Browse Month by July 2016
Book Reviews

Brown’s Requiem by James Ellroy Review

Browns Requiem by James Ellroy Paperback
James Ellroy’s 1st Novel

A version of this book review appeared in “Dune’s Landing”, a defunct blog and writing website. It has been lightly edited and presented here.

I finally sat down and read “Brown’s Requiem”, the first book by James Ellroy. Ellroy was a golf caddy for many years, and his mom was murdered as a child. That’s the two pieces of information that you need to know about this book. Ellroy paints a classic crime narrative, easily befitting the elements of noir cinema that you’d expect from the past. The book is treated far more like a pulp fiction story than it is a novel. Even though the length puts this at novel’s length, you’ll find that this is definitely hard hitting crime story that pulls several tropes out of the Raymond Chandler arena, before setting it all on fire with some graphic gore, and horror elements to shake things up.

The Former Alcoholic Cop Gets Redemption

At the heart of “Brown’s Requiem” is a redemption story. The plot is simple enough. A disgraced ex-cop, turned repo man gets caught up in a private detective job. Fritz Brown has to figure out why a certain golf caddie seems to have a lot of money, and is walking from murder. He beats the murder conviction and is starting to get involved with serious crime elements. Is it the mob? Is there a cabal working under the scenes of Hollywood and Los Angeles?

The story unfolds through various tropes that you would expect from a good Hollywood crime flick, and Ellroy doesn’t hold back in turning his characters into portraits of a bygone era in Los Angeles. I’m from Los Angeles originally, so if you’re not familiar with the city, you will get lost in the streets and call outs to where Brown ends up. He is a native of Los Angeles, both in character and writing. That is good and bad, because if you aren’t familiar you will gloss over the marking points that Ellroy is trying to tell you about, in hopes that you have a sentimental or at least a cerebral connection point. It worked for me, but may not work for you.

Classical Music, Violence, Sex, and A Golf Mafia

The book flows well. Ellroy spent many years working as a caddy so the elements of his experiences bleed through the pages. The main character loves classical music, is an alcoholic, and has to go through some deep pathos before you start to like him overall. The book is hard to embrace when the ultraviolence is turned up, but if you’re a fan of horror or crime cinema, this feels like Quentin Tarantino would steal it for a major film focus. The golf elements make you think twice about who plays, and what goes on with the job of a caddy.

Star Rating For “Brown’s Requiem” by James Ellroy

I give this book a 4 out of 5. Here’s my final thoughts on the book, and it’s simple; it’s powerful crime writing. There are morality tropes, there are classical crime tropes, there is redemption, but it’s mired with true life. Fritz is a flawed anti-hero at times, and at others he plays the Jesus role in the sacrifice that he pulls through the third act. When things don’t wrap up quite well, clean, and with everyone happy, you’re ok with it. Ellroy doesn’t paint a happy picture, but one that definitely works out, because in the end, real life doesn’t work out with soft edges. Ellroy’s treatment of “Brown’s Requiem” and the characters is heavy handed, but not so hard that you will think he’s a sadist. At times you feel that you’re watching a movie in your head, or reading a journal from a former cop, as the story is told in the first person a great deal of the time. I invite you to sit back and enjoy “Brown’s Requiem” by James Ellroy as a noir crime story that isn’t concerned whether or not you’re reading it.

You can purchase “Brown’s Requiem” by James Ellroy by clicking here.

Have you read “Browns Requiem”? If so, tell me in the comments, and let me hear your thoughts.

Book Reviews

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea Paperback Cover
The Devil’s Highway

The Yuma 14 are the center of this story. “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea is a gut wrenching kick to the balls of anyone that has a heart. I was a bit wary about reading it, because I was once an illegal immigrant. My father and mother brought me here in the circumstances of this book, only we made it. But there are a lot of immigrants that never make it, and this book really punches you in the guts and turns until you’re crying for mercy. Urrea doesn’t hold back, he writes a very interesting, investigative history lesson about what is going on in the lives of people trying to get here. It is one of the hardest books I’ve ever read, and it brought me to tears on several occasions.

The Yuma 14

14 people dead in the desert. 11 survivors. 14 dead after they were abandoned by coyotes, human smugglers. These men had families. These men were looking for a better life. They trusted someone to help them, and they were abandoned in the desert of Arizona, where 14 of them died from heat exhaustion, and dehydration. It’s in this story that you find out what it takes to get to America, and actually survive. A gallon of water, perhaps two, and 30 miles of desert stand in your way on this highway from hell. This story highlights the delirium, the determination, and the subsequent death of individuals that were trying to get through. Those that didn’t are memorialized by the reasons why they moved forward, why they died, and the details concerning the aftermath of their death. The survivor’s memories are shot, the trip seemed insane. They were abandoned, left to die.

The Realities of Heat Exhaustion

Urrea does an incredible job in telling you the story. But at one point, he steps back. He describes the layers of what heat exhaustion does to the body. Then he discusses how it feels to die from dehydration. A pile of folded clothing sits next to dead bodies. Why a pile of folded clothing? Delirium? No. As it turns out, according to “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea, when you’re dying of exhaustion and dehydration, the impulses in the body collapse the nerve endings hurt, and people that go through this cannot stand the movement of clothing on their skin, so they take it off. They fold it, and they die. The excruciating details of the layers of the mind and body as one dies cripples the senses, and you’re left wiping tears as you read through what these men went through before they breathed in their last breath in the middle of the desert.

A Callous Attitude

Captured perfect is the mindset of the American. I’ve grown up with people that have heard my story and they are callous. The assume that Mexicans are no good. We are stealing resources. We were driven in with limos and money. We have jobs that they could’ve had. We are rapists. We are murderers, we are unwanted. This book highlights the callous attitude of the border patrol, and of a lot of Americans that do not see the humanity of anyone crossing the border. They see these people as illegal, criminals, and that’s it. Yet these men are examples of over 1400 that died on the Southern California border just last year according to recent studies. That’s just Southern California. This book details the callous nature of humanity, especially when the wife of one of the lost men shows up. The border patrol tells her that they have him, dead, on a slab, and then leaves her. No consoling, no positivity, nothing, he’s dead, we have him, good luck. This is how people treat me and others that have a story of gut wrenching tears and fears.

A Slice of The Mexican Immigrant Story

This is an insane story. I looked at the original news stories for this too. The “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea highlights things so well. There’s no fluff. It’s told as though a survivor is speaking to you. Urrea traps a voice that is haunting. He shows the elements of playfulness in the Mexican culture, the dreams and aspirations of the men crossing the border. Then he juxtaposes that with the realities that they faced. Trying to eat cactus to survive. Detailing drinking pee to possibly survive, and dying of thirst. Death on the border. Death in America, and to the border patrol, the police, and to the average American, good riddance. In this election year that I read this, I don’t want to vote. I don’t want to know this. I don’t want to live in this country. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are guilty of this callous attitude towards my struggle, my people, and this story. “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea kicks you in the guts so hard you have gravel left in it. It’s sick.

Star Rating For “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea

5 out of 5 Stars. That’s what you get. Luis Alberto Urrea, you have opened up some serious wounds for me. I’m hurt. I’m wounded, I’m bleeding. This is the story of my people, my brothers, my family, my dad, my mother, and myself. I don’t know why I survived, and don’t know how we made it to become citizens of this country, but this is one hell of a narrative. A true story that should be told to every American. This is not just a Mexican story; this is an American story. This is love, pain, sweat, death, and dreams in one book. One hell of a book.

You can buy “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea by clicking here, and getting it from Amazon.

Have you read “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea? Drop me a line and let me know.

Articles, Book Reviews

Absolute Reasons Not To Use Audible

audible sucks
Audible Logo

Everywhere I turn, I see people promoting Audible. This is a subscription based service that charges you to listen to audio books. At first glance, it sounds fun, easy to use, but if you look beneath the advertisements, you’ll realize that it’s another cash grab. Now, I am a moderate fan of Hulu and Netflix, but they will never replace the video store. Why? Because of selection, promotions, and more. Now, they do well for what they are, but Audible is not those two services. This is a service that I do not like, and absolutely feel is stealing away elements that are already free. Furthermore, the following reasons are just a handful of things that I came up with when thinking about how terrible this service is. I also hate all subscription based reading services that were getting shoved in my face. Here are my reasons why I think you should run from Audible instead of buying into the constant advertising that is hitting all sorts of media.

You Are Limited To How Many Books You Can Have Per Month

No matter how much you spend on Audible, you’re going to end up losing out. It costs money to subscribe, and you’re limited to only a couple of selections a month. That’s right, PER month. Now, I tested the service with a free trial, and found myself going through an audio book in 2 days. I heard a Stephen King collection. Now, I understand not everyone is like me, but I could pull through more than 2 or 3 or even 5 books a month with ease. Heck, last week I read 4 books without any of these services. I’m a reader. If you’re a true bibliophile, then you will see past the clever Audible marketing.

People Advertising Audible Are Making Money (not users, most often)

The people you hear promoting this service are affiliates of Audible, not users. There’s nothing wrong with this. However, some of the podcasts that I’ve listened to lean so heavy on this, that it’s annoying. Furthermore, some of the hosts have openly said that they don’t read or listen to books. They just don’t. I don’t mind reviews, notes, and ads. However, when you’re trying to sell me something, you’re going to have to do more than just say to get a certain service because it’s good. Review it. Telle me personal experiences, anything else.

Their Library Is Inherently Limited

Just like Netflix, Audible is limited in how many books they have. I hate when people tell me that there’s 100,000 options. But if the option I want isn’t there, then your selection is useless. The same can be said about video stores, but let’s consider Netflix for a moment. Yesterday, I wanted to see Rushmore. Guess what’s not on Netflix? I had to just go back to work and pick it out from the shelf. The same can be said about Audible, and other services like it. They have 100,000 or so options, but not the one you want. If they don’t have that one thing you want, then they have failed. I’m sorry. The limits here are far less than other options.

Your Public Library Has Way More Options

Your library is huge. In fact, if you live in a major metropolitan city, your tax dollars are funding it. If that’s not enough, consider that the majority of libraries are connected to one another. I’ve lived in 5 different states. All libraries seem connected within a certain network. Even when I was in Moscow, Idaho for a spell. The Moscow, Idaho library was connected to Boise, and other cities. I was able to transfer first run titles and get them reserved at my library for free. That’s 100% free of charge to me, and they were the full books, without worry. Oh and guess what? They now offer eBooks, and even audiobooks. Right now, I’m listening to a new audiobook, and on my Kindle, I’m reading a comic that I borrowed from my local library. If you’re not using your local library, then your tax dollars are being wasted.

Your Public Library Is FREE

Your library is free. Your tax money may pay for it, but it’s free to rent out books. My local library here in Indiana lets you pull out 100 plus items. I kid you not. 100 items. FREE. Do you really want to pay for a service when you can get it for free? Seriously, think about that. If you can’t get past this, then perhaps Audible loves you. They want you to waste your money. I can’t do it.

Kindles Read To You (Kindle Fire HD)

If you have a new Kindle, then turn on the reading element. I for one have a Kindle Fire HD and it reads just fine. There’s a female reader and there’s a male voice. There’s also different accents. I have a British voice reading to me Bret Hart’s autobiography. This makes any major release from Kindle an audiobook. In some cases, you can get the audio and book for a low price. It’s just cool.

There you have it, a few reasons why I don’t like Audible. Obviously, there are going to be people that will disagree with me. There are those that will make money with recommendations, and some will spend their money. You can. I just think it’s a waste. If you ask me for an alternative, I’ll say The Public Library every single time. I’m an advocate of FREE things, and they are absolutely free, and more often than not, they will have what you’re looking for and then some.

Book Reviews

The Circle by Dave Eggers Review

The Circle by Dave Eggers Cover
The Circle By Dave Eggers

The starting point of “The Circle” by Dave Eggers caught me off guard. The chapter’s descriptions about tech really showcased a focus on what many of us have felt in the field. When I got a job in tech, I was shown a glorious campus, then was introduced to my cubicle. “The Circle” highlights that point where you’re crestfallen. You finally get to Google, you’ve made it, and yet your job puts you at a cubicle, with no windows, and a chair that is broken. This opening hooked me into what very well may be one of my favorite books of the modern era. There’s a lot to explore here, and if you’re curious as to whether or not Dave Eggers is at the top of his game, let me tell you, he is absolutely focused with this one.

The Cult of Engagement

One of the major turning points for me during “The Circle” was the constant push for interactivity and sharing. Mae, the main character, gets nearly scolded because she didn’t document everything about her weekend. “You have to participate, you have to document, don’t you realize you aren’t connecting with thousands of people around?” (paraphrased) Working at a tech giant goes from delight, to getting pressured into making sure that everything gets documented, shared, and focused on the social media engraved work force. Mae watches television with her dad, a WNBA game, and at one point a Human Resource individual is offended that she didn’t post on social media and follow the musings of a WNBA forum that is run by one of them. Then she’s told that there are thousands of coworkers that love WNBA. She’s prodded, pushed, and guilt tripped into becoming more and more social. The cult of engagement is huge, and it is mirrored in a way that real life truly is like.

There’s a certain shame that comes with not posting on social media. If you have friends that are constantly on social media, you may be the odd man out. Mae’s journey through the social media world is fascinating. Guilt tripped into engagement, that’s where we live in the world. It’s a biting satire, a slap on the wrist, and then a push over a barrel that Dave Eggers provides. It sent shockwaves into my conscious thought. That’s where I fell in love with “The Circle” by Dave Eggers.

Training For Utopia

Mae’s journey through this story is one that can hit anyone. You could find yourself working at a giant tech company, nudged to participate more and more, eventually living at the campus in their dorms. I know this because I lived it. I was recruited by Microsoft in 2009 to work for them, and everything described by Eggers in this book really hits home to my tech background. The reason why I’m a video store clerk and writer now is because of the things that were found in this book, and some of the “cultist” attitudes that some of the individuals that worked for Microsoft had. I didn’t go far there, as I’m too much of a rebel.

The story unfolds nicely, Eggers has a great way of presenting ideas, skewering popular culture, and bringing home the point that is a lot like “Brave New World”. In fact, if you were to combine “Brave New World” and “1984” you would get this book, which introduces ideas from both ends of that spectrum, blaming humanity, and blaming a government overlord all at the same time. Either way you are going to get hit hard with real emotion.

Star Rating For “The Circle” by Dave Eggers

“The Circle” by Dave Eggers puts on a showcase. It’s a 500 some odd page novel that goes from innocence to death to utopia and back again. It has believable characters, outstanding storytelling, and so much to explore. I give this book a 4 out of 5. The reason why I can’t give it a 5 is because the ending. The ending falls flat with me. The whole powder keg seems ready to blow up and yet it doesn’t. But then again, I honestly think that it’s good to end with this quote by T.S. Eliot to express the ending of “The Circle”: This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but with a whimper”. Eggers ends his tenth novel with a whimper, but one that stays with you for so long after. I loved it.

You can purchase “The Circle” By Dave Eggers by clicking here, and get free shipping.

Did you read “The Circle”? If so, drop me a line with your thoughts, and let me know what you thought about this novel.

Book Reviews

Nailbiter Volume 2:Bloody Hands Review

nailbiter volume 2 bloody hands
Nailbiter Vol. 2

I previously reviewed Nailbiter Volume 1 here. Today I’m coming back at you with a review of the second TPB release of the comic book series. This book is written by Joshua Williamson and has art by Mike Henderson, Adam Guzowski, with lettering by John J. Hill. These guys have put together one hell of a series, and this time around we are going to look into the story a bit deeper. You already know that the setting takes place in Oregon. A city where dozens of serial killers are the main culprits. There’s a new killer on the loose, but who is it? Furthermore, why are there a lot of bees falling dead everywhere. This little tidbit would come to haunt the characters, as they dig deeper and deeper into figuring out just who is the next big serial killer that is going to show up from this town.

The Nailbiter Gets All The Blame

The exonerated serial killer tagged with simply, “The Nailbiter” is on the loose. However, he’s rehabbed, and he isn’t involved. The story clearly shows how the town immediately assume that he’s behind it, but he’s not. He grows weary of being blamed, but he’s creepy as hell. Meanwhile, there’s other elements going on, the sheriff and the FBI agent are still trying to figure out the happenings, they are butting heads, and there’s lunatics around. One major story arc features a pregnant woman trying desperately to give birth in the city limits.

Flashes of Gore and Stellar Drama Collide

What Williamson does so well is simple, he gives you gore but he doesn’t give it to you without dramatic influence. He has flashes of story, flashes of well thought out rhetoric. The characters don’t just react, they speculate, they dive into things, they look around themselves, and they try to focus on the bigger picture, while getting thrown into chaos. There are flashes of excitement, fights, and salvation all mixed into this tightly wound narrative. Just when you think you’ve got this figured out, Williamson pulls you into another speculation.

Self-Awareness Brings About Tension

Another great thing that Williamson does well is bring about self-awareness to the trope of the ridiculous story. Even though he’s playful with certain one liners, and references, he still finds ways to make sure that you’re not completely lost in the shuffle of fantasy. It’s easy to just throw in jabs that this is unreal, or that it’s too outside of the realms of possibilities. Then he throws in some serious tension, and brings about playful attitudes only to snuff them out within a few images of art. As far as detective, serial killers, and crime fiction is concerned Williamson is on top of his game with this second collection.

Star Rating For Nailbiter Volume 2

I’ve read the first one, and now with the second volume done, I can truly give this a 4 out of 5. My only complaint is the art style and coloring is a little too polished. There’s some shading and colors that are just too “cartoony”. I also didn’t really like several of the panels, which were likened to a swinging spotlight. I know it’s done for mood, but it’s tough to read through when you have large panels in other areas. I also didn’t like how short this release was. Volume 3 seems bigger, and we’ll get to that next.

You can find out for yourself whether or not Nailbiter Volume 2: Bloody Hands is worth your time. Click here to purchase Nailbiter’s second volume via amazon.

Did you read Nailbiter Volume 2: Bloody Hands? If so, drop me a comment and let me know what you thought.

Articles, Marketing

Brutally Honest Google Sniper Review

google sniper review
Google Sniper

Google Sniper is a very controversial topic. I’ve been working with the product and learning how to build my own business since last December. It’s fair to say that since 2009, I have been using blogger.com for the sole purpose of affiliate marketing. You can see some of my work across the web under James Himsa, Jacob Levine, and John G. as my pseudonym. I tried to write as Jorge, but a lot of people didn’t react within this framework. I don’t know why. So I changed my name and started working with Google Sniper methods to see whether or not it worked. So here we go, a brutally honest review of what Google Sniper does, doesn’t do, and whether or not it’s worth your 30-dollar investment.

Everyone Has Good Things To Say About Google Sniper

Search for Google Sniper reviews and you are going to get a lot of information thrown at you. As of this morning, I searched for this and found over a million results. The top results are YouTube videos, and some sites that have reviews about this product. When you click through, you are going to get glowing reviews about this, and how amazing it truly is. Some of the things that you will read will be insane. I read one review where a guy said he was making 6,000 dollars a month and now living high on the hog after 2 months of trying to work with this informational product. I know immediately that it’s a lie. I’m sorry, but no one is making that kind of money in 2 months. Have I ever made that much money with affiliate marketing and Google Sniper? No. But I have made that much with a combination of things that included affiliate marketing, and not specifically GSNIPER. However, I have made some money with this option, and truly believe that you can too.

Everyone Has Something Really Bad To Say About Google Sniper

The next thing that I noticed about Google Sniper reviews, and what people are saying is that many use the term “Scam”. In fact, people throw this around so much it’s ridiculous. Is Google Sniper a scam? No. Not at all. It can look that way, because you’re buying informational products. To illustrate this, I have to talk about school. I was in graduate school this past year, and did not manage to get a 3.0 in my last GPA rundown. I got a 2.97 and the school threw me out. I could easily say that my classes were scams. I didn’t get the promised degree, I didn’t get the individualized attention from my teachers, I didn’t even learn the proper way to write in MLA methodology. I had to learn those things on my own. Does that mean the school was a scam? No! I failed to meet the requirements. The same can be said about the bad things that are being pushed by reviewers that call Google Sniper a scam. They are using this negative keyword to try and rank for affiliate marketing. So much so that Google Sniper has no banned individuals from using that to sell their product. Yep. If you are looking for reviews, be careful when you see someone going totally negative about a product.

My 7 Month Experiment With Google Sniper

To really understand what Google Sniper is all about, I took on a serious experiment. Last year I set up a Google Sniper Truth blog with blogger.com. I then wrote 3 major articles that were posted across the web, spun, and put up with backlinks and more. I even wrote a Kindle book and did a lot of writing on the site. Every post was at least 750 words each, and some went upwards of 2,000 words and beyond. My goal was to rank for the keywords, GSNIPER, Google Sniper, and to teach others how to use the program. What I noticed was interesting. I took on the information that George Brown has put up, and paid for the service, testing it for 7 months. What I can say is that it works, but it doesn’t work without your input. It’s an informational product after all, not a miracle cure for money making. If you don’t put in any work, you won’t make it. I put in 1 hour a day, for 7 months, and turned more money than my last day job. But that wasn’t without a lot of writing, a lot of SEO and on a harder platform than WordPress and others. I ranked upwards on one Google Sniper page upwards of number 3 on the first page. I ranked one site above Wikipedia. It was for “Russian Orthodox Beads” and ranked in the top 5, with 1,000 some odd hits a day. I was making money and proving that you can use free blogger sites to make serious money with Google Sniper. I was impressed. So impressed that I am now blogging here.

What Google Sniper Really Teach You

Let’s me brutally honest. Google Sniper is an incredible resource. It promises that you can make serious money by setting up websites and following their protocol. This is a product that you can purchase and get a full education into affiliate, internet marketing, and website creation. You have to realize, something here. It’s educational material. That’s right, this is just education. What you do with it, will either make or break how you work through the steps.

Google Sniper Teaches You The Following:

  • How to setup a WordPress niche site
  • How to get traffic to your site
  • How to write articles that sell your products
  • How to pick niches that work
  • How to build email lists
  • How to make money online

All of these things are presented in two ways. They are presented with video modules that show you step by step how to set up a site. Then they have a full eBook that has been updated 3 times already to ensure that your site ranks within a short span of time. You also get access to premium materials, and if you want to pay more, you can get private coaching as to how to make money online.

It’s educational. Google Sniper is all about teaching you how to make money online, through step by step instructions. If you don’t want to follow their exact blueprint, you don’t have to. I was able to go through Blogger.com and set up a simple site about Russian Orthodox Beads, and made serious sales through amazon, and click bank. I wrote simple posts about the benefits of the beads, the focus of prayer, and simple ideas about this.

I can truly say this works. If you put in time to set up your sites, and follow the steps one, by one. It’s tedious. I’m not going to lie. I liken it to building an Ikea bed frame. I hated it. It took me and my wife 14 hours to build a bed frame from Ikea. To make Google Sniper work, I spent 7 months, and wrote 79 posts at around 700 words each on average, and each one talking about different aspects of how to make money online, and how to make money writing. Then used that to leverage another page about prayer beads. 7 months, 79 posts, and I was able to make money online. I did it with a free domain from blogger.com, but if I had done it with a dot com, I would made more, and I proved that with a new site that I built about drawing pictures.

Prove The Critics Wrong About Google Sniper

Suffice to say, there are two major ways to learn how to make online. You can do what I did at first, and go through the school of hard knocks. I tried to make money online by myself after being fired from a job in 2009. I tried really hard and didn’t do well. But today, I’m making money online through writing, and of course I stick with a part-time video store clerk gig as well. That’s mainly to get me out of the house. The critics are going to tell you that you can’t do it. There’s a lot of people that are going to highlight how Google Sniper is a scam. I’m not one of those people. I’m going to tell you straight out, this works, if you actually follow the steps. How long it takes is up to you.

You can prove the critics wrong by clicking here and seeing what the hype is about Google Sniper. Test it for yourself, see if you can make it work, and that’s it. If you don’t like it, or fail to make a dime, you can get your money back, and that’s it.

One last thing! If you need a ghost writer to help you with blog posts, article writing and more, you can easily drop me a line and I’ll write for you. I’m here to help. Or you could go with the recommended solutions within Google Sniper and hire someone via Fiverr, Upwork or even Elance. There’s a lot of options out there. I’m a premium solution. However, as you can see from this site, I give it my best shot to bring good content.

Alright, that concludes my brutally honest Google Sniper review. It works. But it’s not a miracle cure. You have to learn using the steps that are outlined. You can’t possibly fail if you follow the eBook and videos that you receive with this program.

Record Reviews

Operation Ivy Energy Review

operation ivy energy 1989 cover zip
Operation Ivy “Energy”

1989 the number, another summer, sound of the funky drummer, is all I can think about as I focus on reviewing one of the most iconic ska records of all time. Operation Ivy “Energy” LP came out in 1989 on Lookout Records. It was initially a 36-minute opus of furious punk rock, and ska blending together. There were notes of hardcore, and even a little jazz thrown into the mix, as the band put on a display of what would no doubt become an instant classic.

The Highest Rated Punk Album of 1989

Every single publication in the world has reviewed Operation Ivy “Energy”, and I’m not new to the party. I reviewed this once before. There’s a lot of people that have talked about this, and well, there’s not a whole lot of new things that I can say about the album. What I can say, is that I’ve listened to the original, the updated version, and even the LP release on Hellcat records. The more I listen to this record, the more I realize how far ahead of the curve the band was. The band was able to put on a showcase of what third wave ska-core would become in just 10 years. Within that 10-year span after this record was released, ska would explode across the musical landscape. We’re talking big names like Reel Big Fish, No Doubt, and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones getting mainstream credentials. Heck, the guys from Boston even hit number one fast. No Doubt too, hitting number one, and getting a lot of attention. If you were around in Orange County during the mid-1990s, then you know how big Orange County (California) ska had become. Even the Christian music world was rocked with some heavy hitting ska bands like The Orange County Supertones and Five Iron Frenzy.

Where Are The Horns?

Here’s the thing about Operation Ivy, they don’t have a huge horn section. You can tell that there’s not a lot on the record, but the style of music is in fact a mix of genres. The personnel on the record for horns includes Paul Bae, playing saxophone. Saxophone appears across the record, with some jazzy moments, and even instrumental parts. However, you are not going to get that same amount of horns that you would get from bands like The Skatalites, Fishbone, or modern offerings like Streetlight Manifesto. That’s why I have a hard time labeling this band as just “one” thing, because they aren’t. There are times where I hear old school punk rock ala MDC. There’s melody and points where Tim Armstrong’s iconic voice comes through above Jesse Michaels. Without deep horns, though, this turns into a precursor to Rancid’s glorious rise more than we all knew in 1989.

Star Rating For Operation Ivy “Energy”

I’m not a big fan of giving star ratings, but they draw attention and traffic, so for this record, I think it’s 4 out 5. The only drawback for me about Operation Ivy “Energy” is that it lacks a lot more horns. I would like more horns, but that’s just a personal preference. I love this record, and 2 of the band members would go on to form Rancid and break down the doors of underground and mainstream leanings of punk rock.

Buy Operation Ivy “Energy” LP (vinyl) by clicking here, and get free shipping.

Do you like Operation Ivy’s debut? What are your thoughts? Drop me a comment and let me know.

Articles, Skateboarding

4 Reasons To Ride A Cruiser Skateboard Deck

examples of cruiser skateboard decks
Cruiser Skateboards

When discussing skateboarding you will have a variety of opinions thrown at you. If you’re just starting out or are like me, older and still want to skateboard, you may be tempted to go with a long board. I don’t have anything against longboards, but they aren’t exactly great in my opinion. They are clunky, large, and hard to stop. If you want to wear down your shoe’s sole, then go for it. Longboards are a bit reserved for those that want to surf, on the streets. They are cool, they are hip, but they aren’t as tactical as shorter boards. I don’t do a lot of tricks, but I do some. If you want to learn, or you want to perhaps ride around town, but don’t want to use a long board, you don’t have to. Skateboard companies create “cruisers” all the time, and they are usually around 8.5 inches wide if not larger. There are several reasons why you may want to ride a cruiser, and here are just a few of them.

Wider Boards Offer Stability

Just like in wakeboarding, surfing, and even snowboarding, the wider the board the more stable you will be. The biggest draw for cruisers for me is that you will be able to stabilize yourself while you’re riding. You’re not going to feel as though your feet are going to fall off, because many times your feet will fit squarely within the deck of the board. A good 9-inch-wide deck, for instance, will give you a lot more traction overall. Wider boards are stable, easy to ride, and can help you ride with relative ease. As you learn, you can start to balance with ease.

cruiser skateboard example
Example of Cruiser Complete

Cruiser Skateboard Decks Let You Have Control

One of my biggest issues with longboards is the fact that you can’t stop when you’re going really fast. The best way to stop is to put your feet down and let them slide on the cement or asphalt. This friction stops you, but you also have to deal with the difficulty in sliding and perhaps falling. I don’t like that. Skateboards are shaped so that you can lean back and stop with your tail. Cruisers usually have tails that let you gain control. The control of the board is also found with the concave of the many boards that are out there. Some boards only have a kick tail, like the Bart Simpson replica skateboard that was popular for a few months.

Cruiser Skateboards Often Come Complete

A lot of the cruiser skateboards that you are going to find online and in stores are complete. You can easily look for cruiser completes, and see how many are out there. I don’t mind this, as I can customize them with ease. If you purchase a complete, make sure that you do not leave the bearings in place. Change the bearings, get a skate tool and fix the trucks so that you can work with relative ease.

Cruiser Skateboards Cost Less

Recently I priced out a custom skateboard from various companies. When I select a skateboard for tricks, I get a good pro model deck, Independent trucks, Bronson bearings, Bones Wheels at 54mm, risers, and regular grip with shorty’s hardware. That’s it. The cost of a traditional skateboard complete can be upwards of 150 – 174 dollars. That’s expensive, for many people. If you were to purchase a cruiser skateboard on a professional level, you will find that you can pick them up for around 100 dollars or less.

Look, cruiser skateboards are fun, shaped differently than longboards or pro model skateboards, and let you ride, with more stability, control, and speed. You can purchase cruiser skateboard completes and more by clicking here.

Articles, Writing Tips

How To Quit Smoking To Become A Better Writer

smoking and writing seem to go hand in hand
Writing and Smoking

At one point or another you may be tempted to smoke. I know I did. Some people avoid it completely, and to them, congratulations. However, for me and the people that have tasted the sweet tobacco at one point, you know that it’s hard to quit once you start. I didn’t smoke for years, and didn’t smoke nearly as much as my friends did, but I did, and it wasn’t always fun. I switched to cloves in 2012, and still occasionally indulge, but it’s few and far between when I do. In fact, I don’t know the last time that I actually took a drag. As a clerk, writer, and ordinary man, I can tell you that quitting smoking is a good idea, and it can even help you become a better writer. I’ve been a professional blogger since 2009, and have been blogging since 1999. The season in which I quit smoking, made me a stronger, more focused writer. It also let me take my breaks from the video store and write, travel, and learn a lot.

Smoking and Writers Go Hand In Hand

The classic trope of the writer that is smoking is nothing new. Look online for pictures and portraits of writers and they will have a cigarette in their mouth. They’ll smoke while typing away at a typewriter. Today, lots of writers are known to drink and smoke, and it’s something that is not going to change for many. However, if you were to take away the nicotine, and tobacco, you’ll find that there are going to be improvements to your creativity. Of course, the smell around you will absolutely start to get better, and you will be able to take out certain smells that can definitely permeate into the walls, your books, and more. There’s nothing worse than opening a book and have to breathe in the smoke scent that is caked on the pages. Have you ever purchased a book from eBay and it smells of smoke? It’s the worst.

Write About The Quitting Process

If you’re looking to improve your writing while quitting smoking, then you will want to write about it. Seriously, write about your experience quitting. I did this in an old blog that got deleted. I spent a few months writing about cravings, dreams, ideas, and how badly I wanted to smoke, only to eventually quit. It takes time, it takes stress, and your mental faculties may seem to abandon you at times. However, the writing process was good. It stretched the information that I had about myself, and how my body reacts to certain things. I don’t crave cigarettes now, but the quitting process was a bit easier with the art and craft of writing. If you’re looking at quitting smoking and writing as a connected tissue, separation will be tough.

How To Quit Smoking Within 7 Days

People all over are going to want to quit smoking. I see it all the time on Twitter. In fact, I’ve tried to promote services that help, and honestly, most things don’t work. If you’re a writer, at least you have the writing craft to help you work through the cravings. For me, blogging about the addiction was a great thing. It forced me to concentrate on a topic, and it helped with moving ahead of myself without cigarettes. In the end, I’m a better writer for it. However, it wasn’t exactly simple. The thing is, you can become whatever you want, and you can quit smoking if you allow yourself a bit of help.

If you have 7 days, you can quit smoking. Click here to help quit smoking for good, and become a better writer.

Movie Reviews

Stranger Things Review

a poster of Stranger Things
Stranger Things Poster

“Stranger Things” is a new television show that just hit Netflix. I didn’t hear about it until someone at work told me about it. Since the video store gets an internet connection, a full shift went by while watching this show. At first glance, you’re going to find that this feels a lot older than it is. That’s by design. Netflix has tapped into nostalgia for the horror fan in a very unique manner. From the opening credits of the show to the many different plot points, you are going to get hit with a lot of information that will either register as new to you or a stolen element from a horror movie you love. Whatever the case may be, there is a lot to dissect with this series, and very well deserves your time.

“Stranger Things” stars Winona Ryder, David Harbour, Finn Wolfhard, Matthew Modine, and several others. The acting is very good, including Ryder’s performance as Joyce Byers. She actually caught me off guard here. She puts in quite the performance. The Duffer Brothers direction certainly worked.

Referencing Horror Movies At Will

The first thing that you are going to get hit with in this show is nostalgia. You not only get the 1980s element thrown at you a lot, you get references to your favorite horror movies. I kid you not. There’s a grand variety of references that flow through the story. Everything from “Alien”, “The Thing”, “Christine”, “The Cell”, “Howling”, “Needful Things”, and many other movies are focused within the way that this story plays out. The plot is simple enough. A child goes missing, and his parents and friends are not satisfied with the notion that he’s dead. They set on a course of finding him at all costs. No one believes that he’s alive, except for the sheriff, and the story continues to move forward episode by episode. Meanwhile, a telekinetic girl shows up, and befriends one of the kids.

“Stand By Me” Meets Horror and Science Fiction Camp

What made the movie “Stand By Me” so good was the friendship that was formed on screen. That’s what you get with “Stranger Things”. Netflix has really done well to create a cast that works so well together, they don’t seem like they are acting. That’s the sign of a good overall show. The actors play well together, going off nuanced acting elements, and lines that don’t feel forced at all. Sometimes, with young actors, you are thrown out of the screen by their lack of expertise in delivering lines. You never feel that way with this movie, as they all seem to point towards more experienced leanings. At the end of the day, you really get that Stephen King adaptation feeling, yet mixed with science fiction and horror elements as well.

A Lot of Connections To Tie Together

“Stranger Things” may only be in the first season, but it’s already getting a lot of buzz. Whether you’re a fan of horror or not, there’s a lot to look into with this show. The show is easy to watch, fluid, and very good overall. There are elements of horror, science fiction, drama, and much more. If you give this show a chance, you will be delighted by the beauty of how Netflix frames their shows. The visuals, the cinematography, the writing, and much more brings together a beautiful display. If you like 1980s movies, horror, and science fiction, this show has a lot to offer you.

Star Rating For “Stranger Things”

I’m going to give “Stranger Things” a 4 out of 5. It’s not perfect. But it has a lot to explore, and it’s fun to watch. It gets seriously dark at times, but there’s enough turning of the screws to keep you involved. If nothing else, consider the musical selections that are featured in the show. The musical elements are absolutely stellar. From The Clash to a haunting cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes”, there’s so much music that is on point, you’ll want to have the soundtrack. Very few shows capture the romance of coming of age with the horrors of scientific exploration, quite like “Stranger Things”. I recommend it.

Have you seen “Stranger Things”? Drop me a comment, and let me know what you think.