December is officially Sufjan Stevens Christmas Music Month.

If you weren't previously aware, Sufjan Stevens—the folk singer behind songs like "Chicago" and "Visions of Gideon"—has created a total of 100 Christmas songs, immortalized on two magnificent, multi-album compilations: 2006's Songs for Christmas and 2012's Silver and Gold.

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THE OPTION | What to Expect in the NCAA Championship

The Championship is tonight at 9:20PM. Which team are you rooting for?

Remember last week, when I said the smart money was on Kansas? Sorry about that. I was dead wrong. When Villanova took the court on Saturday night, they looked unstoppable from the first play. Kansas won the tip, scored a quick basket, and then, in what seemed like seconds, the game was 22-4 in favor of the Wildcats. Kansas never saw another lead. In the first half, Nova dropped 13 three-pointers, tying the Final Four record. They went into the locker room with a 15-point lead. In the second half, Kansas's offense got hot and started putting together a few impressive runs, but it didn't matter. Villanova was right there the entire time, eating up the clock and scoring every basket with style.

When talking about this game, it's important to acknowledge that Kansas played great. They put up 79 points on an extremely good defense. The only problem was, Nova shot one of the best games in NCAA history, and every time Kansas looked to be making a push, the Wildcats would just line up and ping another three. This phenomenon was best described by this tweet by Mike Jensen:

The other game, played between Michigan and Loyola Chicago, was a sloppy, defensively-charged mess. The dribbling was uncomfortable to watch at some points, and neither team made a particularly convincing argument that they should be in the championship match. Most of Michigan's points came down low, with Moe Wagner using his gigantic 6' 11" frame to dominate the paint.

On the other side of the ball, Loyola was a bundle of nervous energy and on multiple occasions their players tripped and barreled into one another, causing mayhem on the court. Still, for their part, Loyola Chicago controlled tempo in the middle of the game and had a legitimate chance of winning until they blew their 10-point second half lead. After Michigan wrestled the lead from Loyola's shaking hands, they used their size advantage and milked the clock until the end of the game, completely shutting down Loyola's hopes of making it to the final.

So, the matchup is set. Villanova will face Michigan for the championship in San Antonio. Vegas has Michigan as a seven-point underdog, and after Saturday's matches, it's hard not to see why. Still, the storyline of this game, as it is in so many championship matchups, is that of what matters more, offense or defense?

Michigan, using size to their advantage is a defensive juggernaut and boasts one of the best 3-point defenses in the entire NCAA. They run a strong perimeter defense and don't rely too heavily on one player to get the job done. They force teams to play down low and once their opponents get there, Michigan uses their size to dominate.

Villanova plays a completely different game, featuring smaller guards that can shoot and dribble. They lack size and raw power, but Villanova makes up for this with outstanding efficiency and the ability to make plays out of nothing. They're also never afraid, no matter how close the defender is, to take a deep shot and go for three.

It's also worth noting that Villanova has a top-15 rated defense, and is pretty adept at shutting other teams down. Barring foul trouble, it appears that the Wildcats, not the Wolverines will be the ones who dictate how this game is played. Michigan has a great three-point defense. Villanova's long shots are ridiculously accurate. While Moe Wagner is a matchup nightmare, it's going to be up to Villanova to decide whether or not they want to rely on their three-point game, or if they want to take it to the basket rather than trying to break Michigan's perimeter zone.

Conventional wisdom says Villanova has to ignore their opponent and play their game, but honestly, it doesn't matter. After Saturday, everyone knows what the Wildcats can do outside the arc, but they also, incredibly, have the third-highest shooting percentage in the NCAA from inside the three-point line. Michigan has a great defense and has won has won 14 games straight, including the Big Ten title, but it seems doubtful that they'll be able to stop a red-hot Villanova team tonight. Anything can happen, and it's sure to be a good one, but in my mind the Vegas line seems correct.

Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found on PopDust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. Website: Twitter: @mattclibanoff

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Following weekend number two of nonstop basketball, the NCAA tournament has been narrowed down to four teams. No.11 seed Loyola-Chicago will be facing off against No. 3 seed Michigan next Saturday afternoon, with No. 1 seeds Villanova and Kansas set to play that night.

The road to this point has been wild and full of upsets, and these four teams are a pretty far cry from what experts were suggesting just a few weeks ago. With that in mind, we decided to take an in-depth look at each team, the road that got them here, and what it'll take for them to win next Saturday.


Being a Villanova fan over the past few years has been nothing short of masochism. Yes, they won the tournament in 2016, but since 2014, they've been either a no.1 or no.2 seed, and have only made it out of the second round once. Jay Wright's team is always great during the regular season, but for some reason once the tournament starts, they have a habit of forgetting how to play basketball. This year however, they're my frontrunners. They're the only team in the tournament so far that's completely dominated every team they've played, winning every game by double digits.

People are quick to point out Villanova's relatively easy schedule – the best team they played was probably West Virginia –but that doesn't really matter if one considers the way Villanova's second-half offense keeps lighting up the competition. That said, even though the Wildcats are averaging an NCAA-high of 87 points, the key to taking down Kansas won't be shooting 75%. The strategy for beating Kansas, much as it was for beating Texas Tech, will be Villanova's shutdown defense. The Wildcats are the most complete team left in the tournament, and are heavy favorites to win the whole thing.


Kansas is the inverse of Villanova. After demolishing Penn in the first round, every game Kansas won was a nail-biter. They squeaked by Seton Hall and Clemson, and then this past weekend managed to beat no.2 seed Duke in an overtime battle.

While it's easy to say that Villanova has looked better than Kansas, it's worth noting the effect winning close games has on any team. Kansas is a team of fighters, winning games they haven't been favored to win. Their stats may not line up to Villanova's, but Kansas is a team that knows how to get it done when it counts. They seem to have that intangible x-factor, that stuff that doesn't let them quit. Forget Vegas, when the teams are this good, the smart money is on the one who knows how to grind it out.


After heating up late in the season, the Wolverines blew through the first four rounds and landed themselves a game against a college that hasn't been in the tournament since 1985, well before any of Michigan's players were even born. Vegas has Michigan at -5 but while they're heavy favorites going into the game, John Beilein isn't going to let his team get too excited.

Just last year, folks in Ann Arbor were calling for Beilein's resignation. He remained calm, and cooler heads within Michigan's athletic department prevailed. Now, Michigan is in the Final Four, and Beilein's calm, cool, and collected attitude perfectly compliments the style Michigan hopes to use against Loyola-Chicago.

Michigan has a huge size advantage and hopes to push the paint on offense and hold Loyola-Chicago to the perimeter on defense. The goal is to calmly and methodically take apart the extremely hot underdogs while simultaneously dictating the rate of play. In a way, this is the game Beilein was made to coach.


If I'm being completely honest, I don't know what to make of this team. I've never even heard of Loyola-Chicago University. Their path to the Final Four is nothing short of insane. They won their first three games on near-buzzer beaters, all three being games in which they were underdogs. Then, out of nowhere, they destroyed Kansas St. in the Elite Eight. They don't play like an underdog however. They shoot 50% from the field. They pass well. They get back on defense. Their coach has weird offensive schemes involving something called "the hockey assist" and frequently uses a smaller, nimbler five-guard lineup. Still, these guys are huge underdogs, and while they've beaten some good teams along the way, this is the part of the tournament that separates the good from the great. It's probably the end of the road for the Ramblers, but they've definitely been the most fun team to watch this year.

No matter what happens next weekend, the results are bound to be exciting. Basketball fans are virtually guaranteed a Cinderella story in the championship game, considering how much better Kansas and Villanova are than Michigan and Loyola-Chicago. I would predict that Kansas and Michigan will meet in the final, but every sports writer on the planet has been wrong about this year's tournament from the get go. There's really no telling what's going to happen. There aren't many NBA contracts waiting at the end of the tournament. For most of these players, this is it. This is their moment. When the adrenaline is pumping and there's no guaranteed future in basketball, the NCAA tournament becomes anyone's game. Whoever leaves it all out on the court is going to take home the glory. That's the beauty of March Madness.

Matt Clibanoff is a writer and editor based in New York City who covers music, politics, sports and pop culture. His editorial work can be found on PopDust, The Liberty Project, and All Things Go. His fiction has been published in Forth Magazine. Website: Twitter: @mattclibanoff

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man smuggled live turtles pants

A student caught with 51 live turtles in his pants pleaded guilty to smuggling charges Wednesday in a Michigan court.

The 27-year-old Canadian, Kai Xu, admitted to smuggling or trying to smuggle at least 1,600 turtles out of the United States between April 2014 and his arrest in September 2014.

He now faces up to 60 years in prison.

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As Popdust previously reported, officials began watching Xu in August, 2014 when he transferred some packages at a parcel center in Detroit.

Xu was stopped by Canadian Border Services when he passed back through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.  He was found to have 41 live turtles taped to his legs and 10 hidden between his legs, the complaint said.

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On the same day, Xu packed 1,000 turtles into suitcases, planning to send them to Shanghai, according to prosecutors.

Poor Xu.

Listen, who among us has not put live turtles in our pants?

The heart wants what it wants. Sometimes the heart wants turtles. Lots of them.

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Or maybe I'm just a hopeless romantic. Maybe Xu is just a guy trying to make a quick buck.

The turtles included North American varieties such as eastern box turtles, red-eared sliders and diamondback terrapins, which sell for up to $800 each.

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Xu "regularly deals in turtle shipments worth $30,000, $80,000 or $125,000," wrote Sara Woodward, assistant US attorney, in a court filing.

I don't like the thought of Xu telling his cellmates how he landed himself in prison. Turtle smugglers are probably second only to child molesters in prison pariah hierarchy.

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Sentencing is scheduled for next April in Ann Arbor.

Police officers in Michigan took a stray pig into custody last week, and held it in the back of a police car before reuniting it with its owner. Now, Pig sits down for an exclusive interview with Popdust.

Popdust: So what happened that day?

Pig: I was just sick and tired of living in a sty, eating nothing but corn and soybean meal, and just feeling like I wasn’t getting any respect, ya know? So I busted loose.

Popdust: Where were you going?

Pig: I don’t even know, man. I just had to get the hell out of dodge.

Popdust: So how did the police wind up getting involved?

Pig: It felt so good to be free, and I guess I got a little carried away. I wanted to raise some hell. (shakes his head) That’s when I saw this lady doing yard work and I just started chasing her yelling, “Woooo woo wooo.” She looked really freaked out.

Popdust: You must mean your neighbor, Debbie DeRiemaecker?

 Pig: Right. So I’m chasing her, and then I see this decorative ball. Man, it was so cool. It had all these different colors and shit. I got so distracted, and that's when Debbie called the cops. They show up, tackle me, and throw me into the back of the squad car.

 Popdust: Various reports suggest you were not happy about this?

 Pig: Fucking pigs. I was so pissed, I was like, “fuck this.” I just let loose all over the back of the car.

 Popdust: But then you had a watershed moment, something that changed your life in a very dramatic and profound way?

 Pig: Yeah. I was laying cable all over the back seat, and I caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror. I couldn’t believe what I saw.

 Popdust: What did you see?

 Pig: A pig! It was crazy! I never knew. Imagine the irony. Now it all made sense-the sty, the oats, why they’d never give me a membership at Equinox. I felt so stupid. It was like that episode of Chapelle Show when Clayton Bigsby, the blind leader of the KKK, discovers he’s black and his head explodes. I kinda felt like that.

Now, a happy Pig has been reunited with his owner Mr. Brian Davis, who said, "I just want to say thanks to the Shelby Township police for getting the pig and not writing me a ticket for having poop in the car."

Davis volunteered to clean the police car for the officers, the station reported.

Davis said he plans on bringing coffee and doughnuts to the officers who helped capture Pig.

Back at the sty, a contented Pig credits Caitlyn Jenner for helping him transition into acceptance. “It’s all about being who you are.”

A gay Catholic school teacher, who was fired for being pregnant, has urged people to, “stand up for those without a voice.”

As previously reported, Barb Webb was a beloved chemistry teacher at Marian High, an all-girls Catholic school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. That is, until she told the principal that she was expecting a child with her female spouse. Barb was fired, and her case has sparked national outrage.

Popdust sat down with her for a one-on-one.

Popdust: So what were you expecting when you first went to the office to tell the Principal you were pregnant?

Barb Webb: I didn’t know what to expect when I first met with Sr. Lenore, but during the meeting she was very positive. She seemed almost happy for me and I definitely felt that I not only still had a job, but that I would get all the standard maternity leave benefits as well. It was kind of a bait and switch. She was either a great actress or someone got to her and changed her mind after the meeting. When I left the meeting, I felt great.

Popdust: So then what happened?

Barb Webb: Two weeks later she called me in for another meeting and told me my only options were to resign or be terminated.

Popdust: Prior to this had you ever seen homophobia at the school?

Barb Webb: There are plenty of gay teachers on the staff. That’s not the problem. The problem is being gay in a public capacity because then it violates the “morality clause.” The higher ups have said they knowingly hired a gay teacher.

Popdust: Obviously this has been a massive trauma, but ultimately, has this been a good thing for you?

Barb Webb: Seeing everyone’s support has been a huge positive. I’ve gotten amazing private messages from people who tell me my story gave me courage to come out to my family. That has been a huge honor.

Popdust: You must be stunned that you’re a national news story?

Barb Webb: It’s surreal to see yourself to TV and all of a sudden to be able to Google myself and have all this stuff come up, but I’m not really in this for fame.

Popdust: But can’t you so see your story on Lifetime Television for Women?

Barb Webb: Ha. Yeah, I can see that!

Popdust: Obviously, there’s been a huge outpouring of support, what about a huge outpouring of opposition?

Barb Webb: The vast majority has been very supportive. But I try not to read comments online. I stumbled across a few, “She should be stoned to death,” comments and I was like, “No thanks.”

Popdust: What do your parents say?

Barb Webb: They are so supportive. I came out at 15, so it’s been 18 years. My mom has progressed from being uneasy with it to being one of my biggest champions. She’s Catholic, I’m Catholic, and the church doesn’t recognize homosexuality.

Popdust: I’m surprised you’re still Catholic.

Barb Webb: Sometimes I am too.

Popdust: How have the students reacted?

Barb Webb: It’s 99.999% in support, but I’ve gotten a few letters from kids who are hung up on the legal aspect and they would say “But you signed a contract!” The parents have been organizing parties for students to get together and make rainbow bracelets to show their solidarity. It’s been amazing.

Popdust: So what about future jobs?

Barb Webb:: I’ve been Substituting in chemistry at a school through the fall and when I first got there, the headmaster called me into the office and I thought, “Great I’m in trouble again.” And she just said, “I want to welcome you and let you know we don’t practice discrimination here.” I was so happy. She is so great.

Popdust: What do want people to know?

Barb Webb: I didn’t want people to think I walked away for no reason, I wanted them to know the truth, but my intention was never to say “Stand up for me. “ It was and has always been to say, “Hey, stand up for whoever needs help. Those who don’t have a voice, anyone who is being bullied or subjugated. Be their voice. That’s how things change.

You can lend your support via the Facebook page “I stand with Barb Webb”