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These aren’t the guards you’re looking for…

Steve Nash to the Lakers is an interesting but ultimately futile move. If there’s anyone who seriously think this changes much of anything in the West is kidding themselves. The buzz about this move is mostly hype generated by the league and then repeated ad-nauseum by sycophants on ESPN like Chris Broussard and impressionable, excitable bloggers. I keep hearing that the move will keep them elite for “several” years but anyone thinking Nash is going to last longer than a couple is full of shit.

Nash is 38, he doesn’t play defense and he’s a relic point of years past. These are the halcyon days of the combo guard, the NBA Finals featured Dwayne Wade, the platonic ideal of a combo guard, and OKC’s pair of rotating combos, Westbrook and Harden. True, Rondo is a torch bearer of the pass first point, but he is great at something Kidd and Nash were never great at: defense. In order for the Lakers to actually be relevant in the discussion of actual title contenders in the West, the Lakers must make another move; Gasol for a small forward would be ideal. However, the idea of shifting Gasol and Bynum for Howard is interesting as well. But, as it stands, this really doesn’t make the Lakers any better than the 3rd best team in the conference, which they were last year so big deal. They’re still coached by an utter pillock.

Danny Ferry has done a very good job taking the wrecking ball to the Hawks, who were stuck on mid level garbage playoff squad, good enough to get a 4 seed at least but never good enough to advance, or dominate. Josh Smith should be moved at some point as well, since he seems keyed up to move on. The NBA is filled with teams worse than Atlanta that refuse to do a makeover so I applaud Ferry’s instincts on realizing Horford is under a lengthy contract and an excellent centerpiece, especially considering the new primacy of the athletic center.

News right now is that Dallas wants to resign Jason Kidd which is just short of brain-dead. Just let him go to the scrap heap, I think Kidd is coasting more on popular opinion than actual court skill at this point. They already lost Terry to Boston, which was an excellent pick up and essentially assures that Ray Allen, who is similarily coasting on rep, will not return to the squad. Rondo & Bradley start with Terry 6th coming in for both. Allen can’t run point as well as Terry can. Allen would be a nifty pick up for Miami, but ultimately I’d think he would be relegated to a role player buried on the bench.

Brooklyn picked up Joe Johnson in the Atlanta fire sale, and it’s heralded as a huge move but we haven’t seen the whole free agency period shake out yet so who knows if this is a power move in the East. Right now I think the second best team in the East is probably the Celtics, followed by Indiana. Chicago would be a no brainer pick but Rose will be out most of the year and they will struggle, being stuck with Boozer and almost assuredly losing Omer Asik. Should the Nets make that push for Howard, they could become #2 in a hurry, but they are essentially bringing Johnson on to be the new hawks, 4 seed and out in the first round. It makes sense to me, however, since the brand needs to be built in NYC.

The Jazz made moves for Marvin Williams and Mo Williams which pretty much screams malaise forever, and it’s unclear why I read about how good the moves were. If you’re going to fail, then fail hard, don’t try and just squeak into the playoffs. The gauntlet of 7 game series will generally eliminate all possibility of a deep run, if it was a one and done tourney like the NCAAs then I could understand but as the NBA stands now, it’s better to suck hard with a vengeance in an attempt to grab a top 5 pick. Instead, they’re happy racing for those last three seeds in the playoffs, kind of sad but i guess Mormons are easy to entertain. The Williamses two are probably going to start for Utah, which says a lot. Actual contenders would and have used them as role players. Although the latest Great White Hope, Gordon Hayward, will probably be in the mix for that starting SF position with Marv Williams, which underscores how dire Utah is.

The Rockets are now making moves to break that vicious cycle of low playoff seeds, current news says they are trading Kyle Lowry to the Raptors. The Toronto Raptors are absolutely doomed to be mediocre, I’m not sure anything could possibly save them but they’re convinced that DeRozan and Bargnani just need some help. However both of their “star” players are seriously limited in several integral facets of their position; DeRozan is a terrible shooter and Bargnani thinks defense and rebounding happen to other people. I have a hard time believing that the ceiling for the Raptors is going to be any higher than 6 seed and a first round knockout. Lowry is a pretty solid point, but unfortunately for him, an also ran born in the midst of a generation of great point guards.

Further, the Raptors have extended an offer to Landry Fields for too much money. This coupled with the Lowry move and the bid for Nash, shows that the Raptors are itching to be a playoff doormat instead of just being a regular season patsy. However, I really don’t understand why people want this guy so much, but I haven’t seen the kid play only looked at his stat lines. I’m finding that NBA stat nerds, the most useless of number crunchers, are convinced this guy “creates wins,” even though their own stats say that Stephon Marbury was a valuable player. Gentlemen, the reason why the Bill James/sabermetrics disciples have such credence in baseball is because the lists they come up with don’t have surprises like “Oh hey by the way Stephon Marbury was actually really really good, despite the eyeballs in your head that saw otherwise.” I mean other than the obvious fact that baseball is a game of statistics, while the NBA is doubtlessly more ambiguous.

Other news, Goran Dragic signed with Phoenix which is interesting considering the Lowry trade since it seems more and more like the Rockets are attempting to be awful which is really a smart move for them, being unable to nab Howard as a centerpiece. They are very much stuck with Scola and his horrid contract at least until mid season and someone gets desperate for a big who can rebound, d up and score a little bit. Hey, at least he’s better than Boozer.

Two moves I want to touch on before I close this out, Indiana did well to sign Hill as their point guard. He’s long and plays good defense so he can be deployed with an undersized scorer (Kevin Martin perhaps? I thought Monta Ellis would fit in perfectly here as well, but he’s only a half a year into his Milwaukee era). An electric point machine is what the Pacers need so desperately, but I’m not sure if they have the pieces to acquire it. Now that Houston has a vacuum at point, they could probably shift Granger and Collison for Martin, but this is all just based on speculation and no salary number crunching. Houston should really be waving Martin around the trade market, since any number of teams, including Indiana and Memphis, should salivate over the established point machine.

Lastly, the bidding war over Jeremy Lin is beyond expectations. He is a flash in the pan that got injured at the end of the year. If he’s ever going to be a career starting point in today’s NBA I’ll eat my own hat.

The Five Stages of Loss

1. Denial & Isolation

Stephen Jackson can totally hit that three. He was fouled! Where’s the foul call! You know what these refs are cheating. Oh my god that flop by Westbrook, how could you i can’t even…

You know what I think I’m going to get absolutely fucked up.

2. Anger

Derek Fisher you motherfucker. Holy crap. Why are you always around. You’re barely any good. You’re fat, you’re slow for a point, you’re stupid, your wife is ugly, and you punch babies in the off-season. Derek Fisher I hope that all the terrible things that can happen will happen to you, and only you, and then you will die unmourned and unloved because you are the most terrible person to ever live. I hope that a piano lands on you and breaks your hip. I hope that pirahnas eat your hands off. I hope that children point at you and laugh everywhere you go. I hope that you have consistent issues with rats. I hope you live somewhere where there’s only a Subway and a McDonalds and the only drugs you can get is meth. I hope that your children grow tails. I hope that every single time you get gas the receipt doesn’t print at the pump so you have to go back inside and get the receipt.

3. Bargaining

If only they played Matt Bonner more. If only they traded Ginobili at the deadline. If only Jack hit that shot. If only Derek Fisher would just drop dead.

4. Depression

Oh my god it’s over. This was the best team in Spurs history. The mainstream media was finally giving the Spurs respect. It’s completely over, everyone’s old, there’s no hope. The team will never have a chance at a title again. I will watch decades of horrible basketball, punished to linger forever in the nether zone of mediocrity and honest to god ineptitude and abject failure. There is no hope, only death.

5. Acceptance

I have to understand I’m a lucky sportsfan. I’ve seen my teams win 4 NBA titles, one college football national championship and three Super Bowls, including a hilarious victory over a team that was undefeated to that point. 18-1 should be enough to live a lifetime on.

The Spurs are also not done. It’ll be hard to get around the Thunder at this point, but the youth movement paid off dividends in the regular season and there’s no reason to expect that another season under their belts that the young players on the Spurs, who absolutely vanished in the Western Conference Finals, won’t be a little bit better. Especially Kawhi Leonard, there was a throwdown he missed that would have been a momentum statement but he’s just a kiddo and he missed it.

Tony Parker is a top five point, Tim Duncan is probably still the best center in the league. Even if Duncan loses a step he’s still top 3. Who else is there? Dwight Howard? Not serious enough. Andrew Bynum? Give me a break. Marc Gasol? Needs more hardware. This is a league where Roy Hibbert and apparently Kendrick Perkins are top 3 centers. You could disagree with that assessment but whoever you pick, other than Mr. Duncan, there’s a very convincing argument.

Besides it’s just sports.

But…

I hope that midgets gang up on you.

You bastard.

Swans – My Father Will Guide Me a Rope Up to the Sky

One central salient feature is the cascading sounds that make your body feel like it’s levitating when you’re inside it. I wanted to experience that feeling again. Making something that is so much bigger than yourself that you feel like you are inside the mouth of God. (Michael Gira)

The thing is about making end of year lists is that unless you’re actually a professional music critic (and probably not even then) you really don’t have enough time to properly digest the work by the end of that year. This is especially true when records come out at the tail end of it and you’re still busy giggling about Rick Ross. My top ten from last year is basically garbage right now, I reviewed five on this “blog” but I did make a list of 20 which I’m almost ashamed to even dig up. I’m sure most of it is fine, Deerhunter, Kanye, Titus, Black Angels; I still stand behind those. I heard Das Racist sometime in December and said WOW THIS IS GREAT!!! and then sometime in January, after a few more hits on my mp3 player and wearing out the two or three decent songs I realized that no, this is really shallow bullshit and how could I have been so silly? But, at least it wasn’t Sleigh Bells. Throughout it all, pinned to my mp3 player, a record continued to make groaning, malevolent, apocalypitc sounds at me. It was spitting in anger that I would choose Foals and Das Racist for recognition over Swans’ triumphant return. I was wrong, profoundly so. Swans is one of the best bands in the damn world.

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Sucker Punch

The year is 1945 and World War II is not how it was remembered. In the Pacific, the Japanese have magically imbued 15 foot statues of samurai to brutalize the Chinese while their undead and clockwork Nazi allies in Europe wage war against the Allies in the trenches. Codename: Sucker Punch, a secret Allied project of five genetically and cybernetically modified super women use their deadly skill in combat and their sexual wiles to access the highest levels of security and destroy the Axis from within. However, when interpersonal conflict gets between the women will their greatest enemy be themselves? Or can they put aside their petty differences and achieve victory? An incredibly stupid plot, yes, but unfortunately not the one in the actual movie Sucker Punch. The actual story is far stupider and far less fun. I wrote that paragraph in I dunno, 10 mins. Director Zach Snyder must have spent a lot less time on his story, and probably with one hand in his pants. Well he had a co-writer so maybe he was using both.

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Vegan Che Guevara

Does revolutionary rhetoric belong in veganism or is it a contradiction in terms?

“If it comes to war to end the systematic abuse of animals, I’ll most certainly be taking up a weapon.”

There was a discussion online from a vegan friend of mine in my facebook feed. Someone said the above, and I took exception to it. First of all, it’s B.S., it’s one of those false declaratives that, odds are, they will never actually have to hold true to. By making it they can pretend to be a revolutionary, without actually being one. Second, this implies that the lives of animals are greater than human ones, and there’s no way to make that seem any less ridiculous. Certainly sentient life can be equally valuable, especially if it is valued to the extent that the vegan community does. I don’t agree with that concept that we are equals with the animal kingdom, since consumption of living things is part of the natural order of things, but at least that idea is sound and isn’t strangely subservient.

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Radiohead – The King of Limbs

Radiohead Album of the Year (Possibly?) and Special Prize for Being Radiohead

Actually, hold up. This album fucking sucks. It’s so boring! It just goes on and on with weird time signatures and indestinct noodling. There’s no grabs here, it’s basically just washed out, boring and unispiring Radiohead(TM). I know the “hipsters” are going to be way into this because they’re such suckers for this total hack band. I mean really guys, “Karma Police” can you get more wack? I’m not sure if it’s possible, I mean, unless it’s “The King of Limbs.” Is that a real album title or did they just pull it out of their backside? This is one of the worst bands, them and the Suburbs that beat out Lady GaGa and my favorite Eminem. He really speaks to my put-upon white rage. Radiohead is just a bunch of whiny jerks, I bet they’re not even from America. How anyone could listen to this and not think it’s crap is beyond me. But then again, these are the same people that hate Van Halen and won’t pay to see a talented, professional cover band that plays everyone’s favorite hits. You know from Tiny Dancer, to that one Journey song and then the always timeless “Play That Funky Music White Boy.” I love cover bands. That’s real rock and roll, who’s going to cover, lets see here “Codex”? Haha is that really the name of the song? I bet he doesn’t even say that word once in there. Tom York is an asshole, and I refuse to spell his name the way he wants it to because you know, you can’t be all fancy you’re still just Tom. The height of pretentious hipsterism. Radiohead sucks! People who like it are all pretentious!

Rating: A big bucket of chicken shit.

Grinderman – Grinderman 2

Best Album With a Wolf on It and Notable Award for Use of the Skeletal Remains of a Kennedy

What a dumb, dumb jerk I’ve been. All these years, I had heard of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and I just sort of dismissed it. “Goodness!” I’d say, “This seems to have people a-buzz but I am going to listen to Stone Temple Pilots anyway, it’s familiar and comforting like a terrible hamburger from Jack-in-the-Box.” Grinderman is indeed the new project from the Australian legend Nick Cave, and it shows that old people still can rock pretty good when they aren’t complaining about children being on their lawns or how their dentures keep falling out. The guitars are fuzzed out and grimy, just hows I likes em. Everything’s a bit skuzzball on this record, evidenced by the trashy living room scene with a rather annoyed wolf on the cover. It’s one of those images that really sums the contents of the album up in a nice little package. “Palaces of Montezuma” is one of the best tracks of the year. It’s a love ballad sort of, it’s ever so slightly creepy but still manages to be beautiful expression of desire, especially with the female harmonies during the chorus that float in as if on the breeze. Palaces also has the Line of the Year: “The spinal cord of JFK/wrapped around Marylin Monroe’s negligee/I give to you.” Isn’t that what every young lover wants? I’d be beside myself. “How did you manage to get this??” I’d say. This album also prompted my roommate, who was tripping at the time, to ask during the final track “Bellringer Blues” which has a strange reversed guitar sound that loops around and plays with the track in weird and unusual ways: “Does this song really sound like this??? This is awesome!!!” Yes, Nick Cave is awesome and I’m late to the party but at least here, picking half eaten hors d’oeuvres off the buffet. How can you resist a record that’s got a track on it called “Evil!!”? HUH?

Rating: The cerebral cortex of Barry Soetoro wrapped inside of Christina Hendricks’s enormous brassiere. I give to you.

The Black Angels – Phosphene Dream

Trippy Shit of the Year and Notable Achievement in Metal Song Titles for a Non Metal Album

Phosphene Dream unfurls with “Bad Vibrations” like a cloud of acrid weed smoke. The trip coaxes you into a hazy world of woozy guitars and a singer that seems to be inside of a bucket. And look at that album cover! You could trip balls and stare at that thing for hours. There’s nothing remarkably new here, it sounds like Beatles psychedelics crossed with Black Sabbath Satan worshiping but that’s pretty awesome in of itself. They’re also from the ATX homeboy so you better reckanize. I’m fairly new to this band, having only heard this album just now, five minutes ago. No not really, I’ve been listening to this for the better part of six or seven months. I played it so much when we had company over my roommates requested a moratorium on playing this album until the end of time. I do that sometiems, over play my welcome. Practically, if you want to listen to something that’s old school rock music with some classic pop tracks and some weird space out jams this is the department to check into. It’s kind of unfortunate but there’s not a lot of good old fashioned rock n roll being released right now, and that’s why I like this record. It’s derivative, sure, but it is quality. I mean, if you want straight ahead rock musics, you could always go for Godsmack and Linkin Park who put out new albums this year, but really who the fuck am I kidding that shit sucks.

Rating: ON THIS RIVER OF BLUUHHHUHHHUHHHHUUUDDDD


Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Kanye West Award for Kanye West Album of the Year and Special Achievment in the Field of Guest Spots

Look at that ridiculous cover. It’s Kanye fucking a phoenix, at least that’s what the artist says it is. The album cover I have is a ballerina looking embarrassed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rap album that has a cover like this. It almost looks like some kind of indie rock record: the absence of text, the bizarre picture on the cover that seems to be apropos of nothing. You could probably slap that Deerhunter cover on this album and nobody would really even notice. Then again, Kanye certainly understands what one major component of his audience is: indie dorks that are beside themselves in pants shitting glee when he samples Kraftwerk or Can. So far, this album has topped two different Album of the Year lists at Pitchfork and the Onion A.V. Club. The Onion’s best of 2010 list actually seems to get it spot on: part of the reason this album succeeds is because Kanye is some sort of idiot savant. He’s far too dumb and/or self-absorbed to ever worry about falling flat on his face, so he’ll take chances nobody else would even think were good ideas. I think 808s and Heartbreak was that moment when he did fall flat on his face, but most critics didn’t even notice because it was so insane for a rap artist to make an entire album “singing” via autotune about having his heart broken, that they heaped praise on it anyway.

Is that a good thing? I’m not sure–Yo Brendan I’m really happy for you and I’mma let you finish, but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of the best albums of all time, OF ALL TIME!!!–I don’t care really. It seems hip hop is finally starting to get really fucking weird and experimental and you have to thank Kanye for that at some point. Leading up to the release I was expecting another uneven Kanye album full of highs and lows that would have the critics spurting all over it. I won’t deny that I love some of his tracks, primarily “We Don’t Care” the anthem from College Dropout, but I wasn’t exactly a big fan of that entire album, or Graduation for that matter. I didn’t fuck with 808s at all. Although he gets a few hilarious lines out but for the most part the guy really can’t rap at all.

I’ve always played the Kanye skeptic, I’ve always said that he is a great producer but a shitty MC and tends to indulge himself too much on his own albums preferring left field non-music to actually making something that is good. I can’t hate on this album though, its not that he has changed all that much, it’s just more cohesive and his crazy shit sounds better than it has before. I will say his skills with the mic are improving but he’s still at sub-Dre levels. The most you can really say about his skills on the mic is that he may go between good rhymes and bad ones in the same verse at least he’s not generically rapping about guns and drugs, like most horrible MCs. He’s still doing weird things and still making hilarious jokes: “You got too many Urkels on your team that’s why your wins low,” so far is my favorite. He still blunders into horrible rhymes and just lets them stay there because he’s so full of himself. There’s one in particular where he rhymes “asshole” with “asshole” not once but twice in the span of two bars, as well as the line on “Gorgeous” where he says “People who try to black ball me forget about two things: my black balls.” That’s an awful line that doesn’t even rhyme or make a whole lot of sense and then to compound it, the legendary and nearly untouchable Raekwon pops up right after that to throw Kanye’s amateur raps into more dramatic relief. But even when Nicki Manaj is owning the shit out of “Monster” it doesn’t feel like they’re showing him up;  they’re part of his insanity. He really does not give a fuck about it at all. I’m not sure if he should, he’s probably the most famous, influential, and critically acclaimed figure in the whole game (with all due respect to Jay-Z). But saying he’s “a Chi-town nigga with a Nas flow,” which he says in “Dark Fantasy”, is more than a little delusional.

The album is tremendous, the first four tracks will easily hook most anyone. Currently I’ve listened to “All of the Lights” featuring Rhianna and Drake (apparently) about 15 times in the last two days. Once you get to “Runaway” I don’t know if you can deny how relevant he is as an artist. “Runaway” is a self-aware admission of self: the hook starts with “Let’s have a toast for the douchebags, let’s have a toast for the assholes.” The track is an admission that the reason his relationship failed (the one he “sang” about on 808s) was mainly his own fault, and is a warning to other women that he is a huge asshole/douchebag/jerkoff. Only Kanye West can combine egomania and humility in one strange contradictory package. This self-conscious confession is further continued on “Blame Game,” featuring the wonderful John Legend is one of his best songs in years. That’s more honesty and emotional openness than you’re likely to ever find from a mainstream rap artist, and indeed probably from anyone in the hip hop game at all.

Shit, these things are supposed to be between 250 and 300 words. We’ll stop here at nearly a thousand.

Rating: Kanye West’s opinion of himself.

By the way, while searching for this video there’s an ad for the new Dr. Dre track on all these Kanye vids. I wonder if the old man is feeling a little challenged…Chronic 2011?

And lastly, I just have to include this.

Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

Best Album by a Band With a Deer Name and Notable Award for Excellence in Midget Photography

It’s always very exciting when a band with a name that has something to do with deer drops a new record. Deerhunter, Deerhoof, Deer Tick, Caribou, Danger Deer, Broken Deers, Deer Bells, Deer Mouse, Deerosaurus Rex, Deerhat, North American Grazing Mammal With Horns On (great band), and etc. This is definitely the best deer band album this year, with all due respect to Caribou. Besides, caribou are actually relatives of badgers scientifically speaking. Halcyon Digest is the fourth album from these fellows from the Durty Souf, ATL Jawjuh as I believe it is correctly pronounced. I haven’t listened to the others, because this Deerhunting thing is all new to me, I thought there was more boredom and deer urine involved. What is tremendous about this album is how well put together it is; it keeps its balance as a continuous whole in spite of a rather diverse set. For example: the slow, mournful  “Sailing” is sandwiched between the bouncy, banjo plucking single “Revival” and the triumphant “Memory Boy.” However, the sighing  “Helicopter” is possibly the best song on the album. From the soothing ambient guitar noise, to the droplet like sound effects, and the choppy, helicopter-like drum beat. It encapsulates Deerhunter’s music as a whole: ambient, noisy, experimental, but not sacrificing listenability and Having a Good Time. Another highlight is “Coronado” which features a sleazy sax straight from the pages of 70s boogie rock. This song hopefully re-legitimizes the saxophone in rock music after so many 80s soft rockers worked so hard to make John Coltrane’s instrument about as cheesy as King Ranch Chicken topped off with Cheetos and Cheez-Its. Thanks a lot Hall & Oates.

Rating: When you go to Burger King and get a couple of onion rings in with your fries.