Monday, March 24, 2008

MLB 2008 Season Preview

Since the Boston Red Sox and Oakland A's decided to open up the baseball season in Japan, I've been left bumping up my MLB preview by a week. Last year was exciting, personally, due to the Phillies finally making the playoffs. The rest of the season was kind of a drag with the Bonds scandal and a rather dull regular season. I think this year has a lot of good things in store. Since this Roger Clemens mess has apparently passed for now, the focus can purely be on baseball, and that is always a good thing.

So as usual, here are my predictions. Plain and simple.


AL WEST - Seattle Mariners
AL CENTRAL - Detroit Tigers
AL EAST - Boston Red Sox
AL WILDCARD - Cleveland Indians

The AL is definitely interesting. With the defending champ Red Sox and Yankees fighting it out in the East and the Blue Jays supposedly coming on strong (I don't buy it) the Sox should win an overmatched Yankees team that did not improve upon their deficiencies from last year. The Tigers will have the best offense in baseball with Justin Verlander in Cy Young contention. I like the Mariners in the West. Their pitching should be improved with the additions of Erik Bedard and Carlos Silva to help a solid bullpen. The offense is in question, but it is an Adrian Beltre contract year. Here's what he did during his last contract year:

2004 with the Dodgers: BA .344/ R 104/ HR 48/ RBI 121

An Average Season Since: BA .267/ R 81/ HR 23/ RBI 92

NL WEST - Arizona Diamondbacks
NL CENTRAL - Chicago Cubs
NL WILDCARD - Philadelphia Phillies

The NL is a little bit more predictable than the AL. The main question is out of the West where the D'backs, Rockies, and Dodgers will be looking for a playoff birth. The Cubs have to win that division. The Mets look good from a pitching stand point and have enough offense to carry them to the top of the East. I'm sticking with my team and giving the Phils a Wildcard birth. Injuries are an issue for them, and I think they may be relying too heavily on the likes of Jayson Werths of the world, but we shall see. The offense is potent and Chase Utley should be in the running for NL MVP.


ALCS - Tigers v. Red Sox
NLCS - Cubs v. Mets

WORLD SERIES - Cubs v. Tigers

CHAMPS - Tigers


NL MVP - Alfonso Soriano
AL MVP - Miguel Cabrera

NL CY YOUNG - Cole Hamels
AL CY YOUNG - C.C. Sabathia

NL ROY - Justin Upton
AL ROY - Joba Chamberlain


NL BATTING CHAMP - Hanley Ramirez



Monday, March 10, 2008

Music Review: Lupe Fiasco - "Lupe Fiasco's The Cool"

Musical consciousness. It is something that is achieved when you have found your niche as a music listener. It is the period where you stop just listening to music at random and truly focus your efforts to one idea or concept of music. Some people never achieve this musical consciousness, and some people don't want to.

I was one of the people that found my musical consciousness around the time I was 12. After years of aimlessly perusing music stores for the newest CD release and buying such all-time great albums as: Matchbox Twenty "Yourself or Someone Like You," U2 "Pop," or, oh yes, Chumbawamba "Tubthumper." I was finally grabbed by one idea of music. Metallica's "...And Justice For All" album completely flipped my idea of the kind of music I wanted to be a part of. Loud, aggressive, intelligent, and diverse music that sets out to maximize the intent of the genre.

Since then I have emerged myself into the rock and metal music scene. I've gone to all lengths to find new bands and music that can fulfill the concept of music that I wanted to be a part of. That was nearly 12 years ago. Since then, I've ran the gamut of that kind of music. From the legends, to underground bands, progressive rock, and mid to late 90's flag carriers for a new generation. Now, I feel like I am in a rut. My appetite for music has essentially dried up essentially all the bands I would want to know about, and there hasn't been a worthwhile new band since the late 90's.

So now I'm left without my main source of music. These new bands like Children of Bodom, Bullet for My Valentine, and Lamb of God don't do it for me. So I searched outside of the metal realm for artists that encapsulated my idea of what good music is.

The positive that came about was my interest in different kinds of music. Across genres and generations I searched far and wide from England to Sri Lanka for new musical inspirations for my own sanity and interest. From Richard Wagner to John Coltrane to Cabaret Voltaire to TV on the Radio to M.I.A. to the point of this whole article, Lupe Fiasco.

Lupe first came to my attention on his protege, Kanye West's song, "Touch the Sky." Soon after came the release of Lupe's "Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor." There were several songs on the album I downloaded and enjoyed very much. He was definitely one of my favorite rappers, but where the separation comes is two fold.

1. My favorite rapper doesn't mean a favorite artist. Look at my Facebook profile. I have a couple artists listed under the "Favorite Music" section, but if you scroll down to my iLike artists there are roughly 3x as much.

2. I was biased. I didn't want to buy a rap album, or pretty much any other album that wasn't metal/rock oriented. It was for no reason other than my own prejudice against wanting to step outside my musical comfort zone.

With much of the same Kanye sensibility and a pronounced focus on interesting topics and acrobatic lyrics, it was becoming more and more difficult for me to deny the talent that Lupe has. Although his art is rap, the angle at which he approaches his music is one of much intelligence and style. He shrugs off common rapper stereotypes of money, ho's, and gangster life. That wasn't his life, and that's not what he knows about. What he does concern himself with are global situations facing young black people as well as fighting against the images that rap tends to thrust on their artists.

As the release of Lupe's second album "Lupe Fiasco's The Cool," came, it definitely had my ear. Everyone knows "Superstar," but it was the rest of the album that caught my attention yet again. Lupe surpassed his skill level on "Food & Liquor" to produce another fresh, amazingly original album that deserves every drip of acclaim for this up and coming MC. The lure of the music became to great for me, and I was running out of reasons to NOT buy this album. It was like the time I tried to convince myself that Miranda Kerr wasn't hot. I made a strong argument for about a half hour. I really believed she was okay compared to other models, but then my wits came back to me and I realized how wrong I was.

This album is just a thematic trip that everyone should be a part of. Every song is a powerhouse of production and lyrical ingenuity that can cross anyone's musical tastes. Some people may be hesitant to agree, but listen to "Gold Watch," "Paris, Tokyo," or "Gotta Eat," and try not to move your head. It's not possible. Want a crash course in who Lupe is? Then listen to "Dumb it Down." He references Street Fighter in his lyrics for God's sake! How awesome is that?

I love Street Fighter 2 I just really hate Zangief/
Only Ken and Ryu I find it hard to beat Blanca/
I keep a wee ninja hanging and a/
Unkle album banging/
If you negative in energy then stay out the vicinity of...

This is not your typical album, and Lupe is not your typical artist. He is classic like Wagner, smooth like Coltrane, and intelligent and rocking like Metallica. He is a part of my music consciousness, and he certainly is a pioneer in my branching out a little more to find music that is just great music.

So if anyone has any suggestions, let me know. My musical conscious is expanding, but I suggest you get Lupe's new album.

Compared to Prior Works: 4.0/5
Progression: 4.0/5
Listenability: 5.0/5
Song Quality: 4.5/5

Final Score: 4.38/5