Author: Nicholas Cicale

The People of Lady Bird Lake

Written by Melissa Hall

It’s not the hardcore bikers you need to worry about when you decide to take a stroll around Lady Bird Lake, one of the nicest places in Austin to take your dog, or go for a jog, or walk around with your friend, mocha lattes in hand, claiming that you’re “getting some exercise” but really exerting as little energy as possible. It’s a place for people of all ages and all sizes–for those who are serious about running, or those who are looking to get that 90 minutes of cardio we’re all supposed to get every week, or those who are outside to escape the subzero air-conditioned buildings that populate Austin.

Everyone knows that “lake” is a misnomer, since it’s really a “river-like reservoir” created by a couple of dams on the Colorado River, but that doesn’t take away from its beauty. Miles of great walking/jogging/riding right along the water. You can go every day to the lake and experience a different section of the trail. Trees align part of the path while other parts lead you up to a boardwalk where you can see lines of turtles lounging on fallen trees jutting out of the water. Ducks float atop the surface while cranes try to catch fish. People boat and canoe and kayak and paddle board and take ridiculous swan pedal boats out onto the lake. It’s easy to get lost in the tranquility of the trail and the lake. Located in the middle of downtown Austin, Lady Bird Lake is beautiful during sunset, a great time to watch the pinks and oranges of the sky as you walk along the pedestrian bridge into the heart of the city.

The lake is nice. And always busy. And always full of moms with strollers.

Those hardcore bikers though, wearing all that Spandex, probably all the Spandex that’s ever been created in this world, with its highlighter-colored accents down the chest and thighs. The serious runners sometimes wear this same uniform, but only when it’s cold outside. Every other time it’s a pair of loose shorts that covers as little groin area as allowable in public.

The hardcore bikers speed down the gravel and dirt path with ease, nimble enough to slide between a slow jogger and a couple with a wily puppy. Or the latte-holding hooligans. They yell “LEFT!” but never stop or slow down to watch the panic they induce. Do they want me to go left? Or are they coming from the left? They are unaware that yelling “LEFT” induces a brief moment of panic in most of the walkers. There’s not enough time to process what you’re supposed to do so you usually head left, and they race around on the right, without looking back.

The dog walkers pull their dogs close to them after this near hit, pat their fluffy heads or rub their sides, glare at the now half-a-mile-away biker. Why don’t they ride somewhere there aren’t any dogs? The dog walkers don’t realize, or fail to acknowledge, that dogs are everywhere in Austin—parks, stores, administrative buildings. In the rest of the country their dogs wouldn’t even be allowed to sit on patios at restaurants.

However, it’s not the hardcore bikers you have to worry about but the moms running with strollers. Yes, these ladies (and sometimes gentlemen, but mostly ladies) are the most dangerous people around Lady Bird Lake.

Not all of the moms are scary–there are the moms who push the single-kid strollers at a walking pace, maybe even a slight jog. They wear a pair of yoga pants or some leggings, something comfortable. They try to move out of the way when people pass, like the serious joggers with their tiny shorts and their bare-chested bodies. Their legs are so thin and there’s so little fat on their bodies that you wonder if they’ve even had a latte before. Do they eat real food or just load up on protein bars and Vitamin Water? They run through these moms with their single-kid strollers with no issue, though the moms are always trying to get out of the way, as if apologizing for bothering those around them with their presence and of their large, barely moveable stroller.

They don’t hog the path like the two-mom duets do. These moms, always in pairs, pushing their respective kid, yell-talk to the other person. There is no personal conversation between the two because if you’re anywhere around them–slightly behind, just in front, a mile in front–you’re hearing this conversation. Sometimes they laugh loudly, too loudly, cackle even. They’re trying too hard, maybe to be funny, maybe to seem like they’re having a fantastic time when really who wants to push a giant stroller in 80% humidity? They walk side-by-side with no regard for anyone around them, the behemoth strollers, with their easy-to-fold-extra-large-tires-for-rough-terrain bodies taking up well over half of the path in many areas. They’re either oblivious to the growing crowd of people behind them wanting to pass or they simply don’t give a shit. The hardcore bikers gather around them, standing on their pedals, looking left and right to see which side has the fewest obstacles, the fewest living creatures that can be killed. They don’t have the advantage the serious runners have–they squeeze through the tiniest of spaces, looking less and less like real human beings. When it’s clear that the two-mom duet will need to shift to the right or do a single stack of strollers, they make faces, huff and puff as they struggle to move the extra-cargo-space mammoths, and then grimace as you pass by. We’re moms and we’re getting exercise and this stroller is really heavy and have you ever birthed a child?

The latte-holding duos ignore the look because they’re too busy pretending to enjoy being outside when really one of them wanted to stay in the air conditioning but thought the “exercise” might be a better idea. Burn off those latte calories as we drink them, but in actuality they’re not moving fast enough or exerting enough energy to burn more than a few calories and definitely not enough to burn the calories from that mocha latte.

The slow joggers are especially cognizant of the two-mom duet disapproval. Your slow joggers are just that–slow. They’re maybe wearing some of that Spandex exercising clothing, or maybe they’re wearing an old t-shirt from a work convention they’ve found in their closet. Armpits soaking, back splotched haphazardly, they push away the hair that keeps falling into their faces and jog on. They’re a little self-conscious, either because of how sweaty they are or because of their slow jog (everyone thinks I’m so slow or look how many people need to pass me or wish I could run like those people in the small shorts ) or because of their size. They look especially hurt by the looks of the two-mom duet and will sometimes slow down to try to pass them, say “excuse me,” or some other appropriate behavior. They look longingly at the hardcore bikers, with their clearly defined calves, calves that are made for exercising.

But double-kid stroller moms? These are the moms you need to watch out for. There will be no apologies uttered by them.

The double-kid stroller mom is clad in Spandex similar to your hardcore bikers and serious runners. She’s in great shape too–smooth upper torso, sinewy legs. Her arms have got some power too because she’s probably into Crossfit or yoga for strength or some other fitness trend that most of us hear about but aren’t too motivated to try because damn it, it just seems way too hard.

These moms are impressive because 1) it doesn’t look like they birthed the children they’re pushing and 2) they’re running with an extra 30 pounds. Her stroller, unlike your two-mom duet, seems to move with ease, as she guides it with just the tips of her fingers–she doesn’t grip the handle with white knuckles like you sometimes hold your latte as the hardcore bikers zoom by or when you try to get away from the wet dog that’s about to shake. She’s got this, and the way she moves tells us that. Her strides are balanced and lengthy, and she breathes with ease, pushing a baby with bow ties in her hair and a toddler with a tablet in his hands. Sometimes she’s even got a dog in tow, a labradoodle or goldendoodle or some other AKC champion breed that seems to run in time with her. The other dog walkers watch in awe wondering how they can get their dogs to run alongside them and not chase after the millions of squirrels that reside in Austin. How does she push the kids AND deal with the dog?

She sweats, but somehow it doesn’t look as wet and sticky as the rest of the Lady Bird Lake participants, definitely not as bad as the slow joggers. Even the latte-holders sweat at all times of the year–Austin isn’t “that humid” but still hot as hell, and the make-up you so thoroughly applied is sliding off your face like second skin. Her make-up looks perfect. Or maybe she’s not wearing anything and she’s somehow naturally gorgeous and thin and athletic. Maybe she doesn’t sweat because of the Spandex. Maybe we should all wear Spandex.

And yet while you admire what she’s doing, she’s unforgiving. The stroller she’s pushing is extra weight that she will use to run you the fuck down. The hardcore bikers will indicate when they’re coming, with their harsh “LEFT” or sometimes a bell. They maneuver (usually) effortlessly around the hordes of people trying to enjoy the once-in-the-year 75 degree weather. The slow joggers will slow or stop. The dog walkers will call their dogs and pull them in. Two-kid stroller moms have no warning sign and the only way to know they’re coming is to listen for them. Their measured breathing, the creaking of the wheels on the gravel. And when you hear them you better get out of the way because she “can’t” stop and she isn’t going to. She’s fit and beautiful and you know what? you don’t even have to work that hard to have a body like hers after giving birth, you just need to begin exercising and lifting weights a couple of years before you get pregnant and then continue to eat right and drink protein shakes and take walks at least twice a day during the pregnancy. It’s really not that hard at all.

You watch as she rolls on by the latte-holders, the dog walkers, the slow joggers. You envy the ease with which she not only exercises but how she runs her life as well. You know her cabinets are all labeled and that canned goods are stacked neatly to the left side of the pantry. You know she only feeds her kids organic fruits and they probably only watch PBS or “educational” programs. She wears heels and pencil skirts and at the end of the day her feet don’t hurt the way yours would. She probably doesn’t even put her make-up on, rather little creatures come in through her window in the morning and apply it for her as they sing cartoon songs.

And then the baby starts screaming and she has to stop to take care of him, and the other kid wants a snack, but no, he doesn’t want the apple slices she diligently cut for him this morning. He wants to go home because he’s hot, and the baby won’t stop crying. It’s not a diaper change and he doesn’t seem to be hungry but he won’t stop crying. He just won’t stop. You sip your latte and smirk. You’re exercising too, you know.

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My 20 favorite albums of 2017

1. American Dream – LCD Soundsystem

From the first time I heard it (when it was released Sept. 1) to the last time (about 10 minutes before writing this), American Dream was my favorite album of the year. It’s rare I like something that much on first listen without getting sick of it, and coming from LCD Soundsystem, who’s albums and songs typically go on for a bit too long, this is easily their most concise and accessible. From the opener “oh baby”, a classic LCD Soundsystem slow-build track, through “tonight,” a classic dance-punk anthem, and the pulp-inspired single ‘call the police,” to the 12 minute electronic ballad that closes the album out, there isn’t a sour moment.

2. A Deeper Understanding – The War On Drugs

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My favorite songs of 2017

Here are my favorite songs that came out in 2017, separated into Alternative, Hip-hop, and Pop lists. Full playlists can be found on Spotify and are updated frequently. As always, thanks for listening!

Alternative/rock songs

  1. Cool Your Heart – Dirty Projectors
  2. call the police – LCD Soundsystem
  3. Star Roving – Slowdive
  4. Nothing To Find – The War On Drugs
  5. Something To Remember Me By – The Horrors
  6. Guilty Party – The National
  7. ameriacn dream – LCD Soundsystem
  8. Up All Night – The War On Drugs
  9. Funeral Pyre – Julien Baker
  10. Hologram – The Horrors
  11. The Body Is a Blade – Japanese Breakfast
  12. In Undertow – Alvvays
  13. emotional haircut – LCD Soundsystem
  14. The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness – The National
  15. 12 Steps – Japanese Breakfast
  16. Gwan – Rostam
  17. S.H.C. – Foster The People
  18. Up In Hudson – Dirty Projectors
  19. Song – Sylvan Esso
  20. Hot Thoughts – Spoon
  21. No Longer Making Time – Slowdive
  22. Beach Life-In-Death – Car Seat Headrest
  23. Machine – The Horrors
  24. Don’t Delete The Kisses – Wold Alice
  25. Darling – Real Estate
  26. Slip Away – Perfume Genius
  27. Thinking Of A Place – The War On Drugs
  28. Paradise – ANOHNI
  29. Diving Woman – Japanese Breakfast
  30. Villains of Circumstance – Queens of the Stone Age
  31. Never Been Wrong – Waxahatchee
  32. Lights of Home (St. Peter’s String Version) – U2
  33. I’m So Free – Beck
  34. Sometime/Someplace – Cornelius
  35. The Way You Used To Do – Queens of the Stone Age
  36. Up All Night – Beck
  37. Mourning Sound – Grizzly Bear
  38. Simple Season – Hippo Campus
  39. Friend Zone – Thundercat
  40. Pain – The War On Drugs
  41. Plimsoll Punks – Alvvays
  42. My Old Man – Mac DeMarco
  43. Road Head – Japanese Breakfast
  44. Espiritu Olimpico – Los Planetas
  45. Silver – Waxahatchee
  46. Little Bubbles – Dirty Projectors
  47. Tonya Harding (In D major) – Sufjan Stevens
  48. How to Boil an Egg – Courtney Barnett
  49. Feet Don’t Fail Me Now – Queens of the Stone Age
  50. Everything Now – Arcade Fire
  51. Dangerous – The XX
  52. The Little Things That Give You away – U2
  53. Wall Of Glass – Liam Gallagher
  54. The End Daughter
  55. Something For Your M.I.N.D. – Superorganism
  56. Explore – Sundara Karma
  57. Bike Dream – Rostam
  58. Still Beating – Mac DeMarco
  59. Evermore – Grandaddy
  60. The Economics of Emotion Labor – Wild Year

Hip-hop/R&B songs

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2017-18 MLB Offseason Rundown: A look at all of baseball’s free agent signings and trades since the World Series

With the conclusion of the Winter Meetings Dec. 15, here’s a rundown of all the notable free agent signings in the MLB offseason so far. I’m going to try to update this list once a week as the offseason goes on, and will be adding in notable trades at as well.

At the moment, most of the players who have signed have been relief pitchers, which doesn’t make for the most fun transaction log but could really alter a team’s outlook and can point to future moves to come.

Carlos Santana -3 years, $60 million to the Phillies

Santana has been one of the most reliable batters in the business since his first full season in 2011. He might not be as exciting a player to watch or as young as Eric Hosmer, but I’m a sucker for guys who can draw walks and would prefer Santana right now if choosing a first baseman or DH for the next few seasons.

He’s an asset that any team would be lucky to have, except the fit here with the Phillies doesn’t seem exactly logical for the club. Rhys Hoskins, the team’s most exciting player last season, already mans first base, and without a DH in the NL, it looks like he’ll have to learn the outfield or be dealt, neither of which should make fans too happy.

Zack Cozart – 3 years, $38 million to the Angels
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Favorite Songs of January 2017

by Nicholas Cicale

Here are my favorite songs from the last month.

  1. Star Roving – Slowdive
  2. Hot Thoughts – Spoon
  3. Dangerous – The xx
  4. Tranquillo – Lupe Fiasco
  5. We a Famly – The Flaming Lips
  6. Land of the Free – Joey Bada$$
  7. Little Bubble – Dirty Projectors
  8. Lips – The xx
  9. High Ticket Attractions – The New Pornographers
  10. Way It Goes – Hippo Campus
  11. High For Hours – J. Cole
  12. Darling – Real Estate
  13. Doomsday – Ryan Adams

Best Songs Of 2016

by Nicholas Cicale (@nickcicale)

Here are my 25 favorite Alternative, Hip-hop, and Pop songs from 2016. Full playlists can be found on Spotify and are updated frequently. Thanks for listening!

Alternative/Rock Songs

  1. The Ballad of the Costa Concordia – Car Seat Headrest
  2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief – Radiohead
  3. All That Heaven Allows – Mercury Girls
  4. 33 “GOD” – Bon Iver
  5. Burn The Witch – Radiohead
  6. True Love Waits – Radiohead
  7. Wow – Beck
  8. Vincent – Car Seat Headrest
  9. Drone Bomb Me – ANOHNI
  10. Fill in the Blank – Car Seat Headrest
  11. Your American Girl – Mitski
  12. Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales – Car Seat Headrest
  13. Ariana – Mercury Girls
  14. Daydreaming – Radiohead
  15. Kick Jump Twist – Sylvan Esso
  16. I Need A Forest Fire – James Blake, Bon Iver
  17. Romantic – Mannequin Pussy
  18. Stranger to Stranger – Paul Simon
  19. Pain – LVL UP
  20. Roma Fade – Andrew Bird
  21. In Heaven – Japanese Breakfast
  22. Destroyed By Hippie Powers – Car Seat Headrest
  23. Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind – Modern Baseball
  24. Degraded – Preoccupations
  25. I Can’t Give Everything Away – David Bowie

Hip-Hop/R&B Songs

 

  1. Nights – Frank Ocean
  2. Ultralight Beam – Kanye West, Chance The Rapper
  3. All We Got – Chance The Rapper, Kanye West
  4. We The People… – A Tribe Called Quest
  5. THat Pat – ScHoolboy Q, Kanye West
  6. Real Friends – Kanye West
  7. Nobody Speak – DJ Shadow, Run The Jewels
  8. Really Doe – Danny Brown, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Earl Sweatshirt
  9. Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane – ScHoolboy Q, Jadakiss
  10. War Ready – Vince Staples
  11. Parking Lot – Anderson .Paak
  12. Wat’s Wrong – Isaiah Rashad, Zacari, Kendrick Lamar
  13. Space Program – A Tribe Called Quest
  14. Devastated – Joey Bada$$
  15. Good As Hell – Lizzo
  16. Call Ticketron – Run The Jewels
  17. Untitled 02 – Kendrick Lamar
  18. What The Fuck Right Now – Tyler, The Creator
  19. Frankie Sinatra – The Avalanches, Danny Brown, MF Doom
  20. Weston Road Flows – Drake
  21. Wrist – Logic, Pusha T
  22. Overtime – ScHoolboy Q, Miguel, Justine Skye
  23. Two Birds, One Stone – Drake
  24. Come Down – Anderson .Paak
  25. Black Beatles – Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane

Pop Songs

  1. Go! – M83, MAI LAN
  2. Best To You – Blood Orange, Empress Of
  3. All Night – Beyonce
  4. Choose Me – James Blake
  5. Cranes in the Sky – Solange
  6. Work – Rihanna, Drake
  7. My Willing Heart – James Blake
  8. Diagram Girl – Beyond The Wizards Sleeve
  9. Augustine – Blood Orange
  10. One Dance – Drake, WizKid, Kyla
  11. Do It, Try It – M83
  12. Love Me Like That – The Knock, Carly Rae Jepsen
  13. New Song – Warpaint
  14. Never Be Like You – Flume, kai
  15. Freedom – Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar
  16. 24K Magic – Bruno Mars
  17. Subways – The Avalanches
  18. Move – Saint Motel
  19. Middle – DJ Snake, Bipolar Sunshine
  20. Into You – Ariana Grande
  21. Put That away And Talk To Me – James Blake
  22. Let Me Love You – DJ snake, Justin Bieber
  23. BOSS – Disclosure
  24. Tell Me the Truth – Lapsley
  25. Starboy – The Weeknd, Daft Punk

The Beast Incarnate Is Dead

By

The real winner on Sunday was Shane McMahon — and not because Team SmackDown defeated Team Raw in the five-on-five traditional Survivor Series match.

McMahon is the envy of the WWE Universe because he likely won’t remember the travesty that occurred to end the Survivor Series pay-per-view.

During his match, the SmackDown commissioner attempted to put away Roman Reigns by hitting his infamous Coast-to-Coast finisher. Instead, he got cut in half by a Reigns spear and appeared to suffer a concussion as a result of the impact.

While McMahon was cleaning out the cobwebs and wondering where he was in the back, the rest of us where forced to bear witness to one of the biggest travesties in WWE history.

Goldberg, who returned to professional wrestling after a 12-year hiatus, beat Brock Lesnar. More shocking, he did so by using only three moves. Spear, spear, jackhammer. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am. Cue the house lights and let’s go home.

In the span of two-and-a-half minutes, the WWE used Goldberg as a nuclear warhead to dismantle everything it had built over the last few years.

Lesnar is a living legend of professional wrestling. He has been ever since he debuted in 2002. But over the past few years, he has reached heights much higher than the word “legend” describes.

He destroyed The Undertaker and shattered his Wrestlemania streak. He obliterated arguably the greatest WWE superstar of all-time in John Cena. A few months ago, he mutilated Randy Orton, leaving The Legend Killer pouring blood all over the mat.

With performances like those — and so many others — Lesnar had achieved a god-like status. He was invincible, immortal and, most importantly, unbeatable.

Until Saturday.

In the blink of an eye, Lesnar’s legacy was destroyed, and the legacies of those opponents he had beaten took a hit as well. A match that was a mistake from the get-go sparked a flame and set ablaze to it all.

To make matters worse, the travesty that was one of the worst moments in WWE history followed — and ultimately overshadowed — what was one of the best traditional Survivor Series matches of all-time.

Watching the team of Kevin Owens, Chris Jericho, Seth Rollins, Roman Reigns and Braun Strowman (RAW) battle AJ Styles, Dean Ambrose, Bray Wyatt, Randy Orton and McMahon (SmackDown Live) was an absolute treat. For the first time since the WWE brand split back in July, this match put me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. In short, it was a classic.

Moments later, Lesnar’s theme music hit and the wrestler who was larger than life walked down the ramp looking to avenge a loss to Goldberg that came at Wrestlemania 20 more than 12 years ago, oozing with the confidence that comes from being the best at what you do.

Goldberg’s iconic entrance followed. Cameras followed the man who once won began his career with 173 consecutive victories as he made his way to the ring. He breathed in the pyro smoke and exhaled it through his mouth. It was nostalgic, but this isn’t 2004. Dieties from the past have nothing on the current form of Lesnar.

Or should I say the past form.

The bell rang, Lesnar drove Goldberg into the corner and was then pushed to the ground. A look of disbelief and fear donned on the mayor of Suplex City. A pair of spears was parlayed into a jackhammer. A three-count followed and Lesnar was left in pain as his manager Paul Heyman knelt over him. Together, they watched along with the WWE Universe as everything involving Lesnar crumbled.

This isn’t the first time WWE has messed up, and it won’t be the last. In the past, it has sometimes been able to salvage the careers of the superstars it destroyed, but Lesnar’s is now beyond saving. The Beast Incarnate is dead.

Hopefully nobody tells Shane McMahon.