Archive for November 2011

Play Ball

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December 25 is probably already marked off on your calendars. But today we've been given another reason to do so. Basketball will be back. Knicks vs Celtics, Heat vs Mavs, and Bulls vs Lakers. Try to at least pay a little bit of attention to your families.

Here's to hoping they pick up where they left off last season.

And an early Merry Christmas to you all.

We Don't Want the Good, We Want the Great

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Well, he's back.

Sidney Crosby is playing again, and according to his four point season debut against the New York Islanders, he hasn't changed a bit.

Not only is this great news for the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it's especially great news for the NHL. Sidney Crosby is good for business south of the boarder, and when he is playing (and scoring), more people in the States are paying attention. And with the NBA being locked out for what looks like the rest of the season *sigh*, the NHL has an opening to step out of the shadow cast by the MLB, NFL, and NBA.

But as great as it is for the NHL that Crosby is back in action, there is one missing piece to the puzzle that is essential to the NHL becoming a real force in the United States: Alexander Ovechkin.

Through 20 games, Ovechkin has only 16 points, good for 50th in the league. This is a problem consider he is one of the two hockey players casual hockey fans can name off the top of their head.

Many say Ovechkin's lack of production comes from buying into a more defensive role for the good of his team, the Washington Capitals. As great as this might be for the Capitals, this isn't good for the NHL. Right now, the NHL has an opportunity to get noticed. They have the opportunity to pick up the casual fans that are sick of the NBA's greed, and are looking for something else to watch in the winter. They don't want to see a defensive Ovechkin. They want to see the dynamic, exciting, passionate, goal scoring Ovechkin that has the hockey world clutching on to something every time he touches the puck.

I'm not saying Ovechkin is doing the wrong thing by playing more defensively. In fact, I really respect it. But it would also be great to see the NHL grow, and hockey as a sport grow along with it. And for that to happen, we need to see Alex the Great, not Alex the Responsible in his own Zone.

A Review of Childish Gambino's "Camp"

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Donald Glover is finding success in everything that he does lately. He's a successful actor, writer, and comedian, and with the release of his first studio album, Camp, Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino), shows the world he can also make music.

Here's a quick background of Glover for those of you who don't know his story. He has been a writer for The Daily Show and 30 Rock, he starred in the online sketch comedy group called Derrick Comedy that generates millions of YouTube hits per video, and he now co-stars in the very successful NBC sitcom, Community, all before he turned 28. 

Now Glover, as his rapping alter ego, Childish Gambino, can add an exceptional hip-hop album to his list of impressive achievements. 

Camp is the complete hip-hop album. Production wise the album is top notch. Gambino raps on everything: synth, piano, violin, dubstep, and even a full choir to name a few. Glover's whole career has been about versatility, and it's no different as Childish Gambino.

One of the strengths of Camp is Gambino's honesty. He intelligently raises unconventional racial issues of racism directed at him about not being black enough on tracks like "Hold You Down" where he raps, "This one kid said something that was really bad/ He said I wasn't really black because I had a dad." Gambino hears all of the people who attack his race, sexuality, and his right to be a rapper, and chooses to fight back by cleverly worded, and carefully placed lyrical fire throughout his album.

Although there are many serious themes throughout the album, it's complemented by Gambino's premier wordplay. On Camp's first single, "Bonfire",Gambino proves he can go line-for-line with anyone in the game. With lines like "Made a beat and murdered it, Casey Anthony", and "So this rap is child's play, I do my name like Princess Di," Gambino has his coming out party for anyone who thought his rapping was just a gimmick.

Whether or not Gambino's music will be able to push through into mainstream remains to be seen, but it is worth pointing out if he so chooses, Gambino has a radio gem in Fire Fly. The song is infectious. Lyrically, it's not one of the albums strongest, but with the relaxing synth, combined with an upbeat sound and beautiful melody, it has the potential to blow up on the radio.

As much as I didn't want this album to end, Camp has a perfect closing track. On "That Power", Gambino goes off lyrically for the first two and half minutes backed up by a choir, but at 3:00, the beat switches to an acoustic set highlighted by some crisp violin. Gambino decides to tell us a story about a girl he met at summer camp when he was 13, and engages whoever's ears cross its path. If you don't like hip-hop, you should still listen to this song just for the story.

Camp is ambitious,experimental, and original. Gambino is clever, emotional and honest. And if this album is heard by enough people, it can change the way hip-hop sounds entirely. In mainstream music right now, everything is sounding the same. Gambino admits that he's different, and if this is what different sounds like, then sign me up for Camp.

My Rating: 5 out of 5
Best Tracks: "All of the Shine", "Bonfire", "Fire Fly", "That Power"

Here's the video for Bonfire. It's awesome. And not for children (lyrically or visually)


New Music Tuesday

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I'm excited.

Tomorrow is Tuesday. Which means new music. To be honest, I haven't really been excited for new releases lately, but this Tuesday is different. Tomorrow both Drake and Childish Gambino come out with new albums (Take Care and Camp). They've both been leaked, but I have held off, which makes me very excited for tomorrow.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I love Childish Gambino. But at the same time, when it comes to hip-hop, Drake is a very big deal. Right now they are two of my favorite artists (including Jay-Z, and Kanye, and probably a few others), which is why it's so awesome that they're release dates are the same day.

But, the question is: which album do I listen to first?

This might not seem like a big question to some, but I'm really having a hard time deciding.

If any readers think they can help me lean a certain way, feel free to comment.

And expect some album reviews this week, I won't be able to resist.

In the meantime, please enjoy how sweet it is that one of today's best rappers talks about how much he likes the Muppets in his interviews. Times sure have changed...

Peter Mansbridge


This weekend I had the privilege to listen to Peter Mansbridge speak at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, and it was amazing.

It was amazing because never in my life have I seen anyone command a room the way he did. Mansbridge is quite the national celebrity, and during his speech this weekend it became very clear to me how he has gained that success.

In a room full of hundreds of people, you could hear a pin drop when he spoke. He was careful with his words, and not because he didn't want to say anything he would regret, but because every word he said had meaning and purpose.

Mansbridge told stories of his amazing career, how it started out, and what it was like to interview the President of the United States, but what stood out was how he told stories of ordinary people. To him, the interviews that really stood out were the ones where he got to tell stories of people who ordinarily wouldn't be able to have their story told. Those are the stories that matter, and those are the stories that affect people.

I'm not really sure what I'm going to end up doing with my life. In some ways, Mansbridge inspires me to be a journalist, but above that, he inspired me to tell peoples stories.

It's amazing how everyone has a story. And whether I become a journalist, or something entirely different, I hope I will continue to have a passion for storytelling, because there are so many people in this world whose stories should be told.