Friday, March 29, 2013

Check This Blog: Carina's Books

At the end of the year, plenty of bloggers, myself included, come up with lists of the best books we have read throughout the year. For me, this list happens to be a ranked top ten, while others may approach such a post differently. I learned that when I created my list for 2011 that Largehearted Boy, who has a site of his own that concentrates on music and books, has a collection of rankings from other blogs of book reviews throughout the year. Not only does this provide an opportunity to find different books that we may have missed and should check out, but it also provides an opportunity to discover bloggers with a common interest. One of these happens to be the very well arranged blog of Carina Olsen, who is the one behind Carina's Books.

Carina Olsen is a Norwegian book blogger whose interests include young adult fiction and middle grade fiction, primarily in the genre of fantasy. While our interests aren't exactly similar (I prefer horror fiction, thrillers, psychological fiction, science fiction, U.S. Presidential nonfiction, etc.), we do share common ground on a few books, primarily in the dark, young adult fictional category. The one thing I know for sure is that the books that Carina reviews are definitely appealing to plenty of readers in my age group. Even adults enjoy young adult fiction. I'll even admit to going back an age bracket in order to read The Hunger Games trilogy or anything written by Robert Cormier (who wrote I Am The Cheese and The Chocolate War). As for Carina's choices, her choices are slightly more feminine, but plenty of book bloggers enjoy her taste of book choices.

Carina takes part in plenty of the trends that book bloggers engage in, but truly makes them her own. One of these trends is called "In My Mailbox," which is quite an intriguing idea for someone who wants to evaluate what they hope to read (or in some cases watch) someday. While the concept was created by "The Story Siren," these weekly posts are a treat and grant you the opportunity to seek a sample of what is interesting Carina at the time. Most recently (as in the time that this post is being writing), Carina mentioned Nova Ren Suma's 17 & Gone as one of the books in her mailbox, then later went to review it, praising it for being a read that didn't disappoint. From what she had to say, I may have to check this one out.

Among the other creative segments Carina has on her blog are "Top Ten Tuesday," which are recommendations of ten books we should check out, and "Waiting On Wednesday," which are books she's looking forward to that are up and coming. While these are ideas from other blogger, Carina does a fine job making these her own in a way that makes me wonder whether or not Carina created these herself.

The best part of Carina's Books is that Carina is herself when she writes her posts. When I read reviews, I want to feel like I'm engaging in a discussion with you about a specific topic and I want to feel like it's you on the post. There are cases where the reviewer either distance themselves or follows a cookie cutter method in evaluating the subject of which they are reviewing. Carina does just the opposite. Carina is honest about her feelings toward specific parts and characters in the story and she mentions these things as she reviews it, which is exactly how a book should be reviewed.

Any young adult fiction reader should definitely check this blog out. I will go to the point of guaranteeing that this will be a blog you regularly visit once you discover it and become hooked to the fascinating recommendations she makes. Carina will surely recommend a book that you will enjoy and some point or another if you're a fantasy reader in the young adult realm. In fact, she even pulled a spark for me with her mention of Swan Song by Robert McCammon. I had this book on my shelf and never got to reading it, but heard very good things about it. Maybe this will be the year I finally get my hands on it to read. You see, Carina strikes these kinds of notes. She allows you to think deeply about books and reading and uses her blog to promote such a passion.

I surely hope that each and every year that I seek new book bloggers that I will garner the opportunity to follow. If you're looking for new books to read, new blogs to follow, a combination of the two, or you just want to do something, my suggestion would be to follow this blog. I can guarantee that you'll be on Amazon or at a Barnes & Noble within a few days time.

Here's the link to the blog:

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Updated Argument Of The Originality Of Swiss Cheese

Three years ago, in the March 2010 issue of my high school newsletter, I wrote an argument about the authentic originality of Swiss cheese and the fact that this cheese is the media's cheese, the children's cheese, and the cartoon cheese. I stand by the case that in American culture, we have ironically called Swiss cheese "the cheese" when in actually, we have two issues that defeat our purpose of calling this "the cheese." One, we use Swiss cheese in define our love for cheese when in actuality, we eat and prefer Mozzarella and Cheddar and for those who like "cheese," American and Velveeta. Two, Swiss cheese as we know it is not imported out of Switzerland and is NOT the original Swiss cheese. Why do we all consider Swiss cheese to be our caricature of cheese? Perhaps it's because the holes help it stick out? Probably, but not necessarily sure.

The original Swiss cheese is known as Emmentaler and was named after its village of origin, that village being Emmental, Switzerland. Several Swiss cheeses are named for their village of origin, such as Appenzeller being named after its village of Appenzell, Switzerland. The "holes," which are actually called "eyes," comes from a bacteria known as Propionibacterium freudenreichhii, which releases carbon dioxide to create the "eyes." The only instance in which the cheese truly has holes is if you slice it or if the hole is so large and impactful that it opens up on one end and throughout the other. You will likely see very similar information in my "Swiss Culture" piece or even my original piece, so I will do my best to provide new information as I go along, but at the same time reassure my stance. For the record, though, Emmentaler is the top of the line. Even though eyes in a cheese isn't necessarily my thing, I'll attest to such.

America is not the only country to interpret such a method in creating cheese. Others have engaged in such a practice as well, some even going to the point of naming their cheese for its country of origin. Ireland ("Irish Swiss") and Australia ("Australian Swiss") have done the same. This is not always the trend, however, for how other countries interpret Emmentaler. The most unique interpretation and popular in the United States in the Norwegian Jarlsberg, which is pronounced with a "Y" and not a "J," so it sounds like "Yarls-berg." Jarlsberg can be found in the import section of almost any supermarket and surely at cheese shops. Behind Swiss, Jarlsberg is the next most common "holey cheese" in the United States. Other interpretations are Leerdammer and Maasdam in The Netherlands and even Radamer from Poland is a cheese inspired by the methods used to make Emmentaler. It seems as if these examples are a bit more unique for such a method, because while "Swiss" is respecting the roots of its country of origin, it really doesn't meet up to the quality of its mother product.

Meeting up to the mother product is not something that is new when it comes to cheese. Another example would be how the original and top quality Parmesan is Parmigiano-Reggiano. The key difference is that Parmigiano-Reggiano can only be made in specific areas of Italy. Anything else has to be deemed as Parmesan. In the supermarket, prepackaged cheeses in the dairy section come off as being quite suffocated compared to those in the imported cheese section or closer to the deli that are given a better opportunity to breathe.

Back to the argument of Swiss, what really catches people's attention with the cheese is its appearance. Everything is about appearance, especially in cartoons. Jerry from Tom & Jerry usually has his eye on a Swiss cheese, yellow with recognizable holes. In Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, the "cheese touch" comes from a slice of old Swiss with holes, making it seem like someone has the cooties. It's so disgustingly portrayed that it turned me away even more than I was already turned away, which was by a lot. Writing these sentences makes me cringe. While cheese is usually a mixture of yellowish white, this yellow is so aggressively yellow that it's used to strict imagery. Even other cheeses are portrayed as having holes in them, just to make them stick out. Swiss cheese is also used to describe a poor offensive line in football or a botched project.

The fact that Swiss cheese has holes, which are actually eyes, and it represents cheese as a whole (no pun intended) has really caught the attention of how it stands in American society. In all honesty, it should not. As I mentioned before, there are several better cheeses and "Swiss cheese" is not even the original. Emmentaler cheese is the original, better quality product. There are plenty of other cheeses that will strike satisfaction and all you would need to do is check out some of my previous "Big Cheese" posts.

In March 2010, I made such an argument for the newsletter I was writing for. Three years later, the verdict is that my stance still stands.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Ten Favorite Sax Solos

I love a good sax solo! I have expressed my love for good sax solos in two of my previous blog posts about two years back, only then, I listed random pieces and described them. As time has gone by, I have found time to listen to some more solos and broaden my horizons on songs with a moment for a sax solo. Now, I plan to create a countdown of the ten best sax solos. Now keep in mind that my mood tends to change, so these are my ten favorite sax solos as of March 24, 2013, and hopefully this mindset remains consistent until for some reason I have a change of heart or I hear another solo that I like so much that I add that one to the list.

Many of the songs on the list are from the 70s and 80s, as this was the time period that the saxophone was hottest in rock and roll music.While there are still instances while the saxophone plays a part or is included, it is not playing as large a role as it did during previous decades.

This was a challenging list to create, but the challenge was met, and here are my top ten...

#10: "Funkytown" by Lipps Inc. (Solo was likely by Cynthia Johnson)- "Funkytown" was known for coming about toward the end of the disco era in 1980 (unless you want to deem July 12, 1979, the day of "Disco Demolition Night," as the end of the era) and an example as to disco artists still hitting the charts. The song has to do with a group of ladies wanting to move to an area that suited their needs a bit better than where they were. Midway through the song comes one of the strongest sax solos to accompany disco (perhaps alongside the one for Alicia Bridges' "I Love The Nightlife"). The solo sounded so funky that it fit perfectly with the song and capitalized on a lasting image.

#9: "Edge of Glory" by Lady Gaga (Solo by Clarence Clemons)- For the record, I am not a fan of Lady Gaga's. Much of her music is hard to listen to, especially "Poker Face," because I am an avid Texas Hold 'Em player and having her associated with a favorite game of mine is highly inappropriate. "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers is a REAL poker song. One thing she DID do right is team up with Clarence Clemons for what was his final sax solo in "Edge of Glory." The song was just an ordinary Lady Gaga song where she sang and posed in one of her outlandish costumes, but when the Big Man took the stage, he was spectacular. It proves that he could still play at the age of 69. Unfortunately, we lost him too soon from a stroke. Clemons has performed in plenty of songs besides those by Bruce Springsteen. These include, "The Freeway Of Love" by Aretha Franklin, "We'll Take The Night" by Roy Orbison, and even a special performance of "That's All You Got To Do" by Brenda Lee. The sax solo midway through the song and toward the end is the key reason I'll keep this Lady Gaga song on while it's on the radio.

#8: "In Your Soul" by Corey Hart (Solo by Mel Collins)- Cheesy song, mesmerizing video, spectacular sax solo. I never heard of Corey Hart or his music before I was listening to sax solo samples and came across this one, which was just excellent. I loved the power as the solo played along and then seeing Mel Collins performing it on the city streets at night just made it all the better. I could imagine myself hearing this song in my head while I'm out and it's night.

#7: "How Sweet It Is" by James Taylor (Solo by David Sanborn)- "How Sweet It Is" was originally performed by Marvin Gaye in 1964. James Taylor performed a cover in 1975 in one of the rare instances where it happened to be better than the original. Taylor's vocals and the melody seem to play a good fit to the song, but it was David Sanborn, who is one of the best saxophonists of his era, that really put this song over the top. The Marvin Gaye version just has background music playing during the opening that Gaye isn't singing. The James Taylor version fills the opening with Sanborn's sax solo, providing it with a jazzy bridge between lyrics. It makes the song incredibly comforting and appropriate for the contemporary genre. Granted, James Taylor already has the vocal chops and musical arrangement to execute the songs he performs.

#6: "Young Americans" by David Bowie (Solo by David Sanborn)- I was torn between which Sanborn songs I wanted to include on this list, the other two being "How Sweet It Is," which is #7 and "Let Me Be Your Pirate" by German sensation Nena (who's the soothing, mesmerizing voice behind "99 Red Balloons). I went with "Young Americans," because it really fit well with the beginning of the song and made it so that the rest of the song would be enjoyable. That isn't to say anything about David Bowie, because he is already an excellent, flashy singer. The sax solo at the beginning and then throughout the song provides creativity and just an assertiveness to the true message of the song.

#5: "The Logical Song" by Supertramp (Solo by John Helliwell)- This is one strange song from 1979, but it's also a great song. It's very theatrical and random to the point that it could pop up on today's Top 100 downloads if it really wanted to ("Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey is an 80s song that has done such). The sax appears toward the end of the song and provides an assertiveness to the point that it could be deemed as aggressive, but so is the singer's mental state in the song. I'm sure that anybody that gives this song a listen would come out of it thinking, "I don't know what the heck I just listened to and I have no idea what this song was about, but this was freakin' fantastic!" The sax wraps up the song quite well.

#4: "Harden My Heart" by Quarterflash (Solo by Rindy Ross)- Okay, this is one of the cheesiest songs of the 1980s. Maybe the mental equivalent to the hard Provolone cheese that smells like feet. However, and a big however, that Provolone cheese happens to taste quite good when you're in the mood for it. This song happens to be a good one, too. The lyrics may be quite dramatic and it has to do with a woman reacting to a relationship emotionally before having to tell herself that she's going to woman up and walk away. The sax solo, at the beginning and midway through the song, is quite the treat. I enjoy it, it plays along in your head, and it won't go away. This solo from 1980 is quite the treat, like a walk on a midsummer night.

#3: "The Border" by America (Solo by Raphael Ravenscroft)- America was known for 70s hits such as "A Horse With No Name," "Sister Golden Hair," and "Ventura Highway," all of which were excellent hits, supporting the cause that they were an excellent band. They continued to remain relevant into the 80s with hits such as "You Can Do Magic" and this hit, "The Border." The song had to do with meeting their partner (most likely a woman) at the border, though the video, appropriate for the album "Your Move," had a lot of elements from the game of Chinese Checkers. The sax solo was just excellent, as it flowed through my head like water in the stream, and it was light but noticeable. When doing research, I learned that it was Raphael Ravenscroft, who I will discuss more with my #2 selection, that performed the solo for "The Border." Just an underrated hit that should gain some recognition.

#2: "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty (Solo by Raphael Ravenscroft)- After Clarence Clemons, Raphael Ravenscroft is the greatest saxophone player in rock and roll and incredibly underrated, too. While you may not be able to recall Baker Street, chances are that at some point in time, you have recalled the sax solo to "Baker Street," which appears at the beginning, middle, and end of the song, and makes the song worth listening to. In this Gerry Rafferty song, someone with a drinking problem and a down and out life wants to start new and with a clean slate. Rafferty considers this to be him moving into a solo career from the band he was with. Ravenscroft's solo was what put the song over the top, with its power and bluesy, but incredibly appropriate for rock and roll riff that really defined the trend of using the sax to accompany such music. This is an example of a job well done filling in the empty gaps that some songs have to offer.

#1: "Jungleland" by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (Solo by Clarence Clemons)- If you think about sax solos and rock and roll, the first artist you would think of is Clarence Clemons and the first performance is "Jungleland," where the Big Man had a three minute solo in which he just brought us to another place and invaded our state of mind for a few minutes. The power that was put into the performance was just something that few can ever do and the Big Man happens to be one of them. Just a great instrumental arrangement. The solo is much better live, when it's performed slower, which is a rare instance of such a performance in my mind. Clemons had so other great solos with Bruce Springsteen in songs like "Trapped," "I'm Going Down," "Born To Run," and their Christmas cover of "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." "Jungleland," however, is the longest and most memorable of the solos and this is what Clarence Clemons should be remembered for if anything.

It was unfortunate that I had to leave some others off of the list, but it was indeed a task to do so. Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight" had a powerful solo, even if it was only a couple of seconds. "Only The Lonely" by The Motels and with a solo by Marty Jourard had a strong solo, but that too was shorter. Alto Reed's work was hard to leave off, especially since "Old Time Rock and Roll" is one of my favorite rock songs, though I will say that his saxophone performance of the Star Spangled Banner at the Detroit Lions Thanksgiving game against the Texans last year was the best I have heard.

The trend of angels playing harps at the pearly gates of Heaven has been going around for years and years. Has anyone ever put into consideration playing the sax at the pearly gates. Maybe "Jungleland" or "Baker Street," or even a more appropriate song like "Amazing Grace." Regardless, the sax solo has been a nourishing element to rock and roll. While it's not as common as it was in previous decades, it still has left its mark with the captivation of a few minutes or even seconds of our time.

If anyone would like to share some of their own favorites, feel free to do so. If there's anything I may have missed, I would be happy to check it out as I did right before I wrote this.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pope Francis

The year of 2013 has already become an eventful year for the Roman Catholics and in the Vatican City, which began in February when Pope Benedict XVI decided to resign his position, due to what he said were health reasons and the inability to perform the job to the best of his ability. He held the position for nearly eight years, which was an average reign compared to others, which wasn't as long as Pope John Paul II (27 years) or as short as Pope John Paul I (33 days), but during his time, we saw Pope Benedict XVI as "God's Rottweiler," a stern, no-nonsense kind of guy. It has been six hundred years since a pope has stepped down from their position, when Gregory XII did such a thing.

Our new pope is Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires, Argentina, but he is now known as Pope Francis (or Pope Francis I), being the first pope to take the name of St. Francis of Assisi, who was well known for his love for animals. This Pope Francis, however, holds a place in his heart for the poor, even making the humble decision to use a bus instead of private transportation that could easily be provided to him. He's seventy-six years old, has one lung since the other was removed due to sickness when he was younger, and is the first pope not from Europe is nearly a thousand years, the first from the Americas.

Pope Francis I will definitely have a lot on his plate as he enters the papacy. He will have to respond to the issues facing the church and the social issues that are threatening them, such as abortion and same-sex marriage. The Roman Catholic church ought to stand up for what it believes in and not allow the government or higher figures to interfere with their practices. The American government and church were never meant to mix, so the government has every right to make the decision they wish about marriage, but need to allow the churches to make their own rules within their church. Pope Francis I will be facing a modern era and will have to declare the direction that should and will fit best for the Catholic church.

This is far from being anything new. In 1958, after the death of controversial Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII was named the pope. While he wasn't expected to be around long due to his age, he made a huge impact with his happy personality and ability to please the people. It was during his reign that they did away with holding masses only in Latin and instead deciding to hold masses in the local language (for America, it would be English). While some would argue otherwise, this was a strategy to encourage anyone, regardless of how fluent they were in Latin, to attend church and express their love for God. After all, expressing your love for God is truly what church is all about, isn't it? This has not been changed.

Pope John Paul II, who was pope from 1978 to 2005, is the first image I see when I think of a pope. Perhaps it was because he was the first pope I remember or simply that he was the pope for so long. Nevertheless, he held the position when drastic changes were being made. He saw the invention of the Popemobile and sent the first Papal email. He was also a people person and really executed his job efficiently. However, his key moment came when he survived an assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca on May 13, 1981. Two years after the assassination, Pope John Paul II went to personally visit Agca and forgive him for committing such a bad deed. While he immediately issued a statement of forgiveness after being shot, the fact that he made a personal visit to forgive him was the best thing he could have possibly did. It shows that God forgives everyone who is sorry for their misdeeds, no matter how heinous the crime. The pope is the highest figure in the Catholic church and Pope John Paul II held that position very well.

As for Pope Francis, he will have challenges he will have to face, but I'm sure he will do an excellent job as the newest leader of the Roman Catholic church. It will be quite exciting to see what an era with Pope Francis as pope will look like. We will just have to see. God bless the pope on executing his job to the best of his ability.

Monday, March 11, 2013

My Prediction: American Idol 12

I thought it was going to be time for me to step away from watching American Idol as I have done with plenty of television shows, due to the lack of time and how I would go for the book before the remote when I hold control. It seems that I am just unable to walk away from Idol just yet. Sure, the panel of Nicki Minaj, Mariah Carey, and Keith Urban along with the original Randy Jackson is an interesting bunch, but the talent is desirable enough to keep on watching. While it isn't like the fantastic tenth season of the show, there is a talented bunch nevertheless.

I like the decision to just go right to business and have a top ten, where if you make this crucial level of the competition, then you're on tour. The thing I disagree with is having the sixth place male and female compete for an eleventh spot on tour. This is unnecessary and takes away from the concept of having a solid top ten. We have something spectacular already. Why shake things up in such a fashion? I understand that this was the case where the judges save prevented such an occasion, but there is no intentional need to interfere with this process.

Moving right along... I will be making predictions as to how the top ten will finish off. I was quite successful last time around (check the "My Prediction: American Idol 11" post that I wrote last year to see what I'm talking about), so let's see if I could make something similar for this go around. Here is how I see the top ten finishing...

#10: Burnell Taylor- The person I usually suspect in be in tenth place is the person that best suits the question that I continue to ask myself: "How did this person make the top ten in the first place???" Burnell was a decent vocal talent, but so were many of the others he performed with. There isn't anything that sticks out on Burnell, except the fact that he's the top ten performer that wears hipster glasses. If I have complete control of who made up the top ten, Elijah Liu would have made it instead of Burnell. Even Vincent Powell would have been in my top ten before Burnell. His ride will be a quick one.

#9: Paul Jolley- Like Burnell, he was on the same level as Elijah and Vincent. The difference I see with Paul is that he sticks out slightly more than Burnell and this should help him... for about a week. Paul has a strange personality and that's something the show really enjoys. A prime example is the run that Heejun Han had on the show. I don't see Paul as being that odd, but that's his style and more power to him.

#8: Amber Holcomb- I am jumping on the bandwagon of those that believe that season twelve is bound to be a female victory for the first time since the sixth season in 2007. Unfortunately for Amber, I don't see her as being the season's victor. I do see a segment of the top ten in which more men will be eliminated over women, but Amber sticks out least of the females. She will be fighting for different votes and fall short in each. We will, however, see Amber as a singer with a great voice.

#7: Devin Velez- Devin is the Latino heartthrob of season twelve, even going to the point of including Spanish in his songs. We saw the same out of Karen Rodriguez in season ten, though when she did this with "Hero," it proved to be a one-hit wonder. I don't see Devin going down the same route, as I expect him to do slightly better. In fact, I expect to see Devin stick around and prove to be a mighty force in the world of singing ballads and covers in his own fashion, kind of how Michael Buble and Harry Connick Jr. have made a mark in the current music industry. He may only be #7 on this list, but he'll have a career outside of Idol.

#6: Candice Glover- Candice is a dynamic singer who should have a dynamic run into the competition. She's the female that can belt the strong notes and I expect her to do the same through the weeks to come. From who is in the competition, I would say that Candice will have an average run. We do have a male belter this season (Curtis) and a belter vs. belter run isn't usually common. Candice may fall short, but most definitely not before she has a dynamic performance or two.

#5: Lazaro Arbos- Lazaro has touched us with his background. While he stutters while he talks, he's glorious when he sings. It's like he's in a completely different place, floating through clouds as he takes us along with him. I could see Lazaro following the path of singers such as Josh Groban, though as I tend to believe, Lazaro will be a star in his own right. He's an inspiring contestant who doesn't let his condition get in the way of his dreams. He should be exciting to watch and pull off dynamic performances as well.

#4: Angie Miller- Angie had an excellent performance behind the piano, singing to a Colton Dixon song. Like Colton, she should break out throughout the competition and show that she possesses a special kind of talent. Unlike Colton, she should also see a further run into the competition. Despite having hearing problems, Angie has been a power force in the competition and she is underestimated, but incredibly talented. She's the northeastern competitor of the season, which should help geographically, but only to the extent that a non-southern contestant usually reaches.

#3: Kree Harrison- Kree's my dark horse of the year. She is definitely likable at the moment we speak, but she should have enough staying power to advance throughout the rounds and all the way to the final three. While she doesn't have an unusual reason for sticking out, she has a voice and that voice will be the reason she proves people wrong and makes it all the way to the final three. I could see her on contemporary stations more often than not.

#2: Curtis Finch Jr.- Curtis is the powerhouse of the season. Of each of the male contestants, I believe Curtis has the staying power and the likability to be one of the grand finalists in the competition. He has a powerful voice that can move just about anyone that listens AND a personality that makes him so likable that listening to him is an experience and a half. He should definitely see a high level of likability, which should contribute to his staying power throughout the competition.

#1: Janelle Arthur- I will stand with my mindset of believing that a female will win the twelfth season of Idol and say that Janelle is that female. I find her to be incredibly charming and is outgoing, but at the same time humble and tight with her roots. More importantly, she has a beautiful singing voice and that's what matters above all things. Janelle is just what American Idol is looking for and will show that you should never, ever give up on your dreams, as she did not make it live in seasons ten and eleven. This time around, she's back and better than ever. Her first live performance was of Elvis' "If I Can Dream," which was great," and shows she is a star in the making. Not only will she take part in some mega hits, like Carrie Underwood, but she will be a grand addition to the Grand Ole Opry and country music family, which is a strong and gracious one. Everything about her says star and that will mean an American Idol 12 victory. The third time is the charm!

The top ten performances start on Wednesday, with the first theme being of performances from past Idol's. This could be performance of theirs on the show or singles they released afterward. I don't know what to think of this theme, but if executed properly, could help steer them in the direction they're bound to go in the competition. I just hope they seek the opportunity to hold themes that they haven't touched upon before and that the performers sing songs that aren't touched as often. I don't want to hear "Hallelujah" or any other song that's performed just about every season of the show (it's not saying I dislike the song, it's that I don't like songs being performed time and time again, one moment is enough). Should be a great season and I look forward to seeing it progress!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Two Years On Blogger

On March 9, 2011, I submitted my first post to my blog. It was an introduction to a new home for a column that has been active since 2008. From 2008-2010, it was active in a newsletter. For a few months afterward, it remained active on Facebook. For the last two years, Blogger has been my home and it has been a great home indeed. I have not only had the opportunity to submit my work for others to read, I have also had the opportunity to seek out blogs written by fellow bloggers as well.

For my second anniversary, I will share some statistics as to the activity on my blog throughout the last two years. While I could compare and contrast the first year to the second, blogging is a growing process, and the fact that this blog is growing is what matters most. I may make some comparisons and the math can easily be done, but otherwise, I am going to give current numbers as to the progression of the blog, plus name my top ten posts with the most views.

In all honesty, I did not submit as many posts from 2012-2013 as I did from 2011-2012. The difference being that I have been juggling college, work, and fictional writing alongside my blogging, which is quite the challenge. I do my best to ration it out in the fashion I find the most appropriate. Fortunately, after two years, this here is my 181st post. While this means it's the 48th post since my first anniversary, it's still a high number. I'm just nineteen posts away from reaching the monumental 200th post, which any post that has a flashy number attached to it is worth celebrating. My goal is to reach my 200th post in 2013, which is most definitely achievable.

The page views seemed to remain at level, but overall, as I write this post, I have had a total of 13,327 pageviews. That in itself is an incredible number. I was beyond thrilled when I saw that I reached 10,000 pageviews. 13,327 pageviews shows that Caponomics is only making further progress and I'm ecstatic about it. Along with these views, there are fourteen followers, which is quite a healthy number of people who keep up with this blog. Anyone who reads from this blog is more than welcome to become a follower and joining is not difficult at all.

Now I shall look back at the content from the past two years and evaluate which are the ten most read. At the moment we speak, every post in the top ten has had at least 100 views, three figures is incredible, any which way you look at it. Here are the top ten...

#10- Let's Be Brutally Honest: Orange Juice Pulp Is Oh So Burdensome- This is the first time a post from this particular segment made the list and I actually wrote this one in August 2012, so this is the first time it was eligible for this list and it seems rightfully so. Here, I made mention at the fact that when drinking orange juice, the pulp simply interferes with an refreshing experience of waking up in the morning. While pulp is where the healthy nutrients reside, orange juice seems to have enough nutrients that you can do without the fingernail-like additions. I always have fun writing posts like these, because it's just a random nab that others may simply be able to relate to and while movies and politics are more likely to have critics and analysts, who ever said orange juice was off limits?

#9- Shark Tank Season 3, Episode 4- This is one of the returning posts from last year's top ten, only this one was #5 on the 2012 list and has since dropped to #9. I did, however, continue to get readers who enjoyed the episode of Shark Tank where a woman's with a towel that allows children to change in place known as "Show No" struck a deal with Lori Greiner and has since appeared in Disney World. Plenty of people have looked up Shark Tank by simply typing in what they want to know about the show and have been led to Caponomics. Incredible how things work!

#8- Shark Tank Season 3, Episode 3- This is another example of Caponomics being popular for recaps of Shark Tank, only this one did not even make the top ten last March. From the trend I have been seeing, it was the segment with "You Smell" that brought in plenty of readers and how there was a heated argument between each of the sharks before Robert Herjavec came out on top. This was also the episode that featured "Chord Buddy" and a cologne that smelled like money.

#7- Shark Tank Season 4 Premiere- The most recent episode of Shark Tank I had the opportunity to review was the season premiere, the season premiere of a season that would feature a complete season. Unfortunately, due to being stuffed with obligations, I haven't had the time to catch new episodes and some evidence could be how I did not find the opportunity to blog for two months. I did, however, make mention to some of the clueless responses from the entrepreneurs who were trying to get deals from the sharks and a trend of reasonable offers, but entrepreneurs that just wanted more. From what I've seen, this seems to be an ongoing trend this season. This, like #10, is one of my newer submissions, and in fact, the newest submission on this list.

#6- My Prediction: Anne Burrell Will Be The Next Iron Chef- While this prediction unfortunately did not come about, it still caught the attention of plenty of my readers. While it dropped from the second slot to the sixth, that's the way things go. People read to read and unfortunately for Anne Burrell, the fact she was on The Next Iron Chef is yesterday's news. It was Alex Guarnaschelli, who I'm not too fond of, that became the first female Iron Chef since Cat Cora departed. Well, it was a prediction and Anne Burrell is still an excellent and entertaining chef.

#5- Memorable Sax Solos- This is one of just four of the posts that doesn't have to do with Shark Tank that is on this list. Shark Tank is relevant, so it belongs. As for this post, it was relevant when it was written after the death of Clarence Clemons. Who doesn't love a good sax solo, though. You have Clarence Clemons and "Jungleland," Raphael Ravenscroft and "Baker Street," Eddie Money and "Take Me Home Tonight," and the list keeps going on and on and on. I think it's appropriate that I should mention that I will be doing a top ten ranking of my favorite sax solos within the upcoming months, but that will be when I get to it and I can appropriately rank the ten best sax solos.

#4- The Best Of Shark Tank Season 3- I must say that the third season of Shark Tank was the ultimate thrill ride. While they considered having guest sharks each episode, they decided to instead promote Mark Cuban to a full-time shark and have Lori Greiner sit in for Barbara Corcoran on four episodes. This was not just memorable because of the sharks, you also had some memorable moments, my favorite having to be the pitch for "I Want To Draw A Cat For You," which was a zany idea that featured a man who drew cats to fit special occasions, like a Hoops & Yo-Yo card, only better and without noise. He struck a deal with Mark Cuban. This and many more events are captured in my ode to the third season of a good program.

#3- Television Review: Shark Tank Season 3 Premiere- Unlike a few of my top ten viewed posts on this list, this one actually went upward, from seventh to third. From what I saw, one of the main questions people had in mind was why Kevin Harrington was let go without an explanation? The best assumed explanation would be that he did not stick out as the other sharks did and Mark Cuban would stick out better, but that's only an educated guess. Nevertheless, Harrington was one of the smartest and most successful sharks on the panel (heck, he's a pioneer of the infomercial industry). As for the premiere itself, it was a beginning of a successful season.

#2- Shark Tank Season 3, Episode 11- If we were only discussing posts I wrote from March 9th of last year to March 9th of this, this would be #1 on the list. This was written after year one, so it didn't appear in last year's post. This is the episode that featured two of the season's most memorable pitches. One of which was James Martin of "Copa Di Vino" making his clueless return and the other was Mark Sullivan and his "Sullivan Generator" that scientifically creates gold out of ocean water. Aside from the term "Caponomics," anything having to do with the Sullivan Generator has brought in more viewers than any other topic of interest. In exchange, this post is one of two with over 300 pageviews. In fact, it has 575 pageviews, so it's in second place all to itself and does not see any release coming.

#1- Top Notch Television: Ebert Presents At The Movies- Not much has changed with regard to the #1 slot on this list. Last year, this post surged with viewers and in August 2011 brought me over 1,000 views in a month, which was unheard of in my mind. However, in the world of blogging, anything is possible and anybody and everybody can check out your work. Unfortunately, this show was placed on an ongoing hiatus, due to funding issues, but Roger Ebert continues to review. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, who was one of the critics alongside Christy Lemire, is currently assisting Ebert to watching and reviewing films with a team of critics that include former At The Movies critic Richard Roeper as Ebert's undergoing rounds of therapy. Nevertheless, Ebert watches and reviews when he is able.

Like last year, I will also submit some memorable moments from the posts and monumental moments from last year that are worth noting...

Caponomics On Amazon- I have become active with submitting book reviews to Amazon and have thirty-nine at the moment we speak. I will provide a link if you wish to see my page and as of March 9, 2013, 79% of readers found my reviews helpful (22 out of 28 to be exact) and I rank 93,655th out of all of the reviewers on the site. Visit here if you want to read my reviews:

Two Successful Predictions... Or Three- I have come to realize that I have successfully predicted two things correct via my blog. The first was a victory of Phillip Phillips on American Idol 11. I was confident with his style and how he could make songs like Michael Jackson's "Thriller" and Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" his own, he was the person to beat. His victory song, "Home," is such a phenomenal hit, and his choking up at winning the program proved to be quite emotional. I also predicted that Jessica Sanchez would be the runner-up and got the top five (Phillip, Jessica, Skylar, Joshua, and Hollie) correct.

My NFL predictions were ultimately accurate. At the beginning of the season, I predicted that the Baltimore Ravens would win the Super Bowl... and they did. I'm quite pleased with this outcome, as I predicted they would win before, but they won it now and that's what matters most. I also predicted that Ray Lewis would retire if they won the Super Bowl, which he did and rightfully so. He went out on top, which is the best way to go. John Elway did it and anyone who has the opportunity should do the same (and not do what Brett Favre did). It's also funny that the team I predicted would do worst actually made the playoffs. This season, it happened to be the Minnesota Vikings. Let's see how they come out for next year, only that post will not be written until the beginning of September.

The 2012-2013 cycle was quite a year and we'll have to see what the 2013-2014 cycle brings. I will do my very best to submit more to this blog and will definitely make it to 200 posts by the end of the year, maybe 250, MAYBE even 300, but we'll just have to see. 200 posts is a definite goal and a reasonable one. Hope you enjoy this blog and I look forward to submitting more, because there is much more in store for Caponomics!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Let's Be Brutally Honest: Tinky Winky's Sexual Preference May Be A Mystery, But He's Definitely Feminine And Flamboyant

Okay, this post could have been far more relevant back in 1998, when I was one of the cultist (I'll admit, me and hundreds of others from the ages of two to twenty-two) of Ragdoll Productions hit show, Teletubbies, but at the same time, it could be perfectly relevant with regard to the issues that remain in the media to this very day. For the record, Teletubbies was a British program set in the fictional Teletubbyland, which is so happy, beautiful, always sunny, grassy, and covered with flowers and bunny rabbits. There lived four Teletubbies named Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa Laa, and Po, and a Noo Noo vacuum cleaner. They danced and engaged in plenty of their little adventures.

That's how someone who is simple-minded will look at the show. This is how a young one will look at the show. When you look deeper into the meaning of the show, you will realize that the show offers plenty of diversity. Dipsy is black (as is his actor, John Simmit), Po is of Asian descent (as is her actress, Pui Fan Lee), Laa Laa is energetic and somewhat of a tomboy (Nikki Smedley seems the same) and Tinky Winky is possibly gay... or at least he is flamboyant. In 1999, late Reverend Jerry Falwell mentioned that because Tinky Winky was a gay role model, due to the fact he's purple, has a triangular symbol on his head, and carries a red purse (deemed a "bag," but it looks like a red pocket book), and that nobody should watch the Teletubbies for this very reason. Even the original actor who played him, Dave Thompson, was dropped from the program because he made such as accusation of Tinky Winky being gay. Simon Shelton would eventually take over and he was the third to do such. I do not know too much about Shelton's background.

Another piece of evidence that could be offered is an episode where a tutu appeared out of nowhere like plenty of things (seems like symptoms of being on LSD). Tinky Winky, without hesitation, puts on the tutu and dances. Dipsy, the only other male that inhabits the land, is chased by Laa Laa before she forces him to wear it. Isn't this evidence of something???

Ragdoll Productions is known for covering diversity on their programs. On Tots TV, which I remember appearing on PBS on Saturday mornings, featured Tilly, who spoke a foreign language (on the American version, it was Spanish) and Tom was a black ragdoll, while Tiny was the exception to the rule as Laa Laa is on Teletubbies. Homosexuality seems to be more hush-hush, even in the nineties it was one of those things that wasn't fully accepted just yet (evidence: the Defense of Marriage Act signed by Bill Clinton). However, diversity is a good thing and that's what this show is trying to get across.

What cannot be confirmed is Tinky Winky is in fact a homosexual. The reason being that there were only two males on the program and one of which was definitely heterosexual and boyish in a way. There was no interest in expanding the program further than it was and that's a television show for toddlers. What can be confirmed is that Tinky Winky has feminine interests and can be described as flamboyant. The evidence is in the fact he has a bag that looks like a purse and the feminine interest, such as with the tutu, but doesn't that, being purple, having a triangular symbol on your head, and speaking more femininely come off as being difficult to call coincidence? Barney the Dinosaur may be purple, but aside from a bag he carries arts and crafts with, not as many examples exist. Barney does, however, have other personal issues that would be appropriate in a separate post. Ultimately, it's Ragdoll that holds the key to the final judgment.

Ultimately, who really calls??? Teletubbies has a male character with flamboyant interests, which is something that television shows don't cover very often. We usually someone who's black (like Gerald in Hey Arnold, Susie in Rugrats, and Clementine in Cailou), someone who's Jewish (like Harold in Hey Arnold, Tommy's maternal side of the family in Rugrats, and Leo in Cailou), among others that share diversity and that someone could relate to. This may be a nudge at the fact that, even if you're a boy, you can still do things that girls usually do more often. The moral to the story is that boys and girls can do anything they want to do, as long as they enjoy it and nobody gets hurt by these decisions, which should actually be the moral in how we all live.

In essence, unless you believe symbolism is your ticket to this particular judgment, there is no enough concrete evidence to provide ANY of the Teletubbies, let alone Tinky Winky, with a preference label (maybe Dipsy, but that's about that). I would say Tinky Winky holds more of a "dolls and dress-up" kind of mindset as oppose to a "trucks and action figures" disposition, but that's all dependent on psychological evaluation and I am not a therapist. There isn't anything wrong with it. It's just a topic starter that has several answers and that I would surely commend Teletubbies for possibly pondering such an area at such a young age. However, I would highly doubt that toddlers would be thinking of the diversity element. It's just that adults are individuals that have very complicated minds.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Check This Blog: Nikki's Blog

I'm a huge supporter of up and rising authors. Being someone who wants to write horror fiction, I know the long, bumpy road that it takes to make it to where you want to go and on many occasions, even more. Make this a rural road in the middle of nowhere. The best thing that an author could garner is recognition from a group of people that enjoy their work. That's where an author like Nikki Rae comes into the picture. Nikki Rae has recently released a new novel called Sunshine, that is the first of a series. It follows the life of a vampire girl and after a bitter ending to a relationship, she falls for a boy that happens to be a vampire and the creation of a vampire story has begun. My complete review for Sunshine is going to be written at a later time, because I need to first buy it for my Kindle Fire, which I should attempt to do. I will, however, review Nikki's Blog, which I am following and consists of not just information about her new novel, but also posts about books, life (though aren't books the meaning of life???), and short stories and poems, too.

Nikki's Blog is similar to my own blog in the way that it is not designated to a single topic. One moment, she's reviewing a book and the next she's writing a story. The key difference is that the writing isn't all expository, as there are creative pieces as well. I must say that these pieces are quite entertaining. My favorite at the moment has to be the "Red Fish, Blue Fish" short story that is quite twisted when you come to think of it. Building on her experience of working in a pet store, she creates a similar situation and of a narrator who buys fish and keeps a list. While the narrator says the list is of her fish, is it really about her fish??? Much of the creative posts are poems, which is quite reasonable for a blog. "The Painting" is an example of one of her intriguing poems, creating a warped feeling in your mind like you just read something by Franz Kafka, only he does this with short stories and not poetry. This is not a Monet kind of painting, but a dark, gloomy, bleak painting and a sense of uselessness fills the air. I'm not the expert on poetry, writing or interpreting, but I know what poetry I like and dislike, and I sure like this. There is also "The Island" and "Bambi."

While I cannot give you a complete overview of Sunshine just yet, the first chapter can be found on the blog. I'm not one to read sneak previews or even take part in anything that has to do with a sneak preview, because I like to have the finished product in my hand before I go full force in what I'm reading. I made an exception, because I felt it would be appropriate to review this. You learn just enough about Sophie in the first chapter that you are able to immediate sense who she is and where she's going to go as the novel progresses. That's an excellent quality for any kind of piece.

Definitely follow this blog. While you may have to do with the material you have thus far, it should definitely satisfy you, especially since you can easily reread the creative material. As you will learn, Sunshine is available for the Kindle and is just ninety-nine cents at the moment we speak. By July, I was informed that this novel will be available as a physical book (which I prefer, because I'm old-fashioned), but will do what I can to buy it for my Kindle. While I figure that out, go right ahead and give it a read. Read that, read her blog, and you will definitely feel satisfied.

Link to the blog:

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Book Review: "The Stranger" by Albert Camus

If you paid attention to what you were reading in high school, chances were at least some of you came across The Stranger, which was written in the 1940s by Nobel Prize in Literature winner Albert Camus. Perhaps, it was to provide an example to existentialism in literature or perhaps it was on a list of stories your high school English teacher selected from when it came to executing their lesson. With that being said, this short novel is one that will make you think deeper if you pay attention to what is going on. The Stranger is one of those novels that you should actually be able to enjoy, because it actually hooks you from the beginning and lingers in your mind far after the story is done.

I will provide a warning that I do not provide to most of my book reviews. There will be potential spoilers in this review. I am analyzing this novel as well as reviewing it, so if you were looking for a simple review and you yourself want to analyze it, I would advise that you stop reading and seek another review on Amazon, hoping there is a spoiler free review. I will tell you that this is a good novel with interesting characters involved in an interesting plot. This is a thinking person's piece.

If you are still reading this, the novel is about Monsieur Meursault and it follows his complex, but reasonable mind. Meursault's mother has just died, due to "old age," and he is attending her funeral. He is showing no outward emotion to these events and those around see this as being incredibly strange. Perhaps, Meursault is just holding these emotions in or he is just handling the situation a little more calmly than someone much handle it if they lost a loved one. There is also the suggestion that Meursault may simply not hold any emotion toward the situation. On the contrast, a close friend of his mother's, Thomas Perez, attends the funeral and shows incredible emotion and is saddened by the death of Meursault's mother, who was a friend of his.

Meursault's stance of an emotionless disposition is also exposed by the comic relief of the story, Salamano, who is constantly kicking and cursing at his elderly dog. He constantly refers to it as a "filthy, stinking bastard" and sees it more as a nuisance than a friend. Suddenly, the dog goes missing and he becomes emotional about the loss of his dog and is desperate to find the dog or have the dog return to him.

The turning point occurs when Meursault pays a visit to Masson's beach house with Raymond and Marie, the latter being a mistress he holds no emotion toward, even though he is taking part in her affair. An Arab, holding no name, is walking the beach in what Meursault sees as a threatening manner. Meursault pulls out a gun, the Arab pulls out a knife, and Meursault shoots him dead. He continues to shoot even it is assured that the Arab is in fact dead. While many see this as Meursault shooting the character for no reason, he could have very well felt threatened on the inside.

While those he knows, such as those at the beach house and Salamano, feel he's innocent, the prosecutor in the case feels he guilty. He doesn't necessarily feel that he's guilty because he committed or didn't commit the murder on the beach, but he felt that because he was emotionless and indifferent to many situations, such as not acting emotional when his mother died, that he was threatening in society. Meursault is sentenced to death.

Meursault is revealed as being an Atheist when he is arranged for his final rites. During a visit with the Chaplain, Meursault holds no interest in accepting them, because he is not ready to accept a belief in God, because he does not believe in his meaning to society. He ultimately drives the Chaplain out following a religious argument. Meursault sees the meaningless of life before being sent out to die.

Albert Camus may have not held an existentialist position, but Monsieur Meursault held a position that was incredibly mysterious to the reader. Meursault was emotionless and did not provide much of an explanation for how he thought and why he engaged in specific actions. Camus does an excellent job being able to portray and keep Meursault as consistent as possible, because this is a legitimate way for people to think. The author has the option as to whether or not he wants to play God and know what everybody is thinking. The author can even write the story in the protagonist or another character's point of view, so you automatically know what they are thinking. Camus takes the direction of being a writer who is making an observation, only providing a realistic view as to what Meursault and the others are thinking. That only makes Meursault's character stronger.

This novel is very short, just a little over one hundred pages, so there isn't incredible commitment. If you like to think or want to read something that will allow you to exercise your mind, buy this novel and enjoy. Unless you're like me and you own a boat load of books, reading this novel a second time to figure out what you missed the first time shouldn't hurt either. Albert Camus' The Stranger is a piece that you will surely enjoy time and time again and it will make an excellent central topic for book discussions, too.

Verdict: 10/10

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Chris Christie For New Jersey Governor In 2013

In this day and age, it's very difficult to find a political figure that is satisfying to say the very least. Granted, people from forty years ago would be saying the same thing, because issues existed, but were different from the ones we have. Aside from the more Libertarian-minded candidates like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, another unique Conservative (per se) figure that I have always been quite impressed with is the current governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. I could have written this post a few months from now when the gubernatorial race began to heat up or I could have written this a few months ago, because this endorsement of mine was set from the beginning. Anyhow, Gov. Christie, while not everybody's favorite guy, has done a heck of a job getting New Jersey back on the right path.

Before Chris Christie won the gubernatorial election in 2009, the governor was Jon Corzine... from Goldman Sachs. While in office, Corzine raised taxes, which includes a 1% raise of the sales tax from 6% to 7% of every dollar, he issued the toll hike from 70 cents one way to what is now $1.50 at major tolls and is only expected to increase, plus he signed plenty of burdensome, useless laws into effect. One of these happens to be Kyleigh's Law, which requires probationary drivers under the age of 21 to place red decals on their license plates. He did abolish the death penalty in the state, which includes lifting the sentences of those set to be put to death, but that all comes down to what you believe. Christie, who won the election by about 4% of the vote in what could be called a "Jersey Landslide," had a lot on his hands.

Instead of following the trend of raising taxes, Christie decided to cut spending. This is a common sense tactic that leaders should always follow. If you're $100 in debt, you don't solve the problem by spending $200. That doesn't put you up $100, it only puts you down $300. While this meant having to say "no" to funding some entitlement programs, it did provide an opportunity to seek strategies to get the New Jersey economy rolling, such as the promotion of casinos and racetracks. One of the biggest decisions he had to make was cancelling the creation of a fourth connection from New Jersey to New York. We currently have the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels, plus the George Washington Bridge. While a fourth connection could have created jobs (which I am entirely a supporter of), the money just wasn't there to fund the project, and three connections is still three options. Maybe when New Jersey is in better condition, we may be able to revisit this plan.

Gov. Christie also stands up for what he believes in and isn't afraid to veto something he disagrees with. When the Democratic Senate tried to pass laws in the categories of raising taxes for the upper class, approving same-sex marriage, raising the minimum wage, and forcing dogs to be buckled in when riding in cars, he vetoed them. While many of these are for debate, his stances are quite far. With regard to same-sex marriage, he has stated he will keep the civil union laws in the state, only he doesn't agree with it being "marriage." Many of Republicans would attempt to ban it. The raising of the minimum wage would only decrease jobs, the raising of taxes for the wealthy is one for debate, and no one should even need to debate a law requiring how you keep your dogs in a vehicle.

Another great idea from Gov. Christie is his "Ask The Governor" segment that often plays on the radio. What this shows is a governor that cares for the citizens of New Jersey and is willing to provide an answer to any concerns the listeners may have. I cannot remember any governor doing something like this.

At the moment we speak, the front-running Democratic candidate is Barbara Buono, who is part of the New Jersey State Senate. While she is credited as author of the Anti-Bullying law, she is also part of the Democratic force that believes that the way to solve New Jersey's problems is to create laws. In reality, laws only affect those who follow them. Barbara Buono would be your candidate if you would like to return to the New Jersey of the Corzine era, with more nonsense laws, higher taxes, $5.00 tolls on the Garden State Parkway, and more state government control to go along with the growing federal government control. Carl Bergmanson and William Araujo are the other Democratic candidates.

I believe that Chris Christie is the man that will continue to do the job and do it well in the state of New Jersey for the next four years. He's dealt with the NJEA, a Democratic State Senate, and even Hurricane Sandy, which he's currently doing his best to resolve. He is even presidential material for the political diversity he shows on dealing with those from different party lines. I cannot and will not make an endorsement for the U.S. Presidential Election in 2016, but I can and will definitely assert that Gov. Christie is the one that will continue to push New Jersey in the right direction.