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Friday, July 24, 2009

Top 5 CDs/Albums

Selecting a Top 5 CDs or Albums poses the same difficulty I felt when attempting to write a few CD reviews for this blog. Music is so personal I really don’t understand attempting to review an album – hence the dearth of music reviews. Of course, I’m not saying it can’t be done well.

While I realize the same can be said in regards to books and movies, I just think there’s more tangible qualities to judge those mediums than there are in music. For example, someone who is not a fan of rap is going to have a hard time reviewing an album from that genre. Yet, even if a person isn’t necessarily a fan of science fiction, an intelligent review of a sci-fi flick wouldn’t be out of the question for that individual.

So, the criteria for this list is sort of a combination of those used for the Top 5 Movies and Top 5 Books. I’ve tried to select CDs that I remember as exceptional and can still be put on shuffle mode without fear of landing on bad songs.

Now that I’ve offered enough of a disclaimer, here’s my list of Top 5 CDs/Albums:

5. Call Me Irresponsible (Michael Bublé) – This used to be the type of album I would never have even thought of listening to. I actually like this in combination with Bublé’s self-titled album – Michael Bublé – but Call Me Irresponsible edged it out with the title track, “Lost,” “Comin’ Home Baby,” and other remakes, especially “Me & Mrs. Jones.” He manages to not just mimic the classics yet doesn’t destroy them by trying to modernize the songs. His best song, though, is the remake of Crazy Little Thing Called Love from the self-titled album.

4. Genesis (Genesis) – Somewhat of a representative pick for my favorite band (at least during the Phil Collins era), this is the sound I associate with the group. The first side (sorry, I remember tapes) doesn’t miss on anything with “Mama,” “Home by the Sea” and “Second Home by the Sea,” and “That’s All” is their best song. Underrated songs fill the second side with “Taking It All Too Hard,” “Just a Job to Do,” and “It's Gonna Get Better.”

3. Born to Reign (Will Smith) – Fans of my other selections might wonder what the hell this album is doing on my list, but it’s just a damn good album. For those like yours truly who leave dancing to others, Will Smith can at least make a workout a little easier. “Act Like You,” “I Can’t Stop,” and “Gotta Go Home” highlight the album. Tra-Knox does some vocals on the album, and helps make it a great mix of rap, R&B, and rock.

2. Off the Wall (Michael Jackson) – Michael Jackson’s recent death may have contributed to this pick. The allegations surrounding MJ made it tough to enjoy his music without it feeling like some sort of guilty pleasure in the last decade or so. The one positive in his sad passing may be that his music will come back to the mainstream. I’ll take this over Thriller as his best.

1. No Jacket Required (Phil Collins) – Another representative pick as I easily could have made out this list with Phil Collins offerings. This is the first album of Collins’ I ever heard and it still holds up for me. “Take Me Home” is my all-time favorite song (even though finding out what it was really about was disappointing). Hits like “Sussudio” and “One More Night” overshadow equally good “Inside Out,” “Only You Know and I Know,” “Who Said I Would” and others. I liked all of them.

As with the other lists, feel free to agree or disagree with any or all of my selections, and, more importantly, add your own list of Top 5 CDs/Albums in the comments section. Don’t hesitate to add your own creative angle such as a list of Top Rock Albums of All Time, Top 5 Rap CDs, or other ideas. I really do want to make the Royal Steele Community section of this blog interactive. Be brave or, if you must, post anonymously.

Sure, you can do this on much bigger websites and potentially get lost in a sea of millions, or help us build something fun at The Stores @ Royal Steele. (Don’t forget to refer to my “CYA” rules & guidelines.)

Also, check out the “Best of” lists at The Stores @ Royal Steele in the Book Store. The lists include the 100 Best Records of All Time.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Top 5 Books

The hardest part of compiling a Top 5 list of books for me is simply remembering the books I’ve read. It’s not that I’m such an avid reader that the list is just too long. Despite an admonishment from a college professor that I’d never do well if I didn’t read everything at least twice, I’ve never read anything twice unless it was assigned in two separate semesters (and did just fine). Even if I had I’m not sure I’d have much more of a mental list to pull on, but it might have helped.

That said, I figured a criteria of books that still stand out in my mind more than a year after reading them as particularly good was a perfect rule for my list.

So, here’s my Top 5 Books:

5. A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens) – I read this book in the 10th grade, and have loved the story since. I make a point to watch the film version every December, but it all started with the book. All the knock-off versions make it clear this is the best fictional Christmas story ever written.

4. No Pity : People with Disabilities Forging a New Civil Rights Movement (Joseph Shapiro) – Reading this book was an experience. It was the first time I got a glimpse of the disability community as a real entity with a history and common experiences. In that regard, nothing has ever approached this book.

3. The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell) – Simply put, this is the most insightful book I’ve ever read. As I wrote in my review, it offers some amazing perspectives into psychology, history, pop culture, and group dynamics, just to name a few subjects covered in the absorbing, readable language.

2. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom) – Panned by many due to it’s sentimentality, this was a very original and truly touching story.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) – Dan Brown’s novel is easily the best I’ve ever read. Again from my review, this novel continuously shocks a reader with historical facts — albeit disputed facts — that are so enthralling they render the plot secondary.

Feel free to agree or disagree with any or all of my selections, and, more importantly, add your own list of Top 5 Books in the comments section. Don’t hesitate to add your own creative angle such as a list of Top Summer Books of All Time, Top 5 Suspense Novels, or other ideas. I really do want to make the Royal Steele Community section of this blog interactive. Be brave or, if you must, post anonymously.

Sure, you can do this on much bigger websites and potentially get lost in a sea of millions, or help us build something fun at The Stores @ Royal Steele. (Don’t forget to refer to my “CYA” rules & guidelines.)

Also, check out the “Best of” lists at The Stores @ Royal Steele in the Book Store. The lists include the 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century and 100 Top Sports Books of All Time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Top 5 Movies

After way too much thought and even more procrastination, I’ve come up with a list of my Top 5 Movies. The title of such lists puts a ton of pressure on anyone taking it even a little bit seriously. I found myself wondering if I was forgetting a movie that absolutely belonged in my Top 5, or if I had been prejudiced toward a movie I had just seen. Most of all, I wondered if I would just seem like an idiot for picking some movie the industry looked down it’s nose at. And what about new movies? How do should those be handled in a Top 5 list?

Then I realized I’m just some guy writing a blog trying to have a little fun and hopefully generate a response. Of course that didn’t stop my anal retentive side from coming up with a criteria for my list, albeit a rather simple set of guidelines. (Feel free to ignore it in posting your own list.) Besides obviously being a film I truly liked better than most, I decided that to make the list a movie had to be one that would stop my channel surfing regardless how far into the movie I discover it and be watched to the end even though I’ve seen it enough to know exactly what’s coming. This means new movies can’t sneak in, but the list can be tweaked later on.

Without further delay, here’s my list of Top 5 Movies:

5. My Left Foot – I had to put this one on the list. It’s the only film I’ve ever seen that explores life with cerebral palsy, and gave me the chance to see the disabled part of myself in a character. Based on a true story, it’s done without the “aww” factor that is so often a part any character with a disability in film, and shows the main character who has CP as a fully-developed person. Sadly, this movie doesn’t get to stop my channel surfing much because it’s simply not on enough.

4. Castaway – Easily my strangest pick on the list, but it just fascinates me. For a movie with relatively little dialogue it has some great lines, including one of my all-time favorites – “keep breathing . . . you just never know what the tide’s gonna bring.” The theme – or maybe more accurately said, the exploration – of the human instinct to survive is awesome.

3. Arthur – Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli are perfect together in this hysterical romantic comedy. The story may not be all that original as Moore’s character – an alcoholic who never grew up – is threatened with being cut-off from his unbelievably rich family if he doesn’t marry the classic rich girl character, but he falls in love with a waitress played by Minnelli. John Gielgud is very good as the Butler. The sequel, Arthur 2 - On the Rocks, is decent, too.

2. You’ve Got Mail – This movie is about as cute as a movie can get without going too far. The fact that it’s a re-make would probably get me in trouble with some critics. The idea that the characters get to know each other via e-mail intrigues me for personal reasons, and once Tom Hanks’ character figures out who his e-mail pal is I think it’s very funny watching him manipulate the situation. Besides that, watching Meg Ryan for a couple hours is never a bad thing.

1. Rocky – Forget all the sequels for this discussion. When you go back and watch the original Rocky, it’s a great, character-driven film. No doubt the Philadelphia setting plays a role in my selection of this movie as my top movie.

Feel free to agree or disagree with any or all of my selections, and, more importantly, add your own list of Top 5 Movies in the comments section. Don’t hesitate to add your own creative angle such as a list of Top Summer Movies of All Time, Top 5 Action Movies, or other ideas. I really do want to make the Royal Steele Community section of this blog interactive. Be brave or, if you must, post anonymously.

Sure, you can do this on much bigger websites and potentially get lost in a sea of millions, or help us build something fun at The Stores @ Royal Steele. (Don’t forget to refer to my “CYA” rules & guidelines.)

Also, check out the “Best of” lists on The Stores @ Royal Steele in the Book Store, which include the 100 Greatest American Movies of All Time.