most of the game.  If T.Y. gets healthy again soon, this team has a real chance at a special season.  They've even started garnering Top 25 votes after the UCF win.

-Will the real Notre Dame please stand up?  I don't know if Brian Kelly should be encouraged by a huge win over a top 15 team or panicked about his team's incredible inconsistency.  The QB guru has been getting pretty inconsistent play out of both Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees although it might be a bit much to expect him to turn Notre Dame into Cincinnati in just a year (I know, I had to read that sentence again too). If Notre Dame is going to have to rely on their defense to win games all year, they're gonna have a real hard time just staying above .500 but if Rees can cut out the mistakes, they could win 8 or 9 games.

-How bout them Canes?  Actually, how bout Lamar Miller?  At least I think that's his name because I've never really been able to read the back of his jersey quick enough.  303 yards in two games on just 44 carries (that's nearly 7 yards per carry)--and this is against Maryland and Ohio State, not FAU and UAB.  This guy could make a serious run as a dark horse candidate for Heisman.  He's got games against Kansas State and Bethune Cookman to pad some stats before a tough trip to Blacksburg.

North Carolina at No. 25 Georgia Tech -- ESPN -- 12:00pm

This should be an interesting battle for positioning in the ACC Coastal division.  We're not really sure who either of these teams are yet but we'll find out today.  North Carolina better hope they're ready for a Georgia Tech offense fresh off of setting an NCAA record for team rushing yards per carry (12.1) against Kansas--a BCS team.  I don't know if they'll be ready for this attack.  Maybe if they had a couple extra days to prepare but not today.

Hobbitcore sez: Georgia Tech

No. 14 Arkansas at No. 3 Alabama -- CBS -- 3:30pm

I really think Alabama is getting picked off sometime this season, maybe even twice.  I really like Arkansas's offense under Bobby Petrino but they're gonna be running into a buzzsaw in Alabama's NFL caliber defense and Bama's offense will shred a mediocre Arkansas defense.

Hobbitcore sez: Alabama

No. 2 LSU at No. 16 West Virginia -- ABC -- 8:00pm

This should be an interesting matchup as West Virginia's dynamic offense slams headfirst into another NFL caliber defense.  Oregon had a hell of a time running the ball on the Tigers but they got a few good chunks through the air so I don't think LSU will blow the Mountaineers away but they should still win by more than a score in the end.

Hobbitcore sez: LSU


No. 11 Florida State at No. 21 Clemson -- ESPN -- 3:30pm

OK, this is a grey area.  The opening line was FSU by 3 and now it's at Clemson -2.5 so it's a little sketchy. However, FSU is ranked ahead of Clemson in all polls INCLUDING the Vegas Insider Top 25 so I'm going to go ahead and count this as an upset.  Clemson has historically not been able to handle success but this is different.  They have never and will never have a problem getting up for beating FSU at home and that's exactly what they'll do.

The Upset Hobbit sez: Clemson


No. 7 Oklahoma State at No. 8 Texas A&M -- ABC/ESPN2 -- 3:30pm

It is seriously INSANE how many phenomenal games are going to be going on at 3:30 but this one is the one you should watch if you only watch one.  Two very exciting Big 12 offenses and two very hard hitting defenses.  They may not be the two sexiest names on the marquee today but if you like ESPN Top 10 plays, watch this game.  I like A&M for their defense in this one but it should be a shootout.

Keys to the Game
Oklahoma State:
-Protect Brandon Weeden!
-Find creative ways to get the ball in Justin Blackmon's hands (especially quickly against the blitz)
-Keep Ryan Tannehill in the pocket (keep a spy on him...someone big enough to tackle him)
Texas A&M:
-Don't take unnecessary chances on defense
-Unleash Tannehill (move the pocket and loosen the middle with designed runs)
-Get pressure on Weeden

Hobbitpick: Texas A&M 34, Oklahoma State 32

Out-of-Whack Spreads
-Georgia (-10) over Ole Miss
-Oregon (-15) over Arizona
-Portland State over TCU (-45)

My Heisman Ballot (if the season ended today)
1. Russell Wilson
2. Denard Robinson
3. Robert Griffin III

BCS Predictions
ACC: Florida State over Virginia Tech
Big East: South Florida
Big 10: Wisconsin over Nebraska
Big 12: Oklahoma
Pac 12: Stanford over Utah (although USC will win the division, they'll be ineligible for the title game)
SEC: Alabama over South Carolina

BCS Championship: Oklahoma over Wisconsin
Fiesta: LSU over Texas A&M
Sugar: Alabama over Boise State
Orange: Florida State over South Florida
Rose: Nebraska over Oregon

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The YA-YAs Go GA-GA (text of my "sermon" from the July 24th Young Adult Service/GA Wrap-Up at the UU Congregation of Miami)

“When we move, it’s a movement.”  Those are the words of a guy named Will Killingsworth from a band called Orchid and of no group are these words truer than of young adults.  Whether the young adults of this congregation, of this faith, of this country, and of this planet--whether they like it or not, every move we make is a movement because we are the ones who are next in line to lead.  I really wish so badly that you all could have been with me in Charlotte to see the irrepressible energy, the innovative ideas, and the incredible sense of focus, purpose, and overwhelming forward momentum oozing out of the UU Young Adults.  You guys would have seriously fallen out of your chairs.  I was overcome by a tsunami of optimism and hope for the future of not just that faith but of our country and our world.  These kids are already leaders, now, today, and they’re going to take us places, ladies and gentlemen.  You can either be along for the ride or get left behind.  

Right now, we’re getting left behind.  We talk so much about wanting to bring in young adults but we haven’t been asking ourselves the right questions about how to make that happen...mostly because most of us don’t really know what those questions are.  Questions like:  How are young adults being mentored into leadership?  Are young adults asked to serve on the basis of their individual gifts and strengths, and not just their age?  Are young adults involved in all issues, and not just those affecting young adults directly?  Do we offer a variety of worship styles and options (such as Soulful Sundowns)?  Do we ask young adults in the congregation what they need, recognizing that “young adult” is a wide age-range with a variety of pastoral needs?  
It’s not enough for young adults to hear about us.  It’s not enough for them to come to us.  It’s not enough for them to like us.  They must feel included.  They must feel wanted.  Most importantly, they must feel they are being ministered to.  They want to be asked to be involved.  They need to know that their money, their time, their energy, their input, no matter how little it may be, is highly important and highly valued.  An important part of this is not only having adult leaders that work with Young Adults on their ministry but also growing and developing Young Adult leaders in the congregation.  


Acts of love.  Remember those?  Acts of love are why we’re here.  Our faith cries: “Deeds, not creeds!”  This is the very essence of our social justice work.  A point was raised at GA that young adults are, in fact, interested in social justice...but what they’re more interested in is social service.  

Standing On the Side of Love, for instance, is easily the UUA’s most effective social justice campaign right now.  Standing on the Side of Love (SSL) for those who don’t know is an interfaith public advocacy campaign, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association, promoting respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  They do a tremendous amount of work advocating for LGBTQ rights as well as Anti-Racism / Anti-Oppression / Multiculturalism and yet it’s something I barely ever hear anybody talk about here, in Miami, one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world.  I attended a Standing On the Side of Love rally in Marshall Park in Charlotte and it was easily one of the highlights of GA for me personally.

I also happened to pick up a flier for something called the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office.  “What is this all about?” I wondered to myself.  This organization apparently has an actual presence at the United Nations and UUs can apply to be envoys (which is kind of a fancy way of saying representatives) for their congregations in UU-UNO, which I have already begun the process of doing.  

So, you see?  Social service inspires social justice.  

And actually if you’re smart about it, social justice can, in fact, inspire many other vibrant growth opportunities, including campus ministry.

Now, maybe the most important reason why I personally came to the UU was in order to find allies both spiritual and secular in the battles over some of the crucial issues facing our country and our world today.  As such, I feel strongly that there are so many other young adults out there looking for the exact same thing.  However, I also feel just as strongly that there are many more young adults looking for something entirely different than that...but something which this community can provide equally well.  Because if there’s one thing I’ve noticed about UUs, it’s that everyone came here for a different reason, everyone gets something different out of it and one of our biggest problems is our ability--and, frankly, at times, our willingness--to minister to ALL of these groups, rather than merely the ones who make up the majority or even just the ones who make the most noise.

But my point is that we need to do outreach in a variety of ways and highlight a variety of different aspects of who we are  Which brings me to Campus Ministry.  I know this is an important issue in this congregation and one that is certainly very important to me as a 26-year-old college student, so I made sure to make Campus Ministry a special focus of my time at General Assembly.  

One important point of emphasis was that it has to be done on a personal level--that it can’t just be a booth in the student union or fliers on a bulletin board.  Personal relationships are extremely important for everyone, really, but especially for young people.  Often times young people only come to church to see someone they know and if that person isn’t there, they won’t be there either so it’s definitely always important to engage young adults on a personal level.  It’s also important in campus ministry to start with those who self-identify as UU.  There was also a lot of talk about sponsoring events on campus that are not directly UU related such as movie nights or open mics or really anything in between.  Another thing we talked about was forming campus groups around social issues or if some already exist, maybe sponsoring their meetings.  And, of course, the most important thing you must do in campus ministry: SERVE FOOD.  Preferably free food.  College students will go ANYWHERE if there’s free food.

One overwhelming feeling I came away from GA with was the feeling that this congregation is not nearly as connected to the UUA as we could be.  You’d be amazed at the amount of resources and inspiration you can find just by browsing the UUA website.  Often times I find myself bookmarking five, six, seven things at a time sometimes.  One exciting program I found out about that I’d really love to see us begin working on is to become what’s called an “Anchor Congregation.”  The Anchor Congregation Program, according to the UUA: “recognizes congregations that have made a significant commitment to young adult and/or campus ministry.”  Notice the word “commitment” in there?  That’s what it’s going to take.  It’s going to take commitment from you as well as from us.  It’s going to take participation.  You know I love to bring up that word, “participation.”  Participation is everything, my friends.

Gini Courter made an excellent point in her Moderator’s Report relating to the participatory nature of Unitarian Universalism. Gini, for those who don’t know, is the most excellent moderator of the Plenary sessions (where all the business gets done during General Assembly) as well as the Chair of the Board of Trustees.  What she said was this.  She said: “The vision for our religion comes from the people.”  She went on: “The purpose of the elected leadership...is...to facilitate the ministry of the laity.  TO EMPOWER AND EQUIP LAY FOLKS LIKE YOU, LIKE ME, TO BUILD MARVELOUS NEW TOMORROWS AND TO MAKE REAL THEIR ASPIRATIONS.  IT IS THE VOICE OF THE LAITY, YOUR VOICE...THAT CREATES AND DIRECTS UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISM.”  I don’t think I’d ever said “Amen!” to anything in my life before I heard that.

Which brings me back around to Justice GA.

For those who don’t know, next year’s Justice General Assembly in Phoenix is going to be unlike any General Assembly ever held.  The idea is to minimize the amount of “business as usual” at this GA in order to focus on doing work on the ground, in the surrounding communities.  There is going to be a huge, HUGE focus on Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression/Multiculturalism  work (or AR/AO/MC) which presents a wonderful opportunity for our congregation to do the multiculturalism work we so desperately want to do and have made such a serious commitment to doing.  In fact, I have already submitted a request to the Board to create a “Justice GA fund” so I can begin fundraising as soon as possible to send as many delegates from this congregation to Phoenix in 2012 as we possibly can--and of course, that fund will be accepting any and all donations as soon as it’s established.  I urge as many of you as are willing and able to help me with this.  Again I say to you: participation is everything.

You know, a lot of people come up here talking about a lot of beautiful emotions and wonderful ideas and it’s very spiritually fulfilling, don’t get me wrong, but what do you take outside with you?  Personally, that’s just not my style.  I have a vision for this congregation.  I have a vision for Unitarian Universalism.  I have a vision for this city, this state, this country, and this world.  Help me make real my aspirations and I’ll help you do the same.  Help me build marvelous new tomorrows and I’ll help you do the same.  Help me build a vibrant, viable, sustainable, active, and, dare I say, influential young adult group in this congregation and I promise you I and the rest of the YAs will help you do the same.  Thank You.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Top Twenty FiveS (plural)


1. LSU
This is the only team that's proven anything as far as I'm concerned.  They utterly flushed a top 5 team in Week 1 and that's good enough for me at this stage of the season.
2. Alabama
Another impressive win over Penn State puts them on top of Oklahoma for at least this week (Oklahoma faces FSU next).
3. Oklahoma
Possibly the most talented team in the country but so far untested.
4. Boise State
In spite of the fact that Georgia lost, Boise's dismantling of them in Week 1 looks mighty impressive right now.
5. Wisconsin
Russell Wilson has been looking great for the Badgers.  It's pretty obvious this is the best team in the Big Ten right now.
6. Texas A&M
This is going to be a really tough team to get by in the Big 12 this year with a senior at QB and a monster defense.
7. Oklahoma State
With Brandon Weedon and Justin Blackmon back, this is going to be one of the most potent offenses in the nation.
8. Stanford
With Andrew Luck, anything is possible.
9. Nebraska
Can't wait to see how they stack up with the rest of the Big Ten.  Back-to-back battles with Wisconsin and Ohio State are going to be very interesting.
10. Florida State
I'm still not really 100% sold on this team with E.J. Manuel under center.  But then, who's going to beat them in the ACC other than Virginia Tech?

11. Virginia Tech
12. West Virginia
13. South Carolina
14. Arkansas
15. Oregon
16. Baylor
17. South Florida
18. Michigan State
19. Florida
20. Ohio State
21. Texas
22. Auburn
23. Arizona State
24. Michigan
25. FIU

AP Top 25

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama (+1)
3. LSU (-1)
4. Boise State
5. Florida State
6. Stanford
7. Wisconsin (+1)
8. Oklahoma State (+1)
9. Texas A&M (-2)
10. Nebraska
11. South Carolina (+1)
12. Oregon (+1)
13. Virginia Tech (-2)
14. Arkansas
15. Michigan State (+2)
16. Florida (+2)
17. Ohio State (-2)
18. West Virginia (+1)
19. Baylor (+1)
20. South Florida (+2)
21. Auburn (+6)
22. Arizona State (+4)
23. TCU (+2)
24. Texas
25. Mississippi State (-9)

Biggest Winners:
-Alabama - another win against a mediocre Penn State team and they're back out in front of LSU
-Wisconsin & Oklahoma State - both took advantage of Texas A&M's bye week by looking impressive against inferior teams
-South Carolina & Oregon - Virginia Tech's unimpressive win over (a very underrated) East Carolina let the door open for SC and Oregon to jump the Hokies (in spite of the fact that SC looked equally unimpressive against a now-0-and-2 Georgia team).
-Michigan State, Florida, and South Florida - an unimpressive win by the Buckeyes over Toledo and MSU's loss to Auburn bumped the Spartans, Gators, and Bulls up two spots each as they all cruised to easy victories.
-Auburn - proved that Utah State was tougher than you think with an impressive win over Mississippi State
-Arizona State - great win over Missouri (although I thought Mizzou was overrated all along)
-TCU - somehow leapfrogged Texas with a win over Air Force
-Georgia - that the Bulldogs are actually still receiving votes from both polls is a testament to how tough the schedule has been...they'll still get 8 or 9 wins and play in a decent bowl
Biggest Losers:
-LSU - the only team that has beaten a top 5 opponent and they get jumped by Bama
-Texas A&M - watched from home as Wisconsin and Oklahoma State passed them by
-Virginia Tech & Ohio State - struggles putting away inferior opponents left the Hokies and Buckeyes open to two teams apiece passing them by
-Texas - has won their first two games and yet were passed over by a 1-1 TCU team in the big slide due to MSU's loss

USA Today Top 25

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. LSU
4. Boise State (+1)
5. Florida State (-1)
6. Stanford
7. Oklahoma State
8. Wisconsin (+1)
9. Texas A&M (-1)
10. Nebraska
11. South Carolina (+1)
12. Virginia Tech (-1)
13. Arkansas
14. Oregon
15. Michigan State (+1)
16. Ohio State (-1)
17. Florida (+1)
18. Arizona State (+5)
19. Auburn (+3)
20. West Virginia (+4)
21. Texas
22. South Florida (+5)
23. TCU (+2)
24. Baylor (+2)
25. Mississippi State (-8)

Biggest Winners:
-Boise State - apparently the coaches are sold on the Broncos after seeing the Bulldogs go toe-to-toe with the Gamecocks
-Wisconsin - jumping the Aggies on their bye week
-South Carolina & Michigan State - jumping a spot after lackluster wins by the Hokies and Buckeyes
-Arizona State, Auburn, West Virginia, and South Florida - big jumps for all four
Biggest Losers:
-Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, and Ohio State - all dropped a spot without losing a game
-Texas - jumped over by Arizona State, Auburn, and West Virginia despite a win

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hobbitcore's College Football Corner -- Week 2

Last Week
Highlights: Great start to the year on the Upset of the Week pick. Also I totally called Auburn and USC struggling mightily against seemingly inferior opponents as well as BYU winning a defensive battle with Ole Miss.
Lowlights: Massively overestimated Georgia and underestimated LSU as well as the impact of Miami's suspensions (more on that in just a bit). I also don't know why I thought I should take a crack at picking Colorado/Hawaii. Maybe I should exercise some veto power over my plan to pick every game that's on basic cable.
The Rest: Picked Michigan and Ohio State to obliterate Western Michigan and Akron. Big whoop. Overestimated Tulsa's competitiveness against Oklahoma (Sooners even covered the spread, totally screwing over anyone who made a parlay with my "Out-of-Whack Spreads"). West Virginia beat Marshall a bit more comfortably than I expected as well.

Current Record
Overall: 8-4
Upsets: 1-0
Spreads: 2-1


-First of all, if there was any doubt how much the Canes missed those eight suspended starters, I can only assume it's been put to rest. Stephen Morris, despite a stellar performance that will likely get lost in his unimpressive numbers, sorely missed Travis Benjamin's blazing speed and Aldarius Johnson's height and length, especially on a few slight overthrows that were very nearly touchdowns (although it bears mentioning that the young, inexperienced fill-ins on the UM receiving corps did a tremendous job, especially Allen Hurns). The defensive line missed Marcus Forston's and Adewale Ojomo's massive bodies and strong push up the middle as well as Olivier Vernon's speed off the edge in the pass rush (and Allen Bailey's for that matter). But what they missed the most was Sean Spence's monstrous presence in the heart of that defense, especially in pass coverage over the middle--as well as the absence of Ray Ray Armstrong over the top. Danny O'Brien continually found chunk after chunk of yardage between the hash marks that normally would be negated by Spence's and Armstrong's keen instincts. Of course, it could have been a lot worse for the Canes. They battled through extremely difficult odds and displayed incredible mental toughness for such young guys in a hostile environment--the future is bright indeed for the Golden Canes, sanctions or no sanctions. They have twelve days to prepare to play host to an also-suspension-depleted Buckeye team and they'll have Benjamin, Forston, Spence, Ojomo, and Jacory Harris back (and I still don't know how he could possibly still be the starter but we'll have to see how that goes) so we'll see then what kind of team this will be (at least this year).

-I think it's safe to say that nobody improved their Heisman stock in Week 1 more than Baylor QB Robert Griffin III. 21-27 for 359 yards and 5 (yes, five) touchdowns--not too shabby. Doing that against a TCU defense that gave up 54 points and 7 touchdowns combined in five road games last year is damned impressive. "RG3" will have four more games in which the Bears will be favored (if not heavily favored) to work out any kinks to speak of and pad his stats a bit before a trip to College Station followed by a bye week, then at Oklahoma State, hosting Missouri, at Kansas, and closing out by hosting Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Texas. Keep your eye on this kid, not just for the Heisman but in the NFL Draft next spring.

-By the way, what the hell happened to TCU's secondary? It was like a game of NCAA Football 12 where the A.I. on the secondary was turned all the way down, deep ball after deep ball sailing over their heads. Give RG3 credit for being able to drop the football into a milk crate from 40+ yards but the TCU secondary had no answer for those deep balls. And while we're on the subject of lousy performances in the secondary this weekend, in spite of the fact that they won, Auburn's back four were exposed over and over again by Utah State (yes, Utah State...the Aggies...) and that's deeply troubling if you're a Tigers fan. This is somewhat of a down year for QBs in the SEC but Auburn still has to face Stephen Garcia, Aaron Murray, and Tyler Wilson(/Bobby Petrino), all on the road. Even Jordan Jefferson and John Brantley could give this group fits. Phillip Lolley and Tommy Thigpen better coach these kids WAY up or they're liable to get pantsed by the more formidable gunslingers in the SEC.

-I've been a college football fan for over 20 years but this past Thursday marks the first ever time I've attended a football game of a team representing the school I'm attending. In the pouring rain, no less. Pretty fucking cool. FIU dominated North Texas 41-16 but it was 28-0 at the end of the first quarter. Mario Cristobal has something special going on just up the road from "Death Penalty U" (and stands to benefit immensely from the inevitable sanctions against the Canes). I don't know that it would surprise me if they made a run at an undefeated season and a BCS bowl but that's expecting quite a lot. We'll see how they do at Louisville this Friday on ESPN.

-Speaking of pouring rain...anyone who STILL doesn't believe in global warming need only look at the opening week of the college football season in which several games were either delayed or called due to lightning. Tell me you honestly don't recognize the new trend of weather anomalies slowly becoming the norm. Earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes; I generally think people who believe this 2012 business are slightly troubled but every time there's a new weather anomaly, I get a little more nervous about next December 21st...

Florida International at Louisville -- ESPN -- Friday, September 9th, 7:00pm

This is an interesting matchup of a mid-level Big East team and the defending Sun Belt Champs.  FIU definitely has the athletes on defense to keep up with Louisville but the interesting thing to watch will be when FIU has the ball.  They have a potentially dynamic offense littered with veterans, led by QB Wesley Carroll and WR T.Y. Hilton as well as a solid offensive line but it remains to be seen how they'll match up with BCS conference athletes.  Still, Louisville is from the Big East and they're not even a good Big East team.  I see Carroll and T.Y. hooking up for at least one game-changing big play being the difference in an otherwise defensive battle.

Hobbitcore sez: Florida International

No. 21 Missouri at Arizona State -- ESPN -- Friday, September 9th, 10:30pm

I kinda think Missouri is way overrated to even be ranked right now.  Without Chase Daniel I don't see them doing much of anything.  I actually like the Sun Devils in this one.

Hobbitcore sez:  Arizona State

No. 3 Alabama at No. 23 Penn State -- ABC -- 3:30pm

Penn State is just totally outmanned here.  Alabama may not have much of a QB but they're absolutely LOADED everywhere else.  Penn State has NO QB or much of an offense to speak of in general.  Alabama blows them away even worse than last year.

Hobbitcore sez:  Alabama

No. 12 South Carolina at Georgia -- ESPN -- 4:30pm

Spurrier needs to seriously relax.  Stephen Garcia is the guy and he seems to be the only one who doesn't know it.  If he would just settle down and let his QB play, this team could be back in the SEC title game this year, possibly even with a (slim) chance of winning.  On this day, he will pick apart the underachieving Georgia secondary between the hedges and lead the Gamecocks to a comfortable win.

Hobbitcore sez: South Carolina

Brigham Young at No. 24 Texas -- ESPN2 -- 7:00pm

Again, I get the feeling that the Cougars will give the Longhorns a game with their defense.  If Texas can get a running game going, they might run away with it.  If not, it could be another defensive struggle for BYU.

Hobbitcore sez: Texas


Utah at USC -- Vs -- 7:30pm

This is also probably the game I'm most interested in this weekend.  Utah's first big Pac-12 test.  I can't wait to see what happens in this one.  USC was alright on defense last week (albeit against Minnesota) but the offense struggled and Utah is a team that's been playing better defense than most of the (former) Pac-10 over the last couple years.

The Upset Hobbit sez: Utah


Notre Dame at Michigan -- ESPN -- 8:00pm

It was actually going to be Gamecocks/Bulldogs until Georgia got pantsed on national television by Boise State.  In spite of the fact that neither team is ranked, this is still a very intriguing game chock full of talented kids with NFL futures.  It's also always fun watching the Denard Robinson show--plus you never know when Brian Kelly's going to freak out on the air.

Keys to the Game
Notre Dame:
-Keep Denard between the tackles
-Play assignment football
-Don't turn the ball over
-Spread the defense (varying playcalling)
-Create turnovers
-Don't let Denard get hurt

Hobbitpick: Michigan 27, Notre Dame 22

Out-of-Whack Spreads
Stanford (-20.5) over Duke
South Carolina (-3) over Georgia
Utah over USC (-9)

My Heisman Ballot (if the voting ended today)
1. QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
2. QB Kellen Moore, Boise State
3. QB Matt Barkley, USC

BCS Predictions
ACC: Florida State over Virginia Tech
Big East: South Florida
Big 10: Wisconsin over Nebraska
Big 12: Oklahoma
Pac 12: Stanford over Utah
SEC: Alabama over South Carolina

BCS Championship: Oklahoma over Stanford
Sugar: Alabama over South Florida
Orange: Florida State over Texas
Fiesta: Nebraska over FIU (:P)
Rose: Wisconsin over Oregon

Friday, September 2, 2011

Triumphant Return of Hobbitcore's College Football Corner #67


Usually I'd talk about the headlines from the past week in this section but this is Week One and I got a lot of that venting out in my piece about the Nevin Shapiro debacle. Also, I'm gonna try to start getting these done on Thursday afternoons before the Thursday game is played. The latest format I'm going with is just picking all the games that are on basic cable. Seems like a sound strategy. I'll also be bringing back old weekly favorites like "Out-of-Whack Spreads", "My Heisman Ballot (If the Voting Ended Today)" (as I was typing this, Robert Griffin was kicking off his campaign for Heisman), and my BCS predictions (predicting the winner of each conference, their BCS bowl matchup, and the result). Without further ado...

Akron at No. 18 Ohio State -- ESPN -- 12:00pm

OSU has five players suspended. Fortunately they're hosting Akron. Everyone will be drunk in the parking lot by halftime playing beer pong and sack toss.

Hobbitcore sez: Ohio State

Utah State at No. 23 Auburn -- ESPN2 -- 12:00pm

Auburn lost the heart of its offense and defense but they didn't lose the whole thing. This team is gonna be better than people think; I could see them challenging for the SEC West this year. They won't look like world-beaters against an underrated Utah State team that nearly picked off Oklahoma last year but Michael Dyer and Brandon McCaleb will carry them to a shootout win.

Hobbitcore sez: Auburn

Minnesota at No. 25 USC -- ABC/ESPN2 -- 3:30pm

USC is gonna be really hard to get a read on entering year two of probation. Matt Barkley is due for a breakout season but the defense has become more and more porous over the last few years. Expect them to beat Minnesota but I wouldn't exactly bet money on it.

Hobbitcore sez: USC

Western Michigan at Michigan -- ABC/ESPN2 -- 3:30pm

Denard Robinson kicks off his second crack at a Heisman. Should rack up some nice numbers as long as he doesn't snap in half.

Hobbitcore sez: Michigan

Brigham Young at Ole Miss -- ESPN -- 4:45pm

Talk about two teams you have no idea what to expect from. Ole Miss appears to be on the verge of resurgence under Houston Nutt and BYU is coming off one of the most inconsistent, night-and-day seasons you'll ever see in which they started 1-4 and ended up winning their bowl game 52-24. I have a hunch this could turn out to be a defensive battle. If it is, I like BYU's chances.

Hobbitcore sez: Brigham Young

Tulsa at No. 1 Oklahoma -- FX -- 7:00pm

This might be closer than people might expect, Tulsa isn't anything to sneeze at. But OU will just be too much.

Hobbitcore sez: Oklahoma

No. 5 Boise State at No. 19 Georgia -- ESPN -- 8:00pm

If you like potent passing attacks, you'll want to tune into this one. Kellen Moore and Aaron Murray will undoubtedly be slinging the rock around quite a bit. My hunch is that the BCS conference team is overdue to win one of these big time matchups with Boise State and Georgia is a legit contender for the SEC East so I don't really see Boise State getting another high-profile win here.

Hobbitcore sez: Georgia

Colorado at Hawaii -- ESPN2 -- 10:15pm

I couldn't tell you the first thing about either of these teams but my gut says Colorado is due for a resurgence.

Hobbitcore sez: Colorado

Marshall at No. 24 West Virginia -- ESPN -- Sunday, September 4th, 3:30pm

Marshall is looking for revenge for their heartbreaking loss to the Mountaineers in 2010 in which they gave up a 21-6 lead, losing 24-21 in overtime. This rivalry is starting to heat up and a team looking for its first win in a rivalry can be a dangerous thing. Still I think Geno Smith will be too much for the Thundering Herd late in the game and the Mountaineers will once again barely escape.

Hobbitcore sez: West Virginia

Miami (FL) at Maryland -- ESPN -- Monday, September 5th, 8:00pm

Miami will be without Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Marcus Forston, Adewale Ojomo, Travis Benjamin, Olivier Vernon, Ray Ray Armstrong, and Dyron Dye. All except Vernon (6 games), Armstrong, and Dye (4 games each) will be back for Ohio State (and Al Golden has maintained that the QB competition will stay open until the Canes take on the Buckeyes). Also Aldarius Johnson is suspended indefinitely for a violation of team rules. It's kind of interesting because there was a period in 2009 where this team played without almost all of these guys, so don't underestimate this team because of all this missing talent (and don't forget what North Carolina almost did against LSU last year on opening night). I really have a feeling that Golden will have this team ready and they will impress people. Stephen Morris will be just fine and there are more than enough capable running backs. The question mark is at WR for the Canes with Benjamin and Johnson sidelined. If the receivers help Stephen Morris out, he'll have a great game. If not, the Canes might be grounded, leaving them either in a defensive battle or in a hole they might not be able to dig out of. I think the defense will be just fine and the Canes will win fairly comfortably but not comfortably enough for Canes fans.

Hobbitcore sez: Miami


South Florida at No. 16 Notre Dame -- NBC -- 3:30pm

Call me crazy but I'm not buying into the hype at Notre Dame quite yet. I need to see more from Dayne Crist, especially after a second knee injury. South Florida is a good sleeper pick to win the Big East this year. This is as close as I could find to a game I think will be an upset and I'm sticking to it.

Hobbitcore sez: South Florida


No. 3 Oregon vs. No. 4 LSU ABC -- 8pm

I think this might be the lowest combined rankings of two opponents in a regular season college football game since #1 Ohio State @ #2 Michigan in 2006 but don't quote me on that. LSU's Jordan Jefferson will be suspended for this game which makes it a lot easier to pick although I still think it will be a heck of a game.

Keys to the Game

-mix up the offense, beat LSU schematically (won't beat them with speed/athleticism)
-pressure Jarrett Lee, don't let him get into a rhythm
-win the battle at the point of attack
-short passes to get Jarrett Lee into a rhythm
-use speed to cut off the edges
-play assignment football

Hobbitpick: Oregon

Out-of-Whack Spreads (games I would bet on if gambling were legal)
Utah State over Auburn (-23)
South Florida over Notre Dame (-10)
Tulsa over Oklahoma (-25)

My Heisman Ballot (if the voting ended today [before it begins])
1. Kellen Moore
2. LaMichael James
3. Denard Robinson

BCS Predictions
ACC: Florida State over Virginia Tech
Big East: South Florida
Big 10: Wisconsin over Nebraska
Big 12: Oklahoma
Pac 12: Stanford over Utah
SEC: Alabama over Georgia

BCS Championship: Oklahoma over Stanford
Sugar: Alabama over South Florida
Orange: Florida State over Texas
Fiesta: Nebraska over FIU (:P)
Rose: Wisconsin over Oregon

P.S. I just realized that--barring a Pac 12 or Big 10 champion playing in the national title game--there will be two new conference championship games in which the participants will be playing for a spot in the Rose Bowl. That's kinda cool...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Nevin Shapiro Debacle From a Different Perspective

If the media is to believed, then Nevin Shapiro may have just crippled or killed the sports team I cherish above all else and have for over 20 years. I figured maybe I should write a blog post about it. Why don't we start with the basics:

-Nevin Shapiro is in jail serving a 20 year sentence for a $930 million Ponzi scheme
-He is also a former University of Miami sports booster
-Between 2002 and 2010, he claims to have provided illegal (according to the NCAA, not the law) benefits to 72 Miami Hurricanes football players (and some basketball, but who cares about UM basketball?) including use of his mansion, yacht, throwing sex parties, buying of strippers and prostitutes and even paying for a stripper's abortion
-Twelve of these players are current players (also one current basketball player)
-6 coaches are implicated as being either knowledgeable or even involved with providing of illegal benefits (Frank Haith [now at Missouri] and five assistants [two basketball, three football] including Joe Pannunzio and Jeff Stoutland [Alabama] as well as Aubrey Hill [Florida])

Now, let's start from the top. The joint investigation of these claims by the University of Miami and the NCAA has been going on for about a year now. When Shapiro first notified the university of the allegations, he and his attorneys refused to provide the university with any facts, so they reported the allegations to the NCAA and the two have been investigating ever since. Along comes Yahoo! Sports and pays Mr. Shapiro to do 100 hours of interviews and provide receipts and photographs to corroborate his claims--all this coming to the surface not too long before Shapiro's tell-all book is set to be published. He has also admitted to having an ax to grind with many of these players he provided benefits to and considered his "friends." A lot of holes are already beginning to emerge in his story, but according to the media, if even half of what he says is true, the Hurricanes deserve the Death Penalty (which, among other things, could mean shutting down the program for a full year).

A key phrase that you'll probably hear a lot in the coming days is "lack of institutional control." As far as I'm concerned, by far the most crucial issue in this mess will be A. how much can be proven about the involvement of the six coaches implicated and B. to what degree the NCAA can say these findings constitute a "lack of institutional control." Every single coach implicated in the investigation is now gone from the university. (As a matter of fact, there's a story going around about a confrontation between Shapiro and UM's Associate Athletic Director of Compliance David Reed--who was hired right around the same time as Randy Shannon took over as head coach--in the press box at halftime of the final game in the Orange Bowl where Shapiro admittedly tried to start a fight with Reed because he had been trying to keep him away from the players--which, of course, is his job. Obviously he didn't keep him far away enough but the guy was a booster and contributed a ton of money to the program which comes with many benefits, none of which are against the NCAA bylaws.) To me, the fair thing to do seems to be to punish the current administration at the university inasmuch as they can be implicated. For starters, I don't think six coaches constitutes "lack of institutional control" considering the efforts of David Reed and the compliance department. This is a rogue booster and a group of corrupt coaches. This is not an institutional failure. Moreover, the only non-student-athlete currently at the school that was around when these violations were going on is president Donna Shalala. If she can be proven to have known about these transgressions or somehow been involved then absolutely the death penalty should be levied. If not, you punish who WAS involved. First of all, every one of these coaches that can be proven to have been involved in this should be fired by whoever currently employs them but the NCAA has nothing to do with that. The same goes for the past players involved but not much chance of that happening and they're now out of the NCAA's jurisdiction. All they can do to them is vacate all wins from 2002-2010 that they are now ineligible for. A number of current players were involved. Fine. Suspend them or kick them off the team. I suppose postseason bans and reduced scholarships are inevitable but I don't think they're fair. Why should people who had nothing to do with this be punished?

The NCAA needs to seriously look at this practice of punishing future generations of NCAA sports programs for the transgressions of past generations. Though, to be sure, that's not the only practice of theirs that needs to be re-examined. It's appearing more and more as though the time has come for top-to-bottom reform of the policies that govern amateur athletes. The NCAA has become an archaic, antiquated institution and have been suppressing a multi-million dollar market for FAR too long. Bomani Jones had a great quote today in an interview on ESPN's Outside the Lines:

‎"I need somebody to tell me what solution [there is] that can overcome what we all know about basic economics which is that when you suppress wages, a black market is going to occur."

The students who participate in these sports are making millions and MILLIONS of dollars for these schools and don't get to see one nickel of that money. Oh sure, they get a free ride to a prestigious university, but that doesn't exactly feed a student-athlete's low-income family, does it? One player that was interviewed talked about former Canes HB Tyrone Moss taking money from Shapiro because he had a kid at the time he came into the program and he could barely feed his family. I know, I know, most of these accusations include sex parties and mansions and yachts and all manners of excess but you have to understand that many of these kids have never seen money in their lives. This is the kind of culture that gets bred when kids from poor areas who can play a sport or two suddenly come into contact with millionaire contributors to the universities that recruit them to make them money.

Let me say right now, for the record, that I'm not generally someone who is in favor of free market idealism. However, I will say this: these student athletes (and especially the ones who are good enough to make a career out of it) are recruited to these sports programs to make millions of dollars for these schools in an EXTREMELY high risk line of work (which, for those pursuing a career in it, is also an EXTREMELY short term career path) and I don't see how anyone could justify saying that they don't deserve to be compensated a lot more than they are currently. It's the only college major that prepares you for your desired career by essentially placing you in it--a weird concept considering it's one of the most hazardous careers you can go into. I think this is a suitable, if somewhat hyperbolic analogy: imagine if, when you joined the police, they offered free in-the-field training plus room and board without paying you a salary--for four years. Oh, but then they mention that after two years, if you're good enough, you can start getting paid what you're worth to the force--wouldn't be too surprising to see many of them take that offer.

Of course, I'm not suggesting college football become a free market. I can't think of anything more unfair than seeing important university programs get cut back in order to pay student athletes more money. Obviously there should be some regulation on what can be provided. But this hard-line stance that amateur athletes shalt not receive one nickel more than is needed to attend the school they play for is pathetically dated. There is a middle ground between a free market and a suppressed market. A regulated market. I don't pretend to be smart enough or know enough about policy-making to have the answer to the NCAA's problems. Maybe when I'm done with school I will, but at the moment, not so much. That will have to be up to the current NCAA policy makers. One thing is for sure: the system needs to change radically.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

October 7th - THRICE @ Revolution

here's what Thrice would play in my utopian fantasy world:

1. Lullaby
2. The Weight of Glory
3. Yellow Belly
4. Burn the Fleet
5. Flags of Dawn
6. Broken Lungs
7. Daedalus
8. The Earth Will Shake
9. Hold Fast Hope
10. Talking Through Glass/We Move Like Swingsets
11. Come All You Weary
12. Open Water
13. Lost Continent
14. The Whaler
15. Red Sky
16. Music Box
17. Like Moths to Flame
18. Backdraft
19. The Weight
20. Trust
21. The Melting Point of Wax
22. All That's Left
23. Silhouette
24. The Artist In the Ambulance
25. Cold Cash and Colder Hearts
26. Kill Me Quickly
27. To Awake and Avenge the Dead
28. Deadbolt
29. For Miles
30. Beggars

The more of these they play, the more epic this show will be...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

I wrote this in 2003...

...and a lot of people seemed to like it for some reason. Personally I think it could use some updating, which is why I'm storing it here for now. In storage but on display. Think of it as a "demo version."

UPDATE: I've edited it a bit and have a second draft now. The edited version is directly below and the original version is underneath the edited version and italicized.

float away
catch a star on your way
let it expire in a fury of light
that once was so small
to those far away
yet now it fills the sky
and when you show us that
we'll cry
but we'll know
that love never dies
we'll hug in great numbers
and take home reminders
of all that we have
and we'll know
know that best friends forever
is more than just a cute catchy phrase
know that the words we say
are more than just words
and we'll say them with more conviction than ever
and we'll cry
but these tears will be the happy kind
the kind that come from community
from words spoken with sincerity
from people who mean more
than the sum of every word in the dictionary

you float away
catch a star on your way
watch it expire in a fury of light
that once was so small
to those far away
yet now it fills the sky
for all to see
and when you show us that
we'll cry
but we'll know
that love never dies
and we'll hug in great numbers
and take home reminders
of all that we have
and we'll cry
but still know
that best friends forever
is more than just a cute catchy phrase
and the words we say
are more than just words
and we'll say them with more conviction than ever
and we'll cry
but these tears will be the happy kind
the kind that come from words
spoken with sincerity
from people who mean more
than every word in the dictionary put together
words i've been using for 28 lines
to try to describe what no one can
except those people

Monday, May 23, 2011

30 Days

So it seems there's a new trend going around Facebook. It's called 30 Day Song Challenge. Basically the idea is that you post a video every day according to the list of songs you're meant to select (found by clicking on "Rules"). As I was reading this list, I felt remiss at the idea of posting these videos and not offering any explanation as to why each fits into its given category. There are plenty of good stories behind more than a few of these songs, at least for me. For the purposes of this blog entry, I tried to, whenever possible, avoid boring videos of just the song over some pictures. Many of them are live versions, some music videos, a few special versions, and a couple of the aforementioned boring videos. Some I didn't bother posting videos for for what should be obvious reasons.

day 01 - your favorite song - Thrice - For Miles

It wasn't long ago that I'd have had a hard time even putting a four-minute song with a pop song structure in my top ten songs of all time. This song is an aberration. It may be the only song that I like more every time I hear it and it's one of the few I never get tired of. I've always been a sucker for songs with powerful "moments" and this one is basically one big four-minute and twenty-seven-second moment. The opening piano. The epic choruses. The passionately optimistic lyrics. The soaring bridge. The thunderous outro. It's all over much too quickly for a four-and-a-half-minute song but the impact it has is never gone.

day 02 - your least favorite song - Weezer - Beverly Hills

"Least favorite song" is an interesting category to me. There are tons of songs I truly loathe more than "Beverly Hills"--in fact, it's kinda catchy and I'll jam to it if someone puts it on. What makes this my least favorite song is what it represents. It's an absolutely awful song, to be sure, but it was written by a band that has written some of my all time favorite songs and two of my all time favorite albums. Considering how their fall from grace happened, it's hard to fault Rivers or the rest of the band for what they've become. Cuomo himself admitted in an interview on DirecTV that after the critical and popular failure of Pinkerton, he became extremely distraught and took some time off to "figure out how to write songs that will make people happy again." He talked about how he felt responsible for (seemingly, at the time) killing Weezer by making this incredibly self-indulgent record. So while I want to be mad at Weezer for turning into shit, I'm really mad at the consumers for not understanding or appreciating the brilliance of Pinkerton in its time and causing Rivers to have a nervous breakdown and start writing songs to placate people.

day 03 - a song that makes you happy - Radiohead - No Surprises

If this song can't make you smile then you've got a seriously rough life. Not only is this one of the most peacefully serene songs ever written but the lyrics are both comforting and empowering as well. "You look so tired-unhappy," it empathizes. "Bring down your government," it urges you, assuring you that "they don't speak for us." Also, for such a soothing song, it has a somewhat deceptive amount of momentum in a few key spots. The cascading choruses move like ice skaters and the key-changing bridge crescendos subtly into a joyful explosion. To me, this really is one of the best songs ever written and definitely one of the most joyous.

day 04 - a song that makes you sad - Incubus - I Miss You (acoustic)

The only way this song could possibly not make you sad is if you've never been in love or even really liked someone and you've never missed someone either. If you've ever been in love with someone who didn't love you back then this song probably kills you the way it does me. I've yet to meet a person who doesn't have someone this song reminds them of. The stories are never good, either. I put this on a mix CD I gave to the first girl I ever loved for Christmas. She asked me why I chose that song and I said because of the lyrics. Amazingly, this probably wouldn't even make the top five songs that remind me of people--mostly because it pretty much reminds me of every girl I've ever loved.

day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone - Deftones - Rx Queen/Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile

As you can see, I couldn't even pick one. The main reason being that the people they remind me of are equally important to how I've become who I've become, even if I knew one of them many years longer than the other. The first one, I put in a mixtape I made for above first girl I ever loved, which had a note tucked into it with explanations for each song. For this one I put: "I picked this song because I want you to be my girl." Shut up, I was 15. As for "The Fragile", this one belongs to the second girl I ever loved although she should be considered second to no one in the scheme of my life. No person has ever consumed me so completely as she did when we were in high school (and beyond). Both probably had equal hands in forming my concept of what love is, what it means to me, and what I love in a human being.

day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhere - Stone Temple Pilots - Glide

When I was growing up, my family (mom, grandma, and grandpa) would go to Aspen every summer for the Aspen Music Festival and also to generally enjoy the mild mountain air and breathtaking scenery. Actually, my grandparents would usually stay for nearly the whole summer, my mom and I could only really afford to spend a week or so there visiting them. We did this from the time I was an infant until, I believe, the summer after my sophomore year of high school. Ironically, there's really only one summer where I listened to this song (and the album it's on, No. 4) a whole lot and it was the summer after my freshman year; the summer I met TFGIEL (The First Girl I Ever Loved). I'll always remember that particular trip to Aspen as the most miserable one for me. I had just gotten done meeting all these amazing new friends and TFGIEL and the last thing I wanted to do was leave them all to hang out with my family. I barely ever did anything while we were there that summer apart from listening to a lot of tortured, depressing music--along with this album. It also ended up that she had to fly home the same day I was coming back. I was informed of this one morning in Aspen, via email. Obviously that didn't exactly brighten my mood. That was a pretty miserable trip. Still, this song somehow also reminds me of all the wonderful times I spent in Aspen over the years. I hope we get to go back one of these days.

day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain event - Darwin's Waiting Room - All I Have Is Me

Really, this song reminds me of a person in general. The same person that "The Fragile" reminds me of. But this one I associate even more with a period in time when she became very upset with myself and some friends of mine and decided to stop talking to us for a period of time. I can specifically remember one night when a mutual friend of ours brought her to my house to try to get her to talk to me but as soon as I opened the door, she turned around and walked away and our mutual friend apologized. Immediately after that, I went to my room, shut off all the lights and cranked this song as loud as I could. And, well, sang along to it. I was 15, ok? Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video for this one.

day 08 - a song that you know all the words to - Propagandhi - Back to the Motor League

I had a friend who introduced me to this band and he always used to say this song is about me. Well, that's a little less than fair. This song is about a great number of different people. It's about him, too, to be honest. But really, the reason I picked this one for a song I know all the words to is because it's probably the most impressive song I know all the words to. Specifically the very end of the song. I also chose it because the lyrics are phenomenal, as all Propagandhi lyrics are.

day 09 - a song that you can dance to - Black Star - B Boys Will B Boys

OK, I can't breakdance. That should be pretty obvious. Still, I can't help but move to this song when I hear it. I love those old school, organic break beats. They just groove so freaking hard. Not that much else I can say about this one.

day 10 - a song that makes you fall asleep - Incubus - Aqueous Transmission

There are so many great songs to fall asleep to but this one really has it all. Delightful plucking on the Pipa. The dreamy, surreal chorus of "further down the river." The delicate ambience of the frogs croaking in the last minute or so (although this video is a live version). I'm craving a nap just talking about it.

day 11 - a song from your favorite band - Radiohead - Planet Telex

In case you hadn't noticed, my favorite band is Radiohead. This is the song that got me hooked on this band. I actually wasn't that into them the first time I heard them but this song is just so epic that I couldn't resist.

day 12 - a song from a band you hate - Fall Out Boy - This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race

Honestly, Fall Out Boy is really interchangeable for about 5 dozen other bands that sound exactly fucking like them but whatever. I'm not posting a video for this because I don't want to subject you to that.

day 13 - a song that is a guilty pleasure - John Mayer - Slow Dancing In a Burning Room

You know, this is kind of on the borderline of guilty pleasure. John Mayer is actually a really fucking good guitarist (part of the reason I chose this video was for the noodling at the beginning). He just writes a lot of really boring, generic songs but every now and then he pops out a gem and this is one of them.

day 14 - a song that no one would expect you to love - Estelle - American Boy

To be honest, I'm not sure there really is a song that no one would expect me to love. Everyone always says they have eclectic tastes or they like a little bit of everything to the point that it's such a cliche now but I really, truly listen to a whole fucking lot of very different shit. This was as close as I could get to something that no one would think I would like. This song is the shit.

day 15 - a song that describes you - Thrice - Image of the Invisible

This song became something of a rallying cry to me personally in the time leading up to the 2008 election and the short time after. I still take it personally for me and my generation because this is the attitude we need to have. We need to be serious about taking over responsibility for making the world the way we want it to be. This song is a constant inspiration to me to keep fighting the good fight even when the battle is far uphill.

day 16 - a song that you used to love but now hate - Kings of Leon - Sex on Fire

The only reason I used to love this song was because it was the only thing on the radio in Ireland when I went there with my dad for about a week and it was kinda catchy. The problem was, they played it at least 30 times a day. This band has a few songs that are better than this one on the Only By the Night album but I've never really understood everyone's infatuation with them. They're just the poor man's Arcade Fire to me.

day 17 - a song that you hear often on the radio - Guns N' Roses - Sweet Child O' Mine

Another one that reminds me of TFGIEL. To be fair, I almost never listen to radio. In fact, the one thing I listen to more than anything on the radio is Beatle Brunch so I couldn't really count that. This is just one of those songs that they'll never stop playing on the radio. They play it on Big 105.9 now which is a trip. "I'd hate to look into those eyes and see an ounce of pain" still gets me every time. Still, I'm not going to subject you to the video as we've all heard this song way too many times.

day 18 - a song that you wish you heard on the radio - Thrice - Come All You Weary

Not only does this band deserve to be massively huge but the message in this song (which is a recurring message in Thrice's songs) is one that should be spread. A message of empathy and caring. This song reflects the band's attitude toward their music in that they want to be a comforting and supporting force in the lives of their fans and I'm pretty sure that's a goal they've accomplished quite well. If only more people in this world had such compassionate attitudes, imagine the kind of place we'd live in.

day 19 - a song from your favorite album - Tool - Ænema

Amazingly, no, my favorite album isn't a Radiohead album. This song also happens to be the title track of the album it's on, although the spelling is changed from Ænima to "Ænema" for some reason. This is far from my favorite song on the album but it's a damn good one and not too long and it has a killer video, which is why I picked it.

day 20 - a song that you listen to when you’re angry - Converge - You Fail Me

This is the quintessential angry song as far as I'm concerned. Not only is it viciously furious but its bile is so narrowly focused and so vulnerable that the impact it makes is massive. This is a towering cyclone of swirling fiery rage surrounding a white hot laser center. The main riff is an absolute steamroller. I know this kind of stuff is a little too intense for most people but anyone who has any desire to experience the most pure and passionate musical anger, I highly recommend this. If someone asked me what the heaviest song I've ever heard is, I'd have to really think about what I consider "heaviest" to mean--but my knee-jerk reaction would be to say this song. This is a video of an early version (two years before the release of You Fail Me) with different lyrics/vocals.

day 21 - a song that you listen to when you’re happy - Jimmy Eat World - Futures

This has to be the catchiest, happiest riff ever written. You can't help but bounce when you hear it. And you can't help but smile at the opening lines: "I've always believed in futures. I hope for better in November." The chorus soars: "Say hello to good times. Trade up for the fast ride. We close our eyes while the nickel and dime take the streets completely." Almost enough to give even me hope for the future. Almost.

day 22 - a song that you listen to when you’re sad - Radiohead - How to Disappear Completely

I don't even think I need to explain this one. If you have a different song you listen to when you're sad, you're wrong, this one is better. What could sum up the feeling of being sad or depressed better than "I'm not here. This isn't happening."

day 23 - a song that you want to play at your wedding - Bright Eyes - Oh, You Are the Roots That Sleep Beneath My Feet and Hold the Earth In Place

I want this played at my wedding no matter who I marry because whoever I marry, this song (hell, the title of this song) will undoubtedly describe that person.

day 24 - a song that you want to play at your funeral - Thrice - Beggars

What could sum it all up better than this:

All you great men of power,
You who boast of your feats,
Politicians and entrepreneurs:
Can you safeguard your breath in the night while you sleep,
Keep your heart beating steady and sure?
As you lie in your bed,
Does the thought haunt your head,
That your really rather small?
If there's one thing I know in this life,
We are beggars all!

All you champions of science,
And rulers of men:
Can you summon the sun from it's sleep?
And does the earth seek your council on how fast to spin?
Can you shut up the gates of the deep?
And don't you know that all things,
Hang as if by string o'er the darkness,
Poised to fall?
If there's one thing I know in this life,
We are beggars all!

All you big-shots who swagger,
And stride with conceit.
Did you devise how your frame would be formed?
If you'd be raised in a palace,
or live out on the streets,
choose the place or the hour you'd be born?
Tell me what can you claim?
Not a thing!
Not your name!
Tell me if you can recall,
Just one thing, not a gift, in this life?
Can you hear what's been said?
Can you see now that everything's graced?
After all,
If there's one thing I know in this life,
We are beggars all!

day 25 - a song that makes you laugh - Flight of the Conchords - Bret, You Got It Goin' On

Just watch...

day 26 - a song that you can play on an instrument - Converge - Heaven In Her Arms

I didn't even have to look at tabs; I learned this shit by ear. Yeah, be jealous.

day 27 - a song that you wish you could play - Between the Buried and Me - Mordecai

I have dreams of being able to play this song where I wake up all sticky.

day 28 - a song that makes you feel guilty - Thrice - Digging My Own Grave

I had a really hard time coming up with any song that made me feel intense personal guilt so I went with something a little more broad. Heaven knows I've got more than my share of nasty habits that I keep convincing myself I'm going to stop soon enough but "soon enough" is a very non-specific deadline.

day 29 - a song from your childhood - The Beatles - Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite

My mom used to play the Sgt. Pepper album all the time when I was a little kid--or maybe she just played it for me once or twice and that prompted me to want to play it all the time. Either way, I've loved this album from a very young age and that love has only grown and flourished. This was probably my favorite song on the album when I was a wee lad and it's hard not to understand why. This song is bloody whimsical! It's fun and amusing and funny and twisted, just like The Beatles' sense of humor. Another fun memory I have of this song is listening to it while on a psychedelic trip. All I know is, I couldn't stop laughing at this song but it was the most beautiful song ever. The video is the version from Cirque du Soleil: LOVE that combines it with "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" and "Helter Skelter" quite effectively.

day 30 - your favorite song at this time last year - Deftones - Diamond Eyes

I don't know about favorite song but this song certainly is a representation of what I was listening to a LOT of at this time last year. To be fair, this album had just come out but I still must have listened to it front to back about 50 times since it came out. It's coming very close to surpassing Adrenaline and Around the Fur on my list of favorite Deftones albums because it's just really their most complete and focused album, I feel. Maybe most focused isn't the right term, it just seems like they finally found their sound, so to speak. It's kind of ironic because one of my favorite things about their first three albums is that they each sound completely and utterly different and I absolutely love bands that can do that from album to album and still have a sound that is distinctly their own. For Deftones, it seems like after White Pony, they decided this was their blueprint and they were going to fine tune it until they got it perfect and on this album, they've done that.