Music in the moment

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I always have a hard time describing my music tastes. They’re erratic. They’re all over the place. They’re dictated by whatever mood I’m in from moment to moment. I have dubstep days and j-pop days and classical days and post-hardcore days. Whatever it is I’m feeling, I listen to it.

I don’t think I’m alone in that sentiment. Not by a long shot. When I studied popular music for a semester at uni for my literary and cultural studies degree, we touched on a French term, jouissance. From what I learned in that class, jouissance is a feeling of bliss. I recall associating the term with house music, rave culture, and underground clubs, and their strong connections with the blacks and the gays. Basically, those clubs, and that music, brought together those minorities to dance away the prejudices they were subjected to in the world at large. In their clubs, with their loud, pumping house music, and their disco, they could just let go of their fears and concerns and embrace the music, the beat, the bliss.

I think this idea of bliss, the feeling of jouissance, is pretty common these days. Kids, more than anyone, know the feeling all too well when they lose themselves over the latest pop sensation. The teenie-boppers are fucking atrocious and the music is terrible, but the core idea of it is that they don’t know why they like their Biebers and their One Directions or their Lady Gagas or whatever, they just do. Same with Skrillex. He’s ridiculously popular for making random spastic computer sounds. I went through that phase. And why do people share their music on social media? Spotify lets people know what you’re listening to, when you’re listening to it. You can share songs from youtube on facebook or twitter and there is a record of the exact moment you shared that with your social circles. Why? Because you’re living moment-to-moment, and music is a strong part of that. Music can sometimes express feelings better than you can express them in words.

I listen to shit, knowing that it’s not the greatest thing out there, but that it’s good enough because it captures a feeling that I can latch on to and find my bliss, my jouissance. I don’t pay attention to song lyrics because of this. Music is just sound and it gets inside my head and does things. I like drum and bass and dubstep because of this. I don’t care if I’m listening to dubstep or j-pop or screamo or a mashup or a remix or a whatever. I never really got on the Gangnam Style bandwagon, but I can see why people did.

And now, here is a list of songs that put me in that mood:












Absurd shorts and tasty treats: Die You Doughnut Bastards!

Review

Die You Doughnut Bastards! by Cameron Pierce

The first Bizarro book I read was Cameron Pierce’s ‘Lost in Cat Brain Land’. It was November 2010, and I was captivated by this collection of short, surreal stories. Two years later, I have read his latest collection that displays Cameron’s transformation into a wizard of the short story form. It’s a larger collection, yet the stories range from single page poetry and prose poems to stories spanning about 20-30 pages. I found that I read this collection in bits and pieces, picking it up every so often and choosing what I felt like reading next. This is in contrast to the single sitting in which I read Cat Brain Land. Doughnut Bastards shifts focus away from the surreal plots and settings of his first collection, and more towards the absurd. Some stories center around the most mundane things, yet Cameron’s writing renders them spectacular, often bringing about a quirkiness of thought or dark humour to his storytelling. At times it feels like his writing has taken on a dash of Sam Pink. It’s less straight up Eraserhead Press Bizarro, and more Lazy Fascist Bizarro. It’s creative, comical, and spectacularly written. There are little illustrations throughout the book, captioned with lines taken from some of the stories. These illustrations reminded me of the artist/poet, Brian Andreas, with the juxtaposition of strange/simple drawings with absurd thoughts. The illustrations in this collection serve to highlight the beauty of Cameron’s writing at times, my favourite being: “Champions always die with a smile on.”

‘Die You Doughnut Bastards!’ is a fantastic collection for everyone who loves their short stories to be creative and clever.

5/5

                         

Blueberry Cat-Shake

Flash Fiction

They passed a law three years ago that outlawed the destruction or burial of dead cats. They said it was because cat heaven was full. Because of the popularity boom from the internet days. As a result, the taxidermy business is thriving, and dead cats stare us down from everywhere. The best taxidermists turn the cats into useful household items so they’re not just taking up wasted space.

I sip my blueberry milkshake from a cup made out of taxidermy cat. It is standing on its hind legs, front paws stiff but looking droopy. And its head tilted up, mouth open, frothing milky blue bubbles as I blow air through the straw, the cat-shake making glug-glug-glug noises.

I sip my drink and stroke the furry counter. My thoughts jump in a time-machine. The time-machine vessel is a cat. It transports my thoughts back to before the law change. Cats are living, and when they’re dead they are buried. They are gone. My thoughts project themselves through the streets and alleys of the past-world and zeroes in on my past-self sitting in a regular diner sipping on a regular blueberry milkshake from a glass tumbler. My thoughts latch onto and take over the thoughts of my past self, leaving him thinking about how spectacularly fucked up it would be to live in a world overpopulated with taxidermy cats.

My thoughts take their cat time-machine back into the here and now. They fix themselves back into my head, and I continue to alternate between blowing blue bubbles from the mouth of my drink, and sipping my blueberry cat-shake.

My shoes are cats, and they are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn.

Best reads of 2012

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I read a fair bit in 2012. Mostly manga. Some of it was really trashy manga I bought for one dollar or two dollars, or something ridiculous like that. But I also read some awesome manga. Some of my all-time favourites: Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, Fullmetal Alchemist, Biomega. Tekkon Kinkreet and Claymore also rank pretty high.

But as far as novels go, I didn’t read quite as much as I’d have liked. I’m always overwhelmed by the things I want to read, and I wish I could have read more of a wide selection from what books were actually published in 2012. So this list is just the books I read last year, regardless of when they were published. Most of them came out within the last couple of years though. And partially because I’m feeling lazy right now, and partially because I think it’s better to form your own opinions of these books, I won’t tell you what I think of them. Instead, I’ll just include their descriptions. In no particular order:

A Town Called Suckhole, by David W. Barbee

Far into the future, in the nuclear bowels of post-apocalyptic Dixie, there is a town. A town of derelict mobile homes, ancient junk, and mutant wildlife. A town of slack jawed rednecks who bask in the splendors of moonshine and mud boggin’. A town dedicated to the bloody and demented legacy of the Old South.

A TOWN CALLED SUCKHOLE
But all is not well for the last remnant of hillbilly society. Suckhole’s annual “Hell-Yeah Heritage Jamboree” is suddenly threatened by a string of gruesome murders. The town’s sheriff, an illiterate yokel with a cleft pallet, is at his extremely limited wit’s end, and he knows there is only one man smart enough to solve the mystery: Dexter Spikes, a monstrous missing link between swamp and man brought to life by natural evolution. He lives in the swamps alone, shunned by the simple townsfolk of Suckhole who don’t believe in the wicked sciencery of his existence. If Dexter takes the sheriff’s case, he’ll have to face the undead culprits behind the murders, who are determined to bring about the next apocalypse. If he refuses the job, the town will be doomed to a vicious slaughter.
In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan

iDEATH is a place where the sun shines a different colour every day and where people travel to the length of their dreams. Rejecting the violence and hate of the old gang at the Forgotten Works, they lead gentle lives in watermelon sugar. In this book, Richard Brautigan discovers and expresses the mood of a new generation.

 

 

 

The Red Tree, by Shaun Tan

A small child awakes to find blackened leaves falling from her bedroom ceiling, threatening to quietly overwhelm her. ‘Sometimes you wake up with nothing to look forward to …’ As she wanders around a world that is complex, puzzling and alienating, she is overtaken by a myriad of feelings. Just as it seems all hope is lost, the girl returns to her bedroom to find that a tiny red seedling has grown to fill the room with warm light. Astonishing Perth artist, Shaun Tan’s latest creation, THE RED TREE, is a book about feelings – feelings that can not always be simply expressed in words. It is a series of imaginary landscapes conjured up by the wizardry of Shaun Tan’s masterful and miraculous art. As a kind of fable, THE RED TREE seeks to remind us that, though some bad feelings are inevitable, they are always tempered by hope.

Light Boxes, by Shane Jones

A poignant and fantastical first novel by a timeless new literary voice.

With all the elements of a classic fable, vivid descriptions, and a wholly unique style, this idiosyncratic debut introduces a new and exciting voice to readers of such authors as George Saunders, Kurt Vonnegut, and Yann Martel.

In Light Boxes, the inhabitants of one closely-knit town are experiencing perpetual February. It turns out that a god-like spirit who lives in the sky, named February, is punishing the town for flying, and bans flight of all kind, including hot air balloons and even children’s kites. It’s February who makes the sun nothing but a faint memory, who blankets the ground with snow, who freezes the rivers and the lakes. As endless February continues, children go missing and more and more adults become nearly catatonic with depression. But others find the strength to fight back, waging war on February.

The Deadheart Shelters, by Forrest Armstrong

Never fall in love, and never try to escape.

Born into a life of brutal slavery, Peter spends his days driven into the wild by vicious dog-masters, forced to pick delicate swamp berries from the skeletons of dead reptiles. His nights offer only the brief escape of hushed conversation and the strange magnolia perfume of fellow slave Lilly.

A moment’s opportunity turns to violence and Peter is thrust into a bizarre new world populated by devious goat-men, poisonous coal-slugs, and murderous royal processions. With the help of his newfound companion, a man-sized infant named Dirt, Peter must decide between embracing his narcotic new world or returning to his old life to save the beautiful souls haunting his dreams. With a unique poetic prose style Forrest Armstrong delivers a surreal and resonant Bizarro parable for all those who find themselves trapped deep within…

THE DEADHEART SHELTERS

King of the Perverts, by Steve Lowe

Poor Dennis. He’s a regular sort of guy who’s recently been dealt a shitty hand by life: he lost his job, his wife hates him and wants a divorce, and it turns out she was also cheating on him as well. Now he’s living on his brother’s couch. Holy fuck, that sucks. Dennis can’t imagine things could get much worse, and that’s why he jumped at the opportunity to take part in a new reality game show: a “sexcathlon” where the first person to achieve 10 increasingly difficult and perverted sexual challenges wins a million dollars and is crowned King of the Perverts. Dennis doesn’t care about the title, he just wants the money, but now he’s not sure he can make it to the end. Enduring a golden shower and following through with an Abe Lincoln are hard enough, but he’s losing his nerve and fears what act of perversion will come next. He’d like to drop out, but his Russian bear of a cameraman, Mongo, has other plans for him and that million dollar prize, and Dennis has to decide which is worse: winning the King of the Perverts, or losing it.

Space Walrus, by Kevin L. Donihe

Space: the final frontier… these are the voyages of… a walrus?

Meet Walter. He is the first walrus in a revolutionary space program. Someday, his blubbery form will float past asteroids, stars, and planets as he journeys through the dark beyond to become a Master of Space. But for now, Walter’s dream is to win the heart of his lifelong love, Dr. Stephanie, who happens to be the scientist assigned to conduct experiments on him. The problem is Dr. Stephanie does not love Walter. She views him as a test subject and nothing more. To make matters worse, Dr. Stephanie appears to be in love with the abusive head scientist, Dr. Ron.

From Wonderland Book Award winner Kevin L. Donihe comes a tragic comedy of unrequited love and inspired determination.

Please Do Not Shoot Me In the Face, by Bradley Sands

A tour-de-force. A harrowing comic masterpiece. A timely novel that transcends the times. An instant American classic. This is what critics are not saying about Bradley Sands’ latest magnum opus, Please Do Not Shoot Me in the Face: A Novel.

A novel in three parts, Please Do Not Shoot Me in the Face: A Novel, is the story of one boy detective, the worst ninja in the world, and the great American fast food wars. It is a novel of loss, destruction, and–incredibly–genuine hope.

Please Do Not Shoot Me in the Face: A Novel contains three classic Bradley Sands novellas: “Frankie Nougat and the Case of the Missing Heart,” “Cheesequake Smash-Up,” and “Apocalypse Ninja.”

The Crud Masters, by Justin Grimbol

THE OUTSIDERSWITH GIANT MONSTERS AND TRANSFORMING ROBOTS!

You know that book about the poor kids and the rich assholes who mess with them all the time? The one where the main poor kid (C. Thomas Howell) and his best friend save those kids from a fire, and then the best friend (Ralph Macchio) dies and croaks out, “Stay gold, Pony Boy.” And theres that rich girl, Cherry, who totally leads Pony Boy on the whole time? This is that! But with giant monsters and robots fighting in the rumbles. And its in The Hamptons. In a dystopian future. Its crazy!

Giant monster fights, touching love with sexbots and stinky women, extreme body modification, and Boogers, the guy whos sorta like Pony Boy, but gross and perverted-its all right here.

STAY GOLD.

Placenta of Love, by Spike Marlowe

PLANET-SIZED AMUSEMENT PARKS, ROBO-PIRATES, AND A SENTIENT PLACENTA!

Step right up! Captain Carl the robo-pirate is one of the few Artificial Intelligences living on Venus-the amusement park planet. When Carl is given the spark of intelligence by his creator, he becomes a creator himself. No longer just an automaton from a pirate ride, Captain Carl creates the love of his life and searches for her perfect body. He thinks he’s found it in a big placenta. But programming is everything.

When the placenta’s desire to reproduce kicks in, the whole park is endangered as the organ grows to monster size, spreading placenta babies across the planet and eating all the rides (and the people riding them!). Captain Carl must band together with a cat, a creator, and the Pope of The Church of Transubstantial Birth Fear to stop his love from killing everyone and destroying the park.

YARRRRR!

New Mellick! Cuddly Holocaust/Hammer Wives

Review

Yeah, that’s right. There are two new Carlton Mellick III books out now. A novel and a short story collection. And they’re both awesome.

Cuddly Holocaust: Brutally fantastic

There was a time not too long ago where I thought Carlton Mellick’s best work was his older stuff. Stories like Satan Burger, Fishy Fleshed, and The Egg Man had a style that wasn’t just bizarro. There was a radical experimental edge to the storytelling, too. He messed about with perspective and senses and was totally out there. And while I still enjoyed stuff like Zombies and Shit, and Warrior Wolf Women of the Wasteland, they just didn’t grab me like some of those other stories did. I’m not sure whether I have changed as a reader, and my tastes have changed somewhat, but I’m finding titles like Armadillo Fists and Cuddly Holocaust giving those older favourites a run for their money. I still haven’t read Tumor Fruit or Kill Ball, his last releases before this, but I feel as though Cuddly Holocaust may become a new Bizarro favourite.

This is a bittersweet story of a girl and her plush toy. It’s also a brutal war story of a woman infiltrating the enemy to exact her revenge and rescue her loved ones. Toys with artificial intelligence turning against humans in total chaos and bloodshed. Carlton Mellick takes this concept as far as it will go, then pushes it further. Parts of the narrative echo the Warriors. The journey through gang territories, urban violence, a gang pushed to their limits, desperate to get home safe. Mellick takes the cute and cuddly, and renders it violent and terrifying. His world of plush toys is wild and dangerous, and it only gets more wild, more dangerous, and more violent as the story progresses.

Cuddly Holocaust is wickedly, violently, gore-splattering awesome. You don’t want to miss out on this one.

5/5

                         

Hammer Wives: You don’t mess with the hammer wives

There are 6 stories in this collection. Some are better than others, although I feel it mostly comes down to substance. When Mellick takes the time to flesh out a story, that’s what takes it from a good story to a great story.

Having said that, the shorter stories in the collection have a certain charm about them that just works. Simple Machines and The Man With the Styrofoam Brain are short and fun. The other 4 stories take a bit more time to tell their stories, to set the scenes, and get some good character development going. Red World is possibly my favourite in the collection. It’s a sad story that’s very tender and sentimental and tragic. There was an impact to it, like it were cut off too short.

The remaining three are fantastic, fantastic Bizarro reimaginings of popular tropes in recent years. Vampires (Hammer Wives), Zombies (Lemon Knives ‘N’ Cockroaches), and Shapeshifters/Werewolves (War Pig). War Pig is probably my next favourite. Hammer Wives was a fantastic concept, and the story was awesome, but I think perhaps it went on a little too long for my taste. It was a story with a lot of suspense, that just ramped all the way up and stretched its way out. Not exactly a bad thing, but not quite my favourite in the collection. It definitely serves its purpose as the title story of the collection. Out of all the stories, probably Lemon Knives was the one that left the strangest impression on me. While most of the other stories hint at vast worlds of absurd terrors, Lemon Knives was very up-close and intimate. It was, as the setting describes, very claustrophobic. There seems to be a bigger picture, but we only get a very small glimpse at this insect and zombie infested apocalypse.

This is the first Mellick short story collection I’ve read, and it was well worth it. They’re strange, gripping stories that will stick with you a while.

4/5