Archive | February 2014

ABA Basketball Launches

The first game of ABA Basketball launched last weekend at Moiola Elementary and I would say it was quite a success.  This whole project stemmed from an idea I had regarding how many kids tried out for my high school basketball team and were turned away from the sport just because they didn’t make the team.  I though creating a place where these kids can continue playing basketball on a competitive level was important for not only themselves but for the sport of basketball.  This idea was also partially inspired by what Kevin Durant did during the time the NBA had a lockout about two years ago, his Basketball Never Stops Campaign, where he continued to play in neighborhoods and gyms around the nation to continue on the game of basketball despite that the NBA season was locked out partially.

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I, along with other friends of mine, decided to make a Facebook page to promote our event and to encourage people to sign up and this is the link: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ABA-Recreational-Basketball-League/1425252317705182 .  We also have an Instagram @ABABasketball.  Our logo is inspired by that of the original ABA where, as previously mentioned, was a very influential in the naming process as the old ABA League was a place of fun and playing basketball for the sake of loving the sport.

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Our page includes the game schedules, updates on events, and it was a medium for us to contact the players and also to get people interested in playing to sign up.  The sign up form was basically a Google Form that team captains or people wanting to sign up could fill out and join the league.aba sign up

Honestly, getting teams to be assembled and getting players to join the league was our primary struggle as people felt as if playing in a fixed league might compromise other engagements they have or might impact with their normal schedule.  However, eventually we were able to get several teams to sign up and we actually had our first game last weekend.

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These are some pictures of the players getting warmed up, stretching, and shooting around prior to the game’s tipoff. Here are highlights from the game:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUDEO8apWFg&feature=youtu.be

In the future, we intend to carry out the games and maybe try to expand to other sports as well or continue on the basketball league.  However, if I was to do this project again, looking back I would have probably started earlier and done more with advertising the league so that it would have been easier to get more people to sign up.

The Evolution of Rap Part 2

 

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In the last post of this series we discussed the evolution of the rap from the 1980’s to the first part of the 1990’s.  This period was widely known for the subgenre of hip-hop/rap called gangsta rap, which talked about the struggles of the inner city and was much harder than previous styles.  We talked about the works and influence of artists like N.W.A., Dr. Dre, and the Wu-Tang Clan.  This post will be dedicated to two of the rap giants during the 1990’s, 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G, while exploring the West vs. East rivalry.  tupac-shakur-07

Tupac Amaru Shakur often heralded as one, if not the greatest rapper of all time, rose to fame during the early 1990’s .  His first album, 2Pacalylpse Now discussed the struggles of growing up, racism, police brutality, and urban life.  This set the precedent for much of 2Pac’s subject matter for his career as he would speak on the harsh reality of the inner city and how things must change.  The political voice associated with 2Pac’s works are reminiscent of those who came before him like Public Enemy.  His second album though would be his breakout album as it got him national atention within the rap industry with songs like I Get A Round and Keep Ya Head Up.  Keep Ya Head Up is definitely the more touching of the two as it speaks about how in recent years and in the rap game women have been pushed down.  He gives insight into his childhood and what he saw growing up.  More of his social commentary could be seen in the song dedicated to his mother on his third album, Me Against the World.  The song Dear Mama talks about and is a heartfelt homage to his mother who worked so hard to try and raise him in a world of turmoil.  This is considered one of his greatest songs and is even a work collected in the Library of Congress.

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2Pac’s fourth album was All Eyez On Me and is considered his greatest production due to the medley of rap hits it gave like How Do You Want It and the famous California Love.  This album was released in 1996 after he had joined Death Row Records with a bunch of other prominent West Coast rappers in 1995.  This album would be one of the most influential rap albums of all time as it would inspire the next generation of artists that would come up in the 2000’s.  His last album, The 7 Day Theory, was made in a relatively short time and would have massive success but unfortunately he didn’t live long enough to see it for himself.  On September 7, 1996, Shakur was murdered in Las Vegas after a Mike Tyson fight as he was the victim of a shooting while he was in the passenger seat with his friend Suge Knight.  On September 13th, 1996, he had died in the intensive care unit of internal bleeding from the gunshot wounds.  Tupac Shakur is remembered as being one of the greatest artists of all time as he rapped about the struggles of life and the tragedies of the human condition.  He also helped to bring rap and hip-hop to the mainstream public which made it more of an acceptable art form for young artists to express themselves.

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The second rap giant that dominated the 1990’s was Christopher Wallace or better known as The Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls.  Biggie grew up in New York City and helped to bring back rap music from the East Coast as previously the rap game was dominated by West Coast artists.  He started rapping as a teenager on the streets of Brooklyn and one day he was heard by Sean Combs (now better known as P. Diddy) of Uptown Records.  However, Combs would be fired from his position at Uptown and decided to start his own label called Bad Boy Records.  He continued to get exposure from releasing remixes of popular songs until he was able to release his first studio album, Ready To Die, in 1994.  He broke out as an artist with the song Juicy which had pop-like vocals and the album also had the synth heavy Big Poppa.  Juicy told the story of him trying to make it as an artist and the struggle of growing up in Brooklyn as well as trying to adjust to his new lifestyle. It got strong, positive reviews and brought attention back to the East Coast.

Unfortunately, Biggie and 2Pac would be involved in a long lasting feud that started from a misunderstanding in 1994.  2Pac was shot and mugged while in Quad Studios.  He would accuse Sean Combs and Biggie of being involved in setting it up despite them claiming to not being involved.  This misunderstanding started the intense rivalry between the two artists and the two coasts of the nation.  It was all about the West versus the East.  Death Row Records was very vocal about how they felt about Bad Boy Records.  The rivalry between the two record labels pushed their respective artists to make better music and it also spurred their fan bases to support.  However with the shooting of Tupac 1996, it came to a realization that it had gone to far as Death Row was blaming the East for the incident.  Biggie was very open about how Tupac’s loss was a tragedy and remembered the times when they were friends before the 1994 incident.  However, Biggie while visiting California to support his new album Life After Death was murdered on March 9, 1997.  The murders of Tupac and Biggie are still unsolved and there is still controversy about what just might have happened.  Christopher Wallace is considered one of the greatest rappers ever and will forever be known as the King of New York as far as rap.

 

The Evolution of Rap Part 1.5

If you haven’t read The Evolution of Rap Part I, it basically describes the origins of rap up until the late 1980’s where rap became more politically charged with groups like Public Enemy.  Much of rap from where we left off in the last post is rap going into two directions, one a new subgenere of gangsta rap and two rap begins its journey to making it to the mainstream audiences.  The subject matter of rap also starts to shift over to the struggles of living in the inner city.  I have decided to split up this time period into two separate post due to how I realized just how much this period covers as far as rap.

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The first group that will be discussed that follows under the gangsta rap genre is N.W.A. consisting mainly of Dr. Dre, Eazy E, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, MC Ren, and for a while in the beginning Arabian Price.  However, the first five in that list are the most popular and synonymous known for being in N.W.A.  The music of N.W.A. was heavy on verses, as is typical with rap groups, as usually every member contributes to the song.  This group started and was based in the city of Compton, California helping to get the West Coast rap game started and strong.  Their debut album called Straight out of Compton released in 1988 featured some of their most popular songs like Straight out of Compton, **** tha Police, and Express Yourself.  In Straight out of Compton, they not only introduce themselves to their audience in a dynamic, rhyme spitting way but they talk about their own struggles growing up, which will become a popular subject in verses to come.  Their most controversial track, **** tha Police, they discuss police brutality, discrimination of minorities, and racial profiling by authorities.  This was in response to claims of police brutality by LAPD of minorities which would later come to national attention with the beating of Rodney King in 1991.  N.W.A.’s controversial status to mainstream America stemmed from their use of profanity and due to the fact that they talked about violent subjects based on what was going on in the inner city or from what was going on at the time.
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Arguably N.W.A.’s most successful member, Dr. Dre started his solo career in 1991 after leaving N.W.A. and helped to find Death Row Records which would be a major player of rap during the 90’s.  Death Row records was created by Dr. Dre and Suge Knight, helping to find talents like Snoop Dogg and 2Pac.  Dr. Dre on his first debut The Chronic featured Snoop Dogg on the track Nothing but a G Thang and Dre later helped to produce his first album.  Death Row records was a major player in gangsta rap and the whole West Coast versus East Coast dispute that will later be discussed.  However, now we will shift over to the birth place of rap, the East Coast.
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One of the most prominent rap groups on the East Coast was the famous Wu-Tang Clan founded in 1992.  It was composed of RZA, GZA, U-God, Method Man, Raekwon, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, and unofficially Cappadonna.  They were from New York and were heavily influenced by martial arts movies on their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), influenced by the movie Return to the 36 Chambers.  Wu-Tang Clan’s first album featured hit songs like C.R.E.A.M., Bring Da Ruckus, and Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothin ta **** Wit.  Their masterful blend of instrumentals, martial art sound samples, and thier hard hitting verses captivated the rap scene.  Up until this point, rap was dominated by the West with artists like Ice Cube, N.W.A., and Snoop Dogg.  This landmark album helped to shift the attention from the West to the East for a while as they continued to dominate.  They would later on create Wu-Tang Forever which was their second albm in 1997.

“You had me at hello”

Hello everyone!  It is February now which means that one thing in particular is approaching quickly, Valentine’s Day.  Yes, the day where people are either elated with the fact that they are spending it with their special someone, or people are jealous/sick of the happy people.  I recently read a poem called A Work of Artifice by Marge Piercy, and it is about how some men take down and constrain women through the norms of society.  It also suggests that some men do nice things expecting nice things in return, but I am here to say that love isn’t really about that.  Love isn’t about receiving, it’s about giving for the sake of that special person.

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Now with it being Valentine’s Day pretty darn soon, I have decided to compile my favorite movies about romantic love, whether it be a romantic or romantic comedy.  I am the type of guy that lives and breathes action films, especially those from the 80’s.  I mean, I have my autographs of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Harrison Ford up in my room, and I don’t know how many times I have seen Rambo: First Blood.  However, I do have a soft spot for romantic comedies and romantic films.  Here is my compilation of my favorite romantic/romantic comedies that I have seen so far:

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The Notebook

I have decided to start off with my favorite “chick flick” of all time.  No joke, I have probably seen this movie more than my girlfriend.  In fact, she gave me the DVD  to me as a part of my Christmas present because she was surprised I didn’t have it.  I love this movie.  I love this movie for a combination of things: Ryan Gosling, the story, the setting, and the dialogue from the movie.  Ryan Gosling is one of my favorite actors for movies like Drive, Gangster Squad, and this movie.  I first saw this movie because my girlfriend wanted to watch it when we first started dating around two and a half years ago.  Ever since, I have seen this film quite often because not only is it frequently on TV but because it is a top notch film.  The chemistry between Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling is so phenomenal and believable.  The romantic mood and tone of this movie is only supported by the landscape and scenery of North Carolina’s marshes.

For those of you who haven’t seen this movie, it is one of those movies where there is one outer storyline and within that storyline another story is being told, in this case through a notebook.  The movie is about an elderly man, Noah, who is at a retirement home and wakes up everyday to tell his wife with dementia, Allie, a story.  He tells her the story of their love but everyday she forgets who he is or who the story pertains too.  While reading the story, Noah doesn’t tell her they are the people in it and he hopes one day she will remember on her own.  Now, the story of their love begins in their teenage years where young Noah, played by Gosling, tries to ask out a young Allie, played by McAdams.  From there, the story continues on to cover their teenage love until problems arrive between the two with parents and their personal lives.  To not ruin the story, I will just say that they get reunited and the movie continues on from there.  And yes, there is the scene where they argue about writing to each other and its raining.

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Jerry Maguire

Jerry Maguire is the movie with the famous quote, “You had me at hello.” This movie is great and one of Tom Cruise’s best performances.  This movie has an A list of actors including Tom Cruise, Renee Zellweger, Cuba Gooding Jr, and everyone’s favorite child actor Jonathan Lipnicki (the kid from Little Vampire and Stuart Little).  One of my favorite aspects of this movie is the humor in the movie provided by Lipnicki as the cute little kid and Cuba Gooding Jr.  The plotline follows a young, ambitious sports agent named Jerry Maguire, played by Cruise, obsessed with his job who eventually realizes that his firm is doing it wrong by being obsessed with the money and not the personal care of their clients.  Thus, he sends a memo to everyone with his own mission statement for the firm and basically gets fired for trying to change things for the better.  One of his coworkers also decides to leave, and she does it because she loves the message he is trying to promote.  She is a single mother, played by Zellweger, with a child, Lipnicki, who struggles on whether she should be involved with Jerry.   Jerry on the other hand, also doesn’t know whether he should be involved intimately and work with this women as he hates being alone but realizes she is special.  The movie tracks his struggles to balance work with his lone client (Gooding Jr.), his love for her, and his own personal emotions.  The ending of this movie is quite emotional and climactic that is perfectly wraps up the whole movie.