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The Culture of Death
October 29, 2010 8:50 AM   Subscribe

Five years ago, the dinosaurs of Ryan North's Dinosaur Comics discussed writing a short story about a "Machine of Death" that would predict your fate. It sparked a forum discussion, which snowballed into a book project headed by North, Matthew Bennardo, and David Malki to create an anthology of short stories about the Machine of Death. Stories were submitted*, selected, and illustrated. Alas, no one was willing to publish an anthology that didn't feature Stephen King, Dave Eggers, Neil Gaiman or Nick Hornby. So they published it themselves and set out a challenge for their fans: "We want Machine of Death to become a Number One bestseller [on amazon.com] for exactly one day — October 26." And it happened! Meanwhile, unbeknownst to our heroes, October 26 was also the release date of a new book by a fellow called Glenn Beck (if you've not heard of him, a quick Google seems to indicate that he’s some sort of Ron Popeil-like infomercial huckster). And he's not happy about missing out on the #1 spot.
posted by alopez (74 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yeeeees, I follow North on twitter. This was so great, but I had no idea that Glenn Beck was so pissed. That's amazing. GO NERDS!
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:52 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Not happy, not very coherant either. That is some quality stream-of-consciousness gabble.
posted by Artw at 8:53 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


These are the — this is the left, I think, speaking. This is the left. You want to talk about where we're headed? We're headed towards a culture of death. A culture that, um, celebrates the things that have destroyed us. Not that the Rolling Stones have destroyed us — I mean, you can't always get what you want. You know what I'm saying? Brown sugar. I have no idea what that means.

Neither do I, Glenn. Neither do I.
posted by specialagentwebb at 8:56 AM on October 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


This has been the most *most* entertaining thing to happen this week.

Also, dear every editor who told me anthologies don't sell.


posted by The Whelk at 8:56 AM on October 29, 2010


I've been failing to keep up on my webcomics and had literally no idea this was going on. This thread is so densely-packed with awesome that I feel like I need to go on an awesomeness diet now.
posted by AugieAugustus at 8:57 AM on October 29, 2010


The premise shares a lot in common with Robert A. Heinlein's debut short story. I wonder if the idea was partially tribute or enitrely independent invention.
posted by 256 at 8:57 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


And it's a — collected stories about, you know, people who know how they're gonna die. Haowww!

I do not understand what this sound effect is supposed to mean.
posted by griphus at 8:58 AM on October 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


Wow. That Glenn Beck tirade is completely incoherent, even by Glenn Beck standards.
posted by schmod at 9:00 AM on October 29, 2010


Haowww - interj. Informal. Used to express the fact that the speaker has no coherent thoughts to express but has to fill up three hours of radio and an hour of television daily for older white people to half pay attention to. Also that he is a dick.
posted by ND¢ at 9:02 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I do not understand what this sound effect is supposed to mean.

I think "Haowww!" is to "D'oh!" as (apoplectic howl of the entitled after being thwarted) is to (annoyed grunt).
posted by AugieAugustus at 9:02 AM on October 29, 2010


Also, amazing first post alopez!
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:02 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Fuck Glenn Beck. Seriously.
posted by briank at 9:03 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


The Glenn Beck audio has been posted over here.
posted by specialagentwebb at 9:04 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow. Thanks for posting this, alopez!
posted by vacapinta at 9:04 AM on October 29, 2010


God damn is Beck spot-on with his eternal position as Victim of the Left. Instead of promoting an independently produced book, supporting the efforts of The Little Guy to Rise Up and Make Good, he paints this picture of a Leftist Conspiracy, an over-arching Culture of Death (with Machine of Death being #1, and Keith Richards’ Life being #2 sellers on one well-known website):
These are the — this is the left, I think, speaking. This is the left. You want to talk about where we’re headed? We’re headed towards a culture of death. A culture that, um, celebrates the things that have destroyed us. Not that the Rolling Stones have destroyed us — I mean, you can’t always get what you want. You know what I’m saying? Brown sugar. I have no idea what that means.

- Glenn Beck, The Glenn Beck Program, October 27, 2010
So his more positive direction is Broke? The US is headed for destruction because we've turned our backs on the Constitution?

Anyway, the comments from Machine of Death folks following the above transcript from Beckthe was pretty amusing.
In the hours since that program was first broadcast into the ears of legions nationwide, Mr. Beck has gotten his wish and captured the #1 spot. We’re just sad we couldn’t have given him his special day on Tuesday! If you’re reading this, Mr. Beck, we’re sorry about that. We just didn’t even know you were there.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:06 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Wow. I feel awful in that I had no idea this book existed, was being planned, or was accepting submissions. I hope there's a sequel because I already have a story idea.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:09 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also, I bought the book to support their efforts. It seems they're doing a great job keeping up with information surrounding their book, and I hope they keep it up in the months to come. Perhaps try to get another publishing deal, or perhaps help promote other indie publishers and shift things to a more lucrative/functional DIY. If musicians can make it big by internet efforts alone, why not graphic novels, writers and artists (though this might have already happened, and I've just paid more attention to the musicians).
posted by filthy light thief at 9:10 AM on October 29, 2010


Brown sugar. I have no idea what that means.

Um... "Brown Sugar" is about having sex with black women. Is Glenn Beck really so dumb and/or obtuse that he doesn't know this? I suppose so.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:11 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, I see. Broke: The Plan to Restore Our Trust, Truth, and Treasure is the new title for Beck's "The Plan", a vision from God which he personally received and was going to promote at his Lincoln Memorial rally. That is, until he realized that he probably shouldn't make that a book promo event.

Well, no wonder he's pissed.

(Is it just me, or does that subtitle for the Beck book seem to have some kind of Mormon dog whistle going on in it? Kind of like how his use of "hanging by a thread" is meant to denote Joseph Smith's White Horse Prophesy? I'm not steeped enough in Mormon thought to know, but I think "treasure" has a specific connotation within their language.)
posted by hippybear at 9:13 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This "machine that predicts your fate" sounds a lot like Heinlein's "Lifeline".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:17 AM on October 29, 2010


It's like the last words of Ditch Schultz or something. Where are my shoes! They took my shoes! I know who they are, they're chinamen!
posted by Artw at 9:17 AM on October 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


Greg Egan had an excellent short story called "The Hundred-Light-Year-Diary" with a similar theme. There was a method of sending short messages back in time, though the information could never change the outcome, so everyone knew their own fate. Or at least as much of it as their future self sent back.

(I'm sure Ryan North came up with the idea independently though.)
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:19 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that Glen Beck is not happy fills me with utter glee.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:22 AM on October 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


I love the fact that the actual URL for the book on the publisher's website (in filthy light thief's comment) only mentions the guy who really wrote the book Beck's "co-author."
posted by anthom at 9:22 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is so great. Go, Machine of Death, Go!*

*not something I ever thought I'd say
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:26 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also: really interesting that to be an Amazon bestseller for a day you only have to have a few hundred in sales. Also: WTF Glenn Beck?
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 9:28 AM on October 29, 2010


LOLGLENNBECKISANIDIOTHAHAHAHAHA

No. Really. He is an idiot.

I think we should briefly put the two together. How will Glenn Beck die according to the Machine of Death? My vote is a runaway donkey trampling him while doing yet another commercial for a shady company.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:28 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I want to... Let's talk about what happened to me this morning. I got to work, because, you know, I'm a man who works. There are still ...a few of us still here. In America.

And so I got to my chair, in the studio, and I sat... on my testicle. It was the left testicle. My... left... testicle.

Think about that.

It was the left. Testicle.

It WAS NOT the RIGHT testicle. It was on... the left... I mean! I'm just saying! Maybe I'm crazy! BUT WHEN MY LEFT TESTICLE GETS SAT ON... ... mmhmm, you see where this is going.

*silence*

I'm just saying.

Back after some commercials! GoldLine!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:29 AM on October 29, 2010 [9 favorites]


Do you think he really thinks he is the center of the universe, or does he just act like it to garner sympathy when reality reminds him that he's not?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:38 AM on October 29, 2010


I read about this book in the earliest planning stages, and I've thought about it since then, but I figured it had disappeared into the ether of good intentions. Now I'm kicking myself for not submitting something!

I worry that Glenn Beck is right that we are becoming a culture of death. However, I think it's the efforts of arms manufacturers, mercenaries, warmongers, and (ahem) propagandists that are leading us there, not the work of artists and writers. In fact I will go on record to say that I, as a writer of poetry, am part of a vast Conspiracy of Life, even when my work is built on an energy that frightens people (whatever form that takes). Dear Glenn Beck: BOO!

"After all, the point of art is to show people that life is worth living by showing that it isn't." -- Fanny Howe, from her fantastic essay Bewilderment
posted by sleevener at 9:41 AM on October 29, 2010


This is wonderful. I could never imagine a clearer cut good vs evil narrative than Glenn Beck vs. David Motherfucking Malki. Malki is awesome. I have his "Hierarchy of Beards" poster on my bathroom wall.
posted by brundlefly at 9:46 AM on October 29, 2010


Can someone please steal his rant re: the Rally to Restore Sanity tomorrow? About how we're celebrating death by holding up signs asking for things like an end to foreign war, healthcare, and irrational fear?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:48 AM on October 29, 2010


Er, that was a botched up comment. My sinus headache is killing me.
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:48 AM on October 29, 2010


I believe you mean "Lifelock advocate and safe salesman Glenn Beck"
posted by boo_radley at 9:56 AM on October 29, 2010


sleevener: I worry that Glenn Beck is right that we are becoming a culture of death.

Death is at the end for us all. How we address that eventuality is what matters. Some cultures shun death, embrace the appearance of youth, and find reminders of the dead to be sad and depressing. People who are dead are "missing from life," and their loss is mourned. Other cultures revere the dead, celebrating the life that was lived when someone dies. I think the majority of the US is in the first category, those who fear death, and thus any discussion of it is an unhealthy fixation on death.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:00 AM on October 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Like XQUZYPHYR, wish I knew, to submit, support, and so on! But still great effort, will read it.
posted by uni verse at 10:01 AM on October 29, 2010


Plus Día de los Muertos is MEXICAN.
posted by Artw at 10:03 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


I am now even more excited about having ordered it on the 26th! In some small way, I contributed to making Glenn Beck mad. My month is pretty much complete.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:09 AM on October 29, 2010


The real money shot of the whole thing (so far) is this:
scroll down about half-way. The Beck producers asked for two copies of the book.
Malki ! obliged.

I think it's a little better than terrific, the whole thing. From what I've read about it a huge part of the sweat behind getting this together was Malki! (I think I read R.North mentioning that somewhere).

I can't wait what happens next. I can't wait to read the finished thing, (I won't get my copy for month+ (Europe)).
posted by From Bklyn at 10:11 AM on October 29, 2010


I think it's a little better than terrific, the whole thing. From what I've read about it a huge part of the sweat behind getting this together was Malki! (I think I read R.North mentioning that somewhere). I mean, in the intervening years, while they were looking for a publisher.

The Beck angle is cute and great that has brought more attention to this project, but the more impressive thing is that they have produced it at all and brought it to market when it started out as a flip remark on a message board.
posted by From Bklyn at 10:16 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hey, I got rejected for that anthology.

I couldn't be prouder that the quality garnered by the omission of my work was such that it could keep Beck from getting a #1 slot.

but I still think my story was pretty damn good.
posted by Shepherd at 10:18 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Glenn Beck's monologues are now virtually indistinguishable from the Last Words of Dutch Schultz.

Look for my "Dashing A Thousand Kim" rally on the Mall when it gets warm again!
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:22 AM on October 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Damn it, Artw, you scooped me. I searched, too, but your cunning typo thwarted me.

Unless there was another gangster called "Ditch Schultz"--Dutch's younger brother. Who never wept. Nor dashed a thousand kim.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:24 AM on October 29, 2010


...secretly I hope that mad, rich Beck-hater buys enough books to put it back on number one for another day...
posted by From Bklyn at 10:24 AM on October 29, 2010


Ditch Schultz would always be *about* to do a crime, but duck out of it for some reason at the last moment.
posted by Artw at 10:26 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Glenn Beck: This liberal culture of death...
Anton Chigurgh: ... You don't know what you're talking about. ಠ_ಠ
posted by d1rge at 10:26 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


God, why won't Glenn Beck just die already?!
posted by keep_evolving at 10:31 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


This made me buy the book:

And here is the story “HIV INFECTION FROM MACHINE OF DEATH NEEDLE,” by Brian Quinlan, in its entirety:
“Well,” I thought, “that sucks.”

posted by slimepuppy at 10:35 AM on October 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


God, why won't Glenn Beck just die already?!

I have this theory...
posted by griphus at 10:35 AM on October 29, 2010


They didn't publish my story. *snif*
posted by Eideteker at 10:44 AM on October 29, 2010


I think griphus will be proven right when Beck starts pimping new RedRight Phylacteries ("Why be LEFT without a soul? Keep it with your Book of Mormon Bible and your copy of the Bill of Second Amendments!").
posted by haveanicesummer at 11:02 AM on October 29, 2010


Beck needs to have a talk with Admiral Kirk about the fact that how we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.

Also, I'd like to see Beck's performance on the Kobayashi Maru test.
posted by COBRA! at 11:05 AM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


THEY'RE GOING TO RECORD AND RELEASE IT AS A PODCAST!
posted by edbles at 11:22 AM on October 29, 2010


If Glenn Beck is so for Americans learning his important message, why doesn't he release his book as a free podcast? I'm just asking questions. Why won't Glenn Beck answer them?
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:25 AM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


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posted by Rhaomi at 12:15 PM on October 29, 2010 [26 favorites]


by sheer chance I posted my Dinaosaur Comics homage that day
posted by The Whelk at 12:22 PM on October 29, 2010


I know people who firmly believe that the only thing that has prevented Obama from assassinating Beck is divine intervention. They talk about multiple failed attempts in specific detail. Apparently, all Obama does all day is sit around the oval office, plotting new ways for Beck to be murdered.

Also, they don't believe he's a Mormon.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:06 PM on October 29, 2010


Sometimes, karma's a bitch.
posted by mmrtnt at 1:09 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


uhh isn't brown sugar heroin?
posted by stratastar at 2:14 PM on October 29, 2010


Dinosaur comics outsell comical dinosaur.
posted by bgrebs at 2:27 PM on October 29, 2010 [7 favorites]


uhh isn't brown sugar heroin?

Not according to The Rolling Stones
posted by mmrtnt at 3:25 PM on October 29, 2010


Maybe Glenn Beck doesn't get brown sugar because he's so beyond race that he can't read into obvious innuendo? Unlike liberals who racebait by giving poor people money to buy groceries.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:31 PM on October 29, 2010


We should keep slipping him articles about gender balance in rural China in the hope of goading him into a Bowie reference.
posted by Artw at 3:39 PM on October 29, 2010


His Stones references were following the fact that the #2 book on Amazon was Keith Richards’ Life. But funny you should mention China. To save my sanity and keep my levels of GRAR in check, I don't follow Beck. But looking for some description of what Broke is about, I hopped links and found this charming quote from Beck: "Let's be a little more like China" - it's an excerpt from a video, but that thought alone, the idea that China should be a shining example of what to do, is rather disturbing. Sure, it's only talking about how China is planning for the future world (you know, 5 years out, maybe 10 if you're being ballsy). Did he remember that China is still a communist state? How can you equate the lack of foresight by Republicans with a single-party system? GRAR.

Back to this book - hearing that there are probably a number of stories that feature someone being informed of how they will die, if not when, I was sad to find no TV Tropes page for this, or any other handy collection of such stories, graphic novels, TV shows, movies, etc.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:17 PM on October 29, 2010


Well in that case I'm going to try and score some Ebenezer Goode off of him.
posted by Artw at 4:51 PM on October 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Haha, awesome. We should do this every time Beck puts out a book.
posted by emeiji at 7:12 PM on October 29, 2010


Yes, emeiji my friend. Yes we should. Who else is up for it?
posted by ambulocetus at 7:38 PM on October 29, 2010


filthy light thief: " To save my sanity and keep my levels of GRAR in check, I don't follow Beck."

Really? Sea Change is like, the greatest downer record of all time. OF ALL TIME!!
posted by mwhybark at 7:44 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


MetaFilter has never made me spend money before. Excluding the meetup where I bought a Coke, at least. I love Ryan North and his insight, but I woulda missed this book had I merely read today's Dinosaur Comics and gone on with my life. This will be $10 well spent.
posted by spamguy at 9:01 PM on October 29, 2010


mwhybark, I got annoyed by those Midnight Vultures, as I got a weird Cheezy Lounge vibe from that era, and marked Beck off as a silly fellow, but I'll take your comments to mind.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:44 AM on October 31, 2010


God, maybe they're related.
posted by mwhybark at 8:46 PM on November 3, 2010


I would say silly fellow can fairly be applied to either with no meaningfully pejorative intent.
posted by mwhybark at 8:47 PM on November 3, 2010


I'm really late to this thread, but I just wanted to point out that this book is absolutely frikken awesome.

I got it because I thought it'd be kind of quirky and cute and fun... I wasn't expecting it to be completely fantastic. Seriously well-written, seriously interesting. Definitely worth reading. I'm so glad they were able to get this made and then convince me to buy it.
posted by meese at 4:46 PM on November 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


They got a distribution deal as a result of this. That's kind of a big thing. Thanks.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:05 PM on November 10, 2010


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