Monday, May 23, 2011

The Director's Seat - Andy's Blog

This is probably a one-off that I'm passing off as the start of something grander to legitimize not studying for my last exam of 2011 over here in the Netherlands, but it's fun to dream. I'm well aware that the field of sports + pop culture combo blogging is quite crowded, but its crowded because it's kind of fun. This will almost certainly be a summer-only feature, and we'll switch back to a sports-only format once we have Michigan athletics to broadcast again. For now, bookmark this right next to your Simmons and Deadspin tabs.


Summer is either upon us or right around the corner, and there has always been a distinct "summer" style of music that I really enjoy. It's light, breezy, and jangly, and two new releases from hotly tipped bands have finally hit the interwebs.

First up is Cults' eponymously titled debut album, due May 31st, streaming exclusively via NPR. You can find it here. I just caught Cults in Amsterdam and they were really good, and this album starts as strong as any I've listened to all year. It's pleasant pop music for a pleasant summer. Here's the third track, "You Know What I Mean," which was a stunner live.

The much anticipated new album from Atlanta punks Black Lips, Arabia Mountain, has made its way to the internet ahead of its June 7 release date, and on first listen it sounds like all the concerns fans had about new producer Mark Ronson were unfounded. Perhaps slightly more sedate than their past albums, Arabia Mountain is still sure to be one of the most talked about albums of 2011. Here's a sample.

The only band whose album has actually already come out, Explosions in the Sky returned in 2011 with Take Care, Take Care, Take Care. The album is more of the same from the Austin-based band, which is to say atmospheric, soaring rock void of vocals. The result can be chilling if you're patient enough with the songs.

If that sound is familiar, it's because EITS provided much of the music for both the movie and TV versions of Friday Night Lights, which leads me to my next segment...

Everyone is watching Friday Night Lights on NBC, right? Because it's an incredible show, and in basically every way the best. Much more than a football drama (it doesn't hurt to be a football fan), this show captures human relationships better than any show I've ever watched, and it is a wholly engrossing viewing experience. The fifth (and final) season aired last fall on DirecTV, and NBC is in the middle of the fifth season now (Friday nights, 8 pm ET). Seriously, if you haven't already, do yourself the favor and start from the beginning and grow with this series. You couldn't ask for a better series. You'll find yourself wishing Michigan could hire Coach Eric Taylor to be a QB coach or something, I promise. Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose. Here's an introduction for the uninitiated.

I won't get into more TV for now, as most shows I watch have wrapped up their seasons, but everyone should be doing their best to stay up to date with Parks and Recreation.

Finally, Vulture brings us a handy guide to summer movies in a form most of you should find familiar: F, Marry, Kill: The Summer Movie Edition. It's full of great looking movies to be released this Summer, but perhaps the most important revelation is that there is going to be a 4th Spy Kids movie! I loved the first one, when I was 11, but the last two weren't worth watching. I won't bother posting all the trailers that look good, but suffice it to say I will certainly be seeing Harry Potter, The Debt, and 30 Minutes or Less in theaters.

Here's the trailer for 30 Minutes or Less, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, and Danny McBride - a dream team of sorts. Be warned the trailer is NSFW.

There are some really great looking documentaries included in that lineup, which should serve as a reminder to take full advantage of the Michigan Theater's summer documentary series running June-August! Their Facebook page has all the details. A personal suggestion? Blood Into Wine, a documentary about Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan's winery operation, featuring a whole slew of comedians, musicians, and actors.

(Inter)national Sports

Novak Djokovic's amazing start to 2011 continues as the French Open gets underway at Roland Garros. Djoko is now 38-0 to start the year and chasing all kinds of history. Rafael Nadal has owned the clay in Paris for quite some time now, but Djokovic could be on target to knock Nadal off and claim his first French Open title. S.L. Price wrote a great piece in the latest Sports Illustrated that's worth your time. Find it here.

Michigan alum and benefactor Fred Wilpon is in the news again, this time for criticizing stars Jose Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran in the midst of the Mets' on and off the field struggles. He doesn't say anything particularly wrong, but the candor is unusual. It appears that all three stars are in play for moves elsewhere.

Last night Joakim Noah became the second high profile player caught on TV dropping a homophobic slur, and while he quickly apologized, it will always come off as hollow. The NBA will almost certainly levy a fine like they did against Kobe Bryant, but none of this addresses the larger problem that homophobic slurs are a popular component of jock culture. With the recent news that Suns CEO Rick Welts is openly gay, the issue of homophobia in the NBA and in sports culture at large has been brought to the forefront, where it should be addressed candidly. It's time to hold athletes to a standard of basic human decency, and Steve Nash appears to be leading the pack.

Though Lance Armstrong has been dogged by doping allegations his entire career in a sport notorious for widespread doping, some of the strongest allegations yet have emerged from former teammates Tyler Hamilton and George Hincappie. 60 Minutes has the video report. Lance has always enjoyed a strong defense from sports fans and the American media, and it will be interesting to see whether these overwhelmingly damning allegations can finally tarnish his record-setting image. I've always found myself rooting for Armstrong and dismissing doping rumors as the work of the jealous French, but now we're forced to confront whether former American teammates would lie about Armstrong using illegal substances.

Chelsea F.C. fired respected manager Carlo Ancelotti yesterday, despite finishing second in the English Premier League, and winning the league in 2009-10. Roman Abramovich is a madman. Meanwhile, my Arsenal limped to a pathetic finish in the EPL, going from in the running for four trophies to fourth place in the EPL in a mere couple of months. So is the wild world of international football.


Revenue sports are done for the year, and football recruiting will be the subject of dedicated posts throughout the summer. If you've been paying attention at all you should know that Brady Hoke and Co. are absolutely destroying it on the recruiting trail, and are on pace for Michigan's best recruiting class in recent memory. So that's fun.

In more somber news, Michigan was eliminated from the NCAA softball tournament yesterday after a heartbreaking 2-1 loss to Kentucky that featured a 7th-inning collapse. The loss not only ends the season for Coach Hutch, but also marks the end of the historic careers of Jordan Taylor and Dorian Shaw. Big, big holes to fill next season. Recap on

Lion Kim continues to be awesome, and Michigan surged to a win at their NCAA regional to earn a place in the NCAA championships in Oklahoma. Kim shot a career-best 65 to pace Michigan. He'll go down as one of Michigan's all-time greats, and treated M fans everywhere to quite a thrill following him at the Masters. The season is far from over for Michigan, which will be looking to pull the massive upset and take down #1 Oklahoma State in Stillwater. Recap on

That's going to do it for now. Please leave feedback here, or hit me up on Twitter , and we'll see about making this a regular summer feature if people like it.

Most importantly, this thing needs a proper name if it's going to continue. Suggestions appreciated and acknowledged!

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