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