Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Five Best Books I Read In 2014

For the last three years, I ranked the ten best books I read from each year. This will obviously lead some of you to wondering why I am only selecting five for this year. It is true that I have not read as much as I did during 2011 and 2012 when I was not juggling both classes and work, but I have also been intensely studying individual works that not only include novels, but also short stories and poems. I did an intense close reading of Narcissus & Goldmund by Hermann Hesse in order to complete a paper for a cornerstone class for my English major. Hesse has been an author that has interested me with his "east to west" philosophy and how it plays an impact on train of thought. I have also been intensely studying Robert Frost's poetry and different works that we have went over on Literary Gladiators, which has currently released sixteen episodes with a seventeenth that may be up before the year comes to an end. At the moment, we have eighteen subscribers and close to 1,500 page views.

As for what I read this year, the five books that I selected are CLEARLY the five best that I read this year. My goal was to introduce myself to some new writing while continuing to explore the authors that I have adored for the last few years. This is reflective in the selections that I am making and will not include works that I found to be somewhat mediocre. If I mention it on this list, I highly suggest that you check them out in any which way you are able.

Here to go...

#5- The Shining by Stephen King- Looking at King's career chronologically, this is his third book that was released only after Carrie and Salem's Lot. I was not fond of Carrie and Salem's Lot is one of those novels that I admit that I have to revisit after reading it when I was in the eighth grade. The Shining, I must say, delivered fear to me with an intensity that only Pet Sematary has been able to exceed. It interfered with the occurrences I have had when I was dreaming throughout the night, so this definitely means it had some kind of response. In the novel, Jack Torrance and his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny, move to Colorado when Jack agrees to take a job overseeing the haunted and deserted Overlook Hotel. Jack is a recovering alcoholic who lost his job as an instructor due to striking a student that make steps to sabotaging him. While this novel concentrates on the demons that Danny comes across while staying with his parents at this hotel, concentration is made most on the demons of Jack Torrance. Jack is the crucial monster in this novel that is dealing with the affects of his alcoholism, his history of abuse that was inflicting upon him and he has passed along, and how he psychologically gets to Danny as one that wants to help at one moment, but hurt at the next. This novel carries along with it themes in many of Stephen King's novels (a subject who works as either a writer, instructor, or both, a young child with a crucial role, someone they meet who is really easygoing and has come across the particular demon, among others in short spurts) and they are completed with the same kind of care as in other works. Some may argue otherwise, but I feel that The Shining is the novel that established Stephen King into an individual, original mind that contributes to the genre of horror fiction. While his other two novels are respectable to his readers, they contribute to the possessed and vampire genres in some way, shape, or form. Of course, there is so much that could come about in that particular discussion, but The Shining is like something that has never been written and reflects the genius of Stephen King.

#4- The Fault in our Stars by John Green- Everybody I come across: book bloggers, fellow English majors, literature club members, friends... they were all talking about The Fault in our Stars and how brilliant this novel was. I finally had to pick this up and read it at the beginning of the semester. It was so good that I read the last 150 pages all in one sitting in about three hours time. What I find even more brilliant is that John Green is not just a fiction writer, he is also a YouTube vlogger who is one half of the VlogBrothers with his brother, Hank. He also has a YouTube channel called Crash Course where he holds fun lectures in educational topics (such as history and literature). The Fault in our Stars explores the harsh, but very real world of those with cancer. Specifically, that of Hazel Grace, who is sixteen years old and has a terminal form of thyroid cancer. Since it has spread to her lungs, she is required to carry around an oxygen tank. Her overprotective mother forces her to attend support group sessions, which is where her life chances and she meets Augustus, who has a form of bone cancer that led to an amputation. He is currently in remission. The two begin to form a bond and he creates this image of being an ideal significant for someone that is not in the greatest circumstances. Hazel and Augustus take a trip to the Netherlands in order to get results from a novel Hazel enjoyed, but this strengthens the bond between the two and leads to a conclusion that creates those poignant emotions that are bound to affect anyone. The reason this novel is so brilliant is because it caters to today's generation. These characters have personalities and humor that is understood best by those in today's generation. The way that Hazel tells the story and uses the word "like" just as many individuals today use is a testament to the culture in today's society. The most important thing, however, is that it succeeds in addressing the humanity of those who are victims of cancer. What these characters go through is identical to what cancer patients go through and the honesty is what is most important in driving this thing home. At the moment, this is all I read from John Green, and perhaps I will be exploring more of his work in the near future.

#3- The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie- Sherman Alexie succeeded to addressing the life of those in Indian tribes just as successfully as John Green addressed the lives of those diagnosed with cancer. This novel follows the accounts of Arnold Spirit Jr., who is referred to in this novel simply as "Junior," and is based on the real accounts of Alexie's very own life. Junior is from the Spokane Indian Reservation, but decides to go to Reardan school, which is a school made up of the vast population of Americans instead of the select few Indians that live within the reservation. Throughout the novel, Junior submits blunt accounts of the hardships that he goes through, the struggles of being an Indian taking the steps toward establishing himself instead of following the steps toward the ordinary life that those within the tribe have moved toward, and shared some clever illustration as if we were actually looking through a real diary. This novel shows both ends of how it feels to be a teenager AND how it feels to be a teenager that has to earn his way out of being segregated from the rest of his peers. This is one of the most clever and honest works I have read in a long time and it has enlightened me on the ways of the Indian tribes, so I highly suggest seeking the same kind of enlightenment of what this work has to offer. This would be the "go-to" novel if you are interested in something that is light, but explanatory of life within the reservation and exploring the possibilities of making a name from this platform. I am also sure that you will laugh at the wit that is used in executing this work.

#2- Jakob von Gunten by Robert Walser- Hermann Hesse once said that "if Robert Walser had a hundred thousand more readers, the world would be a better place." I could not agree with Hesse more. Walser was a Swiss writer that would most likely fall under the genres of absurd or existential fiction. He wrote novels, short stories, poems, and accounts before being institutionalized for Schizophrenia. After writing some accounts on small pieces of paper, he gave up writing and remained in an institution until dying twenty-five years later, well into his seventies. Walser is such an enlightening writer and will cause you to question "why" before moving on to questioning "how." Jakob von Gunten is a testament of what he has aimed for and successfully explained. The title character runs off to the Benjamenta Institute in order to become a servant. The college is outright purposeless, where instructors do nothing but sit around, while the only active class is "How A Boy Shall Behave," which is the central reason to them being there. Jakob spends the novel figuring out his purpose and examining this world around him, until a meaningful thought strikes him and confirms his train of thought throughout life. The reason this novel is ranked as the second best that I read throughout the year is because it created the second strongest emotion in how I was thinking. Walser's purpose is to enlighten and this is something he truly did with creating a backdrop of who served which purpose to those around him and whether or not it really mattered, for their key purpose was to develop Jakob's grasp to the meaning of life.

#1- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury- The second time proved to be the charm when it came to exploring a novel that I read back in high school. While I did not immediately connect with this novel, I connected to Ray Bradbury and his stroke of genius. I did my research paper on him during my junior year of high school and continued to explore his other novels and short stories. Both Farewell Summer (#5 in 2011) and The Martian Chronicles (#7 in 2012) have appeared on my top ten lists, but after rereading Fahrenheit 451 for a second time, I could argue that this was his signature work and answers the question regarding "what kind of writer is Ray Bradbury?" Bradbury is often deemed an author of science fiction, but I consider him to be a master (along with Richard Matheson) of speculative, but more specifically situational fiction that asks "what if?" Fahrenheit 451 asks the question, "what if our government went about censoring its citizens by destroying any evidence of what really happened, in the way of burning books, and create a thoughtless environment that looks at rewritten history, but cares more about watching television shows that allow them to grow involved?" Long question, but exactly the fact of the matter. Instead of introducing a character that is instantly against the transition, Bradbury creates a protagonist that is actually a contributor to these changes. Guy Montag is one of the firemen that starts fires to burn books (and in this rewritten society, Benjamin Franklin created the fire department to do just this). It is when he meets a teenage girl named Clarisse that his views start to transition and he begins to question those thoughts of his boss, Beatty, and the jaded mind of his wife, Mildred. As the novel progresses, so does Guy's trek into a dangerous situation, but it all contributes to the idea that even in times where obedience will lead to the idea of a tyrannical utopian society, there are people that are opposed to this idea and are ready to revolt against it. Interesting topic points do not only include ideas of censorship and tyranny, but also a world of physical copies versus electronic copies and which proves to be more reliable in asserting its statement of how things should be. While this novel heavily sees television as its expanding factor as it was the most extraordinary, impacting possession of 1953 (smartphones and e-readers seem to be gradually taking over), it is just as relevant then as it is now for the fact that they are inventions that can easily be used to assert control and decrease one's will to challenge authority. I would definitely rank this among the five best novels I have read and may even place it second or third within my list of all-time favorite reads. This is definitely a novel that everyone needs to pick up, read, and learn from, and Ray Bradbury is an author that everybody should read and I am sure those readers will enjoy.

Of course, as is the case with each of the other years, not all of these books (and none of these) were released this year. This is just the best among those that I read throughout 2014. I am also quite happy that five reads evolved into creating a solid top five that I could talk extensively about and wholeheartedly recommend to those who are reading my blog. Each of these authors that I mentioned (King, Green, Alexie, Walser, and Bradbury) are authors that I want to continue exploring and am sure that you will want to explore as well. They are all geniuses in their own right.

2015 is a year that I want to push myself even further in accomplishing goals regarding reading, writing, blogging, and moving forward with my web show. With regard to my reading goals (which I am 90% sure will specifically change), I want to continue with Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, while explore a hodge-podge of different areas, not just novels, but also short story and poetry collections. With short stories and poetry, I tend to dart around, which may mean less submissions. I will be graduating from college in May, so from there, I hope to tackle a larger work: my front-runners being Les Miserables by Victor Hugo and Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. At the same time, we are thinking about discussing Ulysses by James Joyce in a future episode of Literary Gladiators, so that may be a long work we explore. I am already doing my best to exercise a planner as part of my resolution, so I hold high hope that it helps.

Since this is generally the last thing I post each year, I want to wish all of my readers a happy, healthy, and safe new year and I am excited to share with you much more material come 2015!

Great Debate: 2014 NFL Season In Review & Playoff Predictions- Featuring NFL Enthusiast John Freda


The 2014 NFL season succeeded at creating an exciting atmosphere and showed that there were some teams that proved to be the real deal, while there were others that showed their mediocrity and failed to disappoint. At the beginning of the season, I made predictions regarding how teams would finish in each division and made some early predictions for the playoffs.

Of course, that was the beginning of the season. I thought the Buccaneers would contend under the direction of Lovie Smith, but they turned out doing the exact opposite by failing miserably. I did think the Titans would be the worst in the league and I came quite close. Otherwise, many of the teams that I predicted would make the playoffs did not disappoint.

For the first time, I will be collaborating with another National Football League enthusiast (whose favorite team I will not mention). I would like to welcome John Freda to my blog.


Thanks for having me on your blog! I am honored to be here!


Thank you for taking the time to visit. Tell me, John, was there anything that stuck out to you this season?


Well as you know, this has indeed been an awesome NFL season as always.  A lot of unpredictable things have happened, and a lot of standout moments have occurred.  For me, the biggest thing that stuck out to me was the arrival of the emerging superstar known as Odell Beckham Jr.  I never really knew who he was until he started making headlines with his impressive games.  In an interview with Jerry Rice, Mr. Rice said that Odell Beckham Jr. is 5 times the star that he was in his rookie year.  Odell Beckham Jr. will be one to watch for next year!  The other thing that stuck out to me the most this season was the NFC.  I mean, you have the Carolina Panthers, who go 7-8-1 and go on to win their division! The NFC was, to me, the most competitive division this year, and there were a lot of teams who I THOUGHT would be in the playoffs, but were left out due to poor play. One of those teams that comes to mind is the saints.


I felt the NFC South was only competitive among themselves. Outside of that, they failed to put together victories, but then again that might be me looking at the amount of times I picked the Saints to win games at the Superdome, but yet they lost so many of them at a place where they were almost invincible. The Panthers seemed to warm up at the time it mattered most. Things started to click, Cam Newton got on top of his game, and in their victory against the Falcons, the defense came to life and steamrolled over the Falcons.

I, too, was very impressed with Odell Beckham Jr. Though they did not win that game against the Cowboys, that grab for a touchdown was the greatest I saw as long as I have been watching football and that is the same team that saw David Tyree make that fourth and long catch with his helmet during the Super Bowl that was going to make or break them.

I agree that I thought the Saints were going to win the division, but they were unable to deliver. Speaking of the teams of the south, the Falcons let go of Mike Smith from his coaching position, the Bears and Jets let go of their coach and GM, while Jim Harbaugh parted ways with the Niners. Any commentary and do you feel there will be more to come?


Well, this is known as the infamous "Black Monday" around the NFL, where coaches and GM's alike get fired, and part ways.   I had no doubt that Jim Harbaugh would part ways with the 49ers.  To coach at the same place where he played QB in Michigan, there was no way he wasn't going to take that.  Rex Ryan, that was a long time coming.  Everyone has been speculating him being let go, but personally, I think they should have kept him, and ONLY fired the GM.  Not the both of them.

I think that after today, there will be more to come, and I am predicting that Joe Philbin, the Miami Dolphins coach, will be let go at some point.  Another 8-8 disappointing season for them, something has got to give.  And as you know, there is a vacant coaching position in Oakland.  There are teams that are right now reviewing the possibility of hiring the offensive coordinator of the Broncos, Adam Gase. So, I believe there is definitely more to come.


When you put the pieces together regarding Jim Harbaugh going back to his roots, I think it makes sense why he is taking the job with Michigan. If there was no opening, it would almost be certain that a team in the NFL would pick him up and the Raiders would be the one that would need a coach like him more than anyone. As for Joe Philbin, I do not know why they promised him his job, because they continuously contend, but then they collapse. Philbin showed his inability to handle conflict following the commotion on his team last season with Incognito and Martin.

I have to disagree about Rex Ryan and John Idzik. I think both were rightfully fired, because Ryan got away once and was unable to build on that saving grace. He led the Jets to two AFC Championships, which even Bill Parcells did not do, but they went downhill during the last four seasons. In addition, he created a culture that was not desirable among the rest of the NFL. I was reading an article that put him as the "hottest head coaching candidate." I heavily disagree. Maybe the hottest defensive coordinator, but not hottest head coach. Marc Trestman was another victim of an inability to keep tension under control and extending Jay Cutler's contract was a mistake, for he is currently the most overrated starting quarterback in the league. As for Mike Smith, his dismissal was the right decision, but I feel he deserves a second chance over Rex Ryan for another chance to coach. He turned what was a train wreck following issues with Michael Vick into a team, minus the last two seasons, that was able to continuously win and create a positive culture that was never present aside from a few good seasons here and there.


The Ryan brothers have always been hot headed, and in my personal opinion, I think it makes them good, but tough coaches.  Rex Ryan did however ruin the career of Tim Tebow, in my opinion.  I believe Mike Smith did not deserve to be fired, and that came as a surprise to me.  I always felt that he was met with bad luck in regards to injuries, and his team never being one hundred percent healthy.  But he deserves a second chance elsewhere, and I think he would be a great fit in Chicago.


Rex Ryan is not good with quarterbacks. Not only Tebow, but Geno Smith is also not seeing the results that were expected out of him. It would be quite an experience to see Rex and Rob Ryan head coaching in the league together, but they first need to prove that they deserve the opportunity to do so. It runs in the family, because Buddy Ryan was known for his poor sportsmanship. As a coordinator, he actually got into a scuffle with Kevin Gilbride when they were with the Oilers. As for Mike Smith, come to think of it, the Bears are a good fit for him if they want to take that route. Arthur Blank is just one of those owners that gets antsy pretty quick. Not like the Davis family in Oakland or Dan Snyder in Washington, but still somewhat quick.

I guess we shall begin with the wildcard games that are coming up next week? The matchups are:

Arizona Cardinals @ Carolina Panthers
Cincinnati Bengals @ Indianapolis Colts
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Detroit Lions @ Dallas Cowboys


These are some incredible match ups.  And I want to start off the bat with the Steelers VS Ravens.  Word out of Pittsburgh is that Le'veon Bell is going to be OUT of the wild card game, due to a hyper extended knee that he suffered during the Cincinnati game.  The Steelers without Bell, is like peanut butter without jelly.  The Steelers NEED Le'veon bell.  He extends their run game, and makes them a very hard team to beat.  Without Bell, their offensive is very limited, and will be pass heavy, because they just do not have the depth behind bell to have a credible run game threat.  The Ravens win this game, 27-20


I am going to agree that the Steelers have been incredibly unpredictable during this season, but so has the remainder of the AFC North. I do, however, agree that the Steelers offense is just very fragile and that it will come down to those crucial decisions. The Ravens, on the other hand, were quite a surprise in appearing in the playoffs this season. I do, however, believe that this is a spectacular defense. Dean Pees deserves a lot of credit for keeping this team's defense rolling. The Steelers won the battle for the division, but I am going to say that it is a close one, but I agree that the Ravens win, 29-26.

Next up is the Cardinals VS Panthers. Weeks ago, the Cardinals looked like the team to beat with or without Carson Palmer, but since Ryan Lindley took over, the team was only a little bit better than before. The defense continues to prove why it is the finest in the league and Todd Bowles is a frontrunner for a head coaching position of his own, but to combine this with a Panthers team that is seeing results late under Cam Newton, we may be seeing a trend with playoff teams that finish .500 or lower in the last few seasons. It will be a low scoring game, but my pick is for the Panthers: 16-6.


I had a tough time deciding who I was going to take in this game.  The Cardinals without Palmer seem to just be missing that extra something special in the passing game. But their record says otherwise.  Overall, I feel that the Panthers have become more competitive, and have been playing harder, while the Cardinals have been going downhill a bit. Sorry Arizona, but not this year.  After a 2 month spree with no wins, they have won 4 straight games.  Cam Newton is looking great, and at home, the Panthers are going to play tough, and will be very hard to beat.  I agree, it will not be a high scoring game, and the Panthers win, 17-10


The Cardinals are the first team since the 2000 Buccaneers to reach the playoffs in a year that their stadium is hosting a Super Bowl. It's unfortunate that they will not be the ones playing in that particular game. Bruce Arians is doing an excellent job keeping this team in contention, but the Panthers are picking up at the right time.


I couldn't agree more.  I will admit, it would be so awesome to witness Arizona go on to play the Super Bowl in their home stadium.


It would be quite a feeling. Any team that has the ability to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium just out of coincidence, especially since they have not instated backups in order to keep things neutral.

The next match: Bengals VS. Colts. The Bengals have been consistently good for the last few seasons and the Colts have seen results during the era of Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck. I feel that the Colts have been far more consistent and this will show as the playoffs begin. The Bengals have the longest postseason victory drought, having not won in the postseason since 1990, and this should continue into this season. Colts win: 31-17.


You have no idea how bad I wanted to see this game.  Two teams, both with incredible comeback potential.  Unfortunate for the Bengals, AJ Green suffered an injury during their last regular season game last night against the Steelers.  He is currently entered under the NFL's concussion protocol, however he is expected to be ok, and will play against the Colts in the wild card game.  All things considered, this shouldn't be an issue for the Bengals.  Both teams are extremely competitive, but Andrew Luck is one of the most impressive Quarterbacks in the league right now, with a threat the likes of TY Hilton.  Oh, he gets double teamed? No worries, cause right at number two is Reggie Wayne!!! Colts win this one at home, 31-27


I agree that the Colts outdo the Bengals when it comes to offensive weapons, which will put this one in the bag for them. The Bengals have struggled with offensive weapons, but have been able to produce strong enough results to make the playoffs.

Next up: Lions VS Cowboys. The Cowboys have underestimated everyone with how well they have performed. I swore they would be one of the worst in the NFC, but it turns out that they are one of the best. DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant are both spectacular assets to Tony Romo and are allowing him to shine in this particular season. The Lions have also found success, but they will be without Ndamukong Suh, suspended for one game for stepping on Aaron Rodgers' leg and is not assisted by his history. This will not hurt the Lions TOO much, but this Cowboys team only gave up games to the Niners, Cardinals, Redskins, and Eagles. Aside from the game against the Eagles, the Cowboys were in every game and had decisive victories. This team is the best they have been since the turn of the century and the Lions, like the Bengals, have a hump of their own with an inability to win in the postseason (last postseason victory: 1991 season). Cowboys win this one, 38-27.


I love this game, and out of every playoff game listen, this is the on I am going to watch with intent. I STILL believe that the Cowboys are an accident waiting to happen.  Plain and simple, I'M CALLING THE UPSET!!! The LIONS win this game at Jerry World!!!  30-25


This is our first contrasting selection. The Cowboys are 8-0 on the road and 4-4 at home, but with the pace at which they are playing, it will be a challenge to slow them down. I do not know if it's the Lions that have this ability.


I know that the Cowboys are playing well, no doubt.  I am just waiting for that choke though, from Tony Romo.  It's like it is in his blood and he cannot escape his inevitable fate. Haha.  But in all seriousness, the lions are a tough team, and even though the cowboys have Dez, the Lions have Megatron! I think this is going to be the best game of the playoffs, and I can't wait to see the outcome.


Next we move onto the divisional round:

For both of us, the matchup with be the Patriots VS. Ravens. I see that it is going to take a lot to bring the Patriots down in Foxboro, as they are the hottest team in the league as we speak. I do not see the Ravens as being that team and my pick is that the Patriots win 38-20.


Patriots Vs Ravens, it will be a great game, but there really is nothing for me to elaborate on.  There is no question or doubt that the Patriots will win this game, and I am going to call a blowout victory, with the Patriots winning 34-17


I agree with that train of thought. Speaking of a blowout, I feel that the Panthers VS Seahawks is going to be a blowout as well. I feel that the Panthers will just need to come across a team that brings them down to size. The Seahawks had some challenging matchups these past weeks against division rivals, but met each of them head on. A little bit of rest and they are going to have themselves a show at home. This will be the blowout of the postseason and I predict the Seahawks win this one, 41-0. I usually do not have shutouts on my radar, but this seems to be building up as one.


Wow.  A big fat zero for the Panthers.


The last time a Super Bowl winning team won a postseason game in the following season was when the Patriots did so following their 2004 Super Bowl victory by winning a wildcard game in 2005. The Seahawks should definitely snap this one.


Indeed.  It would be the Lions Vs the Seahawks.  I believe as well that it would be in Seattle that the game is played.  That is going to be a tough game with Suh being back, and as much as I want to believe the Seahawks would win, I do not think that they are going to make it past the Lions.  I am going with ANOTHER upset here, and saying that the Lions would win that game, 20-17


I do not see someone shocking the Seahawks that quickly in their stadium, especially the Lions, but that's just me. That does look close. What I could see being a shocker is the Cowboys having a heyday in Lambeau.

The Cowboys VS Packers. It does not come often where someone comes onto Lambeau Field to wreak havoc, but you have a strong, mighty home team against a team that is 8-0 on the road. Of course, the Cowboys will be contending with weather, but I see them building on this opportunity. My pick in a shocker is the Cowboys win 48-42 in OT. THIS is going against an early season pick, since I had the Seahawks and Packers in the NFC Championship. It is still a possibility, however.


If the Cowboys did meet the Packers, it would be an amazing game, and i agree that it would go into overtime.  Although I believe that the Packers would emerge victorious with Arron Rodgers leading the way with 380 Passing Yards, and Eddy Lacey with a 100 yard rushing game.  I expect Demarco Murrary to have around 80 rushing yards, and Tony Romo to be picked off at least once in that game.
Broncos and Colts....this is a tough game for me to call and I am sure you know why!!! Every part of my body wants the Broncos to win, but I am going to diagnose this game with an un-bias review.  This will be a shootout game without a question.  Two of the best passers in the NFL going at it head to head.  Peyton has had his struggles recently though.  And the run game has developed nicely with their emerging star CJ Anderson. It is very difficult to win in Denver against Denver, but that doesn't mean that Denver isn't prone to making stupid mistakes.  This game can be won by the Colts, if they play hard enough, and pound the Denver Bronco defense who has suffered the losses of Danny Trevathan, and Brandon Marshal.  Woodyard is also among the injured players.  The Denver secondary is weak, and so therefore, I am saying that this game will go to OT!!! But in the end, Denver Wins at home, with a very close score...  41-38


The Broncos are going to be one of those teams that has to meet the challenges they are being faced with accordingly, thus it will be evenly matched right down the middle.

The Broncos and Colts: a matchup I intended for the championship, but these are both teams that have had their moments and those that caused some uneasiness for viewers. I feel that the Broncos have something to prove and Peyton Manning will once again bring attention back to himself just as he has had time and time again. Broncos win 31-24.


Panthers and Packers. What a game.  Both would play hard should they meet.  Overall, it isn't a hard match to call.  The packers will overwhelm the Panthers, and secure a victory, with a win, 34-10
Green Bay has a potent offense that the Panthers won’t be able to stop. Period.


In order to take the Pack down in Lambeau, you really need to be explosive. The Panthers have not proved to be explosive enough.

Onto the Championships. For the Cowboys @ Seahawks, this will be a matchup of one of the great shockers during the beginning of the season. I do, however, believe that the Seahawks will not make the same mistake twice and that they have their eye on a second Super Bowl. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, and the top of the line defense will produce results in what will result in a 27-17 victory for the Hawks in a visit to Super Bowl XLIX.

As for the Broncos @ Patriots, this is going to be a thrill of a championship. Peyton Manning has historically struggled against Tom Brady. The Patriots seem to be the obvious winners, but I would say not so fast. I feel Peyton Manning has a lot to play for in what will be the homestretch of his career. Whether or not he retires I am not sure, but I am going against the common ground and align with the prediction I made at the beginning of the season. The Broncos return to the Super Bowl with a 41-31 victory.


Bold Prediction!  So for the Lions and Packers, this to me, is the ideal NFC match-up.  Both Superbowl Hungry teams, both wanting to go to Arizona to compete for the coveted Lombardi Trophy!  This game is going to be a very close game.  Both teams will play hard, and leave everything on the table. The packers, however, are poised to go to the Superbowl, where Rodgers will look for ring number two. Packers win, 24-17.

Now for my favorite, Patriots vs Broncos.  I want so badly to say that the Broncos will be going back, but with injuries, and Peyton not looking as good as last year (in my opinion), and with the Patriots looking fierce, Brady playing lights out, the Patriots will WIN the AFC, 38-34.

SUPERBOWL - Packers VS Patriots


A Packers VS Patriots Super Bowl seems like one that was heavily predicted at the beginning of the season. I went with the continuously hot and smoking Seahawks VS Broncos, which will make for one of those rare consecutive rematches.

The only difference will be that everything is the complete opposite. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl 43-8 and during the season, they beat the Broncos in overtime. This time around, it will be the Broncos with their decisive offense that will play for Peyton Manning and the Seahawks that will step up just as well, but will be run down by the lights out offense that Manning has to offer and a defense that, while not the best as we speak, will show up and make decisions as needed. My Super Bowl XLIX prediction: Broncos 37, Seahawks 36. I feel the Seahawks will have a rally, but the onside kick will go in the Broncos favor. A last minute rally for the Super Bowl victor sounds sweetest, but I see this one playing through my head. This was my Super Bowl prediction from the beginning of the season and the last time I went against it, that team won the Super Bowl. It may not sound evident as we speak, but Peyton Manning's teams are known to surprise.


For Patriots vs Packers....It will go into OVERTIME!!!!  PACKERS WIN THE SUPERBOWL  34-31


Wow, that would be something, which is an image I could definitely see with the Packers winning their fifth Super Bowl. So as you can see, I am predicting the Broncos beat the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, while John is saying the Packers beat the Patriots. Either way, this is going to be an exciting postseason up and coming.

The 2014 season is far from over and these playoff matchups will ALL be a thrill to watch and if your favorite team is still, participating, then you definitely have to watch.

John, thank you for stopping by! It was a delight to have you on Caponomics!


Thank you for having me! Good luck to all the teams in the playoffs!


Indeed, you could not have said it better. While plenty of seasons have ended, the race for twelve of these teams has only started to really begin. May the best reign supreme. To all of those watching, enjoy the games!



Josh’s victors: Ravens, Panthers, Colts, and Cowboys
John’s victors: Ravens, Panthers, Colts, and Lions


Josh’s victors: Broncos, Patriots, Seahawks, and Cowboys
John’s victors: Broncos, Patriots, Lions, and Packers


Josh’s victors: Broncos, Seahawks
John’s victors: Patriots, Packers

Super Bowl Pick

Josh: Broncos
John: Packers

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Literary Gladiators: Episode 16- The Christmas/Holiday Special

I was eager to film an episode of Literary Gladiators to which we had an episode centered around works that spark a sentiment to which we find around the holiday season. This was a three-panel episode, since Jim was unable to show up to this particular taping. I originally had the idea of having Jim dress up as Santa and tell his limericks, but instead, based off of a fan's suggestion, had Charlie portray the role instead. This was indeed one of the zaniest episodes in the series, so I can promise you that this is a treat for the season! Danielle was the guest on this episode and she did a decent job as possessing a personality that, along with my own, contrasted Charlie's antics for this episode. Perhaps explaining "The Gift of the Magi" to Charlie proved to be a treat and a half as well. We even had a passerby peeking in to the room, because he could hardly believe that some guy dressed as Santa was sitting in one of the rooms where we taped the episode.

This is the tenth episode of the season, but the last one we taped. We taped all of the other episodes in the summer, while I felt this one needed more preparation. When all was said and done, it was worth the wait!

I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, Glorious Yuletide, or just a Happy Holiday! If you have time, check out the other episodes of the show and if you are enjoying them, subscribe to the channel for updates on videos for new episodes.

Episode 16- Christmas/Holiday Special

Short Story Review: "Vanka" by Anton Chekhov

It has been awhile since I have really been able to decorate this blog with multiple posts, but I shall consider this a bit of a revival. I have been putting a vast amount of concentration into getting Literary Gladiators off the ground, thus the blog has been getting some slight concentration. Anyhow, the Christmas season is here and the holiday itself is just two days away. To observe Christmas being right around the corner (that's right... so if you still have gifts to prepare or food that needs to be selected, this is crunch time), I felt it would be appropriate to discuss a story that sparks a bit of that holiday feeling. The two works of literature that people generally associate with Christmas are A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and "The Gift of the Magi" by O. Henry, so reviews and recognition for these works should be common. I am taking a different path and will be reviewing a Christmas short story written by Anton Chekhov called "Vanka." I will warn you now that this review will explore the entire work, so there will be spoilers.

Chekhov is one of Russia's brilliant minds in literature. He developed Moscow's Art Theatre and dubbed as the father of the modern day short story. I feel that his short stories are very well written, even if the plot is so light that the extent to his stories could go as far as a couple catching their nosy brother spy on them doing their thing and they get back at him by yanking his ear (they each take one). "Vanka" seems to follow the trend of answering the question "so what" in the way that the central character can either be a hit or a miss, but I seemed to find some kind of attachment to a young boy who just wants to get out of his mess of a situation in time for the holidays.

Vanka Zhukov is a nine year old boy who has lost his parents and is now orphaned. The only relative remaining in his life is his grandfather, who is sixty-five, and is at a distant location during this time of season. Vanka gets himself into trouble, as he mentions in the letters, but for more technical mistakes and not acts of mischief. For instance, he gets a whipping because he falls asleep while rocking the baby. On another occasion, he is jabbed in the face (which he refers to as a "mug") by the tail of the herring because he began cleaning the herring with the tail instead of in the more proper method. Vanka is living with a master and a mistress, to which we are left to believe are cold individuals that do nothing but instill heartless discipline on the boy. He begs his grandfather to take him as his own and that he can get away from his current living situation. The letter shows examples that range from arranging his snuff to taking care of him when he grows older.

Vanka, who signs his card as "Ivan Zhukov," folds the letter up and sends it in the mail. We are left with Vanka dreaming of his grandfather at his own home with his servants and dog reading the letter sent by Vanka. This only leaves him with a small sense of optimism that his grandfather did, in fact, receive the letter. Since it ends here, we do not get Vanka's reaction when the dream ends, nor do we know what happens to Vanka. It would be logical to say that what is to come on Christmas day is just another day in the life. Perhaps there may be a response, but nothing immediate. He did only leave his grandfather's name, so unless Russia has a mailing system that can recognize letters by name alone, there may be a good chance that this letter gets discarded.

The emotional buildup and the longing rests in the relationship that Vanka has with his grandfather. It is portrayed poignantly with memories that the two had with one another. Vanka reminisces of simple, but still fond memories that are meant to be cherished. Being away from the warmth of his family and among the coldness of individuals that are just taking care of him to take care of him causes the longing to grow larger and this emotion is poured throughout the card.

One thing that needs to be taken into consideration is the point of view. Vanka is a nine year old boy that is begging like a nine year old boy would (making promises so that they get their way), One may see him as being too over the top. I hold sympathy for Vanka on the basis that it has to be a massive strain to lose your parents at this point in life. He wants someone who is truly family to give him a sense of emotional warmth during the holidays and he is not getting this with these relatives of his. I feel that Chekhov does just enough to dramatize and that while it is light, it shows strokes of a good craft.

I am on the fence when it comes to whether or not this work could be considered good Christmas entertainment. I would lean toward looking elsewhere, but at the same time I would suggest that you read this and Chekhov's other short stories as well. "Vanka" may not strike one with the Christmas feeling unless one is willing to think, because it leaves things open-ended in the way that it relies on flashbacks and the structure of having the central character write a letter to allow these flashbacks to flow right out of him.

I want to send all of my Christmas wishes out to my readers and inform you that I plan to submit more to this blog as the year wraps up.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Remembering Glenn Miller 70 Years Later

On December 15, 1944, Glenn Miller was at the height of his career as an American bandleader with hits that were so magnificent that to this day, they still have their familiarity and their shine. With so much in store for the years ahead, on a flight from Britain to Paris, Miller disappeared. His lost was an immense tragedy in the world of music at large, for if the World War II era had a face for their music, it would have been Glenn Miller. Of course, this era also had The Andrew Sisters, The Mills Brothers, The Ink Spots, Bing Crosby, among other notable acts. It was Miller, however, that created music that was either jingly or just notable to the point that it created a life for itself.

The Miller song that most will remember him for is "In the Mood." I recall hearing this swing song as it preceded a cooking-based infomercial, but was introduced to this song when I listened to it as an attachment to a novelty item my grandparents owned (dancing flowers in a pot). This song is just so upbeat and brings with it a breeze of optimism no matter when it may be played. While the first verse is most commonly heard, the song continues to flow with some alternate instruments and beats that just clearly do as the song entails (putting you in the mood).

"Moonlight Serenade," however, should definitely not be overlooked. This is a song that is just so modestly brilliant that it does to mellow as "In the Mood" does to upbeat. The song is clarinet led, but features the soothing sounds of the other instruments in appropriate increments. Miller himself was a trombone player. This was Miller's first hit and tells a story of a romantic night, properly giving justice to the story line. The sounds you hear in "Moonlight Serenade" repeat after each other a bit more often than with "In the Mood," but both songs are equally beautiful. It all comes down to what your tastes may be.

Glenn Miller's other hits include "Chattanooga Choo Choo," "Pennsylvania 6-5000," among so many other tunes that became immediate classics.

Miller was eager to do his part in the second World War and wanted to help in any which way he possibly could. Unfortunately, age kept him from serving in combat (he was in his late-thirties during the war and forty in 1944), so he was able to take on entertaining the troops as the head of the Air Force band. He was successful at entertaining troops on the allied AND axis sides. As I mentioned earlier, he was set to perform in Paris, but disappeared when flying his plane from Britain to Paris, France. What could have possibly happened to Miller? The most reasonable explanation is given in an article written in the Chicago Tribune by Howard Reich, as he reviewed an episode of History Detectives. He states that three attributes contributed to why the plane went down:

1. The weather was foggy and cold.
2, The carburetors were faulty.
3. The pilot was inexperienced.

With these factors taken into account, it would be logical to think that the carburetors froze or gave out on the people in the plane, causing it to crash. At the time, details were immensely vague and it took nine days to deliver the news back to the United States. From that point in time and for the seventy years following, Miller was pronounced as having disappeared, so confirming his death is likely, but still not certain for that occasion. All that was certain was that a giant hole was left in the world of music.

Glenn Miller may be gone, but his music lives on. I find Miller as being the definition of the music of his era, even if there were notable musical acts of that period. His music seems to just capture the moment and even when his music does not have words and lyrics, they tell a story and flow so poetically. On a day like this, perhaps it would be a magnificent idea to take the time to listen to a tune or two of his.

I will leave you with the informative Chicago Tribune article and some links to "In the Mood" and "Moonlight Serenade." All credit is given to the creators of these works.

Glenn Miller Disappearance Article
Moonlight Serenade
In the Mood

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Literary Gladiators: Episode 15- "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold

As you may notice from watching certain videos, you may see a common trend in different episodes that may include attire and images found within view. The reason for this is that we hold filming sessions to which we film several episodes within a short period of time and then release them accordingly. Since most of us are college students, this is the most convenient practice. These practices are not familiar, for the same kind of method is used for shows such as Jeopardy! and plenty of other game shows, as well as Shark Tank, which simply organizes their segments to flow as best as possible. The verdict about filming episodes in short segments is this: it is perfectly acceptable, as long as the material is as best as possible.

The episodes are being released in the order and I find to be most appropriate. For instance, the Halloween episode is released at Halloween, Christmas is released for Christmas, and Valentine's Day for Valentine's Day. This was actually the second episode we filmed during the summer sessions at large ("The Peacock" was appropriately first), but this was where it seemed to fit best. In this episode, Jim, Courtney, Charlie, and I discuss a work of poetry that creates a strong statement and our discussion is directed based off of this strong message. For me personally, "Dover Beach" is one of my favorite works of poetry. It is enlightening in how it asserts the strong belief that nature is reacting to society, especially one that is dominated by homo sapiens. Of course, I encourage you to watch this episode, so I will not provide you with a commentary, but I will say that the discussion is intense.

Here is the 15th episode of the series!

Episode 15- "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving 2014

The time has come to observe one of the most cherished holidays in American culture: Thanksgiving! Of course, we see much more promotion for Halloween and afterward, a massive amount of promotion for Christmas, but Thanksgiving is often passed over. Perhaps, food holidays do not usually pick up the recognition, for the chain department stores (Target, Kohl's, Walmart, etc.) are paying much more attention to Black Friday, which has inappropriately started to interfere with Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, we should pay attention to a holiday that has started to represent something much different from its original intent, but either way comes forth with the right reasoning.

Thanksgiving was originally a feast between the pilgrims and tribes regarding their agreement to leave as a united people and share the land. Unfortunately, the relationship between the colonists that came to America and the tribes that lived here thousand of years beforehand did not live up to their first Thanksgiving. What did come out of this, however, was that Thanksgiving became a holiday where a family takes part in a feast of what is usually turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, pumpkin pie for dessert, and anything else one may think of. The pieces of the meal can be switched out for what ever one may want to fill in. For instance, one can eat ham instead of turkey, corn over mashed potatoes, cheesecake instead of pumpkin pie, and the list goes on. I am more of a lasagna person myself!

I am thankful for having a great family and the ability to be surrounded by a great group of friends and acquaintances. One should be able to enjoy this opportunity just as much as the other person, which makes me even more thankful for not having to work on Thanksgiving. The place I work at closes Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter every year, for they feel that employees should be able to spend this time with family and friends. Unfortunately, big name department stores have begun to find reason to open up at some point on Thanksgiving Day, because they are concerned with Black Friday being their biggest day of the year. The most outrageous decision comes from Kmart, which will open at 6 AM on Thanksgiving Day and remain open for FORTY-TWO STRAIGHT HOURS! Why? To me, it comes off as desperation, for Kmart has not been relevant since the days they had Rosie O'Donnell and Martha Stewart as either endorsements or important pieces to their business. I cannot think of a Kmart that is in good condition at the moment we speak. To me, if you want to open at 5 AM on Black Friday, that is no issue. It's not the most pleasant idea, but no issue. To make people work on Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter at such a high multitude is a sin. Of course, there may be people (mainly Christmas and Easter) that do not celebrate such holidays, but those that do should be able to take off, just as someone who is Jewish should have the right to have their holidays (Hanukkah and Passover) without it counting against them. I will not post hours to the places opened on Thanksgiving, because I discourage people from shopping on Thanksgiving. I will just say that you can Google it.

All of that aside, I want to wish all of my readers a very happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful to have such a good group of readers as well as plenty of goals I have been able to reach and start building toward. Tomorrow will be a day filled with eating with loved ones, leisurely reading, football, and just putting this day aside to be thankful for all of the blessings that have been showered upon me. Have a wonderful day!

Oh, as for what I will be reading, I may look into Thomas JeffersonL The Art of Power by Jon Meacham. I started reading it for a paper I did in my British Colonies & American Revolution class and now I want to read it for my own desire and desire to consume some more historical knowledge on one of America's finest men who I can thankfully deem one of America's architects.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Literary Gladiators: Episode 14- "Oranges" by Gary Soto

"Oranges" was indeed a memorable episode to tape. It was inspired by our Young Adult Literature's desire for oranges that she brought up during one of the classes. Since we wanted to bring this kind of excitement to Literary Gladiators, we decided to have an episode that covered a work that had to do with oranges. Jim, who serves as the assistant producer and suggests plenty of works of discussion, brought up that if we bring Prof. Hannah onto the show, we should do "Oranges" by Gary Soto. It was quite a delight to have somewhat of a mini-Young Adult Literature reunion, for this was the only time Jim, Charlie, and I were in the same classroom at the same time. Prior to beginning Literary Gladiators, I was in two classes with Jim and two with Charlie, both of which inspired me to go forward with this show, but this was a testament of the amount of structured time we spent together in class for a period of time.

The attention, however, should be placed on this poem. Gary Soto is a remarkable poet who reminisces about his first date and how modest it turned out being. We also get a view of contrasting culture and how what we take for granted is not necessarily within everyone's reach. This episode will provide you with an intriguing discussion about "Oranges," a remarkable poem and a remarkable fruit, too!

I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Literary Gladiators: Episode 13- "Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau

Transcendentalism proved to be a recurring theme in both my high school and college American literature classes. Henry David Thoreau is someone that was bound to spark interest from whomever crossed his path. The fact that he chronicled his adventures of living in the woods (in Walden) and would be willing to go to jail for refusing to pay a tax (in "Civil Disobedience") demonstrates that his mode of thinking is not the most ordinary, but at the same time is one of the most influential. This made the discussion on "Civil Disobedience" one of the most intriguing among them all.

Jim, Brianna, Charlie, and I discuss the different elements of this work and make the necessary connections of this work to today's society.

Here is Episode 13:

Literary Gladiators: Episode 12- Halloween: The Work That Sparks A Fearful Reaction

What made the Halloween episode so special was that we got to go over some of the works that either scared us or made us the most uneasy. Much of my fiction writing comes from the horror and speculative background, so the material was right up my alley. In this episode, Larry, Breanna, Charlie, and I have a fascinating discussion all about works that properly fit this particular genre. In addition, Charlie and I come up with effortless costumes of Harry Potter and Dr. Bordelon, respectively. Perhaps once we have a Halloween episode planned out a bit better in advance, we will put a bit more effort on the costumes. There is always the planned third season taping in January and fourth season (if we go forward with it) taping next summer.

Here is what we did for Halloween:


Literary Gladiators: Episode 11- "Maus" by Art Spiegelman

For the first time, we stray into the territory of discussing graphic texts, which was a topic many of individuals brought up when it came to what we should discuss on the show. The work of Alan Moore (especially Watchmen) is in demand. This episode, we discuss Maus, which is a remarkable work about Spiegelman's interview with his dad about his experiences during the Holocaust. The creative twist is that instead of using people, Spiegelman uses cats and mice to represent the Germans and Jews, respectively. He also uses other animals to represent the other nationalities.

This is also the first time we had an instructor on the program as a rotating guest. Joining Jim, Charlie, and I is Dr. David Bordelon, who is an American literature instructor at our college. Along with American literature, Dr. Bordelon has a fascination with the graphic text, thus making his appearance in this episode all the better.

Here is the 11th episode of the series, which is Ari (the editor)'s favorite:


Literary Gladiators: Episode 10- The Nobel Prize in Literature

The topic of Nobel Prize winners is always an intriguing one, which is why we had to make an episode dedicated to such a glorious event. It is the prize for peace that usually sparks the most attention, especially as of late, with the controversy behind Al Gore winning the prize in 2007 for a presentation on global warming over Irena Sendler, who was a Polish nurse and social worker that rescued children during the Holocaust. Sendler was up for nomination, lost, and died seven months later. The most recent recipients were Malala Yousakzai, who advocated for a girl's right to education in Pakistan and Kailash Satyarthi, who fought for children's rights and against child labor in India. Nevertheless, the Nobel Prize in Literature is still a remarkable accomplishment for anyone that contributes to literature across the world. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill won this prize in 1953 for his chronicling of historical and biographical events.

French author Patrick Modiano won the Nobel Prize in Literature this year. While he was not a name that popped up immediately, like Japanese author Haruki Murakami, his win was well deserved.

In this episode of Literary Gladiators, Jim, Courtney, Charlie, and I discuss our favorite laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature, writers we felt should have won, writers we feel should win in the future, along with so much more.

Here is the tenth episode of the series:

Literary Gladiators: Episode 9- "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville

I truly apologize for the delays regarding the lack of posts within the last few months as well as the delay in posting new episodes of Literary Gladiators onto this blog. I have been backed up with massive amounts of college work and "work" work to the point that my spare time was spent looking over and uploading new episodes of this web show. We have finally made it to the continuation of Charlie's birthday, which was created as a result to a malfunction involving the camera. Those things happen sometimes and you have to respond in some particular form. My answer was this zany, but special episode of the series.

I must say that this was one of my favorites. Not only were the jokes amusing, but Larry and Breanna were excellent guests of choice to join Charlie and I. Jim and Laney were absent, due to prior engagements. I was also pleased with the direction to which this discussion went. The same author behind Moby Dick remains a discussion point with his short story, "Bartleby the Scrivener."

Here it is. Sit back, enjoy, and find out whether or not Charlie gets his cupcake!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Poem Review: "Homage to Yalta" by Joseph Brodsky (Part 2)

Beauty is meant to be determined in the eye of the beholder. Poetry, like literature in general, falls under the same category. The way that a poem is interpreted or deemed is in the eye of the individual analyzing the poem. Specifically, this could be said about one of the poems I went over a few months ago written by Joseph Brodsky titled "Homage to Yalta." I stand by my own argument that I made about this being a longing for individuality and how Yalta is viewed in a different light than the historical, American researcher has processed. However, the argument about this poem being a murder mystery is also prevalent. Yes, this poem does play out like the story of the murder mystery. At the same time, it asserts Brodsky's beliefs on the commotion that is the Russian society and what really is the truth of how we agree instead of believe. "Homage to Yalta" is not just an explanation about society in this particular day, but Brodsky also demonstrates his strength on telling a story through his lyric.

The poem is split into different parts, each of which exposes participants in a murder. The first one to be introduced is one that is discussing moves in chess, primarily the Chigorin defense. Brodsky paints a background story to each participant, before mentioning how they can be the suspect of the murder. We are also introduced to people in the realm of acting among someone else, before we learn about a younger, teenage male who is staying with his grandparents and goes out one evening to get some ice cream. There is a threatening looking man that he brings down in what he feels is an act of defense. These here are the elements of seeing this poem as a murder mystery.

The final part of "Homage to Yalta," however, wraps up the ends to how a process like this is immensely inaccurate. In the act of accusing people, the majority of the accused are going to be incorrect. At the same time, ALL of them may be incorrect. This is what is being said in this particular case. Why this is deemed a "homage" is that we are introduced to people who are completely human and citizens of a community just like any other community across the globe. In a country like Russia, however, individuality is non-existent. Under a fearful leader such as Leonid Brezhnev, the act of individuality through writing is not going to be commended and would put someone like Brodsky in a position of danger.

"Homage to Yalta" is a murder mystery, but what Brodsky is making an attempt to convey is that it does not matter who did it. Instead, this poem is for the accused. It feeds to the frustration of living in a Communist Russia that, while denouncing Stalin, is still following the foundation that he has arranged.

Check out the first part of this post that I started a few months ago for more details regarding the structure and meaning (in my mind) behind this poem.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Literary Gladiators: Episode 8- "Ragged Dick" by Horatio Alger

To celebrate Charlie's birthday, we decided to discuss one of his favorite works from American Literature II: Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger. This was originally part of the first season material and the episode was taped with Jim, Brianna, Charlie, and I. While the original episode was not saved, we were able to re-tape it this season and the discussion included Jim, Courtney, Charlie, and I. In all honesty, the episode came out quite well.

Ragged Dick is one of those pieces that features a character kids of the era could relate to and is meant to develop good morals in the youth of the late 1860s. This was one of Charlie's original suggestions along with "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville. "Bartleby" will make up the second part of Charlie's birthday and feature Larry and Breanna, who participated in the last tapings of the second season.

This episode should be informative, heated, but at the same time enjoyable. Here you go!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Literary Gladiators: Episode 7- "The Peacock" by W.B. Yeats

During the summer, we put together twenty-two episodes of Literary Gladiators spread among four separate sessions. This episode that you are about to see was the very first that we filmed. Jim, Charlie, and I are back just as we intended to be, while Courtney (a co-worker of mine that has expressed a joy for reading, writing, and literature) joins us on the panel for the very first time. Laney is our new moderator, while my friend Ari continues to serve as the editor.

The inspiration behind this particular episode is a story that we go over while Charlie and I were in British Literature II. Charlie brought up something similar to which I replied my answer to his predicament quite bluntly. We were having a group discussion, so the other person or two and I continued going over specific details before Charlie exclaimed his reply to this particular realization. We had to share this story, along with our discoveries and approaches in how we read this particular poem.

I will continue to share episodes on my blog as they are released. The next episodes should be up in about two weeks and cover Charlie's birthday week/ Will Charlie get his cupcakes?


Saturday, August 30, 2014

Book Review: "My Dog Tulip" by J.R. Ackerley

I originally learned about My Dog Tulip when a film with this title was released and reviewed by Roger Ebert on his 2011 show, Ebert Presents At The Movies. It was only during the last few months that I learned that this was originally a novel written by author J.R. Ackerley. Ackerley had a relatively established career when he wrote this book toward the end of his career and was one of the few individuals during his time that was openly gay. This was a huge reason why this real life account featured a major detail change: changing his Alsatian (which we know today as a German Shepherd) from Queenie in real life to Tulip in this piece. In this review, to keep things clear, we are going to refer to his dog as "Tulip," because that is how she is referred in the book. I would expect that Ackerley would have a lot to say about his sixteen-year relationship with Tulip and that this piece would concentrate on Ackerley's direct connection to his canine companion. Unfortunately, he is unable to make this connection that I was looking for between the two. When I was looking for chemistry, I ended up getting an account on how Tulip was more of a burden than she was a blessing. Sure, Ackerley says how she was a difference maker in his life, but I never got this kind of satisfaction after reading.

Ackerley adopted Tulip from a family that did not find her the right fit for them. For him, he was her everything. This was evident in doctor appointments with which she would be immensely aggressive to the point that the most notable veterinarian, Miss Canvey, demanded that Ackerley not be present for checkups and procedures. This was because Tulip held such a demand in protecting her owner that this task became a distraction to herself. When Ackerley was not in the picture, her mind would be cleared and she would be an angel. This was described in the opening chapter, known as "The Two Tulips." From here, we go to "Liquids & Solids," which has to do with Tulip and her practices of going to the bathroom. This section could be quite discomforting for someone not interested in the clear descriptions of Tulip's anus and vaginal glands. Ackerley does, however, provide us with very informative facts with how dogs communicate with their urine as if it is an encrypted message. His witty pieces of information are quite enjoyable, but not enough to make a statement with this work.

Much of this account concentrates on Tulip's sex life or lack thereof. It took several attempts to find the right mate for her until things finally worked out and she was able to produce a litter. While he was very diligent with his facts regarding the time with which a season lasts for a dog, as well as the length of her pregnancy, concentrating on her connection to the pups does create a stray from their relationship. It is clear she has a connection to him, but he continuously brushes her off in favor of what he wants out of her. This particular litter of eight would be the only litter she produced and the pups would find different homes and endure different situations.

Ackerley describes how Tulip was a delight to several guests that she came across as years progressed, yet her affection toward him proved to be a heavy burden. I really did not like this from a voice that was unable to return the affection that she gave in heavy amounts. Perhaps this has something to say about a canine's nature versus that of a human? The analogy of a couple would have to be brought off of the table, because this would be like comparing a loving wife to a husband that does not feel the same. This would not be a romantic relationship either, due to Ackerley's preferences. The ending was very much rushed to the point that Tulip's emergency hysterectomy was the most important detail that we needed to be left off with. Not the way with which a connection was made or why Tulip was so special to him, but the fact her sex life was officially over.

I expected something to come out of what could have been a heartwarming tale between a man and his best friend. From what I read, Ackerley was concerned about other things besides his lovable companion, when all she wanted to do was provide him with the unconditional love a dog is meant to provide to her owner. What came off as being his burden ends up creating a strain between what the reader expected and what the reader got. This creates a question in our mind contemplating whether or not we picked up the right work or what we picked up was in fact a lemon. This novel was, in fact, a lemon! Ackerley's wit makes this a fathomable piece, but not enough to encourage anybody to pay attention to. The information that he provides can be found through Google, so there is no reason for anyone to pick up this work.

Verdict: 3/10

Thursday, August 28, 2014

My Prediction: 2014 NFL Season

What should most definitely be a roller coaster ride of an NFL season (perhaps a Kingda Ka with its rapid speed that will be through before you know it) is awaiting. What you will likely see is not just dominant performances from established teams that we know oh so well, but also some breakout competitors that will shock and do anything and everything to spark a reaction. In a league where the passing game is becoming key, yet a good running game most definitely helps and where the defense is heavily restricted, yet has to find a way to make it happen, things are going to get intense.

Listed below are my team predictions along with any other necessary commentary regarding the direction with which the teams will likely head. The records are give or take a game and are estimates based off of who plays who. You can call my predictions out of the ordinary, but I will just say that in 2012, I selected the Ravens over the Packers in the Super Bowl, which I got the victor correct (it was Ravens over 49ers). In 2013, I picked the Broncos over the 49ers and was oh so close on that one (it was Seahawks over Broncos). We shall see what this year brings...

AFC East

New England Patriots (11-5)- For the last thirteen seasons, the Patriots went over .500. For eleven of the last thirteen seasons, the Patriots won their division and reached the playoffs. After five Super Bowl appearances and three Super Bowl victories, is this hot trend bound to stop? I don't think so! They remain just as relevant as they have always. It just so happens that the tandem of head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady always seem to make something out of what they have, regardless of what the equation happens to be. With the division at large, there are teams establishing themselves, but not enough to make a break for it.

New York Jets (8-8)- Originally, I was going to dismiss this group as a flop for this upcoming season. What I realized is that the additions from free agency are actually gelling and doing so quite well. The key addition is that of running back Chris Johnson, who is often the first selection in fantasy football drafts across the country. While Geno Smith will be starting at QB, Michael Vick remains a valuable backup when needed. While he is seeing his end phase, he will still be reliable if he is for some reason needed. In a season where the AFC is going to be weaker, these Jets may take part in playoff contention, which may allow Rex Ryan with some more time at the helm.

Buffalo Bills (7-9)- I was about ready to declare that the Bills would reach and possibly break .500. While this remains a possibly with the young, growing team that they have put together, there is a strain spreading throughout the team. While discipline has been an issue, new ownership following the death of Ralph Wilson and rumors of making a move to Toronto remain floating through the air. While I am not a supporter of having a home team from outside of the country, what I do believe is that the Bills will improve, but not enough to reach the playoffs. With that being said, they are headed in the right direction, and Doug Marrone should be able to stick around until at least the 2015 season.

Miami Dolphins (4-12)- When the Dolphins had the playoffs at their fingertips last season, everything crumbled. At this point in time, the team faces and will face similar predicaments regarding whether or not they have the right time to go in and do the job. It may very well take another group to come in and readjust the team and it will not be lead by Joe Philbin.

AFC South

Indianapolis Colts (13-3)- In all honesty, nothing really matters in this division at this point in time. The Colts will win the division in a more dominant way than ANY of the other teams. They will be the very first to win their division title and while the one seed will be unlikely, a first round bye is a strong possibility. This team is growing with young talent that is led by QB Andrew Luck and several weapons that he has to rely on in his offense, while his defense does what needs to be done as well. Last year, they made it over the hump of being able to win during the postseason once again. Next up: making it deep into the playoffs.

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)- Yes, the Jags will finish second in the division. They will so no true improvement and it will lead to questions regarding whether or not there is real talent and whether or not they should take the opportunity to relocate to a more decent market. Now the good news, Blake Bortles will get the nod to start very quickly, because Chad Henne is very subpar as the QB. Bortles will have the opportunity to make a break for it and establish himself, which will be detrimental for their cause come the 2014 season. If signs show positive, Gus Bradley may have another year to work with the team.

Houston Texans (4-12)- It should be an obvious decision to place the Texans as second in the division and even place them in the playoff race. The issue I see is that this can only get done if there is a clear view regarding the quarterback situation. The Texans did select Jadeveon Clowney in the first round to help compliment their defense, which really does not need to be polished all that much. While their numbers on this side of the ball are bound to go up, they will need to address the quarterback situation before they even think about breaking out and can talk about playoffs once again. Even if a wide receiver like Andre Johnson, quarterbacks Case Keenum or Ryan Fitzpatrick are not in the class of starting on an elite team.

Tennessee Titans (2-14)- A team in the AFC South will once again be my selection to finish dead last in the league. Surprisingly, this team is not the Jaguars, but instead the Titans. Why? Just about everything good about the team (Chris Johnson) is no longer with the team and Jake Locker is not going to be the breakout quarterback that everybody expected. What we have here is what should be something very identical to what Ken Whisenhunt put together with the Cardinals. The issue at hand is this: Kurt Warner is the reason the Cardinals were playoff contenders. Once Warner retired, they went 18-30 with the inability to fill in his empty cavity. It is a possibility that Whisenhunt can work with Locker, but if this does not work, Whisenhunt may be a one and done (which is unlikely for a lenient franchise like the Titans). Whisenhunt does best as an offensive coordinator, cut and dry. On the other hand, the addition of Ray Horton as defensive coordinator is a plus. If the Titans defense does at least a decent job, Horton may be considered for a head coaching position.

AFC North

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)- The Bengals remain the hottest team in the AFC North and they will demonstrate their consistency going in to the 2014 season. Andy Dalton will remain a quiet, overlooked QB, while the remainder of the team will likely keep the pace with which they left off during this particular season. While both coordinators (Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer) were picked up for head coaching position, their shoes were filled quite well with Hue Jackson and Paul Guenther for offensive and defensive coordinator respectively. Jackson may very well be taking part in an audition for a head coaching gig of his own, despite the failed attempt with the Raiders.

Baltimore Ravens (8-8)- What the Ravens have going for them is a decent schedule that involves playing the AFC South, Dolphins, and Chiefs. ALL of these games place them in contention, even the Chiefs that looked so hot last year. Unfortunately, it is their defense and defense alone that will remain a relevant, though fading factor into their positive vibes. A mediocre record is going to be their best bet, but the days of ultimate dominance reflected by the beginning of John Harbaugh's coaching career with the team have gone by and all they can rely on now is a future of rapid changes.

Cleveland Browns (7-9)- The Browns are going to see some upward improvement during this particular era. The quarterback race between Brian Hoyer and Johnny Manziel can go either way, because Manziel will ultimately work his way up to the position of starting quarterback, whether he is adored or despised. With a coach like Mike Pettine, who is coming in from the Bills, it is logical that he selects a reliable veteran to take the reigns. However, Pettine has an offensive coordinator in Kyle Shanahan, who should really shake things up and create somewhat of a powerful machine with this team. The Browns will come out with their best record since 2007, but the playoffs remain off the table until things become a bit more settled.

Pittsburgh Steelers (6-10)- Unfortunately for the Steelers, what they will likely see is the end of an era. While Ben Roethlisberger remains with the team, he does not have many of targets to choose from and the offense is in a sticky situation that is bringing the team down. Even with a defense that is still respectable, but at the same time aging, what the team is going to need is a house cleaning. It is very likely that Mike Tomlin will not be back following this season and I am far more confident about the fact that Todd Haley will not be the offensive coordinator for the team. Dick LeBeau, on the other hand, will likely get to decide when to walk away, which I do not see being anytime soon.

AFC West

Denver Broncos (14-2)- The Broncos are the most complete team in the NFL going into this upcoming year. John Fox remains the head coach, Adam Gase offensive coordinator, and Jack Del Rio the defensive coordinator, so we should definitely expect a second chapter to the incredible saga that QB Peyton Manning has left us with. The key difference will be this: Manning will demonstrate that the offense will remain explosive, but the additions of free agents DeMarcus Ware from the Cowboys and Aqib Talib from the Patriots will provide the team with the power of a freight train that is bound to stop at nothing to succeed during the upcoming season. A team where the head coach is a delegator, while the coordinators call the shots is one of two alternates to running the team (the other being the head coach calling the shots for either offense or defense) and I, for one, very much prefer this system that Fox is running.

San Diego Chargers (9-7)- I liked the groove the Chargers were getting into toward the end of this previous season. Ken Whisenhunt's offense was really bringing the resurgence that Philip Rivers most definitely deserves, while John Pagano's defense is making a powerful statement. Even if Whisenhunt coaching the Titans, the Chargers are definitely bound to keep pace with what they have and while Frank Reich's skill level as a coordinator remains a question mark, the Chargers should be able to keep up with a slower pace that is taking place in the AFC. What the Chargers really have going for them is a lighter schedule than their division rival Chiefs, though with a better drive come the end of the season.

Kansas City Chiefs (7-9)- The Chiefs did a heck of a job under Andy Reid. Unfortunately, a lot of this had to do with very easy games. Of course, they have one of the top running backs in Jamaal Charles and a very powerful defense, but they are also going to have much more challenging games. Aside from their standard division games that will be far more heated, they play the improving AFC East, the excellent NFC West, the Titans, and Steelers... so perhaps they will have a leg up with those two games, but the matches will be much more even than what their 11-5 record read. Fortunately for Reid, I believe the Chiefs will not enter the same downward spiral that Herm Edwards and Todd Haley entered (and Romeo Crennel could not get out of).

Oakland Raiders (6-10)- The Raiders saw fortune with free agency when they picked up quarterback Matt Schaub, running back Maurice Jones-Drew, defensive end Justin Tuck, and a bunch of others. Does this make them a shoe-in for playoff contention? Absolutely not. Just look at the Eagles "dream team" most of us believed in that failed to deliver. The Raiders will definitely be on the road to improving, but it will likely be under a new coach and possibly in a new stadium. The Raiders may end up being the San Antonio Raiders if things work out with the stadium they are in talks with. Nevertheless, it is doing absolutely nothing to their impression that has included an inability to reach the playoffs since 2002. The same will be said about this season, where free agency will not be of any help.

NFC East

Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)- Chip Kelly has rejuvenated the Eagles offense and it will continue to show during this upcoming season. What will be up for discussion is not just "who will be Nick Foles' next big receiving target," but also "how many yards and touchdowns will LeSean McCoy produce?" McCoy is the valuable asset to this team, for he is the one that will continue to make the plays time and time again if he is healthy enough. The defense was the element of the team that was somewhat shaky, but it seems as if things have been viewed and will likely be a bit better for them. Experts have said the Eagles have a threshold onto the division, I don't necessarily buy them. Experts have said they are the obvious selection to win the division, I say they do, but not without a fight.

New York Giants (10-6)- The Giants took a giant leap when they decided to relieve Kevin Gilbride as their offensive coordinator and bring in Packers QB coach Ben McAdoo, who worked with Aaron Rodgers. The Giants season will all come down to this very important question: can Eli Manning adjust to McAdoo's offensive schemes? This will be the difference between their success and their need to make several more adjustments. Manning has what he needs in running backs Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams, receivers Victor Cruz, Reuben Randle, dark horse Corey Washington, and rookie Odell Beckham Jr., and a bit better of an offensive line and potentially successful defense. It will all come down to using this to his advantage. I see the Sunday night game in the last week being the Eagles and Giants fighting for the division. The prediction says much of what will happen and if that is the case, the Tom Coughlin era may likely be over and if they like what McAdoo has to offer, Eli Manning's reign with the Giants may come to a close in favor of someone like Ryan Nassib.

Washington Redskins (8-8)- The Redskins are bound to see improvement following an intense reign from Mike Shanahan. I doubt, however, that they will see rapid improvement to the point that they reach over .500. What will dominate this season is not how well DeSean Jackson performs, but instead whether or not Robert Griffin III (RGIII) or Kirk Cousins is the quarterback to drive this team into the future under Jay Gruden. The Skins can very much become the playoff contending team they could have been under Shanahan, but that will take a year or two before things really start to gel. While they are very much under fire for their name being deemed as racist, just remember the other teams that are inspired by Indian tribes: the Chiefs in football and the Indians and Braves in baseball to name a few (and all of these teams use triangular mallets or Indians that look like creatures in their designs).

Dallas Cowboys (5-11)- The Cowboys lost a lot in free agency and really did not pick up so much immediate talent to make up for these deductions. What we have is something relatively mediocre that could potentially be (such as Tony Romo when he is a productive quarterback), but will not. Under Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have been 8-8, nothing more and nothing less. This season, the Cowboys will finally cut this streak, performing under this expectation and this will result in the end of the Jason Garrett era with the team and perhaps show signs that they really need to re-establish themselves with a new design and intent.

NFC South

New Orleans Saints (10-6)- The Saints seem to have all of the fire in them that they need. Drew Brees will likely take advantage of every opportunity he can find and this will result in some rapid plays that will help them in their matchups. The question at hand is their home record versus their road record, because the Saints are magnificent at home, but have had issues being able to keep up with their road performance, which resulted in a mediocre stretch during the playoffs the last go around. Fortunately for them, they will likely keep up.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (9-7)- Among the previous coaches that returned to the league (Jim Caldwell, Ken Whisenhunt, and Lovie Smith), Lovie Smith was the best selection to bring back. This will show in what will likely be a Bears-like team in the south and show us whether or not Josh McCown really is the underrated quarterback that is finally being presented with the right opportunity. The result will be a decent season that keeps them in playoff contention for most of the season, but the rapid push by the Saints will cut this one a bit short.

Carolina Panthers (6-10)- The Panthers saw some excellent opportunities during this past season that resulted in claiming the two-seed and reaching the playoffs, but this attempt ended quickly after a loss to the 49ers. This time around, they will be returning back to the basic routine of a subpar season due to far more difficult matchups and a flow that will be unable to keep up with it. Cam Newton will likely continue to see positive individual results, but they will not result in wins.

Atlanta Falcons (6-10)- The Falcons are just in a very lukewarm situation that includes a team that is good, but does not have the readjustments that the others possess. What will likely need to happen is that Matt Ryan will need a mid-career resurgence under a new direction, because the chances that Mike Smith is kept will be slim. While the team has really done much better as a whole under Smith, one postseason victory is not enough in this rapidly moving league.

NFC North

Green Bay Packers (13-3)- Last season, the Packers were fortunate to make the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. This season, with Aaron Rodgers doing better and an opportunity that comes with plenty of opportunities, will remain dominant among the NFC along with the Seahawks. The fact that these two teams, with passionate fan bases, may very well make up the match-up for the NFC Championship, is going to make for something large and extraordinary.

Chicago Bears (10-6)- This past season, the Bears missed out of the playoffs by the skin of their teeth. This time around, they have far more options and improvements at both ends of the ball that the drive has become much better for them under Marc Trestman and his second year with the team. The question is going to be this: can Jay Cutler stay healthy? If Cutler stays healthy, this will be an extraordinary, powerhouse of a team. If not, Jimmy Clausen as a backup does not provide them with the ideal assurance they may truly be looking for.

Detroit Lions (6-10)- A lot remains in place with a team featuring quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson, and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but whether or not Jim Caldwell is the person to give Stafford the improvements he needs with his career is a very sketchy subject to approach. Just remember that when the Colts were under Caldwell's reign, his first season, in 2009, brought the Colts to the Super Bowl. However, the 2010 season saw record lows for Manning, including win-loss record, and without him in the 2011 season, the Colts went 2-14. Everything needs to be right for this team, or else they will do poorly. I see six wins for the Lions and the same old stuff under Caldwell.

Minnesota Vikings (6-10)- I really liked the selection of Mike Zimmer to coach the Vikings after he waited years for his chance despite making vast improvements to the Bengals defense. Coaching the Vikings, however, will take time when it comes to figuring out whether or not Matt Cassel is the way to go or it will be time to start Teddy Bridgewater. Zimmer's tenure with the Vikings will heavily lean on his ability to shape the team's offense in the best possible way. This time around, they will lag behind with the Lions.

NFC West

Seattle Seahawks (14-2)- The Seahawks have demonstrated that even their backups have no limit to how well they can perform. Pete Carroll's unit is just about the hardest working unit as a whole among the NFL, with Russell Wilson young and mighty, while everyone else on the team remains intact. When your Super Bowl MVP can be one of many, you really have something going for you, especially when your victory is the largest landslide of the 21st century. With this and the twelfth man very much alive, the Seahawks will continue to take dominance in the NFC and within their division. This is only the beginning of many opportunities and this season will be even better among their competitive division. Both Darrell Bevall (offensive coordinator) and Dan Quinn (defensive coordinator) should be expecting interviews for head coaching positions.

San Francisco 49ers (11-5)- The Niners will continue performing at a decent pace come the 2014 season, even though there is an intensity between Jim Harbaugh, what he has accomplished, and whether or not he deserves more than he is getting. Just remember that before Harbaugh, the Niners missed the playoffs in EIGHT STRAIGHT SEASONS. What was once a dynasty that put together five Super Bowl victories in fourteen years had difficulty seeing similar results until the Harbaugh era, so a lot should be considered when it comes to what the limit happens to be with this man. A lot will be riding here.

Arizona Cardinals (9-7)- You have to give the Cardinals a lot of credit for what they are able to put together in the most challenging division in the league. Last time around, they put together a 10-6 record under new coach Bruce Arians with quarterback Carson Palmer in the driver's seat. This season will see some very similar results, but what will get to them is the fact that the NFC is going to be the competitive conference of 2014 and it will place them in the wildcard race, only to be brought down by rapid competitors such as their division rival Niners.

St. Louis Rams (6-10)- One of the biggest tragedies within the NFL at this point is how the Rams are the team that could be, but have not had the opportunity to be. Having not made the playoffs since 2004, Jeff Fisher was brought in to change the direction of a losing culture for the struggling Rams. Unfortunately, Sam Bradford, who was supposed to be an elite quarterback, has struggled to stay healthy and is not out for the entire 2014 season. Under backup Shaun Hill, the Rams will see mediocre results, but it will keep them out of contention in the most competitive division in the league.



1. Denver Broncos
2. Indianapolis Colts
3. New England Patriots
4. Cincinnati Bengals
5. San Diego Chargers
6. New York Jets


1. Seattle Seahawks
2. Green Bay Packers
3. Philadelphia Eagles
4. New Orleans Saints
5. San Francisco 49ers
6. Chicago Bears


Patriots beat Jets, 27-14
Chargers beat Bengals, 26-22
Bears beat Eagles, 28-24
Saints beat 49ers, 48-36


Broncos beat Chargers, 59-20
Colts beat Patriots, 35-28
Seahawks beat Bears, 31-16
Packers beats Saints, 38-7

AFC Championship

Broncos beat Colts, 41-28

NFC Championship

Seahawks beat Packers, 35-28

Super Bowl XLIX

Broncos beat Seahawks, 48-40

Yes, I am going to stay with the selection I made last year. The Broncos are back and better than ever this upcoming year and I feel that with Peyton Manning holding high hopes in making that very last statement, the Broncos will be the favorites to put the Seahawks in their place, though the Seahawks will continue to deliver until the season is through. I believe that this will be Peyton Manning's last season and if the Broncos win the Super Bowl this year, this statement will be definitely. Manning seems to be the kind of person that wants to end things on a good note and a decisive playoff run should be key in this equation.

Feel free to comment and provide any alternate ideas and lenses to what this prediction holds and I will be intrigued to hear what you have to say.