Sunday, June 30, 2013


I just wanted to inform all of my followers that starting tomorrow, Google Reader will no longer be active and following blogs will occur through a site known as Bloglovin. I am wondering how this blogging experience will be, but it should make for something completely different. It seems like this will be the start of a new adventure.

Here's the link to where to go:

<a href="">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Monday, June 24, 2013

Song Review: "MacArthur's Park" (1968) by Richard Harris

One-hit wonders have the ability to either satisfy you because they're so catchy or annoy you for the very same reason. These types of songs always find a way to stick out in a very strange way before the artist has the inability to stick around much longer (and I am gaining hope against that Psy's "Gentleman" did absolutely nothing to meet the ranks of "Gangnam Style"). These singers leave their mark in music, but its their song that really leaves its place in music. I previously reviewed "In The Year 2525" and will now review another one-hit wonder in a sense, only this one I just don't get and it's more laughable than incredible. Then again, anything is bound to be laughable when it's sung by Albus Dumbledore. Well... technically it's not the cunning, smooth talking wizard that oversees Hogwarts that sings the song, but his original actor does, this being Richard Harris. The song is "MacArthur's Park," which is only a one-hit wonder of the basis that this was Harris' only hit. A more memorable cover came out in 1978 when Donna Summer made it into a disco hit.

Everything about this song is strange and in many cases aggravating. It's seven minutes and twenty-one seconds and has just three verses and the chorus is sung three times. The rest is musical fluff of different verses that are beyond strange. The soft, smooth sailing background starts the song, but then it concentrates on its instrumental background before becoming randomly upbeat and this upbeat music has absolutely no contribution to the song.

As for the meaning of the song itself: Wow! Just wow! Jimmy Webb, who wrote for Glen Campbell, wrote this song about his former girlfriend and how they would spend time in MacArthur's Park in Los Angeles. Much of the song is metaphorical and he makes plenty of comparisons. The most memorable is how he compares his contributions to this relationship as "leaving a cake out in the rain" and that he "just can't take it, cause it took so long to bake it, and he'll never have the recipe again..." an awkward "oh no" can be added if you wish.

Let's go over the whole cake analogy, because the song heads right into that direction the moment it is mentioned. My impression of initially listening to this song is about a man who's whining about leaving a cake out in the rain and that he's upset, because he spent a long time baking this cake... which leads me to believe, "why the heck would you be putting the cake in such a dangerous situation out in the rain???" Richard Harris does a decent job capturing the emotion, but it's so awkward that it's laughable. Plus he has a silly concept for a song to contend with.

This would be the kind of song I could imagine being played at an old-fashioned dentist's office, where they tend to play classical, easy listening music. The only issue would be that there's a strong chance that anybody that listened to this song would not want to return to this dentist. "MacArthur's Park" is just too strange to enjoy. Even while Donna Summer's version of the song was more upbeat and a bit better on the concept that everything blended together, it was just the disco music that made the song something to listen to. The song is very over the top in its lyrics and its emotion, which perhaps could have been a deciding factor as to why Richard Harris became the original Dumbledore before he died after the filming of The Chamber Of Secrets. I heard a bit of Dumbledore in this performance.

I will leave a link to this song in order to allow you to understand what I'm talking about. By all means, I urge you to refrain from downloading this song onto your musical device, unless this kind of ridicule is entertaining in your mind. This video is owned by the person who downloaded the video and the song is owned by its original creators and record label.

RIP Richard Matheson

It was incredibly unfortunate to hear the death of author Richard Matheson. He was just about the greatest author in the field of speculative fiction as a whole, primarily in the background of science fiction, horror, psychological, and situation, finding every possible opportunity to include a mix of each of these genres. Matheson was the mind behind the novels I Am Legend and The Shrinking Man (though people may remember it better as The Incredible Shrinking Man) and several short stories, such as "Button, Button," which was later adapted into The Box in cinema, and "Nightmare At 20,000 Feet," which like many of his short stories was adapted into an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Richard Matheson died after a lengthy illness yesterday at the age of 87, but he left behind a heavy resume that included plenty of memorable pieces. Last summer, I read The Shrinking Man, and thought it was just an excellent, "a-ha" kind of read, ending in a twist that we could have expected coming, but were thrown off by to begin with. Since many of Matheson's novels were small enough to be called novellas or short novels, many of them are accompanied by his memorable short stories. I read "Button, Button," and thought it was an absolutely excellent concept and was executed so well. One of the stories we don't hear much about is "The Test," which is a short story about an older man who is studying for a test (primarily mental information) that will determine whether or not he lives or dies in a futuristic society. Perhaps, I will reread it and put together a short story review for that underrated and overlooked work. The Shrinking Man, as you may remember, made it onto my list of "The Ten Best Books I Read In 2012" as #5.

Richard Matheson wasn't only a thrill to read, but he has inspired the tone I use in my writing, which is thinking in a "what-if" kind of way. The "what-if" way of thinking is crucial when it comes to writing an excellent speculative piece and Matheson was fantastic at executing it. He will definitely be missed, but his works will always live on. As a collection of his clearly states and I will tweak to make it more fitting, "he is and always will be legend."

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Updated Battle Of McDonalds vs. Burger King

In March 2009, while writing the Caponomics segment for the Bulldog Business, I launched an idea known as the "battle of the forces" where I would pit two similar things together, review them both, and then declare which one I preferred. Let's call this a blog post, column formatted version of "This or That," which has become quite the game for people who like to engage in a simple conversation, which strangely enough, I was already engaging in. The first "battle of the forces" I had was for the fast food giants of McDonalds and Burger King. I don't know how it works around you, but around me, McDonalds and Burger King are chief competitors and if you see a McDonalds somewhere down a road, you're sure to find a Burger King to go with it. Both restaurants are known for their burgers, fries, chicken nuggets, and in addition a key product. Both are global sensations, perhaps two of the biggest businesses and most definitely the biggest eateries. Wendy's, which is closing in at number three, is fast growing, but they will remain an "independent candidate" that plays a similar role as H. Ross Perot did in the 1992 presidential election.

Much has changed since I attended both places, so the scoreboard may read differently, given that four years makes a crucial difference.


McDonalds held a reputation as being the unhealthiest of the unhealthy with their incredibly greasy food and fries that were known for being drenched in salt and fried massively in animal fat. When Morgan Spurlock came out with Super Size Me, he put McDonalds under the spotlight while spending thirty days eating nothing but food on the McDonalds menu, having to eat something different everytime. He gained about forty pounds and had to go through a grueling process to shed the weight off. Don Gorske is also known to have eaten Big Macs almost everyday for the last forty-one years. If any restaurant has garnered a reputation for being "junk food junction," it's McDonalds.

In recent years, McDonalds has made an attempt to change their reputation as being "junk food junction" and being "McDonalds: The Restaurant You Can Eat At, Enjoy, and Not Have To Worry," which they have gone in a somewhat decent direction of doing, but that doesn't mean the quality of their food got any better. Their key target was children when they brought Ronald McDonald and his gang of friends (Grimace, Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, etc.) together and even to the common fast food eater, but now they want people to come in without the worry that McDonalds will be BAD for them.

The result: food that is toned down from the greasy presentation. The last time I remember going, I have had a hamburger, Chicken McNuggets, and fries. The regular burger has a bun, patty, ketchup, pickles, and onions... and I'm not fond of onions chopped up on my burger, even if they look like relish. Luckily, I could remove them quickly. Goes to show you who has the better burger. The McNuggets are something I'm not fond of, because the breading is so dry and the chicken is just so chewy that I'm better off skipping this portion of the meal. The fries always seemed to be what made up the best part of the meal. Unfortunately, I feel they have become shriveled and wet, without the assertive taste from way back when.

I don't see McDonalds as being the hot restaurant they once were, even on the standpoint of what they have to offer with regard to their advertisements. The Filet O' Fish commercials ("give me back that Filet O' Fish") were the last good thing going for them. Aside from the "fishy, fishy!" commercials, nothing sticks out. The only time I seek out a McDonalds is when that is the only place worth going to, which in many cases there is always a place that's worth visiting. So unless you have picky children that are so meticulous that you have no other option, look elsewhere. At least the food is somewhat edible. Verdict: 4/10

Burger King

I have always liked Burger King over McDonalds; in addition, I will seek a Burger King when for some reason I have the urge for burgers and fries in the way that fast food has to offer. Of course, Burger King is not the greatest place on the face of the planet, but the food is somewhat more decent than Mickey D's. This is, however, up for debate.

Nobody should lead you to the notion that just because they weren't the center of a film means that Burger King is a healthy place to go. Burger King has its quirks just as McDonalds does. It just so happens that Burger King doesn't have signs that are as defining, thus they have been able to fly under the radar and continue to remain consistent with the basic structure of their food. While McDonalds is home to the Big Mac, Burger King is home to the Whopper, which is their central advertising point when the basic burger, nuggets, and fries aren't enough.

Like I do at McDonalds, I order the basics from Burger King as well: a burger, nuggets, and fries. They have always had the better burger, consisting of a bun, patty, ketchup, and pickles... without onions, so it tastes delicious and simple. Not much has changed for the burger, but there has been some changes for the nuggets and fries, one became better while the other became worse. The nuggets became... worse... in the way that they are following the method used by McDonalds in which they are dry and chewy, no more confidently fried tenders. While it's a healthier choice, people come to Burger King to experience a tasty delight. What they have now may solve the healthy option, but that's about it. The fries, on the other hand, have become far better in the way that they are more solid and confident, with a taste that's much more dominant, salty and delicious. It's quite common to hear the method of going to Burger King for the burgers and then to McDonalds for the fries, when in actuality, if your getting your major meal from Burger King, you might as well stay for the fries. At this point, you might as well get everything at Burger King and tell McDonalds to have a nice day.

On the advertisement end, Burger King introduced the creepy looking "King" that eventually retired from the commercials. Though they have continued to attract the people they intend to attract, primarily men between the ages of 16-30, but at the same time appeal to the kids, women, and to others, but they have not made the move of bending over backwards to satisfy everybody. They went with the method of satisfying everybody by being themselves and letting nature do the rest. That's the way that things should be played. If your children have the urge for burgers, nuggets, or fries, or the urge to eat fast food and only fast food, come to Burger King, primarily if they ask specifically or ask with room for leeway. The verdict I gave from the last time compared to this time is no different from 2009, because everything evens out, better fries, worse tenders/nuggets, consistently satisfying burgers. Verdict: 8/10

...and then you have Wendy's

I shouldn't leave Wendy's out of this battle, because they are the strong, "third party" in this equation. Wendy's is drastically growing and taking the attention away from both restaurants. On the advertisement end, Wendy's is massively excelling both restaurants put together. Remember, McDonalds has not had a good commercial since the "give me back that Filet O'Fish" days. Wendy's has had the three guys eating Wendy's with funny interactions, listening to the sea, the cartoon version of the Wendy girl interacting in some way with the commercial, and most recently, the actual Wendy that inspired Dave Thomas to name the restaurant "Wendy's" from the start.

The food is somewhat satisfying, but I would still take Burger King over Wendy's if I had the choice. Their food is of good quality, but it plays the role of a fast food/restaurant joint hybrid better than the others. Perhaps, that is a good thing, but there isn't really an element that sticks out in my mind that would encourage me "hey, let's go to Wendy's," because it's so centered between "let's get fast food" and "let's go out to eat" that it fizzles in the frey when a decision needs to be made.

I would still suggest this place as an alternative when Burger King isn't around. In addition, I will say that Wendy's is making the greatest improvement and Dave Thomas has connected himself with his restaurant better than the others (though Ray Kroc and McDonalds do go hand in hand). Must be from the time he spent with his good friend Colonel Harland Sanders. Verdict: 7/10

My views have not changed from four years ago: Burger King wins the battle! Of course, I know plenty of people that would debate me in this subject. When I first submitted it to my school newsletter, a fellow student found me and immediately told me how he disagreed with my point of view. Granted, he only looked at the scores (at that time, McDonalds had one more point and Burger King was still the same), so that's just about that.

I look at what I expect from a fast food restaurant and that's simple and delicious, without too much of the additional, fluffy pieces that these restaurants try to put on. Sonic failed to make this post, because it failed to appeal to my tastes. When I say don't put something on, I mean don't put something on. White Castle and Checkers just don't appeal to me, which is why they weren't involved. Burger King is the fast food joint that allows you to "have it your way," as their slogan goes, and as far as a fast food restaurant is concerned, that's exactly what they do. Of course, I would rather visit a regular restaurant, but sometimes we like simple, and fast food is simple, which Burger King perfectly satisfies.

One more thing I should point out is both McDonalds and Burger King (I haven't been to Wendy's enough to make a confirmation) advertise their products to look big and mighty, when in reality, their products are smaller and limp. The burgers are like three flat pancakes put together, which is why I order two or three at Burger King, because they still taste good. They're just not huge and filling on the first round. Of course, advertisement is advertisement. The object is to simply get you to come and order.

Fast food should be a moderate option based on your urge. I only encourage moderation, but it's Burger King... or sometimes Wendy's... that I would encourage is that's clearly what you have an urge for.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Review: "Inferno" by Dan Brown

I have been waiting awhile for Dan Brown to continue where he left off in the Robert Langdon series, which brought us Angels & Demons, The Da Vinci Code, and The Lost Symbol. The first two were incredible, while the most recent, set to a different tune in America, fell quite short. Inferno, the newest of Dan Brown's novels that plays in the tune of Dante's greatest work in The Divine Comedy about his trip into Hell guided by Virgil, is a slight recovery from Symbol, but falls short compared to his first two, which were really top of the line.

I was planning on buying Inferno as soon as I could get my hands on it, because that's how I am with important works like this and Dan Brown has won me over well enough to have my money for his book the moment it comes out in hardcover, which is a rarity for a paperback buyer like myself. It just so happens that my former World Literature instructor recommended it to our club and so I might as well satisfy the interest in reading by digging in to this Langdon thriller.

Robert Langdon begins his adventure in a hospital, where he's being treated for a bullet wound to the head that he picked up from an unknown area. After an immediate surprise moment, he escapes the hospital with Dr. Sienna Brooks, who plays his female cohort in the story. Seems as if Langdon always finds a different female to join him on his adventure and compliment his symbology intellect with a different kind of witty, "kick ass" kind of intelligence. At this time, he is still being chased by a female biker known as Vayentha, but this is only part of the adventure. Langdon and Brooks go through several hurdles trying to evaluate the crime while trying to get out of harm's way.

Set in Florence, Italy, Dante's Inferno plays a major theme to the story. In addition, Dante's life plays a major theme behind the meaning of different pieces of evidence in which Langdon and Brooks come across. At the same time, Inferno takes a backseat to a second plot that plays just a large, if not a larger, role in the story. Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey, who is in charge at the World Health Organization, is after Bertrand Zobrist and his eccentric idea to release something that will wipe out a portion of humanity in order to keep the rapidly growing population from going out of control. The theme of how our population is too large for our own good plays an important role, so important that it takes away from the intended theme of Dante's Inferno, which should be the chief theme, but it's the climax that we're after and the wild twists and turns that encourage to keep reading even as the night progresses. The topic of our drastically increasing world population does most of that.

This novel has shown the same kind of Langdon story with a different woman, a different city, and a different theme. Otherwise, the pace was in many ways extremely similar. I'm happy that Dan Brown returned after his mediocre at best Symbol to produce something slightly better. Chances are that within a few years time, Brown will be out with another Langdon thriller with just about the same kind of setup with a different woman, city, and theme. Chances are I will check out that novel as well and read it throughout. You have to leave an awful taste in my mouth in order to chase me away.

My verdict for Dan Brown's Inferno is a 7/10, which is on the fence of being good and okay. If you are looking at something that evaluates Dante's Inferno to a heavy degree and are a reader of literature's finest, there isn't as many elements in there for you. If you enjoy a thriller with twists and turns that keeps you peeled to the book, this will surely not disappoint, especially when everyone heads to Istanbul, Turkey, and things rise to a boiling point and an incredibly shocking case occurs. Inferno fans may leave a bit dissatisfied, but those who enjoy a good thriller should feel a least a bit satisfied.

I also find it appropriate to mention the unfortunate death of James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano on the hit TV show, The Sopranos. He died from a heart attack yesterday at the age of 51. In addition, on the topic of thriller writers, Vince Flynn lost his battle to prostate cancer and died at the age of 47. Flynn was the author of the Mitch Rapp series, which I was not able to read, but I do own a copy of Act of Treason, which I may or may not get to. Rest in peace to both of these men who made massive contributions to their respective craft.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Check This Blog: Aleksandra's Corner

I thoroughly enjoy the several book blogs I have the opportunity to follow through Blogger, as I write about what I enjoy and then in turn see what others have to write about in areas that I enjoy. I have plenty of book reviews on Blogger (with one that should be on the way), but consistent book bloggers are quite plentiful and enjoyable. Not only do they submit book reviews, but they also participate in blogging activities, such as discussing what they plan to read, what they're looking forward to, and what appears "in their mailbox." A few months back, I encouraged you to check out Carina's Books (which I encourage you to check out if you have not). Now, I'm encouraging you to check out Aleksandra's Corner, a blog run by Macedonia's very own Aleksandra, who reviews books and participates in several book blogging activities that I wish I had the time and concentration to do.

Aleksandra began her blogging expeditions on Blogger in 2009, providing her "corner" with several posts and reviews if you are to check it out. Many of them are written for the current period of time, but you are bound to find something that suits your interest. Her original intent was to participate in the several activities and challenges that blogging had to offer, but it has since expanded into something bigger and better. 

Aleksandra's format is very well organized and incredibly easy to read. She features a title, author, and if it applies, the series and what number book of the series it makes up. Under that is a rating system that scores books on a scale of one to five, five being the best. Then comes the written text that begins with a summary and ends with her thoughts on the book. The summary and thoughts are both in different boxes that are slightly darker than that in the post, but they are dark enough to compose that they are discussing two separate things. Navigating through this blog is definitely cake and you are not going to become bored when it comes to giving up on reading the article, because you're not going to spend a majority of the time looking for the main idea. That doesn't exist. Organization is spot on!

From personal experience, the author's of interest I could connect to the most are Markus Zusak, Neil Gaiman, and Jonathan Maberry, which she has recently mentioned and I have either read or checked out. I currently have Maberry's Ghost Road Blues partially read, but put down in favor of Dan Brown's Inferno, being a reader of the Langdon series. I enjoyed Zusak's The Book Thief and have been encouraged by Aleksandra to check out I Am The Messenger and Underdogs, which I plan to do once I find the open time. Aside from those, her recent reviews include The Storm by Alexander Gordon Smith and Sparks by Laura Bickle. This past week, she observed Novella Week by reading several novellas, which is quite an incredible theme, because there are plenty of incredible novellas that exist (keep in mind that two of Stephen King's memorable works were novellas, such as Rita Hayworth & The Shawshank Redemption, which inspired the 1994 film, The Shawshank Redemption and The Body, which inspired the 1986 film, Stand By Me).

If you have an open moment that you want to fill by checking out a new blog of interest, give Aleksandra's Corner a try, especially if you love to read. You'll be introduced to plenty of novels that you may or may have not heard of and may perhaps be convinced to buy something or be turned away for one reason or another. Aleksandra provides an honest opinion on anything she discusses and you will surely be led in the right direction when it comes to good suggestions. 

Here is a link that you lead you to her blog:

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Book Review: "Touching The Dead" by Carlotta Holton

One of my favorite pastimes is to attend author events, whether they are event in which the author speaks, takes part in a Q&A, and signs books, or in a "meet and greet" format in which the author has a table with their books, you have a discussion, and then you can buy one or more books and have them autographed. Through the meet and greet format, one of my favorite authors that I met was Carlotta Holton. Since she writes horror fiction, she won my attention with writing in a favorite genre of mine. Her encouraging, cheerful personality plus her wide ranging knowledge only gave me more reason to like her. With her short story collection, Touching The Dead, I can confirm that I am an avid reader of her work and am interested in what she puts out.

Holton's horror fiction concentrates on two areas of interest: the historical and the superstitious. Each of her novels has some historical implication behind it. Salem Pact is a recreation of the Salem Witch Trials, Vampire Resurrection concentrates on the time of the move into Roanoke, and Deadly Innocence has to do with a relative of a deadly ancestor. With Touching The Dead, we see plenty of historical implications, but the theme has to do with different superstitions that are observed across the globe by different cultures. This is a fascinating jump and I felt that Holton landed quite well. I was thrilled by several of her short stories, many of which were excellent.

The collection kicks off with "Brother Tom's Salvation Show," which I found was a great way to begin. In the story, a town is being crowded with crows and is dealing with a drought. Brother Tom comes around with high hopes of dealing with the misfortune being brought to the people. We learn here that Holton is good at creating a twist and shifting our thought process to think one thing and then do another.

In "Touching The Dead," a relative has died and some cousins learn that if you touch the person that has died, you will not have nightmares about this particular person. A cousin takes this superstition too far and it turns into a frightful horror story.

"The Coming Of Borsotka" is one of my favorites and it has some of the most creative implications. It takes place in a Czechoslovakian village at the time that Czechoslovakia was one country and not two separate countries. It centers around a witch that comes to people's houses and cause them with incredible misfortune. We learn in the story that no matter what kind of fashion she engages in such that Borsotka lives on.

"A Case Of The Overlooks" has to do with a girl who visits her grandparents for the summer. Her grandmother is a kindly woman, but her grandfather is a creepy, pedophilic individual who makes his granddaughter's visits less enjoyable. Then she learns about staring and what it can do to others...

"Uncle Peter's Resting Now" makes me think about Easter, because it has to do with dying eggs. The only difference is that in this case, each color is dyed to represent a different objective. For instance, white represented purity, yellow represented fertility, while green represented health, and there were plenty of other colors to go around. A conflict occurs when the eggs are being rested, but these antagonists soon realize that they are messing with the wrong situation...

These are among my favorites listed above, but the others in this collection include "The Ultimate Chain Letter," "A 'Caul' To Sailors Everywhere," "Ghost Of A Chance," "Cagliostro's Mirror," "Serafina's Revenge," "Shear Superstition," "A Family Mailed To Order," "The Vampire's Lair," "Soul Food," "Jack's Back!," "The Red Room At Borthwick Castle," and "The Pendulum Swings Both Ways," as well as a poem titled "Jaunty Jack" in order to set up for "Jack's Back!" which has to do with Jack the Ripper. I'm positive that you will find at least one if not two or more pieces that entertain and haunt you as the day progresses.

I thoroughly enjoyed this superstitious collection and am fascinated by the many superstitions that make up our global culture. Carlotta Holton did a great job compiling up a collection with different stories in her areas of interest, which provided us with plenty of reasons to enjoy it as well.

In my Amazon review, I complimented it and rated it four stars out of five for being an exciting, impacting read, but not everyone of them grabbed me completely. Still, there were plenty of them that grabbed me and held on tight. My official verdict is a 9/10, because it was very good and there were ideas and twists that really left me thinking and even if I didn't have a story under my list of favorites, I'm sure someone will.

Speaking of Amazon, I will leave a link for her book if you are interested in buying it and giving it a read. I encourage you to do so, you'll have no regrets... maybe just a nightmare or an hour or so lying awake in your bed (but if you're trained to read horror, you'll be used to it).

Carlotta Holton's next book will be a follow-up to this short story collection featuring more superstitions. It's called Touching The Dead... Again.

Here's the link for Touching The Dead:

Movie Review: Argo (2012)

Toward the end of Jimmy Carter's first and only term as the President of the United States, his presidential career (but quite strangely not his resume) was tainted by the events of the Iran Hostage Crisis, where the Iranians held plenty of prisoners captive for a total of 444 days. People look at this situation in two ways: the first is that they feel that Carter was at fault and did not step up to the bat. The second is that Carter really didn't know what was going on and that he had the misfortune of having to go through such an event. During this period of time, CIA officer Tony Mendez (played by Ben Affleck, who also directed the film), plotted an idea to allow some of the hostages to escape to freedom. His plan was to disguise them as film directors working on a science fiction picture. While it seemed like an odd concept, history shows that it paid off.

The film begins with some captivating history on Iran, using real footage as well as comic book style footage in order to leave a lasting image. We begin at a point where Iran has overthrown the rule of the Americans and the British, leading to a revolt that puts the U.S. embassy in the country in a dire situation. They have to shred and burn any important papers with hope that the Iranian radicals do not get their hands on them. Little do we know that as the film progresses, these people are quite intelligent and are willing to go the extra mile, making them a smarter group of people antagonizing the Americans. Much of the real life footage is just incredible raw and painfully honest, as we see American flag burning and Americans being blindfolded and swung about like wrongfully accused prisoners.

Tony Mendez is at a loss for what he should do, but when watching a television show of the science fiction/fantasy genre with his son, it inspires him to create something of his own that features to United States diplomats that escaped to the Canadian embassy dress up as the film crew and take part in a "fake film." He meets with agent John Chambers (played by John Goodman) and director Lester Siegel (played by Alan Arkin), and the two come up with a film that was on Siegel's discard pile that is a ripoff of Star Wars and is based in the Middle East (in order to create a favorable impression with the residents) called Argo, hence the name of the film. Chambers and Siegel provide a bit of dark comedy to the film as two guys, middle-aged and old, respectively, as they express themselves in a blunt disposition that expresses sarcasm toward life.

Mendez demands that the six escapees take on the lives of the film crew members and that they are able to remember every detail about themselves and become these people, so that making it through the country is much easier. Things don't seem easy, as the Iranians have went through the shreds to dig out information, leading to a chase that goes all the way to the airport, as the "film crew" and Tony Mendez board onto Swiss Air.

While I won't give away the exact details, I will mention that what Jimmy Carter had to say about taking credit for succeeding at bringing those held hostage home was ludicrous. The hostages were released the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated president, because they knew that Reagan was not going to put up with such an event. It was only going to become bloodier if Reagan had to get involved, so to avoid such confrontation, those held captive were released after 444 days. Carter has gone on to become an outspoken former president, a Nobel Prize winner for his humanitarianism, and the only president to publish a novel (titled The Hornet's Nest).

The best part about this film was the raw, true emotion of the historical events, from the true footage of riots to the news footage from anchors such as Walter Cronkite to addresses from political figures such as the president himself. The rest of the film was just excellent as well, making you feel like you were a part of the era. I felt the frustration, the aggravation, and the lost feelings like it was a current event. It was 1980, but I felt as if I was warped back thirty-two years to such an era. Ben Affleck did an excellent job in dual roles as an director AND actor, which is difficult to accomplish, but it seems like it can be done. I could definitely see how this was the film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture during the most recent ceremony. This is definitely something that should be in the theaters as oppose to the box office attracting popcorn films we see instead, many of which are repetitive to the trends. This is something much different and stands out in its own true way.

Verdict: 10/10

Monday, June 3, 2013

Top 10 Auditions Of "Got Talent"

The Got Talent franchise has spanned across the globe. In America, we have America's Got Talent, which is a full blown talent show of acts of all kinds and all ages competing for $1,000,000 and a headlining show in Las Vegas. There are, however, plenty of others that include Britain's Got Talent and others from countries such as Sweden, Switzerland, France, Korea, and the list keeps going on and on. America's Got Talent will be making its eighth season premiere on June 4th, with returning host Nick Cannon, returning judges Howie Mandel and Howard Stern, and new judges Mel B (of "The Spice Girls") and Heidi Klum. Due to an agreement in Howard Stern's contract, the live shows will be filmed in the New York area to allow him to do his radio show in addition to AGT.

To celebrate the return of the eighth season, I will be conducting a countdown of the ten best auditions that have ever occurred on the show. While the auditions are vital in just about any reality show competition, this show features auditions that are just so spectacular. The reason may be that anybody can participate on the show and it doesn't matter how you look, how old you are, or what kind of background you come from. This led to many of surprises, which in turn contributed to the magical element of this program. This top ten list will include universal selections, though many of them will be from the American program, because many of the memories I had of the competition came from seeing them instantly on the weekday evening that it was showing. The others came from visits to YouTube or through emails of these spectacular auditions.

To kick off the list of ten...

#10: Doogie Horner (American, Stand-Up Comedian)- On the fifth season of the show, we began seeing an evident new direction once Howie Mandel came onto the show. Howie held an interest in contestants that were bizarre and out of the ordinary, even if it didn't add up to raw talent. This would not always please Piers Morgan, the brutally honest judge who held no interest in acts that were ridiculous and to him worthless. Doogie appeared on an episode where stand-up comedians were being booed off the stage. Doogie started out by telling strange jokes (like the one about pregnant women and about eagles, though his joke about eagles was quite funny). What really allowed him to stick out was when he fed into the booing audience, insulting them and telling them how they, too, suck, and that he wants to hunt them down. Sharon and Howie were impressed, while Piers did not find him funny. Doogie did provide to be an underdog, as he made the live shows and won Piers over, enough to be one of his wildcard selections. Doogie Horner's the only comedian on my list, but he is perhaps the most memorable, right from that audition of his.

#9: Maya Wirz (Swiss, Opera Singer)- I learned about Maya Wirz while browsing different countries and their Got Talent series' and coming across the Swiss version of the show. Maya, a 49-year-old school bus driver, discussed how she was a fan of Britain's Got Talent sensation Susan Boyle (who will be on this list, but that's all I will say) and that she wants to become a successful singer like her. She sang opera in a way that felt like a magical carpet ride across paradise and it was absolutely sensational. Maya Wirz would go on to win the first edition of Die grossten Schweizer Talente.

#8: Kevin Skinner (American, Country Singer)- One of the key moments in the fourth season of America's Got Talent was when Kevin Skinner came onto the program, entering in a wool sweatshirt, jeans, and a cap, telling the judges the he was a chicken catcher in the south, painting an image that he represents the heart of the south and providing an innocent kind of charm to his personality. He then went on to sing "If Tomorrow Never Comes" by Garth Brooks and proved that he has a sensational, country music voice. He got a standing ovation from David Hasselhoff and was told of the potential he holds in the competition. Kevin Skinner would go on to win the competition.

#7: Lawrence Beaman (American, Bass Singer)- Lawrence Beaman came onto the show with a deep, booming voice and nervousness filled his veins. He was nervous to the point that Piers told him to calm down. The moment he held the stage, he began hitting the deep, powerful notes to the classic song, "Old Man River," and was given a standing ovation from just about the entire audience and from all three judges. He then began breaking down on the stage to the point where Sharon went and gave him some tissues to wipe his weary face. This showed open, honest passion from a man who came from a humble background and just wanted an opportunity to make a name for himself. Beaman truly took that opportunity and went onto the top ten to prove himself as a worthy competitor.

#6: Terry Fator (American, Singer/Ventriloquist)- Of all of the champions in America's Got Talent history, I believe that Terry Fator was the greatest. Every performance he gave was something to look forward to, because he was able to use his puppets to impersonate various singers. Impersonating the singers and figures is difficult enough, but being able to do it through an act of ventriloquism is beyond extraordinary. In his audition, he brought Emma Taylor onto the show and she sang "At Last" and sounded exactly like Etta James. At the end of the performance, she also did an impersonation of Ashlee Simpson, which was hilarious and showed that Terry Fator was meant to be a performer. I rooted for him throughout the second season of the show and was thrilled when he won it all.

#5: The Voices Of Glory (American, Singers)- The Voices Of Glory were two brothers and a sister (ages 16, 11, and 9 at the start of the show) who sang as a trio. Their emotional drive came from singing to their mother, who three years prior was involved in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. While she was in a coma, the three of them would sing to her bedside while incidentally singing to the others in her hospital room. As they told Piers when he asked what happened to her, she is not only alive, but was also backstage. They went on with their performance of "God Bless America," which was a simple song choice, but at the same time an incredibly emotional, heartfelt tribute to the country. Their voices went so well with one another and their execution showed that they were passionate about music. Piers called them the "pride of America," which has to be one of the strongest compliments given on a reality show competition from one of the harshest critics. They have since grown and evolved, finishing in fifth place in the competition. While there have been stronger performers on the show, this has to be the most emotional, powerful audition I have witnessed on the American version of the show.

#4: Paul Potts (British, Opera Singer)- Before this series, Potts sold mobile phones, then he came on and proved that he was a talented force to be reckoned with. For the first four seasons of Britain's Got Talent, the judging table was a dream panel from a brutally honest state of mind. When you have Simon Cowell, Piers Morgan, and Amanda Holden together, you are sure to only have the absolute best making it through during the competition. Paul Potts performed a flawless, clear version of "Nessum dorma," which proved that anybody from any background could go anywhere. Indeed he did go just about everywhere, as he was the first champion of the series.

#3: Freddy Amigo (Swedish, Opera Singer)- Freddy Amigo was a Swedish nurse as he entered the competition, proving to have that silly uncle sense of humor. Then the stage was his and he performed an operatic piece in a theatrical style. In many of the Got Talent competitions, opera singers will more than likely stand at the center of the stage and perform their piece. Like Prince Poppycock in America (who was very much about show and character), Amigo relied on physical movement and robust acting in order to execute his performance, though he was the character and he didn't rely on a disguise. He delivered a powerful, entertaining performance that wowed absolutely everyone and he did quite a job throughout the competition. His emotions of feeling overwhelmed were quite contagious and being the viewer, it was quite a show to be able to see.

#2: Susan Boyle (British, Singer)- The global evidence to the expression, "you can't judge a book by its cover," is defined by Susan Boyle and her third season appearance on Britain's Got Talent. When appearing on the show, she was 47 years old, unemployed, looked like an ordinary middle aged woman, and wanted to be like Elaine Paige. Then she told the judges she would be singing "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Miserables and knocked it out of the ballpark. From the first notes of the performance, she proved that she has the most theatrical voices in the world. Her voice surprised everyone, especially those that believed she was just there for a day out. Her attitude was so innocent that when she finished performing, she walked out like it was a one-time gig. This is where she was wrong, because she became a global superstar. While she finished in second place in a dance group known as Diversity, she is recognized across the globe and she remains active with producing new albums, many of which are covers. Personally, I still get goosebumps listening to her initial audition of "I Dreamed A Dream."

#1: Sung-Bong Choi (Korean, Opera Singer)- If there is anybody that is going to top Susan Boyle on any Got Talent series across the globe, it would be Sung-Bong from South Korea. He had an emotional story to tell, as he was placed in an orphanage when he was three and then ran away after feeling uncomfortable with the environment it had to offer. For the next several years, he roamed from place to place, living a brutal childhood. It was only when he got older that he completed his G.E.D. test. He would seek happiness when he heard other people sing, which inspired him to become a singer. I usually like to look at the talent the performer has to offer and not judge based off of an emotional story, but the combination of his background and his powerful, operatic voice that holds such powerful emotion leads me to feel choked up inside. There are plenty of people that will surely be unable to go without breaking down or shedding a tear when Sung-Bong performs. There is no way that you cannot make it through Sung-Bong's audition video without feeling some kind of numbing emotion. There's just no way!

Here are ten of my personal favorites at the moment we speak, which is bound is change in the event that I see more auditions, develop change in hearts, or if new auditions come along that are spectacular, which will be quite difficult with those I have up right now. I have the link for each video listed under the appropriately ranked audition. I do not own these videos, I am just directing you to the best outlets in my mind. Hope you enjoy the videos as much as I did and be sure to catch the new season of America's Got Talent tomorrow.