Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Book Review: 75 Short Masterpieces, Edited By Roger Goodman

I mentioned this book in my thoughts and points for February 2012, in order to summarize random tidbits of what form of entertaining nostalgia has been floating around my mind during the last month. One of which was this collection of short stories throughout world literature called 75 Short Masterpieces. The series was edited by Roger Goodman and features material from authors of all different countries and of different time periods.

Reading this series was indeed a fascinating experience. I can honestly say that there were some short stories that I enjoyed and grasped better than others. When I mean short stories, I mean six pages or less for just about everything in this book. The finished product is just about under 300 pages, thus the average story was about four pages. Nonetheless, the stories were highly enjoyable.

Of course, you are going to probably have your own opinions as to which stories were your favorite. Here are my favorites in the book...

"The Lottery Ticket" by Ventura Garcia Calderon- I'm currently running a Literature Club at my college and one of my obligations includes recommending short stories for the club to read and discuss. This happens to be one of them. This short story depicts an important piece of history that includes the prejudice that people hold among the lower kind. The lottery in this case has to do with a beautiful female dancer they are raffling off and one of the attendees is a minority.

"A Wicked Boy" by Anton Chekhov- Chekhov is one of the finest short story writers. In this collection, he submitted a story about a pesky little brother who spies on his older sister and her boyfriend as they engage in their relationship activities. Then they become closer and ultimately catch him. When you see what happens from there, you will realize how clever the story was and laugh at the "getting what you deserved" notion.

"The Chaser" by John Collier- In this story, a man is buying a love potion from an older man. If his wife drinks the potion, she is supposed to become obsessed with him. The message I see is the fact that some things are just good to be true. Read it if you want to see if that notion happens to occur. There was an episode of The Twilight Zone based off of this short story.

"The Heavenly Christmas Tree" by Fyodor Dostoevsky- In this allegorical story, a poor boy comes across a giant Christmas tree, happening to be Christ's and comes across other heavenly children. This is a beautiful story for the holiday season that I would recommend for that time period.

"The Boy Who Drew Cats" by Lafcadio Hearn- This is a story of a boy who enjoys drawing cats. He doesn't do so well in any other activity or craft, including priesthood, the priests suggest that he become an artist. They advise him to avoid large places at night, a piece of advice that becomes crucial to the story. I enjoyed the flow of this short story and the effect that this boy's imagination had and how everybody holds a role in life.

"Charles" by Shirley Jackson- I read this story when I was a young one, so this is the second time I have read this. This happens to be one of my favorite short stories ever. I enjoy Shirley Jackson and the way she executes the many forms of making your reader think after all is said and done. While she intended to do it with "Charles," it took very little time to realize the notion. Think about it, the story is about a kindergarten student named Laurie who comes home, talking about all of these bad things that a student named Charles is always doing in class and it's being told from the mother's point of view.

"The Oval Portrait" by Edgar Allan Poe- Poe is one of my favorite authors... ever! He is the already proclaimed father of the detective story and I proclaim him (as many others should or already do) as the father of horror fiction. This is not one of the stories or poems that receives high recognition like "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Black Cat," or "The Raven," but it provides the reader with some entertainment. It has to do with an artist who marries a woman and enjoys her portrait more than her. It plays like a feel like that of The Picture Of Dorian Gray, but with a far different notion.

These are seven of my favorite short stories from this book. I'm sure that those who read this will come up with their favorites, which is exactly what this kind of book is supposed to do. This short little book provides a great opportunity to lure you in to the finest gems of literature. While every story may not quench your interest, there are stories that will most definitely seek your satisfaction. I would most definitely check this book out if you're beginning to read world literature.

Verdict: 8/10

Friday, March 16, 2012

My Prediction: American Idol 11

The Top 10 contestants on American Idol have been revealed. These are the contestants that will be going on tour across the country throughout the summer, but first, they have to compete throughout the rest of the competition until one of them comes out victorious.

After the top five males and top five females were chosen out of the Top 24, the judges had the opportunity to save three of the contestants and allowed six of them to sing. Unfortunately, they blew it. Instead of allowing contestants like Hallie Day, Adam Brock, Creighton Fraker, and Baylie Brown to perform, they allowed mediocre to poor performers get through. Those like Brielle Von Hugel were a waste of the wildcard, then you had those that were not memorable whatsoever. While they recovered with Reed Grimm, he was overlooked for the over-dramatic Jeremy Rosado (who's out of the competition anyway) and Deandre Brackensick (who doesn't deserve to be in the top thirteen, let alone ten).

Here are my predictions as to when each of the contestants will be eliminated. I will be mixing my personal opinion with reason. This means if I had superior decision as to who would go out and when, mixed with logical thought...

#10: Deandre Brackensick- I was yelling at the television and through my Facebook when Deandre's name was called as a wildcard performer and then when Steven Tyler announced that he was going into the top thirteen. He has the ability to hit the falsetto and mix his sounds, but he's not someone that I would say is memorable for much besides his dreadlocks. When it comes to a soulful, bluesy voice, there is much more staying power with one of the other contestants. Eventually, the votes are going to wane on his end and contribute to his demise.

#9: Erika Van Pelt- She was the best of the three wildcard choices. Unfortunately, there were far better potential wildcard sources that were overlooked and wasted. She has a nice deep voice that allows her to stand out a bit more in the competition. To some extent, she reminds me of a bit of Cher, but with her own twist to it. Last season, Stefano Langone had the honors of being the wildcard who made it the furthest. This season, it will be her.

#8: Elise Testone- I enjoy Elise's raspy voice. She has a wide range and can do a good amount with her vocal tools. Her downfall is that she doesn't stick out so much as being cheerful and outgoing. She comes off as being a bit more stand-offish and distant. Aside from that, her voice is extremely soulful, which gives her the ability to play a part of the soul card. There's a ton of options she has when it comes to performance choices in the future.

#7: Heejun Han- Heejun is this season's entertainer and comedian. He is hilarious, because it's simply engraved in his personality. He doesn't force himself to be funny, it simply comes natural. Technically, he has a good voice, but it isn't something that is incredibly unique. He should have himself a good run into the competition and should have a fun time in concert. He wouldn't be one I would use my save on, though.

#6: Colton Dixon- I remember him very well from last season, being one of the three final guys awaiting verdict and two of the three to be eliminated. Fortunately, he returned (with encouragement from his sister), knocked his audition out of the ball park, and made his way through the competition. He even made it further than Brett Loewenstern, whom he was overlooked for last season, and will continue to capitalize on that decision. If Colton begins improving and faces a blindside elimination, he should be considered for the save. He is clearly the rocker of the season, a memorable breed in the competition.

#5: Hollie Cavanagh- Last season, she was eliminated in the green mile round. This season, she continues the trend of returning Idol contestants that Deandre, Colton, Joshua, and her all follow in some way or another. This season, she has a stronger, more passionate voice, that has matured between last year and this. It goes to show you how constantly putting effort into a goal pays off in the long run. She tends to be on the quiet side, but has a strong voice, making the pairing a likable one.

#4: Joshua Ledet- Talking about contestants trying out a second time, Joshua was eliminated in the audition round last year. However, he's returned and showed that he has soul. Of each of the soul singing contestants, Joshua is at the moment the strongest. He proved his worth when singing "When A Man Loves A Woman" and including his twist to the song, and the week before showed his soulful attitude and dance moves singing "I Wish" for his Stevie Wonder pick. He was in fifth (or sixth) place among the males in the top thirteen, but that doesn't necessarily mean a thing. Impressions change and so should Joshua's. Bring in some more crayfish and he should be set.

#3: Skylar Laine- She has the execution of a firecracker, but the personality of a teddy bear. Skylar seems to be someone that could just about do anything. She's got the country twang and can use it to her advantage throughout the competition. She's in more of the Kellie Pickler class of outgoing and innocent over the Carrie Underwood of being assertive or the Lauren Alaina class of being reserved and innocent. Skylar could have herself a good time in the world of country when she reaches it, as being on this level presents you with multiple opportunities.

#2: Jessica Sanchez- Vocally speaking, she is on the top. Her rendition of "I Will Always Love You" as her Whitney Houston pick was heavy news in the competition that cemented her abilities in the top thirteen. She was previously on America's Got Talent and is now trying her hand out on American Idol, which is a move Thia Megia made last season. In my mind, I think Jessica is the better of the two. It was great to see Jessica go upbeat. All she needs to do is execute it and she'll put herself in a good position in the competition. If not, she could see a fate like Pia Toscano did last season, who I thought had a good final performance, but her constant inability to pull off ballads after performing a really strong one in the Top 24 hurt her impression. I'm highly hoping that Jessica doesn't fall from the same fate. Otherwise, she could make for a very good finale.

#1: Phillip Phillips- People constantly say that it's about time that a female wins the competition and how we need a female winner. I say that the most talented contestant should win the competition. In my mind, Phillip Phillips is the most talented contestant in the competition. The moment I watched his audition, which included making Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" his own, and then playing "Thriller" on the acoustic guitar, I was amazed by his talent. He can do just about anything. He's clearly a country singer, but he can sing just about anything. Anything includes the songs that are the least country, like "In The Air Tonight." This previous week, he was dealing with medical issues, but came out and performed just the same. There are plenty of performers that will cancel because of a minor problem. He showed that he could perform after a medical issue and that shows strive. While some may believe that this is a girl's year, I think this should be Phillip Phillips year.

As the competition continues, we'll have to see just how everything pans out. Week after week, it will all come down to who performs well, who makes their performance their own, and who sticks out enough to advance throughout the competition. Next week is Billy Joel week, which will be the second time this theme has been used (the first in season two). The rest of this season of American Idol should be highly interesting.

Friday, March 9, 2012

One Year On Blogger

One year ago, I was convinced by my editor from my high school newsletter to begin blogging. Caponomics succeeded in a newsletter, then through a brief stint on Facebook, and now it's become bigger and better than ever. On March 9, 2011, I set up my account and wrote my first blog post. One year later, I can honestly say that I am satisfied with how my column has grown.

For this post, I will provide some Caponomics stats, provide a countdown of the most popular posts, and share some of my favorites from the past year. Of course, I will add additional comments to the statistical results, but that's how I celebrate.

As of today, I have had 7,298 page views, ten followers, and 133 posts, this post being my 134th. When spreading these page views by month, it could be considered as somewhat of a roller coaster, but for the most part, the number has gone up. My blog has also been read in several countries across the globe.

I will now go over the more memorable blog posts of the year. I will include the ten posts that were viewed by the most people and the posts that I most remember, whether it be through writing, the reaction from others after writing them, or both. Here we go...

#10- Shark Tank Season 3, Episode 2: My reviews of Shark Tank have seemed to make a huge impact on Caponomics. I have written a handful of them and four of them appear on the top ten list. I enjoy the show, it's the best thing that appears on the Friday lineup, and I'm ecstatic about that fact that it has returned for a third season. I highly hope that the show will continue returning season after season. As for this episode, it was most remembered for featuring a man who drew cats and a man who wanted to keep the American dream flowing by avoiding any association with other countries when pertaining to his business, which made for an emotional moment.

#9- Television Review: Who's Still Standing: I am a game show enthusiast. I have been fascinated by game shows since I was a young one. Due to my pleasure of game shows, I had to review Who's Still Standing, because I have an opinion of just about any game show I watch. Some of these opinions are good, and some are not. I felt this show was entertaining, but that its purpose was simply due to this element. I enjoy the game itself and the succession in the game being the entertainment. It seems as if nowadays, every element has to be entertaining, including contestants who have on and off personalities. Ben Bailey was a good choice, though.

#8- Ten Best Songs: I'm happy to have been able to attract the music people as well as the television people. While my ten favorite songs are not necessarily current and the choices range in the era of the fifties, sixties, and seventies, that's the music I enjoy. I have always enjoyed that style of music and I'm glad I was able to get that opinion out, completely free of auto-tune.

#7- Television Review: Shark Tank Season 3 Premiere: As I mentioned before, I was highly excited for the premiere of the third season of Shark Tank. I was looking forward to seeing the lineup of sharks, which included a complete season contract for Mark Cuban, who made a good impression in his three appearances in season two. I didn't see so much information flowing through the Internet about the details about the show's return, so I felt that I would find pieces of information and come up with my own blog post. It turns into a memorable post.

#6- My Ten Favorite Roy Orbison Songs: In Celebration Of His 75th Birthday: I am a fan of Roy Orbison's music, because he is vocally fantastic and his music is passionate and meaningful. This is a rare trait in singers. I felt it would be appropriate to celebrate his 75th birthday (which he unfortunately was not able to celebrate due to his death twenty-three years earlier) with a countdown of my ten favorite Roy Orbison songs. For awhile, this was my most popular post, and it was great to see interest in such a topic. While creating the list wasn't the easiest of tasks, it was one of the most fun.

#5- Shark Tank Season 3, Episode 4: I had mentioned that I would review each episode of Shark Tank this season. Due to a busy and hectic schedule, I wasn't able to live up to this promise, but a review of this episode seemed to prove to be a hit. This was the episode that featured Lori Greiner making her debut, a sweater and quilt put together, a towel that could be worn while changing, and a wine balloon. It was a memorable episode with memorable one-liners, which must have been an opinion flowing through more minds besides my own.

#4- Check This Out: Shark Tank On ABC: This is the original Shark Tank review. I wrote this the same day I wrote my top ten list for Roy Orbison songs and the two seem to keep having readers. This was a simple recommendation to check the show out and enjoy. It has since branched out into even more reviews that have attracted readers. I could become an exclusive Shark Tank blogger, though such a blog already exists. I'll stick with Caponomics, because I engage in it so well and enjoy the wide variety of how the science of overall opinion works.

#3- Memorable Sax Solos: I wrote this post as an ode to the late and great Clarence Clemons. However, I felt like writing about my favorite sax solos in general as oppose to just one saxophonist's work. There was Eddie Money's quick solo in "Take Me Home Tonight," there was Raphael Ravenscroft and what could have been the greatest solo from a guy that wasn't named Clarence Clemons of all time with "Baker Street," and of course, you had "Jungleland," which was the greatest sax solo of all time. For the record, when I say the "greatest of all time," this is clearly my opinion... though this is Caponomics, which means it's a blog of my thoughts. That means I'll assert the thought of "Jungleland" featuring the best sax solo of all time.

#2- My Prediction: Anne Burrell Will Be "The Next Iron Chef": I enjoyed writing predictions about random topics. I especially enjoyed writing one about The Next Iron Chef, because I was almost certain that Anne Burrell was going to be the winner of this Food Network show. I felt she had the personality, the experience, and the advantage of being a woman with Cat Cora off the lineup. Unfortunately, I happened to be incorrect. She took fifth place and instead, Geoffrey Zakarian, who lost overwhelmingly to Iron Chef Morimoto in Battle Sardines and has a mildly memorable personality, won the competition. At least we have someone who has more personality than Marc Forgione and Jose Garces on the show.

#1- Top Notch Television: Ebert Presents At The Movies: I really enjoyed the return of At The Movies, a show in which Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert made famous. I wrote about my praise for the comeback, the format, the presence of critics Christy Lemire and Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, and the contributions of Roger Ebert himself. When I wrote the post in August, it brought my page some overwhelming page views. I got some comments and some flow, thus bringing this blog upward when it came to views. This post continues to be on top when it comes to views, about 650 more than any other. We could only imagine how many more it receives.

Those are the statistical favorites. I shall now share some of my own personal favorites, the ones that stuck out for some reason or another. These are in no particular order...

Let's Be Brutally Honest: Morning Radio Shows Aren't Funny- I had a blast writing in such a caliber. The intention was to pick a random and typical topic that I had a strong opinion about. In this case, it's the fact that radio shows keep dragging on and on and on with jokes and puns that are more irritating than they are funny. It was such a great event in time when I finally got to speak this point to the readers of this blog and assert this belief to the people.

Big Cheeses: Cabot Tomato Basil Cheddar- I'm a cheese enthusiast. I have been since I was younger. In the day and age when I was coming up with segments, I decided to discuss the cheeses that were special and should be tried by anyone who wanted an experience. I enjoy going to a market a few townships up and every time I go, I get Cabot's Tomato Basil Cheddar Cheese, and then enjoy it with a spicy colleague... pepperoni. I had the honor of garnering a comment by Cabot themselves and how they appreciated the praise, which to me was a high honor, especially for an up and rising blogger like myself. It went to show me that anything is possible in the world of blogging.

Pluto The Dwarf Planet- I'm one with a strong opinion. Much of this strong opinion is based off of the facts that lie in front of me. If somebody provides facts, strong evidence, or a reasonable point of view, I will use it when constructing my strong opinion. With that being said, these facts provide strong enough evidence to support my claim of Pluto's status in the Solar System. Between my own research and my grueling experience in Astronomy class, the idea and belief that Pluto is in the family of dwarf planets and not regular planets has made me confident about this stance. I have seen arguments from people who have held a stance of Pluto being a regular planet due to the fact that's how they learned it in elementary school, but in cases of fact, the expert knows more than the sentimentalist.

My Prediction: 2011 NFL Season- As I mentioned before, I enjoy writing the "My Prediction" segments. I especially enjoy predicting the NFL seasons. The reason for this is because I like to go back and see how well I did when all is said and done. I predicted a Packers over the Patriots Super Bowl. While it ended up being the Giants over the Patriots (which I'm personally happy about, being a Giants fan objective when predicting), both these teams were one seeds. While some of my predictions weren't as strong (The Bucs crashed and burned and the Bengals actually made the playoffs), I did make predictions that really held strong.

Ten Best Books I Read In 2011- The one thing I could consider myself the largest enthusiast in, it would be books. I enjoy reading and enjoy collecting books to read. I have rated each of the books I thoroughly read and ranked them at the end of the year. This year, I introduced a top ten list for the ten best books I read throughout the entire year. While it wasn't a list of all 2011 books, it was all books I read in the year of 2011, and the list showed a good amount of variety. I had the honor to have this list among other lists of top books from the year, which made the list even more special. I will surely keep the tradition going, as I do with my other yearly traditions.

One year later... Caponomics has expanded more than ever.

This year, I'm hoping to be all to contribute as much as I can to this blog. Due to a busy schedule and the hopes of catching up on some horror fiction writing, I may not be able to contribute as much, but I will surely contribute as much as I can and contribute with strong opinions. Here's for one year and many more years to follow!