UCLA BRUIN FOOTBALL 2014: My Game By Game Predictions

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ONE DEDICATED MEMBER OF BRUIN NATION’S OPINION OF HOW THE TWELVE REGULAR SEASON GAMES WILL GO

 

Every season since 2008, I have looked at the schedule of games that UCLA’s football team will play and made a prediction of whether the Bruins will win or lose each contest.

Or if the game is tough but winnable.

Or a probable loss due to the opponent being so onerous.

Or a toss-up.

I don’t pretend to be an Nostradamus or anything like that, but over the now-seven years that I have been writing about my alma mater on the gridiron, I’ve noticed that my predictions have been right the majority of the time.

Not that I am saying that they will automatically be right this time, but I’m going to go ahead and make my game-by-game predictions of how these Bruins will fare in 2014, starting with their first two games:

 

At VIRGINIA, August 30, and MEMPHIS, September 6 –  WINS

Since these worthy opponents’ records were a combined 5-19 last year, most fans and pundits consider these openers (Virginia on the road, Memphis at home) as more of the preseason variety before the campaign to fulfill the high expectations begins in earnest.

Indeed, I expect a comfortable win over the Cavaliers and a blowout over the Tigers. However…

There IS one factor favoring these two foes: the fact that since no one’s expecting anything from them – Virginia is picked to finish last in the ACC’s Coastal Division while Memphis is projected to finish next-to-last in the American Athletic Conference – those Cavaliers and Tigers will have nothing to lose.

And that will make them dangerous.

Putting it another way, if UCLA needs a fourth quarter comeback or barely beats these two teams, I will be concerned on a pronounced scale.

 

TEXAS at Dallas, September 13 – TOUGH BUT WINNABLE

The general consensus from Bruin Nation is that this is where the season really begins.

I won’t deny that this will be a tough challenge, what with those Longhorns bringing over 100,000 of their “Hook’Em!” fans and their Bevo mascot to Jerry Jones’ palace and new Texas coach Charlie Strong cleaning house and bringing in a no-nonsense mentality to his new team.

Kind of like what UCLA coach Jim Mora did two years ago.

What makes me optimistic about this game is something that few people seem to remember…

Four years ago UCLA faced a 7th-ranked Texas team with a sub-par squad which would win but four games during that 2010 season.

With a derelict “Pistol” offense and a gutsy but weak-armed quarterback named Kevin Prince.

Playing on the Longhorns’ campus in Austin in front of well over 100,000 hostile fans, no less.

And the Bruins beat them – handily!

It’s fairly needless to say that the Bruins have a much better team, led by a much better quarterback, than they did back then.

Call me nuts, but while it won’t be a blowout this time around, I think history will repeat itself.

 

 

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At ARIZONA STATE, September 25 – TOUGH BUT WINNABLE

The last several years has seen real battles between UCLA and these Sun Devils as after two close wins by the Bruins in 2011 and 2012, ASU broke through at the Rose Bowl in 2013, winning the Pac-12 South in the process.

The good news for Mora’s squad is that the Sun Devils will lose almost their entire defense, including super studs Carl Bradford and Will Sutton.

The bad news is that key members of their high-flying offense return, including underrated QB Taylor Kelly.

All of that points toward a shootout, which means if the Bruins play just a little defense and pressure Kelly into running for his life, they will win a close one as Brett Hundley and his offensive mates shouldn’t have too much trouble scoring on an inexperienced ASU defensive unit.

 

 

UTAH, October 4 – WIN

I have complete respect for those Utes from Salt Lake City, especially when they play at home as UCLA survived a heated war in Rice-Eccles Stadium last year.

Though their record doesn’t show it, Utah has some talent and has shown to be more than capable to give their Pac-12 opponents a run as they enter their fourth year in the conference.

Nevertheless, that won’t mean much this particular time as being in the friendly confines of the Rose Bowl, I expect the Bruins to beat the Utes comfortably.

And I also expect the Bruins to not be looking past Utah to this next foe:

 

OREGON, October 11 – TOSS UP

This is the one game (outside of USC, of course) that the UCLA community circled on their calendar when the schedule came out.

Assuming that things go as planned for these two teams, I fully expect ESPN’s College Game Day to be doing their show from the Rose Bowl that morning – this showdown will be that big.

It’s no secret that those Ducks from Eugene have used their Road Runner-like speed to more or less own the Bruins since 2007.

Two things fall in UCLA’s favor against QB Marcus Mariota and his green and yellow-clad friends with the Donald Duck-looking mascot from Phil Knight U:

1.  The Bruins match up better against Oregon than at any time in recent years, and…

2.  (More Important) The game is at home.

Expect the crowd at the Rose Bowl to reach at or near its 92,542-seat capacity, and expect that to be a factor.

 

At CALIFORNIA, October 18 – WIN

Does anyone else realize that the last time UCLA defeated their older Golden Bear brothers in Berkeley was in 1998?!

That’s SEVEN straight losses in Strawberry Canyon, dating back 16 years!

The last loss was particularly embarrassing with one of Cal’s three wins in 2012 coming at the expense of the Bruins, who committed turnovers galore and basically gave the game away to a Bear team that frankly wasn’t as talented as them.

I’m sure Mora and company know this, and I’m positive that they will get their revenge on a Cal squad that was considered to be the worst team in the Pac-12 last year.

And despite having a good passing offense thanks to QB Jared Goff is projected to be the worst the year.

I’ll be quite upset if UCLA does not win this game by at least three touchdowns plus at least a field goal, and get this proverbial monkey off their back once and for all.

 

At COLORADO, October 25 – WIN

I think most folks will agree that Colorado has had a rough time in Pac-12 football since they first joined it.

Last year was the first time the Buffaloes didn’t have the worst overall record among the conference’s 12 teams as their four wins signified a clear improvement.

There is enough talent in Boulder, led by QB Sefo Liufau and LB Addison Graham, for fans to not see CU as everyone’s whipping boys anymore.

But it won’t be enough for the Bruins – providing that they don’t take those Buffs lightly – to be too worried. Even though the game is at Folsom Field.

 

ARIZONA, November 1 – WIN

Another fairly formidable team that UCLA shouldn’t overlook.

Another team that the Bruins should beat at home rather comfortably, especially if they don’t take those Wildcats from Tucson for granted and handle their business.

Because after U of A lost their last two games against their Westwood foes – namely that 66-10 shellacking the last time they played in the Rose Bowl and that 31-26 heartbreaker in Tucson last year – those Cats be looking for revenge.

 

 

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At WASHINGTON, November 8 – PROBABLE LOSS

Fellow members of Bruin Nation:  It really hurts me to say this, but…

This is the contest where UCLA will be at its most vulnerable, most due for a bad day, and most ripe for a loss.

Especially since the game is in Seattle in their newly renovated Husky Stadium, which promises to be louder and more hostile than ever.

New coach Chris Peterson is playing with the big boys after a stellar tenure at Boise State, and no doubt he will have his U-Dub team ready.

Technically the Bruins have a little more talent player-for-player than the Huskies, and they have won four of the last five meeting between the teams, BUT…

With the majority of Washington’s defense returning, I can’t help being concerned about this matchup and how UCLA will handle things up there.

If the Bruins can pull off a win here, I’ll be most ecstatic and more optimistic for the next opponent…

 

USC, November 22 – TOUGH, BUT I’M CALLING THIS A WIN

With wins in this Crosstown Rivalry’s last two meetings, including a solid 35-14 triumph in the Coliseum last season, I don’t believe anyone could rightfully call me a liar (unlike USC’s Josh Shaw) when I say that Los Angeles is a Bruin town.

For the moment.

What people don’t realize, however, and what the “Trojan Family” proclaims, is the fact that despite the sanctions put upon ‘SC and despite them going through three coaches in 2013…

This a very good Trojan squad whose starters match up well with anyone in the Pac-12 if not the nation.

Ten wins, including a statement victory over Fresno State in the Las Vegas Bowl, is good proof of that.

Most importantly, after being a part of the UCLA community for roughy 30 years as a fan, student and alum and after personally seeing a total of 14 clashes between these two kingdoms, there is one thing that I have learned, which I’m sure many people know and understand:

Anything can happen in a rivalry game.

That particularly holds true this year as USC will undoubtedly be a factor in the Pac-12 South race thanks (especially) to WR Nelson Agholor and especially DL Leonard Williams.

Having said that, being at home will help the Bruins, and though I don’t think it will be an absolute beatdown, the momentum that UCLA has had over the Trojans the past two seasons will continue this year.

And they will keep the Victory Bell painted blue.

 

STANFORD, November 28 – TOSS UP

I remember two years ago, when the Bruins upended USC and were flying high, them having to face this Cardinal from Palo Alto the following week.

And I knew that Ivy League-type school would be trouble; being that they were better than the Trojans I was very much worried about a hangover-style let down.

Which I was proven right as Stanford used a grinding ground game and a punishing front seven to smash mouth UCLA that day, and pretty much every time the two teams have faced each other since 2008.

The challenge returns this year as the even though the Cardinal lost key members of their offensive and defensive line, I remain at least a little concerned about how the Bruins will come out after playing their hated 11-miles-away rival.

And no one can honestly deny that the team with the wacky, famously non-conformist fun band and tree mascot will not be strong and give UCLA a real battle.

That’s why I’m calling this game a toss up as for the Bruins to win, they have to completely forget their dealings with their Trojan enemies, something that I don’t think they were successful at doing back in 2012.

If UCLA does that, they’ll have a good shot at ending their six-game losing streak to that cardinal-clad bunch.

 

There it is my Bruin brothers and sisters, my game-by-game view of how 2014 will play out for our beloved Westwood program.

Of course I’m hoping for an undefeated season and a berth in the four-team College Football Playoff – what Bruin isn’t hoping for that – but I must allow for ups and downs and bumps in the road as there are five or six games in which UCLA, in a worst case scenario, could lose.

On the other hand, I remain optimistic about what I had predicted in an earlier post on this blog – ten wins and a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game.

With the first kickoff commencing in less than 48 hours from this writing, there’s really nothing more to say or do except…

Let’s get this campaign started and see what unfolds.

 

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Derek H: A Brief Portrait of a Middle Aged Aspie

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It had recently occurred to me that even though I have another post in this blog that talks about it,  I haven’t really discussed at length or in any prolonged detail something that serves as a significant identity in my life, ever since I found out about it back in 1996 when I read an article about a guy whose experiences in the workforce and in social situations mirrored mine.

I have Asperger’s Syndrome, known as a high-functioning form of the autism spectrum disorder which is characterized by things such as:

 

A.  Difficulty making and keeping friends,

B.  Doing and saying socially inappropriate things on occasion,

C.  Not understanding that others’ views and opinions can differ from your own,

D.  Being obsessive on a pronounced level about certain things and topics – in my case, my obsessions ranged from Robin Hood, maps, baseball and the Peanuts comic strip as a child to Las Vegas, UCLA football (and other sports) and certain movies as an adult.

 

Though my social skills were never up to par with neurotypicals (non-disabled folks) and never will be, unlike others with AS my level of this condition was high enough that I was able to be mainstreamed into regular school and regular life from the age of six onward, eventually being put into gifted classes because I was doing so well – at least academically.

The biggest negative aspect of my aspie disorder today, and pretty much throughout my adult life, is my inability to take criticism in the workplace and elsewhere, constructive or otherwise, without feeling that the one who is doing the criticizing is a bully who sees me as an inferior being and is out to get me.

In other words, someone who’s stupid and needs to be treated like a four-year old, which is quite traumatizing for someone who’s forty-something as this aspect particularly locks in whenever I’ve felt that I did my absolute best in whatever I was doing.

It was in the workforce that this inability had the most impact, as it forced me to pursue my writing and blogging career due to the fact that I have either been fired or forced to quit from 12 of the 18 jobs that I had over a 22-year span.

As of now, it’s been six and a half years since I have worked as an employee for someone else and a paycheck, as I have been an online writer covering sports and other things since then; being an online writer has fulfilled my need to work on my own without any interference or anyone trying to find faults.

There was one workplace instance where I was traumatized to the point of having a nervous breakdown and suicidal desires because I was being criticized so relentlessly in my view.

Without going into too much detail because it may induce some post-traumatic stress, the interesting thing about that was the mistake I made in thinking that he as an equal partner when in actuality he was my immediate supervisor, which I wouldn’t have minded if he left me alone to do my job but instead behaved like an oppressive overseer, at least in my mind.

I know, I know – some people are probably thinking that I was nothing but a spoiled brat who was using my AS as a crutch and an excuse and needed to grow up and overcome my having Asperger’s to be successful, but because my brain is wired differently due to being an aspie, I realized – after getting fired from almost every one of my jobs during the last five years I was in the mainstream workforce – this…

 

No matter how hard I tried, I would NEVER experience success in a top-down hierarchy with bosses and supervisors to the point where I would be able to keep a job for a significant length of time.

 

As an expert of this disorder once told me, “Working harder (which seemingly everyone would say that people like me must do) doesn’t work,” because it’s that wiring in my brain, rather than any laziness or belligerence, that has cause me to be the way I am as I will always feel that the person who I see as being equal to, that is constantly criticizing me or telling me what to do, sees me as a lower-than-dirt waste of cells who needs to be controlled.

 

 

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This, unfortunately, is a prominent Asperger’s trait of mine, but there are others.

Certain noises affect me in different ways, sounds like rain, airplanes and helicopters giving me a comfortable, cozy feeling while sirens, car larks and dogs barking drive me crazy.

Don’t put me in crowds for any length of time either, as I feel like turning into the Incredible Hulk and throwing people out of the way when I’m out and about and there are too many people or when someone in front of me at a supermarket checkout line or something like that takes too long.

I also get burned out too easily, like one of those gas-guzzling cars from the 1950s, when I’m out in the world in social situations for too long; I get anxious and want to run like the Road Runner for my house and my bedroom.

Which is another reason why working eight hours a day is no god for me and never will be.

And is why writing and blogging online – as well as working on a book called “MY ASPIE LIFE”, which details my experiences as an aspie – falls into my nitch.

For now, things are working out as I know that I am different, not less.

Sometimes I wish that every NT (Neurotypical) felt that way, though.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UCLA BRUIN FOOTBALL: A 2014 SEASON PREVIEW

NCAA Football: Houston at UCLA

ONE DEDICATED BRUIN FAN AND ALUMNUS’ (Class of 1991) OPINION OF THE UPCOMING SEASON AND HOW HE THINKS IT WILL UNFOLD

For roughly three decades, I have been a loyal, die-hard member of Bruin Nation, which is what I call the UCLA community of students, alumni, fans, and anyone who has any sort of ties to that institution of higher learning in an affluent part of Los Angeles called Westwood.

Ever since I was admitted to and matriculated at UCLA in 1988, I have attended the school’s football games at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, cheering on the true blue-and-gold clad Bruins as a member of the Bruin Marching Band (while a student there) and as an alum.

I recall that team being contenders for national championship glory twice in the years I have spent autumns watching them from the sunny east side of the Rose Bowl:

1988:  I was a first-year transfer student and was having an ecstatic time watching UCLA dominate the competition on the field, even becoming the top-ranked team in the country after beating California in Berkeley on October 15 (which incidentally is the same day that Kirk Gibson hit that iconic home run off Dennis Eckersley in Game 1 of the World Series, propelling the Dodgers to a historic upset of the Oakland A’s).

Unfortunately, two weeks later the Bruins blew a 21-point lead against unranked Washington State and lost, then would go on to lose to second-ranked crosstown rival USC and finish with a 10-2 record that, while respectable, was seen as disappointing by me and I’m sure quite a few others.

1998:  Having earned my degree from UCLA  seven years before – an achievement that has given me much pride – I continued to regularly attend games and give homage to Bruin Nation through the football team, who was in the midst of a school-record 20-game winning streak dating from the previous season.

The Bruins rose up to #2 in the first year of the Bowl Championship Series poll and were printing their ticket to the first BCS title game when their plans were spectacularly derailed on December 5, their defense being unable to stop a high school team in a 49-45 loss to Miami.

After falling to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl a month later, much like ten years before UCLA finished 10-2 amid much disappointment.

The Bruins haven’t come close to approaching that elite level since…

Until this year.

Entering his third season as UCLA’s head coach, Jim Mora, who has famously brought a sense of no-nonsense toughness to a program that lacked such for a long time, has been a gift from God to the Bruins.

Of course having a quarterback of the caliber of Brett Hundley helps immensely as in my view, the biggest highlight of UCLA’s 2013 season was not their 35-14 win over USC at the Coliseum, which marked their second straight triumph over the Trojans and the first time the Bruins beat them on their home turf in 16 years – not to mention their biggest margin of victory over ‘SC since 1970.

Nor was UCLA’s 42-12 thrashing of Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl on New Year’s Eve the best thing that happened to that team.

Or winning ten games in a season for the first time since 2005.

It was Hundley’s announcement a few weeks later that he was going to return to the Bruins for his third year starting behind center in 2014 rather than enter the NFL draft, where he was projected as a first round pick.

Needless to say, Bruin Nation was deliriously happy over that news.

How could they not be when all Hundley did last year was lead the team in rushing (11 touchdowns, 4.7 yards per carry) as well as passing (3,071 yards, 24 touchdowns). At the pace he is going, the quarterback will most likely break Cade McNown’s record of 69 TD throws sometime this year.

He already has the all-time single season passing yardage record, which he set in 2012.

NCAA Football: California at UCLA

I should emphasize that the Bruins are far from a one-man Hundley show as 15 starters return, including the entire secondary and all but one receiver.

The biggest name returning is sophomore linebacker Myles Jack, who wowed everyone by winning the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award on defense and offense.

When you break off a 70-yard touchdown run at running back the first time you touch the ball, as he did at Arizona, and average seven yards a pop for the year, it’s really a no-brainer who that rookie award should be given to.

And to think that the only reason Jack was lining up behind Hundley from mid-season onward was due to the number of injuries that position had suffered.

It wasn’t necessarily my intention to go over every key player who is expected to contribute to the Bruins this year; I figured there was no need as all the other pre-season publications have already done that.

I didn’t really want to harp on the initial rankings either, as UCLA begins 2014 ranked anywhere from 5th (Sports Illustrated) to 8th (several college football publications) in the nation to start.

Not to mention everyone predicting a Pac-12 South championship and an appearance in the conference title game.

What I wanted to do was to speculate on something that is truly uncharted territory in Westwood, something that Bruin fans haven’t dared to talk about in over a decade and a half…

Does UCLA have a chance at winning only their second national championship in school history, and their first in sixty years?

Do the Bruins have a chance at being one of the four teams in the inaugural College Football Playoff, which will at long last serve to decide a national champion on the field?

Having covered this football program (and other UCLA teams like basketball) online for six years, and having been a dedicated fan for more than 30, I’ve given those questions a lot of thought for the bulk of this off-season, and here’s my answer to both:

YES.

Though the Bruins’ chances aren’t quite as good as defending champion – and favorite to repeat – Florida State’s, Alabama’s, Oklahoma’s, Auburn’s, Ohio State’s, or even fellow Pac-12 program Oregon – who UCLA has a showdown game with on October 11th and are expected to play again for the Pac-12 championship in Santa Clara, CA on December 5th – the chance IS there as, in Hundley’s words, “The stars have aligned.”

I’m not a blind fanatic that’s puffing my chest out and ordering tickets for the National Championship Game in Dallas on January 12, however; I know full well that many, many things will have to go the Bruins’ way.

As Billy Bob Thornton, playing the coach of the Odessa (TX) Permian Panthers in the 2004 movie Friday Night Lights, told his team after their first practice, “Can you be perfect?”

Because that’s what these UCLA Bruins have to pretty much be if they are to be picked among those final four teams in January.

And it will not be easy – at all – as their schedule is among the toughest in the country with the Bruins facing five teams that are ranked in this season’s first AP poll.

In other words, if UCLA is indeed chosen as one of the playoff teams, it would be well-earned.

Extremely well-earned.

Having said that, here’s my official prediction for this Bruin football team in 2014:

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In order to attain the post-season glory that many are predicting for this UCLA squad, they will have to play 13 perfect or near-perfect games: twelve regular season and the Pac-12 title contest.

These Bruins will have to have a lot of good luck as well, in the form of staying healthy and avoiding costly mistakes.

Due to the strength of the conference and their schedule, I think they will get much consideration for that College Football Playoff with one loss, but NOT two.

As such, I’m going to go the conservative route here as allowing for bumps in the road and factoring in Mora’s ability to prepare his players in an intense fashion…

I see UCLA winning ten games and the Pac-12 South Championship.

However, I do not see the Bruins as one of the four playoff teams, but they will end up in one of the “Group of Six” bowls, either the Fiesta Bowl on December 31 or the Cotton Bowl on January 1.

Everybody in Bruin Nation knows and understands that after the dark days of blowout losses and being seen in the football world as soft, this is the most important season in UCLA football history as 2014 marks the Bruins’ best chance at national championship contention in sixteen years.

A certain level of perfection will be required to make that chance a reality.

The realist in me says that the Bruins won’t achieve that necessary perfection, but…

I am very much looking forward to seeing how my favorite team in all of sports responds, accepts, and focuses on this challenge.

To help my fellow members of Bruin Nation get excited for this campaign, here’s a highlight video:

Instant Classics: The Ten Best Songs of the 21st Century (so far)

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I have to be brutally honest..

When it comes to today’s music, I must admit that I’m not a fan of most of the stuff that has dropped in this millennium.

At all.

I’ve always preferred the songs that were released circa 1965 through the mid-1970s as in my opinion, iconic greats such as the Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder, Chicago and particularly the Beatles were – unlike seemingly all of today’s chart-toppers – more about substance than style.

That goes for the 1980s too as songs from acts like U2, Sting and his former band the Police had substance in them.

None of those folks needed a stage and video production resembling a 13-ring circus to get themselves noticed; just their music and the lyrics in their songs were enough to get their point across, rather than doing over-the-top-extravaganzas.

And don’t even get me started on those boy bands that not only polluted, I mean dominated, the charts during the past decade, but continue to do so. Those so-called groups were and are nothing but bad producer’s compilations whose lack of real musicianship makes me want to hurl.

And always will.

However, despite all of that there are some songs made since the turn of this century that are absolutely brilliant, performed and – unlike those pretty little boy bands – written by folks who actually play the instruments on those songs unlike too many singers today who leave all that to producers like Timbaland.

So in reverse order, best going last, I thought I would reveal my list of songs recorded from the year 2000 to this day that are not only musically outstanding but also has the substance that “acts” like the Backstreet Boys and One Direction sorely lack, starting with this gem:

 

10.  LOVE’S DIVINE, SEAL (2003)

You cannot make a list like this without including something from this man.

After the brilliance of songs like “Crazy” and the Oscar-winning “Kiss From a Rose”, this Brit from Nigeria did not disappoint with this single from his Seal IV album; it’s an understatement to say that it was most uplifting with messages of love and tolerance that Seal is famous for.

Like his other songs, it’s all about him, his band and his voice, which is the way it should be.

 

 

9. BEAUTIFUL, CHRISTINA AGUILERA  (2002)

Due to that incredible voice which we have enjoyed for more than a decade and a half, this former Mousekateer is the only one I respect out of all the pop princes and princesses out there.

Though her friend Linda Perry wrote this song, which reached number two on the pop charts and won a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal in 2004, this esteem-raising anthem of the 21st century (to date) forced me to take Ms. Aguilera seriously once and for all.

To put it another way…

Remember when fans – teenyboppers mostly – were arguing over who was better, Christina or her old Mouseka-BFF Britney Spears, being that both of those young ladies dropped at roughly the same time?

Christina won, and this song settled that debate.

 

 

8.  LOSE YOURSELF, EMINEM (2002)

Because rap/hip hop has been the dominant musical genre for the past 35 years or so, to not include any songs from this medium would be ignorant of me on a pronounced scale.

This cut from the soundtrack of the movie 8 Mile wasn’t significant just because it set a record for a rap song by topping the Billboard charts for 12 weeks, or because it won two Grammy awards.

“Lose Yourself” is significant due to the fact that it was the first rap tune to ever win an Oscar for Best Original Song, a most tremendous feat.

Eminem fans were touched by the theme of grit and determination in the face of very tough times that Marshall Mathers exuded through the smash, which is the reason why it became such a classic right away and will go down as such.

 

 

7. HAPPY,  PHARRELL WILLIAMS (2013)

I know that there are quite a few people that, for whatever reason, don’t like this song – perhaps it’s been a bit overplayed and has become a little too commercial – but I simply can’t leave this cut from the Despicable Me  2 soundtrack off of this list as it has topped the charts in nearly 30 different countries.

The reason? It’s so catchy.

Here’s a perfect illustration of that:

Whenever I hear “Happy” being played on TV or on the radio, I always find myself doing a little-shimmy type dance.

And I DO NOT DANCE. AT ALL.

I HAVE NEVER LIKED TO DANCE.

But I find myself dancing to this – that is saying something.

 

 

6.  IN DA CLUB, 50 CENT (2002)

If I were forced to make a choice, this would be the rap song I would choose as the best of the 21st century so far.

The background rhythm and beats made by Curtis Jackson, who started out as the progeny of iconic hip hop producer Dr. Dre and Eminem, was the main factor in this debut single breaking so huge, spending nine weeks at #1 on Billboard while earning a Grammy nomination.

As well as the award for Best Rap Video and Best New Artist at MTV’s 2003 Video Music Awards.

And may I proclaim that I wholeheartedly agree with the millions who say that 50 Cent was absolutely robbed when he lost the Best New Artist Grammy to Evanescence, a group I had never heard of and who I never heard from again.

The people who voted for Evanescence is a symptom of what’s wrong with pop music today in that they miserably failed to do the right thing in awarding that Grammy.

In fact, that group needs to dig that trophy out, go to 50’s house and give it to him ASAP to atone for that extreme screw-up.

 

 

5.  HEY YA, OUTKAST  (2003)

I vividly recall when this single and accompanying video first dropped; within a week it was like nothing else was played on the radio or on any of the video channels.

Much like “Happy”, I found myself going against my personal nature and shimmying whenever this song came on; Andre 3000’s manic energy undoubtedly had something to do with it.

To say that “Hey Ya” was an instant classic would be a gross misunderstatement as it spent nine weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, won Video of the Year honors at the 2004 VMAs on MTV, and took home a Grammy for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

Needless to say, to not include this song on this list would be a blasphemous crime.

 

 

4.  GAME OF LOVE, SANTANA FEATURING MICHELLE BRANCH (2002)

I was wiping tears from my eyes when I first heard this song and for pretty much every time afterward, for several reasons:

a.  Seeing a legend like Carlos Santana still making relevant music after over four decades was incredible to see as he’s as much of a guitar virtuoso now as he was when he playing at Woodstock during his “Evil Ways” and “Oye Como Va” days.

b.  It was extremely joyful to see someone with the talent and musical ability (in particular) of Michelle Branch, who provided the vocals as being that it was in the time of pop starlets like Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson, a girl who once had trouble figuring out the difference between chicken and fish, I happily exclaimed upon first hearing and seeing the young guitarist,

“At long last! Someone who actually plays an instrument and doesn’t use twenty dancers on stage!”

In short, this young lady was GOOD, the track being near-perfect in winning a Grammy and peaking at #5 on the charts.

And the video was likewise outstanding as it featured just Carlos and Michelle on their guitars with their backup band and shots of couples kissing without elaborate dance productions or any of that crap.

Which today’s pop music SO needs much more of.

 

 

3.  GET LUCKY, DAFT PUNK featuring PHARRELL WILLIAMS (2013)

I have a confession to make…

When I first heard this song during the most recent Grammy Awards, I was knocked for a loop as I had never heard of those two helmeted guys, who had been around for over twenty years.

Nor had I ever heard of Pharrell Williams (second time on this list), which shows how out of touch with the music scene I am as he has been a predominant producer for a while.

With a simple disco-type beat and some solid guitar work by Nile Rodgers, It certainly deserved the Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance Grammys it got that February night as I found myself bouncing in my seat to the cut and exclaiming, “I like it! I like It!”

Which is a rare occurrence for me as far as today’s songs.

You know you have a beloved mega-hit when two members of the greatest musical group of all time, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, plus Yoko Ono, the widow of another member of such greatest group, are caught on camera grooving to it.

To see what I mean, check out the video below:

 

 

2.  DIARY, ALICIA KEYS (2003)

When this artist’s first album, Songs In A Minor, came out, I was so exceedingly glad that there was finally someone who, unlike so many of her contemporaries, was a true musician as I was greatly pleased that here was a lady who merely needed herself, her piano, and her band to express herself.

Rather than fifty background dancers and a stage that looked so elaborate that you can barely find the singer.

Although most fans see “If I Ain’t Got You” as Alicia’s best work, in my view this title track to her follow-up record, which debuted at #1 and won a Grammy for Best R & B Album, was more touching.

To add to all of that, this prodigy from New York is not only very pretty, but also gives an impression as being very cool, which is a lethal combination; thank God people like her still exist in show business.

 

 

After much consideration as to my choice of the best song of this century to date, I realized that it really wasn’t that close…

1.  ORDINARY PEOPLE, JOHN LEGEND (2005)

A musician in the purest sense, this debut single has such an unadulterated brilliance to it that I find myself welling up with tears every time I hear it.

Featuring his voice, his piano, a string arrangement at the end and nothing else and which won the Grammy in 2006 for Best Male R & B Vocal,  this ballad has a beautiful message of love, relationships and persevering through tough times in such.

So much so that it wouldn’t be a bad idea for marriage counselors to consider using this song in their practice.

The simplicity and lyrics of “Ordinary People” makes this the perfect track, a nearly five-minute symphony akin to a five-star meal to my ears as this video should convince everyone of that:

 

 

 

I – and I’m sure millions upon millions – strongly feel that this instant classic will make many all-time Top 100 lists.

There they are – my top ten list of this young millennium’s best songs.

Due to the fact that the views stated are strictly mine, I know that I’ll get vehement disagreements from the worshippers of such acts like Rihanna, Beyonce, her husband Jay-Z, Kanye West (also known as Kim Kardashian’s spouse), Justin Timberlake, and many others of that ilk.

I can hear fans shouting, “Where is the great Lady Gaga?! Why isn’t she on this list?!!”

“And what about Selena Gomez or Demi Lovato?!”

“How dare you not include Justin Bieber!!!”  That’s what all those female tween Beliebers are screaming in disgust right about now, I’m sure.

My reply to all of that is that by listing the people that I did in this top ten, hopefully I can remind people that artists who play their own instruments, write their own material, and go on stage without needing lavish stage sets still exist.

And that music, as opposed to being a Busby Berkeley-style production that’s short on substance, is meant to be listened to.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

REMEMBERING ROBIN WILLIAMS – from a fan in the 222nd row

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Early 1978. I was not quite eleven years old.

Like more or less every American kid during that time, I was a regular viewer of the TV show Happy Days every Tuesday night, worshipping Henry Winkler – better known as The Fonz – and admiring the way he pounded on the wall to turn the lights on and off and  snapped his fingers to make girls come to him.

This particular night I settled down in front of my tiny black-and-white TV to watch an episode in which Ron Howard – Richie Cunningham himself – was approached by this extremely wacky alien who called himself Mork, who hailed from the planet Ork and was intending on taking Richie back to his planet for 2,000 years before the Fonz battled him.

Looking back, that episode was kind of silly, but it introduced me and the whole world, as Happy Days was the number one show in the country, to Robin Williams, who all my school friends thought was funny along with me.

The following fall this maniac who seemed to be able to make people roll on the floor with laughter at the drop of a hat got his own show, playing the same wacky alien who settles in Colorado and makes friends with a local girl, who he eventually ends up marrying.

Like Happy Days, I watched Mork and Mindy on a regular basis, at least for the bulk of its four-year run. My biggest memories of that show was laughing at Williams’ various antics, which were too many to list here.

Yes, I was a fan of this guy like pretty much everyone else, making a point to see his first movie in which he had a featured role, Popeye, at the Graumann’s Chinese Theatre in 1980 – the only time I ever went to that iconic movie house with the celebrity footprints. Though I admittedly  liked other cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny and Snoopy better, I enjoyed Popeye because Williams had that spinach-eating sailor down.

In the back of my mind, even at age 13 I figured he would end up in movies, but little did I know that his turn wooing Olive Oyl and beating up Bluto was only the beginning as the various characters he played over the next thirty some-odd years were, to state the obvious, quite memorable.

Four of those roles that Robin played both stand out in my mind and had an impact on me…

I liked his portrayal of Adrian Cronauer in Good Morning Vietnam so much that I bought the soundtrack to hear his act as well as the songs. I was happy to find out that not only do I still have the cassette tape, but that it’s still in good condition after over 25 years.

In fact, I’m listen to it right now, jamming to “Nowhere to Run” by Martha and the Vandellas as I write this.

And I’m so looking forward to hearing James Brown’s “I Feel Good”, which is on the other side of the tape.

Dead Poets Society was the one time that I wished I attended an affluent prep school; that was strictly because of Jack Keating, the teacher played by Robin who was the type that’s remembered and loved by his students for eternity because of how he inspired them with his non-conformist ways. Needless to say, I wished I had a teacher like him during my high school days.

The scene I remember most was the one near the beginning of the movie when Robin leads his English class to a display case filled with pictures of past students. He tells his students  to look closely at those long-gone alums and listen to what they’re whispering to them:

“Carpe Diem! Seize the day! Make your lives extraordinary…”

 

 

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I think deep down, without realizing it, that I’ve been following that advice ever since. And it’s all due to Robin.

Another role of his that I particularly enjoyed was when he portrayed Peter Pan in Steven Spielberg’s fantasy Hook. 

The Reason:  It finally, after roughly 90 years, answered the question “What if Peter Pan grew up?” as Robin was tremendous as a grown-up Peter who doesn’t realize who he once was until he is forced to go to Neverland to rescue his kids, who were kidnapped by Captain Hook (played by Dustin Hoffman, who I felt was the best Hook ever until Jason Issacs’ turn as the one-handed pirate in the 2003 movie version of Peter Pan).

The way that Robin realized what was really important in life as he became Peter Pan again taught me a good life lesson, as did his famous role in Mrs. Doubtfire.

And of course I can’t neglect to mention his Oscar-winning role in Good Will Hunting.

Or the other 74 films that he made.

I loved his Genie in Disney’s Aladdin, simply due to the fact that he was at his manic best, ad-libbing most of his lines. It’s safe to say that without Robin, I wouldn’t have been in the least interested in that animated feature.

It’s also safe to say – again, stating the obvious – that like more or less everyone else on this planet I was stunned and saddened on a pronounced level when I learned of his death.

I’m listening to Louis Armstrong’s classic “What a Wonderful World”, the last song on the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack, and I’m thinking how it’s a very nice touch and ending to the tape.

It’s such an extreme shame that apparently Robin didn’t think the world was so wonderful as the reports have stated that he killed himself by asphyxiation; it was well known that he suffered from depression.

I reckon like so many others who die of their own hand, he felt that life would be better off without him.

Which on a scale of one to 10 in the category “Nothing can be further from the truth”, ten being the furthest, is about a 100.

I’m positive many folks in my age group will agree with me when I say that I grew up with this guy, and much like when Peanuts cartoonist Charles M. Schulz died in 2000, I feel like a part of my childhood and young adolescence died along with this man.

A lot of people have called Robin Williams a comic genius, and I absolutely have no argument whatsoever with that.

I suppose there’s nothing left for me to say, except this…

Rest in peace, Robin. Give my regards to Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, George Carlin, and all of your other fellow comics who are no longer with us.

I KNOW that our Lord will welcome you with open arms and say these words to you upon entering Heaven:

“Well done. Welcome. Get some rest; you certainly deserved it.”

Meanwhile, you’ll be sorely missed by myself and roughly five billion of your fans.

 

In remembrance of you, here’s a scene from Good Morning Vietnam:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Seven Worst Songs Ever

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Simply put, these are the so-called songs that in my humble view, don’t even deserve to be called songs as they have made my ears bleed ever since they were released.

Put it this way: If I were the head of a fraternity’s pledges, making them listen to these horrors would be the perfect hazing ritual.

I won’t waste any more time – here is my personal bottom seven in descending order, a list that has and always will serve as torture…

 

7.  BYE BYE BYE – N’SYNC (and all other songs sung by boy bands)

Before I continue, please allow me to make something crystal clear from the bottom of my ever-loving heart:

I ABHOR, LOATHE, AND ABSOLUTELY HATE BOY BANDS WITH A BURNING PASSION OF A THOUSAND SUNS.

When one thinks about it, these so-called “bands” aren’t bands at all, but are producer’s compilations oftentimes formed by placing ads in newspapers, where the only requirements needed is a handsome face and a passable voice and sense of rhythm.

True musical ability, such as actually playing an instrument? Quite secondary in this particular scheme of things.

In this “band’s” case – which incidentally was put together by Svengali extraordinaire Lou Pearlman when he took out an ad in an Orlando, FL newspaper –  any of their singles could have been chosen for this dishonor roll as in my view, they all stunk to high hell.

And that dorky video of theirs almost made me lose my lunch.

However, I will admit that Justin Timberlake, who became the breakout star with this swill, had done well with his career in movies as well as music, which has earned him at least some respect from me.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that this poor excuse of a song was and is a waste of hearing.

As is EVERY tune sung by every one of those young male compilations such as Backstreet Boys, One Direction, and all the other insults to music out there.

And don’t even get me started on Blow Town, I mean O’Town, and all those other groups on that TV show “Making The Band” that was on a few years ago.

 

6.  HELLO – LIONEL RICHIE

Yes I know this was a huge smash of a hit in the 1980s, something that I heard on the radio and whose video I saw constantly during my high school years.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that this was the ultimate sappy dirge from that period.

Even though this ex-lead singer of the Commodores – and Nicole Richie’s father – was quite the star back then with his classic “All Night Long”, I felt that Lionel’s sense of funk that he cultivated with his Commodore mates was totally lost when he went solo and released what seemed to be nothing but ballads.

This cut was a prime illustration of that loss of funk, as well as a master example of the fluff that he sang, the type that you like at first but get fed up with real fast.

And that sculpted head of Lionel’s that was featured in the video looked like it was both made with an ugly stick AND something that can turn you into stone if you stare at it.

 

5.  HEARTBEAT, IT’S A LOVE BEAT – TONY DEFRANCO AND THE DEFRANCO FAMILY

Compared to their mid-1970s counterparts the Osmonds and the Jackson Five, this group of singing siblings from Canada were completely forgotten before long.

Which was an extremely good thing as these Osmond copycats practically induced a pronounced desire to run away screaming while covering my ears when I saw footage of them on a “Whatever Happened To…” show on VH1.

Needless to say, I changed the channel real quick before PTSD set in.

With wannabe Donny Osmond Tony DeFranco, who warbled this crap of a tune, leading the way, these no-talents (I’m a tiny bit surprised that we didn’t put sanctions on our northern neighbors for sending us this mess) were among the quintessential one-hit blunders, I mean wonders, of that period.

I particularly wondered what Tony’s older brothers and sisters were even doing there, as they provided nothing but window dressing while wearing the tackiest polyester outfits and doing the lamest dance moves – even for that time.

It was painfully obvious that this itty bitty ditty was produced for the sole purpose of filling the needs of the teenyboppers and the folks who produced those Tiger Beat and 16 rags.

As I don’t have anything more to say about those poor excuses for entertainers, I’ll move on…

 

 

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4.  HOLD ME – MENUDO

Before N’Suck (N’Sync), Bad Stink Dorks (Backstreet Boys),  and No Direction (One Direction), there were these little piss-ants.

And I mean that literally due to the fact that these bunch of little boys from Puerto Rico that enjoyed huge popularity among Latina tweens forces their members to leave the group the day they turn 16.

When this boy band tried to conquer America in 1984 with this dreck – which featured a then-12 year old Ricky Martin – it was all I could do to keep from rolling on the floor laughing at their ineptness; I recall pretending to throw things at the TV screen whenever they polluted my picture tube.

Simply put, “Hold Me” – both the song and the accompanying video – was a puerile piece of dog excrement.

It’s safe to say that I was quite happy when this so-called band failed to make it in this country.

 

3.  MY HEART WILL GO ON – CELINE DION

Let me assert right from the get-go that personally speaking, I have nothing against this singer from Montreal, Quebec as I’m sure she’s a perfectly pleasant lady.

However…

This huge smash from the Oscar-winning classic “Titanic” was both the sludgiest pile of sap AND the worst song of the 1990s in my view.

It seemed to me as if this was on the radio, MTV, and all the other video channels at least 20 times a day as I’m positive I was far from the only one who quickly grew sick and tired of this song and Celine’s Musak style.

Indeed, I’ve always said that if I heard “You’re here…” one more time, I would scream in utter frustration as this dirge is MUCH too sappy for my taste, and (as I’ve said) nothing personal, but so is the style of the woman who sang it.

 

2.  GIRL YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE – MILLI VANILLI

Even if Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan had actually sung on this cut, I still would have considered this song a nasty piece of swill as I felt that this ultimate compilation of producer Frank Farian’s was an extremely lame wage of sound even before it was famously discovered that the voices on this tune  – and on all their other tunes – were not Rob’s and Fab’s.

Among all of those crappy noises, this one was their crappiest in my book.

Indeed, how in the world could anyone take this Silly Vanilli pair seriously when all they did was do some stupid dances in dreadlocks and tight spandex to synthesizers and drum machines?

It was truly a good thing when the Grammys realized their mistake when they forced those two to return their Best New Artist award; “Positive Energy” my you-know-what!

I know I was among the many who celebrated when all of that came down due to the fact that I wouldn’t have to submit my ears to them again, but I did fell sympathy when Rob committed suicide a few years later; I certainly hope he’s resting in peace.

 

All right, here’s the song I have chosen as the single worst piece of music ever recorded:

 

1.  MACARENA – LOS DEL RIO

I’m going to make this statement in very succinct, without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt terms:

“Macarena” was the most putrid song ever recorded, which supported the most putrid dance ever invented.

Around the time when this poor excuse for a song dropped, which incredibly enough was a big hit, I was a summer camp counselor.

Every morning at opening assembly this song would be played for the kids to do that stupidest of dances, and like fingernails scratching a blackboard I was emotionally brutalized by this noise as it felt like God was punishing me for something bad that I did.

I’ll bet anything that those who enjoyed this doo-doo and did that “dance” are looking back on it all and saying with extreme embarrassment,

“What the bloody hell was I thinking?”

And fervently praying that no pictures or video footage of them rocking out to that all-time swill ever sees the light of day.

Those two middle-aged guys who dared to pollute the United States with this garbage should have been given long prison sentences for this heinous crime.

That’s all I’m going to say about that, lest I get further traumatized by the memory.

 

 

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Let me offer my sincere apologies if any of these so-called tunes brought back any traumatizing recollections.

If there’s anybody who actually liked these songs, I likewise apologize if they were offended here; please keep in mind that these bashings are strictly one man’s opinion: mine.

To sum it all up, it’s a most unfortunate thing that noise like this – which were all hits that stayed at or near the top of the charts and went gold and platinum – existed.

I suppose it just goes to show that there’s no figuring out some people’s tastes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY ONE-MONTH ANNIVERSARY POST (And one observation)

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Normally I don’t like coining cliches, but in this case I am forced to make an exception…

Time moves so fast; I can’t believe it’s been exactly one month to the day that I started this blog, which happens to be my very first one.

In answering a question that you well may be asking – yes, I’ve enjoyed the experience so far.

It’s certainly been a pretty decent start as while the number of reads on my ten posts haven’t exactly been through the roof on a Beatlemania level…

I can’t really complain as it looks like I’ve done pretty OK for someone who has his own blog for the first time.

And I’m definitely looking forward to posting more stuff on here going forward.

Without revealing too much, in the near future I will once again begin my coverage of my college alma mater’s football team, UCLA, as I have covered them and other Bruin sports for the past six years online.

 

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In the past, I have done the basic game previews and recaps of UCLA football, but I plan to change that this upcoming season.

After I write my official preview of the team, plus a game-by-game predictions post, I will do an analysis of the Bruins once a week rather than the standard recap of the game they played and a preview of  the game they are going to play, which I have done since 2008.

It will be a change, one that I am looking forward to.

ALL RIGHT, HERE’S MY ONE OBSERVATION THAT WAS PROMISED IN THE TITLE OF THIS POST:

I recently visited an old college friend of mine, who I make a point to see a few times a year to keep in touch with.

She has three children, youngsters that I not only have known since they were born, I remember when their mother was pregnant with them.

Well, while I don’t want to give too many details for the sake of privacy – notice how names, genders and locations are not mentioned – the ages of this good friend of mine’s children are now in double digits, with two of them being well into that category.

It has been, and is, truly a trip seeing these kids being so tall and grown-up like as it doesn’t seem like a long time ago – at all – when I was able to pick them up and feed them from a bottle.

To coin another cliche (YUCK!), it makes me feel very old, even though I don’t really feel like a senior citizen.

Actually, it’s been fun watching them grow and mature.

I suppose that’s all I’ve got to say about that.