The Belgariad Book II – Review

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If you read my review of BOOK ONE, then you’re primed for this new piece on my (very late) foray into fantasy. Like I’ve said before, I’m writing a fantasy book of my own and am going into stories that I’ve never seen before for research purposes. Yes, I’ve read “Lord Of The Rings” and so forth, and I’ve seen “Legend” and “Willow” and all that stuff. I don’t need your recommendations on that stuff. What I do need is a bit of closure on these books by Mr. Eddings. If you’re in, let’s see those comments! Also, yes, if you know of any great, little known books I should read, please comment!

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Book Review: The Belgariad Book 1 – Pawn Of Prophecy

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I’ve had a novel brewing in my head for some time now. It’s fantasy, even though I’ve never been the biggest fan of the genre. But I figured I’d find motivation in reading a few popular books in the line and I began with this one. I was right, as I’ve been banging through my writing and am on Chapter 3 already – and it looks good…

The first book in the series of five starts at the beginning. The VERY beginning of author Dave Eddings’ make-believe universe. A group of Gods create the world and everything in it. But one went bad, as they always do (Silmarilion?). What follows is a very basic premise: a fellowship bands together to recover a sacred orb that was stolen by a minion of the “bad” God. Let’s see how Mr. Eddings fares in the telling of his story, eh?
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Book Review: The Sun Also Rises (Unless You’re Black, Jewish Or Privileged)

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“I’m 34, you know. I’m not going to be one of those bitches that ruins children.”

Lady Brett Ashley’s decision to not “ruin” children with settling down and raising a family works out just fine for her. She is one of a long line of literary Delilahs who turn male characters insane with adoration. Another one is Gatsby’s Daisy. There are more – the early 1900’s were littered with them. For some reason these hapless foolish fellows fall deeply in love with women in words who lead them into their dens of promises and false hopes, only to crush them before the story’s end. The early 1920’s seemed a rough time for men desperately in love. And blacks. Jews too.
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Book Review: “The End Of Vandalism”

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This book has been on my to-read list for a few years now. I picked it off a “Top 50 Books Men Should Read” site. Can’t say that I’m sure why this book would make it into such a group which also included “Paris Trout,” “The Sun Also Rises” and “Master and Margarita.” I don’t think I reviewed any of those books here so obviously my reading headway through said list is turtle-slow. But life is like that. There’s just other stuff to do. Author Tom Drury knows this all too well. Continue reading

On The Courageous Cat & Minute Mouse Episode “The Case Of The Cat-Cave Treasure,” And Its Insults To Our Intelligence

car 1Bob Kane’s parody of his greatest invention, Batman, ran for 130 short episodes. I remember being obsessed with this cartoon as a kid, yet now, as with most old school shows I try to re-watch (CHiPs, A-Team), I consider it stupid. But what I didn’t expect in these recent viewings is how brain-dead the writers took us to be. I sit here at my laptop bamboozled and insulted, dissecting one particular episode designed to play us for all for morons. Behold! ‘Courageous Cat & Minute Mouse’ gets put on blast – are they really the heroes the show’s writers portrayed them to be? Let’s have a look at the episode first.

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I’ve Been Nominated For The Liebster Award For Bloggers!

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Thanks to Tahir from over at Words Across Borders, I’ve been nominated for a Liebster Award! She is a self-described political junkie. I personally despise politics now (long story) so I try to stick to her poetry. Drop by and start clicking LIKE on things!

Liebster is basically an award by bloggers for other bloggers in a sort of chain. You can only nominate blogs with under 1,000 followers, so this is also a great way to give exposure to blogs you enjoy.

Here are the rules:

The Official Liebster Award Rules:

  1. Thank the blogger that nominated you and link back to their blog.
  2. Display the award somewhere on your blog.
  3. List 11 facts about yourself.
  4. Answer 11 questions chosen by the blogger who nominated you.
  5. Come up with 11 new questions to ask your nominees.
  6. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you think deserve the award and who have less than 1,000 followers.  (You many nominate blogs that have already received the award, but you cannot renominate the blog that nominated you.)
  7. Go to their blog and inform them that they’ve been nominated.

Okay here go the…

11 FACTS ABOUT MYSELF!

1. I am from Asbury Park, NJ and, though I’m super glad I don’t live there anymore, I take a great deal of pride in being FROM there. Growing up by the beach has desensitized me from caring much about beach vacations and things of that nature. And while I was growing up, it was a real shithole. They’ve been working hard to bring it up for years and it’s looking pretty good.

2. I worked in television for 20 years. I was a loyal member of CNN’s technical staff in New York City and when they illegally broke our tech contract in order to bust the union, we ended up in court. 0ver 100 former employees have been fighting them ever since and CNN keeps losing and appealing. It’s been 11 years.

3. I’m a hardcore geek. Always have been, as my avatar can tell you. I love comic books and superhero stuff especially. So I have an affinity for looking at cosplay. Not interested in participating in it though.

4. I write Yelp reviews in my spare time. When I moved from NYC to down south, I knew I’d need cool new things to do, so I banged out a ton of reviews until I was offered Yelp Elite, and therefore invited to lots of free events and parties. I’ve met some cool people and have constructed some sort of social life that way.

5. I hate cheese, unless it’s mozz on pizza. I find it so revolting.

6. I was married to a woman in New York City who divorced me and took the dog. The two things I hate the most from losing that union are, 1. she was rich 2. I miss my dog. In truth, I don’t miss the woman though.

7. I am currently unemployed, and have been for over a year.

8. But I’m not without money. My brother owns a detailing business and I work with him a few times a month. I am also a Yelp Brand Ambassador and they send me the occasional gig. I am a freelance Social Media Manager, and my clients include Edutainment, Detailed By Lamont, 319 Media Group and New Hope Outreach Church. I pick up some cash from all these gigs and they keep me from starving. I’m always looking though!

9. I moved from NYC to NC because my brother and sisters and their families are here. After the divorce, I decided that being with my family was probably a good idea, so I relocated.

10. One of my other jobs is staff writer for Nerd Bastards. It’s a geek entertainment site and it’s lots of fun. Go to the side of the page where it says “Meet All The Bastards” and click on it. I’m presently the only black guy on staff lol. Holy shit, four jobs is pretty good for a guy who’s unemployed…

11. I’ve been shaving my head since 1997. One time in my early 30’s, I decided to grow it out. Not only was it super thin on the very top, but it came in mostly gray. To hell with that idea.

And here are the Questions From Tahir!

The Questions:

1) What is your connection to place?

I have no idea what that means. I will shape it into something: I have an intense connection to France, particularly Paris and the French Riviera. The most beautiful places in the world, if you asked me. I hope to one day have a vacation home there, but hey…reality and all.

2) Who was one of your role models growing up?

As a comic book geek, my role models were superheroes. I also watched wrestling, which showcased a distinct difference between right and wrong, featuring good and bad guy characters. These things shaped within me a very strict code. Outside of fantasy, I was a jock and primarily played baseball. Rickey Henderson of the New York Yankees (at the time) was my favorite player and I worked hard to emulate him.

3) If you could talk to a past version of yourself, what would you tell him/her?

Don’t go into communications. Center on the things you’re deeply passionate about, even if they don’t make you rich. Even if you have ups and downs, at least you’ll love doing it. Some people have ups and downs just doing the things they’ve settled on. Don’t be one of them.

4) Are you political or a-political? Why?

I’m Liberal, leaning Libertarian, but I’m jaded on politics. There is no such thing as an honest politician and anyone who truly believes that their party or their chosen candidate is out for their best interests is fooling himself/herself. Those fuckers are out for themselves ONLY. It’s all bullshit and the only way to find a modicum of sense in that flawed structure is to vote for the person who tells the lies you like to hear. I voted for Obama because his lies were far less destructive to my personal lifestyle than the Conservative candidates’ lies.

5) Aside from writing/reading, is there a particular art form you enjoy?

I’m a junkie for creativity in all its forms, from painting to sketching to building anything from scratch. I respect and love it all. I’m also an artist, so if I had to pick something in particular, I’d have to go with drawing.

6) What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

They are too many to count. I was with my brother today and said, “I’ve done a lot of ill-advised, insane shit. But if I didn’t do them, I think I’d be bored with life.” I sometimes have daredevil behavior. I’m lots more boring with age, tho. There’s this ramped road that crosses a railroad track by my sister’s house. You have to take it gingerly. One night about 20 yrs ago, when coming to visit her, I said “fuck it” and upon approaching the asphalt incline, I hit the gas pedal. I probably jumped that ramp (in a Mercury Tracer no less) about 30 feet. My heart was pounding and the adrenaline rush was incredible. And I kinda messed up my car…

7) What color are your eyes? (Just curious.)

Brown.

8) What are you most afraid of?

Death. Not just death, but the end of life. I treasure my faith, but I weigh it equally with science. And sometimes they don’t meet in the middle. I love the idea of Heaven and an afterlife, but the possibility of being wrong depresses the shit out of me. I hate hate hate the thought of just going black when this is all over, and then there’s nothing. We just cease to exist. It terrifies me…

9) What is something you inherited from your family that has greatly effected how you see the world? (Can be anything including a story, family history, item, language etc.)

I inherited my house in Asbury Park from my dad when he passed away. He had property and all his kids got a house. But my inheritance had to be sold off to pay for my mother’s assisted living expenses and subsequent nursing home charges. It bummed me out at first, but made me stronger. It taught me that hope is nice, luck is awesome, wishes are shit and nothing is set in stone. But, most importantly, material possessions are just dust. Don’t love them too hard. There are better things in life to cherish.

10) If you could talk to one person right now, who would it be and why?

Jesus Christ. Because I gotta know.

11) Dog, cat, or both?

Cats are cool, but I’m allergic. I prefer dogs anyway. A dog’s capacity for unconditional love and affection makes my heart flutter.

If you got this far, thank you so much for reading. Here are my nominees…

Sacha Dichter’s Blog

Lam on the Lam

2 sojourners

DIY Made Simple

SPLICED PERSONALITY

Hated Yankees

Here are the questions…

1. What is the most interesting thing to happen to you in 2014?

2. What is your favorite non-writing/non-blogging website outside of WordPress?

3. Hipsters…cool or lame?

4. Name three things you’d rather be doing than this.

5. What was your dream job growing up?

6. What you’d say in your acceptance speech:

7. What is your least favorite food and why?

8. What do you think you have to add to the lives of those who read you on this site?

9. What do you personally get out of the material you produce on this site?

10. Name the two most awesome places you’ve ever been to.

11. Love…is it overrated or underappreciated?

Thanks guys! Not everyone likes to play these things, so it’s okay if you back out! Take care!

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!

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.

 

100 Days Of Happiness

ImageWhenever I think of the 100 Years War, I feel bad that they didn’t consider this idea first. Because being happy is a crapload better than dying.

The 100 Days OF Happiness Project is a challenge – kind of like The Cinnamon Challenge – just done 99 consecutive times and you substitute the pain and suffering with a warm and cozy feeling. Now, in a perfect world, you could go all Marquis De Sade and throw in an extra 20 days for good measure (as one could debate that sodomy was his “happy” place.) Furthermore, why not shoot for a lifetime of happiness? (see Hugh Hefner). Well let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. 100 days is a damn good start.

On paper it’s an easy effort: You sign up at 100Happydays.com and once a day you find something that makes you happy – then post a picture of it via whatever you’ve got (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) with the hashtag #100happydays. I’m doing mine STARTING TODAY via My Instagram Account and everyone is invited to come by and check it out or play along with me. I’d love to follow your progress!

And just for kicks, I’ll post my first entry here:IMG_20140430_114245

What you see there are two of three birthday balloons in my bedroom, recently given to me at a party my family threw for my 41st day of life. I was really touched by it so I have them floating on the ceiling so that they’re the first things I see when I wake up.

Tomorrow I’ll find something different, hopefully, because the challenge is, you gotta do it every single day for 100 days. Hence the name, duh.

So, off I go! Here’s to me not screwing it up because I forgot to take a photo and post it on the internet!

p.s.

You also have the option to keep yours private. Party-poopers.

Four Questions and Four Answers On Writing.

Writing FLow ChartEver wonder why you do it? What’s the urge? Where wil it take you? Where do you want to go?

This entry is a piggyback to Jodie Llewellyn’s An Inspiration Post, for writers. I liked her post and commented that I was gonna do one of my own and link her. Her motivating tool was four questions…

1. Why did you start writing?
2. What do you love the most about writing?
3. What goals are you working towards, right now?
4. What advice do you have for other writers who may be struggling with a lack of inspiration, right now?

And she gave her four answers. I’ll do the same. Have some fun and play if you want, because I feel like when you ask questions like these out loud, your answers may surprise you. And hopefully jazz you up for some serious creativity.

Here are my answers:

EN GARDE!

1. Why did you start writing?

Couldn’t help it. It called to me. In high school, I had the urge to start a novel. It was crap and I only did one chapter, but I got better and my wordsmithing caught the eyes of some teachers and next thing you knew I was writing for the community paper. Then, I got the Asbury Park Press Scholarship for college and they gave me a job for the summer. I was always writing something somewhere and that has never stopped.
2. What do you love the most about writing?

When I was working for newspapers, I did my job. That was all I could do. But now when I write for the hell of it, I try to create as much as I possibly can. Even when I’m writing a Yelp review, though I’m largely just fucking around, there are times when I will really try and invent a theme or a point or just make something out of nothing that I can feel proud of. Creating something that I like is the most rewarding part of writing.
3. What goals are you working towards, right now?

Right now I’m happy with the Yelp reviews because it fuels my fix, as does this blog. Pushing words into existence without talking gives me a feeling of gratification. Not like I’m a god, but more like a contributor. As if I’m helping build worlds upon worlds upon worlds that we can all take part in and let our imaginations run wild in. Tolkien did that for me, as did King. But the big scheme is to begin writing my novel.
4. What advice do you have for other writers who may be struggling with a lack of inspiration, right now?

Depends on what you’re trying to write. I’m trying to write a novel, and that involves deep characters. When I write stories (screenplays or whatever) I go back to the grandparents of each character. I create origins for them, and that tells me what their children have to work with. Then I work on their children’s children. Next thing you know, I’ve got characters built that are much more interesting than the ideas I began with and I’ve got a whole new and better story. Chapters have built themselves (in my outline so far) because I dug so deep into my characters’ pasts.

Please keep this model going. I thought it was so cool when I saw it on Jodie’s blog. And I’d love to hear about your own journey!

Spri