Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Undead Anzio Riot Grrrls

WARNING: This piece can best be described as "rambling".

I can't remember the last time I read a horror novel, but over the holiday break I read World War Z by Max Brooks. It's great mind candy: An oral history of The Zombie War... Remember that? When humans were forced to the brink of extinction by the undead? Me 'neither... but it's a fun, well-written account of that time in human history. Of course, the zombie outbreak started in China.. You can't trust Chinks.. ever.

Anyway, the part that sealed my fandom of World War Z is during an "interview" with an American soldier about the tactics used late in the war to draw the zombies out into the open so humans could avoid close combat with the undead; besides the smell of living flesh, Zombies are drawn to sound... So the various armies around the globe used loud sounds to attract the undead into open areas where they could be easily mowed down by firearms. The British Army used bagpipes, the Chinese used bugles, the South Africans used old Zulu war chants... and what sound did American troops use to draw zombies to their killing zones??

Dude, they blasted 'The Trooper' by Iron Maiden over loud speakers!! Fucking brilliant, right?!

The American soldier says in his "interview" that he realized the song was chosen to psych the human troops up as much as to draw the undead out of hiding. He says:

"Right about the time Dickinson was belting "As you plunge into a certain death" I was pumped, SIR (Standard Infantry Rifle) charged and ready, eyes fixed on this glowing, closing horde. I was, like, "C'mon, Zack (slang for Zombies), let's fuckin' do this!"

You know, given the magnitude of The Zombie War and the lasting effect it had on humanity, I would expect there would be way more books and documentaries about it. I suppose the subject is still too painful for most humans to face, but I'm sure The History Channel will lead us towards the healing power of remembrance and nostalgia merchandising. If only I could remember where I was during the conflict.


Hey! Nobody told me Rick Atkinson's new book came out back in October! WTF... I've been waiting almost 5 years for the 2nd volume of his Liberation Trilogy to be published!

The Day Of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944 had Umlaut staging a nighttime stealth mission via the Prius to the nearest bookstore that was not unlike the predawn glider missions of D-Day.. Also, not unlike a Bangalore torpedo sliding under a barbed wire barrier on Omaha Beach, I slid under the cover price thanks to the store's 20% off sale price on the book.

Yes, there are a million books written about WW2... but Atkinson's writing sets him apart from most of the other WW2 Geeks. The 1st volume of his trilogy (An Army At Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-1943) won the Pulitzer Prize for History in 2003 and it was sort of a revelation when I read it. While most books of this nature are as dry as El Alamein, Atkinson's background (a Master's Degree in English Literature and editor at The Washington Post) gives him a command of the English language that allows him to make his subjects, like, come to life. Dude, he's like a Field Marshall of the written word. When it comes right down to it, Umlaut is mainly an ETO Geek at heart.

(That sound you hear is the yawning of readers as they click away from this space...)

For those of you still reading this space, these are the WW2 books that have influenced my inner WW2 Geek the most:
  • A Bridge Too Far (1966)- Cornelius Ryan.
  • Citizen Soldiers (1997) - Stephen A. Ambrose.
  • Flags Of Our Fathers (2000) - James Bradley.
  • God Is My Co-Pilot (1943) - Robert L. Scott.
  • The Good War (1984) - Studs Terkel.
  • Guadalcanal Diary (1943) - Richard Tregaskis.
  • History Of World War II: Armed Services Memorial Edition (1945) - Edited by Frances Miller with A Board of Historical and Military Authorities.
  • The Longest Day (1959) - Cornelius Ryan.
  • The Mighty Eighth (1970) - Roger A. Freeman.
  • The Ragged, Rugged Warriors (1966) - Martin Caiden.
To clarify, these books "influenced" me the most and aren't necessarily "the best" WW2 books; the majority of these I read when I was a kid... However, of all these books, the History Of World War II: Armed Services Memorial Edition is easily the single most influential title on the list.

Evidently, a copy of the book was given to every person who was in the U.S. Armed Forces between 1941-45; my dad's copy is still in perfect condition even after 62 years. He was presented with his copy (along with a World War 2 Victory Medal) due to his stint in the U.S. Navy from 1945-47. As a kid, the History Of World War II: Armed Services Memorial Edition was like the family bible to me; I was in awe of the 966-page tome and I read through its pages endlessly during my formative years.

As I was typing this piece, I couldn't remember the exact title of the book so I called my dad to get the correct title and publication details. After giving me the info I needed, my dad said I should just take the book home with me the next time I visit... DOH! It was not unlike my dad giving me his ENIGMA Machine!

Oh yeah... The other day I was at Amoeba Records to use a gift certificate that I'd gotten for Christmas. When I handed the Indie Rock Chick cashier my selections (The Essential Glenn Miller and Dead Moon- Echoes of the Past) they elicited a confused look from her.

As Indie Rock Chick filled out a credit slip for my gift certificate balance she signed her name with the K Records logo (How 1991 of her, right?) and before bagging my selections she held them up and commented "These are so.... different..."

At that point I almost played the grumpy old WW2 Geek and said "Riot Grrrl, it's no different than the 82nd Airborne's FUBAR during the invasion of Sicily and the FUBAR that was Operation Market Garden"... but instead I simply replied with a smile. I suppose I probably should have commented on the K Records logo to prove *my* Indie cred ("Hey! Kurt Cobain had that tattoo!") but I didn't.. 'cause, like, I just don't give a shit about it anymore. If Cobain had been in WW2 Patton would have slapped him anyway.

Speaking of K Records: Back in May I mentioned in this space that my cousin was running for mayor of Olympia, WA. Well, guess what? In November he won the election with 70% of the vote: Click HERE for his official bio. Ironic... Hilarious.. Weird! So, don't fuck with me Riot Grrrls 'cause Umlaut's kin is The Mayor 'til 2011.. and The Mayor is also a drummer. Kill Rock Stars... all of them.. cue some Sleater-Kinney.

Epilogue: Zombies > World War II > Riot Grrrls.. Rambling, wasn't it?