Friday, August 30, 2013

My Prediction: 2013 NFL Season

Some of my posts have become annual trends, because I feel it's just so fitting to do so. In this case, I'll be predicting the entire NFL season from top to bottom, inside and out, and then any additional information I feel is worth mentioning about things bound to happen this season. The 2013 season will be quite an exciting year, as I say about most, but I expect somewhat similar results, but with somewhat different outcomes, many of which are on the ends of strength in the division and who does and does not make the playoffs.

Last time around, my prediction of the Baltimore Ravens winning the Super Bowl rang true, even if I had them defeating the Green Bay Packers and not the San Francisco 49ers. Also, for the second year in a row, the team I predicted would be the absolute worst (which included the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011 and Minnesota Vikings in 2012) actually made it into the playoffs. Another reversal of psychology was how the teams I predicted would lose in the NFC Championship actually crashed and burned instead (which included the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2011 and Carolina Panthers in 2012). This time around, I hope to hit these nails on the head harder than I did before. In addition, even if the experts attempted to sway me a certain way, I have to head in the direction I intended to in the first place.

So here they are, my 2013 predictions!

AFC East

New England Patriots (10-6)- The New England Patriots, perhaps the most flawless team of the 21st century, as they only missed the playoffs three times (2000, 2002, and 2008), are dealing with some issues, primarily with the murder accusations from Aaron Hernandez, who was released from the team when news broke out, and Rob Gronkowski, who is dealing with injury issues. The Patriots had the best tight end crew on the entire team and this will be a stinger for Tom Brady and his intentions of having an explosive offense. Fortunately, they still have the mechanics that are needed to win games and they will win in a reconstructing division.

Miami Dolphins (9-7)- The Dolphins have plenty of young talent, led by second year QB Ryan Tannehill. Last season, they made the jump to 7-9. This time around, they should see some crucial improvement to the point that they just miss the playoffs, because there will be wildcards that do a better job. Fortunately, this team is growing under head coach Joe Philbin and underrated offensive coordinator Mike Sherman to the point that they may end up contending with the aging Patriots for the division and spots in the playoffs in future seasons.

Buffalo Bills (6-10)- The Bills we see some improvement under new head coach Doug Marrone. They will, however, only see marginal improvement to the point that they're 6-10. Word on the street says that Jeff Tuel may be the starter come week one of the season, but we'll just have to wait and see. E.J. Manuel and Kevin Kolb are dealing with some physical dilemmas, but we'll just have to see what happens come the start of the season. The Bills have always been poised to strike, but have always fizzled or fell short. If this trend continues, we'll be seeing a coaching change at the end of the 2015 season.

New York Jets (4-12)- The Jets will be the hottest mess come the 2013 season, the hottest mess on the field AND the hottest mess in the media. Both Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith can see themselves unable to perform due to injury, which leads to the scenario of having a backup perform... just like it happened in 2005. Matt Simms did quite a decent job in his preseason game, which leads me to believe he could do something as the starter in the season. Now let's talk about Rex Ryan, who has always been a center of controversy and will be out the door come the end of the season. He may even be gone by midseason. The fact that he put his starting quarterback on the line when he didn't need to leads to the belief that he's so reckless that it's bound to do him more bad than good. AFC Championship appearances in 2009 and 2010 will only be bullet points on Rex Ryan's resume. He will be remembered for turning the Jets into a hotter mess than they were under Eric Mangini and angering fans and viewers with his game time decisions.

AFC South

Houston Texans (11-5)- The Texans are coming up with players that are now household names. Matt Schaub, Arian Foster, Andre Johnson, J.J. Watt, and free agents Shane Lechler, Ed Reed, and Ben Tate are just naming a few. A few seasons ago, making the playoffs was the task at hand. Nowadays, the top of the division has become a place of residence and they are the hottest team in the division. They will remain the hottest team in the division until the Indianapolis Colts begin to warm up under Andrew Luck, but that should take a few more seasons.

Indianapolis Colts (8-8)- Speaking of the Colts, they will see some form of regression, but still excel statistically and as far as numbers are concerned under Andrew Luck. It's incredibly unfortunate that with all due respect to Chuck Pagano, who fought a battle with leukemia last season, reaching the playoffs had a lot to do with the direction of Bruce Arians, who served as the interim head coach. Under Pagano, they were 2-2 and just 1-2 before he left to get treatment. Now with Arians on the Cardinals, the orchestration of the team will be completely different. I only see this team being average at best, but good enough in what will be a weak division with the exception of the Texans.

Tennessee Titans (4-12)- The most that the Titans can give their fans is running back Chris Johnson, which is why they probably have more fantasy football fans watching their games than actual fans. Johnson, however, may see a trend of inconsistency come the 2013 season and the quarterback has to move the game along in order to keep him on the field. I don't see Jake Locker as a quarterback that can perform such a task. The Titans may need to seek a new direction at the end of the season.

Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)- The Jaguars are the team I see picking first in the 2014 NFL Draft, which means that since I am making this prediction, they will make the playoffs. The Jags passed up on the opportunity of bringing Tim Tebow onto their team, which was one of the worst decisions they could possibly make. While Tebow isn't an elite quarterback and he demonstrated with the Patriots that he's nothing more than an emergency solution, he is popular with the Jacksonville area and not only would he provide them with the recognition and ticket sales that this team desperate needs, but garnering at least seven or eight wins would be a plus for this team. The Jags currently have Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne as QB options. Gabbert is okay at best, while Henne is one of the worst in the league, which is why the Dolphins disposed of him as they did. Maurice Jones-Drew is a fantasy favorite at best, while Justin Blackmon will be dealing with a suspension, but should see an okay return when it could be too late. The Jags may see a better solution when they're the ones that move to Los Angeles or elsewhere (just as long as it's not out of the country).

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens (11-5)- The Ravens lost plenty of players to retirement (like Ray Lewis) and free agency (like Ed Reed), but they still seem to hold the dynamic that makes their team powerful and worthy in the league: an offense that does what it needs to and a defense that does the rest and then some. The Ravens have everything it takes to remain consistently strong year after year and the fact that John Harbaugh's the head coach is only an additional plus in itself, since he has reached the playoffs in each of his five seasons with the team. Making it a sixth will be no issue.

Cincinnati Bengals (11-5)- The Bengals will be right on the Ravens' tail feathers, for they are only developing as a team under QB Andy Dalton and a powerful receiving corp that includes A.J. Green. Playing their final game of the season against the Ravens at home will only increase excitement for how things in the AFC North will turn out. The feature will be the one that develops the most impact and this MAY be it (unless a more bitter battle deserves the spotlight). The large hump they will have to make it over is the postseason bump, where they haven't won since 1990.

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)- The Steelers lost some talent (primarily James Harrison and his departure to the Bengals) and it doesn't look like they picked up major talent to the point that it evens things out. The Steelers are seeing one of those slumps that they will just see an average season up ahead. The good thing about this team is that when it sees a stride, it sees a stride, and it strikes. Unfortunately, this will not be that season. The challenge up ahead is that they seem to be the only team in the division that's not growing in some way, shape, or form.

Cleveland Browns (6-10)- Toward the end of last season, the Browns saw some marginal improvement. This time around, it seems like they're warming up under the direction of offensive coordinator Norv Turner. In addition, they have one of the best defensive coordinators in Ray Horton, who was only let go by the Cardinals, because Bruce Arians wanted to bring one of his selections in to do the job. The Browns may be on their way to bigger and better things under second year QB Brandon Weeden. It's only going to be a matter of time. This direction, however, will mean that they remain in last place in the division.

AFC West

Denver Broncos (14-2)- The Broncos have some hurdles that they're going to have to deal with (including Von Miller's suspension), but if you're going to have a good run, you're going to grab those hurdles by the horns and swing them out of the stadium like they're frisbees. The Broncos are set with talent led by QB Peyton Manning, a strong running back corp, and plenty of targets that include Wes Welker, who came from the Patriots. This should be an exciting team to watch and Peyton Manning is bound to have a strong season.

Kansas City Chiefs (10-6)- It was clear that Andy Reid would immediately pick up a head coaching gig following his departure from the Eagles. You cannot deny a head coach that reached a Super Bowl and four championships. Reid, along with the young talent that includes QB Alex Smith and plenty of others, should really bring this team back on the path of positive strive as opposed to their dreary, 2-14 season led by Romeo Crennel and GM Scott Pioli.

San Diego Chargers (5-11)- The Chargers will see a difficult road to success as they're in the process of heavy rebuilding. It could be easy to say that things will gel for QB Philip Rivers, but he's going to have to deal with a challenging road and that may take awhile to accomplish. Eventually, things may work out for new head coach Mike McCoy and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, but in a division with the Broncos and Chiefs that should see success, this isn't the season.

Oakland Raiders (5-11)- I read something about how the Raiders were bound to be the worst team in the league. I disagree, especially if Matt Flynn remains healthy. Flynn is perhaps one of the most flawless backup quarterbacks in the league. He just hasn't had the opportunity to shine, since he was behind Aaron Rodgers while playing for the Packers and Russell Wilson with the Seahawks. This may be where we figure out that Dennis Allen is not the head coach of the future for the team and that he's better off as a defensive coordinator. This is where we realize that Tom Cable and Hue Jackson (especially Tom Cable) just needed an extra season or two in order to make the right direction. The playoff drought for the Raiders (which started in 2002) will continue.

NFC East

Washington Redskins (10-6)- If RG III is healthy, he will have a stellar second season with a great supporting cast. If RG III isn't healthy, you always have Kirk Cousins, who is a top-notch backup. The Skins are finally establishing themselves since Mike Shanahan and the Skins management made the decision to draft Robert Griffin III and start a franchise with him as their quarterback. That was the difference between Mike Shanahan and his son, Kyle, having a job and not having a job with the organization. The NFC East will still see the trend of ten wins or less, as the last season to see a team in the NFC East with ten seasons or more was 2009.

New York Giants (10-6)- The Giants will see a seasons identical to 2010 and 2012 melded together. They will have powerful wins and painful losses. Unfortunately, their painful losses will catch up with them and these crucial losses will cost them the division title. Eli Manning will still be quite strong, while it will take healthy running backs, a third wide receiver to rise, and the offense being able to create plays in order for the team to score points. Another thing going against them is how the last time a team whose stadium, field, or dome made the playoffs was in 2000, when the Buccaneers reached it.

Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)- There is a lot of hype about how Michael Vick is seeing the possibility of a huge season. Unfortunately, this sounds like hype and nothing more. Vick is vulnerable and while a season like 2010 seems possible, his chances of going down are a bit more likely than they were at that point in time. Jeremy Maclin, the Eagles most consistent wide receiver, will be out for the season, and DeSean Jackson is incredible, but he's not incredibly consistent. The fate of the Eagles and their season will come down to what LeSean McCoy can do.

Dallas Cowboys (6-10)- This is do or die for head coach Jason Garrett, who has been mediocre at best for the team. Mediocre will be the best the team sees come 2013, because the concerns have not been answered thoroughly, which will ultimately be the deciding factor for moving forward. It may take a new generation and some motivation for Tony Romo in order to put this team in the right direction that sees them in the same position that they were during the early nineties.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons (9-7)- The NFC South is bound to be that division that has the pieces together and yet things just aren't going to work for them. They are all going to compete against the NFC West, which has become the strongest division in the league and it's just going to be a challenge for this group. The Falcons are the team that is the most arranged in each position and they have the least amount of drama in their background. Matt Ryan should remain powerful and his receiving corp that includes Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez remains intact. It's going to be challenging, but the Falcons will manage to take the most out of the division.

New Orleans Saints (8-8)- It's beyond unfortunate that all of the magic created by the Saints up until the 2011 season was destroyed by the fact that Gregg Williams was paying his players to injure specific opponents like they were on the FBI's Most Wanted list. "Pay to Play" has been common in the general sense, but targeting specific players and body parts is immoral, like Williams has become the Dr. Mengele of the NFL (and yet he's allowed back with the Titans and Pete Rose is dead to Major League Baseball). Drew Brees will continue to demonstrate offensive excellence and the Saints will top the list statistically. Unfortunately, it won't translate to wins in the way they would be searching for. In addition, Rob Ryan's their new defensive coordinator, who does the job well, but always keeps teams from the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)- The Greg Schiano era shows a bit more promise than the Raheem Morris era. Unfortunately, this promise isn't the most extreme. The team is left with not too many sparks that allow them to shine big and it may mean that moving on from Josh Freeman and head coach Schiano is a part of the future. The object is to contend with the top of the division, which is bound to be the Falcons and the Saints and it will take a lot to get there.

Carolina Panthers (2-14)- The Panthers aren't really answering many of their questions. Sure, they have Cam Newton and they have Steve Smith as wide receiver, but their isn't much depth to their team and none of their players really stick out nor WILL they stick out. The Panthers need to bring in some tools that Cam Newton can use and they need players that will provide worth. Unfortunately, the Panthers haven't answered these questions and it may mean they take Ron Rivera out and bring someone new in as the head coach.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (13-3)- The Packers lost plenty of players to free agency and they're becoming a bit thinner in their strong areas (primarily wide receiver). The hardest loss was that of Greg Jennings... TO THE VIKINGS! Fortunately, it seems like the Packers always find a way to make those very important plays when they need to make them and they should be bound to have a strong regular season. As for the postseason... that may be another story.

Chicago Bears (10-6)- The hiring of Marc Trestman was the best kind of justice the team could do for Jay Cutler and the rest of the crew, for Trestman's specialty is working with the quarterback and he's bound to make Cutler more than the overrated, underachieving QB he currently is. The Bears missed the playoffs by the decision of a tiebreaker. They will be much better this time around and they will see what they did last season, only with the very important victories intact.

Minnesota Vikings (7-9)- The Vikings won when they needed to last season and they found themselves in the playoffs as a result, as the sixth NFC seed. Unfortunately, they will return to planet Earth this time around, with the realization that Christian Ponder is just okay, Adrian Peterson is fantasy footballer's gold, but just one man, and the heat is only going to be hotter for this crew.

Detroit Lions (3-13)- The Lions are always that team with such a good gel, but they just cannot win the games when they need to. Last time around, they had Matthew Stafford and plenty of good talent, but they went 4-12. I don't see them growing, especially in a division that's only becoming better. Extending Jim Schwartz's contract was a mistake, because Schwartz is the head coach with one of the hottest heads (only behind Rex Ryan by a slight margin) and he isn't the one that's going to extend the long term magic with the team. He had one good season and that will be his only good season.

NFC West

San Francisco 49ers (12-4)- It is true that Jim Harbaugh has taken the struggling 49ers and put them back on the path to being one of the most consistently powerful teams in the NFL. Between 2003 and 2010, the Niners were lucky to reach .500 and miss the postseason each time. Under the younger Harbaugh, the Niners have rocketed above .500 each season and saw the NFC Championship AND Super Bowl. This will sure be a common trend and they will definitely touch the Lombardi trophy at least once by mid-decade.

Seattle Seahawks (11-5)- The Niners and Seahawks will be the hottest divisional rivalry throughout the decade or at least as long as things gel for both teams. Right now, the Seahawks have plenty of talent PLUS some new additions that are really helping the team. This upcoming season will see them remaining an active presence in the league and Pete Carroll is proving that he can stick around and win with a team.

St. Louis Rams (9-7)- Since they last reached the postseason in 2004, the Rams have struggled regardless what season it may be. Under Scott Linehan, they couldn't sneak past .500. Under Steve Spagnoulo, they reached 7-9 once and were one game away from the playoffs when the NFC West was the weakest division and then struggled in the rest. In Jeff Fischer's first season, they went 7-8-1 and will seek slight improvement by going 9-7 and until the crucial moments of the season, contend for a spot in the playoffs. Drafting Tavon Austin, a wide receiver, with their first round pick, was one of the smartest selections for round one. Sam Bradford needs targets and something to play with and that's what he's finding during the Jeff Fischer era. I say that come next year, they will be playoff bound.

Arizona Cardinals (7-9)- The Cardinals are another team that is seeing an era of strong possibility, which means the NFC West will always be an open field. They have Bruce Arians as their head coach, Tom Moore as an assistant offensive coordinator, and Carson Palmer as their new quarterback. With this being said, once things start to come into place for this team, the NFC West will be a division where everybody finishes with at least an 8-8 record, sometimes even 9-7. This time around, though, the Cardinals need to play with some pieces before they ultimately get everything right.



(3) Houston Texans defeat (6) Kansas City Chiefs, 27-10
(4) New England Patriots defeat (5) Cincinnati Bengals, 44-38 (OT)

(6) Chicago Bears defeat (3) Washington Redskins, 24-18
(5) Seattle Seahawks defeat (4) Atlanta Falcons, 34-24


(1) Denver Broncos defeat (4) New England Patriots, 38-35 (OT)
(3) Houston Texans defeat (2) Baltimore Ravens, 19-13

(6) Chicago Bears defeat (1) Green Bay Packers, 21-14
(2) San Francisco 49ers defeat (5) Seattle Seahawks, 37-28


(1) Denver Broncos defeat (3) Houston Texans, 27-20
(2) San Francisco 49ers defeat (6) Chicago Bears, 28-13

Super Bowl XLVIII

(1) Denver Broncos defeat (2) San Francisco 49ers, 38-34

There you have it, I see the Broncos overcoming their hurdles and instead tuning in to their strengths as they win their third Super Bowl. This would be John Fox's first as a head coach and Peyton Manning's second as a quarterback. Like John Elway, Peyton Manning is seeing what could be a veteran surge toward the later half of his career. Manning is the same age Elway was around the time he won his two Super Bowls before retiring, but Manning seems like the kind of player that would still be around into his forties and not in a Brett Favre kind of way (Manning made his move and this will be his last move). The Broncos were the hottest team in the regular season and they will now be the hottest team in the regular season AND postseason.

The Niners will see another loss in the Super Bowl, but as I mentioned, they will be back throughout the decade and see at least one Super Bowl victory, maybe even two. Colin Kaepernick is only on the rise and if Alex Smith's departure came on the coattails of Kaepernick's talent, then Kaepernick is quite the worthy player.

Coaching Carousel

While last season saw eight coaches being shown the door, all of which occurred after the season's end (THANK GOODNESS), this season is bound to see some departures as well. Those most likely to be shown the door include Rex Ryan (Jets), Mike Munchak (Titans), Dennis Allen (Raiders), Jason Garrett (Cowboys), Ron Rivera (Panthers), and Jim Schwartz (Lions). That's six, with Schwartz being the only one that MAY be safe following a poor season, but if the Lions management was smart, they would let him go. While I predict the Jags as being the worst team of the season, I feel that Gus Bradley will get another chance. If the Jags make the move out of Jacksonville and into Los Angeles or elsewhere, Bradley would be the seventh on the list. If both Ryan and Schwartz depart, that will wrap up what was the failure of the 2008 coaching carousel.

Coaching nominees for the 2014 season will include hot coordinators such as Mike Sherman (Dolphins OC), Jay Gruden (Bengals OC), Mike Zimmer (Bengals DC), Ray Horton (Browns DC), Kyle Shanahan (Redskins DC), Perry Fewell (Giants DC), Pete Carmichael Jr. (Saints OC), Brad Seely (49ers STC), Greg Roman (49ers OC), Vic Fangio (49ers DC), Darrell Bevell (Seahawks OC), and Brian Schottenheimer (Rams OC). I wanted to include Wade Phillips (Texans DC) and Dean Pees (Ravens DC) onto the list, but those who are hunting may overlook them in favor of the talent mentioned above. Those mentioned above are hot coordinators who seem to have the potential to become hot coaches. For Mike Sherman's case, he simply didn't have the greatest chance and deserves another. He was fired after one bad season with the Packers in 2005, was turned down for the Bills head coaching position right after in favor of the mediocre Dick Jauron, and again after the 2011 season, when he was turned down by the Buccaneers in favor of Greg Schiano. If he can help Ryan Tannehill and the Dolphins offense get on the right path, he should see another head coaching gig.

Speaking of another head coaching gig, there is always discussion about whether or not big winning head coaches from the past will return for another coaching gig. This list usually includes Bill CowherJon Gruden, and Tony Dungy. My answer to this is no. They all seem content in the both and don't look like they're going anywhere. Dungy's coaching career is complete, Cowher's is just about the same, and Gruden, while the most likely, sounds happy where he is. Perhaps, Mike Holmgren may be a more logical decision if he ever shows interest in returning as a head coach who is granted some power. If for some reason Jason Garrett is let go from the Cowboys, I'm sure that Jerry Jones will pursue a big name. The previous head coach not participating in this season that seems the most likely (and a reasonable selection) to return is Lovie Smith, as he brought the Bears to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season, to the NFC Championship in 2010, and to the divisional playoffs in 2005. He was fired on a 10-6 season, so his reputation is still a decent one. John Fox and Jeff Fischer had similar coaching careers and they're doing quite well in their second gig. While Brian Billick and Marty Schottenheimer are among the other possibilities, they seem to be fading from the view.

The 2013 NFL Season should be filled with some excitement, regardless what I say with these predictions. We'll just have to see how accurate these turn out and whether or not new trends will form or the things that have been happening with regard to my predictions continue to flow in that matter. I will now ask: ARE YOU READY FOR SOME FOOTBALL???

Friday, August 16, 2013

Song Review: "In Dreams" (1963) by Roy Orbison

Those of you who have read my list of Top Ten Songs By Roy Orbison post I wrote two years ago know that the "Big O" is a favorite singer of mine. This makes it no surprise that one time or another, I will use this song review segment to review songs from Orbison's songbook. Perhaps, one of his more intriguing songs to analyze is his 1963 hit, "In Dreams." No, I am not going to analyze it like Blue Velvet portrayed it, where the candy-colored clown was a drug dealer and he referred to this favorite song of his as "Candy Colored Clown." I am going to analyze it the way that the song was portrayed and made it one of the greatest songs to ever be written. This song would eventually be remade by Roy Orbison in the 1980s in time for Blue Velvet, but in my mind at the very least, the 1963 version is the best version.

Roy Orbison co-wrote many of his songs with writers Joe Melson and Bill Dees during the 1960s, which was the first stage of his notable career (the second would be his comeback in the 1980s). When it came to "In Dreams," he wrote this one completely on his own. Known for dreaming up lyrics to his songs, he came up with these lyrics when he was half-asleep and had the lyrics completed within twenty minutes for this song.

"In Dreams" is intended to be a love song where the narrator dreams of being with his lover before realizing that he awakes to find this lover gone, just as a dream is meant to work. He begins by referring to "a candy-colored clown they call the Sandman" tiptoeing into his room every night. These opening lyrics were included on Spinner's list of their greatest lyrics of all-time (which is where "she's a very kinky girl" from Rick James' "Superfreak" took #1). This Sandman is the source that puts the narrator to sleep. This beginning is so mellow that it mesmerizes you regardless of your current location. When describing his sleeping ritual, he goes up an octave, vocally and musically, until he finally reaches his dreams.

The dreams he sings about in "In Dreams" are the main meat of the song and the vocals and powerful to the point that they just cause you to drift away with Roy Orbison. The dreams have to do with how he gets to walk and talk to his love and how she's always his during these dreams. This is the part that he also hits some good notes as the song continues to flow.

Inevitably, he wakes up just as he left off. This is meant to be the sad part that exists in plenty of Roy Orbison's music. Realizing the truth, he becomes uncontrollably emotional, but to assure himself that everything was okay, he mentions that the girl who he was with said goodbye. This here could either be truth, because it's in the dream, or an act of denial that allows him to feel better about the situation of reality. At the very least, dreams happen every night they are able to (I don't want to get all Freudian with specifics).

The song ends with a response to how it's just too bad that some things can only happen while dreaming. Toward the last two verses is when Roy Orbison begins to reach his emotional peak that can be seen in some many of his hits. Eventually, a sequel would come out of his comeback titled "In The Real World." Whether you can call it a direct sequel is up for debate, because the song primarily has to do with how when relationships end "in the real world," they are over, and goodbye is goodbye. I would consider it a sequel, but not a direct one.

"In Dreams" to me falls under my favorite category of music that came from him and that's the category in which there are no choruses or reprises. He repeats the song's title to add description to the song, but there's no chorus that's referred to two or three times during the song and would be the meat of a reality show performance. There are reasons that this falls under the category of his greatest hits and that has to do with the lyrics, the power, and the execution that Orbison is known so well for doing. While it was strangely portrayed in Blue Velvet, it did elevate him back into American households and allow him to finish his singing career on top. It's unfortunate his career ended because he died from a heart attack in 1988, leaving behind plenty of posthumous material that would be released in the years to come. Fortunately, his legacy is larger than ever.

I will leave a link to the song, which can be found on YouTube, at the bottom of this post. I'm sure listening to this will be a mellowing and powerful experience, just as I get when I listen to the song. If you don't get goosebumps at anytime during the song, I don't know what I can say.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Time Enough At Last (To Read)

I have been craving an open time to catch up on my reading, since 2013 has not been a friendly year when it came to finding the moment to just sit and read a book. When such an opening was present, I held more of an interest to doing something else, such as blog, write, check my Facebook, watch a movie or some television, listen to music, or just crash in bed! I'm going to use this post to inform you about what I have on my agenda and how I plan to review each piece. Details for each review, such as whether or not I liked or disliked the book, will not be included in this post.

I finally finished Hans J. Massaquoi's Destined To Witness, which has to do with Massaquoi, who was a black man, growing up in Nazi Germany. His father was a black man and his mother a white woman, so he had quite a healthy mix of people he came across in his life.

I am now reading two books at once. Why two books? The reason is that one of the books is on the computer, while the other is a physical book. Sometimes I have the urge to read with my computer on, while on other occasions, I like to have the computer off and time to just read an actual book. I need to seek lessons and the concentration to digest lessons on how to take stories from my cloud reader that's on Amazon and connect it to my Kindle. This means that I'm reading one book on the computer and another as an actual book.

On the computer, I'm reading Sunshine by Nikki Rae. Nikki Rae is an indie author from my area who is really becoming active with her writing ideas, primarily her series revolving around Sophie Jean, who has vampire-like tendencies and is sensitive toward sunlight. The series, where each of the novels has "sun" in the title, has to do with her brutal life and how she comes across a real 400-year-old vampire named Myles who comes off as looking like a high school guy. I will definitely have a review for this book on my blog. I may consider writing this review on Loaded Shelves as a guest reviewer in order to provide them with an increase in viewership. That way, both sides garner some recognition.

My physical book I'm currently reading is Sula by Toni Morrison. This is a novel I'm reading, because it was recommended by a member of my former college's literature club. The only other work from Morrison I read was "Recitatif," which is a short story of hers I read in English II. As for Sula, it has to do with two black women who grow up best friends, but grow into separate worlds leaving their relationship with one another torn. I may have a review for this piece as well.

This is what I have on my reading agenda, which means I should wrap things up and get to reading these pieces. I'm growing such an urge!!!

Happy Julienne Fries Day

When I was preparing my list of things to blog about for the month of August, I made the decision that I should start a trend among my fellow bloggers. It doesn't matter if they are food bloggers, designated topic bloggers (like my good friends who are book bloggers), or editorial based bloggers like myself, who will blog about anything in their area of interest. This trend would be to research what kind of foodie holiday is occurring today and provide a commentary about the holiday. This could mean discussing the food, whether or not you like to eat it, and just ramble away from there.

Today is August 12th and it happens to be Julienne Fries Day. Most of my readers from ages 3 to 103 (and beyond) would know what fries are, deep fried potatoes cut into long pieces. Most of us love fries, for they are the perfect sidekick to the burger at any fast food joint or for any occasion. "Julienne," on the other hand, is an action and not the name of the woman that inspired such an act. To "julienne" is to slice something long and thin, thus julienne fries refer to those long, often called "shoestring," fries that you find at many of fast food restaurants. The term "shoestring" refers to how they're thinner than ordinary fries.

Julienne fries, in my mind, are the best kind of fries if executed properly. The proper way to prepare these fellas are to deep fry them in vegetable oil before smothering them in salt. The longer, saltier, and crispier they are: the better. On many occasions, these julienne fries are poorly executed in ways that include breaking into a piece that's so small that you have a hard time enjoying them and it would take gathering several of them into the palm of your hand in order to eat. The perfect julienne fry is one that's long enough that it can be dipped into ketchup and enjoyed. Even dipping two medium sized fries into a giant pond of ketchup is quite delicious.

I wish I could say that I would be able to celebrate julienne fry day by heading over to my nearest fast food joint. Unfortunately, fast food is not part of my eating plan today. I paid a visit to a burger joint yesterday and had a nice lunch of a burger with a bucket of fries. The fries were a bit thick to be declared as "julienne fries," but one day, I'll treat myself to a nice, occasional Burger King meal. Just thinking about such a visit makes me hungry, tasting the salty, crispy fries that they have to offer. That kind of statement could have been said about McDonalds, but at this point, their fries have become limp and shriveled. Burger King's julienne fries (or as I call them when I get them, fries) have far more execution at this point in time.

So now that you know it's Julienne Fries Day, maybe you can pay a visit to a place that serves burgers and julienne fries. I advise you not to do this everyday, especially if you're looking to stay slim for the summer. In this occasion, though, it's always good to treat yourself. Mmmmmm...

For those of you who are bloggers, I encourage you to write about a foodie holiday based off of the day that it is. For instance, you would write about Julienne Fries Day today. Tomorrow, which is August 13th, is Filet Mignon Day, which would be the topic of your post. Let's make this a trend that flows and can be executed everyday of the year which different ideas and food to discuss!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Whose Line Is It Anyway Season 9, Episode 6

The ninth season of Whose Line Is It Anyway has now reached the point where they are going through second appearances from different guest celebrities. The way it was arranged, Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, and Ryan Stiles were in every episode, while each guest participated in two episodes. In this sixth episode, Gary Anthony Williams returned after participating in the first episode (though I'm putting money on the fact that they filmed each of the double appearances together and then spread them out so that it provided a variety as to who you saw on the program) and seemed to have more air time than before, which is a good thing and a good use of the guest performer. At the same time, I don't find Gary Anthony Williams to be as funny as some of the other guest performers, this class including Keegan-Michael Key, Jonathan Magnum, and Jeff Davis. I have yet to make a judgment for Nyima Funk, for I have yet to see her perform (as do the rest of us regarding this season).

To start the program, the four performers participated in "Weird Newscasters," all of which were given interesting roles. Colin was the key newscaster, while Gary sounded like a Cajun performer that was supposed to make no sense, Wayne's caster sounded like Oprah during an edition of her "favorite things" segment she would hold on her show. I will just say that I found it to be a riot. Ryan was an alien who was beginning to show his true form. It was quite hilarious what he ended up doing to Colin. For "Duets," guest Wilson Bethel from Hart of Dixie came on while Wayne and Gary had to perform a song for him in the style of Motown. The two guys sang quite a funny song about convincing him to talk his shirt off, something host Aisha Tyler requested that he do. In "Sideways Scene," which once again featured each performer minus Ryan, Colin and Gary were out of shape police officers and were visited by a trainer, portrayed by Wayne. Like always, they moved into different genres.

Wilson Bethel performed in the next two segments. The first being one that had not been used on this revival until now, known as "Three Headed Song." Each performer in this song can only contribute one word at a time, often leading to hilarious results. The song: "I just can't live without your... rubber duckie." The best part of these performances is that Wilson doesn't know what to expect, but he did such a good job contributing. It's just funny to hear his reaction when seasoned comics such as Wayne and Ryan (who were the other two heads) provide funny contributions. Many of these contributions could been seen as innuendos. In the last segment, "Helping Hands," Ryan portrays the subject interacting with the guest (in this case Wilson Bethel) while Colin portrays his hands. The scenario was Wilson being a medical student and Ryan the senior doctor. This led to Ryan making another mess and Wilson drinking something that looked like a urine sample, finding it the most logical way to seek results. In the end, everyone read the credits like they were mixing drinks.

While I believe that the offstage guest should only be featured in 1-2 sketches, Wilson Bethel was used quite well in his appearance, especially when he took part in the "Three-Headed Song." Drew Carey's version of the program did have guests that would come onstage to take part in sketches, such as Jerry Springer, Florence Henderson, Richard Simmons, Lassie, among others, but these kinds of guests were not featured in every single episode like they are now. The guest provided somewhat of a theme to that particular episode (and Richard Simmons looked like he was in Heaven when he got to portray a prop in "Living Scenery"), while they now simply participate.

Another thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the strength of the guest performer. I see the performers I mentioned as stronger fourth performers and that is key to a great episode. The second half of the season should be quite exciting and I encourage everyone to check out Whose Line Is It Anyway on Tuesday nights at 8 PM on CW. It's a lot better than much of what's on television at the moment we speak and this is on the spot improv comedy, so it's natural. I have also learned that filming for the tenth season of the show will begin in January 2014, which leads me to believe this twenty-four episode season will premiere sometime during the spring or summer of next year. No other details were attached nor do I believe they will be until next year.

I will not give a numerical rating to this episode, because I cannot declare one. Aside from Gary Anthony Williams and his okay performance, everything else was excellent!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Check This Blog: Loaded Shelves

Let's talk about books! I just wish I was able to read more of them. It would take becoming a book blogger or a book reviewer that can get consistent pay in order to come up with an excuse to read and not have to worry about anything else. If you want to be able to read what you want when you want... then you're going to have a hard time making consistent income unless your name is Oprah Winfrey and you already make enough. Book blogging is quite fun to read, as you get to see what everyone else is reading and learn about different books that you didn't know even existed. These blogs bring in quite a lot of attention, but there's a humble little blog that only has fourteen followers the last time I checked, yet the quality of the material that's found on this blog is just excellent. I am talking about Loaded Shelves, which is a blog that's primarily dedicated to books, but will cover other areas of interest. The blog is operated by two girls, Caragh and Brianna, and content is released just about as often as I release content... in a good month when I have the drive to release it.

Loaded Shelves began posting on Blogger in July 2011, where Caragh was the chief contributor and Brianna was a frequent guest contributor. Eventually, Brianna's contributions became frequent enough that by April 2013, she became a co-contributor and the blog became theirs. On this blog, the two girls review just about anything they choose to read, which is a cornucopia of all different genres. They review current fantasy novels, they discuss the young adult franchises of this generation, and even the classics. They read authors like Neil Gaiman or J.K. Rowling, in addition to older authors such as William Shakespeare, Charlotte Bronte, and H.G. Wells. Caragh also happened to come across a novel by Herman Wouk, whom I remember reading during my first year of college when I came across his Winds of War and War and Remembrance, which have to do with World War II. If there's one thing I learned about these girls, they have a library that's filled with endless amount of authors and they'll read anything and everything that appeals to them.

Aside from book reviews, they also take part in the segment known as "No Books Allowed," where they discuss anything that's happening in their lives that doesn't have to do with books. This can range from personal events, televisions, music, movies, games, and so much more. It gives you a bit of a background to who they are and what they do when they're not reviewing books. Caragh primarily hosts this segment, so it's usually from her point of view.

My favorite part of this blog, though, is how they provide updates on what they read throughout the month, what they intend to read next, and what they bought. They arrange it so that you see where each of them is when it comes to what they read, what they bought, and what's up and coming. I could never engage in such a segment, because I never know what I'm going to read next. I give Caragh and Brianna a lot of credit for being able to arrange what they plan to read so thoroughly and it allows us to follow along. They're incredibly organized.

Out of the handful of book blogs I follow, this has to be one of my favorites, and I encourage more people to follow this blog and keep up with the discussion. I see blogs, many of which are book blogs, that have hundreds or thousands of readers. The quality of the writing on this blog, as well as the content these girls put on this blog, leaves me to wonder: why don't they have hundreds or thousands of readers? They do promote their blog and what they write is just so intriguing. In addition, they reply to what you have to say and are open to guest bloggers to submit a book review. I may take them up on their offer... but we'll just have to see.

I will leave a link to the blog at the bottom of this post and enough you to check this out and I will wager high that you'll find something that you will enjoy, whether it's something you have read or haven't read, intended to check out, and then realize that now's the time to check it out. Caragh and Brianna orchestrate that feeling very well!

Let's Be Brutally Honest: There Are Some Cheese Graters That Just Aggravate Me

I love pasta! I love several kinds of pasta to the point that I consume plenty of delicious pasta dishes. I also love pasta that is topped with some Pecorino Romano cheese, grated or sprinkled on top, and in large amounts, because it's such a delicious cheese! Recently, we had to replace our cheese grater, because it became worn to the point that the metal was beginning to flake off of it. It just so happened that this replacement was one from Giada De Laurentis' cooking line. I didn't like it! The grater looked thin like a spatula, had a mediocre grip, and the grater had slits that were placed on a slippery piece of metal. As I grated the cheese, I got very little results and I feared that I was going to grate my finger. I was not satisfied and I told myself that I would find a new grater.

My complaint with cheese graters these days seems to be greater, because as I went shopping for a new one, they were all relatively the same. I went to JC Penney and found two kinds of graters: a large grater with blades that were effective, but too large for what I was looking for (I wanted instant, immediate production, not mass, cooking for several people production) or the flimsy looks blades on a slippery surface. Many of these graters are used to add zest to meals as well, whether it be walnuts, lemons, or limes. I'm not looking to add zest to my pasta dinner, I want to add cheese to the point that it will top my pasta like it would when it snows.

I went to Bed Bath & Beyond and found many of the same kinds of graters, so I settled for a rotary grater that you grind and pour on top of your pasta, which is how they do it at Italian restaurants, most notably at the Olive Garden. Why the graters are structured the way they are, I have absolutely no idea. It just makes me feel uncomfortable to have to grate with flimsy blades that are just slits on a stainless steel rectangle. You only have the ability to grate it in one direction, otherwise the cheese easily slides off track like it's unable to ski properly. In that case, you risk grating your fingers, which I have come into contact with one of the graters, but that one seemed to be more of a zest grater. Nevertheless, they're all being made the same and I'm not fond of it! Not at all!

I am a believer in the "safety first" trend. Everything needs to be arranged so that it's as safe as possible. Even sky divers need to follow safety precautions so that they can have an enjoyable experience without getting hurt or even worse... killed. While these new cheese graters are becoming popular in the form of thinner, smaller slits in the board much like Giada did with hers, they are more of a burden to use. I don't think a company should have the motive of slicing fingers as their number one priority, because they will end up seeing several lawsuits from people who blame the grater for causing the accident when it was really the fact they were not paying attention to what they were doing. In the case of cheese graters, there is still an issue of how poorly structured these graters are becoming.

I find that the best cheese graters are the ones within sturdy, strong looking blades that appear on the large graters, but are also on the small graters in a way that they fit appropriately. These are the graters that have strong handles and you can grate up and down and have the same effect. The steel is also strong enough to the point that as long as you don't do anything silly, such as mishandle the cheese, chances are you're not going to grate your fingers in the process. The rotary graters that I described before and are used as restaurants like the Olive Garden are also safe to use. The blades are assertive, even though your hands are holding the handles (the one on the grater and the one that turns it) and not the cheese on the blade.

The best way to revolt against the trend that cheese graters are following is to do the very best you can at finding a grater with blades that are safe and effective with a grater that is all around useful. A flimsy grater in which you risk slicing your fingers and get little immediate production will see some use, but not enough for complete satisfaction. Chances are these flimsy graters would be the ones you see on "As Seen On TV" commercials and would be the reason someone would have to come up with a solution to such a problem. The flimsy, small slit blades on the slippery grater are becoming a culinary trend and it needs to be stopped.

Whose Line Is It Anyway Season 9, Episodes 4 & 5

The revival season of Whose Line Is It Anyway is progressing quite well, with the comedians they're bringing in proving their worth on the show. Nobody has lost their spark, if there wasn't a super charge that made this group even better. During this week's batch of episodes, along with host Aisha Tyler and regular performers Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, and Ryan Stiles, guest performers Jonathan Magnum and Jeff Davis (Davis being a performer during the version hosted by Drew Carey) appeared in respective episodes and were fortunately able to find key roles in each episode, which is finally closing my concern of them not getting enough time and I have developed that their role is just as important. In addition, the guests are appearing in two sketches and nothing more, which is indeed the right decision. If they wanted them to appear in anymore, then why not provide THEM with seats and call them up when they're needed.

In the first episode with Jonathan Magnum, they participated in sketches that included "Weird Newscasters," where each of them played a different role that they were all able to fulfill successfully. It was indeed a riot! An even bigger riot was the sketch "Props," where they had to think of as many ideas in which they could use the props they were given. Wayne and Colin had large, foam hands while Jonathan and Ryan had large, red shovels that led to some hilarious examples that included genitalia references. This is always one of the better sketches, as are any of the sketches that allow the improv comedians to come up with as many hilarious examples as they possibly can (this also includes "Scenes From A Hat" and "Dating Profile"). Bringing in Kyle Richards from The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, they had her participate in the "Dubbing" sketch, where she was going clothes shopping with her partner before coming across some competition. Her lines, like in several of these sketches, were portrayed by Colin. In "Sideways Scene," the performers minus Ryan performed in a few hilarious scenes where they were laying on the ground in the back room. The show finished up with another segment of "Helping Hands," where Ryan was an attendant on a plane preparing food, Colin performed all of his hand movements, while Kyle Richards was the passenger. For the first time this season, Aisha declared Wayne and Colin as the winners and they got to read off the credits in a hilarious way.

Jeff Davis performed in the next episode, being the first performer (and probably the only one from this season) aside from Wayne, Colin, and Ryan to participate in the Drew Carey series as well as this one. He showed that the guest performer could sure be a funny one! The highlights in this episode included "Duets," where Wayne and Jeff performed a "boy-band" duet about the guests, which included Olympic synchronized swimmers Mary Killman and Mariya Koroleva. Another highlight was "Forward-Reverse," where Wayne and Colin were skiing and after an injury, Ryan comes in as a first responder, while Jeff plays the girlfriend of the injured victim. What was incredible is how they succeeded at acting out the reverse segment of the sketch. The swimmers did an excellent job portraying the props in "Living Scenery," while "Sideways Scene" was also another hit. In the end, everybody had to name the credits like they were training for a synchronized swimming competition. Wayne tried to posey away and pretend that he was chatting it up with Aisha, but one of the swimmers quickly pulled him back in and he was "back in action."

It seems as if throughout the remainder of the season, the performers are going to include the five people that participated in each of the first five episodes, plus Nyima Funk, who is set to perform in two of the episodes, which looks like the normal trend for this season. Next season, it would be nice to see some of the regular rotating guests from the Drew Carey version if they remain active. It would be great to see Greg Proops, Brad Sherwood, Chip Esten, among with others that made a mark on the show. I can recall Whoopi Goldberg's appearances on the show and she was indeed a riot, which is a good reason to bring her in as a guest performer for an episode or two. The way they conduct the filming for the tenth season of the show will really have an effect on the direction this show goes in its revival. For now, get comedians like Jeff Davis, Jonathan Magnum, and Keegan-Michael Key as guests along with those that I mentioned above, and this show should be quite a riot! It IS the key improv program, not a Drew Carey improv show under another name or a show featuring some of the regulars but not others, but Whose Line Is It Anyway, the show based off of the original program that took place in the U.K. and was brought over to the U.S. after Drew Carey convinced the network to do such.