Ready Player One – Pedantic, Pandering, Horseshit

Ugh. With all the great books out there by unknown authors that deserve a review, I can’t believe I’m giving time and attention to Ready Player One. So, you know what? I’m not going to write a review. I’m not going to be considerate in my critique, mainly, because this guy already has done so. Read his if you want fair. No, instead, I’m going to offer an analogy. Two analogies.

The first, it’s like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory if Charlie wasn’t a character and all the bad kids won by virtue of their various indulgences.

It's all creamy white filling

A better analogy. Ready Player One is for people who enjoy 80′s pop culture and video games like people who enjoy sweets going to a restaurant known to have really amazing deserts. But then something happens at the restaurant….

It’s like sitting down to a meal at this really fancy restaurant and you’ve heard all about how wonderful it is and everyone likes it. You try not to make up your mind too quickly when the first thing they serve is this deep fried candy bar. Okay, you say, ha ha, it’s creative and everybody likes a little indulgence now and again. Kind of just a Snickers bar, I mean, the chef could have made his own, with quality ingredients, instead of this cheap, generic, corn sugar infused thing, still, whatever. You are going to be fair because this is supposed to be fun food, not serious food. But then more courses come out, and its just one fried candy thing from off the shelf at the gas station after another, and you are starting to feel a bit sick, hoping something different or inventive or original comes out, but it doesn’t. It just doesn’t. And the chef is like, “It’s a Grape Jelly and Sweet Tart encrusted–” And you are like rolling your eyes and saying, “Mounds bar, right?” And he’s like, “FUCK YEAH MOUNDS BAR!” And by now it’s more than you can even stand, but here it is, it’s the main course and it’s an entire tray of brownies, beer battered, and now you don’t even like brownies any more, and you can’t believe how this chef has ruined brownies like this, forever, and….are these Dolly Madison brownies?

goddamn it so much

Fuck. Does he even know what makes desserts good? And then, when it it time for dessert, you just want to stop, and go home, but you don’t, because people really, really like this restaurant, like millions of people, so you wait, and then the chef himself comes out into the restaurant and he starts peeling off his clothes, and he’s got this can of pressurized whip cream, and he just starts spraying it all over his naked, sweaty, hairy chest, and he’s slathering it all over and making these disgusting “nnnggggghhhh” sounds, and you just want to get to the end of it, please, God, let this horrible thing end, I swear I’ll never eat another sugary thing in my life if this guy could stop wrecking food for just one second.

That’s Ready Player One.

Except the chef is also masturbating.

If you can’t wait for the movie to come out, just watch this, I can say unequivically this is better than whatever the RP1 movie looks like:

 

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North Carolina Coal Ash Crisis will become the New Normal

The Dan river fills with 82,00 tons of coal ash slurry leaked from a Duke Energy 27-acre waste storage pond on February 2, 2014. Local water supplies are currently unsafe to drink, and this isn’t even the first major rupture of a coal ash containment pond.  Across the country, more than 1,000 containment ponds just like this await such an incident as this.

This is the legacy of coal use left for future generations, 118 billion gallons of sludge in the Southeastern United States alone.

Now six years after the Kingston, TN, disaster, coal industry leaders have successfully lobbied to prevent the Federal Government from labeling coal ash as a hazardous substance, as you can learn about from this 60 minutes video from 2010.

The Obama administration has sided with coal energy producers in failing to identify coal ash as a toxic substance, despite EPA efforts, and for several years now Duke Energy has allowed toxins leached from their coal containment ponds to poison the drinking water in North Carolina. Only now it has finally escalated into an event serious enough to garners some national news media attention.

Certainly, changing the EPA designation of coal ash from a simple solid waste (no regulation) to a toxic, would come with certain rules and guidelines to protect the public from arsenic, lead, uranium, and other materials that haven’t already been released into the atmosphere by the burning of this extremely dirty and harmful energy source. And substantial efforts have been put forth to prevent this, to which House Republicans have responded in kind. But only when we recognize and accept the true human health cost of coal will we recognize this as a dead end, and a significantly more expensive option compared to clean energy alternatives.

Read more at Southeast Coal Ash.

 

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If You Liked Community’s Geothermal Escapism, you’ll love Supercenter

For the second time, Dan Harmon’s Community has invoked the internal world of the Supercenter to an uncanny degree. the first time being “Fistful of Paintballs.” The dystopian oasis of “Shirley Island”, from Season 5, episode 5, titled “Geothermal Escapism” very much mirrors the Aisle 39 enclave of the similarly distorted psychedelic world of the Buy-All Supercenter. Here’s a shot from the episode:

Garrett Lambert spins tales, forging an oral tradition from the ashes of their former world of Greendale

Here is an excerpt from Supercenter’s Chapter 10 now available as an ebook on Amazon.com:

The inside of Aisle 39 resembled all that had been lost or discarded by the greater Supercenter in the past ten years since its closure to the outside world. The most striking difference  between this aisle and the rest—aside from the fact that no  salable product could be found within this dark hovel—was  the repurposing of used-up, trashed merchandise for purposes outside its original intention. An unkempt unassociate dozed upon a small mattress made from twine-fastened plastic laundry detergent bottles. A lampshade built of flattened soup cans cast pinpricks of light upon shelves and a sagging tarp-covered ceiling above. The ceiling itself consisted of shabbily nailed squares of plywood. Holes had been cut into plywood, and colored plastic bottles filled with a few ounces of bleach had been fitted in these holes, which refracted the  outside fluorescent light and cast a remarkably bright glow  into the enclave, providing usable light while obscuring the  aisle from the view of security orbs above. The entire area resembled an elaborate, ornate sarcophagus, sealed with motley bolts of fabric, plastic tarps, bed sheets, and cut panels from cardboard boxes.

Drum circles and lackadaisical unassociates repurposed as ad-hoc merchandise vendors took over every aisle, including Center Aisle, spilling into its deluxe chairs and couches. Increasing numbers of associates preferred the newly liberated free economy to working pointless and obligatory jobs for the Supercenter itself. They participated in a crude barter system to satisfy their primal need to shop and buy. They spread towels onto the floor of the aisles, on which they displayed half-used rolls of tape, brass safety pins, colorful little baubles, discarded packaging, and whatever else they saw fit for trade. They bartered, often simply for the sake of trading, of diversifying their own proud pool of trinkets and debris. An incessant beat issued from improvised percussive instruments—upturned trash cans, storage containers, anything that would provide sound. The far corner of the Supercenter came alive with a pulse that ebbed and swelled, but never ceased.

WalmartSupercenter#1501 associates found themselves standing in long lines, carts full of merchandise, but few associates remained to ring them up. Only then was it clear the division of labor collapsed, once and for all. If an associate desired a set of novelty wind-up chattering teeth, he simply set an IOU, hastily scrawled onto a scrap of paper, under the idle associate badge-swiper at an unmanned cash register and brought it back to his compartment. The associates found these sorts of transactions a bit anticlimactic, as the shopping experience itself was crowned with this transactionary moment, the satisfying act of the swipe itself. Of course, there was also the problem of unchecked credit run amok. Because they made no effort to maintain a cumulative total of their transactions, the shelves were soon stripped bare as the IOUs piled up without anyone to process them.

As the Supercenter witnessed the spark of a brand new and unprecedented culture emanating from the Automotive Department, Benson nailed boards onto his compartment door. Sealed safely within, the sound of their improvised drum circles could still be heard inside, as well as from every quarter of the Supercenter.

The unassociates now had a unifying tribal aesthetic. They dyed their hair with powdered Buy-Aide drink mix and ran keychain rings through the septum of their noses. They couldn’t pay for showers without their associate IDs, or for laundry facilities. A lack thereof, not to mention spending their days sitting on the now-thoroughly-unpolished tiles, exponentially increased the blackness on their clothing. Unsavory odors and a general disregard of personal hygiene were assuaged with liberal application of Shelly Arkansas brand Jasmine & Patchouli air fresheners, cardboard tiles shaped like guitars, rubbed all over their bodies. They wore a cake of black filth as a badge of honor, as a measure of time since they joined Aisle 39 and the UAC.

Some insisted the acronym was never meant to denote the United Associates Cooperative, but the United Anarchists Cooperative, a political schism threatening to undermine everything the UAC sought to accomplish regarding associate rights and collective bargaining. Their original stated purpose, established by Brett personally, had transformed from a mission of emancipation, to one of complete refusal to participate in any economic system, both physically and, thanks to the power of Tile Melt, mentally. The place of their nihilistic occupation strayed from Aisle 39 to encompass any and all aisles of the Supercenter. They decorated themselves with copious amounts of ad-hoc jewelry—padlocks on chains, plastic six-pack soda can rings were worn as bracelets, even frayed bits of fabric were layered around all parts of their bodies, employed as scarves or bracelets, or perhaps a headband, out of which a coil of matted, unwashed red-and-yellow hair would splay like a torch. Most interestingly, however, was their unquenchable desire to never work, but to participate in ever-widening drum circles.

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Coolest Beer Gadget of 2013 – The Infrared Laser Thermometer

How cool is this? Know the temperature of your mash–instantly! Plus, you can get an accurate reading of your fermenter without opening or exposing to contaminants. And there’s nobody to stop you from yelling “PEW! PEW!” when taking a reading.

science!

You can almost see the red dot on the fermenter (dopple weizen)

After some testing, it has proven quite accurate. Of course, steam (on a bed of grain, say) and krausen will produce inaccurate readings, or accurate, if you consider it’s just measuring the steam/krausen, not what you really want to measure!

This once too-fancy-to-afford device can be had for less than $30 if you shop around. I just added a good one to the Supercenternation store.

In other news, the second edition of The Frugal Homebrewer’s Companion has been released! 80 pictures in all!

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Walmart’s Thanksgiving Newspaper Ad Will Kill You

Obesity epidemic in America? Check. Poverty-exploiting and labor-exploiting retail giant Walmart offers its patrons a veritable tour-de-force of saturated fats, simple carbohydrates, and refined sugars for their Thanksgiving Feast. And for those of you who laugh this off and imagine most folks will supplement their bargain-priced food stuffs with healthy fruits and vegetables, I will simply draw your attention to the sizable collection of motorized shopping scooters in the front lobby.

Generously offering canned Rotel, tomato sauce, and Bloody Mary mix as vegetables to go along with the one image of green beans, I’ve managed to break the following Thanksgiving advertisement down into the following Categories: Carbohydrates (bread, potato, pasta), Fats (Milk, Crisco, Cream, Cheese), Sugar (Soft Drinks, Chocolate, Sugar), and Dessert (Pie, Cake, Cookie, Brownie).

So, with no further ado, I give you the ad that appeared in the Portland Oregonian on Sunday, November 24th, 2013.

The turkey is one of only three images of meat, the second being lasagna, the third pepperoni.

The yellow that leaps out at you on this page is uncanny.

Breakfast includes waffles, creamer, Cocoa Krispies, pie, and pie.

 

And now for dessert - brownies, cookies, pie, chocolates, and soda!

 

Not full yet? Cake, cookies, cupcakes, creamer. Now go curl up and fall into diabetic shock.

Here is the grand total by my count. Happy Thanksgiving from Walmart.

ad totals

Want to lower the cost of health insurance in America? End this “free market” exploitation of people who don’t know any better than to consume this crap. Walmart does this because fat and sugar is cheap and provides a high profit, the cost being the health and well-being of the consumer, which is just another thing subsidized by tax payers, just like the food stamps their employees need, and the rent they pay to themselves to dodge paying taxes of their own. The heirs themselves are dodging taxes and amassing billions, and the average American taxpayer is literally subsidizing the business practices of the nation’s #1 private employer.

And don’t think you are reaping the benefits of all this subsidization with the money you save by shopping here, Walmart strives to put the lowest qualities items on their shelves, going so far as to force manufacturers who can’t meet their pricing demands to produce two different–yet indistinguishable–tiers of products, one for Walmart, and one for every other retailer. And on Black Friday, don’t expect profound bargains on certain key items on which Walmart is willing to “take a loss” in order to get you in the door, oftentimes these “door buster” electronics bargains are on outdated, obsolete, or poor quality merchandise that just wouldn’t otherwise sell, like 32″ TVs or old, low resolution digital cameras.

Walmart represents race-to-the-bottom capitalism and has gone completely off the rails in an effort to squeeze additional profit. Do yourself a favor, don’t shop here this holiday season. You have all sorts of wonderful, local, small business retailers that would love your business. Seek them out.

Thank you for visiting Supercenternation. If you like silly ads, you will also like “Jack’s Magical Beanstalk,” my article on Costco exploiting “doomer” mentality.

Also, for this 2013 holiday season, I am offering signed copies of Supercenter, my anti-consumerist dystopian young adult novel, with 1980 Star Wars Empire Strikes Back trading cards as bookmarks for the first 20 people to order a copy from me direct via Paypal, shipping included. Indicate who I should make the autograph out to with your order. Thanks for supporting independent publishing.

Order Here by clicking below:

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Donate Food at Walmart this Holiday Season….to feed Walmart Employees

Now I know we like to have a lot of fun here at Supercenternation, but this is getting ridiculous. Check it out:

From Cleveland.com

Think of it as a Low Prices Tax

You have two choices, America–you can create a set of rules for employers to play by that guarantees certain basic needs are met for all employees across the country, or you can continue down this path of Free Market Charity.

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Bizarro Book Review #3 – Help! A Bear is Eating Me

A continuation of two weeks ago’s post

The Basics – A Patrick-Bateman-esque corporate aristocrat finds himself pinned beneath his Range Rover in the Alaskan tundra with little hope of being rescued. A bear arrives and chews bits of his exposed legs away, bit by bit and the entire novel is one, long opiate-addled internal monologue.

Flavor – HIP

Read Worthiness – A gut-busting hilarious character study, replete with clever and hip turns of phrase, simple expressions that aren’t contrived or pretentious, but just downright funny, such as, “Bears aren’t cute, they’re not friendly or helpful, they’re vicious, stupid, bloody-minded people eaters.” Pop-culture tangents are the payoff, moreso than the thin, reminiscing narrative that surrounds ex-girlfriends and petty office rivalries. Many cite Help! A Bear is Eating Me as the quintessential Bizarro title, but it is not, it very much on the fringe and dissimilar to what one will ordinarily find. It’s just a really good book. It’s persistence with a single gag—being trapped beneath a vehicle and slowly eaten, violates traditional storytelling in that we aren’t reading this to find out what happens, but to simply enjoy the presentation, a phenomenon of literature I have been calling “non-narrative narration” because while it is narrated to us and contains all the elements of forward progression, all of that stuff is ancillary.

Bottom Line – On the long arm of the many-armed beast that is Bizarro, we find the writing of Mykle Hanson, and what here is the only work of Realist Bizarro literature I have encountered, save his other work, A Cannibal’s Guide to Ethical Living. Yet on several occasions I’ve had authors of Bizarro literature name this as one of the genre’s best, and for good reason, it is one hell of a funny book, and like a bull-rider reaching 8 seconds, Mykle Hanson manages to ride this otherwise short-lived premise for a good sixty or so pages before falling off, unfortunately, leaving us with forty more of just a bull clomping around the ring, pissed off and without purpose.

Trailer

Help! A Bear Is Eating Me! from mykle hansen on Vimeo.

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Bizarro Book Review #2 – Dinner Bell for the Dreamworms

A continuation of last week’s post

The Basics – A tale of love and courtship, Lemmy the Incubus intends to win approval of Mildred and marry her daughter Geraldine in the 57-page title story. Dinnerbell for the Dreamworms has a Victorian air about it, but could be set pretty much at any time, as most of the prose involves various bodily fluids and acts of coprophagia.

Flavor – GROTESQUE

Read Worthiness – Colorfully and exquisitely written, Dinnerbell is a sharp reminder that very talented writers can invest themselves in the Bizarro genre, sort of like how Peter Jackson can make Meet the Feebles. Wuchenich has a masterful ability to toy with the reader’s expectations, oftentimes elegantly crafting Erotic literature:

He kissed her deeply, caressing her breast with his left hand. With his right, he made a fist and nestled it between her thighs. With one swift thrust, his fist burst through her hymen and the sudden cry of pain was muffled by a groan of pleasure that found its way from her mouth, to his.

The Bottom Line – Author Jason Wuchenich is clearly self-conscious of the Bizarro genre, perhaps even spoofing it, I’m reminded of how the film Dead Alive spoofs horror and succeeds as magnificently as this, the writing and language is extremely readable, and the “gross outs”, while quite visceral (literally) also include hilariously varied ways of re-explaining and re-describing acts of coprophagia. While this serves to overwhelm the reader with increasingly vulgar accounts of “greasy, grimy gopher guts” in the way that turns me off from some Bizzaro, but there is a gentle, coy, jesting playfulness that will keep you chuckling along without flinching (much). The book sustains itself to the end, winding up the rollicking symphony of the grotesque until the final pages are like Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, were it composed purely of flatulence, and the enjoyable restraint flies completely off the handle, but perhaps this is just what should happen.

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Five Bizarro Titles Worth Reading

In sum, the Bizarro genre of literature is both alive with potential and currently experiencing a period of nascent growth, driven by legitimately talented authors and editors. Before the first review of Gigantic Death Worm (link scrolls to review), allow me to make a case for why by examining the course of another genre, Science Fiction.

Ed Lee, one of the formative authors of the Bizarro Genre

At Portland Community College I teach the Literature of Science Fiction. One of our class activities is to measure Science Fiction stories along a gradient that measures the story’s world’s deviation from our own. We find that some stories are profoundly removed from the recognizable, non-fantastic world we occupy (top-honors in my opinion going to Greg Egan’s Wang’s Carpets). On the other side of the spectrum, we find stories that are for the most part standard literary Realism, save a small, perhaps incidental and superficial fantastic element, such as Ray Bradbury’s Mars is Heaven, which so perfectly simulates rural Iowa—albeit on Mars—that it may as well be rural Iowa.

TV's Land of the Lost

What we find with modern Science Fiction (I blame Stephen Spielberg for this, so pretty much post-E.T. Sci-Fi) is that Science Fiction need not necessarily be scientific, or interesting, but simply tack-on some currently-non-existent-or-undiscovered technology or biology (as in, alien) in order to gain entry into this genre. This trivialized element of the fantastic, while definitively placing the work within the Science Fiction genre, doesn’t really help audiences develop any new ideas, a dynamic ordinarily associated with the genre, if not the genre’s raison d’être. Profit-mongering within the genre cancelled Star Trek, and brought us Mork and Mindy, cancelled Land of the Lost, and brought us Alf. Was bad Science Fiction being made prior to Spielberg’s arrival? Certainly, but it was still only meant for weirdos.

Fuck Alf

And so too is Bizarro, but you can be a weirdo, too. Because these are weird times in which we live.

What is currently happening in the much-undiscovered genre of Bizarro mirrors the late 1960′s burgeoning of Science Fiction. Authors like PK Dick, Stanislav Lem, Samuel Delany, JG Ballard, Ursla Le Guin, Madeleine L’Engle, and Frank Herbert proved that Science Fiction was not all laser blasters and shiny metal robots, but something way wilder and strongly deviated from our own society in ways never before imagined.

It's almost like it is Bizarro, when you think about it

But we haven’t had a Stephen Spielberg bring this genre into the mainstream and inspire imitators to cash-in on its distinctiveness in similarly vulgar manner as to undermine its authenticity and gumption. Bless his heart, but we can kind of say Lloyd Kaufman almost brought Bizarro into the mainstream in the 1980’s—but let’s all be glad he did not. In many respects, like psychedelic authors proving in the 1960′s Sci-Fi needn’t be shiny metal Martian robuts, contemporary Bizarro proves that Bizarro need not be greasy grimy Troma gopher guts, or worse, a trashy aberration of filth to be poked fun at by polite society:

Can we say of this genre that it is simply strange? Surreal? Weird? Quirky? Yes, all of these things. But be it only that? Not so much. In fact, I haven’t yet met a Bizarro editor who would reduce the genre to these simple terms. Check out the following titles, all worth reading, and see just what possibilities lie in store. I’ll continue to post updates, one review per week beginning in this post, and later on this month I join these authors and editors at their annual conference in Portland, Oregon, where I hope to conduct interviews.

REVIEW #1 – Gigantic Death Worm

The Basics – Three friends are trapped on a ski lift and stalked by bears, but an accidental discharge of ancient Mayan brain parasites winds up destroying the town of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Flavor – SATIRICAL

Read Worthiness – The narrator takes center stage here, cleverly interjecting random notes here and there, but this is more precisely the author, Vince Kramer himself, whose attitude and disposition toward fiction writing, on a literal level, that is, making stuff up about stuff, quickly reveals itself as silly, juvenile, absurd, and vulgar. And that is the payoff—the manner of storytelling, let alone the content, that is a stream-of-consciousness window into Vince Kramer making shit up as he goes along. Ordinarily, this would be a terrific turn off, like listening to some little kid make ‘splosion sounds with his mouth as it becomes painfully clear just how much video games have wrecked his imagination, but like a good William Gass short story, we are in it for the ride. The pacing takes on a cinematic feel, such as when Suzanne has a Mexican Death Worm chased out of her with tequila, and, of course, the rest of the cast is drinking Margaritas because they like to party all the time:

Suzanne’s eyes rolled back in her head then popped out of her face. An eyeball landed in Scott’s margarita glass, and not noticing, he took a sip. Then he saw it and went, “Ergwh!” and threw the glass down on the floor where it shattered.” A round necklace of teeth appeared around her neck, biting deep into the skin, causing blood to bubble to the surface. The teeth climbed, biting. They revealed a bright blue, leathery tube of flesh emerging from the base of her neck. A thick, head-sized blue worm slowly ate her entire head, swallowing it whole, inch by inch, until it was gone. A big blue worm head with a gaping round mouth full of sharp, jagged teeth writhed and snapped where Suzanne’s head used to be.

The Bottom Line – Around the halfway point, Kramer begins telling a story, sort of like how an action science fiction movie will grudgingly slow down for a moment in order to justify all the ‘splosions thus far (the most egregious example that comes to mind is John Carter) and this is where the book loses its momentum, but all is not lost, the Gigantic Death Worm is not far off. Gigantic Death Worm is a fast read, and a worthy read. If this is your first introduction into Bizarro, it is a good choice.

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“Ann Coulter had found the perfect recipe: treating news spaces as comedy platforms where she could deliberately make ridiculous statements to infuriate liberals who would be too dense to notice what was going on.”

Terrific article on Salon.com and truly the “last word” anyone needs on Ann Coulter, who, I will add, should also be counted out as a poor performance artist and a poor comedian. Obviously, this is her bag, again, to quote the article, “She seemed less interested in her notion of justice but significantly more concerned with inflicting outrage on the American public. Society was stupid, and she was going to screw with it.”

She isn’t masterful or brilliant for what she does. Rush Limbaugh, the same brand of comedian/clown, now he’s brilliant. Where Rush leaves an unwitting, informed listener rebutting his backwards claims with a genuine dialogue and desire for truth, Coulter leaves one simply saying, “What the fuck is the matter with you?” That, or speechless with repulsion.

At least her act is wearing thin, but don’t expect her to go away, that is, until somebody comes along and does it better than her. Share this article from Salon with people who aren’t already “in” on the gag (sorry to use that word, it assumes she is actually funny.) As a self-described Republican myself, I’d love an opportunity to take her place, and will begin by saying (is this thing on?) that we should begin rounding up democrats and systematically killing them because that is our only hope in defeating Obama who is acting exactly like Hitler did in World War II.

It is a bit mind-boggling that right-wing media doesn’t mind having a clown in their camp of purported “straight journalists,” but then again, right-wing media and conservative politics in general are antagonistic toward information and public knowledge, so anything to muddy the water could be construed as a good thing.

Full article here.

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