Book Review: ‘The Sex Lives Of Cannibals’

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Still no real job, but I’ve been writing for a website called “NerdBastards.com.” Check me out there. Now…the review!

One would think that “The Sex Lives of Cannibals” was a psychological reference book about the libidinous habits of Hannibal Lector and friends. Actually, it refers to the historical beginnings of the peoples on a remote Pacific island called Tarawa. The ancesters of those native to the atoll apparently lost their men to invading cannibals who went on to procreate with their women through force, creating a non-descript race of islanders. Not exactly what immediately comes to mind upon reading the title of J. Maarten Troost’s first novel, a true story about his two year adventure on a small piece of land in the middle of the an endless bowl of water.

It all begins with Troost’s lethargic approach toward his job. He’s fed up with it. When his girlfriend Silvia is given the opportunity to work in a program designed to benefit the health and environment of the Gilbert Islands, Troost joins the unemployed and goes with her. Thus begins their whirlwind island lifestyle amid searing heat, lackluster living conditions, consistent health problems and just overall doing without. Many of their trials are humiliating, frustrating, inhuman and sad.

Tarawa has no waste disposal system so people relieve themselves in the ocean. Refuse piles up along its narrow roads and beaches, ignored. The author’s cement, vermin-infested dwelling place is considered prime living compared to the thatched homes of the natives. Other countries bully them, depleting their only revenue of tuna by greedily fishing in Tarawa’s coveted waters. They have no working fire trucks, have to use sticks instead of toilet paper and four hours of electricity isn’t only a rare gift, but a pleasant surprise. Dogs are disease-ridden predators that prowl in huge packs, eating their own in sheer desperation. The daily menu is fish, fish and more fish. Boil your water and you might just go a day without parasites polluting your insides. These are the things poor city-dwellers Maarten and Silvia dealt with on a daily basis from the moment they stepped off the rickety plane that had to abort its first landing because pigs were on the runway.

The best way to experience the hardships of others is to walk around in their shoes. Troost did this with reluctant gusto and there’s a feeling of dread in every chapter that most of us can’t identify with. The descriptions are harrowing, from Tarawa’s ridiculous do-nothing government to the I-Kiribati’s (pronounced Kee-ree-bas) unusual preoccupation with the song “Macarena.”

The people seem amicable enough, just dealing with the cards fate dealt them in that laid-back island way. Most of them don’t know what it’s like to have a vcr or to use a toilet or have air conditioning. They don’t steal, preferring to rely on the “bubuti” system of just saying, “I bubuti you for your shirt,” or “I bubuti you for bus fare.” It sounds like an agreeable way of life at first, but it’s also a good way to go broke. Luckily(?) most of the people don’t have much anyway.

That’s just one example of Troost’s depiction of his own culture shock after settling in Tarawa. He goes on to show us much, much more. And he does it in a funny, clever prose that sometimes veers off into rambling or preaching. He benefits from his time away from the states, even when he complains of being harassed by drunken villagers.

The only real drawback of the piece is the lack of personality or character in his wife-to-be, Silvia. Wasn’t she the reason they were there in the first place? Troost mostly writes about the heinous living conditions and his interactions with the I-Kiribati. Silvia is often ignored and gives very little to the experience. But that can be overlooked – those people have experienced enough as it is.

Update On CNN Unlawful Termination Case

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An email from…
Communication Workers of America

Tel 301/459-4999
Fax 301/459-4975
Web nabet31.org
Email info@nabet31.org
CNN NLRB Case Update

NABET – CWA
Local 31
May 22, 2014

“Dear NABET-CWA CNN Member, I am writing to update you on the National Labor Relations Board case involving CNN America and Team Video Services. As you might be aware, over the past several weeks, NABET-CWA has been engaged in a campaign to bring highly focused attention to this case. That campaign included directing all NABET-CWA members from across the country to call the office of NLRB Chairman Mark Gaston Pearce to ask two simple questions: “What is the status of the CNN case involving NABET-CWA and when will a final decision be issued?” NABET-CWA members were then asked to report in to Sector Headquarters the responses that were received from the NLRB. The NLRB received hundreds of calls, thanks to the dedication of you and members everywhere.

Many of the CNN members actually even received return calls from the NLRB to update people on the status of the case. As a result of this campaign, NABET CWA believes that a decision from the NLRB will be issued within the next few weeks. While no one yet knows what that decision will hold, the Union is very optimistic that your long overdue justice will finally be delivered.

In anticipation of a pending NLRB ruling, NABET-CWA is planning to hold rallies outside CNN’s studios in Washington, D.C. and New York City and engage in other activities promptly after the decision is issued. Those rallies will focus on telling the public the true stories of this travesty and to tell the real impact of CNN’s and Team Video’s unlawful actions on working families like yours. The rallies will also draw focus to calling on CNN immediately abide by any NLRB decision issued in this case. It is important that as many workers from the CNN case be present to participate in these rallies and other planned activities. You will joined by other NABET-CWA members, CWA members, labor activists, and social justice activists at these events. We will have an unprecedented opportunity to unite the public in support around what will hopefully be a meaningful victory in this saga.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of these activities we will need to make sure that we have the best current contact information for you, including e mail addresses, cell phone numbers, and mailing addresses. This will enable us to quickly contact you about any news concerning the NLRB decision and related activities.

We will also need this updated contact information to contact you should there be any issues with the NLRB providing remedies, such as back pay and reinstatement.

http://www.nabetcwa.org ;
Through your assistance and perseverance, we believe that a righteous decision from the NLRB is on the doorstep. While no one should ever have to wait a decade to receive justice, we must do everything that we can now, based on our information that a decision is coming soon, to send CNN a swift, loud and comprehensive message that their actions were unlawful and that NABET-CWA members deserve all remedies immediately.

In the meantime, feel free to contact the Local 31 office at 301-495-4999

In Solidarity,
Rich McDermott
President
NABET-CWA Local 31, Washington, D.C.”

A Resume Trick For Getting That Dream Job

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Getting work has been a real son-of-a-bitch and pretty soon I'll be eating Vienna sausages for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Damn good thing I like Vienna sausages. However, I'm kinda more looking forward to those PB&J sandwiches for dessert. Jesus, somebody just kill me please.

Without the software resources to keep tailoring my resume for every job I go for, I spend a lot of time at the library. I get passed over for tons of jobs I should have presented to me on a silver platter, and my ego has nothing to do with it. Technology is to blame for my hunger and desperation, and I'll tell you why:  companies get so many resumes per job that many of them leave it to an electronic "sorter" to weed the wheat from the chaff. Even when you're perfectly good wheat, you can get lost in the trash shuffle because the sorter doesn't find the words its looking for on your resume.

And as impressive as my resume is, it won't get seen for that very reason. So I decided that I needed to insert those key words into my resume somehow without compromising my documented work history. Here's how I do it…

ONE

This is Bruce Highballer’s resume. Of the Rhode Island Highballers, thank you very much. Let’s ignore the questionable work he put into designing it and stick to the topic of “How To Trick The Sorter.”

TWO

So you’re dancing around the internet, doing a little job search soft shoe when you find your DREAM JOB! That’s right, since birth you’ve been aching for that Brand Marketing Specialist gig in southern America! Let’s click on that sucker and get the lowdown on living the fantasy.

THREE

Oh look – words and such. None of which are on Bruce’s resume. But they will be. This is when you take the strongest words VERBATIM from the job post. 1. Highlight and copy them onto your clipboard. 2. Start pricing yachts!

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Now…search around the resume for blank spaces. Luckily Bruce has employed a template from Openoffice, the broke ass version of Word, because if he had Microsoft money, my cable wouldn’t be out right now.  I mean Bruce’s cable. Yeah, Bruce. And that cheapo template has a space underneath EDUCATION that suits our needs just fine. This is where you insert all the best words, gibberish style. It will make no sense when viewed with the naked eye. Blah freakin’ blah. Find spaces all over the resume for these inserts and paste them in willy nilly.

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Now the fun part. Highlight your gibberish and change their font to white. This only works if your resume is white to begin with. You don’t want to use some fancy colored paper, otherwise the white words will show up on the document once it’s printed if you plan on using snail mail to apply for a job.

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Congrats, you have just tricked the sorter! All of its favorite search words are inserted into your resume. It sees them just fine, but the naked eye has no idea they’re there. I was halfway skeptical about this when I first heard of it, but since applying this technique, I’ve gotten nearly three times as many phone calls and interviews. Because that’s what’s most important – getting noticed and/or invited in. But there’s a major catch that I have to point out. I use Indeed.com for many job searches, and the site allows for you to upload your resume for quick “one touch” applications for certain jobs. When you upload your resume to the site, it turns your white words black and it really DOES look like gibberish. Keep that in mind and happy hunting.

And feel free to post any job search tricks of your own! Because that unemployment extension bill just ain’t happening!

Book Review: 100 Years Of Soli…I mean, House Of The Spirits

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“House Of The Spirits” is an inferior reflection of “100 Years Of Solitude.” It really is the same book. The same ripped-off book.

Told in a weird narrative that flip flops from first person to third – (and sloppily too) – “House of the Spirits” is about 4 generations of a very turbulent family in South America. The main character is Esteban Trueba, who is as fierce with his temper as he is with his genitals (he’s rapey.) He literally runs the town of Tres Marias with an iron fist, having built it up from nothing into a strong, industrial corner of the country. He’s a jerk and almost nobody likes him but he forces himself on people because he hates being alone. Think of a more violent and vengeful Michael Scott from “The Office.” Nobody has a choice either – he’s the boss and what he says goes. Or they get hurt/raped. Tough way to live.

His wife is Clara, a woman with super powers and an aloof but ignorant demeanor. Her very existence is way too akin to the wild machinations that drove many a plot in “Solitude.” Everything she does is far-fetched and stretched as she goes around reading minds and performing acts of telekinesis like Jean Grey from The X-Men.

Her late sister was Rosa The Beautiful, who like “Solitude’s” Remedios The Beauty, is so ridiculously captivating that she dies young because no one so gorgeous should have to deal with the rigors of time hurting their peerless looks.

Clara has twins who, like the twins in “Solitude,” are absolutely nothing alike and take different paths in life. Ferula is her sister-in-law, a virgin spinster like Amaranta in “Solitude.” Her son-in-law is Jean Satigny, a foreign, girly snob who has hands as soft as baby smiles – you know, like Pietro Crespi in “Solitude.” Wait…WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON HERE?!

“Solitude” was written in ’69, “House” in 82. “Solitude” won the Nobel Prize, “House” was a bestseller. “Solitude” has the word “solitude” on almost every 400-plus page, “House” has it a lot. “House” wants to be “Solitude” so bad! But it has one simple problem: It’s not as good as “Solitude.”

I want to ask Isabelle Allende something: Do you have any books that YOU’VE written? I like your style, so perhaps I’ll check your stuff out again. I just wanna make sure that you’ve written something that wasn’t written already. I don’t need any “The Picasso Riddle,” “The Baron of Monte Carlo”…you know, more rip offs. I need a real, original book from you and if you can do that, I’ll take a look. Just don’t bullshit me anymore.

The weird part is, I really liked the book because, heck…I loved “100 Years Of Solitude!” So I guess I like chocolate cupcakes because I like chocolate cake. One is the lesser form of the other.

So, I’m not recommending this book. I want to expand my mind and learn new things, not go 400 pages repeating someone else’s work. Now, I’ll see the movie starring Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close and Winona Ryder. Oh, and Antonio Banderas, somehow the only freakin’ Hispanic actor in the whole damned thing.

4 Reasons Why Quentin Tarantino Is An Asshole

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When an ugly man is as much a screenplay writing hack as he is a screenplay writing genius, you bet on him. Every single time. Then, a star is born and it never burns out.

You also get a director out of the deal; two-for-one. How appetizing! Like a California Roll lunch special.

The only difference being, once you’re done with the roll, it’s gone. When this particularly coveted writer/director combo is finished, money falls from the sky.

That pair is none other than Quentin Tarantino. And I’ve got four reasons why he’s the biggest asshole in Hollywood.

1. He Makes The Same Movie Over And Over Again And We Just Keep Falling For It.

When “Pulp Fiction” came out, I thought it was brilliant. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. Sure it’s too talky, but so thrilling that I had to check out this new upstart’s other works. And they were all like “Pulp Fiction.” Vaguely different protagonists – all anti-heroes, doing the same immoral bullshit as the last. Chatty chatty chatty, killy killy killy, racist racist racist racist. Now and again you get something different like “Django Unchained,” but it’s all essentially the same crap in dire need of strong editing.

2. He’s Obsessed With Kitsch

His one-trick pony ride is almost obsessive compulsive. “Jackie Brown,” “True Romance,” “Death Proof,” “Reservoir Dogs,” “Inglorious Basterds.” WTF is the deal with the two-word movies? Superstition? Pretension? None of my business? I know what it is: He fell in love with a piece of style somewhere along the way and won’t divorce it.

Fine, whatever. But the most grating aspect of this approach is that the pretensions bleed into the script! His long-winded dialog about nothing going nowhere is so hard to take sometimes that I find myself fast-forwarding through several minutes of utter uselessness. And these are the movies I like! The most glaring culprit of this is “Death Proof.” What a boring fucking film! Jesus H. Christ, nobody talks like that! Are long paragraphs of soliloquy packed with pop culture ramblings really that important to the goddam story?? And though I love his music choices, every damn song sounds the same. Somehow this douche makes “Across 110th Street” sound like “Son Of A Preacher Man.”

3. He’s Not Above Biting Your Ideas

There was a run there when he was getting credit for everything that wasn’t his. How I cringed when I saw Uma Thurman wearing Bruce Lee’s yellow jumpsuit while she took down Yakuza dressed like Bruce Lee Kato clones during a very Matrix style bumrush from “Kill Bill” (two word movie). An homage only goes as far as what your audience remembers, and his young fans don’t get the fifty-plus martial arts movie references he “borrowed” to pad his runtime. Fifty…plus.

And what’s up with tagging his name onto several international films that he had nothing to do with? Because his company distributed them to American audiences, we’ve got to see “Flying Dragons, brought to you by Quentin Tarrantino.” Really? What a dick move that is. I’ve never seen that done before, ever. Martin Scorsese has worked tirelessly to restore old films, but you don’t see his name on “A Double Life” like he made the damn thing himself.

And speaking of an uninformed audience, my final quibble is completely lost on them.

4. He’s Racist

And he doesn’t care who knows it. Sure, he talks about his growing up around black folks and being in touch with the black experience and all manner of like bullshit, but no no no…that jackoff is a racist. His brain is commanded by that one ugly racial slur against blacks that he absolutely has to spew from actors’ mouths like it’s an addiction. It has literally taken over his life. You might think my theory a far-fetched one, but I’m open to debate. YOU tell me why all his movies are littered with that vulgar n-word. Why does “Django Unchained” have the record for using it over 100+ times? Because it’s a slave movie? Are you kidding? Hell yes this fucker couldn’t wait to do a slave movie. And so many young viewers don’t get it – they think I’m being too sensitive. “It doesn’t bother me, what’s the big deal?” Don’t talk about stuff you don’t understand, kid. The terrible experiences black people have gone through because of that word. You have no idea.

And don’t say he’s not racist because his black characters always win. Don’t be naive. If I kicked you in the genitals a hundred times, then gave you an Apple Store gift card, did you really win? Please…

And Hollywood keeps paying him because he makes them money. And let’s face it, “Django” and “Fiction” were amazing movies, so he’s got what it takes. He just needs to lose some creative control. A discerning script editor with even stronger script approval from someone with some HR experience would be nice. And a film editor who could trim away lots of fat is a good idea too. Editing is your friend. Both “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights” would’ve been awesome works if that director had an editor worth a shit. I don’t even want to talk about Peter Jackson…

I could put up with the two-word fetish if someone would just put a leash on this clown. I’d enjoy a lot more of his movies that way too, especially if I were a black audience member not being alienated.

But until then yeah – 4 reasons why he’s an asshole.

I’m So Glad I’m Not You.

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It’s a treat when I browse Freshly Pressed and come across real winners from people who actually have something to share. Every now and then it’s a bust – some “feminist” will spew more man-hate than show support for her team, or Your Deep Highness might bore the absolute shit out of me with “Metaphysical Musings On Existentialism.” Sometimes there’s venting, sometimes there’s falling in love with your own words, and other times, though unpopular in the free liberties blogging world…there’s just plain old “I have something to add.”

And then there’s Mr. Random Bullshit. I think that’s me. It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly where I belong in the grand literary scheme of things, and that’s why I’ll never succeed at this. As a master of nothing, with a severe inability to give a fuck, I can’t bring myself to clutch onto one cause, topic or idea, and make it my long-term effort. I would rather set myself on fire before using this outlet for just posting my original poetry. Or daily entries about the black experience. Or all the crap I shoot with my DSLR. No, I’d be quicker to shove a knife right through my face first.

Firstly, I don’t want to think too hard about any one thing. How far did all that over-analyzing get you anyway? Did you change the world? Were you happy with all the arguments you won? What about the wonderful things you missed in this beautiful world while your one-track mind ran straight and narrowly along that lonely highway? Is it really working for you?

Secondly, when you concentrate on something too hard, it’s gonna piss you off. That’s why nobody’s happy on “The Walking Dead” – they’re always thinking about the goddam zombies! If not for segregation, Malcolm X would’ve smiled more. And what about world domination? I bet those Bond villains could rock the hell out of a party, but nooOOOooo, being fixated on ruling the planet always killed the buzz. When bloggers only write about one thing ALL the time, there’s anger in them thar hills. Confuse it with passion if you want to. It’s a free country.

Me, I’m not perfect, and the blog proves that I’m not right in the head, so come with me if you want to die. But I do manage to find happiness in the smallest things. And thank God for them because I own nothing big. A little Star Trek here, a walk in a park there. Sprinkle in some 9GaG.com and a gym visit, and I’m the village idiot for the rest of the day. Might post a book review or a list about nothing or something too geeky to feel proud of. I try not to take things too seriously and have fun blogging about meaningless foolishness that gives me a giggle. Like I said…I won’t succeed at this.

Damn, I sound like a freakin’ court jester, huh? Aren’t you so glad you’re not me?

Love Letter To “Community”

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I jumped on board the bandwagon late in the game, just a few months ago, in fact. For any number of reasons, I ignored this series for a long time. But when I finally got around to it, I was completely blown away by it’s smart writing and diverse ensemble cast. Of course it was doomed to fail.

But this series was the “little engine that could,” always under threat of cancellation and mind-bogglingly slipping through the unlikely cracks of renewal year after implausible year. The seasons would get shorter and shorter as the cult fan base grew larger and larger. But the problem with that demographic is that it’s just never big enough.

If you build it, they will come: Jeff Winger is a disbarred lawyer jerk who has to go back to school and earn the degree he lied about having. Trying to get student activist Britta into bed, he offers to form a study group with just the two of them as members. But she invites five other classmates, ruining his sexy plans and leaving him to run a group he never even wanted. Hilarity ensued in the house that creator Dan Harmon built. Yet, nobody came to watch.

And I just don’t understand why. Was the series ignored because it couldn’t connect to a mass audience? Was there stiff competition in that time slot? As I’ve said, I discovered the show late, and could therefore be part of the problem, so I was never witness to its plight. But I do have strong opinions to offer.

This beautifully racially mixed cast brought great characters to the small screen and delivered their lines with expert lunacy. And how wonderfully written they were, with leagues of room to grow. Jeff is the self-impressed fashionista, dressed head to toe in sarcastic conceit. He later grows into a more sympathetic version of himself, but not at all less funny. Stoner Britta fails at first, as the writers didn’t seem to know how to keep her headstrong independence from being abrasive. But when she added on absent-minded buzzkiller traits, actress Gillian Jacobs surfed through the role like a comedic champ. Comparatively, former high school jock Troy (played by rap artist Donald Glover) is way too cool in the opening episodes. When his character embraces his geeky side and mellows out, it’s genius in the making. I will admit that the first season felt a bit rocky at times as the actors got used to their roles.

More about the characters. Danny Pudi’s TV-obsessed Abed is clearly autistic or perhaps dealing with Asperger’s Syndrome, leaving him with a difficulty in relating to others. Yet, somewhere along the line something magical happens! Abed and Troy somehow connect and become the cutest, funniest BFF duo since Harold and Kumar – minus the weed. It really is a touch that gave the show a pop (pop) that so many millions of viewers missed out on. Sometimes I found myself looking forward to an episode’s end tag, which commonly consisted of Abed and Troy doing something ridiculous during the credits.

Shirley is Jeff’s age, and a devout Christian who has mastered the art of kindness as well as ugly manipulation. And just when you’re bored of her, she has the potential to give the episode’s best line. She would also be the most ignored character on the show if not for veteran actor Chevy Chase’s millionaire, Pierce Hawthorne. Pierce literally just goes to school for the hell of it. He is lonely, selfish and passively racist/misogynistic. He so despises being left out of his friends’ plans that he’s been known to lash out hatefully. He has actually played the villain on a few occasions, both on and off the set. His war with Dan Harmon that ended with them both leaving the show is something to be Googled to be believed. Drama!

And then there’s Annie, the youngest…and hottest of the group. Overachieving and adorable, she’s commanded fanboy attention since the show started. I’d roll my eyes reading about some of my favorite bloggers’ obsessions with her…until I watched the show and witnessed it myself. Jesus God I love her so. And by the way, you haven’t lived til you’ve heard her freestyle rap in the show’s outtakes. She’s a charmer.

Backed by a wonderful supporting cast: the Dean, who steals scenes effortlessly in his bi-curious (or even flat-out gay) hilarity, will dress in drag, make passes at Jeff, and say every single line with perfect flamboyance. Senor Chang, the inept Spanish teacher who does a “Jeff Winger” and becomes a student when his lack of credentials are exposed, is probably the most insane TV character I’ve ever seen in my life. He never says or does anything rational and he’s the show’s secret weapon adrenaline shot. Lesser characters like Magnitude, Fat Neil, Todd, Leonard, Starburns…the list goes on and on and on…are a casting director’s dream. The unnecessarily panicky Garrett is pure brilliance all by himself. And Buzz Hickey, who joined the group in its final run, was a nice addition who just needed time to be developed. But we learned such great things about him! Amateur cartoonist, former cop, always carrying rope for some reason! God!  Thinking back on all this, I’m so sad to see these folks go. They were a perfect comedy team.

But it wasn’t a perfect show. It had its clunker episodes like the one where they were video game characters, but the standout entries more than made up for their failures. “Remedial Chaos Theory” is the quintessentially flawless example of a bottle episode. The one where they were all animated G.I. Joe characters was inspired enough to call to my childhood. Touching, darker runs like “Mixology Certification” were handled with the type of expert tenderness one needs to make sad stuff funny. Yes, time and time again this show proved itself, and more than earned the respect of its loyal and loving fans.  Fans like myself. Trekkie. Whovian. CloneClubber, and whatever the hell they are calling people who loved and lost when the truly darkest timeline would be to never have loved at all.