Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Memories of Private Parts

I used to be a Howard Stern fan (not that I am not a fan anymore, I just don't have access to his show).  I've always respected and supported his battles with the FCC, and while I haven't always agreed with what he's said, I've always supported his right to say it.

When Private Parts came out I was in Southern California, biding my time until I could move to Northern California and get the hell away from all the plastic viruses that make up Los Angeles and its outskirts. 

When that fateful day finally arrived, I got into the back of my aunt's car, and away we went, though I was given a gift for the ride.

Howard Stern's book was devoured on that car trip.  Cover to cover I read it and laughed aloud countless times.  (I haven't read it in years, but I seem to recall a passage about cutting Juliette Lewis' head off, which I'm all for.)  It was funny, and it was well-written.  And let's not forget compelling.  It was Stern's life laid bare; the ultimate underdog story.

Stern's life since then has had its ups and downs.  I remember actually being quite sad when I heard his marriage was ending, though I suppose it was only a matter of time.  Thinking back those memories makes me want to read the book again, though I just watched the movie again recently, so it will be some time before I turn back to it.

Say what you want about Stern (and plenty have).  He taps into something with people.  He is offensive, rude and often talks out his ass, but he is also truthful and unflinching.  He says things most people would never even think of, and he pushes people to their limits.  As a free speech junkie, I applaud that sort of action.  As a writer, I appreciate it.

If I could publish a book that sold half as many copies as Stern's book did, I'd be a happy man.  If I could fuck with the FCC as much as he did, I'd die with a smile on my face.

You may hate him, but what have you done?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Beyond All Men's Fears

I don't real a lot of philosophy.  Frankly, I think most of it is shit.  Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, however, is one book I keep on my shelf and refer back to probably far too often.

I was introduced to Nietzsche when he was referenced in an interview with Henry Rollins.  I was young and checked out the philosopher's writings, and for some reason it stuck.  If you know me and have read Nietzsche I don't think that's such a huge surprise. 

As I mentioned, I think most philosophy is shit.  It is either overly introspective to the point where it feels fake, or it isn't introspective enough.  Most of it, I feel, asks the wrong questions and comes to flawed conclusions.  Not so with Nietzsche.  His writing comes across as pure.  I know he is anything but pure, however the meaning is there.  (And that meaning has been exploited by others in not the most befitting manner.)

I don't even ever see myself buying many other philosophical works other than by Nietzsche.  I don't have a special spot on my shelf for philosophy that has anything but Nietzsche's works in it.  At the end of the day, it is what I turn to for quotes, inspiration and guidance.  Some may like Kant or Telesius.  Me?  I'll stick with my German every time.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Writing For the Masses

I recently finished Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism and decided I wanted to write a review of it for Associated Content.  I figured this might be the place to get the biggest audience of people who would never seek this book out on their own.  There's one problem, though: How do you write a review for the masses about a subject that most people have either no knowledge of or are totally misinformed about?

It is a lot harder than it sounds.

A vast majority of people get their views on anarchism strictly from the local news, which has never covered it correctly.  Even those in unions, which exist thanks to the past fights of the anarchists, have little knowledge of their group's anarchist roots.  Combine that with a nearly 400 page academic book and you have a situation where you almost can't write for a general audience.

I want the review to make the book sound appealing to those who would never consider reading it.  People interested in anarchist politics would have either already read it, or they would have it on their radar.  That isn't the audience I want.  I want the people whose knowledge of books is what they see in Borders.  So, in order to do that, I have the write the review as simple as possible (no detailed analysis of issues such as the role of gender in anarchist movements in Japan in the 1930s), while at the same time making sure the book's complexity is highlighted as to not mislead anyone.  I have to write the review to ensure that anyone who reads it and would be remotely interested in the subject matter will want to keep the book on their radar.

It's not often where you see books this specialized reviewed in venues that are designed to appeal to general audiences.  Usually they are given page space in journals and on specialized web sites.  That's because of the difficulty in writing such a review for general audiences.  It is almost an exercise in failure, and nobody wants to pay for that.  Luckily, Associated Content pays by page views, so it is up to the author to make his or her work appealing enough to get paid.

I don't know if I'll succeed.  I have a rough draft done, and I'm liking it so far.  It is simple enough not to bore, and it gives readers a good idea if they'll want to pick up the book or not.  Of course, my goal is to get people to read it, but I'm not hopeful enough to think someone is going to pick this up as a light summer read.  (That's why the Twilight series exists.)  But if I can get just one person to give it a shot, then I've done my job.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Visual Exploration of Fetish

I'm a big fan of photography books ... when it's a subject I enjoy.  Doris Kloster's Demimonde: A Visual Exploration of Fetish is one of those books.  Not that I'm the kind of guy who likes to dress up in leather chaps or be with a woman in some uniform (unless it's an SS uniform -- for some reason women are sexy in those, and I'm no Nazi sympathizer).  I just happen to enjoy the visuals, and this book captures the fetish aspect quite well.  You've got prostitutes, spankings, Catholic school girls, and so on.  I wrote a positive review of it for Amazon four years ago, and I stick by it.  Yeah, it's a coffee table book, but not one you want to leave around for your mother (unless that's your fetish).

Few people seem to understand that costumes and erotic photography can actually be art.  They see somehow bound and gagged and immediately think porn.  Yes, it can work as porn, much like the Victoria's Secret catalog provides masturbation material for thirteen-year-olds without the Internet or friends.  It goes beyond that, though, and isn't meant to be a self-pleasure aid, though I'm sure the photographers wouldn't mind if it were used as such.

Right now I'm working on a manuscript where one of the characters is a fetish photographer.  I've known a few of those, along with the models they use.  They are always interesting people.  I would even say that most of the ones I've met are fairly well-grounded, but open about their desires and their own fetishes.  Some look at this as a job.  Some are exploring their passions.  All of the photographers I've met treat it as art, while only some of the models share that sentiment.

I have book shelf space dedicated to art books and erotica.  (Oddly enough, there is only like one category separating them.)  Kloster's book is firmly in place in the art section.  One friend who happened to glance through it said it should definitely be in my "porn spot" (which is a highly inaccurate description).  We argued a bit about it until she admitted that she did find the pictures kind of a turn-on, and that's what made her think they deserved to be in the "porn" section.

Some people will never get it.  Some people will get it all too well.  Either way, I'm not moving it.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

AK Press Sale!

I received this e-mail.  Seems like a good time to stock up.

In This Email Monthly Review Sale Discounted AK Titles Forthcoming AK Titles Friends of AK Press Quick LinksAK Press - HomeNew Titles at AK PressDirt Cheap Sale ItemsFriends of AK
Revolution by the Book (AK Blog)
Save on Monthly Review Books All Month!
We had so much fun with last month's Mayday Spectacular sale, we've decided to keep up the discounting action. So from now on, we're going feature a different publisher each month and put ALL their books on 25% discount for the whole month. That way you'll get a sense of all the great publishers we work with, and you'll save money at the same time! Doesn't that sound fun?

So, to kick things off, our featured publisher for the month of June is Monthly Review Press-an independent socialist publisher, and the publishing arm of Monthly Review magazine. They're known for their books on political economy, history, ecology, and labor, among many other essential topics.

Check out all the Monthly Review titles, in their discounted glory, or read on for a few highlights...
Monthly Review: Recent & Recommended  [Image]The ABCs of the Economic Crisis: What Working People Need to KnowMichael D Yates & Fred Magdoff
Sale price: $8.96 (list price $11.95)
The economic crisis has created a host of problems for working people: collapsing wages, lost jobs, ruined pensions, and the anxiety that comes with not knowing what tomorrow will bring. Compounding all this is a lack of reliable information that speaks to the realities of workers. In this short, clear, and concise book, Fred Magdoff and Michael D. Yates explain the nature of the economic crisis as a normal and even expected outcome of a thoroughly irrational and destructive system. No amount of tinkering with capitalism can overcome the core contradiction of the system: the daily exploitation and degradation of the majority of the world's people by a tiny minority of business owners. This book is aimed primarily at working people, students, and activists, who want not just to understand the world but to change it.

For more background on the financial crisis from Monthly Review, see also The Great Financial Crisis. [Image]Anarchism: From Theory To PracticeDaniel GuérinSale price: $10.50 (list price $14.00)
A classic introductory book on anarchism, with a strong Marxist flavor. Excellent both on the intellectual substance of anarchism and its actual practice through the Bolshevik Revolution, the Spanish Civil War, the Italian Factory Councils, and workers' self-management in Yugoslavia and Algeria. With an introduction by Noam Chomsky. [Image]Discourse on Colonialism
Aimé CésaireSale price: $10.50 (list price $14.00)
Césaire's work, crucial to the anti-colonial struggles of the 50s and 60s, now haunts us again. His questions about the role of imperialism and slavery and of concepts like the "savage" or the "primitive" as central to the construction of "civilization," of the West and of progress remind us that the carnage in Africa, Asia, and the Americas which is our history is not past; it is lodged deep in the heart of Western cultures. As Césaire said, "It is equally necessary to decolonize our minds, our inner life, at the same time we decolonize society." [Image]Eurocentrism: Modernity, Religion, and Democracy, A Critique of Eurocentrism and Culturalism
Samir AminSale price: $13.46 (list price $17.95)
Since its first publication twenty years ago, Eurocentrism has become a classic of radical thought. Written by one of the world's foremost political economists, this original and provocative essay takes on one of the great "ideological deformations" of our time. Rejecting the dominant Eurocentric view of world history, which narrowly and incorrectly posits a progression from the Greek and Roman classical world to Christian feudalism and the European capitalist system, Amin presents a sweeping reinterpretation that emphasizes the crucial historical role played by the Arab Islamic world. Throughout the work, Amin addresses a broad set of concerns, ranging from the ideological nature of scholastic metaphysics to the meanings and shortcomings of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism.

Also by Samir Amin, from Monthly Review: The World We Wish To See. [Image]Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a ContinentEduardo Galeano Sale price: $13.50 (list price $18.00)

The best single volume on 500 years of exploitation and resistance of Latin America's "open veins." Rather than chronology, geography, or political successions, Galeano has organized the various facets of Latin American history according to the patterns of five centuries of exploitation. Weaving fact and imagery into a rich tapestry, Galeano fuses scientific analysis with the passions of a plundered and suffering people. This classic is now further honored by Isabel Allende's inspiring introduction.

For another Galeano classic from Monthly Review, check out Days and Nights of Love and War. [Image]The Structural Crisis of CapitalIstván MészárosSale price: $20.21 (list price $26.95)
In this collection of trenchant essays and interviews, István Mészáros lays bare the exploitative structure of modern capitalism. He argues with great power that the world's economies are on a social and ecological precipice, and that unless we take decisive action to radically transform our societies we will find ourselves thrust headfirst into barbarism and environmental catastrophe. Mészáros, however, is no pessimist. He believes that the multiple crises of world capitalism will encourage the working class to demand center stage in the construction of a new system of production and distribution designed to meet human needs rather than serve the relentless pursuit of profit.

Also by István Mészáros, from Monthly Review: The Challenge and Burden of Historical Time. [Image]The Taming of the American Crowd: From Stamp Riots to Shopping Sprees Al SandineSale price: $14.21 (list price $18.95)
The history of the United States has been largely shaped, for better or for worse, by the actions of large groups of people. Rioters on a village green, shoppers lurching about a labyrinthine mall, slaves packed into the dark hold of a ship, strikers assembling outside the factory gates, all have their place in the rich and sometimes tragic history of the American crowd. This unique study traces that history from the days of anti-colonial revolt to today's passive 'colonized crowds' that fill our sports arenas, commercial centers, and workplaces. In clear and lively prose, Al Sandine argues for role crowds have played in securing greater democracy, civil rights, and free speech. But he also investigates crowds in their more dangerous forms, such as lynch mobs and anti-immigrant riots. [Image]When Media Goes to War: Hegemonic Discourse, Public Opinion, and the Limits of DissentAnthony DiMaggio Sale price: $14.21 (list price $18.95)
In this fresh and provocative book, Anthony DiMaggio uses the conflicts with Iraq and Iran as his touchstones to probe the sometimes fine line between news and propaganda. Using Gramsci's concept of hegemony and drawing upon the seminal works of Noam Chomsky, Edward Herman, and Robert McChesney, DiMaggio enlightens readers about issues essential to the struggle for a critical media and a functioning democracy. If our newspapers and television news programs play a decisive role in determining what we think, and if what the media give us is largely propaganda in support of an oppressive and undemocratic status quo, then it is incumbent upon us to make sure that they are responsive to the majority and not just the powerful and privileged few.

Also about the media, from Monthly Review: The Language of Empire, The Political Economy of Media, and The Problem of the Media. Featured AK Press Titles: 50% Off! [Image]Each month we also bring you a new selection of featured AK Press backlist titles at an enticing 50% discount! Here are the new featured titles for June:

Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, CounterPower Vol. I
Michael Schmidt & Lucien van der Walt
Sale price: $11.50 (list price $22.95)
Critical Mass: Bicycling's Defiant Celebration
Edited by Chris Carlsson
Sale price: $9.50 (list price $18.95)

1936: The Spanish Revolution
The Ex
Sale price: $12.50 (list price $24.95)

Igniting A Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth
Edited by Steven Best & Anthony J. Nocella II
Sale price: $11.00 (list price $21.95)
Real Utopia: Participatory Society for the 21st Century
Edited by Chris Spannos
Sale price: $11.00 (list price $21.95)

Anarchism in America DVD
Edited by Steven Fischler & Joel Sucher
Sale price: $10.00 (list price $19.95) Forthcoming AK Press Titles: 25% Off! [Image]We've been busy around here lately, getting LOTS of new AK Press books sent off to the printer... and we hope you'll be as excited as we are about the results. Check out the next few books that are coming out from AK Press, and preorder yours today! We'll bill you and send your books as soon as they arrive in our warehouse from the printer.
Wasting Libby: The True Story of How the WR Grace Corporation Left a Montana Town to Die
Andrea Peacock
Preorder now for $11.95 (list price $15.95)
Dispersing Power: Social Movements as Anti-State Forces
Raul Zibechi
Preorder now for $11.95 (list price $15.95)
Uses of a Whirlwind: Movement, Movements, and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States
Edited by Team Colors Collective
Preorder now for $14.95 (list price $19.95)
Sparking A Worldwide Energy Revolution: Social Struggles in the Transition to a Post-petrol World
Edited by Kolya Abramsky
Preorder now for $16.50 (list price $21.95) Become a Friend of AK Press! [Image]Support anarchist publishing! To thank you for your monthly contribution of $25 or more, we'll send you a copy of every new AK Press title hot off the press—plus you'll get a 20% discount on anything we sell, anytime! With so many great titles at the printer, there's no time like the present to sign up as a Friend of AK.
Sign up now and get a stylish tote bag featuring the new Friends of AK logo designed by Josh MacPhee. If you're already a FoAK, just refer someone else, and if they mention you when they sign up, you'll both get a tote bag. And that's not all-if you keep referring more people after your first, you'll get a $20 AK Press gift certificate for each additional new FoAK you sign up!