Thursday, May 24, 2012

Swiss Culture

I am a proud American, but still, everybody has an alternate culture of which they hold interest. Whether it be due to the entertainment value, an interest in their way of life, their cuisine, or any form of material culture, holding such interest allows an expansion of how people look at the way of living. It doesn't mean you have to agree with everything they say or do, but you learn new things. For Anime enthusiasts, Japan has been a prime country of interest. We also hold interest through our take on a specific cuisine, such as that of Mexico, Italy, China, and the list goes on and on. We hold interest through languages, especially Spanish in this day and age. My interest is held primarily in European countries and areas of cuisine, literature, and the humanities of such areas. I am naturally a mixed-breed, but Italian plays a heavy influence, especially on the way I eat. I also hold interest in plenty of other cultures. Though in depth, the Swiss culture seems to be one of those countries in which I hold keen interest.

Switzerland is a European country found north of Italy. The capital is Bern and the Alps cross the country. There isn't a Swiss language, because the country is a hodge-podge of cultures, somewhat of a common ground it holds with America. Instead, there are four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansch. German holds the heaviest influence, but French holds an influence closer to the French area and Italian holds an influence closer to the Alps. Geographically speaking, Switzerland lies in the center of a lot of action.

Like plenty of other countries, Switzerland has its stereotypes. You have the Alpine men, the fact they have no personality, they're frugal, they remain neutral in all instances, and they have chocolate and cheese that is more memorable than anyone else. Some of these are fairly true, some of these are exaggerated.

They are isolated from other foreign affairs, like it's distance sister Sweden. They remain neutral in fighting in the military and instead "mind their own business," which is very common for a Swiss person to do. Swiss people are also highly reserved, don't speak with people unless they know them or are introduced, remain very much on time (they are sticklers for being on time and the transportation is almost always this way), and they do have people that live in the mountains, but they don't climb up to the top in shorts and a Alpine uniform and yodel to the top of their lungs.

Switzerland has been known for prime places such as banks and sanatoriums. Its banks are highly popular, due to the secrecy that it promises for the holder, as the holder is the only one that could interfere with the account. Its sanatoriums are highly mentioned for people who need to escape reality and mentally recuperate from a specific problem.

Switzerland is known for plenty of its products, such as its watches (branded as "swatches" on occasion). They have the Swiss army knife, St. Ives body wash (made from Swiss botanicals), and Ricola cough drops, the latter two could be found in stores of all kinds. However, as far as products are concerned, its cuisine is deemed the most memorable, especially the chocolate and cheese.

Lindt Lindor truffles are the most noticeable make of Swiss chocolate, despite the fact that so many exist. I myself thoroughly enjoy the creaminess of Lindt's milk chocolate melting in my mouth. The chocolate from Switzerland tends to have a high amount of quality and a very rich taste. Tolberone, Kohler, and Teuscher are other names in the field of Swiss chocolate.

From a young age, the first thing we attribute to the Swiss is their cheese. We all know Swiss cheese as "that cheese with the holes" and educational television programs and cartoons use this cheese to portray all cheeses. Many of these portrayals are stereotypical. Switzerland is one of the countries known heavily for their cheese. Maybe not as much as the neighboring France, but the love and joy does spread. Cheeses that play a role in Swiss culture include Gruyere, a sharp cheese named for a village. Appenzeller, named for a northeastern section of Switzerland and a hard cow's milk cheese, is another. Raclette is another Swiss cheese, known for being melted and served with foods such as potatoes. The most memorable of the Swiss cheeses is Emmentaler, which IS the ORIGINAL Swiss cheese. It has the "eyes" caused by a bacteria known as Propionibacterium freudenreichii, which releases carbon dioxide and produces "eyes" (which are referred to as "holes"). "Swiss" is an interpretation of this cheese, whether it be from America, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand. Other more unique interpretations of the use of this bacteria are Norway's Jarlsberg and the Netherlands's Leerdammer and Maasdam. Gruyere and Appenzeller produce eyes, but much smaller and in less common stages as others.

That leaves me to the literature aspect of the country. Much of it is influenced by its other countries background, German in particular as it makes up the majority of the country background, but a key novelist is Hermann Hesse, a 20th century author who wrote novels such as Siddhartha, the story of the original Buddha. I recently completed this novel and enjoyed it. Other works of his include Steppenwolf and The Glass Bead Game. Hesse was a Nobel Prize winner in 1946 as well. There are plenty of other Swiss authors, such as Max Frisch and Friedrich Durrenmatt. Much of our knowledge for Swiss literature comes from the name of the book and not the author. For instance, Johann David Wyss wrote The Swiss Family Robinson (which remains on my "to read" list on my book shelf) and Johanna Spyri wrote Heidi. We know these novels really well, but not so much the names. The Swiss Family Robinson has been mentioned plenty of times in the world of entertainment, as Heidi has been a notable story... and a TV showing interrupted a football game as well.

Another mention to the country is its breed of dogs. The one that sticks out the most is the Saint Bernard. I never owned one, but it is a recognizable breed. It's most recognized as the dog that carries the barrel and serves as a rescue dog. It does make sense, given that it's rescuing people in the Alps. It's influence is played in the Italian section of Switzerland, which is the Alps. The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is another breed of this caliber that is also recognized by the AKC. Offshoots of this dog include the Bernese Mountain Dog.

The Swiss do have fairly strange laws, or at least according to us as Americans. The strangest being that after 10 PM, you cannot flush your toilet or relieve yourself standing up.

That's my culture based fascination... and to be specific, it's a culture based fascination that isn't our own culture. I had to do a presentation on a religion that wasn't my own in World Religions. Now I'm doing the same thing, only with a culture that isn't my own. The Swiss culture is a hodge-podge culture with influence from a few other countries and they run their country as they please, something every country wishes to do. Now, after writing this post, the thoughts about chocolate and cheese on separate occasions sure makes me hungry!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Book Review: "Maus" by Art Spiegelman

Yes, Maus is a graphic novel that comes in two parts, but it's definitely a fine piece of literature (defined simply as the art of written work) that uses animals to portray people involved in the Holocaust. The use of these animals simply allows for uniformed description as to who was who and what kind of impact was made during the most heinous, biased, and racist events in modern day history. Maus is a real life biography written by Art Spiegelman based on stories that his father, Vladek, told him about his times during the Holocaust and all of the brutal notions he had to go through. The most memorable aspect is the animal portrayals. The Jews are mice, the Germans are cats, the Poles are pigs, the French are frogs, and the Americans are dogs. This allows for simple, uniformed, organization and a comic book style outlook.

The graphic novel is completely raw and that's what stands best about it. Not only is there stories from the time, but also from present day. Much of the story is set in present day during visits that Art had with his father. Art lost his mother, Anja, to a suicide, and his father is now remarried to a woman named Mala. He sees her as being someone who only takes him for his money and is messing with his will. Mala sees Vladek as cheap and stingy. Vladek also suffers from heart problems, diabetes, among other conditions that come with age. When he's not causing problems, he is able to tell the story about his time in Poland during the Holocaust.

Vladek Spiegelman starts with his first lover, but how he liked Anja and how the two of them would eventually marry. They have a son, Richieu, who they give to a caretaker during the Holocaust and (SKIP THIS SECTION IF YOU DON'T WANT A SPOILER) is killed when she poisons herself and the children she's caring for. (OKAY, FEEL FREE TO RESUME) Vladek goes over hiding out from being captured, how he would disguise himself as a Pole, like others would, the cruelty of the Nazis, and how he was brought to Auschwitz. The first part goes up to this time, as the second part concentrates on his days in the camp and beyond.

In the camps, the males and females are split, and the ones who demonstrate use are able to stick around longer. Being a tinman (who works in a form of carpentry as he did) and a shoemaker, Vladek shows use. It all winds down to the end of the war, moving to Sweden, and coming to America (which is only touched upon, because not much of a story is needed for this part).

The humor in the graphic novel occurs during the present day, during the interactions between Art Spiegelman and his father, and his father in general. While many of the Jewish characterizations are simply stereotypes, Vladek Spiegelman is cheap, racist, and is a perfectionist who is highly stubborn. Memorable scenes include a jacket scene and picking up a hitchhiker who is a black dog from the side of the road.

Maus breaks the fourth wall on plenty of occasions, one of which is a chapter that includes Art Spiegelman talking about his work. As you can quickly point out, only the head is really that of an animal. From the neck down, it looks very human. The characters are clearly anthropomorphic, as more than anything, the animals hold human traits. When Art Spiegelman's talking about his own work, he, the media, and his therapist all have straps on the back of their heads, showing that they're simply wearing masks. The discussion on the publication of Maus and the attention it gets from the media shows how this fourth wall is being broken. It's similar to how Spaceballs holds sales on merchandise and they play the film as the actual film is filming.

Maus is a graphic novel in a comic book style format, but the quality behind it is excellent. While the story has a much needed sense of humor, it becomes real and serious when it needs to be. It's simply another Holocaust story that can grab the attention of someone who likes to read graphic novels. It definitely grabbed my attention, too, and I am not one for graphic novels. I've declared that Manga is simply Japanese comic books and Maus could be characterized the same, but it's more than that. The story is so strong that it comes off as being a very intriguing story about such a cruel period of time.

If you like graphic novels, read this. If you like historical pieces, read this. If you like to read in general... read this.

Verdict: 10/10

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Best Of Shark Tank Season 3

What ever Mark Burnett needed to do in order to improve Shark Tank, he did it. The tweaks, the additions, the continuation of previous successes, and just about everything else really flowed throughout the third season of the show. So much so that not only was the show renewed for a fourth season, but they were renewed for a complete season, which will feature twenty-two episodes.

While the fourth season will not pop up until the fall, now would be a good time to look back on the fascinating things that the third season brought us...

Mark Cuban's Full Season Extension- In the second season of Shark Tank, the show experimented with having guest sharks Jeff Foxworthy and Mark Cuban on the show to sit in for Kevin Harrington a few times. While Jeff Foxworthy didn't prove to be memorable like he was on his redneck-themed shows and as host of Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?, Mark Cuban warmed up pretty quick and showed his aggression and ability to close deals with the entrepreneurs. While Kevin Harrington closed memorable deals such as that of CityKitty, a toilet training product for cats, he wasn't memorable or aggressive, and was removed from the panel. He had an appearance during the CityKitty update.

On this season, Mark was able to close several deals and continued to show that he was a very aggressive shark. He brought back the use of the twenty-four second clock, in which entrepreneurs are given twenty-four seconds to decide as to whether or not they would take his deal or the deal was off. He also matched a hypothetical offer to a person who taught people how to be a good sales rep if he took it right then and there, but dropped it when he gave another shark the opportunity to make an offer. Mark also showed that he could have fun by participating when need be, like most of the others had.

Lori Greiner- For four episodes this season, Lori Greiner of QVC sat in for Barbara Corcoran. During her appearances, she made several offers that included a towel-like poncho that goes over a kid while they change out of their wet bathing suit and a magnet that you can wear on your shirt that your glasses attach in to prevent from losing them. Lori showed that she was calm, slick, and highly intelligent when making offers and engaging in deals with the entrepreneurs. Next season, she should get a contract extension. Barbara shouldn't be taken off the show altogether, as she began to warm up later in the season, but Lori should get more time on the show. She showed that she is extremely worthy to the show.

I Want To Draw A Cat For You- The most memorable pitch from the entire show has to be from a guy who drew cats. Steve Gadlin was looking for $10,000 in exchange for 25% of his company in which he drew cats for different situations. These could include birthdays, special occasions, and anything and everything in between. For $9.95, Steve would draw a cat for what ever the occasion was, and it could simply fit the preference of the individual. For instance, Kevin O'Leary's cat was bathing in money and Mark Cuban's was a Dallas Mavericks champion photo. Another memorable part of the pitch was Steve's dancing and rap to present the product. He closed an offer with Mark Cuban, who gave him $25,000 in exchange for 33% of the company. Plus Mark was asked to draw one cat for every one thousand cats Steve drew. The two danced together after the confirmation of the deal.

Robert Gets Emotional- In the second episode of the show, Donny McCall came on the show with an Invis-A-Rack, which could carry large products on the back of a pickup truck. The key issue was the fact that Donny did not want to go overseas in order to manufacture the product. He wanted to instead stay in America. The sharks were uneasy about such a notion, but it hit Robert Herjavec the hardest. It reminded him of his father, who was a Croatian immigrant, and his days as a factory worker. Choking up, he mentioned how his father was picked on, but worked his way up to be highly successful. Having just died the year before, Robert mentioned how his father's fondest memories were not reaching the top, but instead when he was working in the factory. Donny McCall would leave the tank without a deal.

The Last Lid- Kevin and Melissa Kiernan, a New Jersey couple, came onto the show hoping to get an offer on their product. This product, The Last Lid, would a cloth, sack like product, that goes over the garbage can in order to prevent garbage from flowing out. It stays on and doesn't fall off like other lids when knocked over. Most of the other sharks felt it was an awful product and felt it was highly ridiculous. Kevin and Melissa, loudly expressing why this was the wrong projection, kept on fighting until just Daymond John remained. Thinking that $40,000 for 20% was asking too much, he get them one chance to give him a number that was worth investing in. When they offered $40,000 for 60%, a deal was made. The New Jersey stereotypes was fed to, but this was still an interesting pitch.

Sullivan Generator- The Sullivan Generator was the most fascinating product this season, and fascinating as in a strange, bizarre, but interesting invention. I couldn't stop laughing, whether it be Mark Sullivan's deadpan demeanor, his enormous offer, or simply the fact that his product can create electricity from salt water and gold from the waste. While it could turn into something, it was too extreme for the sharks to invest in and they all went out. The fact that such a product made the show really brings attention to the possibilities that lie in our future. It was genius, but also hilarious.

Billy Blanks Jr. Dance With Me- Billy Blanks Jr. is the son of Billy Blanks, creator of Tae Bo (which combines karate and kickboxing). Billy Jr.'s product is a program that combines exercising and dancing, and the dancing could range from hip-hop to disco and anything and everything in between. The program is also on the retail market in the form of video programs. The only offer that is made comes from Daymond and Mark, who offer $100,000 for 50% of the company, plus be approved by Zumba, which Daymond is close to. Billy Jr. feels uneasy about this deal, because he doesn't want to convert to being an offshoot of Zumba. Instead, he wants to be his own franchise that does all forms of dance and not just Latin. Not understanding that Zumba is simply a pipeline to his own success, Billy Jr. turns down the offer. Daymond, however, feels he didn't understand what they were trying to tell him and follows him out of the tank. Daymond explains that he's not trying to make him an offshoot of Zumba, and that Zumba is only going to help him promote the product, gain an audience, and he'll gain the recognition he needs. Billy Blanks Jr. accepts the offer. Billy Jr.'s appearance showed a good product and the emotion that strives behind it, and also a different dimension that the sharks have to give which was demonstrated by Daymond making that final push to get that offer.

UniKey Technologies- The most fascinating product I saw during the entire season of the show was for UniKey Technologies. This is a product that allows you to lock and unlock your door completely through your cellphone. On top of that, you can monitor who has access and when. This product got everyone's attention and every shark gave an offer of some kind. Robert, who's peak in business came through Internet security, offered $1,000,000 for 75% of the company, which was the largest offer during the entire season. Since he wanted grasp of the company, Phil Dumas, the creator, took a deal with Mark and Kevin for $500,000 (which he originally offered) for 40% (which was just 7% more than his original offer). The sharks stressed that the one thing Phil must do is that Black & Decker is in on this product as well. The fact that keys are being controlled in such a way really shows us how we are progressing as a society and how we're doing so in such a quick period of time. It is also just the second offer Kevin O'Leary got into the entire season (the other being Talbott Teas). Still, he is the key shark on the show.

While season three of Shark Tank has come to an end, it was indeed a highly memorable season, probably the most memorable. Now we simply have season four to look forward to. Things I ask myself are: Which sharks will participate? What kind of entrepreneurs will walk into the tank? What kind of offers will be made? Those kinds of things. The answer is simple: We'll just have to wait and see. Since the show has proven its worth on the Friday evening time slot, it is indeed worthy of the twenty-two episode season it's getting. It'll sure be an exciting one.

My Craving For "The Weakest Link"

Obviously, The Weakest Link is a 10/10 show for me. I'm not setting this post up like a traditional review, but more so like a looking back on the show in general. I named it the third best game show of the 2000's decade, because I also enjoy watching Jeopardy! and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and will stand by the fact that these two shows were very well constructed and either formed an empire or had an empire that grew larger (Jeopardy! removing their limits was genius and allowed for Ken Jennings to become the biggest game show celebrity, EVER!). However, The Weakest Link is an addicting game show that was a product that stood behind the demeanor of host Anne Robinson. For two years in America and twelve years in Great Britain, The Weakest Link was a noticeable game show on all accounts.

For those of you who don't know how the game is played, it goes like this. A group of contestants (nine in Great Britain, eight in America, six in America syndicated, the latter version should be forgotten) take part in a rapid fire game of answering general knowledge questions. The goal is to get consecutive answers correct in order to reach the prime target. The chain is broken with any incorrect answer, saying "bank" allows you to save the money you have, but forces you to start a new chain. Only money banked is carried forward. After each round, the players vote for who they think was the weakest link, and they are eliminated. This continues after each round until two remain. The final round is a best of five and the person with the most correct answers wins. In the event of a tie, sudden death is played until a winner is deemed. The game is winner take all, as everyone else leaves with nothing.

The best version of the show based off of quality is the British version. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the show when it was on BBC America and have found a channel on YouTube that plays previous episodes of the show. The show remained Anne Robinson's show until she finally retired this year. Clearly, she was the star of the show. Anne Robinson was known for her mean, stern, and sharp demeanor, wearing black, and telling people when being voted off that, "You ARE The Weakest Link, Goodbye!" She also gave insults before the voting. Throughout the years, people began to warm up to her and admire her for her different personality that not many hosts hold.

I began watching the series when it came to America in 2001. I enjoyed the type of show that it was, the trivia, the voting, and banking, and how it was a vicious atmosphere. The show started with regular contestants, but then there were celebrity editions that were added to the mix. Unfortunately for the prime time show hosted by Anne Robinson, the show began to be overflowed with special editions by the second season. Not just celebrity editions, but also Anne lookalikes, Halloween, Christmas, a family edition, among others. I did happen to meet Fran Capo, who was a contestant on the record breakers episode, at a Bookfest. Unfortunately, the game show era that was high on the rise faded around the time of 9/11 and that, along with basketball games that overshadowed many episodes, put the series into cancellation.

The syndicated edition hosted by George Gray was an even bigger disaster. The show was half an hour, with less contestants, less time, and less money. It lasted two seasons, but George Gray was just highly sarcastic and abrasive, nothing like Anne Robinson. Another issue was the voting patterns. The game became a battle of the sexes, in which one gender would simply vote the other off the show. This show was never meant to be half an hour and was never meant to be hosted by someone other than Anne Robinson.

As for the show in Great Britain, everything was spread out successfully. The show had day time and prime time editions and in different studios as well. There was just the right amount of regular episodes, special episodes, and a ton of variety with special editions. There was a winners edition, a celebrity edition, a Doctor Who edition, a puppets edition, among several others. The questions were highly difficult, but more so during the beginning of the series than toward the end. The series was just an excellent pleasure and I find it to be highly addicting.

The series was bound to end sometime, but it is true that all good things must come to an end sometime. Another great thing about The Weakest Link is that it didn't fall victim to constant changing of the rules. Plenty of shows fell victim and made their reputation a bit sour, though it still left them with an overall positive legacy. I would definitely recommend the show and encourage people to check out the reruns and make the reruns that aren't in access available to the public. This series should NOT be overlooked. It's something really good! Check it or you will be a weak link! Goodbye!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Book Review: "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky

High school sucks, and so does middle school, and so does intermediate, and so does just about any form of environment in which you are bound to be labeled by your peers. If you have a good label, then your path toward the general education degree will be a fine one. If you don't, it's going to be some of the toughest years of your life (or at least that is what you will believe at that time). I went to a private school since the fourth grade, so I don't know the experience, but I think I could have been a wallflower like Charlie. A wallflower is somebody who is a bystander: they watch something go on, serve as a witness to an incident, and then console the victim. Being a wallflower has its positives and negatives and this is just about how this novel flows.

Charlie is a high school freshman who submits letters to this unknown person who he simply refers to as "friend." Since he mentions just about every figure that is in his life and ties loose ends to people who for some reason disappeared from his life. These letters are what describe the many events that occur in his life, ranging from issues with school, issues with family, how he has this close relationship with his English teacher and how the teacher gives him plenty of novels to read, and most of all, his relationships with girls... and guys. Two key people that stick out are seniors at his high school named Patrick (who is referred to as "Nothing" by the other students) and Sam, who are brother and sister. Patrick turns out being gay, as his sister attracts Charlie. The two of them share meaningful moments, but Charlie also seeks the attraction of Mary Elizabeth, who actually engages in a relationship with him. Charlie even goes out with Patrick on an occasion, but whether or not you can declare that one of the key scenes is Charlie being a nice guy or Charlie liking-LIKING Patrick. Charlie does mention a boat load about him into the story and in a kind of way that crosses the bridge of being platonic.

Charlie seeks many of issues with his family, his sister's struggles with an abusive boyfriend, his group of friends being seniors and how he makes them feel on some instances. It is simply the game of life for Charlie and how he approaches it. It goes to show you how it's highly difficult to remain a wallflower in a consistent fashion. There are some instances in which you have to eventually pick a side or take action, which are things Charlie eventually has to do.

There are plenty of ways you can approach Charlie. You can approach him as a manic spaz or you can approach him as a high school student who deserves your pity for how he is making it through high school like a trooper. He does cross the bridge of overreaction, but it's obvious to feel the way that he does. Since the story is told completely through letters, the way that Charlie writes them is the way he writes them. Flowers For Algernon consisted of diary submissions and on many occasions featured plenty of misspellings, and that novel was fantastic. So there is absolutely no issue with grammar. We get a clear sense as to what Charlie is thinking and the story of what he is going through.

"Perks" will likely be labeled as a romantic drama when it comes out in theaters on September 21st. It will garner recognition from now until then, so ultimately it will become a huge seller in bookstores. I would recommend it to the degree that it is something that you can relate to. Charlie is a complicated individual, but then again, aren't we all???

Verdict: 8/10

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Summer Reading

In February, I decided to create a literature club at my college. I got it approved by student life, we started meeting, and we are now up and running. A total of nineteen people have attended at least one meeting, plus we have plenty of other members that follow the club and its many events. This club has really expanded my outlook on the world of literature, defined as "the art of written work."

So that brings me to my summer reading and how much of an effect this literature club has on it. Given that I have thirty-eight options and counting, my reading options will be those that come from that list. It's great that I already own a good portion of the books that are on the list. I'll just have to buy others that I have not bought just yet.

The books that lie on my radar include a handful of just about anything and everything. There's classic literature, contemporary literature, and any and every genre you could possibly name. It feels like a literary candy store that comes to you when you go to a bookstore such as Barnes & Noble (which seems like it's just about the only option these days). There are books by Stephen King, a favorite author of mine in which I own just about each of his works. There are books I looked into reading, such as Frankenstein and Dracula, that I just never got to. What I will be reading, though, is going to remain a surprise. I am going to pick and choose as I please. I'll give an effort to level out the playing field, but the books I already own will have the advantage.

The summer has been the time of season where I got the majority of my reading done. Obviously you don't have so much college in your schedule, so that helps out. Here are the five books I recommended and feel that you should check out during the summer as well if you haven't checked them out before...

Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes- This may very well be the greatest book I've ever read. The funniest thing is that I got this as a Christmas present, it wasn't something I bought. I was motivated to read it in my senior year of high school when my friend's anatomy class had to do a PowerPoint presentation on the book. Much of the story is told from the journal submissions of Charlie Gordon, a man with a low IQ who is given the opportunity to become smarter. The surgery worked on Algernon, a lab mouse, and so they feel will work for Charlie. The novel deals with the pros and cons of what the surgery entails and how some experiments can start off great, but become flawed.

Tell No One by Harlan Coben- This was a great summer read from back in 2008, when I wanted to read one of Coben's works before I met him at an author event he was holding. This brilliant thriller tells the story of Dr. David Beck and how his wife disappeared eight years prior to the story. Dr. Beck is having trouble coping with the situation, but that looks like the only thing he can do. He finds a message from his wife in an email one day, which leads him to believe that somewhere, she's out there, still alive. This novel keeps you hooked as you follow Dr. Beck through his adventure of looking for his wife, while being hunted down at the same time. One of the all time great thrillers of the century.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini- I like the read a book before I watch the movie adaptation of the book. However, there are some occasions where I did the reverse. One of which was The Kite Runner. I do, however, feel that both the film and the novel were excellent. If I had to choose between the two, I'd go with the novel, but just because it's far more descriptive and not limited like the film. In the story, Amir was friends with a boy named Hassan, who was the son of his father's servant, when he was a young boy in Afghanistan. Amir and Hassan used to compete in kite flying competitions, where Hassan would chase after the cut down kites. However, due to a misfortune event, there friendship becomes shattered and the two separate. Amir, now a writer in America, is given an opportunity to redeem himself with a return to Afghanistan. This is an extraordinary novel that provides such a strong depiction of the lives and struggles in Afghanistan. It sure made its breakthrough in American culture.

Hearts In Atlantis by Stephen King- This is another novel of which I watched the film for first, but the novel is beyond excellent compared to the film. Hearts In Atlantis is split into five parts and starts with the dawn of the Vietnam era, goes into the midst of the Vietnam War, and continues with the aftermath of the war. King, known for his horror fiction, writes about a realistically scary subject with this novel. "Low Men In Yellow Coats" stands as the key story, as it introduces the cast in some way or another. "Hearts In Atlantis," "Blind Willie," "Why We're In Vietnam," and "Heavenly Shades Of Night Are Falling" follow. This novel is one of the most mesmerizing works I have read, and while I'll admit the film did create a strong imagery, the story did create a fine flow. The key differences are better in the book as well.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton- Back in my freshman year of high school, this was our assigned novel. The story is about the rundown, street-gang Greasers and the clean, upper-class Socs, told by Greaser Ponyboy Curtis. This novel, written by a sixteen-year-old female, really shows passion between characters and depicts how sometimes what you have is one another and that's that. Hinton wrote several other stories about street gangs engaging in rumbles, but The Outsiders was the original and it was the best.

These are the novels I recommend to you if you have yet to read them. As for me, I'm looking at my very own list and perhaps create some new favorites in my experience of reading literature. Perhaps I'll find plenty of nominations for my top ten list that I'll be creating at the end of the year. Happy reading to everyone! I know for me, I'll be engaging in some happy reading.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Shark Tank Season 3, Episode 13

This season of Shark Tank may be winding down, but the good pitches and interesting ideas (interesting to say the least and in whichever tone you wish) are definitely not doing the same. The five sharks, Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Herjavec, oversee four more products that they are given the opportunity to invest in. Some of these ideas were of the totally bizarre, some really looked like they could potentially work, and others just had really poor pitches. The entire package was featured this week.

To start the show, Jim Pittman promoted his product, "AirBedz," which was an inflatable bed that could fit perfectly in the back of a pickup truck, PLUS the inflatable source functions using a rechargeable battery. He was asking for $250,000 in exchange for 15% of the company. While there was no competition in such a field, the product held a ton of potential. Any trucker or tailgater would find good use to this. Jim's problem was that he did an awful job pitching the product. The only shark that shows interest in the product is Barbara. She'd be willing to pay the quarter of a million, but would need 50% of the company. Jim's only willing to give 25% of the company away, so he lets the offer slip through his hands. His potential product comes out falling flat.

The update in this episode comes from earlier in the season, and its "Show No," a product created by Shelly Ehler that comes in the form of poncho-like towel that allows you to change without anyone looking. With Lori Greiner, who invested in the product, Shelly watches her product being released in Disney World. To Shelly, it's an emotional moment.

Scotty Olson is the next one into the tank. The inventor of Roller Blades, Scotty is looking for $3,000,000 in exchange for 20% of the company in his new, monorail like product called Skyride. This product allows you to travel either in a recreational way or in a way to get from point a to point b. Unfortunately, the sharks all agree that it isn't something worth investing in, as it's too much and too complicated. While he unfortunately comes out without an offer, he brings out an exciting product. Next to Mark Sullivan's generator, this seems like the most noticeable product of the season.

Andrew Goodrum and Queenie Davis are the next two into the tank. Their product is called "Boot Illusions," which is a boot that can become a shoe just by unzipping. The two sharks who show interest are Daymond, who is a pioneer in the world of urban fashion, and Barbara, who simply has experience. The original offer is $100,000 for 30%. However, Daymond would be willing to give them $100,000 for 75%, which includes $.25 on every shoe that's sold. Barbara gives them an offer of $100,000 for 55%. While they are given the option to call any entrepreneur Barbara's worked with, Queenie takes Barbara's offer, since it provides them with more control. While Andrew was convinced by Daymond's being behind them, he went along with the notion.

Fleetwood Hicks is the final one to enter the tank. Asking for $500,000 for 33% of his company, he introduces Villy Custom, which is a website that allows you to create your own bike. This includes picking the colors and styles you would like. The two sharks that show interest are Barbara and Mark, who agree to partner up in this deal. They are willing to provide him with the $500,000, but they want 45% of the company. Fleetwood's willing to do 40%. Ultimately, they agree to 42% of the company and a deal is made.

In this episode, we see that Barbara is actually proving to be active this season. She came out with two interesting offers, one of which with Mark, who has been active this season. With two more episodes to go in the season, there are plenty of offers and ideas that remain. It's just going to come down to waiting and seeing each and every opportunity.