Month: December 2013

NMSU recruiting update

As the Aggies head into the offseason and recruiting picks up, I’m taking a glance at what’s gonna be a pressing need for NMSU entering the 2014 season.

It’s no secret that our defense was horrendous last season; as such, coordinator David Elson and D-line coach Romeo Bandison will not be coming back next year. Head coach Doug Martin hopes to have named a new coordinator by January 17th; that’s when our prospective recruits will be making their next visits. Martin has specifically mentioned that he intends to hire someone who wants to be in Las Cruces, someone who is seriously committed to turning this program around. I believe he’ll find somebody.

Regardless of who Martin hires as coordinator, we need more bodies on defense. Martin recently clarified that while he does plan on moving some offensive players to defense, most of the defensive needs will be addressed in the incoming recruiting class. “We’ll probably play quite a few young guys on defense next year. But that’s ok. They’ll be fast, and that’s what we’re after,” Martin said.

Anyone who watched the Aggie defense this past year noticed our lack of speed (especially among the linebackers). We’ve got some verbal commitments from a number of guys who can run and tackle well.

Depth is the primary concern right now. Of the 22 seniors on the 2013 Aggie squad, 12 were on defense. This was primarily due to former coach DeWayne Walker’s focus on junior college recruiting, something Martin is moving away from. Walker would usually take about a dozen JUCO players every year, while Martin intends to sign three or four at the most.

While we do have some young talent in the secondary, the front seven is a major cause of concern. We simply need more big bodies up front in order to have any chance at stopping the run. The only place that we have quality depth at right now is the cornerback position.

On the offensive side of the ball, we’ve got three QBs verbally committed as of Christmas Day. This will provide depth behind King Davis III, our presumed starter, and perhaps open up some quality competition in spring practice.

NMSU returns Brandon Betancourt at tailback, and he could definitely handle 25-30 touches per game. Shifty Xavier Hall (5’8″, 170) can be a speed weapon ideally suited for our spread offense. Still, the Aggies could use a breakaway threat that can keep defenses on their heels. Maybe redshirt freshman Marquette Washington will be the answer.

Wide receiver is the deepest position on the roster, but superstar Austin Franklin recently decided to forgo his senior year and enter the NFL Draft. Martin pointed to Greg Hogan, a redshirt freshman from Houston, who could step in and fill Franklin’s considerable cleats, but I predict that Martin and his staff will sign a couple receivers in the class of 2014, strictly as an insurance policy. Last year, Martin admitted that the Aggies needed more playmakers at the receiver position. Hopefully, he’ll find the right guys.

Again, the more pressing concern is defense. As solid as our offense looks on paper, we won’t always be able to outscore teams in the Sun Belt. Fielding at least a respectable defense will translate to better results on the scoreboard.

Looking forward to signing day. Only a couple more months – go Aggies!

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The O.C.

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Ten years after it first aired, The O.C. still packs a punch. Gorgeous California scenery (and women). Flashy clothes, but believable characters. And perhaps best of all, it introduced us to the holiday mashup of “Christmukkah.”

The O.C. began as a fish-out-of-water drama primarily focused on Ryan Atwood (Ben McKenzie), a misfit youth from Chino who gets into some pretty big legal trouble. A compassionate lawyer, Sandy Cohen (Peter Gallagher), takes Ryan under his wing and becomes a foster parent to him. Ryan is immediately taken from the slums of northeast L.A. to the ritzy, high-end hills of Orange County. Ryan moves in with the Cohens – Sandy, his wife Kirsten (Kelly Rowan), and their nerdy son Seth (Adam Brody).

Ryan deals with the issues and drama of growing up in Orange County, while beginning a friendship/brotherhood bond with Seth, falling for girl-next-door Marissa Cooper (Mischa Barton), and interacting with the colorful, wealthy inhabitants of Newport Beach.

Despite the early focus on Ryan as a little fish in a big pond, the show spun out from there to focus on Seth, Sandy, and everyone else in the ensemble. A number of talented guest stars pop up and add spice to the ongoing drama.

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Creator Josh Schwartz, who was a mere 26 years old when the pilot episode was picked up, invites us into a guilty-pleasure situation. It’s hard not to be compelled by the characters (both kids and adults), as they face challenges and pressures unknown to most of suburban, middle-class America. Make no mistake: The O.C. is an awesome dose of drama, comedy, and romance that offers a glimpse into the world of the SoCal coast.

I admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first saw the pilot. I assumed it would be a soap opera featuring whiny rich kids in unrealistic situations. However, I was a big fan of Schwartz’s later show Chuck and decided to give The O.C. a chance. I’m happy to say my skepticism was proved wrong.

So what sustains The O.C.? At its core, this show features heartfelt, genuine characters. Despite the materialistic and post-modern qualities this show possesses, the writers always stay true to their roots when dealing with certain characters and the situations they find themselves in. I can relate to both the awkward Seth and the brooding Ryan, growing up in weird environments and not really fitting in anywhere they go. And who doesn’t wanna fall for a girl like Marissa Cooper? 

As far as the adults go, Gallagher and Rowan show a ton of depth in their performances as the Cohens. They remain pillars of relative stability in Newport Beach, a town consistently marked by scandal and gossip. Melinda Clarke brings flair to her role as Marissa’s mom Julie, the cunning, manipulative housewife/gold digger.

Character development also plays a key role in TV, more so than in feature films because there’s more screen time to deal with. Here, Schwartz and his writers bring characters along into maturity and make them deal with issues and conflicts that define them as people – all while eliciting truthful performances. I can specifically point to the unlikely romance between the comic book-loving Seth and popular girl Summer Roberts (Rachel Bilson) as evidence of the show’s evolution of its characters.

So yes, even a decade after the show’s debut, the beaches of The O.C. still have their appeal.

“I am neither traitor nor hero. I am an American.”

Edward Snowden, the controversial NSA whistleblower, has been named Person of the Year by numerous newspaper and magazine publications. We all saw it coming. 

What people didn’t see coming, however, is how much the federal government has infringed upon our basic rights and liberties. Most of us (at least the ones who have been bothering to pay attention) realized that the Obama administration has been approaching statism and socialism for some time now, but this still takes the cake: Snowden’s revelations that the U.S. government has been routinely spying on its own citizens  through a number of classified espionage programs. I don’t intend to go into all the details about all the government programs that the CIA, NSA, and other organizations have come up with; the point is that the American government is refusing to allow us basic freedoms. We have constitutional rights and liberties that give us freedom of speech and the right to not be harassed by ANY government organization. When the government knows where you are, who you are talking to, and can illegally track you with impunity, there are serious problems. And I don’t buy the camouflaged BS that Obama has been saying – you know, that we have the right to spy on people who are accused of being terrorists. In Obama’s world, innocent until proven guilty no longer applies.

And I don’t advocate a completely hands-off approach, either. By all means, we should be wary about legit threats to our country. But this is insane.

Much fuss has been made over the PATRIOT Act and how it has been exploited. Yes, it was created in 2001 by the Bush administration. Yes, Bush had reasonably good intentions about catching terrorists. But the mistake that everyone made back then was allowing the government to infringe on the basic rights of Americans. In the wake of 9/11, The PATRIOT Act explicitly granted permission for “surveillance of lone wolves” – or people who are suspected of being terrorists without any connection to terrorist groups. The blame can theoretically be placed on the Bush administration for setting some of this into motion.

However, Obama has pushed all of these programs to the nth degree. Our president has become extremely paranoid. It’s his way or the highway. He’s using the “preventing terrorism” excuse because he’s not willing to be accountable for his actions. The NSA has spent billions upon billions of dollars against American citizens, spying on them illegally and unconstitutionally. There is obviously a big difference in everyone’s head between national security and information privacy. When you can’t even get on the internet or use your phone without fear of being watched or listened to, it is obvious that we are living under tyranny. In Obama’s world, if you’re not with him, you’re against him.

But I digress. Back to Mr. Snowden.

Snowden voted third-party in the 2008 election, but still said that he believed in some of the changes Obama had promised (obviously, governmental transparency was not one of them). While working for the CIA, Snowden became alarmed as to how the U.S. was using taxpayer dollars to spy on American citizens. When he fully realized the extent of the federal government’s programs, Snowden couldn’t, in good conscience, allow it to continue. He was careful about not leaking any documents that could put people in danger, and in early 2013, the first few documents were made public. On June 9, 2013, Snowden officially disclosed his identity.

In his own words, Snowden stated that he “carefully evaluated every single document” to ensure that they were of importance to the privacy of citizens. He also clarified that “harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

It’s honestly a very, very sad day when the government is only transparent when they’re in trouble like this. In a democratic society, government must be transparent and willing to be open about certain things that they do. Obama has no right to march onward with his spying agenda, lying about how Americans are being protected by these programs. We are not. We are creating enemies of our own people and catching very few terrorists in the process.

It’s also a very, very sad day when the one person (Snowden) who is willing to take the international stage and say “this is wrong” is considered a traitor. As citizens of a constitutional republic, we are morally obligated to take a stand and object to the unethical things that our own government is doing. If we can’t do that out of fear, we essentially live in socialism.

Snowden said in an interview, “There can be no faith in government if our highest offices are excused from scrutiny. They should be setting the example of transparency.” He also remarked, “I cannot in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

I should probably clarify, as much as I have quoted Mr. Snowden, I don’t think of him as a hero (hence, the title of this blog post). He is simply an ordinary citizen of America who is fed up with the U.S. government staying unchecked and unbalanced. Should he have revealed everything that he did? Maybe, maybe not. Were his motives completely pure? Maybe, maybe not. But you’ve still gotta appreciate the idea of one guy sacrificing his own freedom for the sake of informing the public of what is going on.

Still, Snowden did a brave thing. And according to news publications, he’s not done de-classifying documents. Brace yourself, Obama.

“I don’t know, it’s just the way I am.”

He has been called a legend in the making. A lyrical genius. A tortured artist. His lyrics have been described as brilliant, vulgar, dynamic, and disturbing – all of which are true. In addition to selling over 220 million albums worldwide, he is the best-selling artist of the 2000s and one of the leaders in a music industry dominated by African Americans. I’m talking, of course, about Marshall Bruce Mathers III, better known as Eminem.

Who is Eminem? He’s always been a controversial figure among fans and critics alike. It’s best to start from the beginning.

Mathers grew up in an unstable home. His mother, Debbie Nelson, was 17 when she gave birth to him, and he never met his dad, Marshall Mathers Jr. The younger Marshall moved with his mother every few months, living in-and-out of public housing in the Midwest, on and off welfare programs. They eventually settled in Detroit, Michigan, when Mathers was 11. Mathers was a loner as a kid, frequently getting bullied by older kids in his neighborhood and at school. He showed a creative streak as a kid, enjoying comic books and art, but at age nine, Mathers listened to his first rap CD, given to him by his uncle Ronnie. This inspired him to pursue a dream of being a rapper. Ronnie would commit suicide years later, devastating his young nephew (referenced in some of Eminem’s later songs).

Mathers frequently fought with his mom, in addition to dealing with the problems of poverty and urban unrest in Detroit. When Mathers was 14, a runaway named Kim Scott began living with him and his mother; this eventually led to an on-and-off relationship (their daughter Hailie Jade Mathers was born in 1995).

Mathers failed 9th grade twice, and then dropped out of school to focus on a hip-hop career. Despite his dismal grades, he was always good at English, sometimes even reading a dictionary to draw inspiration for his lyrics. Mathers would participate in underground rap battles in Detroit at night, while working different odd jobs during the day to provide for his mother. In these rap battles, Mathers would attempt to claw his way to the top, even though he was constantly discriminated against for being white. Mathers, who by now was known as Eminem, eventually gained an underground following in the early 90s before recording his first album Infinite on an independent label.

Infinite was a commercial failure, selling less than 2,000 copies and was rarely played on radio stations, even in Detroit. At the time, Mathers and Kim were attempting to raise their infant daughter in a very violent neighborhood, frequently getting robbed at night. Mathers worked a number of jobs to try to raise funds for his rapping career and trying to keep his family afloat. In March 1997, Mathers was fired from his job and was forced to move Kim and Hailey back to his mother’s mobile home.

Mathers soon developed a violent, mischievous alter ego (Slim Shady) in order to give his rap style more of an aggressive edge. He released The Slim Shady EP in the spring of 1997, eventually gaining the attention of hip-hop magazine The Source. After participating in a nationwide rap battle in L.A., Mathers got attention once again – this time from Jimmy Iovine, CEO of Aftermath Entertainment, founded by gangsta rap legend Dr. Dre. When Dre heard Eminem’s mixtape, he was blown away. They soon met and began a long collaboration that ended up catapulting Eminem to stardom.

Mathers released The Slim Shady LP in February 1999; it eventually went triple platinum and became one of the best-selling albums of the year. Featuring hits like “Role Model” and “My Name Is,” The Slim Shady LP established Mathers as an up-and-comer in the hip-hop scene, although he had many detractors. During a radio interview, Mathers said, “My album isn’t for younger kids to hear. It has an advisory sticker, and you must be eighteen to get it. That doesn’t mean younger kids won’t get it, but I’m not responsible for every kid out there. I’m not a role model, and I don’t claim to be.” Such words have defined his career.

Eminem’s next CD, The Marshall Mathers LP, sold over 1.7 million copies its first week, and ended up attracting even more polarizing reviews. Some praised his inventive rhymes, verbal energy, and lyrical flows, while others attacked him for promoting sexism and homophobia in his lyrics. The CD ended up winning Eminem his first Grammy and has some of his most memorable songs, including “Stan,” “The Way I Am,” and “The Real Slim Shady.” Lyrical themes prevalent on the album include Eminem verbally attacking the haters of his previous work, as well as his own dealing with his newfound pressures of fame and money.

In 2002, Mathers enjoyed an insane amount of success. In addition to his best-selling album The Eminem Show, Mathers starred as a semi-autobiographical version of himself in the film 8 Mile. He won the Oscar for Best Rap Song for “Lose Yourself” and had his CD certified 10 times platinum by the RIAA. The Eminem Show was the highest-selling CD of 2002.

Mathers continued to tour relentlessly in support of The Eminem Show and 2004’s Encore before taking some time off and contemplating a retirement from rap. With an unsure future, he released Curtain Call: The Hits in 2005 and remained ambiguous in interviews about whether he would retire or not.

During this time, Mathers began developing a serious addiction to prescription drugs, especially vicodin and valium. Introduced to these drugs during the filming of 8 Mile, Mathers later admitted that he began taking the pills to “feel normal” and he began gaining weight and losing sleep. In December 2007, Mathers overdosed on methodone and nearly died after collapsing in his bathroom. He got clean – but only for three weeks. Eventually, Mathers went to a rehab counselor and he started working out and running every day. He officially got sober in April 2008.

Mathers went back in the studio to record 2009’s Relapse, but it was not nearly as successful as his previous works, and he later spoke disparagingly of the CD. In 2010, Recovery was released, followed by his most recent album, 2013’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2.

When you think of Eminem now, you don’t just think of the multi-million dollar performer and rapper. He’s had his share of ups and downs, including two divorces from Kim Scott, a couple lawsuits from his mom, and numerous defaming allegations from gay rights and womens’ groups. It’s hard not to pay attention to Mathers’ headline-grabbing life.

So what makes Eminem so popular, especially among my age group? For starters, he’s honest. People my age are into speaking their own opinions and aren’t into censorship. Even though his lyrics are profane and raw, there’s something in them that speaks to people like me. A lot of people my age come from broken homes and can relate to what a guy like Eminem is saying. Also, he doesn’t just rap about dope, girls, and fast cars like the majority of other rappers. Listening to Eminem is an intense, visceral experience. He raps about real life struggles and issues that he faces, going all the way back to the commercial failure of Infinite in 1995. And he loves his daughters. (In addition to his biological daughter Hailie, Mathers has custody of Alaina, daughter of Kim’s twin sister.)

Now 40 years old, Mathers has cleaned up his life and continues to utilize his talent in the game of rap. I admire his strength and perseverance; frankly, it’s quite amazing that a white welfare kid from Detroit could make it in hip-hop. And despite his aggressive lyrics, Mathers presents himself well in interviews and is open and candid about his life, proving that at least some celebrities are willing to be transparent. He seems to have been humbled by his recovery from addiction, and he’s made the right steps into becoming a productive citizen as well as an amazing rapper. He’s even attempted to reconcile with his mother, and has removed a tattoo that depicts Kim negatively.

So who is Eminem? Is he a gay-bashing misogynist who hates his mother? Is he a tortured artist battling his subconscience? Or is he just Marshall Mathers, a white kid from Detroit?

To quote the man himself, “I am whatever you say I am. If I wasn’t, then why would I say I am? I don’t know, it’s just the way I am.”

Aggies win season finale

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It’s been an extremely tough year for the Aggie football team, playing one of the toughest schedules in the nation. But they finished the season strong, defeating the Idaho Vandals 24-16 in the season finale.

It was hard to watch at times; neither of these teams are good and the Aggies often shot themselves in the foot. But a win is a win, and NMSU got it done, sending the seniors out with a victory and finishing the year 2-10.

So, what’s next for the Aggies? Well, we’ve got a great foundation on offense going forward: a young dual-threat QB (King Davis III), a number of playmakers at wide receiver to complement superstar Austin Franklin, and four out of five O-line starters returning. More importantly, we have an up-tempo, no-huddle offensive scheme, which will keep opponents on their toes.

More problematic is the defense, ranked near the bottom of the nation in every major statistical category. We’re losing a lot of starters there, but that might not be a bad thing. Make no mistake, the Aggie defense was atrocious for most of the year, a fact that Coach Martin repeatedly blamed on a lack of recruiting, depth, and particularly speed.

Martin is a players’ coach; they respect him and are willing to go to work for him every day. He’s also a good recruiter and knows exactly what he plans to do with this program. Martin has been here before, too – trying to turn around a long-downtrodden team. Although his cumulative record at Kent State wasn’t that great, he essentially saved that program from extinction. That gives fans hope that he’ll do the same here in Las Cruces.

I’ve already posted about Coach Martin’s recruiting strategy (more Texas, less California) and his desire to get his players and coaches involved in the local community. As of today, we have roughly 15 players verbally committed for the class of 2014 – the most we’ve ever had here.

Granted, being a great recruiter won’t save you as a coach – the recent Mike Locksley debacle at UNM proved that. He was one of the best recruiters in the nation, but still finished 2-26 in three years.

Still, I believe in Martin’s overall vision and plan for this program. He has a great grasp of the strengths and weaknesses of this program, and he’s determined to build a winner here.

Go Aggies!