Friday, January 30, 2015

Literary Gladiators: Episode 19- The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Brianna was one of our most notable among our rotating guests that appeared on the panel with Jim, Charlie, and I during the season two filming sessions we held last summer. She participated in four episodes and this is the second one to be released. This is also Brianna in her prime hour, because her area is Transcendentalism and her favorite writer is Ralph Waldo Emerson. Some of the segments in the episode are a bit choppy, I will admit, but it has to do with the honesty of how it is to film an episode of the show. Why I refer to "Nature" as a poem and not an essay not once, but twice is beyond me. Perhaps in many of these miscellaneous episodes that require us to make a selection of a favorite something, most of our choices are poems. However, as Jim mentions, we have every right to make mistakes, because we are human (of course, I am paraphrasing this).

I hope you enjoy the Emerson episode of our show. It was notable for quite a few reasons and we get the answer to the question of how long Charlie is able to part with his cookie.

If you like what we are releasing, please subscribe to our channel and you will receive consistent updates as often as we release new videos. Enjoy our 19th episode!

Episode 19- The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: "Microscripts" by Robert Walser

If you have read my posts about what I have had to say about Robert Walser throughout the past year, you could tell that I praise him as being an underrated genius that falls under the same class as Franz Kafka, who became far more notable after his death. Jakob von Gunten made it to #2 on my list of my five favorite reads from last year and I beseech that if you have not read his work, then I highly suggest it. For now, I would say to pick up and read Jakob von Gunten, because Microscripts will test your patience with regard to asking a question regarding whether or not this really tells a story. Microscripts bears a brilliance in its own right, in the way that it is the ant-sized, cryptic writings that Walser wrote from the late 20s and into his days in a sanatorium that he entered by the turn of the decade. He was placed in this environment, for his sister deemed him to be schizophrenic, and he would live this way for the remainder of his life. Walser was institutionalized in 1933, none of his writings from this period of time are in existence, if any existed in the first place. This was, perhaps, the time that Walser declared that his purpose of being in an institution was "not to write, but to be crazy."

Microscripts is what we could deem as being the gateway to Walser's existential, purposeless, but brilliant mind. We do not really get a sense of his personal struggles in these pieces, as if he was submitting to a diary, but we instead explore random moments that pop up here and there. Walser wrote these submissions on scraps of paper, on the backs of book pages, and in so many other bizarre places. Just about every one of these submissions is shown in its original format, coming off as if it was in some kind of code. At the same time, what he has to say is so genuine that it would be impossible for me to confirm what ever I say on here today. On my first impression, I got his wit with what he had to say, but it did not strike home the way Jakob von Gunten did. On the other hand, there is a lot that can be said about what he has to express through his writing.

The pieces that stuck out to me the most were the ones he wrote about the radio and the train station. Both of these were relatively current for his period of time, especially that of the radio since the submission was written in the 1920s, where the radio was relatively new. Walser saw the radio as being something out of the ordinary, but he found bits of ridicule that came about with its presence. He finds it peculiar that radios interrupt the interaction that one may have with one another and how more attention is paid to a subject likely to be a distance away when there is a necessary subject right within your view that can be seen, heard, and felt. If what Walser is saying here is extraordinary, then what he would have to say about today and its technology would be light years beyond the realm of brilliance. His commentary on the train station views a different kind of fascination. While trains were around decades before radios, the fascination of what they look like, the "whisking" of people, the endless destinations, and what makes up a station brought immense curiosity to Walser regarding the world around him.

Of course, Walser wrote his pieces as unedited thoughts, thus a lot of information that did not relate to the designated subject was bound to pop up. In fact, many of these submissions did not even have titles. The solution to this: go the "Emily Dickinson route" and use the first line to create the title. Aside from those I mentioned, Walser wrote about marriage, autumn, schnapps, new years, as well as details about how he transitioned from writing in pen to writing in pencil that provided some insight to his cryptic sketches.

In all honesty, this book was a challenge to grasp. The group of people that will enjoy and get the most out of this batch of writings is the group that is familiar with Walser and/or is familiar with a writer who was deemed to have a mental condition. I would say 98% would fall under the former category, which would be why I highly suggest reading one of his novels or other works of fiction (for me, Jakob von Gunten was my only other read from Walser) before reading Microscripts. In fact, it may serve you well to read multiple works before arriving at this one. The writing is not necessarily entertaining, but it is sure to fascinate on the contingency that he mentions something that sparks your interest. As written prose, I would say it is decent. While it would be easy to be biased, I feel there is no need to do so, and at $25, I would highly suggest not starting your experience with Walser at Microscripts. It explores miniscule details that include painted pictures of key images, such as him lying dead face up in the snow, since he died on Christmas Day in 1955 while taking a walk.

The most important thing about becoming an enthusiast for a particular author is to read their fiction to determine whether or not you enjoy them. Then read some intense works that fill you with their background information. If you want background information quickly, look them up online. In Walser's case, read his fiction and then buy Microscripts. Even at $25, it will be a call that should be made before a purchase. Of course, there were things I could appreciate about it, so I was enlightened a bit more. I am sure that there will also be areas to which people will be enlightened or intrigued that are different from mine, greater, fewer, throughout, or nowhere at all.

Simply put, the enthusiast in me recommends this, but I logically felt that it was one step above being okay.

Verdict: 7/10

Monday, January 19, 2015

Book Review: "Seize The Day" by Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow is an author that intrigued me with his portrayal of the everyman. Most of these men are Jewish, just as he was, which causes he to be very reminiscent of film director Woody Allen. Bellow won multiple literary prizes, including a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1976. Drawn in by his intriguing background, I decided to purchase Seize the Day off of Amazon, since buying a copy at full price was just too costly. At just 114 pages long when published by Penguin Classics, this is meant to be a light read... by size it is meant to be a light read. This novel can also be deemed as being enlightening... by the fact that it stresses the heck out of you by things that are meant to be. When a novel is this short and this costly (like Dr. Spencer Johnson's self-help book Who Moved My Cheese), it becomes a struggle when asked whether or not this is a work that should be recommended. Perhaps it will be up to you to be the judge.

Tommy Wilhelm had everything within his grasp and yet he let everything go through his fingers as if it was sand. Born with the last name of Adler, the name held by his pompous, psychiatrist father, he drops out of college and gets a job in Hollywood. This job fails, as does his marriage at his own discretion. He is separated from his wife Margaret, two sons, and even his dog, Scissors. The only time his wife wants anything to do with him is when it is time for him to pay alimony. Margaret is cold, like Judith Harper is from Two & A Half Men. The only difference is that Margaret is put up against a man (Tommy) who has a great deal of pity and longs to better himself while not taking the opportunities he is granted. Margaret speaks sense, while Judith's "go-to" remark is threatening to contact her lawyer. He does come across a girl named Olive, but because Margaret refuses to grant him a divorce, the marriage cannot go off.

Tommy is not surrounded by the greatest of individuals. His psychiatrist father, Dr. Adler, does not help him, but instead remind him time and time again how he failed to be the ideal son. Margaret is very manipulative, because the guilt she uses to lure money out of Tommy is just so practical, but yet she does not want to take the extra mile in doing so. Her excuse has to do with the fear that her sons will end up being members of or the victims of gangs. Tommy turns to a sketchy Dr. Tamkin for relief, because Tamkin seems to tell him the most of what he wants to hear. Hooking him up with an older man named Rappaport brings into the greatest amount of easy feelings. Rappaport delivers the most enlightening lines about those that don't need have, while those that need don't have. This seems to stand more parallel to not asking for more than what you need, but Tommy's character is enigmatic, that it would take real psychological analysis to sort out the issue.

Tommy is meant to be the center of sympathy in this novel, but Bellow creates a world that is cynical toward these ideas. The question at hand is: do we live in a cynical world or does Tommy possess the strongest feelings of self-pity? Both answers are reasonable. Tommy is placed in an environment to which those around him are also making an attempt to seek the relief that they need, but yet not to the great extent that Tommy is begging. Tommy put himself into a lot of his issues, though many of them fell to issues of luck or fortune. With this novel, Bellow plays on the idea that perhaps we the reader need to second guess what we should think about Tommy.

This was a "Baby Swiss cheese work." With that, I say that I felt there were some minor holes within the novel, but not too big that these holes brought it down. There was a lot more that I wanted to know about Tommy that the novel could have been at least another forty pages and it would have not hurt the novel. The details we are given provide some character development, but we could have been given a lot more detail in order to establish an efficient connection. We don't hear so much about his sons or Scissors the dog. Speaking of Scissors, the only reason he should have been denied the opportunity to take the dog is that he had an intense connection to the kids. This and other points within the novel develop a frustration that in some ways superseded my ability to enjoy the message that was brought forth by this novel.

This kind of brutal enlightenment gave me enough of a reason to explore more of Saul Bellow's novels, but I would have to say that this particular work should either be rented or purchased at a price no more than $10. If you don't want the feeling that you want to pull your hair out of your head, then perhaps a better read will work. While it would be for (somewhat) the right reasons, a lot of understanding is needed to swallow this one.

Verdict: 6/10

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Literary Gladiators: Episode 18- "Dracula" by Bram Stoker (PLUS Updates On Season Three Tapings)

After a few months of editing issues, this episode has finally arrived. Dracula is one of the episodes that I felt depicted our chemistry the best. Jim, Charlie, and I have exchanged barbs for eight episodes as we speak, so the ninth episode captured the essence of a vibrant Jim, goofball Charlie, myself, who keeps the flow going at the table, and the rotating guest. In this case, the rotating guest was Dan, who is a good friend of mine from college. Dan is just a casual reader, but he loves vampires and vampire fiction, so he fit perfectly well with us and in the discussion. One of the best scenes in the episode is how he explains to Charlie what a "stake" is in vampire folklore. You can be the judge as to whether or not Charlie did not know what a "stake" was or if he really likes to tell puns. Either way, Charlie does love steak.

On the topic of filming, we filmed a major portion of the third season of our show during the last two weeks. As we speak, we have twelve episodes and an extra that will make up the major portion of this season. I MAY (not promising just yet) have four additional episodes added on, but it will all depend on whether or not this is able to pan out. What I know for sure is that we have eleven episodes left of season two that I hope to upload on a consistent basis. I will not be moving forward with uploading season three until season two's episodes and edited and uploaded. I can promise you that we have a lot of exciting episodes in store. A fourth season will be in the works for the summer, while I plan to work on an extra for early 2016.

As for our YouTube performance, as of today, we have 21 subscribers and 1,684 views. We are hoping to improve our audience retention, which we are attempting to do by releasing shorter episodes (one of the season three episodes without editing is just a little over six minutes). I am hoping that those of you that enjoy reading entries from Caponomics are also enjoying Literary Gladiators. I hope to submit more here as well, which may only be presented by the slight challenge of my final semester at college. Regardless, I feel I can juggle what I feel holds a priority.

Here is a link to the 18th episode of Literary Gladiators. To partially borrow from Dan, this is a "bloodsucking good video!"

Episode 18- "Dracula" by Bram Stoker

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Literary Gladiators: Episode 17- "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

It has been a few weeks since we released any new episodes, but we are up and plan to release the second season on a bit more of a consistent basis. If everything goes according to plan, we intend to have a new episode up once a week on a designated date (possibly Tuesday, but I ask that I am not held up to this just yet). The episode where we go over Hamlet by William Shakespeare was probably one of our top episodes, for we had a great panel that participated. Charlie and I served as the regulars, while Larry was filling in for the entire session due to Jim's absence. Jackie, who sat in the guest's spot, holds an area of specific interest in Shakespeare's plays and Gothic literature, so this episode was somewhat of a heyday. The result: a twenty-six minute episode that made for an intense discussion.

This is the longest episode we have released thus far. This does, however, show a testament of how passionate people can get on feelings that are definitely developed. Jackie has also proved to be very fitting as one of the guests and will certainly be invited back if plans work out.

Here is a link to the new episode and I hope you enjoy!

Episode 17- "Hamlet" by William Shakespeare

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review: "Norwegian Wood" by Haruki Murakami

I want to begin by wishing everyone a happy new year! This is my first post on Caponomics in the year of 2015. I hope to work toward a few of my goals that relate to contributing to this blog (we are just seven posts away from 300!!!), working on Literary Gladiators, and looking for markets to which I can enter my fiction. As always, though, I plan to read as much as I possibly can. The first novel I completed during the new year is from an author I have been interested in reading for quite awhile: Haruki Murakami. Murakami is a Japanese author known most for his trippy magical realism, but I began with Norwegian Wood. This novel was the one that brought his recognition, despite the fact that it does not fall along the lines of the common trend of his signature works. Norwegian Wood creates a different kind of magic, the one that explores relationships and the struggles of second guessing and over thinking during a crucial time in one's life. I felt that this was a good start to my interest in such an intriguing author.

"Norwegian Wood" was a song written and performed by The Beatles. The song is reflective of John Lennon's extramarital affair he was having with Yoko Ono while he was still married to Cynthia Powell. The protagonist in this novel, Toru Watanabe, is a college student that faces the struggles of being attracted by multiple girls. Set in 1969 in Japan, but heavily influenced by American culture, Toru is making it through college with a degree in drama. It seems as if he is an art student who feels he has one life to live and will live it as he pleases. The only issue is that he questions himself so very often, which is a struggle that plenty of individuals deal with. He has slept with a handful of women, but the women that catch his eye the most are Naoko, who dated Toru's friend Kizuki, who took his own life; and Midori, a more liberated girl who Toru meets in college after he is separated from Naoko. After finding the real world too complicated, which includes the ability to understand her feeling with Toru, Naoko goes to live in a special community for people who deal with a state of mental instability. Unlike an institution, this community actually functions as a special form of living quarters that plays as an assisted living without so much assistance. She is living with the free spirited, oddball Reiko, who is in her late thirties, has plenty of musical talents, especially for Beatles songs.

Toru's struggle comes in the form of figuring out whether or not he loves Naoko or Midori better. He feels as if he has an obligation to give Naoko the best possible life she can possibly have, despite her state of insanity. Midori, on the other hand, has a mindset that is a bit more predictable. She has the ability to hold bitter feelings, but not in the way that she can break out of character at any moment. The biggest decision Toru has to make is whether he lives in the past or lives in the present and for the future. Naoko is a representative of the misery brought about by the past, which is caused by an inability to completely cope with Kizuki's suicide and the empty spot it left. Midori, on the other hand, represents a new life and an ability to deal with every curve ball life may bring about and make something better out of the experience. What comes out of it is a compromise (which is all I will say), but I will say that the novel begins on a flight to Germany in 1987 and the story is driven on a memory Toru has about being in a meadow with Naoko. This imagery Murakami gave about the meadow was just brilliant and drove me right in to what he wanted to convey. He is truly mesmerizing.

Haruki Murakami has been a nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature for the last few years. When I thought he was going to win for the last two, Alice Munro and Patrick Modiano won in 2013 and 2014, respectively. Munro and Modiano were both deserving of the title, though I feel that eventually it will come time for Murakami and his ability to quench the western culture in eastern land to be rewarded. This is the reverse of Hermann Hesse, who brought a taste of eastern culture to the west. Norwegian Wood was a very good novel. I liked the fact that Toru was a central figure that one could relate to. There are plenty of men around the age of nineteen and twenty that tackle the same type of struggle, even if it does not mean they have the opportunity to choose between two or more women or end up in bed with several by this time in life. He was surrounded by a good core group of individuals, such as a more rational, rule following Nagasawa, who was his roommate. Norwegian Wood follows a different group of individuals, who act different, think different, and solve problems in different ways.

The thing that bugged me the most was an event toward the end of the novel that proved to be a bit awkward and brought a sense of ridicule and discomfort. I could see in some ways where Murakami was trying to head, but the way to which the novel was left proved to be a bit mind boggling. What I did enjoy is that it did a fine job accomplishing what it set out to accomplish. It explored the idea of passionate feelings between men and women, even the idea of interaction between women. Reiko admitted feelings of joy when it came to making out with a woman, even though she did so to a student she taught piano lessons to, which was a bit creepy. At one point in time, even Naoko has a female to female experience. More often than once, Norwegian Wood explores sexual passions in a descriptive, erotic kind of way. This kind of intense love story would surely make way to something quite descriptive and in some ways indulging.

Norwegian Wood can be deemed a good way to begin reading the work of Murakami. It is light in the way that there is not too much to consume in the way that it is a love story and not a novel filled with multiple hallucinations. It is intense in the way that the subject matter and the passion that is used to drive it is taken to its limit, so it really stands ground in its area. Murakami is an author that sounds intriguing in a group of intriguing Japanese authors. Unfortunately, suicide has been a common trend among Japanese authors (such as Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, and Ryunosuke Akutagawa), which is reflected in multiple instances in this novel. Fortunately, Murakami is still active and this trend has toned down.

Simply put, Norwegian Wood accomplishes what it intends to, even if it possesses slight imperfections that will always be evident to at least a small percentage among a group of individuals.

Verdict: 8/10