Sunday, April 21, 2013

Thoughts And Points For April 21, 2013: Events Current And Semi-Current

Due to my filled schedule that is filled with the elements of everyday life, I have not been able to blog as much as I wished to during the month of April. Once the semester comes to a close, however, I should be able to find the time to contribute to working on my horror fiction writing (my goal is to get published in an upcoming anthology, which will require polishing up a work of mine, and then edit my short novel) and then work on some blogging. I have a lot in store.

I created "Thoughts And Points" to briefly discuss random events in one post and for this segment, I have a wild bunch of things I will be covering. This is going to be one of those occasions where television and politics are in the same room with one another and both of them can get heated in their own special way.

Here we go...

Janelle Arthur Has Been Eliminated From Idol, But Kree Has Started To Grow On Me

My predictions for this season of Idol have been all but destroyed. I thought Curtis would be the runner-up and he turned out being the first one eliminated. My pick to win was Janelle, but she was eliminated during the past show. I knew that a female would win this season of Idol, but I wasn't going to make the official assumption that the males were a poor bunch this season. They were. Curtis was the only one that had some form of staying power and he dropped out of the competition like a fly, Devin had a good voice, but not the popularity, Lazaro struggled when he made the Top 10, and Paul and Burnell should have never made the Top 10 to start with.

Janelle unfortunately picked the wrong songs during this part of the competition, going with "Gone" by Montgomery Gentry and "Dumb Blondie" by Dolly Parton instead of songs that could have defined her throughout the competition. Throughout these weeks, what I did learn was that Kree Harrison began to grow on me and she quickly became a favorite of mine. Her cover of "Crying" by Roy Orbison immediately caught my attention, being a fan of Roy Orbison's music and "Crying" is one of my favorites, and she did an excellent job capturing the emotion (what Nicki Minaj had to say about waffles was highly immature). Kree went on to have stellar performances with "Don't Play That Song" (by Aretha Franklin), "Piece Of My Heart" (by Janis Joplin during her days with Big Brother and the Holding Company), and especially "Help Me Make It Through The Night" (written by Kris Kristofferson and sung by several, but most notably by Sammi Smith). Her own idol is Patsy Cline, who is one of my favorite singers, so on several occasions, Kree has won me over. I hope she wins it all!

Speaking Of Idol, I Can't Stand Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj seems to be the judge that speaks her mind this season, but she's also the most aggravating on the table. She spends the most time speaking and 80% of what she has to say is fluff. The whole analogy with the waffles was ridiculous and the names she has for people seem more appropriate for her pets, leaving me to wonder what kind of pets she has. The one thing that disturbs me is that if somebody came onto American Idol and sung like her, the judges would look at them and dismiss them from the competition immediately. They might as well allow Stephanie Sanson, who goes on competitions like Idol, The X-Factor, and America's Got Talent to scream sing, to advance in the competition. As a judge, she has had fights with Mariah and got into a Twitter argument with Devin after he was eliminated (though the blame could be put on both for this one). Not very professional. I, for one, am hoping that Nicki Minaj is one and done for American Idol.

On A Different Subject, It's Difficult To Declare How To Handle Gun Control

After the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December, this current administration has discussed the need for stricter gun laws. I am a strong advocate for the entire constitution, let alone the second amendment, but the reason I don't agree with these laws are because I feel that they are not going to work against the people they should work against. The people that we don't want possessing weapons of this kind are criminals or psychopaths like Adam Lanza. As we know from experience, criminals don't follow rules and regulations. They are bound to find a loophole that we allow them to pick up a gun anyway. This includes robbing the gun, purchasing the gun in a sneaky format that may include false identification, or purchasing from someone who doesn't follow the laws either. Before we worry about people who are purchasing for protection and self-defense, we need to worry about shutting down opportunities for criminals and psychopaths to arise. Unfortunately, we cannot make assumptions and we have no idea whether or not somebody's going to engage in such an activity. What we need to do is study further into mental issues and do our best to seek signs and whether or not we can prevent such events from happening.

A pattern of common sense is that people who are looking to engage in a violent episode look to a defenseless environment. Someone who is looking to engage in a rampage isn't going to go where people are going to shoot right back. That's a part of common sense. Plus, it has been recorded that more crimes happen to areas that have tight gun control laws. I'm not saying that people need to start arming themselves in public, but I feel that we need to think before we tighten gun control laws.

While We Need To Stop Bashing Same-Sex Marriage, It's NOT Issue #1

I am a supporter of LGBT rights and same-sex marriage to the point that it doesn't interfere with a church's practices. This means that it should be legalized within the eyes of the government and couples should have the right to get married in ceremonies or through religions that are okay with the practice. My only belief is that if a church does not agree with it, then the government should not force them to hold such a ceremony, whether this be through direct threat or threat through making them pay taxes. I feel that someone should be with the person they love, their marriage should be recognized as such the same as if it were a heterosexual couple, and if they want to adopt a child, they should have every right. The only arguments that can be made are religious and scientific (the latter based on reproduction), but the scientific issues should be resolved through artificial insemination, surrogates, or adoption.

What I don't agree with is that we need to worry about this issue first. My belief is that the economy, jobs, and security come first. We need to make sure that everyone has an equal opportunity to work and make a consistent income. We also need to make sure we are balancing the budget and not throwing money away (which has been difficult in recent years). On top of that, we need to do our best to be prepared for anything and everything. While it is my belief that the government has no right to define marriage, it is not our first worry.

In March, while we were worried about such an issue, Obama approved the Monsanto Protection Act, which allows genetic modification of the food we eat. The genetic modification in food is the method of vastly producing food and then destroying the crop after one go-around. In a way, we are eating chemically enriched products and we have no idea what's going in to what we're eating. We should be extremely concerned about this, because it doesn't matter who you are, everybody has to eat.

A lot has been floating around during this period of time as 2013 has become an eventful year. My thoughts and prayers go out to anybody who was affected in the explosions that occurred on Monday during the Boston Marathon and I am very thankful that the two monsters that were behind these activities were brought down, one of which was killed while the other is detained and is currently in critical condition. It's just incredibly unfortunate how events like these are going on.

I will do my best to have some more posts up within the coming weeks.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Check This Blog: The Girl Who Loves Horror

It was my intention to review this blog in March, but time constraints bumped me to reviewing this blog at this time, but I guess it was for all of the right reasons. I learned that today is Michele, who is The Girl Who Loves Horror's birthday and tomorrow is her third year anniversary with Blogger, which are two mighty accomplishments (a birthday is an accomplishment of surviving to see another year, an anniversary is a celebration of the length of an actual accomplishment). That means I'll be conducting a celebration here on Caponomics to convince you guys to check out this creepy, scary, and delightful page.

Michele, known as The Girl Who Loves Horror, began blogging on April 13, 2010 with a post about Stephen King, which is just about, in my mind, the best way you can get a horror blog off the ground. Stephen King is the master of the genre and the father of modern day horror fiction. She discussed her adventures with books of his from Needful Things to her favorites that include The Long Walk and Bag Of Bones to those she didn't like as much, such as The Tommyknockers. I actually read Bag Of Bones throughout and agree with her stance 110% that this was an accomplishment on Stephen King's behalf. This was written during an era that he also wrote Hearts In Atlantis and The Green Mile, which were three of his strongest novels... ever!

Before I go on a tangent about comparing our views of Stephen King novels, Michele writes anything that has to do with the horror genre. Much of her writing has to do with horror films, many are b-rate, but plenty of horror movie enthusiasts enjoy b-rate horror films. Most recently, she wrote reviews for Evil Dead, which is a 2013 film, Trilogy of Terror, which is part of an anthology from 1975, and a lukewarm review for The Possession. One of her memorable reviews, though not necessarily a horror flick, had to do with the panning of The Garbage Pail Kids, which was not shocking when you look at how other films based off of toys have performed.

The thing I like most about The Girl Who Loves Horror is that I clearly feel like I was invited to Michele's place to hang out. It feels like I'm getting an exciting, but at the same time thorough review with what ever topic she's discussing, whether it be a horror film, book, or anything else having to do with the category. She's also incredibly honest with what she thinks about a certain topic and how she's going to approach the topic, even if it includes showing spoilers. I like to go to a blog in order to read something and compare notes if I have watched or read what was reviewed, and then discuss the topic. That can be accomplished on this blog. While horror films have not been an interest, reading this blog keeps encouraging me to go about and watch some more. Like she pointed out with her review of The Possession, there are just too many mainstream horror films that are out there. She calls herself a "horror snob" by saying such a thing, but I see her as a "horror enthusiast" that could be deemed an "expert." She's right, because much of the horror we see in theaters is so much the same it's become a cliche.

Michele also is not afraid to express her passion for blood and gore. The bloodier and gorier, the better. Evidence can be found within the reviews, but also the birthday cakes that were shown for her birthday this year. I couldn't even imagine a cake with fingers, or a cake shaped like a brain, or shaped like a heart. That's a horror guru for you!

If you're a horror enthusiast, I would place my wagers that you have left this post and already liked the page. If not, I highly encourage you to do so, because this is gold. You will seek an insight of some horror films you may have missed, but should really check out. You may also find horror films you have watched and come up with an interesting agreement or second opinion. If you have a weak stomach, this may not be for you... but I say this blog has a lot to offer to just about anyone else that can control their stomach. This is very fun to read and you will keep reading until you've had enough. Then you will be excited to see what else is in store. If you love horror, this is your treasure chest buried beneath the floorboards with that chopped up body.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hot Product: Ben & Jerry's Cannoli Ice Cream

I wanted to start this article by sharing some good news. I have reached 14,000+ page views and am returning to a stronger flow that I haven't really seen within the last year. Then again, I have not been able to contribute as much to my blog as I have currently been doing. Being a college student and employee, I do my best. There are people who have heavier loads and more challenging circumstances.

Now to a new segment I am creating for Caponomics. This segment is called "Hot Products" and provides me the opportunity to promote a product that I believe you should go out and buy the next moment you have after you finish reading my review. This product is one that I really suggest you go out and buy, because it is part of a limited batch, so at the moment, it's only going to be around for a limited amount of time. This product is Ben & Jerry's Cannoli ice cream. I have been aware of Ben & Jerry's being creative with their flavors, from the original Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (one of my favorites) to Cherry Garcia, Chunky Monkey, Cinnamon Bun (another favorite), and plenty of others that I could go about naming (go to their website if you want a complete list, discontinued flavors included). Their Cannoli ice cream happens to be one of their newest, if not the newest, and it's just oh so delicious.

I first learned about Ben & Jerry's Cannoli ice cream at my job as a cashier at a supermarket. The moment I heard of a "cannoli ice cream," I needed to get my hands on it as soon as I could. This ice cream happens to be a Marscapone ice cream as in Marscapone cheese, usually used to make Tiramisu. There is also a Marscapone swirl and chunks of fudge flavored shell, appropriate as the shell is what holds the cannoli cream and the shell is often chocolate covered. Returning to the first point, Cannoli ("cannolo" is singular, "cannoli" is plural, which is a common mistake for translations of Italian food) are usually filled with Ricotta cheese, not Marscapone, which when sweetened makes a strong contribution to the flavor.

When I first tried the Ben & Jerry's Cannoli ice cream, I thought it was very sweet (as one of my coworkers also claimed) and thought it tasted more like parfait as oppose to a cannoli. I tried it again and thought it was okay. On about the third attempt, I realized that this was a delicious ice cream in its own unique way. I may not have the same feeling while eating this ice cream that I do while eating a real, ricotta based cannoli, but I feel a different kind of refreshing, Ben & Jerry's feeling while I eat this ice cream. The fudge chunks really compliment the cream cheese tasting ice cream that dances alongside it. The only part that could really be deemed as "fudge" is the coating of the outer shell. That means the chunks are hollow and crunchy, not brownie-like or chewy. I, for one, like this trait. I taste the chocolate shell and that's what matters most. The ice cream is just creamy in the rich sense, not necessarily in the ice cream sense, but in the way that Marscapone cheese is supposed to be when it's playing a role in the ice cream.

The best part about this ice cream is that Ben & Jerry's is a trustworthy brand that does everything they can to remain natural. The ice cream is more expensive than another pint of ice cream (with the exception of Haagen Dazs), but for all of the right reasons. It's quality is what's vital and matters most in its creation. I have had homemade cannoli ice cream, or "chocolate chip ricotta" ice creams, as it was simply a "cannoli cream" and not a "cannoli" ice cream. While the cheese may be different, I enjoy this product as a Ben & Jerry's product and will continue to buy and enjoy it.

At the moment, Cannoli ice cream is part of a "Limited Batch," which means Ben & Jerry's is only making so much before they take a break or halt production. They are, however, open to hearing people suggest as to whether or not they should make more. I, for one, hold the belief that they should and after you have a taste (or two or three), I'm quite sure you'll feel the same way. This is absolutely delicious and I intend to keep on buying. Well done, Ben & Jerry's!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Balcony Is Closed: RIP Roger Ebert

A few months ago, Roger Ebert made the decision to bring in a team of critics that included Richard Roeper, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Nell Minow, among others to review the movies he was not able to watch, due to health reasons. Earlier this week, Ebert announced that he would be taking a leave of absence, because the cancer he was fighting a few years back returned. Now he's gone, dying from complications from this returning cancer at the age of 70. When we see death in such a fashion, we have to believe that something more was going on in the process, but Ebert remained optimistic and that's all we can ask from arguably the greatest film critic of all time.

Roger Ebert began his career as a film critic for the Chicago Sun Times on April 3, 1967, celebrating his forty-sixth anniversary just yesterday. In 1975, he became the first critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism, helping him garner an even larger name in the market of cinema. This name grew larger when he teamed up with long time colleague Gene Siskel of the rivaling Chicago Tribune with their show Coming Soon To A Theater Near You. From there, various of collaborations occurred in the At The Movies in which one would review the movie before both of them would discuss... or debate... the film. For nearly the next twenty-five years, the two would engage in heated and entertaining discussions. Unfortunately, Gene Siskel died in 1999 from a brain tumor at the age of 53. Ebert began teaming up with various critics before teaming up with Richard Roeper, who became the co-critic for the series. Ebert's health issues began with thyroid cancer in 2002 and then a stronger cancer that required surgery in 2006. This surgery left Ebert without much of his jaw and the inability to consume food or speak. Ebert did, however, return and produce as much as he have ever produced. He kept up with a new world of internet presence through blogging and Facebook. He even made appearances on his series, Ebert Presents At The Movies, which was his newest revival that unfortunately did not hold up to the demands of public broadcasting.

Roger Ebert's reviews were always top quality. He had passionate things to say about good films and blunt things to say about bad ones. It was Ebert that admitted he "hated, hated, hated this movie" (which he said about the 1994 film North) and wasn't afraid to tell Rob Schneider that, "your movie sucks!" (which he was referring to Schneider's 2005 film Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo). I always looked forward to reading what Mr. Ebert had to say about the upcoming films each week. I visited his website every Thursday when new reviews were hot off the press and collected his books, from the yearly editions to the special editions. Reading his reviews did something that I feel was the most important trait a critic, whether it be of his caliber or someone simple like me could do, review like you were having a lunch conversation with someone about a film, but at the same time make it professional enough for the general public.

I am going to admit, and proudly so, that when I engaged in writing in the opinionated, column format, I had Roger Ebert on my mind. Of course, I would write my reviews like I was putting a piece of my own personality and taste in it, but Ebert taught me that I don't have to be stiff with how I write. All I have to do is present my topic to the best of my ability and have a good time doing it. Even if this means cracking humorous lines here and there.

A big regret of mine will be never having the ability to meet him in person. It would have been an honor to meet him, even if it was just seeing him in person and not necessarily having a regular conversation. Mr. Ebert has, however, answered two of the questions I had asked on either his page or the Ebert Presents At The Movies page. One was a question I had about how Gene Siskel never had a review collection and why I couldn't find his reviews, which it turns out his reviews were never collected. The second was one I asked just a few months ago about how his team of critics still had the "Ebert rating," which I was wondering if they were writing with his opinion or writing their own. Ebert mentioned that it should say "Critic's rating." Both of his responses came within a day, which I really thank him for. It's an honor to have him answer these questions, even if Facebook makes this task slightly easier.

Roger Ebert was the critic that brought the interest of film criticism to television, his use of the "thumbs up and thumbs down" became a trend, and our outlook of film changed drastically because of his ideas for enlightening our interest in the cinema. His final review was for The Host, which was a film based off of Stephanie Meyer's novel. Those who are anti-Twilight may cringe to such a fact. His last written piece, however, was an emotional announcement that he was taking a leave of absence. His last line, appropriate enough, was "See you at the movies." Many of people feel that this is a sign of the end, given that Gene Siskel announced he was taken a few months off for a brain tumor operation he did not survive and Andy Rooney announced he was retiring but may make occasional appearances before dying a month later. This sign was true.

Roger Ebert will go down in history as a complete innovator to the world of criticism in general, let alone film criticism. Plenty of my friends who write reviews sight him as an influence, which I totally join them in doing. While people may deem that he is arguably the greatest film critic of all time, I'll admit to believing that he is, in fact, the greatest film critic of all time. He has been for the last forty years and will continue to be for the next forty years and beyond.