The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Autobiographical Tijuana Bible

Finished up the batch of Tijuana Bibles that I've been pecking at for a couple of months. The last few were particularly crude and ugly (which makes them hard to date because it's tough to figure out exactly who they're parodying) but I made a nice discovery in one of the last I listed.

In this bible an artist with a sketch pad approaches cartoon character Dixie Dugan (I think) on a park bench and seduces her by describing her looks in high-flown aesthetic terms. In the last post-coital panel she asks to see some of his "masterpieces" and he whips out a tijuana bible saying he "creates the only art which creates a desire for sexual intercourse and which also causes me to remain in privacy."

This bit of self-referential autobiography, in an almost entirely anonymous form, made my day.

Here's the full bible (NOT work safe):

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Accumulated Horrors

I was emptying an old cell phone and found a surprisingly large collection of Thrift Horrors that I had yet to post. Here's a couple:

See the rest in the Thrifthorror LJ community.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bookish Iphone Apps

I recently overcame my Macrophobia (what's stronger than that? Mac-Hate....opposite of Macrophilia?) and bought an Ipod touch (or iTouch as I've creepily contracted it). I wanted a video walkman and I could no longer resist the torrent of seductive apps that friends were constantly showing off.

Also the app store--with its hundreds of cheap or free goodies fighting for your attention by being the most useful or cool--feels like the arena that has always given birth to the best PC programs rather than the standard Apple way where Jobs on high deliverith the new testament...

oh forget it, I'm only justifying my compromised principles.

Anyway here are some apps that I've found useful for bookhunting, selling, listing and reading.

Google Mobile App [FREE]
A somewhat reduced and mobile-optimized set of the standard Google utilities. So far I like these:
  • Google Docs allows me to upload all of my bookscouting lists and keep them in sync with my desktop.
  • Translate helps with foreign language buying decisions.
  • Reader keeps me up-to-date with blogs on the go (though you'll want a secondary RSS app to sync with Google reader because the Google installed font is painfully small and non-adjustable--I use NetNewsWire)
  • Book Reader gives access to Google Book scans. It displays 10-12 pages per long scroll--but between all of the scan artifacts, typographical ugliness and constant scrolling I wouldn't use it for more than fact-checking.
Read It Later [FREE lite version or $4.99 pro]
My favorite new web-tool. You know when you come across a really rich and text-heavy site that you know will be a rewarding read but you don't have the time now? You toss it in a bookmark folder and never look at it again, right? This app will cure you of this. Read it Later is a bookmarklet that you can install on your iphone and desktop. When you find one of those time-consuming sites, you click the "Read it Later" icon and forget about it. Then when you have some spare time (on the train, in the post office line, in the bathroom, etc) open the read it later app and you'll find the full web-page (no connection necessary if you've synced the Iphone) just when you want something meaty to read. I have the free version. Not sure what the pay version adds.

Ebay App [FREE]
I was out of town this past weekend when I had some high-dollar items listed and this app was a good way to obsess over them and keep track of questions and activity. I haven't used it very deeply but the interface is nice (pleasantly cleaner the the desktop My Ebay page) and it did what I wanted.

RoboForm Mobile [FREE]
After an emailing piracy scare a while back I started using Roboform to create and store my passwords. Now instead of being--slight--variations on a theme, my passwords are complete Greek salad that even I couldn't tell you on pain of torture. Problem is when logging in on another terminal I'm SOL unless I'm carrying a printed record of my passwords (the loss of which is a greater risk than hacking). The roboform Iphone app solves this. I can enter a protected site either by opening roboform and clicking on the login I want or I can view the password (PIN and masterpassword protected) and type it into another terminal.

Dragon Dictation [FREE]
This is a mobile version of the Dragon Naturally Speaking software (which I used to have on my PC but must have lost after a crash). It's terribly useful for transcribing long passages of book description when you're trying to hold open an antique tome with one hand. The desktop version had a training mode where it would learn your voice by having you read passages of Alice in Wonderland and such. While the mobile version doesn't have this, it was fairly accurate out of the box (using a cheapo mic) and there's a built-in option to email the text so you can clean up and edit on a real keyboard. I would pay for an upgraded version of this app.

Wikipanion [FREE]
Dedicated Wikipedia search

BookzeeNYC [FREE]
From the NYC BiggApps competition to find creative ways to use city databases. Search a book title and it will tell you libraries that have it.

Kindle App [FREE]
Nice way to test the first few chapters in a book. Much easier on the eyes than the Google Book Reader presentation.

Paypal App [FREE]
Send and receive paypal on the go. Installed but haven't tried it yet.

Alright, running out of steam but I'll add more as I discover them. Are there other booksellers who've found useful apps (or painfully addictive games)? Please let me know. I'd love to compare notes.

And just for the record, I still hate Itunes. I won't let the f%$ker within 2 drive partitions of my music...but the iTouch has won me over.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bookselling Tools: Google Voice as Business Line

I don't have an open shop and I conduct 99% of my business through email, so it doesn't make sense for me to pay for a dedicated business line.

Unfortunately this means that for the few customers who NEED to call--and for a pricey book or ambiguous description, I can't blame them--I either screen the unknown number and forget to play the message for days or I answer with my fuck-you-telemarketer voice, neither of which puts me on the best footing for a potential sale.

So when I heard about Google Voice I thought this could be a solution to my problem.

GVoice gives you a new Google-generated number (potentially matching your area code) which will forward calls to as many telephones as you choose to associate with it. It will also record voicemail as mp3, transcribe it to text (with hilarious results), and forward the message to your email.

In the settings you can tell GVoice to either display the number calling you (or the caller's name if they're in your phonebook) or your Google # for all incoming GVoice calls. I chose this second option and I added the number to my cell ID as "Hang Fire Books."

Now I know when a call is business and I can use my confidence inspiring, tweed-jacket, aged-whiskey voice rather than my paranoid shut-in voice.

There are many interesting setting and customizations--including the ability to filter phone calls like spam!--and I'm just beginning to experiment with it but I've gone ahead and added/made visible the number on all the bookselling platforms I use.

GVoice is still in the limited, invite only stage (Thanks Shawn!) but I'm sure it will soon spread like kudzu. If you try using it as a biz line, let me know of any tricks or kinks you find.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

One is a Lonely Number by Bruce Elliott

It was stinking hot, Chicago hot, tenement hot, whorehouse hot. The dribble of sweat combining on both their bodies was slimy. He rolled away from her, not that he thought it would be any cooler because the whole bed was steaming, but because he needed a cigaret desperately afterwards....Looking down at her, not feeling anything, seeing but not thinking about her blobby mouth, black-rimmed eyes, black from the life she led, black from the eye make-up which had smeared and run, his gaze ran down along her naked body to her too full breasts that slopped over on each side of her rib cage. He should have remembered when he picked her up on Division Street that the ones who looks so good in clothes, that stuck out like a bureau drawer, were the ones that fell to pieces when the brassiere came off. But there were so many things he was going to have to remember.

With such a lyrically rank opening--and character descriptions that sound like they were written by an undertaker--how could I avoid reading this 1952 PBO (Lion 100, Earl Bergey cover)?

Larry Camonille was the mastermind behind a mass prison break of 10 convicts out of Joliet. He needed to get out because tuberculosis and the dank prison air have left him with only a single half-rotten lung and he knows that even another year of jail time would be a death sentence.

After procuring the above quoted sickening end to his prison dry-spell, he robs a "tea pad" and makes for the hobo jungle to hop a train to a drier climate.

Circumstance lands him as a dishwasher in a nowhere town where he's stuck between an overripe alcoholic widow, and a 14-year-old nymphet (who covers herself in pancake makeup to appear older). Both of these women discover Larry's criminal past and attempt a combination of blackmail and ill-advised seduction to force him to eliminate something/someone that is interfering with their happiness.

Larry wants to drop them both and go but he has no cash and a barrage of newspaper and radio reports--ticking of his fellow escapees one by one--tells him that the noose is tightening.

For most of its length this book runs at a solid B-grade Cain level but a few scenes--like the one in which TB afflicted transient thinks his inexperienced lover is finally developing some bedroom technique when in fact it's just the beginning of a grand mal epileptic seizure--invoke a level of misanthropy and disgust with the flesh that makes this a memorable and worthy read.

The first edition PB is a bit pricey (which means I'll try to keep it in stock) but there's a 1968 reprint that can be had for $10-12.

Doing research for this review I experienced one of those bizarre synchronicities that the book trade is prone to. The author, Bruce Elliot, was apparently more prolific in science fiction and the pulps than he was in mystery and I wasn't able to find out much about his other hard-boiled titles. But his (minimal) Wikipedia page mentions that he was a practicing stage magician...and what do I have sitting next to my desk but a pile of JUST arrived magic ephemera (to be listed in a few days) containing 20-30 mimeo'd magic/sf 'zines entitled "The Phoenix", edited by none other than Bruce Elliott...and these were "thrown in" by a seller as a bonus!

(click image for full page)

How's that for magic.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Customer Relations

I want THIS to be my next bookmark.

A 1950s stag film brochure via Vintage Sleaze one of Jim Linderman's many worthy projects.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Nunsploitation Rape/Revenge Stop-Motion Animated Avatars

God help me but I was up until 3:30 last night creating these.

Always wanted to be an animator and it struck me that I have all the tools needed.

Resources used:
  • Creepy Dolls
  • Digital Camera (with video capacity)
  • Avidmux
  • Imageready
  • infantile sense of humor
Already planning the sequels...