Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ten Best Books I Read In 2013

2013 has not been a year of massive reading. It has been a year of massive studying, working, as well as some writing which includes the short story of mine that got submitted into the Garden State Speculative Writers anthology, The Speculations of New Jersey. I did, however, catch up on a modest amount of reading, which includes enough to pick out ten of my favorites. While a few of these books would have not made it onto a top ten list in years past, they have made it onto the list this year and even with a 7/10 rating, they were exciting reads in some way, shape, or form.

I have mentioned that 2013 has been a year of analyzing smaller texts, which is why I will be coming up with overall lists of the greatest short stories and poems I have read as some of my first posts during the new year, which will include some massive fiction writing on my behalf, which may mean a decrease in the amount of posts I submit to my blog. I will, however, do my very best to submit to my blog as often as possible. There are plenty of ideas that are flowing through my mind that I just feel like getting out there.

With further due, here are the ten best books I read and finished during 2013...

#10- Inferno by Dan Brown- I felt this was a 7/10 novel when I first completed it and still believe that Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code were the best two novels in Brown's Robert Langdon series. While Inferno struggled with capturing the essence of Dante's masterpiece about an eventful trip through Hell, Inferno is able to quench the eerie idea of how the world is becoming overpopulated and how Zobrist, who is deemed the key antagonist, releases a virus that will wipe out a major part of the population in order to solve the issue of the overpopulation that the world is facing. This kept my attention as the novel progressed and left me wondering about the situation Langdon was facing, the impact on his partner in Sienna Brooks, as well as the other important core of characters.

#9- The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux- This was one of the more vague novels I read toward the beginning of the year. It did, however, provide an image as to what the novel had to offer and what the Lon Chaney film and Broadway play would have to offer as it developed from such a simple idea. This simple idea has to do with the ousting of an individual, because he was deemed as being scary, but more importantly because he did not attract those who judged him. While this novel is often categorized as a work of horror, it can also be deemed a work that carries a message.

#8- Sunshine by Nikki Rae- I thoroughly enjoy reading local authors. Nikki Rae is what is described as an "indie author" by both definitions. The first being an author from a smaller publisher who is just getting started and has to rely heavily on their own means to promote themselves. The second being the fact that they're self-published. Of course, the first and second go together quite well, but the ability to do such a thing along with the right amount of time and blessings hold major success. Nikki Rae will surely find major success. Sunshine has to do about a girl named Sophie Jean who has a sensitivity to the sun and how she meets a vampire in the form of a teenage boy named Myles, who becomes a special figure in her life as time progresses. Sophie and Myles establish themselves to the point that they stray from the everyday new adult series' that include Twilight, for this is the kind of series that could seriously be trapped in the frey that comes with such an idea. Nikki Rae will be an author to look out for in the years to come.

#7- The Last Days of the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport- Rappaport engaged in something so spectacular that it provided us with a different lens as to how we view history. She provided us, the reader, with an account of a totalitarian figure in such a poignant light that we start to question whether or not Nicholas II and his family deserved to die. The position of Tsar became overwhelming unpopular starting in the nineteenth century and by the twentieth century, groups were forming to overthrow the Tsar in favor of a government that provides equality to all. In 1917, the Tsar was finally dethroned and the Bolsheviks (which became the Communists) would take control until eventually, Joseph Stalin would lead this party as a Tsar-like leader. The primary concentration of this book are, as stated, the last DAYS in which the Romanovs (Nicholas II, Alexandra, his four daughters, and his son Alexey) are living in exile in Ekaterinburg as they await their death. Perhaps if it weren't for the rise of Joseph Stalin, we would view the Romanovs differently, but Rappaport writes about the Romanov family as if they are an important family instead of one that held so much totalitarian power that brought out frustration among their country.

#6- How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster- Being an English major, possessing the ability to know as much as you possibly can about grasping the material is always a plus. The different ideas that Foster puts into our heads is absolutely incredible. For instance, he mentions the meaning of each season (spring is birth, summer is livelihood, fall is aging, and winter is death) and how it is used in literature, while popping up of the water is a sign of rebirth or baptism if it means not drowning in that water. Foster uses plenty of examples (especially from Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison) in order to provide us with the ideas he is trying to convey and humor in order to keep the book fun and intriguing instead of wish that we changed our majors (you can stop waving your arms, Math, I am not coming to you!). Then he provides us with an opportunity to take what he taught us and put it to use as we critically approach Katherine Mansfield's "The Garden Party," which begins to make far more sense after implementing the different tips Foster provides.

#5- Destined to Witness by Hans J. Massaquoi- Any work having to do with Nazi Germany and those who struggled during that era (primarily the Jews and any one who was non-Aryan) comes off as fascinating if written well. I held Maus by Art Spiegelman to a high standard and put it as #4 on my "Top 10 Books I Read In 2012" post. I also read The Book Thief and found it to at least be decent. This book takes on a different angle, that of the black man instead of the Jew. Massaquoi was born to a mother who was white and German and a father who was black and African. His father left him and his mother when Massaquoi was young and shook Massaquoi's life. How he explains school brings a feeling of what it's like to be bullied, regardless as to whether or not someone has been bullied. He also discusses the difficulty of joining the military, reuniting with his father who turned out being more arrogant than he thought, his relationships, and the list keeps going on. Massaquoi's life was incredibly intriguing, leading up to when he finally took the opportunity to come to America. Reading and learning about people who came from struggles to obtain success is always fascinating. On many occasions, black people are the subject of such stories and in that case, the story of Massaquoi stands among the incredible.

#4- Touching the Dead by Carlotta Holton- Carlotta Holton is one of the most interesting and overlooked authors that horror fiction has to offer. Holton is known best for writing about the historical and the superstitious, which can be seen in her collection of short stories, Touching the Dead. This collection tends to concentrate on the superstitious, but there are historical elements in the form of how these superstitions came to be. She writes about the irony of a superstition involving a figure that's meant to bring rain with him in order to quench the thirst of the town citizens, she writes about a witch that lives on for centuries as she spreads misfortune. The other stories include a granddaughter using a superstitious stare against her creepy grandfather, how the dying of Easter eggs symbolizes plenty of good fortunes, and as the title states, how "Touching the Dead" is a good omen for staying alive and healthy. Holton does a good job bringing in excitement to the area of superstition and this should definitely not be missed!

#3- The Stranger by Albert Camus- Many of people see The Stranger as that novel they had to read when they were in high school. I see it for more than that. I see it as a novel that was explored at an angle that is rarely ever explored in the world of literature. Most novels either take place in the central character's head or surrounding the character to the point we know exactly what's going on with them at all times. We have absolutely no idea what's floating through Meursault's head. In that case, the title rightfully projects that we're meant to see him as "a stranger." When his mother dies, Meursault just sits there. We just see someone emotionless as they attend the funeral, even if those around him are more emotional (such as an old friend of his mother's). In the turning point, he seems incredibly emotionless to the point that this is how he is judged. The individuals in the story, as well as the reader, have no idea what's going on in Meursault's head and that's exactly what makes this work much more fascinating. This is gold for the reader that wants to dissect a story in every which way they possibly can and is one that can be subject to rereads at any point in time.

#2- The Giver by Lois Lowry- I took a Young Adult Literature class during the fall and I must say that while I read most of the material (including my #3 selection from last year, The Hunger Games), I had never read The Giver and I'm incredibly glad that I finally had the opportunity to do so. I found the content to be so raw to the point that with the decisions we are making, we are seeing a future in which we have sameness to the point that the government has to make people happy to the point that true positive feelings become obsolete. In this instance, Jonas enters his twelfth year and is assigned a role (which every individual is) to meet with "The Giver," who provides him with memories that he will eventually be assigned to possess. This novel explores topics such as totalitarianism, socialism, the impossibility of utopias, "release," climate control, and so much more. I highly urge everyone to read this novel, especially if it wasn't part of the middle or high school reading that came with the class load. Then I highly urge people to do something in order to preserve the natural happiness and the positive things that this world has to offer instead of making such an effort to force government control to the point of suffocation.

#1- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll- These two masterpieces go hand in hand with one another, so it's appropriate that I put them together. The story, but especially the characters and concept make up the magic that is Wonderland. As most of us know through the many adaptations of this story, most notably the 1951 Disney film and the more recent 2010 film starring Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter, Alice goes through a rabbit hole and into Wonderland while coming across several interesting sights. In the sequel, she revisits Wonderland from a completely different angle. In her first visit, she comes across a constantly vanishing Cheshire Cat, has a tea party with the Mad Hatter, plays croquet with the Queen of Hearts, meets an eternally depressed Mocking Turtle, and takes part in a court case. In her second visit, she meets Tweedledee and Tweedledum, learns about "un-birthdays" from Humpty Dumpty, and comes across a sleeping king. What's even more fascinating is that these stories provide a sense of the nonsense. While Alice's several encounters provide little logic, how is logic exactly defined? Wonderland may be a dream world, but perhaps life is just a dream. Lewis Carroll does an excellent job capturing the thought process of society as a whole and Carroll was a strange individual in real life as well. If there are any works that require second reads, this is definitely one of them and is definitely near the top.

Here is my Top 10 Books that I read this year. Of course, not all of them were released this year, but that's the way I operate this post and will continue to operate it. One thing I do want to change is the amount that I read. I read plenty of books during the last two years and didn't find as strong an opportunity to do the same for this. Put that on my list of New Years Resolutions for 2014, which I usually do away with due to the fact I'm not fond of holding myself to specific tasks. As for this year, I urge you to pick up these titles, especially those toward the top of the list. I will also warn it that if for some reason the amount of titles I read sees a decrease that's even more drastic, it's probably because I'm rereading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass to establish myself as a genius in that particular text. Fortunately, I will probably read some work I have not read before (though I do plan on revisiting Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury).

I want to wish everybody a Happy, Healthy, and Safe New Year and I hope to fill this blog with plenty of exciting posts as 2014 rolls around. Up and coming will include lists of my favorite short stories and poems and this will all lead up to the 250th post, which will include a Q&A and giveaway. Happy 2014, everyone!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Book Review: "The Giver" by Lois Lowry

This is the post I wrote for Loaded Shelves that appeared on their blog last week. I wanted to release it on their blog first in order to provide them with some exposure and allow my fans to not only read my review on their blog, but also read their reviews and explore their knowledge for the written text. Hope you enjoy this review for such an intriguing novel!

For the last few months, I have been interacting with Caragh and Brianna from Loaded Shelves and endorsed them as being a blog that all readers from different walks of life can enjoy. I am incredibly honored to be able to contribute book reviews to their blog, for reading is one thing I thoroughly enjoy to do. I am Josh Caporale and I created my blog, Caponomics, back in March 2011. Caponomics began as a column in my high school newsletter. After graduation, I briefly had a column with the same name before I took my high school newsletter editor's advice and created a blog. I am a growing blog that has 19 followers, over 200 posts, and over 22,000 page views, holding high hope that at some point in time, I can surpass these numbers. The topics I cover on my blog include politics, music, film, television, sports, food, nostalgia, and most importantly... books and literature. While there isn't a direct concentration, my absolute passion lies in writing and reading and I hope that some day, I become a successful writer who writes in the realm of horror, sci-fi, speculative, or just situation fiction ("what if").

I have given you enough about my story and should move forward with a story far more excellent of my own: or should I call it a warning? In the American curriculum, Lois Lowry's The Giver is seen as a staple in some way, shape, or form. Since I went to private school, I did not have the opportunity to read it. Thankfully, when I took a Young Adult Literature class this semester, this was one of the books we read and it just so happened my group and I presented this book to the class. When I say that The Giver is a warning, I mean we are taking visible steps toward a world that is very much similar to this novel. The fact that somebody is possessing a power like "The Giver" would probably come in the form of technology, such as a ring that plays a role equivalent to a computer flash drive, but the nature of possessing memory will become nearly obsolete, something we have seen multiple times in literature.

The Giver follows a boy named Jonas who will be entering his twelfth year. During this point in time, individuals are assigned a role in society. Yes, this is a society that provides just about no freedom to its citizens. Citizens are assigned a role, their spouses are chosen from them based off of their personality and common interests like they're on, they request children that they receive if they successfully survive their first year, and they are required to share their dreams with one another. There are been plenty of arguments in futuristic societies in which children will not be naturally born, but instead in test tubes or in laboratories. This seems to be that kind of society, for the only individuals that can be seen naked are babies (before their first year) and older people living in the "House of Old." Jonas lives with his father, who is a nurturer that cares for babies, his mother, who worked for the Department of Justice, his sister, Lily, who is years younger, and Gabriel, who is a baby that Jonas' dad is raising until he turns one and is either adopted by a family or released if he does not meet their standards.

Jonas is the last one called during the ceremony, for he is selected to be the next Receiver. This individual eventually becomes the subject that holds the memories of society from generations ago. This requires meetings with "The Giver," who is an older looking man that possesses the memory from generations ago in which he passes onto Jonas by rubbing his back. Of course, this is a relatively strange method that will catch some attention, but the intent is to use this in order to deliver memories. Through these meetings, Jonas learns about a society of snow and sunshine, relief and pain, as well as the memory of color. Unfortunately, this society has converted to that of "sameness" (ohhhhhh boy, does that look familiar???), in which the weather is always the same year round, people don't end up in situations in which they hurt (and if they are, they just take a pill), and this society did away with color, because they wanted everyone to look as identical as possible so no one would complain. Jonas learns the secrets behind what really happens during release and why the last person who took on the role of Receiver surrendered the position and demanded a release. This all leads to a climatic result that turns into something that's incredibly open-ended. At the same time, these connections are tied in some way in the three sequels: Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

The Giver is downright brilliant! It delivers a powerful message about how a futuristic utopia is relatively impossible, even if the world around us supports such a notion. At the same time, we are taking steps further toward living in such a society. The Giver has elements of *SKIP THIS SEGMENT IF YOU DON'T WANT TO CONSUME A SPOILER* human euthanasia *YOU MAY CONTINUE* Totalitarianism, climate change (solved with climate control), and rebellion against such a controlling society, something we see through plenty of leaders throughout history. The purpose of a work is that it delivers a message, often originating as a thought in someone's head, that will keep the reader thinking long after the last words have been read. That is where The Giver succeeds best and it's rightfully taught in schools, even when schools have made an effort to engage in the inappropriate practice of censoring it. The Giver should be seen as a warning to anyone that believes in the government tending to their everyday needs, for that will be a case in which freedom will become obsolete and to see freedom become obsolete is the biggest sin that society has to offer.

Verdict: 10/10

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Merry Christmas Post: Seven Updates

I want to start by wishing everybody a very Merry Christmas. If you are not one to celebrate Christmas, I send my holiday wishes to whichever holiday you celebrate and hope you have a joyful one indeed. Through this post, I would like to share with you some important updates relating to myself and anything having to do with this blog that will be occurring within the upcoming days, weeks, and perhaps we can keep going about with months as well. Throughout the winter break, lasting now until mid-January, I hope to accomplish plenty of tasks from reading to writing to a literary web show. This should really bring festivity to the end of this year and the beginning of next, so I shall begin!

1. Literary Gladiators

This is the name of my newest project I plan to dig deeper into in the beginning of January. Literary Gladiators is my literary web show in which my fellow English majors and I will be discussing different texts in literature, whether they're novels, short stories, and poems, we plan to dissect the meaning of each of these works while treating them as they're meant to be treated on the surface. For now, I will share just the first names of the people participating. Those who will regularly appear with me on the program include my good friend Charles, whom I participated in four classes with and he's just a riot! He likes drums, cookies, and Noo Noos, but also gives witty analogies concerning the pieces. Jim, another regular, is just witty! He's a genius in his own right and holds back no punches as he speaks. In many ways, he's the x-rated Nipsey Russell with his dirty limericks. We also plan on having rotating guests ranging from Gerilyn, who is just so cheerful but intelligent, Nicole, who is the feisty Rottweiler of the crew possessing plenty of literary knowledge and will be a joy to debate, while Brianna holds a high range of intelligence, especially in the realm of American Literature. Finally, Christine Connery from Talk Nerdy to Me will be one of the more frequent rotating guests. She is a huge driving force on the filming end and she'll be a driving force when we film the first ten episodes. Her, Jim, Charlie, and I already worked on the pilot, which allowed us to test the concept of how the show will be run. Choosing a host will be TBD, but we are down to two. Filming dates will be decided on who can attend which day. If the first ten episodes and pilot come off as a hit, we will plan on filming more during the summer.

2. Speculations of New Jersey

I mentioned that I was working on a short story to submit to the Garden State Speculative Writers anthology during the summer. I learned that my short story, "Pity Teeth," has been accepted and I was ecstatic when I heard the news. The anthology is slated for a 2014 release, but I have absolutely no idea when it comes to further details. What I do know is that contributors will have the opportunity to get their hands on a few copies before the release to the general public. Most of the submissions are from fellow colleagues of mine, but this is the same association that came out with Dark Territories back in 2008, which included a piece by F. Paul Wilson (of the Repairman Jack series). As I mentioned before, "Pity Teeth" has to do with a trip to the dentist gone wrong. The rest you will have to read in order to find out what happens. The one thing this has done is provide me with a drive to push forward with regard to writing, something I will mention much deeper in the fourth update.

3. What I'm Reading

I'm an English major, so we have plenty of required reading for classes. When you take four English classes, which I will not do again due to the free elective requirements that cannot be English classes, you're not left with a lot of time to read for pleasure. Now that it's winter break, I will have enough time to read for pleasure or at least a decent amount of time to do so. The book I have on the top of my stack is Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry, which I hope to complete during the winter break. I began reading it earlier in the year, but I wanted the concentration to give it the proper attention it deserved. With the massive load of everything going on, that time couldn't be found. Now I'm back to it and hope to complete it. I'm also preparing for Literary Gladiators, which will require some reading from James Joyce's Dubliners, as "Araby" will be one of the stories we discuss. I also need to reacquaint myself to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde, The Stranger by Albert Camus, and the list keeps going on. I shouldn't have any issue with The Stranger, for I dug deeply into the text on the first roundabout. Aside from Ghost Road Blues, I have my eye on Dark Territories and Watchmen.

4. What I'm Writing

My acceptance into Speculations of New Jersey provided me with a drive to keep writing and finding open markets that are suited for writers like myself to submit to. I was actually contemplating taking a more literary turn with stories about individuals that battle from some psychological obstacle. After the acceptance, I felt that I could trek into just about anything I held an interest in writing. I see myself taking on genres that are often touched upon in The Twilight Zone: horror, science fiction, supernatural, psychological, situational, or more broadly: speculative! I will be spending much of my winter break writing some new short stories while editing some of my others. If all goes well, I also want to work on some novel writing, which includes the one I began in 2011. It will need some polishing, but that's almost always a standard when it comes to putting together the best possible piece. At the same time, I will be updating my blog as often as possible with some new material. Speaking of which, these next three will touch up on what's to come.

5. Working With Loaded Shelves

I find it such an excellent thrill to be engaging in a partnership with Loaded Shelves, as Caragh and Brianna are a delight to blog with. The best thing about these two is that they read just about anything you put in front of them, bringing me a bit of optimism about how the world needs more Henry Bemis'. Last week, my book review for The Giver was released on their blog and I will re-release it here on Caponomics later this week. In addition, I plan to write and submit a review of Sunshine by Nikki Rae, which has been the most recent book I completed for pleasure. I hope to submit some more reviews and book related posts to their blog in the future.

6. Top Books of 2013 PLUS Short Stories and Poems

While these are going to be three separate posts, I plan on making this happen. I didn't have the opportunity to read as much as I wish I had been able to, but I read a satisfactory amount to the point in which the ten books on the list are able to stand their own. If more books were in the mix, some of them would have not made it, though (some are 7/10's). In addition, I plan on working on a list of my favorite short stories and poems, which will not occur as often as the annual top books of the year. I will need to decide as to whether or not I will rank them or simply list them. I'm leaning toward just listing them, but this will come down to a matter of waiting and seeing. Either way, this should definitely be a delight!

7. The 250th Post: Q&A and Giveaway

We are reaching the 250th post, which will occur fourteen posts from now. Hopefully this landmark is reached in January or February, perhaps before the three-year anniversary on March 9th. For the 250th post, I plan on having a Q&A that will lead to a giveaway. Here's the plan: submit up to three questions in the comment box ranging from anything that has to do with areas of interest, previous posts, or anything you'd like answered on this blog. For every question (up to three) you submit, I will enter your name in a raffle and the person who wins will have the opportunity to win any book that has been mentioned in one of my lists for ten best books of the year. I have lists for 2011, 2012, and will have one for 2013 that will be written before the new year. They can easily be found in one of the columns to the right if you explore each of the years. I'll answer each question and announce the winner in the 250th post, which I plan to write some time during the first quarter of the upcoming year.

Guess this is the way to end 2013, in such a positive fashion filled with plenty of eventful things that are up and coming. Writing, reading, blogging, web shows, Q&A's, giveaways... I see a 2014 that should be filled with magnificent feats that only await. Once again, I want to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas and may your holiday be filled with cheer and warmth!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Twilight Zone: "Night of the Meek"

The winter break has come to me, thus time to update my blog with some new reading and hopefully posting enough to reach the 250th post by a decent time next year. Around this time two years ago, I recommended The Twilight Zone and to this day see it as one of the greatest television shows of all time. I should also mention how it's one of the greatest reality shows of all-time, because unlike many of other reality shows that have so many obvious holes to them, The Twilight Zone puts forth plenty of truths in our society. This includes the idea of sameness ("Number 12 Looks Just Like You"), scapegoating ("The Monsters are due on Maple Street"), replacing humans with computers ("The Brain Center at Whipple's), and the list keeps going on, though at the same time, many of episodes explore the supernatural or simply tell a story that leaves you thinking.

Warning: Reviews of television episodes contain spoilers. If you don't want to find out what happens, I suggest watching the episode first before coming back to this review.

One of those that plays with the supernatural is the Christmas special: "Night of the Meek." There is most definitely a magic that makes up the Christmas holiday and its intent is to leave the viewer with a warm fuzzy feeling known as sentiment. A great Christmas special can fill you with plenty of different emotions, but once it fills you with sentiment of some fashion, it has engaged in much of its purpose. This Christmas special did this perfectly and at the same time never strayed away from its initial purpose. "Night of the Meek" follows an unemployed man named Henry Corwin (played by Art Carney) who has a job once a year as a department store Santa under Mr. Dundee (played by John Fiedler), an uptight boss who feeds into the norms of a commercial society. Mr. Dundee is waiting for Corwin to attend a Christmas event filled with plenty of youngsters while Corwin (in his Santa suit) is having a few (to put it in a subtle fashion) drinks at the bar. Hilariously enough, plenty of young kids are watching and shouting for "Santa," to which Corwin waves.

Henry Corwin is eventually kicked out after swindling the bartender out of a bottle of booze and is confronted by some children from struggling families. They begin asking for toys, but progress to asking for more serious things such as food on the table. Corwin (in his Santa suit) sends them on their way and arrives an hour late at the department store. An angry Mr. Dundee expresses his mind quietly, but furiously to Corwin before telling him that he'd better succeed at impressing the children (but in reality the parents). The first child to go up is a "Percival Smithers" who wants a new name for Christmas, causing a reaction from his mother. Corwin becomes unable to sit still and constantly passes out, leading him to be fired by Dundee. Before leaving, Corwin provides a philosophical speech as to why he drinks heavily, as he has the option to weep about his life or drink and feel a little less pain. He expands to talking about what Christmas should really mean and that Dundee, like plenty of others, see it in a more commercialized fashion. Corwin leaves, barely able to walk the streets.

Corwin eventually walks by the alleyway and comes across a bag, which is where a sentimental tune that sounds like it came from a child's music box begins to play. This feeds into the idea of Christmas sentiment. The bag is at first filled with garbage, but at a second glance, it becomes filled with presents. Not just presents, but a bag that provides people with what ever they ask. He goes to his mission house and presents everyone with what ever they ask, only to shock Sister Florence (played by Meg Wyllie) and cause her to bring a police officer, Flaherty (played by Robert P. Lieb) onto the premise. Flaherty feels that Corwin shoplifted the items and took him to the police station. They are met by Mr. Dundee, who knows that something suspicious has been going on, until they realize the bag is (as originally found) filled with garbage. Mr. Dundee feels that it's a sham and that this is not a bag Corwin found, but stole. Mr. Dundee asks for a specific bottle of cherry brandy that Corwin feels and pulls out. Corwin leaves to hand out more gifts to the children, while Mr. Dundee gets himself drunk.

As Corwin hands out the last of the gifts, a friend from the mission house comes across his path and thanks him for the pipe and mentions how incredible this whole evening has been. He asks Corwin what he wants, to which Corwin wishes that he could do this every year, which could be viewed in a way that he sets himself up for some more supernatural, but sentimental magic. As he returns to the alleyway to the sentimental tune, he comes across a sleigh with reindeer in the front. An elf, played by a young boy, tells him how they've got more to do and then have to prepare for next year, indicating that Corwin has become Santa. As he rides away, Flaherty and Dundee see him riding on his sleigh, to which an intoxicated Dundee accuses Flaherty of "seeing things" and that he'll take him back to his place and make him feel better with some of his brandy.

The beatitude states that: "The meek shall inherit the Earth," which happens as Corwin portrays a drunk department store Santa each year, but eventually having the opportunity to become more than just that drunk Santa and instead THE Santa, coming out with the strongest statement. What Corwin really conveyed was that the meaning of Christmas should be doing everything you possibly can to make somebody happy in any which way. The person providing the happiness comes out with a feeling of sentiment, which is an advanced form of happiness that comes with a fuzzy feeling. "Night of the Meek" is filled with plenty of evident flaws of the Christmas season, the biggest being the commercialization that has only escalated. Just look at how Black Friday has flooded into the entire Thanksgiving (remember, Kmart opened at 6 AM on Thanksgiving and stayed open until 11 PM the next day!). Mr. Dundee represents this cold-hearted, misunderstanding element toward the heartfelt emotions that come with Christmas.

"Night of the Meek," in a very different way, is one of my favorite Christmas specials. It displays something far different from most, but what it displays provides such truth to what Christmas really means. The fact that it delivers a feeling of sentiment also drives it to being a special that can stand the test of time and at the same time a bit of necessary humor, supernatural elements, and messages of honesty. I should also remind everyone that The Twilight Zone marathon will be showing, as it always does, on New Years Eve and New Years Day on the Syfy channel.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Death Of Roy Orbison: 25 Years Today

During the late 1980s, Roy Orbison saw his singing career drastically surge back from his success in the early 1960s. Despite fading for several years, he saw plenty of excellent opportunities. In 1980, his duet with Emmylou Harris, "That Loving You Feeling Again," won a Grammy award. By 1987, he was working on several musical projects that included new singles that would contribute to later albums, a special televised concert known as Roy Orbison's Black & White Night, and as a member of the supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. What started as arrangement for George Harrison's album Cloud Nine became the building blocks to The Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. This group featured Orbison, Harrison, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Jeff Lynne. Lynne would be involved in the production of Mystery Girl (an album that even Bono contributed a song to), released in 1989, and King of Hearts, released in 1992. Orbison was taking part in a tour when he realized he was suffering from chest pains. When returning home on December 6, 1988, he took a heart attack that evening and died before he could successfully receive the right medical treatment. He was just 52 years old and participating in one of music's greatest comebacks.

Roy Orbison inspired many, such as Bruce Springsteen, who even mentioned him in his song "Thunder Road." His songs were covered by Linda Ronstadt, Sonny James, Don McLean, Gene Pitney, and the list keeps going on.

I'm going to recreate the list of my ten favorite Roy Orbison songs that I created back in 2011 to celebrate his 75th birthday. The only difference will be in the fact that I will also include some videos. The summaries will be a bit shorter, but I have the videos to make up for it that I hope you enjoy. The videos are from YouTube and the uploader owns these videos. Ultimately, those who produced the albums and created the lyrics own the rights to the music (much of which is delegated by his living sons).

#10- California Blue

During his 1980s comeback, Orbison had plenty of excellent hits that have continued to stand the test of time. Some of my favorites include "A Love So Beautiful" and "You Got It," but there's something so mesmerizing about "California Blue" and how Orbison captures such beauty and longing through his lyrics. He hits some excellent notes as well.

#9- Oh, Pretty Woman

If there's any song that is forever attached to Roy Orbison's legacy, it's this one. Released in 1964, this remained on the charts for five weeks during an era dominated by the British Invasion. It would eventually inspire the 1990 film, Pretty Woman, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. I enjoy the song as well, as it takes on a more upbeat tone, but at the same time capture the essence of Roy Orbison.

#8- Only The Lonely

Orbison's first hit was "Ooby Dooby" from 1956, but it was "Only The Lonely" in 1960 that really brought him a decent flow of attention. This rightfully represents the gist of where Orbison goes with his music, appealing to those that are having the hardest times. He does quite a job hitting those notes as well!

#7- It's Over

Written in 1964 with new co-writer Bill Dees, "It's Over" provides an apocalyptic mindset to losing your love. It's one of his most passionate songs, capturing a feeling that many of us dealing with a breakup go through.

#6- Blue Bayou

Before Linda Ronstadt performed this song in the 1970s, Orbison performed it in 1963 and did quite a job! I always loved the way it was so soothing and painted an image in my mind of such a beautiful place.

#5- Crying

First performed in 1961, Orbison wrote this song when he saw the reaction he had with an old flame and it left him saddened. We feel just that emotion of raw sadness. During his 1980s comeback, he sung this as a duet with k.d. lang, which proved to be one of the most dynamic duets of all time. Rightfully one of the saddest songs and it absolutely defines how Roy Orbison goes for the gut with his music. (solo) (with k.d. lang)

#4- In Dreams

This has to be one of his most brilliantly written songs, released in 1963. It tells of a "candy-colored clown they call the Sandman" coming into Orbison's room that puts him to sleep, where he goes through a mesmerizing dream that he awakes from. I was told through the replies, who learned from a reliable source, that this was Orbison's favorite song. I also have a review specifically for this song I wrote over the summer.

#3- Running Scared

There's just something so incredible about this song. It provides a dramatic buildup on the fear that the person (in this case, the woman) you love having her attraction to her previous partner. It builds up so beautifully before it lets loose for an unforgettable finish.

#2- Crawling Back

This is not a song that everybody recalls, but it's just so emotionally brilliant. It captures the emotion of how much you adore somebody, no matter how much pain they inflict onto you. It also captures the loss of a partner and while there was so much pain in the relationship, you will do anything and everything to be with them. The tone starts off soft, but it grabs you and doesn't let go.

#1- The Crowd

This song from 1962 is not his most memorable, but it's my favorite. The song has to do with coping with the loss of a relationship that held so many memories and Orbison sings about simply going about with the crowd and living life as it should be lived, but things could definitely be better since his love has left him. This song starts out soft before going up a few notches before letting loose and ending of a powerful note. There are very few songs that are arranged so brilliantly as this one is.

Of course, there are plenty of songs that were incredible that I wasn't able to include. Arranging the list to ten is the most challenging part, but it's doable and has been done.

It's incredible that it's been 25 years since Roy Orbison has left us physically, but his music continues to live on and inspire several individuals. I'm going to leave you with my original post I wrote for his 75th birthday on April 23, 2011 and a little Christmas video of his signature Christmas hit, "Pretty Paper."

"Pretty Paper"

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