Archive for November, 2011

I have collected a number of different items. When I was a kid, it was Micro Machines and Hot Wheels. Then it was baseball cards. As I got older and wanted to get items from places I visited, I added shot glasses to the collecting madness. For a short time, I was going to toss in swords, but that really ended after I got my Legend of Zelda master sword (and yes, it is awesome).

When I got to college, sports became a big part of my life again. I played when I was a kid and followed some of the major area teams, such as the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Redskins. When music took over my life during middle and high school, I lost touch with my appreciation of sports, only to realize what I loved about it when I was exposed to quite a first year of athletics at the University of Maryland. I was following the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles (and I know they are divisional opponents). As I continued diving deeper through fantasy football and spending my fall weekends glued to the TV and going to college games, I wanted to pick up some of the gear. My first Redskins jersey was #45 Chris Cooley. I followed this with an addition of 5 more jerseys, including #89 Santana Moss, #59 London Fletcher, #5 Donovan McNabb and #21 Sean Taylor’s Pro Bowl special edition.

I have started to play with the idea of starting a new collection of NFL jerseys. I tend to watch more than just my teams, and I know it will be a long time before I will be able to truly get excited for a Redskins post-season run. A couple things to take into consideration are I will have trouble getting jerseys for a couple key rivals (Cowboys and Giants) and with the time it will take to collect jerseys, some of the players I like now may not be playing and may not be available for purchase. Stores only supply a certain number of players per team, but I am going to play this as if I can customize to any player on the team. If I had the chance to get a jersey from each team today, here are my choices:

  • Arizona Cardinals – #11 Larry Fitzgerald: There is not much to be excited about with Arizona at the moment, but they still retain one of the most dominate receivers in the game today. With a decent quarterback and some supporting cast members, Fitzgerald can easily make the plays himself.
  • Atlanta Falcons – #88 Tony Gonzalez: The Falcons have a great power offense with Ryan, White and Turner, but Gonzalez has been a staple to the NFL for years. Starting his career with the Chiefs, he has shown throughout the season that he still has what it takes to compete.
  • Baltimore Ravens – #82 Torrey Smith: With some many amazing players on this team, it is truly a tough call whether to go offense or defense. To go with the defense, Lewis and Reed may be in the twilight of their careers but continue to be dominate players. Oher has the emotional vote from his story to the NFL and Flacco, Boldin and Rice would be big picks are well. Smith is a former Terrapin and has taken advantage of his opportunities in this rookie season. He has a whole career in front of him and I would definitely love to support him.
  • Buffalo Bills – #8 Brian Moorman: No offense. No defense. I am going special teams. There are some big names with the Bills. Fitzpatrick got that big contract extension and Spiller is a young, building talent. This may be one of the only punters that has a chance, but Moorman is a strategic pick and would be a great pickup for a fantasy team.
  • Carolina Panthers – #1 Cam Newton: I was one of the nonbelievers when Newton was selected by the Panthers. I thought he overachieved at Auburn and was iffy about his drama with accepting benefits as a college student. Watching him play now shows me that the hype is definitely not false. He is a dynamic player that definitely will find his stride as the Panthers continue to rebuild.
  • Chicago Bears – #54 Brian Urlacher: He may not be the dominate player he used to be. He may not be playing much longer than the end of this season. He is still a Hall of Fame player and will be missed when he finally bows out.
  • Cincinnati Bengals – #14 Andy Dalton: This kid is a player. The Bengals have an inconsistent Cedric Benson and a corp of young receivers, but he is producing week after week. No one would have predicted the Bengals to be sitting at 7-4 at this point of the season, even with a rather strong defensive unit.
  • Cleveland Browns – #52 D’Qwell Jackson:¬†When you are looking for a tackle hog, there are few better than Jackson. He was a star player at Maryland during an era when he had to share field time with Shawne Merriman. He is truly the anchor for this team’s defense.
  • Dallas Cowboys – #19 Miles Austin: I may not like the Cowboys and I definitely do not like Tony Romo, but I just have to respect what Miles Austin can do out there on the field. Though injured this season, he commands immediate attention from any and all defensive backs. Romo may not continue to be a Dallas staple for more than another couple years but Austin will be hanging around for a while.
  • Denver Broncos – #15 Tim Tebow: He may be the star of the moment but I believe he has quite the career if he can improve the passing game. You would think that a quarterback that cannot throw well would be out of a job quickly, but he is winning as a starter and below 50% pass completions. I am all about Tebow Time.
  • Detroit Lions – #81 Calvin Johnson:¬†Megatron! Johnson is a beast and only occasionally is held without significant productivity in a game. With a healthy Matthew Stafford in the mix, he has a chance to continue to become more dominant with each passing game.
  • Green Bay Packers – #12 Aaron Rodgers: Who is Brett Favre? I have actually already forgotten with the way this young man is playing. Rodgers is the start of a new set of dominant quarterbacks. What I really love about him is his modesty and inclusion of his teammates in celebrating his success. You cannot be a successful quarterback without some great blockers and receivers, right?
  • Houston Texans – #23 Arian Foster: Possibly more significant now than Adrian Peterson, Foster is a hard runner and just knows how to find the hole in the defense. With Schaub going out, the Texans need him now more than ever.
  • Indianapolis Colts – #18 Peyton Manning: Did you think I was going to say Curtis Painter? Manning is the icon of the NFL and will be back in the game within the next year. There is the possibility that the Colts will want to start thinking about their future beyond Manning and start building a team to match their hopes, but for now he is a Colt.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars – #32 Maurice Jones-Drew: To be honest, there is not a single player on this team that excites me. I almost went with Josh Scobee because he seems to be the best scorer on the team. He is still relevant but the Jaguars are nothing to be energized about.
  • Kansas City Chiefs – #82 Dwayne Bowe: Similar to the Jaguars, there is just nothing here for me. I was a fan of Cassel breaking away from the Patriots and finding a home in Kansas City, but he has not had it all fall into place and now is injured. Bowe is still a big-time receiver and may find a new rhythm with Tyler Palko.
  • Miami Dolphins – #77 Jake Long: This is also a team that is rebuilding, but there are some big names trying to revitalize in Miami. Brandon Marshall just needs a quarterback with some consistency. Reggie Bush is starting to look like the runner he was meant to be (minus the weight of the Kardashians). None of the offense is able to be as successful without a strong offensive line, led by the intelligence and field vision of Long.
  • Minnesota Vikings – #56 EJ Henderson:¬†Minnesota is a team of random playmakers sprinkled into a team that needs a lot of work. Though riding on the power of Peterson, the anchor for their defense has been Henderson. The offense may be finding their place with their rookie Ponder, but their defense needs some attention to help support the aging linebacker.
  • New England Patriots – #83 Wes Welker: This offense if full of playmakers. Of course Brady leads the pack and Gronkowski has become one of his favorite targets, but the intelligence and playmaking ability still is represented through Welker’s amazing moves and vision.
  • New Orleans Saints – #9 Drew Brees: Whatever word you want to put before his last name, Brees is a playmaker and someone the Chargers must be kicking themselves for letting go. He is a clutch passer who has developed with a great, balanced wide receiver corp and a now developing backfield.
  • New York Giants – #88 Hakeem Nicks: The former Tar Heel quickly made a name for himself in the NFL and commands a double-team whenever he goes deep. He has the height and the speed to dominate defensive backs, much in the way Calvin Johnson does.
  • New York Jets – #60 D’Brickashaw Ferguson: When you’ve got some offensive talent like the Jets have put together and with the pressure that Sanchez receives, you’ve got to have a strong anchor on the offensive line. The former Virginia star has stopped many a blitz from taking down the quarterback or stuffing the rushers in the backfield.
  • Oakland Raiders – #85 Darrius Heyward-Bey: Without a consistently strong quarterback, he has not been able to produce and has struggled to develop in the NFL with the same degree of dominance as he showed in college. Maybe Carson Palmer will help to remedy this issue.
  • Philadelphia Eagles – #25 LeSean McCoy: Michael Vick may be the focal point of the offense but this dream team has not lived up to expectations this year. McCoy, on the other hand, has been one of the best runners in the league with top 10 performances in yards and touchdowns on the season.
  • Pittsburgh Steelers – #43 Troy Polamalu: If the jersey would come with the hair, that would be awesome. Besides Ray Lewis and Brian Urlacher, Polamalu is the icon of NFL defensive players. He makes the big plays at all the right times and he is just an honest, nice guy.
  • San Diego Chargers – #9 Nick Novak: Obviously the Maryland theme may be evident, but this guy was the all-time ACC points leader as a college kicker. He may not always be clutch in the NFL, but I saw him play in college and I have my loyalty with this guy. The rest of the team is really underperforming and needs to step it up.
  • San Francisco 49ers – #85 Vernon Davis: With a steady quarterback, Davis is a big body with big hands and can make the big plays. Alex Smith seems to be back on track overall but needs to start looking downfield and let his stellar tight end make a play on the ball.
  • Seattle Seahawks – #24 Marshawn Lynch: While with the Bills, he was clearly a playmaker. Buffalo wanted to go with the talented Fred Jackson, which gave Lynch a new opportunity on the west coast. He is a hard runner and had one of the best plays of the year last season when he broke 8 tackles to dominate the Saints for a post-season victory.
  • St. Louis Rams – #55 James Laurinaitis: The Rams have not had as much to be excited about after losing Holt, Warner and Bulger over the years. The defense definitely got a boost when they picked up the young Lauinaitis, whose name is starting to be in the conversation with some of the most integral linebackers in the league.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers – #91 Da’Quan Bowers: From the #1 pick out of Clemson to falling to the second round, Bowers has yet to be given the chance to showcase his natural abilities. Learning the NFL scheme takes a little bit of time, but I believe he is on the verge of breaking out as a solid defensive end. And I still cannot believe they put money in Haynesworth…
  • Tennessee Titans – #8 Matt Hasselbeck: Seattle had all but given up on Hasselbeck and he has been given a second life with the Titans. I liked him as a quarterback because he always just looked like a fighter, especially back in the Shaun Alexander days.
  • Washington Redskins – #20 Oshiomogho Atogwe: Finishing up with my favorite team, I need to add another jersey to the defensive side of my collection. I definitely like Roy Helu and Fred Davis on offense, but their production is only increased at the moment because of the injuries to Tim Hightower and Chris Cooley. It will be interesting to see if either of them continue to show promise but the defense is actually playing well overall. Atogwe adds a presence to the pass coverage we have lacked since the loss of Taylor.

I am not sure if this collection will start too soon, but I definitely considering a couple jerseys to get it start, including Rodgers, Davis, Smith and Jackson.

With her quirky style, beautiful voice and down-to-earth attitude, Sara Bareilles has quickly become one of my favorite artists. I was first exposed to her music through some random searching on iTunes for some new songs. Love Song was certainly a catchy hit but the rest of the album drew me into her sound and style. I have said many times that I would love to meet a woman who can sing her heart out, and playing an instrument would make her that much more compelling. Sara truly takes it to the next level with her abilities across multiple instruments and styles of music. Her music can be described as a blend of pop, jazz and soul with an occasional infusion of punk (more so through her sense of style).

After building an interest in her music, I found out she was coming to Chapel Hill, NC to play at Cat’s Cradle and I knew I had to go. She definitely did not disappoint with that concert. I was standing about four rows back from the stage and she came out to start off the evening with a little chatter with the crowd before her opening acts. She was adorable and truly made a great connection with the crowd. After Greg Laswell’s performance, her band took to the stage and played her on. With a powerful jamming on the piano, the show began and I knew this was going to be the best concert I had ever seen. The show included a combination of songs off her newer album, Kaleidoscope Heart, with a spattering of her former hits and random song from Radiohead. I left the concert buzzed by the energy of the performance and would love to see her again.


Besides the eventual top 10 list that I am getting to, I would also like to point out that she has some incredible covers that have been highlighted on YouTube. Included within her current set of covers are Beyonce’s Single Ladies, the Beatles’s Oh Darling, Coldplay’s Yellow, Aha’s Take On Me, Mumford and Son’s Little Lion Man,¬†Amy Winehouse’s Valerie¬†and Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay. While the last song of this list could easily be one of my favorite for my top 10, I will simply say that Yellow and (Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay are just simply amazing. Here are some teaser before I get to the official top 10 list…

Alright now…I think it is time to get to the top 10 list. When I chose these songs, I left the covers out and had to think about what made each one of these such great hits. I will say now that I do appreciate some of the more mainstream hits, like Love Song and Bottle It Up, but she has so many great songs that I just had to look past what made it big. Each of these songs elicits different genres and emotions. If you cannot find even one song from this list that can become addictive, then there is no hope for your musical taste.

A couple definite quality songs that did not make the cut but are still fantastic are Bottle It Up (great hit mainstream hit), Love Song (the song that truly launched her into the spotlight), Many the Miles (another bouncy hit that either starts or ends her concerts with the strong energy it brings), Basket Case (a mellow but emotional song about missing someone special), Undertow (a beautiful lounge-like jazz song that is probably under-appreciated) and City (a passionate tune that highlights a bit of her range as the song builds).


Here are the top 10 Sara Bareilles songs as of 11.27.11…

#10 РMachine Gun: This is probably not the first song that comes to mind when thinking about Sara, but there is an intriguing quality about this song where it seems like she can just belt it out at the top of her lungs and still make it beautiful. I would have loved to here her sing this one live but maybe another time.

#9 – Bluebird: Possibly one of Sara’s favorite songs off of her most recent album, Bluebird is a soothing melody that has a bit more of the range that Basket Case does not highlight. This is definitely a Sara original, even though there are plenty of other artists that have songs with the same title. Gather your strength and rise up.¬†

#8 – Morningside: With quite a bit more attitude, this is a song that can easily get you moving. It has the feeling like she infused a little bit of funk with the sound of the guitar and the accent beats with the drums and low octave piano.

#7 РUncharted: Definitely one of the bigger hits off Kaleidoscope Heart, the music video is actually really simple and hardly features Sara in the images. Her videos have a theme of focusing on a wide variety of people, in a sense to show an interconnectedness of life. Enjoy the Ben Folds cameo and take in her passion for taking the road not traveled.

#6 РNot Alone: Taking a jazz soul tone, she breaks out of the bounds of even the more thematic sound she showcases. She exposes her more deep, sultry side with a hard low octave piano and bouncy rhythm. This is easily a catchy song that did not seem to get noticed as well as a potential hit.

#5 – King of Anything: Serving as the song that kicked off the release of Kaleidoscope Heart, she has released several songs that have the common theme of trying to both produce and defy putting out a pop hit. Love Song was in direct reaction to her record studio’s request for a pop hit (I’m not gonna write you a love song / cause you ask for it / cause you need one) and Bottle it Up highlighted both how love songs are just bottled up and distributed as well as how love gets thrown around without appreciating it. King of Anything¬†highlights both taking a stand against overbearing masculinity and her record studio requesting another pop hit. In the end, she still produced a great one.¬†

#4 РFairytale: One of her most playful songs, the variation between her original version on Careful Confessions and her first widely distributed album, Little Voice, does not matter because both versions make you want to sing along. Taking famous fairytale princesses and turning their stories on their heads, she produced a bouncy melody that she uses to empower women beyond gender stereotypes. When she was introducing this at her concert, I knew what was coming and she definitely looked like she was having fun with it on stage.

#3 РLet the Rain: Between her emotional and playful hits, she produces a number of songs that truly invoke a feeling of empowerment of either taking the next step or getting excited for something new. This song is just that, as a message for starting fresh and taking hold of new opportunities. This song gets me fired up when I need an energy boost.

#2 РHold My Heart: Although one of her widely appreciated emotional hits, there is just so much passion portrayed both through the lyrics and her delivery. Highlighting how we all protect ourselves by being cautious with our heart, we are all looking for someone we can trust to truly love us. It is amazing how close to the studio version the sound of the live one truly is.

#1 – Gravity: There are a number of versions of this song and every one of them cuts you deep. While the music video takes a more astrologically symbolic approach to highlighting the concept of gravity (with lights and objects representing parts of out solar system), her lyrics are voicing the cries for help of a woman trapped in a challenging and emotionally draining relationship. While the two elements do not seem to match at all, there is a beautiful dance between the video’s images, her melody and the story of a desperate woman. Simply beautiful.¬†

Well there you have it. I certainly love all of her music, but these 10 songs are the ones that have truly stood out and made me a Sara fan. I cannot wait for the next album and hopefully another tour.

Why Start Another Blog…Why Not?!?

Posted: November 26, 2011 in Random

Hello, internet readers! My name is Dan and I actually already run two blogs ( and, the first which is actually a movie review focus and the second which highlights more about my work in student affairs. So I have toyed with the idea that I want to have a blog that was broader without the structure I have tried in the past. I started to movie blog after an attempt with an overall media one (which included themes on each day of the week) and a sports blog (that really just became a regular complaint forum about Maryland or DC sports). Starting over gives me a chance to just play off of the topics of the day or the moment.

So here goes the next experiment into the world of blogging…