The White Zombie Way

Are you tired of your workers wasting your money? Are your employees missing that get up and go that drives your profit margins? Well, look no further, my friends. The solution is here. My patented White Zombie Way will put your staff and resources back to work for you.

First, let’s be honest. It’s hard to get your minions motivated these days. In an economic slump, ain’t nobody wanna do nothing, amIright? That’s why you need to try the White Zombie Way of keeping your employees alert and active.

The White Zombie Way is easy. Just blare my White Zombie mix tapes all day, everyday through your companies sound system. After your employees hear such powerful anthems like “Super-Charger Heaven” and “More Human Than Human,” they’ll be ready to rip the face off the competition.

That’s really all there is to it. All Zombie, all the time.

And the best part? Once you own the tapes, you can play them around the clock so that your janitors can also hear the music that will haunt their days. Before you know it, they’ll have your carpet so clean, you’ll be able to see yourself in it.

Such is the power of the White Zombie Way. Call now.

Turn your kiss-ass workforce into a kick-ass workforce.

Also available:

The Megadeth Method

The Slayer Solution

And for our European customers, the Rhapsody Ritual

Call now.

Picture courtesy of White Zombie

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Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin

Doreen Cronin’s book may be titled Click, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type but I prefer to call it The Rise of Agricultural Socialism.
Continue readingClick, Clack, Moo, Cows That Type by Doreen Cronin”

Reading the OED by Ammon Shea

The Oxford English Dictionary spans twenty volumes. It weighs 150 pounds. It is the be all and end all of English dictionaries. But it is more than that to Ammon Shea. It is the greatest version of Shea’s favorite book.
Continue readingReading the OED by Ammon Shea”

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman

I have a tough time reviewing short story books. The stories are rarely connected to one another and the best you usually get is a theme shared by all. Such is the case with Fragile Things, a collection of Gaiman’s gothic tales (yes, there are other kinds). Unlike most short story collections, however, Fragile Things has two strikes against it before readers even pick it up.

Most people know of Neil Gaiman through The Sandman, his graphic novel series. The Sandman was one of the first popular graphic novels, mainly because the story was so good. But so was the artwork, and there’s the rub. Fragile Things comes with no artwork. For someone used to having the visuals provided with a Gaiman story, this could be problem.

It is not.

Although I feel that all short stories should come with illustrations, Fragile Things, is simply great stories written by a great writer. Add to that the gothic theme and you have something very special because Gaiman is especially good at writing dark fiction. He proved this with The Sandman.

What makes or breaks it for me, though, is how I knew that each story was well written. I didn’t like every story, but no one will enjoy every story in a collection. I knew, however, that the stories I didn’t would appeal to others. Basically, Gaiman’s writing abilities are on full display.

And speaking of the stories, here’s a list of the ones I enjoyed and why I enjoyed them.
The Mapmaker – A nice little story hidden away in the introduction.

The Flints of Memory Lane – This is the perfect ghost story because it doesn’t cost the reader anything. They don’t have to believe in the supernatural forces or objects. All they have to know is that something very unusual happened and it scared someone very much. These are the best ghost stories because they are the most likely to happen to you. Bonus: This one is true.

Bitter Grounds – I hate to call this a zombie story because most zombie stories suck. So I won’t. This story is more like a dream – it picks up in the middle of nowhere with just enough background given and then somehow manages to have a definite ending that leaves much hanging.

Good Boys Deserve Favours – This is a great story for musicians, especially bass players.

Harlequin Valentine – Another great story, now available in graphic novel form.

Feeders and Eaters – This story is just creepy and cool. I’m not going to ruin it for you at all, but if you read one story in this book, and you want it to be a great and creepy story, make it this one. This was a dream Gaiman had. It was first a comic, which would probably also be pretty cool.

Diseasemaker’s Croup – This is a very interesting, very short story.

Goliath – One of the better stories in this book. Very Matrix-like. According to Gaiman, he wrote it to go on the Matrix’s website. Imagine that.

Sunbird – This was an exciting story. It works a lot like stories about the devil, although the payoff and revenge are a bit introverted. Gaiman says R. A. Lafferty was at one point “the best short-story writer in the world” and Sunbird is his attempt to write a Lafferty short story.

Up next: Reading the OED by Ammon Shea.

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

Here’s the inner cover blurb in my copy of The Loved One:

The Loved One is a nightmare induced by the unfamiliar diet of Southern California. That region, where all men are displaced persons, is unique in the splendid elaboration of its graveyards, and to these Evelyn Waugh turned for solace and inspiration during a brief visit. Against the background of embalming-rooms and incinerators he has contrived a neat tragedy of Anglo-American manners which we hope will amuse and instruct curious readers of both nations.

How fucking awesome does that sound? Nightmares? Graveyards? Fucking incinerators? And some SoCal hating? Holyshityes.

The Loved One may be a short novel, but it is full with jabs.
At Southern California:

“Sir Ambrose, in accordance with local custom, refrained from listening.”

At female habits of the time:

“In Aimeé’s bathroom cupboard, among the instruments and chemicals which are the staples of feminine well-being, lay the brown tube of barbiturates which is the staple of feminine repose.”

At the English, in which the main character’s love interest describes his Un-Americaness:

“I do not mean just his accent and the way he eats but he is cynical at things which should be sacred.”

And at Southern California again:

“No one in Southern California, as you know, ever inquires what goes on beyond the mountains.”

But The Loved One is more than just a series of barbs. They are merely amusing (and sometimes honest) reflections in a well-told story. The plot does indeed center around graveyards, as that is where all of the main characters work. And it is a tragedy, but the most amazing aspect of Waugh’s book is the way he makes the gruesome images of death and corpses seem so plain. By doing so, the reader’s attention does not stay focused on the darkness of the setting, but on those ever present themes of love and loss and how people deal with them. A funeral home setting is perfect for this parallel and I’m surprised it is not done more often.

Waugh does an excellent job with making a short story not seem scant. The main characters are well rounded, there are supporting roles to help their motives along, and he doesn’t revel too much in unimportant scenery. On top pf that, his story of two men fighting over one woman, a story which has been told a thousand times, does not sound trite. His brutal honesty in describing everything was a refreshment of sorts and made what could of otherwise been a simple love story into an enjoyable frolic through the graveyard.

Up next: Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman. Check it here.

This article first appeared on Better Than Sliced Bread.

Consider Phlebus by Iain M. Banks

I should have known. The term “consider Phlebus” comes from our old friend T. S. Eliot. And on the very first page of Iain M. Banks’s Consider Phlebus, there is a quote from The Waste Land. It was stupid of me to pick this book up, right? Well, yes and no.

As the lead to this article says, Consider Phlebus was a strong influence on the Xbox game Halo, specifically the design of some of the Halo worlds. Fans of either this book or the video game would immediately notice the similarities, but that’s about as much as they need to be mentioned.

Instead, there are two amazing things about Consider Phlebus. One is how unbelievably boring the first two-thirds of it is and the other, conversely, is how enjoyable the last third of it is. Considering what the main character goes through, the monotony while reading it is striking. In the first 150 pages alone, our hero experiences:
– Being executed by drowning in a septic tank
– An explosion in the wall of said septic tank
– An attack on his spaceship
– Getting hit by a ray blast or something (whatever it was, it was supposed to be lethal, according to the other characters)
– A fist fight to the death
– A raid on a temple with some heavily-armed monks, in which no fewer than four other characters bit the dust
– A giant spaceship hitting an even gianter iceberg while he is walking on it (imagine the first scene from Spaceballs, except not funny)
– His spaceship crashing into the ocean, in which another character dies
– A three kilometer swim to shore
– And another execution, this time by being eaten alive (he actually ends up losing a finger so… that counts, right?)

His is Bora Horza Gobuchul, but his name should be James John Bruce Bond McClane Wayne, the Highlander. And although that list sounds like a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie marathon on TNT, it was really difficult to read. I mean really bad. It wasn’t so much about where the plot was going, but that it seemed to be taking forever to get there. I marked out one paragraph to illustrate the leaden flow of Phlebus, but after reading it again, I think I’ll spare you.

And then, somehow in the final third of the novel, Banks manages to turn the style completely around. I read the last 150 pages of Phlebus within a day. I could have read it straight through in a couple of hours, it was that interesting. I don’t know how he did it, but he did. And I don’t know how my feelings about reading Consider Phlebus went from thinking it would never end to hoping it would never end.

Phlebus is Banks’s first sci-fi novel, and the first one of a series. It is also credited with reviving the space opera sub-genre of science fiction literature. But even his fans will admit that it is only interesting to those who have read his later works, especially those later in the series it kicks off because reading Phlebus feels like going from an opera to a ZZ Top concert.

Both of which, however, are better than reading T. S. Eliot.

Up next: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh. Check it here.

This article first appeared on Better Than Sliced Bread.

Eye Scream by Henry Rollins

Watch a few videos of Henry Rollins on YouTube and you’ll notice something – the man has some pent-up aggression. Whether he has reasons for it is not for me to say (although it usually seems like he does). But I will say this: Henry Rollins is intense. And his aggression comes out in many ways, sometimes insultingly, sometimes humorously , and sometimes sublimely tragically.

The thing about Henry Rollins is that he certainly has a way with words, which is good because I don’t think I could accurately describe Eye Scream. So I’ll let Henry do it himself. On his website, he says:

Work on Eye Scream started in 1986. I was crossing America constantly and experiencing the morality shifts, attitudes, and rituals in different parts of the country – the difference in the way people were in the Bible Belt as opposed to New York City, the way blacks and whites interfaced, the intolerance of homosexuality, the morality plays. I started to become aware of how brutal the country is and how much ferocity, cruelty, and oppression are inherent in the culture and how much of it was in me. I wanted to document it and create a book that brought the whole thing to a boil and see w here it left me off. In the summer of 1995, I finished the book and started to edit. Re-reading the manuscript over and over, I realized all the things I had picked up over a decade of playing Devil’s advocate and it was inspiring because it clearly defined who my enemies are. As an American, I feel it impossible not to be infuriated by the way things are and have been. I refuse to be happy about the day-to-day and go along with it. There’s too much spitting in my face and too much spitting in the faces of people who don’t know any other way of life. This book is brutal, and at times, funny. I know that I will probably get a ton of shit for Eye Scream. Enjoy, or better yet… don’t. — Henry Rollins

But that is one of the interesting things about Eye Scream. Rollins’ blurb seems at odds with the book. The style of his explanation is focused, while the book is all over the place. In his spoken word stints, Rollins has a talent for being poignant, but funny and edgy at the same time. In Scream, on the other hand, Rollins is ranting and rambling, shocking but without context. And worse of all, it is repetitive. Or so I thought.

The amazing thing about Eye Scream is how my opinion changed while reading it. At first, I felt it was shocking just to be shocking. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason and certainly no structure. After about sixty pages, I went online to see if the story was going to get anywhere. That’s how desperate its insanity had made me; how much I felt like I was falling down a pointless rabbit hole.

Fortunately, except for Rollins’ review (which certainly helped), I didn’t find anything else online because after plugging away at Eye Scream, I began to realize a few things. The repetitiveness of the rants, which seemed to be the book’s major fault when I started reading it, is actually the most powerful aspect of the work.
 

I believe repetition can sometimes breed complacency, or numbness when it comes to repetitive accounts of shocking stories. This then makes you wonder how such shocking things can have no effect on you. Think about how much thought or emotion you devoted to the earthquake in Haiti compared to the earthquake in South America (donate here).

But the repetitive articles in Eye Scream, which make you feel almost nothing, stand in stark contrast to the ones that are really powerful. You wind up plodding through the mud when BAM! you’re hit by an article that fires on levels. And I mean that. There are some very amazing, concise, and revelatory parts of Eye Scream.

The only bad part about the book is that most of the rants are so raw that they verge on being simplistic, which in my experience is not typical of Henry Rollins. And yet while the insight that is encouraged here is raw and emotional, rather than intellectual and calculated, it causes the after shock to be profoundly self-reflective, as if the extrovert of the narrator brings out the introvert of the reader.

The shocking nature of some of the rants makes reading Eye Scream akin to watching Requiem for a Dream. In a way, I’m glad I experienced it, but I would not want to experience it again. In Eye Scream, Henry Rollins yet again caused me to think, only this time it was in a totally different way. Instead of mixing facts with his own opinions to lead me to a conclusion, as is common in his spoken words, his book made me open my own eyes.

Up next: Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. Check it here.

This article first appeared on Better Than Sliced Bread.