Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Andy Rooney's Departing From "60 Minutes"

While it wasn't a shock, I was disappointed to hear the news that Andy Rooney would be leaving 60 Minutes as a contributor who we would spend a few minutes listening to at the end of each Sunday evening show. His appearances have been less frequent and he is ninety-two, so age does play a bit of a role. However, this will be the end of an era and the end of a strong piece of why 60 Minutes was such a good show.

Andy Rooney's career as a journalist for CBS dates back to 1949. However, his career on 60 Minutes began close to thirty years later. It all began in 1978, when he was fifty-nine. During the 1978-1979 season, his segment would alternate with a "Point/Counterpoint" with Shana Alexander and James Kilpatrick, which was a debate segment on the show. At the end of the season, the segment was given to Rooney and he has held that position since. During his segments, Rooney would take the opportunity to speak what ever was on his mind in the grumpy old man style of his. While his comes off as being grumpy, he's filled with a ton of common sense and makes us feel the same way about a certain topic. Some of the most memorable segments of his in my book included the exposure of why milk wasn't as special today as it was back in the day. He then showed us what was really featured in a carton of half and half. While it should be 50% milk and 50% cream, like it originally was, you will now find other forms of additives that are added to the liquid. He also talked about the ridiculous prices of bottled water and how they make a big deal about how the water is bottled (in a glass wine-like bottle for instance), when all you're getting is the same water you can get anywhere else. This led him to conduct an experiment... fill up a water bottle with water from the foundation and sell it for a dollar, seeing what kind of result would come out of it. Other topics of discussion included the 2010 Winter Olympics, Presidents being named after cars (and how a name like "Lincoln" sounds like a much better car name than future possible candidates such as "Huckabee" or "Kucinich"), and then there is the segment where he went over gifts he received from his fans. These gifts could include anything from books to umbrellas.

Andy Rooney continues to be one of the strongest opinions in the country and it's unfortunate that such a good thing must come to an end. It will end the purpose of Frank Caliendo's sketches where he impersonates Rooney. However, for me, the end of the Andy Rooney era will mean more. Andy Rooney is one of my influences when it comes to my goals in journalism, and more specifically, column writing. When I was thinking of starting a column back in 2008, I wanted to discuss my views on a certain topic, good or bad, and do it in sort of a style that Andy Rooney does on 60 Minutes, but at the same time, inject my own personality to evaluating topics. I also liked the fact my column/editorial was on the last page of the newsletter's body (which would be the second to last page overall), as a nod to Rooney's segments being featured at the end of 60 Minutes. That's just a nod toward an influence. Andy Rooney is one of the best journalist in the column category of news, and there will never be anyone like him. It will be impossible to fill his segment and think that it's going to get the same response as "A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney." While I dream of some day being as successful of a second opinion as Andy Rooney is, Andy Rooney is a one of a kind and cannot be replaced.

I will most definitely put it on my agenda to watch the final Andy Rooney segment this upcoming Sunday and watch him talk about what ever is on his mind. It will probably be about his experiences with CBS and looking back at his career with the network and throughout his thirty-three years on 60 Minutes. It would be great to own his segments on DVD and just go over the many topics he discussed in his many segments, 1,097 total, with the 1,097th being his final segment that will air on Sunday. An era has ended and Andy Rooney will be missed in his excellent segments on the show.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

FOX News Google/YouTube Debate

There were three debates throughout the month, as MSNBC, CNN, and FOX News each had one. The amount of debates doubled throughout the month of September compared to the rest of the primary season. What made this debate stick out was that many of the questions were submitted to viewers via Google or YouTube, and the questions concentrated on what these viewers wanted to know. Like the other FOX News debates, Bret Baier was the moderator. The participants included Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, and Gary Johnson. That's right, after being excluded from the last four televised debates, Johnson has been invited to his first debate since the very first debate of the primary season back in May, which only had five participants. He reached the 1% requirement that was needed to make it into the debate, which Thaddeus McCotter, Buddy Roemer, and Fred Karger did not.

The topics of discussion were of a wide range and I will be analyzing each candidates performance and in the order in which they were standing...

Gary Johnson- While Johnson was finally invited to his first televised debate since May (he was invited to a Twitter debate along with McCotter in July), he did get the least amount of speaking time. He answered his questions clearly, but also went back to how we need to balance the budget in some way or another. He did, however, give very clear answers and very clear remarks that were extremely satisfying. The highlight comment of the night was when he stated that his neighbor's two dogs were creating more jobs than this current administration. This comment may send his dogs into as much celebrity status as Joe the Plumber back in the 2008 Presidential Election between Obama and McCain. I also liked the fact that, like in his YouTube submission in which he answered every question in the debate, he was able to choose the person he wanted as his running mate quickly and without any filler. Being a Libertarian, he chose Ron Paul. This was something all of the candidates, with the exception of Santorum, Cain, and Huntsman after filler, did not answer. For the time he was given and the strong finish, Johnson had a good debate that should boost his campaign. B+

Rick Santorum- Santorum has continued to build on the image of being the jerk in the debates. He puts the pedal to the metal and takes any candidate that doesn't agree with a specific view he's passionate about, corners them, and argues his point until that point is resolved. He did give some productive answers and is doing better in the debates and giving us as the voters a reason as to why he's still in the race, but he starts mud fights. He even got Jon Huntsman riled up in a mud fight with him against the current War On Terror, and it was a battle between a conservative and a moderate. Santorum is a typical candidate with a bit more to offer than we thought, but his performance was pretty much the same as we have been seeing. B-

Newt Gingrich- Gingrich always has an opportunity to deliver those one-liners, whether it be directed toward Obama, a flaw in the candidates records, the media, or what he did while serving in Congress during the Reagan administration. He came out looking like a contender, but he's still just a former Speaker who's laying out the foundation of what we need to do in order for the Republican party to win the election in 2012. It's sort of like Chris Dodd ran on the principle of unity of the Democratic party, submitting strong point of views, and then withdrawing early and being the first major former primary candidate to endorse Barack Obama. If you look at the Republican side of the coin, I could see Gingrich thinking the same way of unity for the party. I could see that Gingrich would be the first to declare his endorsement for the nomination and I could see him faithfully back up the Republican nominee, which is something I can't blame him for doing. While he didn't release as much of a brutal fire, he still gave a strong performance. B+

Ron Paul- Romney and Perry are at the top of the current polls, but Ron Paul is quickly moving up into third place. Paul used the opportunity in this debate to stand by his constitutional liberties and proved how he is a true warrior of remaining constitutional as president. It wasn't a stand out night for him, but he did continue to assert his values and his positions. During the last four debates, Paul was the only Libertarian candidate participating in the debates. With Johnson on the stage and holding similar views, Paul has to be able to keep up with strong performances in order to be the Republican party's choice and hope that the two don't split the vote. However, he has gained the recognition and support of the crowds of people that attend the debate. While more candidates stuck out more than Ron Paul, he still did a good job during the debate. B

Rick Perry- Perry was involved in an on and off mudslinging match with Romney, which was the third such battle. If I had to pick a winner, it wouldn't be Perry. Perry's answers were a bit vague for the time he was given, and it all came down to skeletons that were in the closet. Perry's skeletons and being shown and shown by many of the candidates on his tail, whether it be Romney, Bachmann, Paul, Huntsman, or Santorum. Perry's highlight was when he mentioned the thirty-one-year-old lobbyist with cervical cancer who convinced him to pass the HPV bill. He also mentioned that it would be inhumane to not insure children of illegals. The candidates on the stage are feasting on him far more than they are feasting on Romney when it comes to skeletons, and when it comes to debates, Perry is not holding up to it as he should. C+

Mitt Romney- Romney had his best debate thus far. He expressed what he intends to do very clearly, answered directly, and kept it really cool with Perry. He won the Romney vs. Perry battle of the September 2011 FOX News Google/YouTube Debate by his calm demeanor. Outside of the Perry battle, Romney also took some jabs at President Obama, and how we should refer to him as Former President Obama. Like Perry, Romney was able to attend his mistakes, but with less pity, and more of an "everybody makes mistakes" kind of attitude. Whether or not this debate benefits him in the polls we do not know, but it surely is doing him justice and could help him pick up a good amount of ground. B+

Michele Bachmann- Bachmann is giving some strong points, which makes it unfortunate to see her numbers shrink since Rick Perry entered the race. She's no longer standing behind the platform of making Obama a one-term president and she's standing more to challenging Perry on his HPV bill, but had to deal with the fact that people were putting words into her mouth. She states that she's for allowing workers to keep 100% of what they earn, but it doesn't look like a solution was given as to how this would be done. She has stated she would repeal Obamacare, but that's pretty much just a position, and a position Romney also stands for (as would basically the entire Republican party). Her debate was mild, but nothing was done to make her numbers shrink based on this debate alone. B

Herman Cain- It's pretty difficult to speak against Cain and his debate performances, as they are always clear and direct. He gave his reasoning as to why his "999 Plan" was the best plan for restoring the tax code, he discussed our alliance with Israel and how we will not tolerate seeing our allies being threatened, but his strongest moment was the story he gave as being a colon and liver cancer survivor. His cancer was treated within nine months time with a process that he chose, and not the government. If Obamacare was being practiced, then Cain's chances of living would have dropped. He already had just a 30% chance of living and he beat the odds. He told this story so clear and so passionately that it would make anyone cringe for a moment when they thought about Obamacare. While Cain may not be the popular candidate on the field, he does a very fine job in the debates and he should very well make it into many more leading up to the primary. A-

Jon Huntsman- Since analyzing each of the debates in this primary season, Huntsman has received the worst grade during his poor performance in Iowa. His average is going up, as Pawlenty, who is no longer in the race, is holding the worst grade average of anybody that's participated in a debate. As for Huntsman, he stood firm to his views of a better America and is doing a fine job showing that he has compassion for this country, as oppose to being just a stick in the mud. His highlight moment was when he called out Santorum on his views of staying in Afghanistan, and how he feels that now is the time to bring our troops home. This happened out of the blue, right as the topic of discussion was being shifted to social issues. He also gave his tax plan, which helps build an impression. After the Iowa debate, I thought that once he would begin being excluded from the debates, it would be like nothing happened. At this point, there will be a bit more of a reaction. B+

When it comes to winners and losers, Herman Cain has the best grade for keeping up with a strong performance. However, the debate is also about improvement, who made the mark of having a great debate, and who savored the opportunity. Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman had their best debates yet, and showed that they are candidates who have an agenda and are there to go against what Obama has put in. However, if anyone really made an impression, it would be Gary Johnson, whose comment about his neighbor's dogs may really stick in the mind of the voters. He also gave a strong voice into balancing the budget and removing the income tax and having only on a national sales tax. While the grades may say otherwise, it's very tough to determine a true winner.

The next debate will be on a New Hampshire channel called WBIN-TV on October 11th and held in Hanover, New Hampshire. The next debate featured on a main political channel will be a CNN debate held in Las Vegas, Nevada. Details about these debates are to be determined, so we'll just have to see what happens between now and then.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Is Officially Over

In 1993, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was put into effect in order to avoid the abuse of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals in the military. They would be protected, but there was a catch... they weren't allowed to admit that they fell under the LGBT category. That was where the name came from, simple as that. If you were in the closet, you were permitted to join. If you were open about your differences, you were not. While the motion seemed to be of good nature, it did not exercise equal opportunity for all American citizens. Seventeen years later, in 2010, the notion was exercised, being sponsored by Joseph Lieberman, an Independent senator from Connecticut and sponsored against by John McCain, Arizona's Republican Senator and 2008 Republican nominee for President Of The United States. It passed in the House with a 250-175 vote and in the Senate with a 65-31 vote.

Nine months after this vote, the repeal is finally being brought into effect, and gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals can serve openly in the military. This is a landmark event for those who are open about their sexual preference, as it advances them one more step toward equality. They have a long way to go with marriage, adoption, and discrimination (which may take awhile), but this is at least one step forward. People who are LGBT should be treated like everyone else and the military should be based on how well someone is able to perform in the military, not whether or not they can perform their part in a relationship. Most people who enter the military have their priorities straight and are there to defend their country just like any other American. It's not always about being straight when it comes to entry into the military, it's just about being able to shoot straight and doing your part. If you're fighting for equality, then that's what you deserve.

It will take awhile for the military to get used to this new notion. Whether it be those who are leading the military or those who will be fighting with these people. There will always be someone who is homophobic or someone who disagrees with this notion, and that can cause some trouble. The biggest part about getting used to the repeal of "DADT" is when it comes to those who are actually fighting. Chances are that there will not be a ton of misconduct, and while there will likely be some, it will be taken care of. It's all going to come down to how well the new direction of allowing the LGBT community to serve openly in the military goes, but I feel that it will go well. Those who want to go into the military are generally serious about the tasks that lie ahead and that's going to be what resolves the issue. It wasn't long ago that blacks and females began serving in the military, and they are doing an excellent job fighting for our country.

We are about to see a new direction in military history. A new direction that will change the military forever, and likely for the good. It's the right thing to exercise the equality that our founding fathers believed we should have as they created the foundation for America. It's too soon to say what will happen under the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but it is definitely an accomplishment for the LGBT community of America, and let's hope that they are able to make more steps toward equality and acceptance in what is deemed a free society.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Check This Blog: Talk Stephen King

I'm a fan of Stephen King's work. I've been a fan since I was introduced to his work in the eighth grade when we spent a subject reading and summarizing novels. Two years later, I got back into Stephen King's work as well as being a novel connoisseur, thus I could say that Stephen King (The Green Mile and Bag Of Bones to be exact) is the author that lured me in to becoming an enthusiast for collecting and reading novels. My novel collection keeps growing and growing, and I keep reading and reading. Someone that shares my enjoyment for the work of Stephen King is the creator of the blog "Talk Stephen King." This blog has become a database for anything and everything that has to do with Stephen King and it's sure incredible.

"Talk Stephen King" features anything that's noteworthy about Stephen King. Whether it's news about projects such as movies or mini-series that have to do with Stephen King's work, news on a new Stephen King novel that's in the works, a special Stephen King appearance, or just a topic of interest that has to do with one of Stephen King. I found a bingo board that features the names of Stephen King's novels and decided to print it out. The chances of me ever playing "Stephen King Bingo" are slim, but if the opportunity ever comes and I gather the right group of people to play, I don't see why I wouldn't give it a go. There are also such topics as the novels you should and shouldn't read first. This was an interesting topic of interest that gives this King enthusiast's point of view on the books he finds as reads that were lure you in on the "Stephen King Train" and which ones are a bit complicated and should be read later on. I started off with The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, but became a fan when I read The Green Mile. Maybe after reading this list, I would have started with something else. Then again, I tend to follow my own path. Then you have the obvious list of his scariest works. We had some matches, Pet Sematary (which I felt was his scariest work) in particular. I also read on his blog about a store that specializes in horror fiction, which would surely be a place I'd be interested in going to. The only thing is that it's several states away. At least I have been informed on such a place.

"Talk Stephen King" is the Stephen King enthusiasts gold rush of anything you want to know about the utopia created by Stephen King. With close of forty years of being the "King Of Modern Day Horror Fiction" (no puns intended), Stephen King has come out with a ton of excellent work that has driven many of readers to having themselves a thrill ride with reading. "Talk Stephen King" reminds us and keeps us intact as Stephen King readers with everything that's going on with his work. Speaking of which, I will be awaiting for when 11/22/63 comes out in stores. It will be one of the few hardcover buys I make (as I usually wait for a novel to come to paperback, depending on the author). If you're an enthusiast, follow this blog! You'll enjoy it!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Big Cheeses: Cheddar

I enjoy Cheddar cheese and the various ways you can eat it. I'm sure that many other people from across the globe can say the same thing, as it is one of the most popular cheeses. It's the king of the England cheeses and has proved to have high authority in other countries, one of which being the United States. Cheddar has been the heart and soul of many American dishes, regardless of which way it is prepared and whether or not it is actually Cheddar itself. Many of these American processing methods, such as Velveeta and American processed cheese have attracted households, but not connoisseurs like myself. Cheddar is the inspiration of many of these methods and it would be of good service to simply let Cheddar do the work when it comes to preparing such cheese dishes or snacks.

While Cheddar is manufactured in many countries, the original cheese is from Great Britain. The product is named for the processed referred to as "cheddaring," in which you place the product in salt to sit and then grind up the curds before molding. It's also named after the town of Cheddar, in which it originated. It became Britain's biggest cheese and easily became the cheese of the early American days. Before 1850, most of the cheese that was eaten in America was Cheddar. A big wheel of Cheddar was known for being delivered to the White House during the Andrew Jackson administration as a gift, and was enjoyed by several guests.

Cheddar comes in two key colors, white and yellow. The difference between the two is that yellow Cheddar features an Annatto dye that is used to give the cheese color. I myself prefer the yellow over the white, but that's just personal preference. Then, there are two forms of intensity in sharp and mild. I actually like both, depending on the occasion. I feel that sharp has a more direct taste, while mild is still easy to enjoy as well. I enjoy the cheese best when it's at room temperature or below if it's being served as a snack with crackers or as a side piece. If it's a part of the dish, it can easily take the appropriate temperature for the dish. If Cheddar sits out for awhile, it begins to sweat and becomes a bit shriveled on the outside. It causes the cheese to not be as savory.

Some of my favorite ways to eat Cheddar cheese is shredded and placed on a Quesadilla, sprinkled on top of chili, being the partner to the macaroni in a nice homemade macaroni and cheese, or simply grated and placed on the side to enjoy. As a snack, I personally like a shredded Cheddar, and it's really good when you grate it yourself. Cheddar takes the role as having a strong reputation, but at the same time, allows other components to play a role. Some of the best partners include Pancetta in a macaroni and cheese or Chorizo in a Quesadilla. One Cheddar I enjoy cut into cubes is the Cabot Sun Dried Tomato And Basil Mild Cheddar I wrote about back in July. This month, Cheddar in itself proves to be a star, and Cabot happens to be one of the strongest companies that produces that cheese, natural and delicious.

This happens to be football season, which is a time I enjoy eating a bowl of chili that I'll sprinkle some Cheddar on top of. Many of people also enjoy nachos and products that center around Cheddar. The only problem is the fact they resort to the processed cheeses to satisfy the needs of Cheddar's true star power. I play by the rules when it comes to cheese, and Cheddar satisfies the rules of true cheese eating where processed cheese does not. For those who enjoy their nachos and Cheddar cheese based snacks, go ahead and stock up on some Cheddar. It'll satisfy your cheese craving, during this time of year and during the entire year in general.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CNN Tea Party Debate

Yesterday proved to be a landmark event for debating, as it was the first primary debate to be held by the Tea Party. Moderated by Wolf Blitzer, the debate featured the top eight candidates who are seeking the Republican nomination for President Of The United States. These candidates in standing order included Jon Huntsman, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum. The key issues of discussion included the economy, jobs, taxes, Social Security, health care, as well as touching the issues of immigration and foreign policy. Front-runners Romney and Perry were mudslinging one another all night, as the others had strong showings as well. As always, I will be reviewing the debaters on how well they were able to directly answers the questions and hold up against the pressure of the moderators and other debaters.

Jon Huntsman- Huntsman had yet another strong showing during the debate. He's doing more and more justice to himself by representing the alternative position of Romney and Perry, despite not having the numbers to show it. He was the only candidate to mention that the day before was 9/11 in his opening statement and he mentioned his ideas directly and assertively. He's demonstrating more and more that's he there to win the race, not just because there's an extra podium in the room. We'll have to see how much more justice he does himself in the upcoming debates, as he may very well be excluded from some of them if his numbers shrink from where they are right now. Still a good debate. B

Herman Cain- Herman Cain was in his element tonight. He answered every question with a solution, which is exactly what we look for in these debates. We want solutions, not reminders that the other is causing a problem. The reason why we watch these debates is because we want to know more about you and we want to know why we should vote for you. Cain gives these solutions and he does it so clearly. There isn't much mud in his background that is bringing him down and he has an advantage of not being a politician in Washington, but instead, a businessman who worked his way up. His best one-liner of the night was when he stated that he knew how Washington D.C. works... it doesn't. This was a sample of the sense of humor he said he would bring to the White House with him if he's elected. While he doesn't get the time due to his poll numbers, he does get my praise in having an excellent debate. A+

Michele Bachmann- Much more justice was done on Bachmann's end. She was more clear about her plans, her contributions, and her guarantees to fight to repeal Obamacare and Dodd-Frank. Her big moment came when she brought down Rick Perry for a law he signed in Texas that required preteen females to have vaccinations in order to prevent HPV. She took this moment to corner him to a wall and shred him to bits as much as she could. Bachmann seemed to have strong support until Perry's entry into the race and Bachmann would likely lose more support if Sarah Palin were to enter the race (which she shouldn't and probably won't). On the debating end, Bachmann did a fine job and targeted the man who took away her numbers. B+

Mitt Romney- Romney spent most of the night jousting Perry on issues. The two of them came out a bit dirty, but at the same time, Romney was able to discuss what he would bring to the table if he were to become president. Like Bachmann, he promised that he would bring down Obamacare. However, most of the night was a battle between himself and Rick Perry. He revealed four aces that Perry had going for him and how he did as the Texas governor, which is what was the big topic of discussion during the last two debates. I give Romney a lot of credit for being able to debate one-on-one against Perry, and at the same time, be able to share what he has to bring to the table. B

Rick Perry- Perry was targeted on many ends and I felt that things ultimately got a bit shaky for him. While he played it cool against Romney and his barbs having to do with the poker scenario and the four aces, he began to feel a bit tense when Bachmann cornered him to the wall on the issues of HPV vaccinations for preteen females. He admitted that he was wrong, and that's fine given that everyone is human. He was also targeted by Ron Paul, who is also from Texas and a taxpayer at that. Perry had a lot going against him and while he did a fine job standing up to the force, you could see some serious fractures that need to be resolved. C+

Ron Paul- Ron Paul's debate was on and off. At the beginning of the debate, when he was mentioning our problems with government, he was on the spot. His targeting of Perry, his targeting on military vs. defense spending, and the scenario in which a hot shot who doesn't think he needs health care gets into a serious accident. I was very pleased by his stance on that end. However, then he puts himself in a sticky situation with not using the presidency to make legislative decisions and saying that the Americans caused 9/11 by being in the Middle East. He was put on the spot by Santorum for what sounded like taking responsibilty for 9/11 on his blog and then received his first boos from the audience in the primary season (he often received applause). Paul put himself in a very shaky situation, which made for a very shaky debate. He was very clear, though, and from both sides his performances was average. B

Newt Gingrich- I like how Newt Gingrich shifts the problems on each other to the problems that Obama is causing for the country. He gave this statement in order to shift the problem from Romney and Perry, who are obviously in a heated battle. Next, he mentioned how the numbers were better in Utah, Massachusetts, and Texas while he was speaker of the house than when Huntsman, Romney, and Perry were governors of these respective states. Gingrich has simply come in on the position of being a debater and a voice of reason as to how these debates are being run and how the media is playing games with the debating system. He will likely not take the nomination, but he is definitely injecting some good ideas that are making for some really interesting debates. B+

Rick Santorum- Santorum is pretty much building on the stance that he has taken. He comes off as being the grouchy, angry debater who plays the role of the old man in the basement. He stands by his views and mentions how he didn't have to change his conservative views in order to do well in a liberal state, and then goes over similar points that he made before. He happened to be the one to corner Ron Paul on his comments about 9/11 on his blog, which Ron Paul had a fine rebuttal to, but showed that Santorum has the aggression to point out topics he disagrees with. A strong stance on foreign policy happens to be one of Santorum's stances. Besides that, it was just a typical night for Santorum as it's always been. B-

I think that when it came to giving assertive and direct answers to the questions that were asked in the debate, Herman Cain won again. He hit it big in the first debate, hit it big in CNN's first New Hampshire debate, and he won again in what may be a good debate. While Michele Bachmann really had a good debate and many said she was the one who had the best showing, it was Cain that had solutions at all times to the questions. The debates are only getting heated and will be coming on more often. The next debate will be a Fox News/Google Debate on September 22nd, in which the people will submit their questions for the candidates. I am guessing that the same eight candidates will be participating, but we'll just have to see. This should make for an interesting debate.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Let's Be Brutally Honest: If The Giants Keep Playing This Way, They Need Rebuilding

There are two things that seem to be abnormal about the pace of this post. One, this is the second "Let's Be Brutally Honest" of the month... but this can easily be dismissed as I have had more than one of a specific segment before. I write what's currently on my mind. Two, this is only the first game of the season, so I shouldn't be making projections about the New York Giants just yet. However, not only did the Giants lose the opener for the first time since 2007, but they lost to the Washington Redskins. The Skins are a team that the Giants swept in the last six matches. Not only did they beat them, but they pulverized them in those last six match-ups. The Giants need to get a grasp of that tragic loss and move on.

To me, the Giants have not been the same team ever since Plaxico Burress shot himself in the foot when going clubbing one night with Antonio Pierce. Burress deserved to serve time in prison and his release from the team was well deserved. The issue is that the Giants have been unable to recover from that incident. In 2008, the Giants were 10-1 leading up to this event and on a run to repeat as Super Bowl champions. After the event, they went 2-3, barely grasping the #1 playoff seed in the NFC, and then losing their first match-up horrendously to the Philadelphia Eagles. Their offense simply became a mess. I felt they needed to rid themselves of Burress and draft a good wide receiver. They kicked Burress to the curb and drafted Hakeem Nicks, who has become their #1 wide receiver. In 2009, they started off 5-0, only to slip to 8-8. While their offense was somewhat improving, but still shaky, their defense struggled due to injuries and play that just didn't reach the mark. Steve Spagnoulo, the defensive coordinator who left the team after being hired by the St. Louis Rams to coach in 2009, was replaced by Bill Sheridan. Sheridan was fired after the 2009 season and replaced by Perry Fewell. In 2010, the Giants initially started shaky, then became a powerhouse team, but ultimately faltered again. A key loss included the repulsive giveaway against the Eagles in the Meadowlands after holding a major lead. The Giants went 10-6 in 2010, but missed the playoffs due to that loss, as well as a major loss to the Green Bay Packers the week after.

Problems between last season and this included minor fixing up. This included bringing Steve Weatherford in as the punter, which was important, because Matt Dodge was a train wreck and many blame to have caused the Giants to lose to the Eagles in the Meadowlands meltdown. While I think Dodge did poorly and we couldn't keep him around as a punter, I think that loss was everybody's fault. Not just Matt Dodge. Not much else changed... until free agency and preseason. Eli Manning, who threw the most interceptions last season, lost two of his most valuable receivers in Wide Receiver Steve Smith (to the Eagles) and Tight End Kevin Boss (to the Oakland Raiders). Injuries included Terrell Thomas (for the season), Justin Tuck, Travis Beckum, Jonathan Goff, among many others.

While the Giants could have easily overcome these issues in their match against the Redskins, they played like they were unable to do so, mainly on the offense, and mainly on the receiving end. I felt Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, who were both on and off since Derrick Ward left the team through free agency, did a good job in this game. It seemed like Eli Manning was just on one of his off days, his completed just eighteen of his thirty-two passes, and it seems like Victor Cruz is not the #3 receiver. The slot should go to someone else. I also feel that Lawrence Tynes is not a comfortable fit as kicker. He always seems to be the kind of player that keeps me on the edge of my seat, because he could very well miss a kick. I liked the job John Carney, who was the oldest player in the league, did in 2008. Him and Feagles were the best kicker-punter pairing in the league. I think Weatherford is a fine fit, though Tynes isn't my favorite kicker. Then again, the kickers are doing far more disappointing than they should be doing. All they have to do is accurately kick the football... that's it!

If the Giants keep performing as they did against the Skins, changes need to be made. First off, head coach Tom Coughlin and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will need to be replaced. Tom Coughlin saved his position in 2007 by leading the Giants to the Super Bowl and winning that big game. However, the Giants went right out of the playoffs in 2008 and missed the playoffs altogether in 2009 and 2010. I think that if a coach misses the playoffs three seasons in a row, unless they have an ultra strong record and career with the specific team that will give them a few more chances, then you should really be feeling the hot seat. I think Coughlin has done a lot to bring discipline to the team, but it's not resulting in the players having motivation and it's not resulting in players continuing to play, even if they think they have it in the bag. As for Kevin Gilbride, he should really be feeling the hot seat if Eli Manning throws as many interceptions as he did last season or the offense lags the team down.

That's what could happen. However, the Giants have a lot to look forward to. First off, the biggest competitor to the Giants are the Giants. If they can overcome those struggles and not take things for granted, they can win several games. Despite losing to the Skins, they have a lot to look forward to. Next week, they play against the St. Louis Rams at home on Monday night, then they have a favorable schedule following the bye, with the exception of their match against the Eagles. While the Eagles have an all-star team, they are far from having a perfect chemistry. While we could be worrying if the Rams defeat the Giants (the Rams possibly being minus Steven Jackson), the Giants had to frustrate us in 2007 before they could please us. Life's about how you finish, not how you start. The difference is that the Giants have a brutal schedule toward the end of the season, but they just need to concentrate on putting in the right receivers, making sure Eli Manning has a chemistry with these receivers, and that the defense remains as dangerous as they generally are, even through hard times. The Giants can still be a dangerous team, they just need to play like one, especially in what could be a dangerous division.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Later

September 11, 2001, a day that will live in the American hearts as much as December 7, 1941 did to those who were a part of that time period. Those days became the turning points on America, those days proved to be reminders as to the fact that at any time and at any point, our fellow Americans, our fellow friends or families, or we as fellow Americans could be gone at any moment. Ten years later, we are a country in an economic crisis, but we have the strive and intentions of getting back on track and going back to becoming a country that serves as a force to be reckoned with on the globe.

Ten years ago, I had just started going to private school. I come home to news about how planes were hijacked and how they crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in a little spot in Pennsylvania. There were many ceremonies honoring those who were lost and how in the aftermath, many were left with fear as others were left with fury. Lee Greenwood's "God Bless The USA" flooded radios, George W. Bush had poll numbers that were larger than any presidential poll numbers according to the Gallup Polls, and he led this country and led it with a feeling of passion and gratitude for America. Rudy Giuliani became America's mayor with his leadership during this time period and this ultimately became a highlight in his career, but his ultimate goal was to make sure his city remain safe during this important time of need. All politics were aside during this time period, as we were coming together not as Liberals, Conservatives, Libertarians, Independents, Moderates, Democrats, or Republicans, but as Americans, something we all share in common no matter our political view.

Ten years later, we are in an economic crisis and we are doing what we can to get back on the right track, and will eventually will if the right decisions are made. However, as a country, we have made some accomplishments with clearing things up and taking the original issue head on. Today, those across the country will demonstrate their love for their home and how they're proud to be Americans, each in their own way. God bless the USA today and always!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Six Month Anniversary

Six months ago, I was given the encouragement to begin my experience on Blogger. I set up the blog, gave it an attempt, and have been enjoying my time ever since. My first six months have been excellent and filled with many opportunities that have been a blast and build me with such a fantastic foundation to my writing career. There will be many opportunities to celebrate on my blog, such as for my annual anniversaries in which I started blogging on March 9th of this year, as well as for the 100th post that is twenty-two posts away.

For now, I must say that I am impressed with the numbers thus far. I have published seventy-eight posts to my blog thus far for the six months I have been on, I have nine followers, and a total of 3,110 page views as I write this celebratory post. That is an impressive number of times people have stopped by my blog to read my work. It was also a huge honor to have Cabot comment on my post about their sun dried tomato and basil Cheddar cheese I wrote about as July's "Big Cheese" for my "Big Cheeses" segment. I've also been able to make my other segments, "Let's Be Brutally Honest," "Excellent Reads," "Check This Blog," "Top Notch Television," "Fantastic Films," "Questions For Caponomics," and everything else in between, such as my weekly American Idol reviews and my primary debate reviews, as well as anything else that doesn't have a category.

I look forward to filling this blog with some more enticing reads and a valuable second opinion that either provides you with an excellent reading experience or a valuable side on a specific topic. As always, I would like to thank Clever Clark, a follower of mine, for encouraging me to start blogging in the first place and for everything else he has done to help Caponomics. I would also like to thank all of my followers and readers for taking the time to read my posts. Here's to another six months, six years, six decades, up until however long I continue writing, which will be as long as I can think for myself and put those thoughts into writing. I guarantee you that there will be a lot more posts coming on up!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

MSNBC Reagan Library Debate

The Republican primary season debates almost always kick off with a debate at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California. This debate was supposed to be scheduled for early May. However, it was pushed to September, due to the lack of big name candidates that were running at the time. Remember, the first debate only featured five candidates. In this debate, the field featured the eight candidates that the network deemed as being the front runners, or were the Republicans that achieved at least 4% in at least one poll of interest. These candidates, in podium order, included Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, and Jon Huntsman. Excluded from the debate, as it is common to see them excluded, included Gary Johnson, Thaddeus McCotter, Buddy Roemer, Fred Karger, and any other flea candidate that has little or no recognition. Johnson's exclusion was controversial, given the fact that when he was included, he has polled as high as 3%, sometimes tying or beating Santorum or Huntsman. The other three have generally garnered 1% or less (Karger may have gotten 2% in one poll). However, it comes down to the picking and choosing of those who arrange the event.

Back to the debate itself, the feature included the battle of the governors, Rick Perry (who was making his debate debut) and Mitt Romney, who were arguing over who had the better record while they were governor. Then you throw Jon Huntsman into the mix, and you have yourself a war. With that being said, the candidates did a far better job in this debate than they did in the Iowa Debate. With Tim Pawlenty, who did a poor job giving clear answers at the debates, now out of the race, you now have a field of not only good candidates, but candidates who either stand out or are doing better standing out.

As with all of the debate, I will analyze each of the candidates on how they did at this debate.

Rick Santorum- I still feel that Santorum is a dark horse at best when it comes to the presidency, but he is beginning to stand out more and more. I felt satisfied hearing the answers that he gave to each question and that he gave direct answers to these questions. When it came to immigrating the right way, he gave a story on how his family immigrated from Italy the proper way. Like in the previous debate, he is now beginning to form his position in the race and is now forming his position as the strict social conservative who does not agree with Obamacare, but is opposed to the gold standard (which he stated in the Iowa Debate). B

Newt Gingrich- What I like most about Gingrich is that he tells it like it is. He's straight forward with the people of America and he's especially straight forward with the moderators and the media. Last debate, he told them to knock it off with the "gotcha questions" and "Mickey Mouse games." This debate, he told them that they need to stop pitting the Republicans against each other, when in actuality there should be unity. It is agreed upon that the real target is Obama. Besides that, his answers were clear, especially how he agrees with how Obama was doing a good job with education and allowing parents to choose the schools they want their children to go to. He also admitted he would fire Ben Bernanke as soon as possible. Gingrich was a frontrunner before the race began, but has since lost support. The way he's been debating, he's become a maverick who is showing no nonsense to the media and how they enjoy playing "he said, she said" games while they should be asking questions such as "So you want to be president? What can you bring to the table that will change America?" One of the best one-liners, he's written a foreword for Rick Perry's book... and he likes him enough to keep on writing these forewords. Brutally honest indeed! A

Michele Bachmann- With Perry's entrance into the race, Bachmann seems to have been the most affected. Perry and Romney usually poll on top, while Bachmann has been closer to Ron Paul when it comes to numbers. When saying that she's in the top three with Romney and Perry, it may be unfair at this point, as Paul has polled close to or above her. With that being said, what stuck out the most on her part in the debate was that she did not mention that we're going to make Obama a one-term president. She mentioned it in her first three debates (two of which were televised, the other was on Twitter), and it looks like the streak ended here. Otherwise, her night was a pretty quiet one, though she did clearly mention that we need to create jobs, which we are not at the moment. She also mentioned that she is pushing for gas that's $2 a gallon, which had to be her highlight of the night. Besides that, her spot in the top tier seems to be sliding. Unlike the last two debates, she didn't really shine tonight. B-

Mitt Romney- Romney had a ton of speaking time tonight, along with Perry. However, the both of them have something in common... they have liberal roots. Romney was pro-choice for most of his political career and Romneycare was much similar to Obamacare. Perry was part of the Al Gore campaign for president. With Romney, it was typical politics, though at least he does a good job with standing out as a politician. It feels like 2008 all over again when it comes to Romney, only instead of John McCain and Mike Huckabee, he has Rick Perry at his throat. Another good thing about Romney was that he actually presented solutions, which is something he doesn't do so often. However, most of what he had to say was much similar to how it was before. He's a typical politician, but at least he's better at it than Pawlenty. B-

Rick Perry- Perry was the center of the majority of the mudslinging in the debate. He's the newcomer, becoming the front runner, has a strong economy, is a long tenure as Texas governor (he succeeded George W. Bush and has been the governor ever since), and had liberal roots during with work with Al Gore. However, it wasn't all about who he was fighting with in the debate. Perry also discussed his reasoning behind exercising death sentences and gave an emotional answer that led to applause. I almost thought he was going to break down. Perry has a lot of personality and it will likely serve him well within the upcoming months of the race. Fred Thompson was the last person to enter the race last primary, skipped his first debate, and did little to make a name for himself when in fact he started participating in the debates (despite the fact he had some good one-liners). Perry, on the other hand, came in with strive and is making a name for himself. I see a lot of mudslinging between him and Romney up ahead. B+

Ron Paul- It seems like this wasn't Ron Paul's best night, and not a night that really allowed him to shine. He did have some very strong moments in the debate, such as the exposure of a dime actually being worth $3.50, but how inflation makes the cost cheaper. Another strong moment of his wasn't even during the debate, but before the debate. He showed an ad attacking Rick Perry and his past as someone who was a part of Rick Perry's campaign and how he was one of the four Reagan supporters from when Reagan ran for the Republican nomination back in 1976. However, Perry countered with how Paul left the party and ran as the Libertarian nominee in 1988. Paul mentioned how during the time of Reagan's second term, we had bigger government, something Paul is strongly opposed to. Paul is not the best and clearest speaker, but he sure has ideas that can make a difference, and he acts upon these rights. He just needs to have a standout moment that's going to make him stick out in the media for all of the right reasons. The applause was also pretty spread out in this debate, as in the earlier debates, he had a vast majority of the applause. B-

Herman Cain- Herman Cain is the clearest and most thorough speaker in the Republican field. He speaks so smoothly, seriously, and answers each of the questions directly. The one that stuck out most was his 999 plan when it comes to taxes, which includes a 9% personal income tax, a 9% sales tax, and a 9% corporate tax. This plan would be instated to replace the federal tax. Cain also spoke about his plans on immigration and chimed in on other issues, but this is where he stood out most. It was fortunate for Cain and his campaign that he did a good job in this debate, as oppose to his previous debate in Iowa. His speaking time has also decreased, but then again, Romney and Perry got the overwhelming majority of the speaking time in this debate. Well as it could be said, the less that's said, the less that can come back to bite you in the rear. A clear speaker. A

Jon Huntsman- In the previous debate, I felt Huntsman did himself little to no justice. He seemed like he had no personality and I questioned why he showed up and what he had to bring to the table. In this debate, he stuck out for being as to promote his own resume by making a comparison between himself and Romney and Perry. He especially took advantage of the fact that his states was first when it came to people with jobs, compared to Romney's 47th of the fifty states. Huntsman still has a long way to go if he wants to be a dark horse in the race, but at least he improved from last debate. B-

Well if this was an actual assignment and these were the final grades, all of the candidates made the honor roll, which is the first time since the debates began during the primary season. The ones who stuck out the most were Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain, but if I had to pick a winner, it would probably be Newt Gingrich as being the debate winner. I think that Cain was a bit more direct when it came to bringing his plans to the table, but Gingrich seized the opportunity to bring his point across and stick out in the crowd much more. While both candidates are dropping in the polls, they still have a strong stamina to fight in the primaries and succeed at getting the numbers. However, a debate is just a debate, as a poll is just a poll.

The next debate will be the CNN Tea Party Debate, being held this upcoming Monday. This debate is being held by the Tea Party Express for the first time ever and will feature the same eight candidates who participated in this previous debate. I will surely do what I can to tune in, and will then most definitely review it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Let's Be Brutally Honest: First Responders Should Be Invited To The 9/11 10th Anniversary Event

This upcoming Sunday will be a major event that was only remembered to being a day of remembrance ten years ago. On September 11, 2001, at 8:46 AM, planes that were flown by suicide terrorists flew into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. The site where the World Trade Center once was is now called Ground Zero and ten years later, we have fought wars on terrorism and have ended up in an economic crisis. I was sure that there would be an event commemorating those who lost their lives in this tragic event, did something to make a difference to those harmed in this event, as well as hold a memorial of some sort. It turns out that the results were not completely what we wanted to hear. The firefighters and police officers who served as first responders after the twin towers crashed are not being invited to the memorial being held on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that this memorial is going to concentrate on those who lost loved ones during this tragic event, and to remember those who were lost in this event. Also to be invited were President Barack Obama, Former President George W. Bush, who brought strength and a positive message during this time, Former NYC Mayor Rudy Guiliani, who was also a key figure in bringing courage to the city during this fearful time, as well as governors, representatives, and other political figures... but not the firefighters and police officers who were actually hands on in this dire time.

The firefighters, police officers, and other first responders risked their lives to save the lives of others. Some of them lost their lives during this event. If it weren't for these first responders, things would have been much more chaotic than they were and more innocent lives could have been lost. These are many of the real heroes of 9/11, and they are being paid back with an exclusion for the memorial services being held ten years later. There should be a bit of outrage, as they are first denied the right to insurance, and then are excluded from being honored for doing something that really made a difference. To be quite honest, these are people that are being disrespected for serving their country hands on and being there at the moment they were needed. I would like to ask the political figures, especially those who were either not serving at the time or on vacation, what they were doing at 8:46 AM on September 11, 2001, and what did they do after hearing the news about the airplanes crashing and the lives being lost. While I believe those who attend are showing respect to their country, they should be thinking, "Where are the first responders that were making a difference and physically risking their lives to not only serve their country, but to save innocent lives that were being harmed?" and "Why aren't we giving any recognition to these first responders?"

This will also be a non-religious memorial, thus there will be no prayer during this event. They will be naming those victims of 9/11 and also allow the victims families and other loved ones to see the names of their relatives lost in the tragedy on the memorial. While there will probably be many attendees, I don't see why they can't fit the time and space for the first responders. This is just as much their event as well. Even if they're not mentioned, I am thankful for all of those who risked their lives to save others and serve their country during this tragic event and I also express my sympathy for those who have lost loved ones during this tragic event. This is a serious event and the arrangement should be taken seriously, much more seriously than the way things are currently being planned.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Excellent Reads: John Grisham's "The Innocent Man: Murder And Injustice In A Small Town

I wrote seventy-five articles throughout my time with my high school's newsletter, twenty-three of them being Caponomics columns. The seventy-five article I wrote then were written within a time period of about four years. I made it to seventy-five on this blog is just a little less than six months (my six month anniversary is on Friday). To celebrate seventy-five posts and National Read A Book Day (I'm currently reading George Orwell's 1984), I will be naming my "Excellent Read" of September 2011.

John Grisham is the most well known author in the law fiction genre from his first book, A Time To Kill, to today. I myself read and enjoyed The Brethren and read another one of his books that didn't have to do with law, called Playing For Pizza. However, he wrote a more emotional read back in 2006 called The Innocent Man: Murder And Injustice In A Small Town. What made it so emotional is that it was a nonfictional piece about Ron Williamson, a baseball player whose career went straight down the toilet, followed by his ethics, and then his entire future soon followed when he was accused of murder.

Ron Williamson was a baseball player who was a star athlete as a high schooler, but his career went downhill in the minor leagues. His career ultimately ended when he began taking drugs and alcohol. However, that was only the beginning of the problems he had to live through. He was framed for the murder of Debra Sue Carter, who was murdered on December 8, 1982. Dennis Fritz, a drinking partner of his, was also accused. Williamson had mental conditions, and was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder before this whole situation exploded. This also caused him to be belligerent during court sessions and he was very often removed from the court. Ultimately, in 1988, he was sentenced to death. His time in prison was a living hell and it caused him to age drastically. Eleven years later, he, along with Fritz (who was sentenced to life), were freed from prison due to the DNA evidence showing that neither of them committed the murder. It turned out Glen Gore, who was last seen with Carter, was confirmed to be the one who murdered her. While his death sentence was overturned at first, he was proven guilty on the second attempt and sentenced to life in prison without parole. While Williamson was a free man in 1999, he returned to heavy drinking and died from cirrhosis in 2004 at the age of 51. I would generally not spoil the ending for you, but it was his obituary that convinced Grisham to write this book in the first place. The way that everything is described and how Grisham tells you the story of Williamson's life is incredible in itself.

I read this book back in 2008 and it was just a strong summary on such a tortured life. This is living proof that there are people that are innocent, but proven guilty in the court of law. Once that happens, their time behind bars is a living hell for either the rest of their lives or when they are finally declared innocent. Even though things are resolved and everything is supposed to be back to normal, it isn't. For eleven years, Ron Williamson was deemed a murderer and had to live a life in an aggressive prison system and any day, could be sentenced to death. However, it wasn't just the eleven years, you can count the extra six years in which he was being tried with Dennis Fritz, and even Dennis Fritz was equally innocent. It's the most unfortunate thing to see an innocent person scarred for life for being accused of doing something so extreme. Dennis Fritz came out with his own book, Journey Toward Justice, telling the story of the same event from his perspective.

John Grisham's biography was such a thought-inducing read. If you have read Grisham's law fiction, this book is something you have to check out. I guarantee you that you will be left with a reaction of some kind. For most people like myself, it will be a thought of shock and disturbance. Events like this where people are wrongfully deemed innocent or wrongfully deemed guilty occur everyday. This happens to be an unfortunate event where somebody was wrongfully deemed guilty and had to suffer the consequences. Then when you think about it, anger flows out when you realize that guilty people who are declared innocent get away with engaging in an act that would surely send them to their death or a life behind bars. Many thoughts will flow from your mind, as Grisham's The Innocent Man: Murder And Injustice In A Small Town is such an incredible and poignant biography.

Freddie Mercury's 65th Birthday

I enjoy the music of Queen, as do many music lovers of past and present. It's very hard not to enjoy Queen's music and their style of performing, because it's just so good. What especially made these performances so special were that they were led by the talented, flashy, and presentable Freddie Mercury. It's pretty hard to fathom that Freddie Mercury would only be sixty-five on the fifth of September, as this upcoming November will mark the 20th anniversary of his tragic death from AIDS. However, while he was alive, he proved to be a talented force to be reckoned with. A talented force that continues to garner fans from across the rock spectrum.

If you haven't heard at least one of Queen's performances, there's a lot you've been missing when it comes to music. I'm almost positive that most people have heard "We Will Rock You" or "We Are The Champions" at least once. These are rock anthems, sports anthems, simple anthems in the world of music that are so good that the fact that they are simple just seems too good to be true. Then, there's "Bohemian Rhapsody," which many can say is the greatest rock song of all time. This song features a ballad, an opera, and a hard rock section all in a song that's nearly six minutes long (five minutes and fifty-five seconds to be exact). It just so happens that the album this song is featured in, "A Night At The Opera," was named for the Marx Brothers 1935 film of the same name. There are also some other simple hits such as "A Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "Somebody To Love," "Another One Bites The Dust," "Radio Ga Ga," "I Want It All," "Fat Bottomed Girls," and along with David Bowie, "Under Pressure."

The performance and video combo from Queen that was the most striking in my mind was his 1991 hit, "Innuendo," which was from Freddie Mercury's final album of the same name. Due to Freddie Mercury's illness and how he was succumbing to AIDS, there was no new footage featured of Freddie Mercury in many of the videos from this album (songs such as "The Show Must Go On" featured clips from past videos). In the videos with new footage, such as "I'm Going Slightly Mad" and "Those Were The Days Of Our Lives," you could see how he was becoming frail and sick. In the case of "Innuendo," this video featured sketches of Queen, as well as classical footage, plasticine footage, animated footage, and some 1984-esque footage. The song features a rock section, a more classical tone, as well an upbeat tone. This was an excellently arranged video with strong lyrics to go along with it. There are animations of clowns and clown-like jesters that may present viewers with Coulrophobia (a fear of clowns) with nightmares, and these are the more serious looking, theater like clowns, not the bubbly circus clowns.

Freddie Mercury will most be remembered for being an excellent performer who had a wide range of knowledge for rock music, classical music, opera, and anything else in between and also how that music should be arranged to make excellent music. Mercury made Queen one of the most successful rock groups in the world and his legacy lives on twenty years after his death and will continue to live on for twenty more years, and the twenty years after that, and then we should simply add more numbers to that. While their was a lot of controversy that surrounded him (especially later in life), he will indeed be known as being at the top of the line with what he did.

Monday, September 5, 2011

An Ode To Beanie Babies

My childhood was a childhood from the nineties. The nineties were a time when Bill Clinton spent the majority of the decade as president, Seinfeld was the king of the sitcoms, and toys really stuck out. When it comes to a toy that you can enjoy, due to the collecting factor, the enjoyment to play with, and the attachment you can form with each one you buy, there was one that really stuck out from this decade. I'm not talking about the obnoxious, loud, down right awful mechanical creatures known as Furbies (Where is the off button to these things??? You might as well decide against putting the screwdriver away after putting the batteries in it), but instead the more quiet, adorable, and fascinating creatures known as Beanie Babies. If there was any exciting fad from the nineties, this would be it.

Ty Warner was known for releasing many collections of authentic, collectible stuffed animals, but he made his big break with the Beanie Baby. The first nine Beanies were released back in 1993, the nine Beanies being Spot the Dog, Patty the Platypus, Legs the Frog, Flash the Dolphin, Splash the Whale, Pinchers the Lobster (originally Punchers the Lobster), Chocolate the Moose, Cubbie the Bear (original Brownie the Bear), and Squealer the Pig. For the record, I can say that I have all nine in my collection. In the beginning, the Beanies, originally filled with bean pellets as oppose to stuffing, simply had a name and that was it. In 1996, the Beanies were given birthdays and poems in order to give them more of a personal connection between the owner and their Beanie. Any Beanie retired in 1996 or earlier did not have the opportunity to receive a birthday or poem.

It was in 1996 when Ty began to hit it big with his Beanie Babies. It became a craze that featured many of buyers from those who collected them for show to those who collected them for sentiment to those who liked to play with them. Ty Warner orchestrated the business of marketing Beanies brilliantly, especially during the huge peak. He didn't produce a mass market amount and instead of featuring them at any random store, he chose to stick to selling them to gift shops and stores of that caliber. Another strategy was to retire Beanies that either weren't selling or to simply stop producing them in order to make their value larger. Chocolate the Moose remained in circulation for five years, which was the longest of the original group (this being 1993-1999).

The bears, especially those in a teddy bear style, usually hit it the biggest and garnered the most value and recognition. Such examples include Princess, who was made in tribute to Princess Diana after her tragic death in 1997, Garcia, made in tribute to Jerry Garcia, and one of my prized Beanies, Germania, a German bear.

Ty Warner announced that he would end circulation of all Beanie Babies on December 31, 1999 and came out with a bear named The End. However, due to many buyers, collectors, and enthusiasts complained about this move, Warner decided to make a comeback and start over again. The Beginning was a Beanie Baby made to signal the comeback. The Beanies that were coming out seemed to be similar to the ones from the nineties. However, then came the era of the many special editions.

I am a game show enthusiast as well as a Beanie enthusiast. Being an enthusiast for game shows, I realized that they began to lose their spark as soon as they tweaked the rules and relied heavily on special editions, celebrity editions in particular. Beanies are absolutely no different. While certain special editions such as Princess and Garcia, Lefty and Righty (who were made especially for election years), and a few others were worth collecting, I never found fascination in collecting Garfield, Spongebob, Blues Clues, or anything else in that genre. Beanie Babies are not celebrities, they are humble, working class creatures that hold the job of warming the hearts of their buyers. Once they went full force with concentrating on the celebrities, I backed up and shifted my concentration to collecting the older Beanies from the nineties or others that were worth collecting from the two-thousands. Beanie Buddies, Teenie Beanies from McDonalds, Beanie Kids, among others were fine versions, but they weren't as good as the original Ty Beanie. My most recent Ty purchase was Nibbles the Guinea Pig, a Beanie Boo (a Beanie with wide, innocent looking puppy dog eyes) which I won playing the skill crane.

Beanie Babies were a key part of my childhood, and they will always have a place in my childhood memories. Looking through them on occasion is an act of sentiment and it's a piece of enjoyment that takes you away and feel less aggravated about life and bring you back into the time period that you collected Beanie Babies and kept adding more and more of them into your collection. To me, Beanie Babies were as special as your pets... maybe not as special, but still felt they were more than just a toy filled with bean pellets. While Ty is reaching out to more mass market locations and taking advantage of the Internet with Beanie Babies 2.0, the Beanie Baby memories I'll look back to most are the ones I had when I first became a collector in the nineties and when I backtracked and collected the retired Beanies of the past. Ty Warner's Beanie Baby empire will go down as being genius in the field of toys and collecting, and most definitely the greatest line of stuffed animals (if you can even call them that) of all time.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Fantastic Films: The Illusionist (2006 Version)

Edward Norton is an actor that can do just about anything. At one moment, he is playing the Incredible Hulk, this angry muscular creature that smashes his way through the day. The next moment, he is a laid back illusionist who performs his incredible illusions for tons of people. Seeing "The Illusionist" for the first time, it was an incredible experience that forced me to see it a second time. Seeing it a second time, you relive the experience all over again.

While I simply wrote about three films I wanted to see later in the year for last year, I finally returned to the regular format of simply writing about a fantastic film for this month. "The Illusionist" rings a bell as being one of those great movies that not too many people talk about. It didn't get much recognition at the Academy Awards, with the exception of Dick Pope winning an award for "Best Cinematography." You had Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, and Rufus Sewell, all of which played excellent parts in the film. If you're looking for that hidden cinema gem that not too many people talk about, "The Illusionist" is one you should check out.

Edward Norton plays Eisenheim the Illusionist, who's love for illusions began after he came into contact with a traveling magician. Throughout the film, he holds magic shows in Vienna, Austria-Hungary (as this is what the country was called back in the time the story was set). Throughout the film, he performs various tricks, one of which catches the attention of Chief Inspector Uhl, played by Paul Giamatti. This trick happens to be about an orange tree and how Eisenheim can split the orange with a simple wave. Then, he does the common trick of pulling an orange from behind the inspector's ear. Giamatti does such a good job playing a gruff and serious inspector in this picture. Another person that has their attention caught by Eisenheim is the Crown Prince Leopold, played by Rufus Sewell. The Crown Prince is the key antagonist in the picture, especially by the way he is the one who is expected to marry his teenage sweetheart of whom he regains feelings for. Sophie is played really well by Jessica Biel. After Sophie is taken out of the picture, Eisenheim begins to switch up his shows and summon spirits that appear on the stage during his shows. While initially he admits that it's just for show, the shows become more and more realistic, making the Crown Prince furious. The way that the film continues is based off of the puppetry that is orchestrated by Eisenheim, and it is so incredible that it will most likely take you two attempts to figure it out. If you pay close attention, you may be one to figure the film out in the first attempt.

"The Illusionist" takes a devoted cinema fanatic, someone with a good eye to detail, someone who likes to figure things out, or all of the above to dissect and enjoy the film. The arrangement to this film is so good that you're going to be in for such a ride. Future illusionists should surely check this film out, as there are brilliant illusions that would make for such brilliant shows. I wrote previously that illusionists need to come up with unique material that makes them stand out in the crowd. In this film, Eisenheim is one of those illusionists that does stand out, especially for his time period.

"The Illusionist" is based off of Steven Millhauser's "Eisenheim the Illusionist," which is a short story that turned into a successful film. I would definitely go looking for the short story, as it really made the foundation for such an intriguing film. There was also a 2010 animated film with the same name, but this is a different film. I have yet to watch the 2010 European film, which has a different story. As for the "The Illusionist" released in 2006 and starring Edward Norton, this film holds a stroke of cinema genius.