Monday, December 10, 2012

A Trailer for "Nothing Men"

Here's a trailer for my book.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pure Filth ... Pure Style ... Pure Sadism

What drives a woman to let a man choke her, defecate on her, write horribly nasty things on her body and generally treat her worse than he would treat a dog?  For some it's a simple as needing to pay the bills.  Others like it.  Perhaps no two people know this better than Jamie Gillis and Peter Sotos.  Neither should need an introduction, but allow me to do so anyway.

Gillis was a porn star.  I say "was" because he's dead.  He's considered the inventor of gonzo porn, and if you saw Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights, well that was supposed to be Gillis. 

Sotos is a writer who dabbles in some very dark stuff.  He writes of sadistic, violent crimes ... often involving children ... often written in the first person ... often based in reality.  He was once arrested for obscenity and possession of child pornography based on what was on the cover of the second issue of his Pure 'zine.  The obscenity charged was dropped.  He pled guilty to possession.

Pure Filth is made up of transcripts courtesy of Sotos, of some of Gillis darker porn stuff (and an out-of-control commissioned video).  Sotos and Gillis each wrote an introduction, and Gillis wrote a little commentary before each transcript.  The book took about a decade to come out because Gillis was shopping around a memoir and didn't want Feral House (the publisher of the Gillis/Sotos collaboration) putting out something that could scare the major publishers.  (The proposed memoir apparently freaked out the publishers anyway for scenes Gillis recounted, including one where a girl just shy of 13 years of age offered Gillis some oral favors and he accepted.)  Pure Filth isn't horrific, but it is an examination of degradation of some of the worst sorts as well as being a study in what gets the juices flowing in some people.  Some would say the women in these films were nothing but common whores, but reading the transcripts proves otherwise.  Some are broken.  Some are abused.  Some want to be broken and abused.  Most people don't want to know this stuff exists.  Fewer still want to read about it.  If you want some insight into human nature, however, you can't ignore this.  It's disrespectful.

The book is expensive enough to keep it out of the hands of those who are mere dabblers.  Those who do decide to take the plunge won't regret it.  Some of it may bother you.  Some of it may intrigue you.  Some of it may have you questioning humanity.  By the end of it you may not have a better understanding of human nature, but you will have some new insights into yourself and what you are able to tolerate.  And if you aren't careful, you may just find yourself a bit turned on by what has transpired.  Either way, you'll probably never look at a toilet the same way again.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer:  I paid for this book.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Books Aren't Just For Reading! (Utter Nonsense)

"Books aren't just for reading!"  That's the line I read in a magazine while waiting in a doctor's office some years ago.  It was an article about tips on decorating your home or apartment, with incredibly helpful tips on how to arrange books on a shelf so they look pleasing to the eye and how to use them to create a step pattern so that you can put candles on them.  (It was quick to note that you should not actually light the candles as they are on top of books.  Apparently the author thought that candles, like books, were mere props to show off how intellectually stunted the homeowner or renter happened to be.)


Books are for reading.  They aren't decorative props.  They aren't there to prop a window open or level out a table.  Using them as such says a lot about the user, and none of it is good.

I'm a firm believer in John Waters' advice.  If you go to someone's house and they don't have books, don't fuck them.  I can't think of a better bit of advice to give someone.  If a person doesn't have at least a few books on their shelves, how interesting do you think they are going to be?  Perhaps they don't think books are "cool" or "stimulating" enough.  There are literally thousands of titles (some of which I cover on this blog) that say differently.  Books on serial killers, fallen athletes, sex slaves, UFO abductions, criminals of the worst sort, Nazis, cannibalism, revenge, bomb making, body modification, conspiracy theories ... the list goes on.  If you can't find something that interests you, how do you expect someone to find you interesting?

So, if you go to someone's house and they don't have any books, keep away from their naughty bits.  If they do have books, but they're being used as a stand for a decorative vase, burn their freakin' house down.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Smut Unbound: The Elizabeth de la Place Interview

Elizabeth de la Place is the author of short stories with wholesome titles like The Billionaire’s Babysitter: Deflowering the Sitter, Sexy Hardcore Lesbians, Lesbian Strap-On Party, Ambulance Slut, Cum on and Haze Me, and Tie Me Up Teacher. (Click on the pictures for any you want to order.)  Obviously these aren’t for kids or their conservative parents, and they may even be a little more than what the Fifty Shades of Grey crowd can endure, but I was intrigued by them … and more importantly the woman behind them.   De la Place and I “met” on Smashwords, and after I reviewed The Billionaire’s Babysitter: Deflowering the Sitter, I decided to interview her.  After all, it’s not too many “smut” writers who would be willing to be so open about what they do.

De la Place is a college student studying chemistry at what she describes as a “liberal arts college.”  “I write for my school’s feminist newspaper,” she says, “and I hope to get my PhD after I graduate.  I think a lot of erotica authors lie on their author bios, but I actually was a cheerleader throughout middle and high school – my experiences and the stories the other girls would tell definitely serve well as inspiration for me now.”  In fact, the camp in Zombies at Cheer Camp was based on a cheerleading camp de la Place attended.

So how did this former cheerleader start down the much maligned path of writing erotica that borders on pure porn?  The answer is pretty simple: She read a forum post about it and the rest was history. De la Place explains, “I figured that it would be fun to try out – at the very least, if it didn’t work out, it would make for a great story.”  Since her personal sexual fantasies were “pretty involved,” it made getting those fantasies onto the page a bit easier, but as any writer knows, writing is only part of the battle.  The other part involves your readers and what they think of your work.  Erotica has its share of rabid fans and detractors.  Bad porn still can fulfill a masturbation need in the lonely, but bad erotica causes the author to be treated like a leper at the prom.  Everyone wants to look, but nobody wants to dance.  De la Place has been lucky.

“The reaction has been really good!” she states.  “I’ve received fan mail, which is exciting, and my friends, many of whom help me edit and provide me with ideas, have been really supportive and encouraging.  Even if they do make fun of me a little bit.”  De la Place’s subject matter (barely legal erotica, for instance) hasn’t caused an outrage, either, which is surprising when you consider American culture.  “I like to think that, as a younger woman and as a queer woman, I manage to handle those subjects well.   A lot of barely legal erotica strikes me as a little skeevy because I don’t like the idea of a docile, infantile woman – even when the female characters in my stories are being submissive, I want to make sure that they are willing and clever participants.  It’s easy for me to put myself in their shoes and to insert a bit of my own personality into them.  There is one subject she does shy away from, however.

“I would never do a rape/dubcon scene for pure titillation,” she explains.  “I do a lot of work with survivors of rape and abuse, and I think that using the rape of people, especially the ‘Oh, s/he enjoyed it in the end, so it’s okay,’ does a lot of bad things with regard to normalizing rape culture.  Only one of my stories features some mild dubious consent, and I struggled a lot with the decision to include it.”

De la Place’s works aren’t novels.  They are short stories ranging anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 words, which some would say is just right for a piece of erotic fiction as it gets right to the “good stuff.”  The price for these pieces is $2.99 (more for the bundled works).  “That’s less than a price of a cup of fancy coffee,” de la Place explains, “and a sexy story is the sort of thing you can read again and again.”

Independent authors of ebooks and stories are left to price their works themselves.  It was something I struggled with when it came to pricing my books and short stories, and it is something Place thought hard about, as well.  “My prices mostly come from what I think they’re worth without underselling myself, and from my observations on how the really successful erotica authors price their work.”   One key indicator of how appropriately a piece is priced is by how well it is selling.  For relatively unknown authors, the price can mean the difference between fame and famine, as they don’t have their name to trade in on.  De la Place’s sales vary.

“I have a short story,” Place says, “Ambulance Slut,  that I joke about because I don’t think it sold a single copy in the United States for months after publishing, but it sold bizarrely well on Amazon UK for a while.  As time goes on, my sales have been increasing a lot – I make more in a week than I did in my first few months.”  I had a similar situation happen with Melinda.  It sold in America, but someone apparently started a discussion about it on some British forum, and suddenly I was seeing a spike in sales overseas and hearing from Brits who had a fetish involving starving women.  It was odd to say the least, and it did get me thinking about writing some truly fetishistic porn in order to supplement the bank account.  While I haven’t thoroughly ditched the idea yet, looking at the amount of work de la Place produces has given me pause. 

In June she published “about a dozen titles.”  The next month she did about six.  “I hope to get five more titles online before I go back to university at the end of August,” she states.  “My production will definitely slow down when I’m in school, since classes are my absolute first priority, but I hope that I’ll still be able to publish a few times a month.”

With the amount of short stories de la Place puts out, I felt the need to ask her if she thought she had a novel in her.  As any writer can tell you, there is a world of difference between writing a short story and writing a novel.  “I don’t know,” she answers.  “I’d like to think so.  I’d definitely be interested in writing young adult novels, but I’m not sure if I’m cut out for a longer length.”  For the immediate future, however, de la Place is sticking with what she knows.

“Up next are probably more lesbian works, maybe a dip into fantasy and sci-fi, and hopefully the conclusion to the Cum on and Haze Me trilogy.  I have a big document full of ideas, but when it comes down to it, most of my stories are based on what I feel like writing that day.  Sometimes I wake up and really want to write about horny schoolgirls, and other days I feel like writing about some gay knights having sex with a dragon.  It’s always a surprise, but it also helps to keep me from getting burned out.”

With ideas like that, who needs a novel?  It seems like the short story is working just fine for this author.  And while I’m not quite sure I’d enjoy reading about gay knights having sex with a dragon, I’m fairly positive there are some folks in Europe who will make that a best seller.

Mandated FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Simple Study in Economics

Kersten Kelly’s Ec•o•nom•ics: A Simple Twist on Normalcy takes a lot of inspiration from Freakonomics.  Anyone expecting a rehash of that book is going to be sorely disappointed, however.  Kelly’s work stands on its own, and its goal is to make a vast, complex subject a little more understandable.  Does it work?  Yes, but with a price.

Kelly writes in a very conversational style, which helps when dealing with economics and the theories that drive the marketplace and consumers.  She examines the complexities behind things like what dictates lipstick purchases in a struggling economy and the how people’s decisions are swayed on a show like Deal or No Deal and then ties them into simple economics.  If you have a passing interest in this subject, this book will whet your appetite for more.  If you are a seasoned pro, however, you may find it a little too basic, but that is the book’s allure.  While Freakonomics, a book I enjoyed, took strange situations (such as how legalized abortion affected the crime rate) and applied science to it, Kelly takes ordinary situations that we take for granted and examines why they work the way they do.  Fast food, car purchases, the Cold War, extreme couponing, dating sites – she hits them all, and while this is a good starting point, many of these issues are far more complicated than this book would have you believe.  That doesn’t matter, though, because sometimes a simple understanding is more than enough to give you solid ground to stand on.

Freakonomics took relatively simple ideas and problems and showed how complex they were.  Ec•o•nom•ics takes complex issues and shows how simple they can be.  The two books, while vastly different, complement each other quite well.  There is still much for Kelly to uncover, however, and it makes me wonder if she is working on a new volume.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I received this book to review.  Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

50 Shades of Shrugs

If you pay any attention to the news, mommy porn is big.  Now, I thought it was something different than what Brian Williams was yattering about, but whatever.  Fifty Shades of Grey is apparently all the rage for women reconnecting with their vibrators.  Hell, Target sells it.  It must be racy.

Obviously, I like the idea that a book is getting press.  It reminds others that there are people out there still reading.  I don't care if they are books about boy wizards or women being tied up.  These days, getting people to crack a book's spine is often a massive undertaking.  So, if a book about a young college girl in relationship with an older man who likes to get a little kinky (and I'm sure it's very little) does the trick, so be it.  I suppose it could be worse.

I know of a woman who was reading it as an eBook.  She described it to me as -- wait for it -- steamy.  I asked her what made it so.  She had a hard time explaining it and told me I would just "have to read it for myself."  I passed, but not because I think I am above it or something.  No, I passed because I know that if the masses are embracing it as some kind of erotic thrill ride it is most likely neither of those things.  You can't trust the masses with voting, television shows, books or movies.  Nine times out of ten, the masses will be wrong, and that one time they are right it will be a fluke they cannot explain.  I don't like those odds.

Fifty Shades of Grey, part one of a clitoris-engorging trilogy, may be an erotic masterpiece.  It could put Sex Lounge to shame.  But, and I ask this in all seriousness, how bad can it be if Walmart and Target carry it?  Sure, some libraries in the South have apparently banned it last I heard, but that's the South.  They'd ban all books if they could figure out a way to do it without appearing totally backwards.  Target and Walmart are not going to carry anything that pushes the envelope too far, or causes too much teen masturbation. It's just not going to happen.  Read the reviews on Walmart's webpage that are written by actual readers!  The term love making is actually in quotes once, and more than one person keeps stating it is for "mature readers," whatever that may mean. (One person did write "matured" reader.) Emotionally mature?  Physically mature?  Readers who moved on from the boy wizard and company?  Is it "adults only," as one reviewer says? Another would-be critic said it made her "sweat."  Another calls it "educational," and one of my favorites says there's more to the story than just "adult activity," which I take to mean things like paying taxes and getting checked for lumps. 

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover, and sometimes by its readers.  If I take these reviews to heart, I can be sure to experience a mature read that is educational when it comes to adult activities.  About the most I can say in its defense is that the author, E.L. James, has sure hit the right crowd.  They definitely need an education.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Pure Filth Arrives Shrinkwrapped

There it was. Fresh from the printer. Shrinkwrapped. Cover price? An ironic $69. Peter Sotos. Jamie Gillis. I had wanted it since I saw it on Feral House's website. Pure Filth. Knowing of the two minds behind it, I could only imagine how it would read. As I peeled off the plastic, I found out. I wasn't ready to read it yet. I'm still reading Eyes to the South, an incredibly interesting examination of Algeria. But I had to look through. Examine the photos. Read a few passages.

It was as I expected it to be.

Sotos is a disturbing writer. Here he is transcribing a series of films. If you are familiar with the two men, you have an idea of what you'll read. I imagine that when I finally sit down with it I will be beyond captivated. Of course, this isn't something I want to take in casually. It will be an experience ... one unlike most reads.

While others devour Fifty Shades of Gray and feel somewhat transgressive or racy, I will picture them reading this and cringing in horror. That mom porn is fantasy. This is reality. And what a terrible reality it appears to be. This isn't the kind of stuff that those S&M/B&D weekenders call "play." This is deadly serious stuff. Mouths pried wide open for some humiliating wonders. It's the kind of thing that if you read it and it gives you an erection, you may want to seek out a psychologist. Otherwise, you may just end up trolling the streets looking for hookers who seem like they won't know the kind of trouble they're about to find up until about five minutes after they are knee deep in it. Mommy porn, indeed.

The last Sotos book I read gave me nightmares. It bothered me so much I stopped working on my sex and violence manuscript. I expect this one to effect me a bit differently. This isn't from Sotos' mind. He's a witness to it. He is merely the notebook man. That said, my guess is that while he watched these films, there was a definite erection going on ... and he totally understood why. Another guess? There was a bit of a smile, too, but not the kind you are thinking ...

 Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: Clicking on a link may earn me a commission.

Monday, March 12, 2012

National Bracket Day Proves a Book's Thesis

CNN Headline News has done a few stories today on National Bracket Day. I'm not sure if this is a "real" day like Valentine's Day, or if it is something the channel made up, but it serves to prove the thesis of Dumbing Down: Essays on the Strip-Mining of American Culture. As a culture, we Americans are getting dumber by the minute. The fact that CNN is covering NCAA brackets as a news item proves it. (Yes, I know this is the same channel that, on the same day, covered a shark feeding frenzy as news and seemed to care a lot about Whitney Houston's daughter talking to Oprah. These things served as bookends on a piece on an American soldier going berserk in an incident sure to cripple international relations, yet handled with the same level of severity as, say, high gas prices. The book was first written in 1997, and I would posit that American culture has actually gotten worse. It isn't that it has become "dumber." It's that culture doesn't seem to even exist anymore. Everything is throw-away. The attention span of the American public is about ten months, which ensures that nothing stays around long enough to have an influence on the culture, and when, by law of averages, it does, it isn't anything good (e.g., American Idol Also reported on CNN Headline News: Jeff Foxworthy is supporting Mitt Romney. At what point would any news network take Foxworthy's support of a character as anything other than something to be mocked? Apparently never. I imagine when this is a news item, National Bracket Day coverage (complete with cheerleaders -- I kid not) is not far off. Dumbing Down has some troubling aspects to it, and I don't agree with every essay in it, but as a whole it is a powerful and damning work that should be read by those whose opinion on American culture is less than ideal. The rest of you can fill out your brackets and take much comfort in the fact that you aren't alone. Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this book to review. It was a gift. If you click on a link you may cause me to earn a commission.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Your Death Song Stays On My Mind

If you read a lot of horror fiction from the '80s you know two things: Stephen King would promote anything, and you had to wade through a lot of crap to get to something satisfying.  Douglas Borton's Death Song was promoted by King, and it is part of the crap I waded through.

I don't remember how I came across this book, but based on its condition, I believe I bought it used.  It sat on my shelf a long time before I got to reading it just recently.  I finished it, too, but it was a chore.

The plot gives a nod to H.P. Lovecraft and takes his ideas (dark gods out there just waiting to destroy our world) and then gives a female country singer the power to conjure and destroy them.  Along the way she encounters cultists who are out to kill her.  The preferred killing method?  Song.  Unholy songs that cause you to do things like grow creatures in your stomach or kill yourself.  It's a good idea, actually, and the novel moves at a very fast pace, but it falls apart in one key place: its main character, Billie Lee Kidd, the country singer I mentioned.

Billie Lee Kidd never comes across as believable ... especially when it comes to her dialogue.  She cracks wise almost constantly, even when faced with death.  That's a symptom of a writer taking in too many bad movies and trying to make a "cool" character.  She's not very likable, either, which is not something I can really complain about since I write characters that aren't very likable, too.  At least I make my characters interesting, however.  With Kidd, the little bit we know doesn't make us want to know more.  We know she got bit by a snake as a kid.  We know she's a country singer.  We know she sleeps around a lot.  None of this really helps us know her.  Therefore, when she is in danger (most of the novel), we don't really care what happens to her.  We also never get a real sense of how pressing this coming of the dark gods truly is.  We know the world will be destroyed, but it is handled with the same weight as, say, 30 people being killed.

I'm a firm believer that for horror to work well, you have to have characters readers can care about.  They may not always like them, but they have to care for them in one way or another.  If they don't, the horror is lost.  That is the case here.  It is a shame, too, as it had much promise.  The "prologue," so to speak, reads like something from Robert E. Howard, and that's good, but it's fairly downhill from there, with just a few moments of greatness to keep you strung along.

I'll be putting this book on eBay at some point.  It won't pain me to part with it, and it means I'll probably be avoiding any other books with Borton's name on the cover.  At least King isn't pushing every horror book out these days.  I just wish he would've been more selective back in the '80s.

Mandatory FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive this book to review.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Pricing Debate on eBooks Continues

My thoughts on the whole subject sparked some more debate on the topic on various boards.  One of the more interesting things I noticed was that some readers are liable to spend more on books written by independent authors over those published by the major publishing houses.  They seem to understand that the indie authors struggle more, and therefore are "voting with their dollars."  They also are willing to pay a little more for those books.  Again, understanding the finances involved in being an independent author.  Granted, there are those who think the eBooks should all be .99 cents or free, and they are quick to point out that there are authors who make quite a bit of money selling for .99 cents.  That is true, but it is not the norm.

The eBook marketed is flooded.  It is hard for authors who aren't well known to get their work out there to be seen.  Self-promotion only goes so far, but word of mouth can work wonders.  That word of mouth can also drive sales despite whatever the price.

Amazon and Smashwords have it right.  Letting authors set the price sets up a situation much like eBay.  It is what the market can handle, and it is fluid.  If an author has found she has priced to high, she can lower it, and vice versa.  A good book is going to sell regardless ... if people know about it.  That, over pricing, is the key to selling books.

The market is still new enough that pricing will work itself out and a happy medium will be found.  While that happens, authors have to find a way to make their work stick out over all the other eBooks out there.  The playing field has been somewhat leveled, with authors now being able to get their books out there without the aid of a publisher.  Getting the rest of the world to see your book is the real challenge, and it looks to be that way for quite some time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pricing eBooks

The topic of the pricing of eBooks came up on a board I regularly post on.  Chiefly, why are eBooks so expensive?  There is, of course, a lot of different factors that go into this sort of thing.  Who has the rights?  Who must get paid?  So on and so forth.  It's the same thing that dictates every purchase one makes (unless, of course, you're one of those filth who believes you should just be able to exploit artists because they are there). 

The pricing of my short stories and Nothing Men was something I put a lot of thought into.  I put a lot of research into the novel (most writers do).  I had delved into everything from old gas pumps to Native American tanning techniques and was privy to some of the grimest footage anyone can imagine.  (A refrigerator filled with body parts and a several bins filled with the pieces of one man are two that stick out.  For the icebox, I'm not talking like a few feet in Dahmer's apartment.  I'm talking "packed" with discoloring limbs.)  The amount of research I put into it, though, wasn't going to play into my pricing.  This was something I did to make the story the best I could. No.  One question came up time and time again as I pondered a price.

What is fair?

What would I pay for the work?  Taking myself out of the equation and looking at it honestly, what would I pay?  I'm not an unknown in the world of publishing, but nor am I Clive Barker.  With that in mind, what can I reasonably ask for without sounding like a total dick.  And that's how I arrived at my pricing.  (Ironically, I sold more copies of Nothing Men, which you can purchase to the right of the screen, when it was full price.  I had briefly put it on sale as a special to some board readers and sold not a single copy.  Pricing most likely has less to do with a buying decision than one thinks.)

I think my prices are reasonable.  The works don't sell as well as I'd like, but I think that has little to do with pricing and everything to do with word of mouth.  There are a lot of eBooks out there.  Making mine stand out in a crowd has been difficult to say the least.  I have it available for ever eReader now, but the competition is fierce.  Standing out amongst the Young Adult vampire tales is a tough thing, especially when I write about subject matter that is a bit more hostile than what the average reader is used to taking in.  There is a market for it, though, including a few I didn't know existed (Brits who have a fetish for starving women, for example). 

I do think some eBooks are vastly overpriced.  I also think some are underpriced, as well (a complaint you don't often hear).  If authors had a little more confidence in their work, that could change, but the key point must remain relevant:  What is fair?  If you stick to that, you can't go wrong.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Personality Goes a Long Way

Boy howdy does it!  The proof?  Florence Littauer's seminal Personality Plus (found on at my job for free, but a price sticker on its cover indicates someone got it for a mere .30 cents).  I tried to find an image of the edition I have online (with its lovely photo of the author), but it wasn't happening.  I then tried to take a picture of it with my phone.  If you don't see the photo here it is because my phone's personality is out of whack.

This book promises you "how to understand others by understanding yourself."  And to make sure you are getting your .30 cents worth, it includes a "Personality Profile Test!"  Now I know what you are thinking.  Why on Earth would anyone need this book?  I was thinking the same thing until I read the back cover.  Then it became perfectly and painfully clear.  Everyone needs this book!

"Are you the life of the party ... or do you refuse to be 'caught dead' at one?  Do you get along with everyone ... or wish that everyone would just move along?  Do you push people into doing what you want ... or do you need a big push to get moving?  If the answer to any of these is yes, then Personality Plus has the help you need to understand yourself and others better."  Well shit the bed!  Littauer has hit the nail on its pretty little introverted head.  This "lighthearted examination" is going to show readers how to get along with others, a skill not learned in school or in the home.  Thank goodness such a heady and decidedly dicey topic can be covered in a "lighthearted" way in a mere 188 pages.

Or should I thank God?

Littauer's book makes a lot of promises, but none is as ominous as this one.  "Florence Littauer shares amusing anecdotes and wise insights that will give you an appreciation of God-ordained personality differences."  I wonder which personality difference God ordained unto child-killer and cannibal Albert Fish.  Perhaps it is covered in the chapter "Let's Have Fun With the Sanguine."  Perhaps not.

Sprinkled throughout the chapters, personality deprived readers will encounter stories that seem to be plainly made up.  "One day as I was driving down the freeway with my Melancholy [sic] son, Fred, I noticed all the bankings were covered with bright, white daisies.  'Look at those beautiful flowers!' I exclaimed.  As Fred turned, his eyes fell on a large weed and he sighed, 'Yes, but look at that weed.'"
I don't think that really happened.

The end of the book, which assures us that we are all unique blends who don't like to be fenced in, has quotes from the Bible and an interesting chapter on Eugenics.  I'm kidding on that part.  I wanted to see if everyone was still reading.  Though, honestly, I could easily see this "lighthearted" romp through the many facets of personality (broke into just a few groups here) easily be turned into something more sinister.  I have found, through scientific study, that 188 pages is precisely what you need to cause a person to turn against another ethnic or religious group.

The bottom line is: If you have turned to this book in order to understand yourself or others better, you're already in a lot of trouble and this book won't help.  It's not nearly enough pages to get you out of the swamp you are in.  I'm sure church groups loved it and chuckled at the stories, true or not.  Reality is far harsher mistress, however.  And I don't think there's a Bible quote for that.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Assimilation In Four, Three, Two ...

Later this month AK Press is publishing Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots: Flaming Challenges to Masculinity, Objectification, and the Desire to Conform.  I'm getting it as part of the Friends of AK Press program, and it is a subject I've been interested in for a while.  Why would a group so generally despised and misunderstood want to conform to society's norms so badly?  It obviously goes well beyond equal rights (you can still have equal rights without having to adopt the values of society as a whole), and I want to know what drives that.  Is it that most people, no matter what their particular bent, have a desire to conform?  Is it a bit of self-loathing that manifests itself after years of being told you are inferior and an aberration?  Is it that 95% of the population is just idiotic?  It's a fascinating subject, and I'm glad AK Press is tackling it, though I'm sure it will cause a bit of a controversy.

I don't know what directions the book will take (and it is an anthology, so expect the usual variants in quality), but my guess is that the question of why many homosexuals feel the only safe route to take is one where you mimic heterosexual culture in every way you can -- marriage, children, voting Republican -- may be delved into and taken to task, and that is something that needs to be done.  In the span of history, the modern gay rights movement is fairly young, and it has come a long way, but there are factions within it that seem to have forgotten what was being fought for, and I think this may be the book that helps set the record straight -- no pun intended. 

Like many AK Press books, I probably won't be reading it as soon as it arrive in my PO box, but when I do, you can expect a review here.  In the meantime, I advise anyone with at least a passing interest in the subject to check it out ... as I predict this tome is going to get a lot of press in all the right places.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Culture of Idiocy

From the back of The Culture of Terrorism: "The exposure of the lies and corruption surrounding Iran/contra dealings in early 1988 finally revealed to the world the means by which US administrations have used the state apparatus to organise a clandestine network of global terrorism."  After picking up the book, which I was reading but had set aside, the person read the back and asked, "So you want to learn how to be a terrorist?"

Seriously.  That was the question?

How can one read the book description and think that Noam Chomsky's work is a handbook on how to be a terrorist?  Where does that even come from?  What words were in that paragraph that would lead anyone to believe such a thing?

My response was, "I already know how to do that.  I want to see how the pros do it."  What else could I say?  Anything I said would be unheard anyway.  If someone isn't going to pay attention to a description they just read, they sure as hell aren't going to listen to whatever answer I have to offer, so why bother trying to enter into a debate or even take the question seriously?  Exercises in futility are not sins, but they should be.  Frankly, even if the person hadn't read the book's description, the title in no way says that it is a how-to manual.

Lesson learned on that cloudy day?  If you read a book like this in public, be prepared for people to think you are a terrorist in training.  Don't try to explain any differently, either, as it is highly unlikely they will accept your answer.  How did this guy respond to me?  He just nodded his head and went on with his business.  Seems about right.
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