Odd and creepy stuff that is not book-related

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

I’ve been a bit busy lately. I know, that sounds weird to read because it is well known that I am the least busy person on the planet. If I run an errand, I need a nap and a diet soda upon waking. But since about December I’ve had a lot of energy. Lots of hobbies, errands, cooking, interacting with Mr. Oddbooks, and absolutely neurotic levels of cleaning have been going on. This burst of energy means my backlog of books to discuss is about to become not so backed or logged.

And it means I want to write here more, even when I don’t have book-related content. I will have book content Monday – a discussion of Wrath James White’s Population Zero – but until I post it, I want to discuss the music/noises I have been obsessed with lately. I’ve been resurrecting old writing of mine, looking at it and seeing if it is worth salvaging. Some of it is and one of the pieces I want to work on is deeply disturbing. When I work on disturbing stories, I cannot listen to my usual music. I find myself listening the most discordant, horrible sounds because my usual tastes may cause me to think of old friends, old activities and I end up reminiscing more than working. I need things that jangle my brain in an anonymous way.

Nothing I share below is new, though some of it is new to me. I’m sharing it anyway because I feel like sharing, dammit. And it’s not like this site is devoted to the latest in media anyway.

I’ve always been very interested in numbers stations. There’s just something very creepy and intense knowing that you may be listening to a coded order for a spy to kill an enemy agent or to take the cyanide pill. Yeah, none of that probably happened, but it’s still unnerving to listen to a form of communication and know you cannot now and will never know what was being communicated. So I’ve been listening to numbers stations recordings.

When that gets tiring, I listen to the Siberian Sounds of Hell. Anyone who has ever listened to Art Bell knows of them. Utter bunk, but distressing noise is distressing noise. I most often listen to a 20 minute loop of this I have on my computer, but this little video gives the “origin story” of these sounds.

And if you were an Art Bell junkie for any length of time, you probably already know of the call Art Bell got from a supposed frantic man who claimed to have worked at Area 51. Tool turned the call into a song called “Faaip De Oiad.” There’s something about this one that sort of messes with me if I listen to it long enough. I have absolutely no idea why.

Then there is this little gem. I found this one several pages back on a Google search for “horrible noise.” I’m not really into noise rock so that may explain why this has been out for two years and I never heard of it until recently. I play this one in a loop for hours as I think. And again, for whatever reason, there is something about this noise that is troubling to me. Much of the this song is distressing, especially the line, “Our bones won’t grow in the dirt.” That was enough on its own to be unsettling, but then I looked up the band and found this video. Now I associate all of the noise surges with screaming and the line about bones has a more sinister meaning. And then there’s the whole story in the video. Is the victim a girl or a boy? How long was he or she held in captivity, because the smeared make-up and dirty socks convey the idea of a lengthy abduction. The madman is in his underwear. Did the victim thwart a sexual attack and flee? Is the camera pan comparing the legs of the running victim and the madman telling us something? How about the manner in which the victim knew the exact place to hit the femoral artery? What does that tell us? Anything? Nothing? In a way this video encapsulates all that is amazing in story-telling – giving enough information to draw us in and leaving out enough so that we are forced to think. This one is gory as hell so if you are easily freaked out by such things, don’t watch.

I never really liked Aphex Twin but this was part of my background noise when writing long before I saw the video.

And then there is the always horrifying “Frankie Teardrop” by Suicide. The screaming, oh the screaming. The relentless drum machine. This is madness in the form of a song.

There’s more but six videos for one entry is more than enough, I think. Please share with me the music that helps you work, the music that terrifies you or the music that fills you with nauseated dread.

Free non-odd books

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Because I am at times an indiscriminate consumer of books, it’s not unusual for me to purchase duplicate copies. Actually, this happens a lot more than I likely know because you don’t even want to know how many books I have yet to catalog. But anyway, I have the following duplicates and my lovely readers here can have them if they want them.

If anything sounds good to you, leave a comment claiming the book(s). Then send me an e-mail at anita at ireadoddbooks dot com with your address. For the love of all that is sane, do not leave your address in the comments. Just claim the book and send me the e-mail and it’s yours.

Here are the books I want to unload on y’all:

Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food by Eric Schlosser CLAIMED

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto by Chuck Klosterman CLAIMED

Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays by David Sedaris CLAIMED

The Almost Moon: A Novel by Alice Sebold CLAIMED

13 Steps Down by Ruth Rendell CLAIMED

All are either new or so close to new that it sort of doesn’t matter.

I’d like to say this will not happen again but we all know it will. Thanks for taking them off my hands.

Part Three will be online Wednesday

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

I had planned to have Part Three from 2083, wherein I begin to discuss Anders Behring Breivik, online on Tuesday but it just isn’t going to happen. I will definitely have it finished and online on Wednesday, with Part Four likely to come on Monday. Sorry about that. You’d think discussing a mentally aberrant mass murderer drenched in conspiracy theory and narcissism would come very easily to me. Life is strange…

Until then, if you have ever wondered what one of my extremely long discussions would look like translated into Norwegian, it’s your lucky day.

Check back with me Wednesday and until then, I appreciate all the comments, positive and not-so-positive. I am flattered and humbled that my opinions on this manifesto resonate and have meaning for others.

Strange days

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

The last two weeks totally didn’t happen, right? My days have melted into a sort of gelatinous yet dusty place where time has been rendered meaningless.

But I swear I have two discussions that will be online soon, with more to come. I want to do some more themed weeks but until I am able to adapt to this here Earth time, I don’t think I should try.

I did loot a used book store that is closing (and let us not speak of Borders lest I begin to cry and write another eulogy to the stupid corporate chain that stole and then broke my heart). I should write up the list of the books I purchased. Some were so old and so “collectible” they triggered my mold allergy. Good times.

Anyway, I am alive but useless in ways that words fail to convey to the non-useless. But book discussions are a-comin’ and they will be fun. God gets eaten by dogs, followed by junkie vampire teenagers in the Pacific Northwest who may not be vampires but I don’t know because I had to stop reading the book. Yes, I am going to review a book I couldn’t finish yet was so striking it demands a discussion. Strange days, indeed.

So tune in or check your blog readers from time to time because I totally swear I will be productive soon.

The Death of Borders

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Borders closing
Yep. Death. And no matter how much the Borders corporate offices try to spin that the company is regrouping, doing this, that and the other and it will all be okay, you should know Borders is dying and in five years or less will be completely gone from the book-purchasing landscape in the United States. There are a bunch of reasons for his and they have been hashed and rehashed since Borders announced they were closing a ton of stores, but I’m past that stage of grief, the anger stage when you assign blame and demand answers. At the moment, I am hovering between depression and acceptance.

Does this sound melodramatic, mourning the loss of a bookstore? It might be to some people. There is a sense that mourning should be kept special for humans or animals, but as a person whose life revolves around books – the reading of books, the procurement of books, the handling of books, the visual appeal of books – losing a book store that has been a part of my life for over a decade affects me deeply.

I read electronic books and dead tree books but have a definite preference for the latter and I buy them everywhere. Thrift stores, big box stores, publisher sites, Amazon, and, of course, book stores, independent and corporate. I don’t dislike Barnes and Noble, but Borders was always my favorite corporate book store. It’s as tenuous to explain this as it is to explain why you like only one of two very similar people. Border’s just visually appealed to me more. Its arrangement appealed to my sense of logic. The book selection, though similar between the two, was just a little more focused on my interests. It is hard to explain, sort of ephemeral, but Borders was a comforting place to me. I never used the store as a place to write, or hang out, or drink coffee. It was a place where I went to have a book-absorbing experience.

Mr Oddbooks and I discussed whether we wanted to go to Borders one last time, sort of visiting a dying a friend before the inevitable death, or just remember the store the way we loved it. We decided not to go back, but one evening while we were out, I just decided to go. But it wasn’t seeing a dying friend.
Borders closing

Borders closing
The friend was dead, its body picked over, bones exposed.

So, my friend is already dead. Let me eulogize my dead friend.

Mr Oddbooks and I are not drinking sorts of people, nor are we the sorts who like posh restaurants, so during times of celebrations, we went to Borders. I am not kidding one little bit. During times of great happiness, we went to Borders and dumped a couple to a few hundred dollars.
Borders closing
I would wander the fiction sections and pick up any book whose cover appealed to me. I bought my first David Foster Wallace book at this Borders the day Mr Oddbooks landed his current gig after two years of instability. I remember that evening very clearly. He bought some of those expensive computer magazines that cost more than a hardcover book and I decided to buy books I had never heard of before or writers I had been hesitant to read. Wallace, whose face I had seen in a dream a month before, called to me. I got Infinite Jest and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men. I’ve read the latter and don’t know if he’s my cup of tea or not but had I not been standing in front of the books with a deep will to purchase a book, any book, I would never have read him. Amazon serves me well when I know what I want, but not so well where impulses are concerned. I also bought a book based solely on the fact that there was a Stephen Fry blurb recommending it on the cover. Most importantly, I purchased Fay Weldon’s Chalcot Crescent. Fay Weldon is one of my favorite writers, full stop, yet finding copies of her recent releases in book stores can often be difficult. I am currently reading it and it is eerie how it seems to foretell what happened to Borders, what will happen to other business, and what is happening to governments all over the world. I think I was meant to buy that book when I did. Books can carry a lot of fate between their covers.

We frequently went to Borders during times of happiness, but for some reason, happiness doesn’t cut into my memory the way sadness does.
Borders closing
I had a job at an educational publishing company and I hated it. I had been sold a bill of goods about what I was going to be doing and the only reason I didn’t walk off the job two weeks after I started was because Mr Oddbooks also worked there and I was only given the job out of deference to him (I found out later two other women had, in fact, quit less than a month after accepting the position that eventually tricked down to me so I probably could have left and no one would have thought much of it). But I did the job poorly and it was clear I hated every moment I was there. But the company got sold, I was losing my job (though I quit before that happened), and even Mr Oddbooks’ job was threatened. I was in my cube one day, listening to NPR, and heard about a book called Free Food for Millionaires by Min Jin Lee. It sounded much like what I was experiencing, aside from the Korean cultural influences, and I wanted a copy. I worked just up the road from this Borders so I popped in and tried to find the book.

I couldn’t, so I went to the counter and asked the clerk to help me as the computers said they had it and it was in Literature. Suddenly, behind me, a woman who was from corporate tried to help me find it and took me back to the area where I had already looked, declared they were out and sent me back to the front counter so a clerk could get my information so they could order a copy. Then she went back to conferring with the other corporate drones, keeping an eye on the clerk who was helping me. A small Asian man, he said, very quietly, “I know where the book is. If you wait for ten minutes, I’m off the register and can get it for you.” The woman kept an eagle eye on him during all of this so, as a former retail clerk, I knew he was both trying to help me while not drawing attention to something that could potentially mean trouble. So I wandered off and checked out the sale books and sure enough, ten minutes later, he came up to me with the book. “I don’t know why it keeps ending up in Romance…” he trailed off. It was a strange moment but showed me a lot about the kid who helped me find the book. He knew that store inside and out, he didn’t want to get his coworkers who moved books to inappropriate locations in trouble, and he knew corporate was not to be trusted. Smart kid. I put the book under all the others I was purchasing so the corporate drone wouldn’t see it and I started reading Free Food for Millionaires the moment I got home. Not since Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth has a book spoken to me so clearly in a moment of dread-filled crisis.

Borders closing
In June of 2008, right when Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was in the middle of outsourcing all our jobs to India and Ireland, Mr Oddbooks and I also lost our precious cat, Daisy. Daisy was the feline embodiment of joy, and after we had to put her to sleep, we came back home, wandered around in a grief haze, then decided we had to get out of the house. We went to Borders. I remember standing in front of this table. Where that book with the eyeball peeking through the keyhole is now stood Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. I started to cry and an employee in a wheelchair noticed me. He didn’t ask me what was wrong. He just offered me a coupon for a free coffee upstairs. I didn’t use it. I still have it, in fact. In a box full of memorabilia that I had hoped I would do something meaningful with but probably never will.

The employees were always the reason to shop there. As we checked out our last time, I told the very young man who was ringing us up that I was sorry the store was closing and I hoped he had a good, new job lined up. He said he was a personal trainer on the side but was going back to school to get his nursing degree. The clerk next to him, who is a teacher in Austin, spoke up that it looked like he was going to lose his teaching job, too. He was going back to grad school because it would give him time to recover and determine what he wanted to do next. We all commented that at the moment, not even education was the failsafe it used to be. Teachers were secure in their positions, Harcourt used to be a stable educational publisher, grad school ensured you got a job. None of that is true anymore. The man going back to grad school sighed and said that at least in grad school he got a deferment on his student loans.

Borders is a microcosm of all that is beginning to suck heartily in this country. That which should be secure can be destroyed by a handful of megalomaniacs who think they have all the answers. And those at the bottom are left wondering where the hell they can go next. Good people who want me to have a book but don’t want to narc out a coworker, a man who sees a crying woman and silently offers her a free coffee – these are people who should never worry about where their next job should come from.

Borders closing
I felt a strange resentment toward the people who shopped with me, but I had to remember this was not their fault. This store was destroyed by men in suits who had no fucking idea what they were doing but were able to trick people into thinking they did. I shop on Amazon. I like to pay as little as I can for books. Everyone has to be conscious with their money and it is not the consumer’s fault that Borders’ management screwed things up so royally. I know I am not alone. I know I am not the only person who spent thousands of dollars every year at that Borders. Even if all those shoppers beside me were only there to pick the bones of the retailer, the fact is that vultures help clean things up. They are important in the real world as well as the retail world. Having nothing on the shelves cannot be more depressing than what this picture depicts – a maelstrom of mismanagement and depressed people forced to move on as the world ostensibly moves on around them.

Borders closing
There was nothing left upstairs but fixtures to purchase. I used to love to comb through the Young Adult and Kids’ Books. I got there too late to see those sections still assembled. That’s probably for the best, because in my wandering mind books for children can too easily become children themselves and nothing is sadder than the death of a child.

The last books I purchased at Borders
It was surprising that in those stripped shelves and chaotic messes that I managed to find some good books. For the love of sanity, I could so seldom find Christopher Fowler’s books on the shelves of any retailer but I found two that last night. I had heard a lot of good things about The Madonnas of Echo Park and I had wondered about Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein and why not give it a try at 60% off. Ruth Rendell is one of my favorite authors, and I wasn’t aware the Margaret Atwood book even existed until I saw it. The others just caught my eye.

Just out of sheer perversity, I looked all of these books up on Amazon and with two exceptions, I still could get new copies cheaper when I take into account that I pay no taxes on Amazon. I don’t know what to think about how the economy works and I may well be part of a larger problem, but really I think the economy is changing and retailers who don’t take that into account will die, pure and simple. But no matter how cut and dried it is, death always hurts people in various ways. Things move on but it sucks mightily when you are in the middle of that change.

So if the Borders in your town managed to stay in business, shop there as much as you can because I sense it will not be there long. O the times, O the customs.