Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cult Killers -- A Frenzied Bloodbath of Exploitation!!!!!!!

Everything about Cult Killers screams exploitation true crime.  From the blurb on the book ("Their secret rituals always end in death!") to the fact that the cases are taken from "the files of True Detective magazine."  All of it has a ring of sensationalism to it.  Still not convinced?  Here are some of the pieces: "Occult Crime: Terror for the Innocents!," "Satanist Offered a Human Sacrifice," "'Skinheads' 'Boot Party' 'Bloodbath!,'" and my favorite, "Six Lovely Girls for Satan's Flesh Eaters!"

Satan's Flesh Eaters would be a great name for a band.

I'm actually rather picky when it comes to true crime books.  I do, however, have a soft spot for the trash Pinnacle used to print (and perhaps still does).  This book was originally published in 1984, which is when I bought it.  Even then I knew skinheads weren't a cult, but that didn't stop editor Rose G. Mandelsberg from including them.  (Maybe it had something to do with her last name.)

I read this book once and promptly filed it away.  Not for research purposes, but for laughs.  I figured there would be a time when I'd want to crack open its pages again and be stunned by Satanists throwing babies under trains or something.  If I sold it, I figured it would be hard to find again, too, as they quickies have a way of disappearing.

So it sits on my shelf, with a host of others, waiting to be reread.  That is ... if the Satanic skinheads don't get me first.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

John Waters

John Waters is, of course, best known for his films and appearance on The Simpsons, but he's also an author, and I have a few books by him and about him.   He's one of those guys who is fascinating in almost every aspect, and little of it has to do with his films.
I have mixed feelings on his movies.  Some I like quite a bit, and others kind of leave me flat.  I don't even own any of his movies, but I do own his books.  That alone is strange for me, as I usually try to keep a DVD library of anyone in my print library, too.

I don't have every book by or about Waters, though it is a goal of mine.   Most are pretty easily obtainable, and every single one I've read has been entertaining.  Whether he's covering his underground filmmaking in the early days, going to see the Care Bears movie solo, or yelling at abortion demonstrators, Waters has this way of saying things that cuts right to the heart of matters.  He understands this ridiculous culture we are knee-deep in, and he can dissect it like a drunk surgeon.

In the future, Waters' name will be remembered as one of American culture's greats.  Many may hate him because of his films (or his open homosexuality), but few can deny his observations.  Even the mainstream has grown to like him (a move that I think helped to dumb down his films).

Even if don't appreciate the man's cinematic works, you should at least give his books a try.  Not every essay will appeal to you, and some may righteously piss you off, but you will laugh, and you will think, and I'm sure one or two of you may actually check out the works that made him famous.  (If you do, I personally like Pecker and Female Trouble, but that's just me.)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Atlas Shrugged and Stuff

Ayn Rand.  Her name alone is enough to inspire either testicle curdling fear or respect.  I respect her, though I don't often agree with her religious faith in the power of capitalism.

One of Rand's most well-known books is the mammoth Atlas Shrugged.  It is an incredible work of literature that is full of passion and actually comes across as a working manifesto for Rand's philosophy of objectivism.  (Look it up if you want to know what it is, or you can read this book or Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.) Unlike most books that would attempt such a thing, it works as both.

I don't agree with everything Rand espouses.   I think that if capitalism really remained true to her ideals we may actually be better off in some ways, as the capitalism we have now (exploitation across the board, corporations at the government tit, lack of ethics) is really, to quote MDC, cannibalism.  That said, I still enjoy her work and find her passion for her beliefs to be amazing.  She was an active promoter of ego (and while she stated she was not primarily an advocate of capitalism, she definitely promoted the ideal), and she hated things like anarchism (which to me is the ultimate in egoism combined with a shared sense of ecological well-being) and socialism.  I believe that if she were alive today she would damn all capitalist and call Wall Street a whiny bunch of cokehead cry babies who can't control themselves even when they do themselves harm.

I know people have a hard time with Rand.  That's a given.  Her books are long, they require an intellectual investment, and you can disagree with her ideals.  Disagreeing is different than dismissing, however.  To understand her ideals, first you must read them.  She has thought them out.  She has applied meaning to them.  She is not afraid to put them to the test.

Shun her if you will.  Avoid her work if you must.  But don't dismiss her without at least reading Atlas Shrugged.  That would be pure ignorance on your part ... and it would prove her right.  

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Bleeding Out

I'm not one to read my bestsellers.  It's not that I shun them.  Not even close.  It's just that a lot of what I enjoy reading never makes it to any bestseller list.

I had always been interested in Richard Preston's The Hot Zone, mainly because I have an interest in viruses and the like.  That interest never resulted in me picking up the book, though.

Last year someone left a very tattered paperback copy of the book on a table in the kitchen at work.  I snagged it and just got around to reading it.

Fucking terrifying. 

Not terrifying in the Stephen King definition, but terrifying in the "holy Hell, this stuff happens and will happen again is there is nothing I can do about it" kind of way.

Ebola Zaire is not something to mess around with under any circumstance.

I could see why this was a bestseller.  It was fast-paced, well-written and targeted a general audience.  It worked in all the ways Leonard G. Horowitz's Emerging Viruses didn't.  (And I actually enjoyed that book, which came out three years earlier than Preston's book.

One of the problems with books about viruses is that there is an almost deer-in-headlights feel you get with them.  You go into them knowing the situation is bad, but you come out of them realizing you had no idea how screwed you were.  Like magic, the wool is lifted from your eyes, and it is a very unsettling feeling.  You have to respect a book that can do that, but at the same time it is mighty frustrating.

I know there are plenty of good books on medical terrors just floating around out there.  Some are fiction, others are not.  I can read about one a year before I go crazy, though.   For the exact same reason I stopped watching ER.  I get paranoid I have or will have whatever the major malady happens to be. 

If there's a better reason to stay away from bestsellers, I'd love to know it.