The God Organ by Anthony J. Melchiorri

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The God Organ gets a strong eight out of ten.

When I picked up this novel, it was marketed under dystopian literature, and I expected to see a bleak landscape with no hope for its characters that mirrored the problems seen in the United States today. What I got instead was a pleasant surprise. Anthony J. Melchiorri tell the story of a great mystery wrapped around the development of a new medical marvel, the God Organ.

The year is 2064, and LyfeGen, a biomedical company, has developed the Sustain, termed by some the God Organ. This medical marvel allows the person who has it implanted into their body the benefit of no longer suffering from heart attacks or strokes. It also offers the bearer a more youthful appearance for the rest of their lives which also gets extended because of this device. Preston Carter enjoys the benefits from his creation both financially, as well as physically because he was one of the first people to have this invention implanted in his body. This is until he falls victim to a stroke that sets into motion a series of events that questions the integrity of this miracle device.

Anthony J. Melchiorri does a wonderful job of bringing to light some of the modern problems facing the Unites States such as the ever-growing division between the classes, and the disadvantage this puts on the poorer members of society as they not only struggle with making financial ends meet, but also with their inability to get the medical attention that they need. Add to this the fact that the jobs usually held by the masses are being taken over by automated machines, making it even more difficult to find anything worth a person’s time and effort, except for those who have the luxury of some of the more prestigious positions. He also brings up issues with the power of religion over certain people as it takes on issues that it perceives to be against their beliefs, and the declining power of print media as fewer people read it and more of it is written by algorithms. These are real issues and Melchiorri handles them well.

The most surprising part of this novel is the way that it was written. It has lots of strong characters that at first don’t seem to have any connection with one another but in the end blend together very nicely. Each character has their own problems and their own flaws which makes none of them the perfect person and also makes them very realistic. He also doesn’t write his story as an overdone representation of what the world will look like in the year 2064. Instead, he shows what life will be like at that time making strong predictions based on the direction that society is headed in. It is refreshing to see a science fiction novel written this way.

But because of the way it is written, I think calling it science fiction is a mistake. The story has more of a feel of a mystery or a thriller, and fans of that genre would really love this story. I don’t believe the hardcore science fiction fan will like this story as much even though there is a lot there to make it worthy of that genre. It definitely keeps the reader engaged with the twists and turns that only a good mystery can take.

Camping Korean Style

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Dictionary.com defines Taoism as “the philosophical system evolved by Lao-tzu and Chang-Tzu, advocating a life of complete simplicity and naturalness and of noninterference with the course of natural events, in order to attain a happy existence in harmony with the Tao.” (Taoism) Basically Tao literally translates into English as the way or the path.

Being a professed Transcendentalist, this idea appealed to me as I made my move to Korea. It conjured up images of a society that blended together with nature to create a new harmony between these two opposing forces. I was told of hiking trails in the hills surrounding the city of Seoul that within seconds would make you feel like you were out of the city. Tales of a community that enjoyed the outdoors was regaled to me on numerous occasion before I took the flight over. I was going to a country that loved skiing, hiking, and camping. How could I not look forward to this. Even in one of the largest cities in the world, I would be able to find nirvana just by walking out my front door and finding peace among the trees that surrounded me. Even though there is some truth what was explained to me, what I built up in my minds rarely lives up to that expectation.

Over the recent Thanksgiving holiday, I had the chance to go on a “camping” trip with people I work with at my school. It was suppose to be an opportunity for us to gather together in a remote part of South Korea, and celebrate the holiday with the people who have become our family out here. The head of the experiential education program set up a place for us for this adventure. It wasn’t necessarily camping because she had rented out a whole pension for those who had signed up. It was located in a beautiful part of the country called Peyongchang. The pension itself is a series of cabin like rooms that overlooks an amazing river and is close to a cave that you can explore next to some wonderful hiking trails. It wasn’t exactly my idea of camping but then again it was cold outside so there would haven’t been as many people willing to come if they had to spend the night in tents. The first snowfall of the season confirmed their beliefs that this was the way to go.

The pension rooms definitely lived up to the concept of Taoism. There was not a lot added to the room and we were given the bear minimum in order to make ourselves comfortable. There was a thin pad you unrolled on the hard floor to sleep on. They also provided you with a pillow and a comforter to keep you warm. The small kitchen had one electric burner, and one gas one. They did supply us with a canister of propane, even though we never used it. They did give us enough plates, chopsticks and spoons for four people. Luckily, we had five people sharing the room, but we made it work. The whole layout required us to get very comfortable with each other and there is some to say about that.

It still wasn’t roughing it. Some of the others who came along might have thought that it was truly out in the wilderness because there was no Wi-Fi connection which for a younger generation would be like going back to the dark ages, but once again this was something that I really appreciated. It forced all of us to take those extra steps to talk with each other instead of hiding within our electronic devices.

It still wasn’t this connection with nature that I was hoping for or used to. I wanted the feeling that I had gotten away from signs of humanity and could enjoy the natural way of things. How was I able to be in harmony with Tao if wherever I looked there was some sign of human interaction? Even on hikes up in the hills behind the pension, it was hard to escape from these signs.

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Now I have been on many hikes during my lifetime in the mountains of Colorado, and I have run into cairns many times on these hikes. They were small stacks of stones to help guide you on your hike so you wouldn’t get lost. I know that they would be considered signs of human interaction, but they are easy to ignore as soon as you find them because they will blend back into the environment.

The cairns I ran into on the hillsides of Korea were a little different. They weren’t stacks of five or six rocks to help guide your way, but instead a large stack of stones that obviously took more than five minutes to put together. In fact this labor of love looked more like an archway welcoming you to the rest of the trail rather than a few guiding markers. It was impressive to look at, but it instantly reminded me of the fact that I was now in one of the most heavily populated areas of the world. As I have mentioned before, it might be because I have been spoiled by growing up in Colorado and have been able to experience those moments of extreme solitude that when I see a sight like this I automatically think of those moments and wonder why the rest of the world can’t preserve the nature that is around them instead of trying to enhance it.

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Does it make me antisocial to want to have these moments where I enjoy the world for myself? Would you claim that I am being selfish for not wanting to share it with anybody else? Do I expect to find comfort in only what nature has to offer me instead of what mankind can prove it can do? I think back to Taoism and revel in the fact that the way cannot be perceived the same for everyone. There should be no guidance along the path because only I can find the revelation for myself. The paths that I found in the hills of Korea contradicted this idea in my mind’s eye.

I voyaged back down to the pension and this idea that Korea had about camping disappointed me a little bit. I know that not every culture tries to experience things in the same way and they have their own take on things, but still I couldn’t help to think that maybe, somehow, Korea had gotten it wrong in this case. The connection with and the struggle against nature is what camping should be about and not this moment where you go out there to relax in it and enhance it. I didn’t spend too much time worrying about it though because I only had a short break off from work and one of my favorite holiday traditions was asking for my attention.

That night the folks from my school gathered together in a large hall in the pension and everybody brought a couple of dishes to share. We gathered around the table, stuffing our faces with the traditional fare as well as some new items that were brought from people from other cultures. We shared stories, we laughed, and eventually somebody brought out a guitar and we sang together. It wasn’t a new experience for me, but I felt at that moment a joy I hadn’t felt in many years. It was the same joy I used to feel on Thanksgiving Day when I gathered with my extensive family, a feeling of love and kindness. Glasses were raised and for the first time out here in Korea, I felt like I belonged to something greater. It was euphoric. It was a collection of individuals brought together to create something special that would endure forever. It was in harmony with everything around me, and yet I could feel that it was always there to begin with. Maybe it was the Tao that I was searching for in the first place.

I came to a realization that day that when looking for what is important in life, I shouldn’t look for what I expect to find because what that is never truly existed. Instead I should take in what is given to me and enjoy it for what it is worth. That is the place where I will find something special, and I need quit searching for it. Maybe that is what is meant by finding the way. So even though camping in Korea is nothing like what I am used to, I am still able to find a new truth through the experience that I wasn’t able to find before. Maybe instead of looking for the power of nature, I should start to look for a way that I can live in harmony with it. Even though nature’s beauty has a lot to offer, like a thousand rocks brought together, and fifty strangers gathered, there can be an enhancement to that beauty that makes it a greater marvel than what it started out being.

“Taoism.” Dictionary.com. 2005. Houghton Mifflin Company. 5 December 2015 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/taoism

The Woodman: Book One. The Roads of Hell by G. H. Bright

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In a post-apocalyptic world, who can you trust? The question of what any stranger is getting out of the starting a relationship with you and whether or not if these motives are really worthy enough to commit yourself to their company always pop up. Sometimes you might have to give up something small, but there is a good chance that their reasons might be something dangerous and could lead to potential pain and suffering on your part. Therefore, you want to be careful. That is until you meet the legendary Woodman. He has proclaimed to uphold justice and seek to help those in need. Rumors of him have spread throughout the forests of Southern England, and if you meet him, you better hope that you are on the side of good because he is not a person whose bad side you want to be on.

This is the hero of G. H. Bright’s first installment of The Woodman series, The Roads of Hell. He will remind you of the concept of Batman in the recent movies featuring this superhero. The Woodman is not a single person, but an idea that can be passed down from one to another in order make sure that justice is served in a violent world.

The world of the novel has become a dramatically different place after a man was allowed to get on a plane from Africa with the Ebola virus. The disease quickly spread, and soon many people died. Of course there were those who were able to survive for various reasons, but this was the minority. Without all of those people around to maintain the infrastructure of the world, transportation and communication as now known by modern society became non-existence. Mankind was forced to live in another dark ages where the strong ruled and the weak got preyed upon. This is the world that the Woodman now lives in.

He tries to keep safe the little corner that he inhabits as he also protects the only haven that he knows about, Coast Town. The town is under the threat of a vicious criminal, the Black Pope, and his band of knights. They have raided the local museum and used the medieval armor they found there as their new uniforms. They travel the countryside making slaves out of anyone they come across, and threatening everyone with the guns that they carry. It turns into an epic battle to save the innocence of this small town from the obvious threat of evil that is brought there by the Black Pope.

The set up to this story creates a very entertaining ride with some wonderful characters. The Black Pope plays out as one of the most memorable villains in recent memory, and the demonic landscape left behind after the epidemic is not your typical post-apocalyptic wasteland. G. H. Bright introduces us to a vivid world of what it would be like if we had to take a step back from out modern conveniences.

There are a couple of problems with the overall book. The story continues long after the climax which leave the reader feeling as if things were drug out a little too long. These story lines could have started the second book instead of finishing off the first one. It just seemed to be placed there as a marketing ploy to leave you with a cliffhanger so you would go out and purchase the next installment. I don’t think G. H. Bright needed to do this though. He could have let the story end after the climax, and it would have been entertaining enough that I would have wanted to get the next book anyway. Even with this flaw, it was still a fun read and definitely worth your time.

For this reason I give The Woodman: Book One. The Roads of Hell a seven out of ten.

The Changing Seasons

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I have been really lucky in life. Not everybody gets the opportunity to grow up in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Colorado. But I was one of the few people that can say that I have been able to enjoy all my life the warm summers in the magnificent Rocky Mountains, the snowy winters landscapes, and the joy that you get to feel as you get to see life come back during the spring months.

Even though I enjoyed all of these moments year after year, there was one time of the year when Colorado could not claim the beauty that makes it so memorable, and that is in the fall. Yes, there is that short window of time during late September and early October where you can enjoy the golden splendor of the aspens changing, but this is a short window, and afterwards there is not much to see until the winter snows come. Everything just turns an ugly shade of brown, and trees are nothing more than bare sticks poking out of the ground. It is not the spectacular vision you get the rest of the year in Colorado. In fact, there were a few times when my in-laws came out to visit Christine and me during the Thanksgiving holiday, and I was embarrassed to say that this barren landscape was actually the place that I convinced their daughter to move to. I would always try to explain to them that Colorado does not look like this all year long, and I could see them shaking their heads in agreement, but their eyes told a different story.

While growing up, I had heard about these wonderful places where autumn existed. During my elementary school days, the teachers would have us cut up different kinds of leafs with colorful construction paper so we could decorate the room with them. They would try to tell us that in other parts of the world this is the what autumn looks like. I would hear about the pilgrimages people would take to New England so they could look at the foliage out there, and I would wish I could some day experience the same beauty, but after every passing November, I would forget about that wish as the first snows of winter would collect on the ground. It wasn’t until this fall that I was able to experience the gradual change in the weather and see the color explosion that comes with this season.

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Recently, I was able to make it out of Seoul to go on a research and development trip for an experiential education experience that the school I work for is planning for my 10th grade students. We headed out to a camp called Boramwon to see what it had to offer. There was an adventure course, mountain bikes, and archery, but the thing that impressed me the most was the four mile hike that I took through the craggy hills surrounding the camp. It was a beautiful hike that allowed many opportunities to see the countryside of South Korea. The most amazing thing was seeing all of the different colors of fall. For the first time of my life, I was able to see bright reds, yellows, and oranges as they blended together with the usual greens of the pine trees.  I was blown away by the spectacle, and I realized what it means to experience fall colors. If ever you plan to make a trip out to South Korea and you don’t want to spend your time in the confines of Seoul, autumn is the time to come. The weather is mild and pleasant. The air is crisp, rejuvenating you every time you take a deep breath. Most importantly, it is the most beautiful time of the year I have seen while living out in South Korea, and it has been by far, the best autumn I have ever experienced.

Johnny 12 Steps: Organized Crime Trilogy: Part 1 by Nick Tory

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This book deserves a strong 8 out of 10. I might even go as far as to give it a 9.

I decided one night to sit down and read Nick Tory’s first installment of his Johnny 12 Steps: Organized Crime Trilogy and instantly fell in love with the main character. Here is a man that is so clueless about what is going on around him that he can’t see how much his “Best Friend” hates him, how much the girl of his dreams despises him, and how little he knows about the twelve step program that he tries to make it through in twelve days in order to make his life better and quit his past habits of fighting and gambling. He could be one of the best unreliable narrators ever written, and because of this you will spend your time laughing with the adventures that he finds himself in. It makes this story a truly pleasurable read.

Johnny Tee finds himself trying to save the mom of the girl he has instantly fallen in love with from the clutches of a mobster who has kidnapped her so she can eventually pay off her dead husband’s debt. Johnny isn’t as suave as he thinks he is as he plans, and bungles his way through his rescue mission. Along the way he employs the help of his “Friend” who spend more time desperately trying to get rid of Johnny rather than helping him. He also gets help from a fingerless, toeless bum who has ties with the head mobster and can get Johnny into position to save the day. Of course, whatever the intended outcome of Johnny’s plan is, it always turns out much worse than he could have ever thought or imagined.

Like stated earlier, this book was a fun read, and would be great for any high school boy who struggles with reading and wants to have a great adventure. The problem that I had with the book was the fact that it was incredibly short. When I stated earlier that I sat down in one evening and read the whole book, this is not exaggerated. I would classify this book more as a novella and less a novel. It was still enjoyable, but when I finished the story I was left wondering if there wasn’t supposed to be more to it. And of course there is. Nick Tory has written three other installments in the Johnny Tee story. Of course, if I find myself with a free afternoon again, I might install the next one on my Kindle and read it, but I would rather settle myself into a much larger adventure. I know that it sounds petty that my one complaint was that the story was too short, but I do feel that if it was a little bit longer and still just as enjoyable, I would have given it the 9 that I believe that it deserves.

Make the World Your Destination

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I was standing by myself in the warm water off the beach in Koh Samui, a tropical island in the southern part of Thailand, and I was contemplating the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Some might wonder why I would be thinking about such a deep subject, and the only answer I would be able to give those people is 42. Some would understand that answer, they would just ask me what the question would be. For those that would scratch their head at the answer 42, I would have to refer them to Douglas Adam’s masterpiece, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In that story, a group of intergalactic mice create a computer to determine what is the answer to life, the universe and everything and they are told 42. Of course, they were disappointed in the answer, and the computer told them in order to understand the answer to life, the universe and everything, they must first know the question. In order to find out the question, they created another computer they name Earth.

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Now, I know you are wondering why somebody who is standing in the warm water of the Bay of Siam on the edge of fall would be thinking about such a thing. Well, it was because I was presented with the number 42 earlier that day as I was traveling on a short boat trip through the Marine National Park of Thailand. While partaking on this tour, I was able to visit secluded beaches, hike up to a private lagoon, watch sea life while I snorkeled in the clear water over a protected choral reef, and watch flying fish and dolphins while I kayaked around the islands where they filmed the movie, The Man with Golden Gun. I was also told on that trip that there are a total of 42 protected islands located in the Marine National Park of Thailand. The coincidence was uncanny. How could I not stop and contemplate the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Maybe I could come up with the all important question, and we will would all be better off for my having discovered it.

That’s when it hit me, the question. Here I stood on the edge of southeast Asia with the question that gave meaning to life, the universe and everything.  Of course, according to the book, this would be the exact moment that the Vogons would come down to blow up the Earth to make way for an intergalactic highway, so I looked up in the sky to make sure my life wouldn’t instantly end. No big spaceships were there ready to blow up everything that I knew, and I could rest assured that the knowledge I now possessed allowed me to reach an epiphany of what it means to live life.

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But what does all this mean? Many wise, old men will tell you that life is not about the destination, but instead about the journey. If we are always worried about what the destination is like then we won’t enjoy the moments that we have in getting to that place. Everything we have placed in the destination will be lost to us, and we will have missed something more important along the way. But the problem I have with that philosophy is when the destination is like this:

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This is what I had to wake up to every morning I spent on the island of Koh Samui. If you close enough out in the water you can see the speck of me standing out there contemplating the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. My destination was a villa I rented with five other friends. It was really hard to do anything but relax at this place. Every morning, I could walk out the back door and see the ocean waves gently crash against the beach that was only a mere walk away from where I was enjoying my coffee. If I wanted to go stand in the middle of the ocean to ponder the greater mysteries of life, I could do it without hesitation and not have anything holding me back. I could take a nap on an outdoor bed while the gentle fall breeze gently whispered me to sleep. A few houses down from our place was a restaurant where I could enjoy some delicious Thai cuisine or an adult beverage. What was there not to like about this place? This destination rocked. I was in paradise, and enjoying every minute of it. Maybe life was about the destination and those many old, wise men had gotten it wrong all those years.

This got me thinking about my life so far, and how lucky I had been. I have had some amazing experiences, and have seen some incredible things. I have been able to do it on a shoe-string budget and the only cost has been I have had to discard a few superfluous luxuries along the way. But I wouldn’t give up all of my experiences for all the luxuries the world had to offer. Some of my experiences were great like the beach on Koh Samui, and some of them were crazy stories such as my tuk tuk ride in Bangkok. But I came to the realization that the bad moments are just as important as the good ones and sometimes tell the better stories.

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One day on this trip while in Bangkok, my companions and I went to visit the Wat Pho, and the Grand Palace, two of the bigger tourist sites the city has to offer. We started at the Wat Pho where we wandered the expansive grounds, and got to look at the Reclining Buddha. It was fun to do the touristy thing for awhile, but rain clouds started to roll in and we wanted to figure out a way to get to our next stop, the Grand Palace. We innocently asked a man dressed in tour guide garb if he could point us in the right direction, and he proceeded to tell us all about the other wonderful sights the city had to offer. He asked a lot of personal questions which is common for people in southeast Asia with their belief in Confucianism so we gave up that both couples had been married for at least a couple years. It seemed like the polite thing to do while he secured two dry tuk tuks for us to take on our citywide excursion.

Basically a tuk tuk is a three wheeled motorcycle that can be used to transport passengers through Bangkok. The rule of thumb when using this form of transportation is to determine a destination and a price before you leave, all of which we did with the help of our new friend. We went to our first destination spot which was the Smiling Buddha, our friend telling us that it was only open one day every month which happened to be the day we were in the town. How could we not go on this journey? We only had one day to enjoy Buddha’s smile. Also, if we took a picture of us smiling along with him, we would receive good luck for the year. The place was neat when we got there, but it didn’t take us long to observe the Smiling Buddha before we wanted to move on to our next destination. The group was out by the tuk tuks again within ten minutes. One of the drivers had to run to the bathroom while we waited for his return at a bus stop.

This is when we met our next “friend.” He told us about how he was going to visit the coast the next week to give his new wife a honeymoon that they weren’t able to go on yet even though had been married for a couple of years. This wasn’t his first wife either. He had lost her to the devastating tsunami that hit the coast of Thailand ten years earlier. The pain was immense, and he regretted the fact that he never showered his first wife with expensive gifts to show her how much he loved her. One such gift he wished he could give her was his new wedding ring that he kept showing us. It had a blue sapphire which he told us could only be found in Thailand.

After talking to this guy for awhile, our driver finally returned from the bathroom. It took him awhile so I suspected he had some serious business to attend to while we talked to our new “friend.” We loaded up into the tuk tuks thinking we were going to be taken to a market where we could get some good Thai food. They did take us to a market but not one where we could buy food. It was a jewelry store with an upstairs room that had a tailor. It suddenly became clear what this trip was really about. We were not being looked after from friendly Thai people, but instead we had been given a long commercial in the hopes that we would buy a product from somebody who had a difficult time getting people to his store. I get it. This is what capitalism is all about. I definitely went on a journey and the destination was not what I had envisioned it to be. Luckily, we left the shop after spending only a couple of minutes there, and the tuk tuks took us to our original destination, the Grand Palace.

The part of my experience left a bad taste in my mouth, but as that bitterness faded, I could look back at the tuk tuk trip with fresh eyes. Even though it just happened to me recently, I can laugh at the moment. It has now become a joke among my friends I shared the experience. It made life meaningful. This will be just another story I will add to my repertoire as I sit around a table with friends. I have many of these stories to tell, but why am I the lucky one to have all these stories while other people do not have the same experiences?

This was one of the things I pondered while standing just off the shore in Koh Samui. Not everyone I have met in my life have lived such a mundane existence. I have listened to wonderful tales from many people about their experiences. Some people have had more of these stories than others. The people who I have recently met with my new position at an international school for the most part are some who have more experiences to share than others. What do these people have in common with me that give them such great experiences? The answer was pretty obvious. They were world travelers. They go and see all this world has to offer, and now see different perspectives because of this. They were always on the journey. The path was always in front of them.

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The best part about these world travelers is they are no longer on a journey because wherever they are, they have already arrived. They have made the world their destination. They can quit worrying about where the journey is going to take them, and just live in the moment. They can begin to soak up all the world has to offer.

You would think that this would make people jealous of world travelers because they have not been given the same opportunities. They can’t wake up some morning and find themselves a mere feet from a beach on a tropical island. But I think they can. It take just an adjustment of perspective. Make the world your destination. This way you can quit worrying about that pesky journey all those  old, wise men have told you about throughout your life, and you can start to enjoy your life for what it has to offer in that moment.

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Partake in the bounty placed on the table in front of you.

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Take the time to enjoy that piece of art you’ve always wanted to examine closer.

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And most importantly, when given the opportunity, dance.

All these thoughts rambled through my head as I pondered the question to life, the universe, and everything, and some of you might want me to share that question with you so you can make sense out of the number 42. But I am not going to. You need to find your own body of warm, salty water to stand in so you can let these thoughts bounce around your head. You will probably come to the same solution that I did on that fateful day, and when you do you will have finally arrived.

Best Horror Movie

The Ring

#1 – The Ring

The concept of this movie is simple, and I have never received a phone call after I have finished watching it, but it still creeps me out. The first time I saw it, it was the night of a full moon. I went to bed with my wife, and woke up in the middle of the night. I rolled over to see my wife in the moonlight with her long black hair covering her face. I instantly thought of the last scene of the movie and nearly jumped out of bed. This movie is filled with creepy imagery that will last with you for the rest of your life. Just thinking about it will give me nightmares tonight. It still doesn’t mean that I don’t want to watch this masterpiece again. In fact, I might do that right now.

 

The Cabin in the Woods

#2 – The Cabin in the Woods

This might not only be one of the best horror movies ever made, but it might be one of the most original movies ever created. I went to this movie not knowing much about it except for the fact that the critics really enjoyed it. If you have not seen this movie yet, I would recommend that you do the same thing. Don’t let anybody tell you the plot of it, and don’t let anybody ruin it for you. You will finish watching it and wonder what it was that you just saw. Can this movie even be classified as a horror movie, or is it a comedy, or is it science fiction, or did it just create a new genre that has never been seen before? It is because this movie can’t be defined that it deserves the position it gets on this countdown. I won’t give anything away about it, but you need to go see it.

Halloween

#3 – Halloween

Now I know I have put a couple of the original versions of some great horror movies on this list, and have talked about how the original is better. But there are a couple of exceptions to the rule, and Rob Zombie’s exploration of Michael Myers would be one such case. The original movie told the story of a psycho killer who had escaped from a mental institution and went on a killing rampage before he was able to be stopped by his own psychiatrist. It has been considered a slasher classic for years, and how could some heavy metal shock rocker come out and dare to remake this movie. But Rob Zombie deserves props because he explores the creation of a psycho killer from an early age until the day he escapes from the mental institution. It adds so much to the story to know about Michael Myers’ past, making this the better version of the story and such a worthy position on the list.

Evil Dead

#4 – The Evil Dead

Based on H.P. Lovecraft’s vision of a demonic world that inhabits ours, and created by a couple of film students who had never made a full-length feature before, the story behind Sam Rami’s The Evil Dead is almost as intriguing as the movie itself. It follows the story of five college students spending the weekend together in a spooky cabin out in the woods, but when they discover a book in the basement of the building, things turn dark. Even though it was filmed on a very small budget, it still has some of the most enduring images out of any horror movie that has ever been filmed. In fact, it spawned the idea of helpless kids being tormented in a place where they won’t be able to find any help. Even though they have tried to remake it recently, the original still remains a classic.

The Serpent and the Rainbow

#5 – The Serpent and the Rainbow

It has been a long time since I have seen this movie, and it might not be as scary as I once thought it to be, but it has always been one of those movies that have stuck with me throughout the years. Especially now, with all of these stories being told about zombies, I always think about the truth behind these stories and where they originated from. The scene where Bill Pullman gets a needle poked into his pupil to see if he will flinch but he can’t because he has been incapacitated by the voodoo drug still haunts me to this day. It is truly a psychological thriller that will screw with your psyche for a very long time. You won’t want to think about it but the more you try to forget it the more you think about it. And the more you think about it, the more it frightens you.

28 Days Later

#6 – 28 Days Later

Before this post-apocalyptic epic came out, zombies were slobbering, dullards that spent a long time shuffling down the road before they ever got close to their victim. Director Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland decided to change that image forever. If zombies were scary when they were slow, imagine what they would be like if they were fast. The terror jumped up twelve notches with this zombie epic. Afterwards, the imagery was redone by many other modern zombie classics, but this was the first one that disturbed us in this fashion. And like any other zombie movie, it turns out not to be the zombies that are the most dangerous thing out there.

poltergeist

#7 – Poltergeist

Like all remakes that Hollywood churns out, I was really angry that they would take a classic, and try to improve on it. I have refused to see any of these remakes unless something really convinces me that they have done a better job with the story, and that does not happen very often. Because of this, I present the original Poltergeist on this list. Never has the white fuzz on a television been so creepy, and the scariest part of this movie to this day is the clown doll. It didn’t help that my sister has one in her bedroom that looked exactly like the one in the movie. I had nightmares growing up that it would crawl down the hallway and choke me in my sleep. This is a great movie, and I hope someday Hollywood will realize that originality is better than trying to redo something that has already been done.

 

Psycho

#8 – Psycho

I remember when I was young, my dad sat me down one night and had me watch this movie because he considered it the most terrifying thing he had ever seen. I had just spent a lot of time watching a bunch of slasher flicks such as Halloween and Friday the 13th, and I remember thinking that this movie was tame by comparison. Nothing jumped out at you, and even though the classic shower scene was interesting, I did not think much about the movie. But as I grew older, the psychotic personality of Norman Bates stayed with me, whereas I forgot about Michael and Jason. Alfred Hitchcock had created a masterpiece that would endure all time, and it is more about the ideas behind Norman’s façade rather than the violent actions that he participates in. People are still and always will be fascinated by this story because it is truly one of unique horror that might be in any one of us.

 

Scream

#9 – Scream

Not only does this movie have all of the classic slasher movie moments, it deconstructs these movies at the same time. It analyzes the archetypes from this genre in such a way that you can plug those moments into any horror movie and see how well they fit. From a literary standpoint, this is brilliant. It adds a certain amount of intelligence to a usually disrespected genre. Add to this, one of the most iconic beginnings of any horror movie and you have yourself a classic that will be enjoyed for many generations to come.

 

The Blair Witch Project

#10 – The Blair Witch Project

Many people would look at this movie today as just a bunch of stupid kids getting lost in the woods and doing everything you are not supposed to do when you are lost in the woods. For example, you shouldn’t throw away the map and you should always follow the river because it will more than likely lead you back to civilization. But what these people who critique this movie don’t understand is the brilliance of its marketing. It started out in small theaters, as an independent student film. It slowly allowed its popularity to grow, and because of the way it is filmed, many people started to believe that it was real. At the height of its popularity even after the actors appeared on various late night talk shows, people still wondered if they should wander into the New England forests because they might be the next victim of the Blair Witch. The fact that it got so many people to question its authenticity makes it a masterpiece. And the final image it leaves you with might be one of the creepiest ever seen in a movie.

image

As the sun start to dip further to the south, and the leaves start to fall off the trees, our thoughts start to turn to that scary time of year where monsters lurk behind every bush. A full moon hanging in the sky adds to the mood, and it just builds up our appetite for that holiday we celebrate at the end of the month. One of my favorite ways to enjoy Halloween is to sit alone in a dark room and turn on a good horror movie. I have a few that I have enjoyed over the years, but I am always on the lookout for the next best one, so this month, I am asking you to come up with your list of the best horror movies ever made. You can email me your list to jacollings44@gmail.com or just put in your favorite ones under the comment section of this website. I will compile all of the votes and put together a list early next month. If you are having a hard time deciding what your favorite horror movie is, start watching them again, and you might find a new favorite in the mix. Otherwise I look forward to hearing from you.

The Best Television Shows

 

Breaking Bad

#1 – Breaking Bad

Sometimes while watching this show you want to cringe. Sometimes while you watch this show you want to laugh. The one thing that you don’t want to do is to turn away. Even though you don’t want to admit it, there is a little bit of Walter White in each of us, and because of this fact, you have to watch this story all the way to its tragic ending. Some people will get mad at me for giving away the ending of this story, but there wasn’t any other way that it could end. Just the premise alone lets the viewer know that this will not have a happy ending. But it is great that television gave us a true tragedy. This is something that the world has been begging for. We watch it for that tragic flaw so we can see something about our true nature. Or we watch it because a train speeding away to inevitable destruction is something that is engaging and we just can’t turn away from it.

 

Fringe

#2 – Fringe

Even though the science behind some of its episodes is a little hard to swallow, and the fourth season is a bit of a struggle to get through, this is the one show that got right with everything that Lost tried to do. It told an amazing story complete with some of the best actors ever, taking on some of the most complicated roles. It was pure fun. There was the Where Waldo experience of trying to find the walker in every episode. There was the character of Walter Bishop who might have been one of the best characters ever created in all of literature. The story also kept you guessing all the way through as you wondered what was really going on. It also gave us one of the few satisfying endings of a story on television. In the end, we weren’t left wondering about some of the unanswered questions, and it even added a little bit of tragedy with a feel-good vibe. If you have not taken the journey through this story yet, I really suggest that this is placed on your viewing list as the next show you need to binge watch, but make sure you pay extra close attention because even the smallest detail becomes extremely important later on in this show.

Mash

#3 – M.A.S.H.

This was one of the first comedies on television to take on the issues of the day while making us laugh. For eleven years we were entertained by Hawkeye, B.J. Hunnicutt, Radar, “Hot Lips” Houlihan, and Frank Burns. It followed the exploits of a M.A.S.H. unit during the Korean War and even though it made us laugh many times, it also showed us the true horrors of war. It probably could have continued on longer if it wasn’t for the fact that somebody figured out that the amount of time that the show took was actually longer than the U.S.’s involvement in Korea. It is still playing today though and will probably always be able to be viewed on some channel somewhere in the world.

The Daily Show

#4 – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Yes, there have been three different official hosts of The Daily Show now that Trevor Noah has started his run. The verdict is still out if he will be able to fill the spot left behind by the most iconic host the show has seen, Jon Stewart, but so far things are looking up. It will still be a hard act to follow. Jon Stewart not only took over an original show, but developed it into the intelligent piece of programing it is today. He took on the major issues over the last sixteen years, and instead of bringing on big movie stars as guests, he promoted books and people who have taken an integral part in changing the world. At one time, it was the one show that most people got their news in the United States. He did have a left slant with his commentary, but that did not mean that he shied away from the other side of the issues. If someone disagreed with his position, he would invite him or her onto his show so both sides of the issue could get their fair share. Add to this mix some of the best satirists alive today who acted as the show’s reporters, and you have one of the most intelligent, entertaining shows that anybody has ever seen.

South Park

#5 – South Park

Of course, the guy from Colorado will pick this show as one he believes as one of the best ever created. It tells the story of a group of four boys from a small po-dunk town in the Rocky Mountains. But in reality, it really tells us about us. Just as a tragedy is a reflection of our true nature, a great comedy points out our flaws and makes us laugh at how ridiculous we really are. Trey Parker and Matt Stone don’t hold back any punches in their biting satire. Also, nobody is safe from their commentary. It is because of this that South Park could be considered one of the most intelligent shows on television right now. It is also because of this that South Park earns a prominent spot on this list.

Game of Thrones

#6 – Game of Thrones

Back around the turn of the century, I was talking to a co-worker about the importance of J.R.R. Tolkien and how every fantasy series after his was just a retelling of his story. He told me that there was another series that was worth my time, and I picked up the first book in A Song of Ice and Fire series. I was instantly blown away by the story telling and the fact that what I though was going to happen always turned out to be the complete opposite of what did. It became the perfect example of medieval politics and I couldn’t wait for the next book to come out. I was also amazed about how well it would translate into a television show, and I wondered if it would ever make that leap on to the small screen. Well, six years ago, I saw signs about its development and how it would air on the one station, HBO, that wouldn’t hold back on the gruesome and sexual content that needed to be there to tell the story properly. I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw, and I have continued to watch this show on a regular basis. It is the perfect companion piece to the books, and because it tells the story of an age long gone, it will always maintain its importance as one of the greatest television shows ever created.

 

Orphan Back

#7 – Orphan Black

If you have not experienced Orphan Black yet, you have not yet experienced the greatest actress on television. Tatiana Maslany might not just be the best actress on television, but the best actress ever. She doesn’t just embody a role; she embodies every role that is asked of her in a way that makes each character that she portrays a unique individual even though they may look the same. Add into this mix one of the most profound science fiction stories ever told and you get a show that everybody should be talking about the next morning at the water cooler. I know you asking yourself, then why am I not talking about this show at the water cooler on Monday morning. It is all because it airs on a little known network on Saturday night when its main audience is out having fun, but I guarantee that this will be the next binge-watched extravaganza that people will be talking about for the next ten years. It is that good of an idea, and it is that well done that it transcends generations and will make an impact on what happens next on televisions across the world.

Lost 

#8 – Lost

The iconic image of J.J. Abrams’s short opening sequence changed the face of television forever. The concept was brilliant. It was more about the story and less about the star power and the money making potential. It even survived a terrible season during a writer’s strike. Even with this terrible fate befalling it, the ones who were addicted to the concept had to turn in every week to see what would happen next. With the creation of DVDs and the ability to watch a show at our leisure, it changed what television could do. It was the first show that people binge watched. No longer did characters have to be static. They could develop as the story was being told. Also, a fan favorite wasn’t guaranteed to survive the harshness of the island. At any moment, what we thought what was happening could change into something completely different. It kept us guessing and asking what was really going on, and in doing so it created a literary masterpiece that allowed other television shows that followed to be able to do the same thing. For this reason, besides the fact that it told one of the best stories ever witnessed, it deserves a prominent place on this list.

 

Walking Dead

#9 – The Walking Dead

This is not one of those television shows for your children. It is dark, and it is gruesome. There are many times during the show where I want to turn my head away in disgust but I can’t because I am at the same time so enthralled. Many people would think that a story about the zombie apocalypse would get old and repetitive after a while, but at the heart of this story is a human drama that makes it worth the time to sit down and watch every week. It shows us the darker side of our nature, and makes us wonder if we would still be able to maintain our civilized society when the moral compass that guides us keeps getting taken away from us. This show just keeps on getting better with every season and you wonder how long it can go on before we decide that it is no longer relevant, but with the introduction of some of the best villains ever created, I don’t think it ever will.

Sherlock

#10 – Sherlock

Set in modern-day London, but with the same puzzling cases that have haunted Sherlock Holmes in the pages of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the BBC has created the best version of the Sherlock Holme’s mysteries ever produced. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is the pompous deranged sociopath that you have always hoped to see, and Martin Freeman’s Dr. Watson is the perfect sidekick. Even though each season is short, airing only three episodes, the hour and a half long adventures will have you guessing, laughing, and on the edge of your seat. The longer story arch also creates a lot of fun for the viewer, and even though they have only put out three seasons so far, the anticipation for the next season is high among the fans of the show, including me, who can’t wait to see what happens next.

The Simpsons

#11 – The Simpsons

Being one of the lucky individuals that had a newspaper, Westword, willing to publish the little known comic, Life in Hell, I had always been a fan of Matt Groening. I was really excited when a show based upon characters he created was developed by the man I admired, I became avid viewer soon afterwards. There was a time when I would have thought that this show was the best show ever on television. On many occasions, I made the claim that it was the most intelligent show on television, and with its satirical wit and incredible cast of diverse characters, I would have had a pretty strong argument behind me. But like any show that has been on the air for a long time, The Simpsons have run its course. It was along the tenth season when it started to make satirical remarks about itself that I started to wonder if this show would be better off being cancelled and just letting the episodes that had already been developed just stand on its own as a completed work. Even though I quit watching the show many years ago, it is the strength of those first seasons that make this one of the best television shows ever.

 

Simple by Dena Nicotra

Simple

I would give Simple by Dena Nicotra a 9 out of 10.

Lee finds herself running for her life, not because of anything that she has ever done, but because this is the world she now lives in. She, like the rest of society, used to be a simpler life. Simps had been created to make things easier for us. They were androids designed to take over the tedious, menial tasks that caused us so much pain in the past. Without these chores hanging over our heads anymore, we could now engage ourselves in more worthy pursuits. But things could not remain this way for ever, and a computer virus introduced to the world turned all of the simps against humanity. Instead of being there to serve us, they were now looking to wipe out our existence. Because of this, Lee spends her days scrounging for food and avoiding running into anything that might give away her location. She won’t even try to make contact with potential humans because she believes this will only lead to more heartache. But how can we really live our lives without any other human contact, and is there a greater danger if we never trust anybody ever again?

Dena Nicotra has written a wonderfully entertaining story with many dynamic characters. They blend very nicely together to create a realistic world in this post-apocalyptic vision that she has created. There is also a lot of action throughout the whole story that should appeal to any teenager. It starts right at the beginning with Lee’s first contact with a human that leads to the two of them running away and trying to find a spot where they can be safe. This leads to a series of fights and places where they hide out while more people join their group. It all builds up to a huge finale that the reader will never expect coming.

Even though, Dena has written a very entertaining story, she has also explored some great ideas along the way. This makes this book just not a story but a piece of literature worthy of being read and studied. She asks the reader the importance of trust in one another, and whether we really need other people in order to survive. She also explores our dependence on technology and whether this great thing makes our lives easier, or if it will eventually lead us to a place where we cannot live without it. Lastly, she look at the idea of what is reality. Can we live our lives hooked up to a constant stream of entertainment, or do we need to live out lives in the world that we have created for ourselves? Is there a middle ground that we can find in which we can enjoy both of the advantages that living these lifestyles can give us?

Dena Nicotra’s story is a great piece of literature that looks at our society today while entertaining the reader along the way. It also ends leaving the story open for a sequel, and it is my hope that she continues it further, so I can see her explore the profound ideas she has presented in this novel more.