I Know You’re Strong

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdwMkA1WaGU

Every time I feel sad and worthless, sitting in my apartment and counting all my regrets, I put this song on. To me, the Weakerthans’ “Plea From a Cat Named Virtute,” is the perfect anthem for getting back up and shaking yourself off, even if it is sung from the perspective of an animal that spends most of it’s time lying around aimlessly. Now, I don’t know if it’s especially healthy to relate your own self-worth to another being in your life, but knowing I have another creature’s life in my hands is impetus enough to temporarily shake off the cloud of depressive self-pity that pops up every once in a while.

Personification never moved me until I heard this song. “Why are these rabbits fighting? Why do these pigs and sheep care which legs they walk on?” Those books always felt like the required reading they were. But the realization that my cat could be singing these lyrics to me is enough to shake out the cobwebs of depressive introspection for just a minute. Even if I’m just picking up a piece of string and dangling it around, “Plea” has motivated me to get up more than any other clichéd “keep on livin’” anthem sung from the perspective of a basic ass human.

Virtute’s indictments, “all you ever want to do is drink and watch TV,” are like an antidote for the recently dumped. Things are never going to get better if you wallow in your own emotional filth, and doing so runs the risk of your cat biting you.

If there’s one thing I despise, it’s those whose self-pity becomes so cancerous that it envelops whatever is around them. This song prevents me from giving into that cancer. And if you don’t believe my cat is that great of a cat, just check my Instagram.

Pitchfork: The album is just called LP1, which seems to suggest that there may be some kind of coherent series to come.

T: Well, I don’t know what I’m doing, so I’m not going to give it some sort of grand name. But on the opening song, “Preface”, I sing a quote by a poet called Wyatt: “I love another, and thus I hate myself.” It’s inscribed into the vinyl. So it’s called LP1, but, for me, that quote is the subtitle—you could apply that line to anything in my life for the past two years.

I love my music, so I want to produce, write, and serve my music. I’ve had to learn about EQ frequencies, and programming, and space, and clutter, and how to be a better piano or bass player, everything. You can have big aspirations, but then you realize your skill level or your insecurities are holding you back. So you start to hate yourself, because it’s so frustrating!

Or it could also be referring to a lover: When you love someone you give them everything, but then they turn out to be a dick, and everything gets chucked back in your face. Then you’re insecure, paranoid, and jealous, and you’re obsessed over that person. It’s one massive head game because you’re like, “Who am I now?” You feel like this shriveled-up Gollum-like creature. And then you hate yourself because you’re trying so hard and it’s just not working. That’s what my album’s about.

This is one of my favorite answers in an interview with a musician/creative person that I’ve read in a long time. FKA Twigs interviewed by Pitchfork.

A Year in the “Gudda”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=li0vJFmcB9M

            Released almost a year ago on his “Law 2” mixtape, Shy Glizzy’s “Gudda” has been in constant headphone rotation since I first heard it. “Gudda” opens with the ominous synth-stabs and bells courtesy of producer Beezy, before segueing into the song’s gleefully nihilistic chorus.

            Glizzy’s sneering high-voice is perfect for the sing-songy anthem in which he explains his penchant for bad behavior: “Motherfuck a hoe/ shoot a bitch n***a/ call a girl a bitch, well I ain’t got a sista.” Referencing the song’s namesake, he gives the reason, “I come from the gudda, where nobody love ya.”

            Chorus alone, “Gudda” is just about as perfect of a rap song I can think of, embodying everything incendiary and youthful about the music, while maintaining a sly, sadistic sense of humor for those refusing to be offended. Glizzy continues his stride in the verse, shouting out his hood and proclaiming his legitimacy from an early age: “I’ve been goin’ hard/since Pokemon cards,” before referring to his initial internet beef with Chicago rapper Chief Keef.

            Things only improve with the Kevin Gates verse as the Baton Rouge rapper rapidly cycles through various illegal activities, which culminate with him at a “Bistro, eatin’ cheesecake.” It’s pretty standard rap fair, but Gates’ is such an astutely, talented rapper, he could describe a day where he just washes his dog, and it still wouldn’t be out of place in this tremendously enjoyable song.

The top ten questions about the potential Andrew Wiggins-Kevin Love trade.

   

1. Should the Cavs trade Wiggins to acquire Kevin Love?
    2. Would Kevin Love like the weather in Cleveland?
    3. What number jersey would Kevin Love wear on the Cavs?
        -Nate Thurmond’s number 42 was retired in 1977
    4. Will Kevin Love be the next Nate Thurmond?
    5. Would Kevin Love be Lebron’s friend?
    6. Will Anderson Varejao’s hair end up in Kevin Love’s mouth in practice?
    7. What if Kevin Love forgets how to play basketball?
    8. Would Lebron help make Andrew Wiggins a great basketball player?
    9. What if a dog played with Lebron? Would that dog be a really good basketball player?
    10. Why did Dan Gilbert agree to a sign-in-trade for a dog?

The Universe Hates A Hero. The 2002 Western Conference Finals

I checked Grantland on Wednesday night and emitted an enthusiastic “Oooohh!” when I noticed the featured article: Jonathan Abrams’ oral history of the Sacramento Kings-Los Angeles Lakers 2002 Western Conference Finals. I promptly tuned out the episode of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” my girlfriend was watching and dove into the story like it was my own personal holy grail, hoping I would finally be able to connect the events of the seven-game series to my present day life. Considering your level of fandom, that obsessiveness either makes sense, or you’ll read the rest of this article with the suspicion that I’m a future case study in basketball insanity.

In simpler terms, the early 2000 Sacramento Kings were my rosebud.

 The irony of my first encounter with the Kings is not lost on me. I grew up in a small town called Chico, California, one hour and thirty minutes north of the capital. Yet, despite my close proximity to the Mitch Richmond-era Kings, I found myself - along with the rest of the country - captivated by the instant celebrity of the Orlando Magic’s Shaquille O’Neal. In first grade, with no other means of communication, I drew and sent a picture of Shaq Fu (dunking, naturally) to the man himself. In a few short weeks Shaq replied with a standard autographed picture and a personalized message. Obviously “Dear Fan” was a special nickname the Big Aristotle bestowed only upon myself.

Following the natural progression of a fan-boy, I begged my dad to take me to a Magic-Kings game. We ended up attending two games in as many years. Civic pride be damned, the Sacramento Kings were merely a prop to view Shaq in all his backboard shattering glory. I now realize that driving to root for one player on the opposing team is not the most heartening display of loyalty to one’s home squad, but sheer spectacle is a force capable of destroying even the most hardened basketball cynic. LeBron James continues to attract away crowds for this particular reason. I’m not saying I need an excuse, but I was in first grade and the Kings were barely performing .500 levels. Shaq was basketball then.

My pre-teen devotion to the sport was like that of a vagrant, desperately wandering through whichever marquee match-ups were given the national spotlight. Without a team to rest my identity on, I picked players to root for depending on how similar our names were. Nick Van Exel was one of my better choices. Antoine Walker, not so much.

 However, such habits were easy to extinguish with the lockout shortened 1998-‘99 season. In that small fifty game window, the Behind the Back (should’ve been a) Dynasty began to peak through, becoming the only team to average more than 100 points that year. The explosive Kings previewed a thrilling, if occasionally sloppy style of play that distracted from the brutish slugfests still taking place throughout much of the league.

In a post-Jordan era of explosive individual players, the Kings stood out not only in their kid tested high-light plays, but their mother-approved ball movement. Centered around rookie Jason Williams; future hall of famer (if there’s any justice) Chris Webber; and savvy veteran Vlade Divac, the Kings showcased a style of play in which seemingly any member on the court could commandeer the offense. Throw in Corliss Williamson, and future three-point champion, Peja Stojakovic, and you had the most thrilling 27-23 record of the year.

The following season, the Kings shed some weight (Oliver Miller joke) and blew past opponents in the first three quarters of nearly every game, earning what felt like a much more significant 44-38 record upon viewing.

In the scripting of the rivalry, the Kings lost to the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

What I was watching was special. I knew that much. I knew it from the startling amount of behind the back passes per game (BtBppg) to the ecstatic declarations of play-by-play announcer Grant Napear, whose trademark “If You Don’t Like That, Then You Don’t Like NBA Basketball!” felt like a challenge as much as it did a rallying cry.

 The Kings continued to grow in both popularity and talent, fetching Sixth Man of the Year Bobby Jackson and defensive stopper Doug Christie for a 55-27 record leading to another battle with the Lakers in the Western Conference Semi-Finals. Jason Williams was then traded for the more reliable Mike Bibby, which enraged my And1 mixtape dependency for a moment before realizing the heart Bibby had.  While he was no stranger to big plays, it was Bibby’s fearlessness in the clutch that filled the void of White Chocolate’s spectacular albeit sloppy playbook. There is no greater evidence of that than the Western Conference Finals. 

It was in this seven game battle that the indomitable wall of meat* known as Shaq helped to destroy everything I love. Gone was the backboard shattering product pushing genie of Orlando. In his place stood a behemoth of the paint. Shaq didn’t post-up, as much as he absorbed defenders into his gravitational pull before exploding universes with a mere dunk. Once an admirer, I loathed the Big Nickname Generator. Coupled with Kobe Bryant’s steely-eyed smoothness and a murderer’s row of easy-villain role-players  (Rick Fox’s smugness, Robert Horry’s Robert Horry-ness), the Lakers were a team so sickeningly dominant that even the slightest appreciation of their talents could destroy friendships.

 It would not only be foolish for me to recap the WCF (I was thirteen at the time) but disingenuous to both the dynamic Kings highlights compiled by the saints of YouTube as well as Abrams’ amazing article.

For fear of sounding overtly sentimental about something I really had no part in, Abrams helped give me closure, specifically his section about the infamous Game Six.

There’s a desire to feel scorned, to feel like you and your home team were merely pawns in a conspiracy to solidify a Lakers three-peat. It makes you feel small and powerless, and there’s a comfort in that. That comfort overpowers any insecurity, because you can believe the problem isn’t with you, that it’s outside of you. It’s bigger than any thing you can handle. There are primal forces that you dare not meddle with. It’s the reason I listened to this Coldplay song more than once. But then you read Ted Bernhardt’s account of officiating that game and being forced to tell his boss, “…well, I thought my partners sucked,” and that can help you take closure in the fact that you were betrayed, not with malicious, cackling intent, but by dumb old human error.  

 I mean, there were a lot of errors. A hauntingly large amount of errors. Errors so headscratchingly crazy, you can believe Ralph Nader made it his business.

There is an utter hopelessness when you realize the universe just doesn’t want your heroes to feel the kind of joy you think they’ve earned, because what more can you give them after you’ve already hooted and hollered and even purchased a pair of their dumb shoes. (Kidding about that last part).

And yet that hope gets foolishly manipulated and restocked with new seasons, new faces, new jerseys. Of course that depends on whether or not your heart can handle it. One would be hard pressed to find a more accurate and clichéd metaphor for life. Except the one difference between sports and life is that in life you’re not sure if DeMarcus Cousins can really resurrect your team. Compared to that, this life shit’s easy.

*Yao Ming once referred to Shaq as a “meat wall.”

Not A Chill Out Zone

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This is not a chill out zone. I can not chill. I am not in a chill mood and I haven’t been for the last week. I wasn’t chill when the Blazers lost to the Spurs by double-digits for the last three games. I wasn’t chill when the guy next to me at the bar repeatedly called LaMarcus Aldridge a “fucker” and kept trying to coach the TV. I wasn’t chill when he kept referring to Gregg Popvich as “Pops.” The tone in my voice wasn’t chill when I told him his name was “Pop. Not Pops! Just Pop.” Louis Armstrong is Pops. Gregg Popovich is the furthest thing from a jazz musician you’ll ever find. Pop is not chill.This series has not been chill. The only thing chill about this series is the ice the Spurs are dumping over the Blazers like they’re about to wake up in a bath with all their internal organs removed.     
    My dentist told me it looks like I’ve been grinding my teeth in my sleep. I never used to grind my teeth. The Playoffs happen and all of a sudden I’m grinding my teeth? I know I have a life outside of basketball, and there are certain stresses that come with that too, but I’m pretty sure this is playoffs related.  My dentist told me I should purchase a certain mouth guard for sleeping. I probably should’ve worn it last night. I hope I grind my teeth tonight, for fear that I won’t be grinding my teeth until a year from now.
    I can’t be chill today. The smallest glimmer of hope is keeping me from being chill today. This season has been too good to stop grinding my teeth now. I don’t want to chill out.

BLAZERS IN 7.