The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Blogger Nav Bar

I just added a neat bit of code to the blogger template to hide the Nav Bar at the top of the screen. It offended my eye. Code acquired from Derya's WebResourse.axd to give due credit.

If its absence bugs anyone overmuch, there's a button at the bottom of the right side bar to show/hide it.

Any other blog tweaks that you want to see? I'm looking into a "subscribe by e-mail" option.

Negative Feedback Bookplate

This hilarious, vengeful bookplate was recently posted by Lewis Jaffe on his blog Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie (together with a set of "special occasion" plates).

This is negative feedback for the ages.

Movie Break: Attack of the Crab Monsters

I finally saw a bizarre, Roger Corman picture that's been haunting me since I read about it years ago (likely in Bill Warren's Keep Watching the Skies--the essential reference book on 40s-60s sf film).

The plot summary--giant irradiated crabs absorb the brains of people they eat then use their voices to trick people into the giant crab den--really stuck with me. Apparently the fish as brain food thing works both ways.

Usually when I track down little obsessions like this, they disappoint, but this film was actually more bizarre than I could have hoped.

Okay brain-stealing giant nuclear crabs: weird.

Nihilistic crabs who systematically demolish an island so their prey has nowhere to run: scary.

Mercury-like, heat-radiating crabs who can't be killed because solid objects pass right through them: total "wtf?" Dada nightmare.

The set-up and scientist protags are likeably generic, but most of this (short) film is devoted to info-dumping the bizarre gumbo of monster ideas.

Here's the netflix link: Attack of the Crab Monsters

The transfer is fairly crap and looks like it was taken from a public domain VHS, but it doesn't matter. You will be absorbed.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Trash-talking George Eliot

I checked out Middlemarch from our library so I wouldn't fall too far behind on my Dailylit subscription. I'm enjoying it a great deal (to the extent that I'm ignoring Gil Brewer's Vengeful Virgin and the pile of Manga that I brought as back-ups).

I made a fun phrase origin discovery in chapter 45 (page 407 of the Bantam pb edition). In reference to some rumor mongering about the forward-thinking Dr. Lydgate, the author states:
The trash talked on such occasions was the more vexatious to Lydgate, because it was precisely the sort of prestige which an incompetent and unscrupulous man would desire....
This is actually in reference to some ignorant and misplaced praise offered by individuals from a lower-class, rather than insults or slander.

I don't have access to etymological texts at the moment but most internet resources indicate that "trash talk" is of colloquial African-American origin. The Eliot 1870-71 reference indicates that it might be associated with the term "white trash"--which can be traced back at least to the 1820s.

I'm gonna keep reading and see if I can sort out who made the first "booty call".

Monday, December 24, 2007

Found in a Book: Pi decal and Guylaine Guy

I found a pile of these very sf-looking decals of the old National Education Association (NEA) Pi logo stuffed into a book.

Looks like a Vulcan merit badge.

And this substitution announcement saying that actress Guylaine Guy will assume the role of La Mome Pistache.

I think this was from a 1950s production of Cole Porter's Can-Can. There's a picture of her on a French-language site devoted to French-Canadian performers here.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

New Yorker article: Twilight of the Books

The Dec 24/31 New Yorker published an interesting essay by Caleb Crain on the changing state of literacy and what it will mean to our culture if people stop reading books or it becomes only an esoteric pass-time for the elite.

This passage the discusses the difference between the oral and the literary mind-set:
Whereas literates can rotate concepts in their minds abstractly, orals embed their thoughts in stories. According to Ong, the best way to preserve ideas in the absence of writing is to "think memorable thoughts," whose zing insures their transmission. In an oral culture, cliche and stereotype are valued, as accumulations of wisdom, and analysis is frowned upon, for putting those accumulations at risk. There's no such concept as plagiarism, and redundancy is an asset that helps an audience follow a complex argument. Opponents in struggle are more memorable than calm and abstract investigations, so bards revel in name-calling and in "enthusiastic description of physical violence." Since there's no way to erase a mistake invisibly, as one may in writing, speakers tend not to correct themselves at all. Words have their present meanings but no older ones, and if the past seems to tell a story with values different from current ones, it is either forgotten or silently adjusted. As the scholars Jack Goody and Ian Watt observed, it is only in a literate culture that the past's inconsistencies have to be accounted for, a process that encourages skepticism and forces history to diverge from myth.
I've never read a better explanation for Bush's second term.

It isn't an entirely one-sided, pro-literary argument however. Cain also hi-lights findings from a 1974 Soviet study that defined ways of seeing the word that are more available to the pre-literate:
Luria found that illiterates had a "graphic-functional" way of thinking that seemed to vanish as they were schooled. In naming colors, for example, literate people said "dark blue" or "light yellow," but illiterates used metaphorical names like "liver," "peach," "decayed teeth," and "cotton in bloom." Literates saw optical illusions; illiterates sometimes didn't. Experimenters showed peasants drawings of a hammer, a saw, an axe, and a log and then asked them to choose the three items that were similar. Illiterates resisted, saying that all the items were useful. If pressed, they considered throwing out the hammer; the situation of chopping wood seemed more cogent to them than any conceptual category. One peasant, informed that someone had grouped the three tools together, discarding the log, replied, "Whoever told you that must have been crazy," and another suggested, "Probably he's got a lot of firewood." One frustrated experimenter showed a picture of three adults and a child and declared, "Now, clearly the child doesn't belong in this group," only to have a peasant answer: "Oh, but the boy must stay with the others! All three of them are working, you see, and if they have to keep running out to fetch things, they'll never get the job done, but the boy can do the running for them."
It's an interesting (and fairly depressing) read. Check it out here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Famous Mountaineer Bookplate

I found this bookplate--"Ex-libris Geoffrey Winthrop Young"--in a copy of Tudor Tracts 1532-1588, Archibald Constable and Co, 1903. I was tempted to remove it for my collection but I did a little googling first and it turns out Young was a famous mountaineer, author and poet.

Excerpted from wikipedia:
"Young made many new and difficult ascents in the Alps, including noted routes on the Zermatt Breithorn (the "Younggrat"), the west ridge of the Gspaltenhorn, on the west face of the Weisshorn, and a dangerous and rarely repeated route on the south face of the Täschhorn. His finest rock climb was the Mer de Glace face of the Grépon. In 1911, with H O Jones, he ascended the Brouillard ridge of Mont Blanc and made the first complete traverse of the west ridge of the Grandes Jorasses, and the first decent of the ridge to the Col des Hirondelles....He was elected president of the Climbers' Club in 1913...and later president of the Alpine Club."
He published numerous collections of verse, books on mountaineering and the very entertaining sounding The Roof Climbers Guide to Trinity, "a satirical parody of pompous early alpine guides".

The book also contains a bookseller ticket from "Spottiswoode & Co., Ltd., 17 High Street Elton" and vocabulary notes on the rear endpaper (possibly in Young's hand).

Quite a cool find.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Paul Rader Midwood Cover Model

Girls Dormitory (Midwood F343) 1963 AUTHOR: Joan Ellis ARTIST: Paul Rader, originally uploaded by Hang Fire Books.

While uploading a new batch of covers to flickr, I noticed that the woman in the background of this Paul Rader painting was done using the same model/photograph as in this 1964 Rader cover I posted previously.

Looks like a new painting rather than over-painting or art director recycling as you frequently see on these covers. It's an interesting glimpse into Rader's artistic process.

Lots of fresh cheesecake in my Pulp Fiction Cover Gallery. You can subscribe to an RSS feed of my covers here if interested
(this is separate from/in addition to the regular blog feed) .

Hang Fire Flickr Feed

Ririhong Netslice!

Alice found this Ririhong Netslice in the dollar store down the street. It's replaced both "thing-a-ma-jig" and "doohickey" in my vocabulary.

I think it perfectly illustrates why China is kicking our ass economically. They can make a closet organizer sound like a finishing move in Mortal Combat...and tweak my patriotism while they're at it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Recent Estate Sale Finds

I mentioned a few posts back that I purchased books from the estate of a champion cat fancier/fashion plate and her husband an award-winning toast master.

I finally made it through the boxes and I thought I'd hi-light some of my best finds:

What Shall I Wear?: The What, Where, When and How Much of Fashion
by Claire McCardell

Simon & Shuster 1956

A difficult book to find in any condition but here's one in the jacket and autographed.

Excerpted from Wikipedia:
Claire McCardell (1905-1958) was an American Fashion designer. Her clothes were functional with clean lines and an American look. She is known for her wrap-around sashes, monastic dresses, harem pajamas, and large pockets with top stitching. She launched her career as a designer under the supervision of Robert Turk. When he died in an accident in the early 1930s, Claire was made head designer. She found success in the fall season of 1938 with her monastic dress, one that had no back, front, or zipper, but was tied to fit the wearer. She kept designing for Robert Turk's, Townley, until her death in 1958. Her clothing is still recognized as timeless American sportswear.
The book is beautifully designed with McCardell's elongated, cartoon figures in the margins of nearly every page and a fold-out glossary of "McCardellisms".

Boy Scout Handbook
(Revised Handbook, First Edition, 3rd Printing)

Classic Americana with the Norman Rockwell cover. Not super-rare but the first one I've turned up and it's good to know what it looks like.

The Dog Cantbark
by Marjorie Fischer

Random House, 1940 First Edition

A charming children's book about a dog raised by musicians who isn't allowed to bark lest he disturb their practice. In dust jacket with no crayon marks (a rare occurrence with vintage kids' books).

Playboy's Book of Forbidden Words
Edited by Robert Anton Wilson

Playboy Press, 1974

A handy book to have if you want to know when a woman is "flying bravo" or if you're in the market for a "merkin". I was mystified about the relatively high demand for it though, until I focused on the editor and noticed it was Robert Anton Wilson, author of the cult conspiracy epic the Illuminatus Trilogy.

And lastly:

A box-full of vintage Air France silverware from the mid-60s. I love the mod design, especially the tiny paddle-shaped knife (and yes that's me looking even more pear-shaped than usual in the unfortunate spoon reflection...but fully clothed you reflectoporn pervs).

I love finding a few odd items to keep as mementos once the books (hopefully) fly off to new homes. Can't wait to picnic with these.

Also I'm currently running several auctions from this estate, including one for antique German lace craft books and patterns, and one for cat show souvenir booklets and ephemera. Check them out if interested.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hard-Boiled Papercraft

Photographer Thomas Allen has a new book of pop-up art created from vintage pulp covers called Uncovered.

I have mixed feeling about his methods (especially since Chip Kidd is attached to the project who--though an enthusiast of comic and pulp art--has presided over some extremely butchered presentations of said art) but Allen's images are beautiful.

I hope he doesn't inspire any copycat killings though.

Link via BoingBoing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Movie Break: I'm Not There

I just saw Todd Haynes' experimental Bob Dylan movie I'm Not There. It's a psychological exploration of Dylan through the musical personas he's created and inhabited. To make the transformations more dramatic, Haynes cast six different actors as Dylan (including an African-American teenager and Cate Blanchett).

I avoided reading the reviews because I generally love Haynes' movies and I wanted to approach it fresh. It wasn't a disappointment (though it had numerous flaws, embarrassing moments and went on for about 10-20 minutes too long).

Basically if you enjoyed Haynes' Velvet Goldmine (which was about Bowie, Eno, Roxy Music, etc), this is the precise same formula applied to Dylan. The films are so similar in structure (down to the dramatic revealing of the artist's true name--as if they were some kind of black magician who's power was bound to the concealing of identity) that Haynes frequently crosses from self-referential to lazy.

I'm a moderate Dylan fan--I love Blonde on Blonde, the classic 60s live recordings, and Don't Look Back. A friend has been supplying me some of the more kabbalistic items, like the 5-disk Basement tapes and Eat the Document. Even with that comparatively small cache of Dylan knowledge, it's clear that this film is incredibly dense. It walks into record covers, nails all of the interview footage I've seen, and will send you racing for your dusty vinyl and youtube to see where Haynes was coming from.

With 6 actors you're bound to get uneven portrayals. The best are Marcus Carl Franklin--who's hilarious representing Dylan's down-trodden, hobo days as an oppressed Negro--and Cate Blanchett who captures Dylan at his most strung-out, obnoxious and perverse. Less interesting are Heath Ledger as a womanizing hunk of beefcake and Richard Gere (!) as Dylan in Billy the Kid exile.

I also appreciated that (unlike Bowie) Dylan allowed for the creative use and adaptation of his music to Haynes' story ideas. The mixture of sharp covers (by Cat Power, Sonic Youth, Richie Havens, Calexico) and Dylan rarities make the soundtrack a worthy buy.

Recommended viewing for a more-than-casual Dylan fan, who has the patience for a biopic that's as slippery and sarcastic as its subject.

Bookselling Tools: Create-A-Stamp Kit

I haven't done one of these bookselling tools posts in a while but after my fourth inventory relocation, I was reminded of the usefulness of my changeable rubber stamp kit. Available at most office supplies stores and at Amazon. The miniature rubber type-setting is an eye and wrist killer but I've saved at least $100-$150 dollars on made-to-order rubber stamps.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Yellowed paperbacks, yellowed teeth

Last week's NYT Book Review contained an interesting essay on the history of (mostly) cigarette advertising in pocket paperbacks of the 1950s-early 80s. The results of the campaign were mixed. The authors hated them (and weren't cut in on the profits), they ended up in the hands of children when the affordable editions were picked for school reading lists and--it turns out--most Americans don't read anyway.

Though ugly and annoying, these ads were at least less insidious than the rash of product placement in novels that started a few years back. Is this still happening? or did bad publicity trump greed?

Read and Release

I have a quick post up at The Bookshop Blog on academic journals/magazines and their uses for a bookseller. Check it out if you get a chance.

Friday, December 7, 2007

French Legacy Porn

The French National Library is...mounting an exhibition of erotic texts and art from the forbidden archive of police-seized erotica. The collection dates back to the 1700s and became known as "L’Enfer" (Hell) when the works were isolated from the rest of the library in the 1830s. Hell ceased intake in 1969 but the works are now finally available for public view (well the 16-and-over public anyway).

The show will include manuscripts from the Marquis De Sade, filthy chapbooks, early erotic photography and numerous key items of historically important smut.

An unused metro station is being converted into an advertisement for the show and trains will slow to a playful tease so riders can glimpse a preview.

Article via The London Times, Link via Violet Blue.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ditmas Exploration

Exploring the new neighborhood today with a couple of small quests to drive me.

First I needed to find a wizened hardware store proprietor who knows the quirks of the neighborhood buildings and has the bits to fix them. Side mission 1: complete! Faucet cartridge collected.

My main task was to try the new post office. This, unfortunately, was a rout. It's a tiny satellite (no PO boxes, or package pickups) with only a couple of open windows. The line filled the place at 2PM on a Wednesday afternoon...not a good sign. And what a line! There was an aggressive cat lady who made the place smell like a stale litterbox, a Japanese woman in a SARS mask trying to ship a digital camera in a tissue box (via UPS mind you) and an elderly man, who--immediately after I tapped his arm to let him know he dropped his glove--shot an ENORMOUS snot rocket into the overflowing trash can next to my foot. I had to avert my eyes and keep the gag reflex in check the entire 28 minutes I stood in line. The staff was nice and helpful to a fault. If they snapped at a few Mo-mos the line might have moved faster.

Guess I'll be bike-messengering it back to the old PO. They're tough but fair and I've already won their respect.

I also discovered 2 new sit-down Mexican restaurants to sample, and a place for Jamaican patties. Still haven't found a bar that suits...

So I don't know what it says about me, but I kept hearing the Legend of Zelda village theme while urban exploring and thinking "What can this quaint shopkeeper offer me on my perilous journey?"

I think this completely un-Brooklyn archway of trees must have set it off

I'll get a better picture during the daytime but it's completely fairy tale.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Amazon Lover

"She was over 6-Feet tall, but that was the smallest thing about her--and we mean EVERYTHING you're thinking, mister!!!"

I'm not sure what I was thinking actually...mostly that with her bizarre coloration, she looks like potential Shatner-trim.

E-Mail Hijacking

Tonight was a rough night. I came home after tromping through sleet to find that my business e-mail had been hijacked and was happily sending spam for hours.

One top of that I received a perfectly timed phishing email saying that I had just purchased $2000 laptop from

Normally phishing e-mails don't phase me but because of the hijacking, I had visions of someone harvesting my credit card from my e-mail account settings and purchasing an island off Borneo. So I did the round of credit report calls before searching the text and figuring out it was a known phishing/malware beastie. Good times

I've been using Earthlink but as soon as I can shift my accounts, I'm outta there.

This is the text of the spam. If you're one of the thousands of people who received this ONE TIME OPPORTUNITY from me already, I apologize for the redundancy.

Payment Managers Wanted for 2007 Quarter
Job Processing Unit (Uatcltd-Group)
United Asian Trading Company.
Phone: +447045766996


Dom May

I wish I could decode e-mail headers because it's looks to contain good info as to the source.

The moral is:
a) Use long complicated passwords that you cycle periodically
b) avoid being a dumb-ass.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Curious Antique Newspaper Clippings

In the process of moving, I unearthed a c1900 scrapbook that I acquired several years ago. It's a technical engineering text with miscellaneous clippings pasted over most of the pages. I had put it aside, intending to conduct "further research" but you know how those things work...

Turns out that it wasn't very interesting, but I did find a handful of peculiar newspaper clippings that I thought I'd share.