Saturday, December 31, 2011

The 50 Most Defining Moments of 2011

Another New Year's Eve, another chance to reflect back. 2011 has been a remarkable year, and I think history will look back on this as a time of intense change and scrutiny. As such, here are what I think will be the fifty most definitive moments of the year that was 2011. Let history affirm my selections...

50. Opposition to the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill
49. Rory McIlroy Cruises To Record-Setting U.S. Open Victory
48. Don Gorske Eats 25,000th Big Mac
47. Last Living American World War I Soldier Dies
46. Boston Bruins Win First Stanley Cup in 39 Years
45. World's First Artificial Organ Transplant
44. Introduction of Stop Online Piracy Act
43. New York v. Strauss-Kahn
42. Graphic Images To Be Displayed On Cigarette Packages
41. Los Angeles Dodgers File For Bankruptcy
40. Rare 5.9 Earthquake Hits Virginia
39. NFL, NBA Lockouts Threaten Cancellation of Seasons
38. NASA Space Shuttle Program Ends 30 Year Run
37. South Carolina Gamecocks Win Back-to-Back College Baseball Titles
36. Joplin Tornado Kills At Least 160
35. Southern Sudan Becomes New Country
34. University of Miami Booster Scandal
33. Death of Troy Davis
32. Indiana State Fair Stage Collapses, Kills 7
31. Death of Dan Wheldon
30. "Friday" by Rebecca Black Becomes Viral Hit
29. U.S. Representative David Wu Resigns Following Alleged Unwanted Sexual Advances
28. Death of Kim-Jong Il
27. Super Bowl XLV Sets Television Ratings Record
26. Amanda Knox Exonerated in Italy of Murdering Roommate
25. Rob Blagovich Sentenced To 14 Years In Federal Prison On Corruption Charges
24. Couple Gets Intimate Amidst Vancouver Riots
23. Super Tornado Outbreak Leaves 322 Dead Across Six States
22. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Ends
21. Japan Upsets U.S. In FIFA Women's World Cup Final
20. New York State Legalizes Gay Marriage
19. Mavericks Extinguish Heat to Win NBA Championship
18. Death of Muammar Gaddafi
17. 9.0 Earthquake In Tohoku, Japan Leaves Untold Amounts of Destruction
16. St. Louis Cardinals Win Epic World Series
15. Royal Wedding Between Prince William and Kate Middleton
14. Twin Terrorist Attacks In Norway Leave 77 Dead
13. U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner Resigns Following Sexting Scandal
12. U.S. Formally Ends Direct Involvement In Iraq War
11. Resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
10. Attempts to Overturn Universal Healthcare in America
9. Debt Ceiling Drama
8. Casey Anthony Found Not Guilty of Murder
7. Attempted Assassination of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords
6. Penn State Sex Abuse Scandal
5. Death of Steve Jobs
4. Fluctuating Global Stock Markets
3. Death of Osama bin Laden
2. Republican GOP Carousel
1. Occupy Wall Street

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Soundtrack

As I've mentioned on here once before, I enjoy listening to music. I enjoy it so much, that back in January 2007, I started keeping records of my favorite songs, albums, and artists for each month. Looking back on these charts of mine years later act as a time capsule which really takes me back to a certain time in my life. I find it very interesting to look back on what a younger version of me thought was "it" and wonder what exactly I was thinking listening to a certain song, album, or artist on a loop.

Anyway, what I've decided as this year winds down is to give y'all an inside peak into my personal vault of favorite songs. What follows are thirteen songs, one for each month plus a bonus track representing my favorite song for 2011, which document a shifting change in my musical interests. Maybe none of these mean anything to you, but when I listen to them, it practically takes me back to that time in my life and what I was feeling. That's the power of great music. And let these tunes be pleasant to your ears, as well.

January: "Baby, Baby" by Amy Grant

February: "Right Now" by Van Halen

March: "Moi... Lolita" by Alizée

April: "Don't Tell Me Lies" by Breathe

May: "The Remedy (I Won't Worry)" by Jason Mraz

June: "Jam" by Michael Jackson

July: "The Living Years" by Mike + The Mechanics

August: "Jesus, He Knows Me" by Genesis

September: "My Sacrifice" by Creed

October: "I'm Not In Love" by 10cc

November: "Paradise" by Coldplay

December: "Laughter In The Rain" by Neil Sedaka

Song of the Year: "L'Alizé" by Alizée

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My Picks for ESPN's College Bowl Mania 2011-2012

Ah, yes. My other favorite collegiate postseason.

For twenty four days from mid-December through early January, college football pits 70 teams with winning records against in 35 bowl games. For players, the individual perks that come just for playing in such a game are extravagant, to say the least. For fans, the unique match-ups make for a great excuse to watch even more football as one year ends and another begins.

And what better way for a fan than to have a little fun guessing the winners of each game? That's where ESPN's College Bowl Mania comes in to bring some cheer (or bah humbugs) over the next three and a half weeks.

It's a very simple premise. You pick the winners of each game and, as added pressure, rate the confidence you have in that team to win from 1 to 35, with 35 points representing the most confidence in a team to win and 1 point being the least. The max point total is 630, and the objective, of course, is to score as many points by making the most correct picks. As such, here are my picks for every bowl game this season. Read 'em and weep. (You may have to click on the below image to fully read my picks.)

Let's make it happen!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Excerpt #2 from 'Second Chances'

Click here to read my first excerpt from this book.

(This is another short excerpt from my literary project titled Second Chances. It has been more than two years in the making, and I figure it'll take me a few more before this will eventually materialize into a full-length novel I can publish. In addition, this piece may not reflect the final content of the forthcoming edition. End disclaimer. Meanwhile, the following features a monologue by the protagonist's father, Arnold, talking to his son, Ronald, about his immediate future. I wrote this piece on Friday, December 9, 2011. Enjoy.)

Arnold began to walk away in disgust, stopping just before the front door and signaling for Ronald to come over from the dining room. He meekly made his way over.

"Do you see this door in front of you?"

"Yes, I do."

"Well," Arnold said, "it's open for you to leave at any minute. I've tried all I could to get logical answers out of you, but all I've got in return is a bunch of smoke and mirrors. I don't know what the color of the sky is in your world, but on Earth, reasonable grown ups base their lives on fact, not whatever feels right in the here and now."

He sighed out of exasperation.

"If there's one thing I'll grant you, it's that you're now a legal adult with minimal restrictions. If you wanna play the lottery, have a smoke, or bang a coed, no one has the right to stop you. But with rights come responsibilities. It's the same deal with Duke. While you've certainly earned the right to attend that school, you've failed to take responsibility on how you're gonna pay for tuition, much less room and board and any other expenses. That, my son, is dangerous thinking.

"And know this, too. If you choose to walk out that door and leave for Durham by week's end, this is the last you'll ever hear from me. As much as I wanna knock some sense into you, I've come to realize that strategy will never work again. Y'know why?"

Ronald shook his head.

"Because you've officially, if not already, entered the age of accountability. I don't know how you can stand there with a straight face and say a timeless principle is 'irrational,' but you must live with your decisions and accept the consequences. If that means going there and getting straddled with tens of thousands of dollars worth of debt in the name of higher education, don't even think of running back to me to help bail you out. Because I won't answer.

"I'm sorry, son. I can't, in good conscience, allow you to matriculate to Duke. The university may be ready for you, but you're not ready for the university.

"If you want, you can always start off with the local community college on the other side of town. They accept anyone who's got a high school diploma or a GED. Their academic standards may be less... rigorous, to put it mildly, but you'd be learning the same things there that you would at Duke. Plus, it's a whole lot less expensive and more convenient for you and I."

Again, he sighed.

"I don't know what else I can say to enlighten you, other than this little nugget for you to chew on. What would you rather do? Take a world-class eduation with bleak job prospects and no support of any kind, or swallow your pride and work your way back up with nothing to lose? The choice is yours."

Arnold left on that note out the door that had been ajar the whole time. Ronald quickly went back to his room to see his father head for his car and out for a drive. His eyes began to well up again as he sulked back through the hallway and toward the front entrance. He closed the door.