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Jason Oliva

"What has your college education taught you?" To appreciate a greater dependence on caffeine than my own body will allow. That's the truest thing I've learned in my life as an undergrad writing major. If I were ever given an award and had to express thanks under a blinding heat lamp in front of millions, I wouldn't think of God. At least not at first. No, my saving grace would have to be caffeine (Mom, you come in at a close second). I've noticed that in my own meandering existence I've come to enjoy the things that probably won't get me paid. I like to read everything from Faulkner to Graphic Novels. I've been playing guitar for the last eight years (the last five of which good). One of these days you might see me on the red line, or in the rafters at a Potbelly's. My guilty pleasures are B-rate horror movies, kung fu (preferably dubbed), baseball and all things music. If I were to be any animal in a future life, I would be an owl. (A: because I already have a similar sleep schedule, and B: because owls aren't easily domesticated.) My favorite color is red.

Giants vs. Cowboys to kick off NFL season

NFC East rivals go head-to-head tonight at MetLife Stadium

The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants square off against the Dallas Cowboys Wednesday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. This marks the first game of the 2012 NFL season and the first meeting between these NFC East rivals.

The Giants and Cowboys meet on smaller stakes than their last meeting, where the Giants claimed the division and then went on to win the Super Bowl while the Cowboys were left with an even split 8-8 record and their postseason dreams shattered. As division rivalries go, not only is this the first game of the season, but also the first chance to get a leg up on the competition and claim that division title.

And being the long-awaited premiere of the NFL, both the Giants and Cowboys have something to prove going into tonight’s game.

The Giants are coming off their championship season, the second title they have claimed in the last five seasons. No surprise that there are expectations for the defending champions. But with a Manning for a quarterback and two hot wide receivers in Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, things look pretty sound for the Tom Coughlin-led Giants.

The Cowboys, on the other hand, have a much larger, Jerry Jones-sized chip on their shoulders. After finishing the 2011 season at 8-8 and failing to reach the post season, not to mention a 4 out of 5 game meltdown, the Cowboys seem to be fading fast. And not to forget the 31-14 loss the Cowboys suffered to the Giants on New Year’s Day.

Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, however, remains as optimistic as ever. After acquiring two new cornerbacks this off-season—Brandon Carr of the Chiefs, and Morris Claiborne of LSU—Jones looks to stifle Eli Manning’s receiving core and hopefully return his beloved Dallas Cowboys back to their glory years.

In a sport where teams play once a week—excluding BYEs—and the regular season lasts 17 weeks, everyone is looking at the short term (right now, at least) and taking it one week at a time.

America is just happy that first week is this week.

Big Sean and Lil Wayne go head-to-head for hottest mixtape

Sean’s “Detroit” drops only two days after Weezy’s “Dedication 4”

Big Sean is likely to see some competition in the hip-hop mixtape game this week when the Detroit rapper releases “Detroit,” which comes only a couple days after Lil Wayne’s long-awaited “Dedication 4.” Though both tapes are free and can be found online on sites like DatPiff.com and LiveMixtapes.com, hip-hop lovers everywhere are geeked-up nonetheless.

Big Sean’s “Detroit” is set to drop this Wednesday night at 8 p.m., the Michigan rapper’s latest effort to fall in between his freshman album Finally Famous (2011) and his untitled sophomore album slated to release late 2012.

Signed to Kanye West’s G.O.O.D Music label, Big Sean has no doubt been held in some good company. Kanye’s website hyped up the 24-year old rapper’s upcoming mixtape with a cover photo of the song “Clique,” which features the words of the track in dirty red lettering over a black background. 

“Clique,” looks to be the most anticipated song on Big Sean’s forthcoming tape mostly because of who’s on the track: none other than hip-hop heavyweights and industry compadres Kanye West and Jay-Z.

Big Sean created even more buzz with the release of a two minute video promo entitled “RWT.” The video—in the expressive, no holds barred hip-hop tradition—features everything from profane lyrics to making it rain what we can only assume are bills greater than Washingtons from the back of a moving jeep. 

But “Detroit” aspires to be more than just the flashy side of hip-hop. According to Big Sean, the mixtape encompasses all it means to “come up” in Detroit. The rapper admits there is a central theme to the tape saying, “It’s the dream aspect of it all, the grind aspect of it all, the fun aspect, the player aspect, rocking furs. It’s a lot of soul on there.

In the bragging rights for best free mixtape, Big Sean better hope there is a lot of soul on there, as Lil Wayne’s “Dedication 4” represents something like Christmas for online hip-hop enthusiasts.

Where Big Sean aims to get in tune with his hometown, “Dedication 4” resembles something Lil Wayne threw together with some of his rapper friends. Lil Wayne, who is nearing his 30s, admits that he hasn’t really been into the rapping game lately, taking time off of his verbal freelancing to concentrate more on skateboarding.

Perhaps those cheetah pants Weezy wore to the 2011 MTV VMAs cut off blood circulation to his head, but the Grammy Award-winning rapper seems like he’s slowly losing his mojo.

In a recent interview Lil Wayne told DJ Drama, “It does get pretty boring when it comes to just the rapping and all that type of stuff. I’ve done so much of it. I’ve been doing it since I was eight and I’m about to be thirty in September and I’m still rapping. I kind of feel like I’m getting old.

Lil Wayne may have been rapping for the last 21-odd years, but I doubt we have heard the last of Weezy F. Baby.

Julian Castro's keynote speech and what it means for Latinos

DNC speech may incite the Latino vote come November

Julian Castro, San Antonio Texas’ Mayor and the keynote speaker at last night’s Democratic National Convention, swats away talks that he may one day be in President Obama’s shoes.

Castro, who was regaled as the first Latino to speak at the Democratic National Convention, airs nothing but modesty for his upbringing. The 37-year old Mayor recounted his Mexican heritage through an anecdote of his immigrant grandmother, who left Mexico as a child and did not make it past the fourth grade, instead working as a maid, cook and babysitter before eventually learning to bilingually read and write.

Castro emphasized that only in America could the descendant of someone like his grandmother earn a place in politics, citing the American Dream as making it all possible for him and his U.S. Congress-bound twin brother Joaquin.

A grandson of an immigrant, Castro went on to praise President Obama for his actions regarding the Dreamers, those young, law-abiding immigrants seeking to be rid of the fear of deportation, who strive to live in America with the same hopes and dreams as his ancestors’.

But it was not only the subject matter of Castro’s speech that enthralled everyone from Democrats in attendance to the people watching at home. Rather, Castro’s cool and confident demeanor is what raised questions as to where the young politician will be in four years time.

Castro’s invigorating speech is the talk of the town in Democratic and Latino communities. Seeing as the Latino population has grown ten percent in the last thirty years—from 6% to 16%—making them the largest minority in the country, Castro’s ability to differentiate the issues between Obama and Romney might prove crucial for Democrats come November.

Ever so modest, Castro is not buying the hype. The San Antonio Mayor says he will remain in S.A. for the next several years, granted the public will have him.

Michelle Obama's convention speech rallies Democrats, humanizes Barack

First Lady Obama opens the DNC with sentimental memories

Michelle Obama kicked things off Tuesday night at the Democratic National Convention with an emotionally-charged speech recounting hers and Barack’s time spent in the White House. Though meant to pull at the heart strings of the everyday American, Michelle’s speech, some say, carried too much sentimentality and the politician’s inevitable “rags to riches” cliché.

Michelle’s speech, however, did just as it was supposed to. It riled up Democrats to stand tall for their party’s leader in President Obama by painting a picture of the President’s unwavering American spirit to change class inequalities. Michelle’s speech also humanized President Obama in her recollections of The First Couple’s early relationship years, and how even now, 23 years later Barack is still the same man she fell in love with.

Nothing is wrong with all the hearts and love and mushy pre-Presidential romance, but that seems to be the theme with First Lady speeches, as seen with Ann Romney’s presentation of husband Mitt at the Republican National Convention last week.

Though Michelle’s speech caught some flak about being strong, yet not eternal in memory, it did get the point across of a President who is for the people and who comes from the same likeness of the struggling people he strives to help.

And is that not at the heart the Democratic spirit?

Michelle Obama, like any devoted spouse, displayed support and confidence in her husband by encouraging America that although the times have changed, Barack has not and that we should also be confident in a leader familiar with and devoted to a cause to keep our fair country moving forward. 

The Democratic National Convention wraps up Thursday, Sept. 6 with President Obama accepting his party’s re-nomination. Michelle merely just warmed up the crowd, now it’s Barack’s turn to fire them up.


Molina leaves game after collision, spurs MLB sexist tweet

MLB.com’s “Like a man” tweet causes sexist outcry

Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina left the game Tuesday night after colliding with Pirates’ Josh Harrison. Molina caught a shoulder to the face from Harrison as the four-time All-Star catcher was blocking home plate. After the collision, Molina remained on back for several minutes. Molina exited the game with a headache, upper back, left shoulder and neck strain. Currently, Molina is listed as day-to-day.

But the home plate collision is not what caused MLB criticism. Not like the NFL, who in recent years has come under scrutiny for helmet-to-helmet hits, the MLB is less of a contact sport than football. No, the outcries are not for player safety and personal well-being. The criticisms come from a tweet posted by MLB.com after Molina’s accident.

In a social media blunder/misreading, sexist claims were brought against the MLB because of a tweet that read, “Yadier Molina was forced to exit after this devastating collision, but he held onto the ball because he’s a man.

The key phrase here is that last bit, what some see as alienating the entire MLB female fan base because of gender insensitivity.

But people seem to forget that it is a tweet that carries little distinction in the grand scheme of things. Rather, the tweet has been blown out of proportion. It is not as if Major League Baseball is outright saying that Molina would have dropped the ball if he were a woman. No, the tweet implies that Molina was able to hold onto the ball because he is a full-grown man with the skills and strength to take a huge hit like he did and still somehow manage to put on for his team.

Twitter has once again proved to be a medium through which to offend, anger and embarrass. Granted it was a poor choice of words for whoever MLB.com has running the Twitter page, but it’s baseball, people.

There’s no crying in baseball. And that goes for both men and women, boys and girls.

Plaquemines Parish feeling Isaac's wrath

Isaac begins to flood southern Louisiana

Plaquemines Parish in the southeast region of Louisiana has confirmed a levee overflow in the wake of Hurricane Isaac, leaving 25 people stranded inside their homes awaiting emergency evacuation. Currently, there are 65 people on a rescue list in Plaquemines Parish after Isaac flooded the small parish south of New Orleans with 12 feet of water.

According to parish president Billy Nungesser, the devastation Plaquemines Parish has been facing from Isaac since early Wednesday is arguably worse than what the town faced in 2005 from Katrina.

Nungesser said the parish’s levee had overflowed, and part of the parish that had never flooded before during a hurricane is now under five feet of water. His accusations comparing the damage between Isaac and Katrina arose when Nungesser went home and found that part of his roof was missing and the back wall had moved.

“I don’t know who’s calling this a Category 1, but this is no Category 1,” Nungesser said.

In a press conference with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal it was revealed that the whole west side of Plaquemines Parish was under water after Isaac’s heavy rain flooded a non-federal, local levee. The east side of the parish is slightly better off, with an eight foot levee, but Isaac looks to reach above that height. At the rate that Isaac has been bearing down, it may only be a matter of time until the east side of Plaquemines begins to look like its west side.

People have been confined to their attics and roofs to combat the rising tide. The scene is eerily familiar with footage of Katrina refugees and Nungesser is currently in the process of ordering an emergency evacuation for Plaquemines Parish  with help from the National Guard.

President Obama held a conference call Wednesday with governors of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, and the mayor of New Orleans to discuss current conditions and the next steps response teams are taking.

Chris Cooley released by Redskins

Cooley is on his own with only one preseason game left

Chris Cooley was released Tuesday by the Washington Redskins, a team the tight-end has been with since entering the league in 2004. According to the Redskins, Cooley was not fit for them to be a starter.

Cooley, on the other hand, thinks otherwise.

The two-time pro bowl tight-end feels that he is fit to be a starter, but having been replaced in his starting role by second-round 2008 draft pick Fred Davis leaves Cooley with no other option but to leave Washington, the home he has known for the last eight years.

Cooley has struggled with injuries in the last few years, but in 2010—the tight-end’s most efficient and recently healthy year—Cooley totaled 849 yards with 77 catches, but only 3 touchdowns.

News of Cooley’s departure from Washington comes as a bit of a shock to Redskins fans, stirring up mixed emotions. Most of them have been negative.

A debate on Washington Post writer LaVar Arrington’s radio show displayed the scorn of Redskins fans toward Cooley’s leaving. The debate showed that many fans had turned their backs on a dedicated player who gave the team, the city and the fans nothing but loyalty and hard work for eight seasons.

So why the harsh turn of perceptions? After all, the NFL is a business, and to the players it is a job. Can Cooley really be blamed for believing in himself and wanting to start when he knows he is capable of doing so somewhere else? Perhaps Cooley will get the adoration and respect he is looking for and deserves elsewhere.

Though there is only one preseason game left before the NFL season kicks into high gear, there is still time to make room for a hard-working fan favorite tight-end for anyone that needs one.

Twitter death hoaxes challenge social media integrity

Celebrity deaths are most popular trending topics on Twitter

Twitter death hoaxes are on the rise, leading many to question social media’s integrity as a valid news source. 

Bill Cosby is not dead. Neither is Eddie Murphy, nor Rihanna. These are just three of the biggest celebrity death hoaxes brought on by social media platforms in the past week.

Celebrity death hoaxes, though seen as practical jokes by some, cause concern for the celebrities in question and the contagion of Twitter death notice trending is the main perpetrator for these rumors.

The truth is that these death hoaxes cut a little deeper than one would think. You would assume that celebrities wouldn’t care if their death rumors began spreading like wildfire all over the Web, but as we often sometimes forget, celebrities are people too. When stars’ death rumors begin trending, they have to undergo the hassle of letting family and friends know that they are in fact alive, and that they have just been placed as the butt of a sick joke.

Imagine waking up one morning and looking at your cell phone and seeing that it has blown up with texts and calls looking to see if what the Internet said was true. Surely, no one wants to have to prove their vitality, but for some celebs like Bill Cosby, who has been reported dead three times in 2012 alone, the death hoaxes can be irritating in the least.

But what drives someone to start one of these Twitter death hoaxes? The possibilities are endless and the right answer may never be known, but motivation can be linked to a number of things.

Humor, someone’s idea of a prank, can be reason enough for an individual to start a celebrity death rumor. It could even be attributed to a desire for attention, or God forbid, an inside job from a celebrity publicist to gather some buzz.

Whatever the reasoning and allure of trending a faux celeb death, Internet users need to be cautious of what they read and share on the Web. The spread of false information is what hinders the Internet from being a valid informational source.

And in this advanced technological time of ours, where we consume most—if not all—of our media on the Web and rely greatly on the factual presentation of events occurring hundreds of miles away from us, what will we do once that avenue has become corrupted?

Enough of the Twitter death hoaxes, people. Because if we cry wolf too much, we won’t be able to cry at all.

Mauer a Red Sox?

Possible waiver move could land Mauer in Boston, though not likely

Joe Mauer has been placed on waivers by the Minnesota Twins, causing some uneasiness in Twin Cities’ sports fans. But is a potential trade really something to fret about this late in the season, especially after the blockbuster trade that moved Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett to the Dodgers?

Placing Mauer on waivers raises the question as to whether a potential trade would even be possible given the All-Star catcher’s multiple zero-laden salary. Highly doubted, but if any team were to zero in on the three-time American League batting champion, the depleted Boston Red Sox is that team.

The Bo Sox have saved $250 million in the trade that sent three of their top players to L.A., more than enough to complete the $142.5 million Mauer has left on his contract with the Twins. And if Red Sox GM Ben Cherington decides to fork over the money for Mauer, Minnesota could see some potential growth in the money received from their hometown hero.

But will the Twins really trade the hometown kid? They are entertaining offers right now by placing Mauer on revocable waivers, but that’s just it. It’s only entertainment until we see any team making a push for Mauer, who had a forgetful 2011 season where the catcher was plagued with injury.

2012, however, has made the 2011 season seem like only a bad dream for the heavy hitting behind-the-plate slugger who has played in 120 games, hitting .309 with eight homers and 66 RBIs.

A move to Boston could improve Mauer’s numbers that have been lagging since the Twins’ move to their new stadium Target Field, but it seems that Mauer will still be playing ball in the Twin Cities come noon today.

Mauer, who has made the MVP voting list four out of the last six years, denied offers from the Yankees to remain in his hometown. Mauer’s loyalty to the Twin Cities has been tested before, and it seems that this is just another one of those tests.

For Joe to jump ship on the Twins just wouldn’t be his style.

Christie the tough guy

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie attacks Democrats at 2012 Republican National Convention

Chris Christie sucked all the warm, sentimental vibes out of the room at the Republican National Convention Tuesday following Ann Romney’s heartfelt speech. New Jersey’s Republican governor changed the mood inside the Tampa bay Times Forum with his bold challenging of America’s current Democratic leadership under Barack Obama.

Christie’s speech, meant to rile up party member support for Republican candidate Mitt Romney, played out like a high school homecoming pep rally. While Ann Romney delivered a portrait of her and Mitt as an everyday American couple, complete with their college days and early financial struggles, Christie used his stage time to criticize Democrats and paint a picture of a bleak American future under President Obama to rally support.

In his speech, Christie questioned Democrats’ abilities to face the nation’s problems upfront, painting them as timid and too concerned with their own political well-being to address issues directly and with efficiency.

Whistle a happy tune while driving us off the fiscal cliff,” Christie said of Democrats, “as long as they are behind the wheel of power when we fall.”

This kind of rhetoric comes with zero surprise at a political rally. In order to garner support for one’s side, the other side has to be made undesirable or insufficient. Christie’s speech, however, came off to some as a bit too self-indulgent for the New Jersey governor who arguably made the speech more about himself than presidential candidate Romney.

Christie put on a tough guy façade, complete with a twisted scowl and aggressive demeanor for which to bash the Democratic. Christie, New Jersey’s first Republican governor in the last 12 years, would not let the audience forget his elected position in a blue state.

The New Jersey governor even divulged his own upbringing growing up in poverty with two immigrant parents. But Christie’s rags to riches recollections of his past were just simply not on the same caliber of the emotional appeal delivered by Mrs. Romney.

Ann Romney’s message was love, that love of country and family is what America holds dear. Christie’s message was more “look at me I came from nothing and now I’m something.”

Christie’s presentation of himself, though it represents an unwavering and fearless political stance, may only be paper thin and may only be a showy attempt at introducing candidate Romney on a nationally televised broadcast. We’ll just have to see how this tough guy façade holds up come November.