Category Archives: 30 at 30

11. John Legend

In honor of me turning 30, I made mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 11 is John Legend.

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John Legend has successfully mixed the hip hop swag of today’s generation with the smooth crooning vocals of classic R&B from years gone by. In fact, the “Legend” part of his stage name was given to him for that reason. Poet J. Ivy said that he had an old school sound like one of the legends and began calling him John Legend. The name stuck, and Legend’s career has made him a legend in contemporary R&B, hip hop, and pop music.

Legend worked his way to get to where he is today. He built his reputation through collaborations, playing piano and/or singing background vocals with/for the likes of Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, and Kanye West, among others.

By the time he released his debut album, Get Lifted, in 2004, Legend had found his voice and his niche in the music scene. Few people in modern music have as much cachet with as diverse an audience as Legend. His primary sound is soulful R&B with romantic lyrics that make him relatable to the masses. Yet, he often laces his piano tracks with hip hop back beats. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Legend’s music is approachable hip hip, offering an in to hip hop culture for those who may otherwise be turned off by the genre.

Legend has the ability to produce a throwback track a la Marvin Gaye or mix in a verse from Ludacris, and neither sounds forced nor out of character. John Legend is simply the best at what he does.

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30 at 30 List #8: The Most Devastating Losses of My Life as a Sports Fan

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

One hour into the month of October, the Oakland Athletics’ heavily anticipated playoff run was over. It ended abruptly in the bottom of the 12th inning in Kansas City against a pesky, never-say-die, smallball playing Royals team that seemed to relish the bright lights of playoff baseball perhaps only a bit less so than their fans did, a fan base that had waited 29 years for playoff baseball to return.

The A’s dramatic fall-from-ahead (three times!) loss added another depressing chapter in the ongoing saga that is being a fan of the Billy Beane-era in Oakland. Moneyball the movie was great, but the real world A’s have proven to write a script too tragic for Hollywood. Their regular season success has been overshadowed by postseason futility. Since 2000, Oakland has now lost seven consecutive winner-take-all games, and has won just one postseason series (a 3-0 sweep of Minnesota in the 2006 ALDS) in eight appearances.

This year was supposed to be different. Oakland was a Major League best 67-42 on Aug. 1 when general manager Beane, who was well aware of the playoff struggles of years past, decided to shake things up and go all-in for a World Series run by dealing slugger Yoenis Cespedes for ace pitcher Jon Lester of the Boston Red Sox. Lester debuted Aug. 2, ironically against the Royals, in a game Oakland won 8-3. However, Oakland’s fortunes quickly took a turn for the worse. They watched a 4-game lead in the AL West over the Angels evaporate, finishing the season with the worst record in AL in the month of September and only clinching the second wild card spot on the final day of the season.

Lester was given the ball on the mound in an attempt to validate why they brought him in. He entered the game with a career 2.11 ERA in 13 postseason appearances, good for top-5 all-time. So when Brandon Moss went deep with a 2-run home run in the top of the first inning, many thought Oakland already had given Lester enough support for them to survive in advance. Instead, the wild card game played out, wildly, like a microcosm of the A’s season.  The A’s got off to a fast start only to squander it away in heartbreaking, devastating, typical Oakland fashion.

Lester surrendered a run in the bottom of the first and another 2 in the third, allowing the Royals to play with a lead until the sixth. Oakland’s offense awoke from a month-long drought for a 5-run sixth inning, giving Lester a 7-3 lead. Just when it seemed like Lester was finding his form, the Royals got to him in the 8th, forcing manager Bob Melvin to replace him after recording just one out in the inning. Luke Gregorson came in from the bullpen and struck out the final two batters, but not before the Royals had plated 3 to bring them within a run at 7-6.

Oakland failed to tack on an insurance run in the top of the 9th, and it proved costly as the Royals tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt, stole third, and then scored on a Nori Aoki sac fly. The Royals were terrors on the basepaths all night, seemingly bunting runners into scoring position every inning and stealing bases at will.

The A’s had one last gasp in the 12th. Pinch-hitter Alberto Callaspo came through with an RBI single to score a run and give Oakland the lead for the third occasion of the evening. But KC battled back yet again in the bottom half. First, an Eric Hosmer triple off the wall. Then, Christian Colon hit an unplayable chopper down the third base line to score the tying run. With two outs, Colon then stole second, the Royals’ 7th stolen base of the night. Salvador Perez stepped to the plate against Jason Hammel. Perez was 0-5 on the night, but he delivered with a rope down the third base line, just under the mitt of Josh Donaldson. And just like that, the game, the A’s season, and (most likely) the Jon Lester era in Oakland were done.

Unfortunately, this is not my first rendezvous with sports heartbreak. The feeling has been all-too familiar in my 30 years of life. In fact, I first wrote about the topic of “the devastation game” back in 2008 following Game 4 of the NBA Finals between my Lakers and the rival Celtics. To see where the A’s collapse ranks on my all-time list, read on.

Continue reading 30 at 30 List #8: The Most Devastating Losses of My Life as a Sports Fan

30 at 30 List #7: Things I Will Remember About Rocket

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

Rocket072113The final day of summer 2014 also proved to be the final day of life for my family’s pet dog, Rocket, who would have been 15 in October. Flashback to 1999. When my parents first brought him home to meet the family, I was a student in high school—today, I’m teaching it. Where does the time go?

Rocket was a part of my life for nearly half of my life. And while I haven’t lived at home with him and my parents for a few years now, my fondness and affection for him only grew as he aged.

This unexpected 30 for 30 entry is my way of grieving this loss and memorializing his life. Rocket was a good dog, and he was truly one of a kind. Read on for all that I will remember about Rocket.

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30 at 30 List #6: Things I Want to Do in My 30s

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

Matt30thBday

Happy birthday to me! It’s official. I am 30 years old today. As I suggested when I began writing about the 30 at 30 project six months ago, this project will continue on after September 7th. I still have 24 lists to cover, including the final pieces of the musical artists countdown that got this whole thing started. Given my teaching schedule, it’s a likely bet that the 30 at 30 project won’t officially wrap up until sometime next summer when I’m approaching 31.

Today’s list is all about possibilities. At the dawn of a new decade of life, I’m focusing on what I’d like to do. Some are very specific; others are more general guidelines. Some will be easier to accomplish than others. There’s no guarantee that I’ll make any—let alone all of these—hopes turn into reality, but I’m going to try. Here’s to making the most of these resolutions over the years to come!

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12. Beyoncé

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 12 is Beyoncé.

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I was a Beyoncé fan when BEYONCÉ was still just Beyonce, one fourth of Destiny’s Child. I was a big Wyclef Jean fan, so naturally I gravitated toward “No, No, No Part 2”, the remix featuring Wyclef that became Destiny Child’s first single. As much as I enjoyed the group—I own three of there albums as well as a few singles—none of the group’s tracks are included on this compilation. The Destiny’s Child version of Beyoncé is great for what it is, but it feels like a child version of Beyoncé, which is not far off considering she began with the group when she was just a teenager.

Fast forward to 2014. Beyoncé is a grown woman, the biggest star in music and arguably all of entertainment. She was on the cover of Time magazine’s 2014 list of the 100 most influential people in the world. From her 2011 VMAs performance while rocking the baby bump to the Super Bowl Halftime show in 2013 to the On the Run Tour she co-headlined with husband Jay-Z this past summer, Beyoncé has reigned unparalleled as a singerdancerperformerentertainer. Yes, that’s intentionally one word. She’s in a category all by herself.

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13. Jay-Z

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 13 is Jay-Z.

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When Jay-Z was announced as the executive producer of the soundtrack for the 2013 film version of The Great Gatsby, it made a lot of sense to me. Jay-Z is a modern day embodiment of the American Dream. His father abandoned his family at a very young age. He grew up in a single-parent home, failed to graduate high school, and sold crack cocaine to get by. And yet, he made it.

Today, Jay-Z proudly proclaims, “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!” If I could be any celebrity alive today, Jay-Z would undoubtedly be a top candidate. Dream job? Professional entertainer is what many aspire to but few achieve. From critical acclaim to commercial success, Jay-Z’s rap career has been a major success. Dream life? When all is said and done, he may be known as an entrepreneur more than as a rapper. He was a part-owner of the Brooklyn Nets. Now he owns his own sports agency, Roc Nation Sports, his own clothing line, Rocawear, and much more. Dream wife? He is married to Beyoncé—what more can I say?

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14. Alicia Keys

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 14 is Alicia Keys.

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To label Alicia Keys as successful would be a considerable understatement. She has sold more than 35 million albums worldwide. She has won multiple Grammy awards. And Billboard magazine named her the R&B artist of the decade for the 2000s. Oh yeah, and she’s only 33 years old. She’s also married to producer Swizz Beatz, and they recently announced that she is pregnant with their second child. Alicia Keys often sings messages of female empowerment, but even if she didn’t actively promote it, her life is a walking advertisement for the power of womanhood.

Keys burst onto the music scene with her 2001 release of Songs in A Minor. She won the Grammy in 2002 for Best New Artist and her hit track “Fallin'” won for Song of the Year. In addition to being Keys’ signature song, “Fallin'” was a definitive song of the decade. The song, which is about the ins and outs or ups and downs of relationships was the first track I ever heard by Keys, and I was immediately hooked.

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15. Iron & Wine

In honor of me turning 30, I’m making mix CDs of my favorite songs from each of my 30 favorite musical artists/groups. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for this list. They’re simply my personal favorites. Coming in at number 15 is Iron & Wine.

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“Making music, the process of writing and recording, that’s all like daydreaming to me.” Those are the words of Samuel Beam—better known by his stage name, Iron & Wine—from  a 2007 interview with Helen Brown for The Telegraph. 

The quote sits well with me because listening to Iron & Wine’s music has always felt meditative and dreamlike to me. There was a time in the mid-2000s when I would drift off night after night listening to the final few tracks from Our Endless Numbered Days, “Fever Dream”, “Sodom, South Georgia”,  and “Passing Afternoon”, all of which made it onto this compilation. Iron & Wine’s lush, soothing vocals effectively put my mind at ease and allow me to get lost in the moment in a way that few other artists can.

A blogger named DandyLyonWhine adeptly described Iron & Wine thusly: “If you’ve not heard Iron & Wine before you will discover an amazing and magical intimacy. No matter the volume, every Iron & Wine song sounds like it is whispered into your ear. It’s like you can feel his breath on the side of your face. There are no casual Iron & Wine fans, and the people who are not fans yet simply haven’t heard the song that Beam wrote for them.”

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30 at 30 List #5: WWE Personalities

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

When people find out that I am a huge WWE fan, they generally have two reactions. Initially, they’re surprised, even shocked. Once I confirm that yes, I, the educated, well-adjusted, mild-mannered English teacher rank WWE’s Monday Night Raw second among my all-time favorite TV shows, their first question is always a variation of this: You know it’s all fake, right?

Yes, I know the outcomes of the matches are predetermined. The idea of professional wrestling as legitimate competition was something I gave up on as a toddler when my dad introduced me to the WWF (The company was originally known as The World Wrestling Federation before a dispute with The World Wildlife Fund forced them to change to World Wrestling Entertainment in 2002). The problem is that everyone asking that question is missing the point entirely.

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30 at 30 List #4: Drinks

In honor of me turning 30, I’m compiling 30 different top-30 lists on a wide variety of topics ranging from trivial interests of mine to meaningful life moments. Read the introductory post for more background information on my 30 at 30 project. Reminder: there is no scientific rationale for these lists. They were composed by a panel of one—me.

What do you want to drink? It’s such a crucial question. As someone who does not drink coffee or beer, two of America’s favorite beverages, my top answers to that question are unique. Featuring a few childhood classics and a few drinks for those 21 and older, my order of drinks gives you a big gulp’s worth of refreshments to read about. Enjoy this list responsibly!

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