Monday, June 28, 2010

Murphy's Law: A Proverbial Thorn In Your Side

Have you ever felt like you've been on the wrong side of Murphy's Law? It's real, it's grimey, and I feel Murphy (whoever that may be) has a conspiracy.

For those that are unfamiliar with Murphy's Law (Laws), here they are:

Two notable ones are "anything that can go wrong, will go wrong" and "The other line always moves faster." These laws are basically made to play into everyday scenarios, showing what can and often does happen.

Now one should not blame Murphy's Law when in turn is their fault. If they gain 15 pounds but all they eat is fast food and ice cream, then, well, it's not Murphy's Law. If you get fired from your job but you are lazy, always show up late, and disrespect your employer, that's also not Murphy's Law.

Murphy's Law in a way ties in with good luck and bad luck. I believe more in blessings and being blessed than luck. However I do believe in fate and fate cannot be avoided. Often times we do everything we can but are still let down. This can or cannot be due to Murphy's Law.

It also boils down to being prepared, and watching out for every possible scenario and situation. That would be part of Murphy's Law, and what makes it so real.

Sometimes Murphy's Law can actually be funny because the things it talks about are really practical, common, and make one think. However, it seems to get me more often than naught.

There are times where I reach ruts in my financial, romantic, or physical standing and I'm doing everything right. I then chalk it up to Murphy's Law before sending up a prayer to God asking "Why?" However, one must have a sound, level mind and a sense of humor to realize that life is going to happen, and keep going. Therefore, there is no way to stop life, or Murphy's Law, but to continue moving.

It's still easier to blame Murphy's Law though, although often we should blame the person in the mirror directly in front of us.


Sunday, June 20, 2010


Everything changes from generation to generation: fashion, cars, hairstyle, catchphrases, and of course, music. Hip-hop is one of the newest forms of music in our modern time, but one that has gone through many highs and lows. Depending on whom you speak to (especially if their a fan of the "REAL ILL"), hip hop is going through a major low right now. Basically, real ill hip hop has become extinct as dinosaurs and the planet Pluto. Album leaks, downloads, commercialism, and wannabes are some of the elements that have combined to make hip-hop a mere shell of what it once was and why folks are huge fans of it.

So what is "REAL ILL HIP HOP"? It is the forms of freestyling, MCing, breakdancing, beat making, producing, etc, that have stayed true to hip-hop's roots. Hip-hop was relevant, thought-provoking, political, and always saying something. It wasn't about flossing, Cristal, gorgeous, half-dressed ladies, and wearing as much jewelry as possible. Hip-hop has been about expression from the beginning. However, the 'REAL ILL' has to include true knowledge, intelligence, uplifting the black race. It started in the streets so the 'REAL ILL' keeps that grittiness, humble beginnings-style alive. It is truly music for the soul, fusing a lil R&B with poetry appropriate for many English classses, and even some mellow jazz.

You are hard-pressed to find any 'REAL ILL' on mainstream radio nowadays. The best outlets for this now are satellite radio stations such as Sirrius and XM (of which I'm a subscriber). They tend to filter out the predictable, even 'pop-sounding' hip-hop and bring the stuff that truly shows the movement and rhyming which defines and describes hip-hop the best.

Artists that fall in this category of the 'REAL ILL' include Slick Rick, The Roots, WU-Tang Clan, Outkast, 2Pac (especially before Death Row), the Notorious B.IG., Geto Boyz, EPMD, Leaders of the New School, Nas, Mobb Deep, Tribe Called Quest, and Camp Lo. More mainstream commercial artists such as Eminem, Ludacris, Jadakiss, Jay-Z, and Redman also provide many of the realness and purity that keeps hip-hop alive admist a lot of the fakers.

You then have artists such as T.I. and Lil Wayne (and no I'm not dissing Southern hip-hop, I am from the South) that are hits and misses. They can rap, have ill-beats and rhymes, etc. However, they tend to be more sellouts than anything and you cannot dub them among the ELITE in hip-hop. They are on a 2nd-tier at best, more likely a 3rd tier.

This week Drake's much anticipated album FINALLY dropped. Now Drake is not really a pure rapper but more of a singer, flower, and artist. His music sounds good, and he has collaborated with some of the best in hip-hop. I listened to his album and it's really good. There are a couple of tracks that probably could be considered "REAL ILL" However, his record label, Young Money (owned by Lil Wayne himself), plus the overall commercialism involved in creating an album, limited the album's potential somewhat.

Now it's perfectly ok if you like other artists such as Soulja Boy, Gucci Mane, Plies, Dro, Pleasure P, etc. However, please DO NOT dub them in the same category with the elitists I mentioned earlier. There is a huge difference in their music and style of rapping. Their music CANNOT be defined as 'REAL ILL' in ANY fashion and I'm not sure it claims to. Hip hop is generational, and this generation of hip-hop stars is sadly not on the same par or level as the ones from yesteryear (or the ones from the past still doing it).

True art in any genre or avenue is supposed to be saying something. Therefore, you cannot tell me that Nas is saying the same thing that Plies is, or that they are equal. I encourage one to educate yourself on hip-hop history, its origins, roots, past artists, and take a listen to the greats of the past. One can see the common thread in style, beats, and rhyming schemes that is absent in hip hop of today.

I had to do a bit of research for this blog, as I'm not the foremost authority on 'REAL ILL hip hop' myself. I do know, however, what's garbage and what isn't. When someone tells me they don't like hip-hop for whatever reason, I challenge them to listen to elitists such as the Roots and Common before they judge the entire genre on Young Money and Soulja Boy. My circle of friends are huge hip-hop heads, and they contributed heavily to this blog and my search for music and artists that can be easily deemed 'REAL ILL'

I even compiled a 'REAL ILL' hip hop playlist including elitists I mentioned and some others. I did this on Anyone wishing to hear what the 'REAL ILL' should sound like needs to give me their email address. I'll be more than happy to send you this list and possibly educate you some. I know I've certainly feel educated and enlightened these past couple of weeks.

Remember, each one, teach one, reach one. Does today's hip-hop, or even today's music, still do that? That may be up for debate, but for those that know about the 'REAL ILL', we know without a shadow of a doubt, that you learn something and your soul is fulfilled after hearing it.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chasing Down The Ice Cream Truck

With the summer season in full effect, there's one sight and sound seen all over the country. That's the little white truck playing the annoying but strangely addictive nursery school music. It's the ice cream truck, something I'm personally drawn to.

I've had a love affair with the ice cream truck since childhood. I didn't have the luxury or privilege of growing up in the middle of the city where the ice cream truck made 2-3 stops depending upon where you live. My grandmother had connections and therefore, the ice cream truck would stop at my house every day during the summer months for a few years. We would spend sometimes $40 between my immediate family when the truck came through. That could be why I started becoming overweight at 8 years old. But hey that was, and still is, some good ice cream!

I remember during my sophomore year at Winthrop, second semester, the middle of April. It was on a Sunday afternoon and I just woke up. I heard that ice cream truck music. Granted I lived on the 5th floor of Richardson Hall. That made no never mind to me. I FLEW downstairs and through the lobby to the parking lot where the ice cream truck was. People were clowning me that I was running after the ice cream truck as a 19-year old college student. But I didn't care because, again, that's some good ice cream!!

I then REALLY realized I had a problem in August 2007. It was the hottest month of the year, I didn't have A/C in my car I was driving at the time, and the ole truck was in front of me. So what did I do? I followed the ice cream truck for about 3 miles until it stopped in Fridy St. Apartments in Blacksburg. I then parked, and got behind the crowd of young children like I was Homer Simpson or Smokey from the movie Friday. I got my ice cream!

Many folks I tell this story to are just like "You could have just went to the store" or "Why didn't you stop by Dairy Queen or McDonalds? They have soft-serve.". Truthfully, I do like soft-serve ice cream better. However, you can get store-bought ice cream and soft-serve ANY time of the year. Plus the ice cream only runs about 5-6 months out of the year, and they have treats that you cannot find in stores. They have the red,white, and blue pops, the Good Humor specials that FINALLY made it to stores about 15 years ago, the banana-chocolate popsicles, double-decker ice cream sandwiches, and many others that aren't sold in stores. They are usually dirt-cheap also. For $5, you can have quite the sugar rush, and quite the headache if you eat it all too fast.

I would be remissed if I didn't mention the pictures on the side of the ice cream truck listing all of the available treats that can be bought. There's something about having that visual selection in front of me that makes me feel like a kid again, makes me crave the ice cream more, and somewhat makes the ice cream tastes a lot better.

I've seen the truck about 3 times so far since it's gotten warm, and I haven't stopped for any ice cream yet. I haven't even stopped the truck, followed it, etc, in over 2 years. Nonetheless, I still enjoy the ice cream truck and it is a vice of mine. Many folks I know enjoy the ice cream truck, especially those with children whom beg their parents for money to buy ice cream. I'm just able to come forward with how much I love it.

Maybe before the summer is over, I'll have another good ice cream truck story. Till then, let that music play and the truck roll on through town!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Observations from the gym

** DISCLAIMER ** I'm not a health professional, certified trainer, or even employed by any gym. I'm simply a fitness enthusiast who has been going to the gym for years, been involved and acquainted with physical fitness since 5 years of age, and am dedicated to my workouts. None of these comments are intended to hurt anyone. If anything, it's more like humor, or something you would find in any newspaper or journal across the country. I do have fitness tips and advice, but few are being provided in this blog. Remember these are just pure observations. Yours may vary, they may not. And one does not need to be seasoned in the gym to necessarily understand or get these gym types. This is a general audience type of blurb.

OK with that said, on with the blog.

When one goes in the gym, it can be for several reasons. One of the main reasons folks go in the gym is to improve their body types and shapes. Whether this be through cardio exercise or weights, one wants to shape the body. I will present 11 of the most common type of gym members.

1. Novice

These folks are usually brand new to the gym and possibly a workout routine. They may either stay less than 30 minutes (or even a couple of hours) because they are still figuring out what to do. Many even will hire a trainer or simply join an aerobics class and/or work out with simply partners to get their feel in the gym. You may not see much of the Novice as they are trying to establish a routine. One may be quick to criticize, but these folks are simply getting started and could improve if they stay with it

2. Play-it-Safers

I've been here before. These folks, whether based on their overall goal (short or long term, weight loss or muscle-building, etc), may be timid to do even more, even less in their workouts. They may not go too intense, do heavy lifting, or even use all that the gym has to offer. Their workouts are basic, vanilla, and they simply get in and get out. These folks may even come 3-4 times day and work out for an hour. But sometimes their workouts will be the exact same that it was the day before, just for the fact that they may have no interest in a trainer, further advice, or maybe not even a set goal. They know what they want to do, and just do it.

3. M*A*S*H Unit

I dub folks in this category such because of some of the unorthodox, unsafe things that they may do in the gym. Examples includes lifting waaay too much weight that they may not can handle without a spotter, not properly warming up, getting enough water, working out way too long, or even simply not consulting a physician before beginning a workout plan/program. These are health risks waiting to happen. You can see these folks going, going, and going hard. However, look closely and they are not working out smart. They are basically killing themselves, and have zero to no balance in their lives or workouts. Basically they are accidents waiting to happen. However, they always have excuses and explanations to back up what they're doing and saying it isn't right. Common sense is a must here.

4. The Natural Athlete

This is the person, male or female, that can do everything so well, catches on so fast, and has had a good healthy build since childhood. They vary in workout times, routines, etc. Some are very lax, and rarely come. Others come all the time, basically living in the gym. In short, these are the ones that irregardless of their workout regime, they always seem to have banging bodies. Their health may be a mystery, but what the eyes see based on body and the things they can do physically are breathtaking.

5. Caffeine Fiends

Energy drinks and energy supplements are becoming more and more popular in the gym. Heck some folks may just drink a Mountain Dew (although sodas aren't very healthy) before their workouts. Caffeine fiends feel they always got to have the latest energy drink in them, and they are super CRUNK and hype about working out. Think Richard Simmons' energy. They are going 100 mph in their workout, ALL INTENSITY. Most of this comes from the energy supplements though.

6. Dabblers

These folks can't stick or adjust to a certain workout program. While it is good (and necessary) to change up your workout routine every few weeks to avoid burnout and to achieve maximum results, these folks often can be frustrating. It's almost as if they have workout ADD. They do ALL sorts of different things, but nothing seems to be working for them. They follow the fitness programs, DVDs, and magazines, etc, trying to duplicate those programs and such. They do not tend to have a definite goal. More than anything, they want to be trendy and just try out the new workout craze just to try it out, not caring about the benefits or even the pitfalls.

7. Juiced Crew

Thanks to Jose' Canseco and several athletes being banned from sports and having medals and records stripped, this one is not foreign to most. I wasn't even going to discuss it but here goes. These are the folks that one minute have little to no build. In almost no time, they are looking like Hercules or the Hulk. They can also mirror Caffeine Fiends or M*A*S*H unit members with their enthusiasm and disregard for safety. The "roid rage" also comes out, as you are lifting weights and you see and hear a "Juicer" grunting, yelling, and gesturing. Safe and FDA approved supplements are good and Juicers use these as well. But they will pretty much inject anything in their bodies if it means achieving the results they desire.

8. Holiday Hoppers

These are the folks that ONLY use their gym membership (or even buy one) right after New Year's Day, or at the beginning of the summer, when beach season is upon us and they are making last minute adjustments to their bodies. These folks crowd the gym during these times, but around non-holiday months (working out wise) such as March or October, you cannot find them in the gym. The New Year's resolutions folks that pack the gym between January and March and then never come back also fall in this category.

9. Bogarts

Bogarts (or even hogs) take up equipment, machines, weight benches, for unnecessary amounts of time. These folks stay on the treadmill barely walking for an hour or more, spend an hour on the same weight bench, or has about 5 partners that use a particular piece of equipment their entire workout. In short, they can impede the workouts of others, especially during the busiest times in the gym. Many gyms have rules, especially in regards to cardio machines such as treadmills and bikes, that you have to be on and off in 30 minutes or less. Whether or not you want to report a "Bogart" is up to you. But these folks can often hurt themselves, and even others, maybe with not even realizing it.

10. The High and Mighty

Just as in church or the workplace, you always have the "holier than thou" or the folks that think they're better than you b/c they can run faster, do more, or because they lost X amount of weight, etc. These folks achieved their fitness goals and are now trainers and instructors in the gym. If not that, they are basically well-recognized but NOT well-respected. They are extremely arrogant and even mean. They are NOT willing to give any useful fitness advice for free. They may give you tidbits that are unhelpful, or may not work for what you're trying to do. These people honestly disgust me. They have let the positive opinions from others turn them into a very negative person. They can make one almost NOT want to go to the gym. When I dropped my weight this last time, I was VERY careful not to turn "High and Mighty" and I'm still staying true to that

11. Gym Rat

I'm borrowing this term from a certified trainer and virtual friend of mine. This person lives and breathes fitness. They possess many of the positives traits from the previous ten. They have achieved success in the gym in various ways. They have definite goals and detailed plans on how to reach them. They are always asking questions and observing. They are always in the gym, sometimes twice/day, for 2 hour sessions. They are often trainers. They may or may not work out every part of their body, but they are dedicated to the parts they do exercise. They also are very helpful and humble to others, quick to lend a helping hand or advice on something fitness related. They love to see others do well in the gym as well, and are their harshest critic. They are also always looking for ways to challenge themselves, and will try new techniques, tricks, and workouts to achieve this. Everyone knows a Gym Rat, and they are the easiest folks to respect in the gym. They often keep you coming to the gym and serve as moral inspirations.

I plan on doing more fitness related blogs but right now I wanted to stay away from being preachy or offering a plethora of tips. Those will come later. I just wanted to post some observations from my many years of research and experience in working out and chopping it up with trainers and such.