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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Book Review: "The Shining" by Stephen King

Earlier in the summer, I bought a copy of the massive reference book known as 1001 Books to Read Before You Die and got a lot of fascinating information out of it regarding suggestions for works to add to my massive book collection. I would think that the collection would follow a path that featured works that were literature in the eyes of the experienced professors and doctors that studied the realm of written work for years. While I did not expect work from Stephen King to appear, it just so happened that The Shining made an appearance onto this list, which came as a bit of a shock, but at the same time I was quite thrilled. Most people remember The Shining for being a work that became a Stanley Kubrick directed movie with which some of the most notable cinematic cliches came about. Just take into account the two twin girls, Jack Nicholson roaring "Hereeeeeeee's Johnny!" as he cracks the door slightly opened as he plays the terror that is Jack Torrance, and the very last scene that portrays him as a ghost. Now take what I just said and remove it from the discussion at-large. The Shining is meant to be far more memorable than the film that was meant to just spark feelings of terror and not much else. What The Shining produces is more than just feelings of terror, but warm emotion in the form of true character development.

Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and his son Danny arrive at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado from their original living quarters in Vermont. The reason: Jack Torrance was let go as an English instructor because he assaulted a stuttering student, George Hatfield, because Hatfield damaged his car after being rejected from a debate team due to what was probably his stuttering. To put it clearer, Jack had to assemble the best possible team and rejected someone who took it personally. Jack (like many of Stephen King's characters) is trying to make it as a writer, but also has to make ends meet as he is a large factor in providing for his wife and son. A job at the Overlook Hotel would really support this cause, even if it means coming across plenty of demons that live there, including the ones that exist within ones self. These demons within ones self are also bound to be triggered by additional demons that hold no fear in taking possession of their victims. Jack, who was at one point an alcoholic (which runs in his family), comes off as quite a simple target.

While Jack is the subject of struggle that will eventually become an antagonizing force, it is Danny that is meant to bear our sympathy. This does not lie solely on the fact he is a young boy that is much like any boy his own age, but because he is being plagued by nightmares and possessed by his state of unconscious through a boy older than he named Tony. This is where he learns of "REDRUM," a word that haunts him throughout the book. Additionally, he is possessed by more realistic fears, primarily the fear of seeing his parents getting a divorce. Throughout the novel, the relationship between Jack and Wendy is at a strain to the point that Wendy is standing by Jack for the sake of Danny. Jack went after Danny before, but as the book progresses, whether or not it is truly Jack or the demons within the Overlook become far more vague. The message of excessive intake of alcohol remains a horror that exists far beyond the hotel. At the same time, details regarding room 217 and the terrifying existence of the hedge animals can barely be found elsewhere.

The title of the novel comes from the power that Danny possesses, with which he can read the emotions of different individuals and know exactly what is going on. This is more than just the feelings of bad weather through pain in your joints, but instead being aware of his parents and their struggles. This is also possessed by one of the hotel's residents that moves away toward the start of the novel, Dick Hallorann. Dick is a large black man who is an excellent chef that forms a friendship with Danny. His character finds importance as the novel progresses.

As I began reading The Shining, it truly sparked a reaction of discomfort. The fact that Danny was reacting in such a way really brought honest emotions of what it must feel like for a young child to be feeling terror. As the novel progresses, there are several monstrous figures that make up the plot of the novel, but it is the monster that Jack Torrance becomes that stands as being the most terrifying. I cannot confirm that this was completely Jack, but I will say that it did not help that Jack and his struggles would inevitably cause him to go off the wall in some particular way. We get a background of experiences involving the hotel through archives that Jack goes over, but I felt that it was out a point that did not necessarily grab my attention right then and there. It did, however, catch his attention at a point of some sanity, which is very important. The rational and the irrational Jack are two things that require absolute attention, because their transitions can be rapid.

The Shining was the third novel published by Stephen King, making up the beginning of his career. While he is known to set much of his work in Maine, this makes plenty of exceptions regarding the area of concentration. To have his characters begin in Vermont and endure much of their terror in Colorado is something very different for King, but it is also something that provides his resume with variety and creates an air of mystery to the unknown. I feel it is necessary to read this novel if you are looking for the "1001 Horror Novels to Read Before You Die." Regarding books as a whole, that will take much more experience and the reading of several other works, then I will get back to you.

Verdict: 9/10

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Television Review: The Chase

Television reality and game shows... many of them are following the same path. Just about anything and everything I see on television within this genre is as predictable as it has ever been. This, my friends, is very unfortunate. Every singing competition or just about anything that requires you to vote is almost pointless, because you are almost positive that production alters it anyway in order to shift things into their favor. While American Idol improved slightly by making things a little less predictable, it did not help the show any. This predictability is hurting America's Got Talent (though it has not lost viewers as a fortunate summer show), bringing Big Brother to a halt, and at this point in time, the evidence is out, people have had enough of reality shows and will not take the time to get lured in to something that does not release a particular purpose.

Game shows are seeing this kind of effect, but only to a degree. The milking of the game show began with the Tom Bergeron version of Hollywood Squares, where celebrities were given the answers and told to bluff here and there. Penn Jillette, who were appear frequently with Teller, would be known for shouting, "YOU FOOL!" when a contestant did not go along with his correct answer. Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? was injected with these elements as well, as was a show known as Our Little Genius. This particular show, however, did not make it to television, because it was caught red-handed with giving answers away to the children that appeared as contestants. There were other occasions where shows became so complicated or so unprepared that it caused a self-destruction. Million Dollar Money Drop mixed up their facts on one occasions, which caused them to lose the trust of their viewers and they were ousted after a season. Million Second Quiz constantly changed the rules of their game, thus confusing their viewers and not returning.

With this being said, the most successful game shows have come from the original program block of Game Show Network (when they show game shows). The first being a show that has completed three seasons in The American Bible Challenge with Jeff Foxworthy and Kirk Franklin. The second show, one that I find to be quite a thrill, is The Chase. The Chase began as a show in the United Kingdom, but, like many of other successes (or partial successes), moved to the United States and became its own sensation. Into its third season, The Chase has brought promise to the art of the quiz show in the way that only Jeopardy! has been able to follow for quite awhile.

The British version of The Chase is hosted by Bradley Walsh and features several "Chasers" with which the team of contestants have an opportunity to compete. In the American version, Walsh hosted two pilots with British chaser Mark Labbett, known as "The Beast" as one option and Jeopardy! champion Brad Rutter as the other. During the GSN series, Labbett is the chaser is every episode and the series is hosted by Brooke Burns, formerly an actress from Baywatch and host of the game show Dog Eat Dog. The game begins with three contestants, one by one, answering as many questions as possible in a certain amount of time, winning $5,000 for each correct answer. From there, they face The Beast, who keeps his name because he is the consistent, antagonizing target. They have an opportunity to play for what they earned or can take options to play for less money if they want to move a step away from Labbett, or more money if they want to move a step closer. In this qualifying chase, they go head-to-head in answering multiple choice questions. If the contestant reaches the "home" position, they win the right to compete in the final chase. If they lose, they walk away with nothing.

The final chase consists of everyone that made it to "home." This can include one, two, or all of the contestants. If no one makes it "home," Labbett gives one of them the opportunity to play on behalf of the team for a chance to split $15,000. In the final chase, the contestants (or contestant) answer as many questions as they can in two minutes. From there, Labbett does the same. If he gets a question wrong, the contestants (or contestant) can push him back by answering the question correctly. If Labbett beats them within the time limit, the contestant(s) get nothing. If he does not, the earnings are evenly distributed among them (and yes, one contestant winning means one contestant gets everything).

Out of twenty-three episodes, Labbett has won sixteen, making his winning percentage about 70%. Some of the champions include Jay Rhee, who won multiple episodes on Jeopardy! On The Chase, he and his teammate, Steve, won $35,000 each. The Chase also saw an individual record winner for an original Game Show Network program, when Raj won $125,000 on an earlier episode of the program. The third season has three episodes remaining and a decent amount of hope of being renewed for a fourth (if not more) seasons.

I enjoy watching The Chase. At the same time, I feel that this show also has its quirks. I am not the biggest fan of Brooke Burns as the host of a show like this. While I am not sure if getting Dan Patrick on board would have been something this show needed, someone like Mark L. Walberg (of Russian Roulette, Moment of Truth, and Antique Roadshow) could have brought this show a bit of intensity. Burns does, however, create the friction between Labbett and everyone else. This brings me to the fact that Labbett is an excellent choice as a figure of intelligent superiority with which the contestants have to face in each and every episode. Seeing that he has won 70% of his matches, he has also proven to be the right person with which the contestants face. While we love seeing the contestants win, seeing them win on occasion as oppose to every single episode provides more of a reason to watch the show. You want to keep watching for that particular moment when the contestant(s) win. Labbett also follows a trend of antagonizing, razor-tongued British folk that American television feeds on in this particular realm.

The head-to-head match with which the contestants try to make it "home" is a bit of an enigma for me as well, where a lot of modern day elements are brought into the program. I despise when they cut to commercial before they reveal an answer. This mechanism goes as far back as Deal or No Deal and it provides the show with every opportunity to potentially alter the flow of the program. While I hold a bit more trust in this particular show and in Labbett's genius, the sense of paranoia flies through the air regarding this strategy. As I said before, this particular industry is deteriorating in its trust of the viewer.

The Chase has brought promise to the quiz-based show in America and that challenging questions (in the form of what we would find on The Weakest Link, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and Jeopardy!) can still make for an intriguing game show, especially since ridiculous shows like Who's Still Standing relied more on antics and presentation. Shows like this will really have you playing along! At the moment, it is appearing on Game Show Network on Tuesdays at 8 PM. No need to stick around to watch Id!otest.

Verdict: 9/10

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Whose Line Is It Anyway: Season 3, Episode 9

On Monday, the world of entertainment lost one of its most legendary, hilarious actors when Robin Williams died from a suicide that was brought upon by depression at the age of 63. For me, Williams brought to me years of light-hearted, but immensely clever entertainment. Like several young children, I was introduced to him by his appearances on Sesame Street, which included a handful of sketches ranging from what a stick can be used for, what is alive, and a conversation with a robin (as the two share a name). As years went on, I had the opportunity to watch films such as Jumanji and Night at the Museum, with which he possessed a knack for a kooky, but lovable personality, much of which had to do with covering up his nervousness that he possessed in real life. While I had yet to have an opportunity to watch Good Will Hunting, Dead Poets Society, and Man of the Year into their entirety, I have my eye on watching them to their completion, especially the middle option, as a literature major. For the latter comes a favorite quote of mine, political leaders, "are like diapers, they need to be changed often."

I have not conducted reviews for Whose Line is it Anyway in awhile, but I will resume this trend today, as I will do at my pleasing. During the Drew Carey version of the show, he had the opportunity to find some relatively high profile rotating guests. On two occasions, he had Whoopi Goldberg in the guest's chair. On one particular episode, he happened to have Robin Williams, perhaps the guest with the highest profile throughout the show's sixteen-year run in America and this DOES NOT count the last two seasons (which have not lured in high profile guests). Looking back at this episode, which also featured Wayne Brady, Colin Mochrie, and Ryan Stiles, we saw so many magical elements as to why this was the golden age of Whose Line. Williams held his knack throughout the episode, but that's what made it all the enjoyable.

They started out with Hollywood Director, with the theme being Ryan and Robin working as Italian pizza makers that are interrupted by Wayne the machine-like pest controller. As always, Colin was the director. To see Ryan and Robin acting as Italians possessed a good-hearted humor that in turn captured the show's essence. Like always, the game had them exercising different suggestions, which included acting as hillbillies, as if they were in Riverdance, or (hilariously enough) as if they had a sexual appetite for one another. Duets was performed in its original intent, where an audience member was selected and Wayne and Robin would sing to them in a designated style. In this case, the audience member was Jeremy and he was an air traffic controller. The theme was gospel, so Wayne and Robin started as if they were conducting a sermon, but got to the point where they were flying around as if they were kids pretending to be airplanes. Once you give Robin Williams that kind of prompt and look out!

Their next game was Party Quirks. While the guest performer has primarily taken on the role of the host in this most recent season of the show, Colin was the host this time around. As for the guests with which he had to guess personalities for, Wayne was a sitcom featuring Richard Simmons, Charo, and Mr. T (absolutely hilarious), Robin a fashion cop, and Ryan an individual who thought everyone's rear end was a Magic 8-Ball. This was just another reason to say Williams fit in to his element of improv comedy. From there, they played Scenes From a Hat, a game played more moderately on the Drew Carey version. Some of the topics included "if funerals had elements of entertainment" and this led up to "what is Robin Williams thinking right now?" Playing Scenes From a Hat with Williams as the guest is just one of the perfect mixes, just as all of these games happened to be.

The last game was Props, which allowed Robin and the others the opportunity to think up of as many ways of using designated, random objects. Unlike the last two seasons, the winner (in this case Colin) would be able to sit out of the last game and Drew Carey would participate (to which he seemed to enjoy doing when he hosted). Wayne and Robin had fluffy, round devices that looked like gigantic dust bunnies, to which they used as wigs and a few other outlandish things. Drew and Ryan had what looked like yellow ram's horns with which they used as curls (like Princess Leia curls) and as a sleigh, where Drew pretended to be Santa and Ryan pretended to be Rudolph. Surprisingly, the amount of bathroom humor, sexual innuendos, and genital references were minimal. Perhaps the audience between 2000 and 2014 really has transitioned...

The closing with which they read out the credits was in the form of Riverdance and in this case, they all participated.

What can be said about this episode is what can be said about each of the episodes with which a well-known guest performer participated, THIS is exactly how the show should operate. The fourth performer is there for a reason and Robin Williams was an excellent choice for a fourth guest. Of course, the traditional fourth performers (like Greg Proops and Brad Sherwood) have been a positive asset to the show, but Whose Line is meant to cater to guests such as Robin Williams instead of offstage guests such as low-budget television stars that appear on CW television shows. The production during this particular time took the effort to pursue one of the great improvisational comedians of our generation and it paid off! We had zany sketches that came right off the cuffs of the performers and it played off as classic Whose Line is it Anyway is supposed to play off.

If for some reason there is an anniversary collection for this series, this particular episode should DEFINITELY make an appearance. I am not saying this just because it features Robin Williams, but it features some of the most enjoyable bits of improv comedy and is helped by the appearance of Robin Williams.

Verdict: 10/10

Remember, if for some reason you or someone you know is depressed to the point they feel the need to end their lives, there is always someone that is willing to help. I am completely aware that this is much easier said and done, but depression does not need to overtake anyone as it did Robin Williams. Depression is a brutal condition, but it can does not need to control or consume.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Taping Of Season 2 Literary Gladiators Is (Just About) Complete

The filming for the second season of Literary Gladiators took four sessions, but out of these sessions came twenty-two episodes that, while in need of some editing, are going to begin seeing release come September 1st for the sneak preview and September 15th for consistent, weekly release. There is an additional episode that will be taped to make the episode count twenty-three. During these episodes, four (though in some cases two) English majors, literature enthusiasts, book lovers, or those that fit all three categories discuss and debate different works and areas of literature in a laid back, but in a format that puts them on the spot as each question is presented.

Jim, Charlie, and I will be back for most of the episodes as members of the panel, but we will now have a friend of mine named Laney as our moderator in twelve of the episodes. Other episodes will include substitute moderators, along with an alternate format where the members of the panel ask each other questions to embrace a more discussion-based format, though all of the episodes reach the intensity of how we view a specific work or topic. Along with the three of us, we are joined by Courtney, Brianna, Dan, Larry, Bree, Jackie, Dr. David, and Prof. Hannah, who will serve as rotating guests that will be making their debut during this particular season.

Episodes will be released on a weekly format on most Mondays from September 15th until the season finale, which should occur sometime in March, unless a delay occurs in the uploading.

Here are the twenty-three episodes in store:

1. "The Peacock" by W.B. Yeats
2. Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger
3. "Bartleby the Scrivener" by Herman Melville
4. "Civil Disobedience" by Henry David Thoreau
5. Maus by Art Spiegelman
6. The Nobel Prize in Literature
7. "Dover Beach" by Matthew Arnold
8. Dracula by Bram Stoker
9. Halloween: The Work That Sparks a Fearful Reaction
10. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
11. "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath
12. The Work of Ralph Waldo Emerson
13. "Oranges" by Gary Soto
14. The Work of Walt Whitman
15. Christmas: The Work That Brings a Christmas (or Holiday) Feeling
16. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
17. "The Lottery Ticket" by Ventura Garcia Calderon
18. "The Mark on the Wall" by Virginia Woolf
19. Valentine's Day: The Work That Brings a Romantic Feeling
20. "A Rose for Emily" by William Faulkner
21. "In Celebration of my Uterus" by Anne Sexton
22. "Twenty-One Love Poems" by Adrienne Rich
23. Works From Childhood

This upcoming season will bring a wide range of discussions about different ideas that will make for some entertaining episodes. As I have always said, working with Jim and Charlie is always a delight. The chemistry between Jim's exotic genius, Charlie's goofy humor, and my reserved, straight man personality creates an ongoing flow that meets variables in the way of rotating guests and different topics, which is what makes each episode magnificent in its own little way.

I hope you enjoy these episodes, in addition to the six episodes from the first season, as much as we have enjoyed taping them. If everything works out, we will begin work on a third season that will be taped in January and released sometime in late May or early June. Our goal will be, however, to get season two off the ground and hope we garner some more subscribers and viewers. If new information comes about between now and the release of the show, I will be sure to inform you.