Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

See you all in 2007!

2006 -The Year in Review

Ooops! sorry. I was just catching up on all those "Year-end Review" columns in the newspaper...

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Golfing on Ice-

As the year winds down I've been browsing through my image files. I'm not sure where this one came from, but it's a 1926 photo which I dedicate to all the folks out West who are seeing a lot more ice than we are (though we are scheduled to get some today and New Year's day).

Friday, December 29, 2006

The Hard Way to Make an Ice Cube-

As the year ends and we still have no snow in the Pioneer Valley (a situation that may be about to change) I thought we'd crank up the Wayback Machine today with an albumen print from my own collection-

A pencil notation on the back of the mounting identifies this as the Boston Ice Company's ice house in Lake Village, New Hampshire, probably around the turn of the century. If you look closely to the left side of the picture you can see that they were still building the shed there even as they were loading ice blocks via the conveyor apparatus on the right. This detail shows the men near the foot of the loading machinery-

Makes me want a cup of hot cocoa just looking at it!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Winter Fun Safety Tips

Now that Winter is here everyone will be donning their polar fleece and rushing outside to participate in the wide variety of fun Winter games and activities we all enjoy.

But with fun comes danger.

Even as we enjoy ourselves outside this Winter, I wanted to take a moment to warn folks to remember that just because something is fun does not mean it is also safe. Thin ice on ponds, icy slopes next to busy roadways, ice-packed snowballs, and frantic squirrels on sugar highs in search of just one more piece of Christmas candy can all present dangers to the unwary at this time of year.

I know we have all downed a bottle of scotch or two before getting behind the rope on a sled, lined our front yards with anatomically correct snowmen (and women, and that one time, both...) and "ski streaked" in our day, but please remember-

there are some Wintertime activities
that are just dumb, no matter how much
fun they sounded like they were going to be-

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Wrapping Things Up-

So to speak.

It looks like Santa got what he wanted this year...

Sad News on the Neo-Nazi Front

It's very sad that the day after Christmas we have to deal with a new uprising of Neo-Nazis, and among the ranks of books, no less, but I suppose that is the world we live in today. It seems that a Jewish-owned bookstore has become a boycott target this week.

Indigo Books and Music was started in Canada in 1996 by Heather Reisman and her husband Gerry Schwartz. They were so successful that they soon developed the store into a chain, and
that became so successful that they bought out the Chapters Bookstore chain, becoming Indigo-Chapters. They are now a major presence on the bookselling scene, and on the web.

Among the store's charitable works are the Love of Reading Fund, which distributes 1.5 million dollars annually to Candian schools. Indigo-Chapters was among Canada's Top 100 Employers in 2006. The owners also have private charities they donate to, and among them is a fund that provides comfort and support for soldiers in Israel who have no families. It is because they make a donation to this USO-like fund for Jewish soldiers that the owners are now the target of a boycott, although from some of the rather vile and hate-filled postings on several book-related email lists I have read, it is obvious that something far, far uglier is going on in some people's minds.

One had hoped that we had reached a point in history and toleration, at least in the West, where one would not be boycotted for being Jewish or supporting Jewish charitable causes, but judging from the hate-filled comments I am reading, this is obviously not the case.

And so it goes. If you want to buy a book this week, I'd urge you to show your support and buy it from Indigo-Chapters.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Of the Season-

I see the angels with their pink noses
pressed up against the glass of the
Bonwit Teller window;
the lights from inside shine in their eyes
but they leave no reflection
on the frosty glass plane.

Merry Christmas to All,
and to all, a Good Night!

Friday, December 22, 2006


The weather for much of the last few weeks has been very mild, but that didn’t stop Hatfield from having its annual Luminarium Night.

The Sunday before December 24th everyone in town lines their driveways and the street in front of their house with candles in paper bags or plastic jugs, and then congregates in front of City Hall for carol singing and Santa’s arrival. The local farmers make floats from farm carts and wagons, decorate them with hay and lights and drive people around town, and I’m told that folks come from as far away as Rhode Island to see the thousands (actually, probably tens of thousands) of candles lining all the streets. We put 60 candle jugs out this year, and it always takes longer to light them than we think it will!

It was very pretty, even without snow.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


We are surrounded by trees here- a giant, 200+ year old maple out front, and hickory, walnut, maples and pines everywhere. I love trees in summer, but there is something about winter that brings out the best in trees...

The silver setting sun hugs close
among the maples- grey-boned ghosts
march row on row against the sky,
as day gives way to silent night.
Those black-ribbed maples,
marked with scars,
reaching silent to the stars,
their grey and yellow fingers bare
against the chill night's frosty air,
which wraps our knees against our coats,
we huddle close, our breath makes ghosts,
the starlight beckons, blazes, boasts,
against the black and velvet void,
those shimmers mark
a flaming spark, to light our
ghostly breaths in grey.

Come, sit with me
'till break of day.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Festival of Light-

May you all have a wonderful holiday season, and may all the light shine upon you in the coming year.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

RIP, Peter Boyle-

Actor Peter Boyle has died, which is a shame, as he was a good actor and a good man. As I have been reading various obituaries over the past few days I have been struck by what can only be another example of my passing from the "Now" to the "Used to Be" class. Almost all the stories I have seen were headlined "Everybody Loves Raymond's Father Dies", to which I wanted to scream- "NO!! the star of Young Frankenstein (sorry- Frankensteen) died!"

I guess it's a generational thing, but I'm sorry... which is the better entertainment? Now I have a bias here- I am one of (apparently) six people in the United States who never saw one single second of whatever television show that is they are talking about, and does not regret that for a single second. But that aside- "Young Frankenstein" is one of the *classic* modern comedy movies, back when comedies were still actually funny.

And it had Teri Garr. What's not to like??


I guess I'll go put on my top hat now... puttin' on the Ritz!!


Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I'm relaunching State of Denial with a slightly different slant. Maybe I can make EVERYBODY hate me...

Here we come a-caroling...

The subject of Christmas carols has come up and, well... you knew you were going to be sorry, right? All I can say in defense of this is that I've always been a Tom Leher fan, and his "Hunting Song" is a true timeless classic. But with apologies to Mr. Leher, it needed some seasonal updating-

A Seasonal Hunting Song

(with apologies to Tom Leher)

I always will remember,
'Twas a year ago December,
I went out to hunt some deer,
On a morning bright and clear.
I went and shot the maximum
the game laws gave myself:
Two bell ringers, seven reindeer, and an elf.

I was in no mood to trifle,
I took down my trusty rifle
And went out to stalk my prey.
What a haul I made that day!
I tied them to my fender,
and I drove them home myself:
Two bell ringers, seven reindeer, and an elf.

The law was very firm, it
Took away my permit,
The worst punishment
it could manage to propose.
It turned out there was a reason,
It seems elves were out of season,
And one of the reindeer had bright-red, glowing nose.

People ask me how I do it,
And I say "There's nothin' to it,
You just stand there lookin' cute,
And when something moves, you shoot!"
So there's ten stuffed heads sitting
on my maple trophy shelf:
Two bell ringers, seven reindeer, and an elf.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Of Parties & Catalogs-

Well, we had our annual Christmas Party for the Book Elves in the Cataloging Cave at Foggygates last night and, well- let's simply say that we won't be posting pictures on the website anytime soon. To begin with, I could be wrong, but I'd always assumed (before last night) that the question "how many drunk reindeer can you stuff into the boss's office?" was rhetorical...

But before they stumbled off into the night, swathed in plastic holly and singing "I Saw Mommy [deleted]-ing Santa Claus", the book elves finished work on our new catalog-

"BOOKS ON DECORATIVE ARTS- including folk art, interiors, metalware & iron, textiles, & other Americana & related subjects", with a special section on the China Trade, features 284 books and catalogs, and is available for browsing on our website, or as a printed catalog. If you would like a printed copy, please send us your mailing address.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Almost Xmas???

Every year along about this time I decide to become Russian Orthodox- the Orthodox Christmas, you see, falls sometime in mid-January, which not only gives me an extra month to do the shopping I have not even started yet, but also allows me to take advantage of the post-Xmas sales.

Sorry, I know I should take this all more seriously, but wtf??? I'm among the school of thought that holds that if Jesus came back today he would be appalled at all the crap being done in his name, including the Xmas Shopping Season. Each year I am sorely tempted to get relatives a card that says "a medical kit has been donated in your name to some God-forsaken 3rd world country", or some such. I'm not sure why I don't do it- I have cool relatives and inlaws, and they'd probably appreciate it. Maybe I will this year... hmm. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, for those looking for something a little more spiritual this Xmas, I can suggest a Buddhist retreat, as reported in today's New York Times...

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Nights...

Oh MY Lordy, it has been a week since I posted. You know, I read other blogs every day and get very annoyed when they get slack and don't post for a week. I never seem to make any connection about that though...

I have an excuse- we've been busy selling books. Business is a-hoppin', and the books are flying out the door. We finally took a few hours off this afternoon and went and saw 'Borat'. A very funny movie. OK, I could have done without that rather odd and disturbing nude almost-gay-sex scene in the middle... but otherwise a very funny movie.

And then back home to slag books. We opened an Ebay store this week. You know your life needs a kick-start when you are sitting in front of a computer Friday night and the most exciting thing you can think of is to read that "Getting the Most Out of The Selling Manager Program" email you just got from Ebay.

I need an Audrey Tatou fix...

Friday, December 01, 2006

Windy Friday

The casualty roll of Russian GangBanger Vladdy "the Impaler" Putin continues. The first time Bush met Putin they gazed into each other's eyes. For their next date George is going to bring along a geiger counter and his food taster.

Presidential elections would be much more interesting if we decided them the same way the college football championiships are decided. Critics would argue that leaving the running of the country to a press poll would leave Americans confused, disgruntled and fed up, and result in the country being governed by idiots. I'd ask them how that would be a change from where we are today?

National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is the funniest holiday movie ever made, and Beverly d'Angelo is very easy on the eyes.

I'm not quite sure what to do with my "State of Denial" blog. It lost steam during the Summer, and since the election I'm just not feeling as, well, as nasty about politics as I used to. Or maybe I just found it too time-consuming and exhausting to try to make what's going on in the country and world these days humorous. It's not really fair to readers to be so sporadic and undependable about posting, so I'll probably either close it or make it into something else in a few days. Thanks to everyone who was so supportive when I was writing it reguarly.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Random Musings for a Rainy Wednesday

-I don't even know what this new thing called You-Tube is, and it's already brought down several politicians and entertainment stars. Man, am I falling behind the curve...

-It's ironic and sad that, under lock, key and armed guard, Saddam Hussein is probably the safest person in Iraq at the moment.

-Newt Gingrich is living proof that the Irony Fairy isn't dead.

-Ditto for John Kerry for the Fantasy Fairy.

-Of course, the Irony Fairy is pulling double shifts in Turkey this week, as Turkish Muslims riot, demanding that the Pope admit their religion is peaceful.

-Speaking of Turkey, say what you want against Genetic Engineering, a turkey with four drumsticks woulld be a handy thing.

-The Patriots are going to the Super Bowl this year, and they'll be playing the Bears. That's gonna be a helluva game.

-2008 should be a great year for the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

-Jerry Jeff Walker is an under-appreciated singer.

-Sara Evans isn't.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Our New Catalog-

Now that Thanksgiving is over the Book Elves are in full Christmas Mode, stringing lights, unpacking ornaments, and hiding my 'Alvin and the Chipmunks' cd. In fact, after they got done stringing about 300 strands of lights the little disk on our electric meter spun so fast it tore out of its bracket, went flying off through the air and decapitated the garden gnome.

But before they bought 900 life-size plastic Santas on Ebay and used them to recreate the Battle of Waterloo on the croquet court, they finished our latest catalog-

"RECENT ACQUISITIONS -Old & New Books on ANTIQUES & THE ARTS & Related Subjects for DECEMBER, 2006" is now available on our website. It features 220 titles on furniture, glass, ceramics, silver, interiors, metals, fashion, trades, color, and life in other times. We also have printed copies- please send us your mailing address if you would like one.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Holiday Cheer-

OK, Thanksgiving is over, so we know what comes next, right?

You got it- it's time to decorate the cat for Christmas!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Emily Dickinson. Vivacious redhead.

There's an interesting pair of articles in this morning's Springfield Republican newspaper about local poet Emily Dickinson, the 'Belle of Amherst'. The main article addresses her legendary reclusiveness, which some scholars are now casting doubt on. The second article reveals that Emily, known to us only through that famous black & white photograph taken when she was 17, was actually a redhead!

No, this is not the pronouncement of some 21st century revisionist-historian scanning her work for hidden clues and reading tea leaves- Amherst College actually has a lock of her hair which she sent to a friend.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Sunday Funnies-

Comprehending Engineers -

Two engineering students were walking across campus when one said, where did you get such a great bike?"

The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, "Take what you want."

The second engineer nodded approvingly, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit"


To the optimist, the glass is half full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.


A pastor, a doctor and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers. The engineer fumed, "What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!" The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude!" The pastor said, "hey, here comes the greens keeper. Let's have a word with him."

[dramatic pause]

"Hi George. Say, what's with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?"

The greens keeper replied, "Oh, yes, that's a group of blind firefighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."

The group was silent for a moment.

The pastor said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight."

The doctor said, "Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them."

The engineer said, "Why can't these guys play at night?"


What is the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers?

Mechanical Engineers build weapons, Civil Engineers build targets.


The graduate with a Science degree asks, "Why does it work?"

The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, "How does it work?"

The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, "How much will it cost?"

The graduate with a Liberal Arts degree asks, "Do you want fries with that?"


Three engineering students were gathered together discussing the possible designers of the human body. One said, "It was a mechanical engineer. Just look at all the joints."

Another said, "No, it was an electrical engineer. The nervous system has many thousands of electrical connections."

The last said, "Actually it was a civil engineer. Who else would run a toxic waste pipeline through a recreational area?"


Normal people believe that if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet."
-- Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle


An engineer was crossing a road one day when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess". He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.

The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week." The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket.

The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll stay with you and do ANYTHING you want." Again the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into is pocket.

Finally, the frog asked, "What is the matter? I've told you I'm a beautiful princess, that I'll stay with you for a week and do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?"

The engineer said, "Look I'm an engineer. I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that's cool."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Me! Me! Me!

Time for a rant, boys and girls. Our Society has gone completely overboard with its sense of entitlement and lack of sense of responsibility.

The latest examples were in yesterday's news and make instructive reading.

First, some assinine woman is suing one of the airlines for kicking her off an airplane because she refused to cover up when breastfeeding her infant (well, 22-month old). The airline allows breast-feeding, but asks pasengers to use a small blanket to, um, "cover". When the flight attendant gave the woman the blanket the woman informed her that she had a legal right to breast feed in public and would not use it.

That's two strikes right there- first, an airplane is not a "public" place, and secondly, passengers are not allowed to disobey reasonable instructions from flight crew. So, when she continued to refuse she got booted and is suing. She says she is being "discriminiated" against. Excuse me? The only possible scenario under which she could cry "discrimination" is if the airline had allowed all the other female passengers to whip their breasts out without blankets.

Now that would be a very popular airline.

The second story was on the radio. There is a popular new contraption in rural areas called an outdoor wood furnace. They burn wood pellets, and spew huge amounts of very bad smoke with lots of particulate matter. Some folks are using them to heat their houses these days, and they blanket their neighborhoods with dense smoke all day and night. As a result many towns are beginning to pass laws against them. This story concerned one neighborhood in a town where they are still legal, and all the medical problems a wood furnace there was causing the neighbors.

At the end of the story they interviewed the owners of the wood furnace, who were completely apologetic, but also completely perplexed. Why, they asked, were they being made out to be the villians? Why was everybody pointing a finger at them like it was all their fault?


Where do you go with that question?

Maybe I should ask Donald Rumsfeld...

Monday, November 13, 2006


This is courtesy of my aunt Carolyn...

This happened about a month ago just outside a little town in the low country of South Carolina, and while it sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock tale, it's real.

This guy was on the side of the road hitchhiking on a real dark night in the middle of a thunder storm. Time passed slowly and no cars went by. It was raining so hard he could hardly see his hand in front of his face.

Suddenly he saw a car moving slowly approaching and appearing ghostlike in the rain. It slowly crept toward him and stopped.

Wanting a ride real bad the guy jumped in the car and closed the door, only then did he realize that there was nobody behind the wheel. The car slowly started moving and the guy was terrified, too scared to think of jumping out and running. The guy saw that the car was slowly approaching a sharp curve, still too scared to jump out, he started to pray and beg for his life, he was sure the ghost car would go off the road and in the marsh and he would surely drown, when just before the curve, a hand appeared through the driver's window and turned the steering wheel, guiding the car safely around the bend.

Paralyzed with fear, the guy watched the hand reappear every time they reached a curve. Finally the guy, scared to near death, had all he could take and jumped out of the car and ran to town.

Wet and in shock, he went into a bar and voice quavering, ordered two shots of whiskey, then told everybody about his supernatural experience.

A silence enveloped and everybody got goose bumps when they realized the guy was telling the truth and not just some drunk.

About half an hour later two Rednecks walked into the bar and one says to the other: "Look Bubba, there's that idiot who jumped into our car while we were pushing it."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Fun-

I was going through my archive of old illustrations from books we have sold and ran across this one today. It pictures the main street of a well-known American city as it appeared around 1850 or so. Any ideas what city that is?

Here's a hint- anyone see any bars anyhwere???

Hmmm, let's zoom in-

Nope, not a bar in sight. Some things never change...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Timely Thoughts-

It's the first Tuesday in November, so of course you know what I am going to blog about today. It's a topic that is foremost in all our minds...

"Where," you are asking yourself, "can I find a really good SPAM recipe for my Election Night Party?"

Well, go no further. Now you can find tons of Spam recipies all over the web, but they all take a long time to make. Today is a busy day, so I am sharing, as a public service, my own Special QwickySpam recipes-

Take an unopened can of SPAM; throw it at someone's head and yell SURPRISE!!

Take a cake. Turn it upside down. Open a can of SPAM and put the SPAM on top.

Take a can of SPAM. Use it to smash 4 eggs. Open the can and put the SPAM on the eggs.

Take an unopened can of SPAM and a box of Velveeta Processed Cheese Food. Put the can of SPAM on a plate, put the box of Velveeta on top of the can of SPAM, and put both in your neighbor's new microwave. Cook on HIGH for ten minutes.

Eat an entire can of SPAM while watching a Francois Truffaut film and singing "Deutschland, Deutschland, Uber Alles"

Open a can of SPAM. Turn on an electric fan with metal blades to HIGH; throw chunks of SPAM through the blades. Collect and serve.

Open a can of SPAM. Drop a cinderblock on it. Scrape off and put in pan, cover with bread crumbs. Put on a layer of canned spinach. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Bake at 450 for 1 hour. Serve with 1 bottle of Ouzo. If serving two, serve with 2 bottles of Ouzo.

Open a can of SPAM and throw the SPAM as hard as you can against the wall. Scrape off the wall and serve.

Open a can of SPAM. Let it sit for 1 week on the counter. Serve.


Monday, November 06, 2006

An Interesting Shaker Image-

I came across an interesting woodcut over the weekend featuring an African-American Shaker. This is a woodcut from an 1831 issue of "Atkinson's Casket" and is titled "Shaker's Worshipping"-

It has many nice details, including hats and coats hung on pegs, a presumed “outsider” looking on, and, at the right side, an African-American Shaker. You don't hear too much about Afrian-American Shakers, or at least I never have. Here's a closer detail-

We put the print up for auction on Ebay last night -you can see the auction here, or click our Ebay Auctions link in the right-hand column.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday humor-

One day Mrs. Jones went to have a talk with the minister at the local church. "Reverend," she said, "I have a problem, my husband keeps falling asleep during your sermons. It's very embarrassing. What should I do?"

"I have an idea", said the minister. "Take this hatpin with you. I will be able to tell when Mr. Jones is sleeping, and I will motion to you at specific times. When I motion, you give him a good poke in the leg."

In the church the following Sunday, Mr. Jones dozed off. Noticing this, the preacher put his plan to work.

"And who made the ultimate sacrifice for you?" he said, nodding to Mrs. Jones.

"Jesus!" Jones cried as his wife jabbed him in the leg with the hatpin.

"Yes, you are right, Mr. Jones," said the minister.

Soon, Mr. Jones nodded off again. Again, the minister noticed. "Who is your redeemer?" he asked the congregation, motioning towards Mrs. Jones.

"God!" Mr. Jones cried out as he was stuck again with the hatpin.

"Right again," said the minister, smiling.

Before long, Mr. Jones again winked off. However, this time the minister did not notice. As he picked up the tempo of his sermon, he made a few motions that Mrs. Jones mistook as signals to bayonet her husband with the hatpin again. The minister asked, "And what did Eve say to Adam after she bore him his 99th son?"

Mrs. Jones poked her husband, who yelled, "You stick that dammned thing in me one more time and I'll break it in half and shove it up your ass!"

"Amen," replied the congregation.

Friday, November 03, 2006

To the Memory of What-??

Funeral cards were very popular in Victorian times- they would be sent to family and friends announcing the death, with the same sorts of particulars you might see on a tombstone; they were not invitations to a funeral, as such, but acted as an anouncement of a death and were saved as a remembrance of the deceased.

But some of them were not all that they seemed at first glance. While preparing our latest "Grave Affair" catalog I ran across a very interesting little piece (not for sale in the catalog) which appears to be a funeral card, but is not...

For a larger picture, where you can see the lettering better, go to this page on our Grave Affair website. You can see our new "Grave Affair" catalog here.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Grave Affair-

It's Halloween and the book elves are in fine fettle, rigging Foggygates up as a Haunted House. As they pointed out, we had the advantage that the
place is a 100+ year-old Victorian that's full of spiders, squeaky doors and dark corners already, and since we never get around to dusting we don't have to buy fake cobwebs this year. And then there's the resident ghost... but before they rigged up the 1,500-watt speakers on the porch roof and put Bobby Pickett's "Monster Mash" on an endless tape loop, they finished our latest printed catalog, on an eerily relevant topic-

"A GRAVE AFFAIR", a catalog featuring 154 books and other items about gravestones, epitaphs, cemeteries, funeral and mourning customs, how Society deals with death, and related topics, is now posted on our 'A GRAVE AFFAIR' website-.

The new website also features a bibliography of 500+ books on graveyards, gravestones, epitaphs, cemeteries, mourning and funeral customs, and related topics, a links page, and some surprises...

While you're there you can also sign up for our 'Grave Matters' email list, where we announce website updates, and will be running catalog-related specials this week.

Please email us if you would like a printed copy.

Have fun, and have a Happy Halloween!

oh, and um...


Sunday, October 29, 2006

R.I.P. Red-

what a long and wonderful trip it was...

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Time Tunnel-

I love old postcards. We're still unpacking boxes from the move a year ago, and today I found a stash of postcards from my old office drawer. It's like looking into a Time Tunnel (remember that show?).

The Japanese Garden at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, around 1910-

"Mrs. Jack Gardner's Venetian Palace", now the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston's Back Bay, on a postcard postmarked 1908-

This card is addressed to a "Miss Anne Hitchcock" of Utica, New York and has an interesting inscription- "I still want you but am going away in July. Will write a letter soon, Love FBS". You have to wonder...

Here is the Esplanade in Boston along the Charles River on a 1923 postcard. Today Storrow Drive's ugly four concrete lanes go right through ths scene-

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Did you hear an odd cracking sound??

Right next to the house we have two huge, 250-year old sugar maples. One of them, by far the larger, lost its main trunk some years ago, but the right half of the tree remained, with three 50+ foot long, very thick limbs/trunks going off at about a 30-degree angle from the main trunk. I had always marvlled at how the old trunk supported all that weight...

Well, on Friday afternoon a cold front came through with 50-mph winds, and right in the middle we noticed a huge crack start to open up in the main trunk, working down from the top. As the winds blew the entire remaining part of the tree went back and forth and we could see the crack get bigger and then smaller, bigger and then smaller. Suddenly several tons of sugar maple were hanging on by an increasingly small thread...

The tree guys took one look at it yesterday morning and shook their heads. So down it cames, before it came down on its own and took out (depending on which way it fell) the carriage house, the kitchen or the porte cochere, removing, whichever way it went, "Thora Birch", which stands directly underneath it.

It's a big, complicated job to get the tree down without smashing things underneath it, and they've been hard at it for two days now.

The episode has inspired some psuedo Haiku-

Storm winds make the big tree sway
and wave -how graceful...
What was that odd cracking sound?????

Big tree falls down and goes BOOM!
uh oh... Say Goodbye to
recently re-roofed carriage house.

Storm winds crack the giant tree-
Tree surgeon tells wife-
"Christmas in Bermuda this year!"

Friday, October 20, 2006

There were these two cows, see...

a new twist on an old joke-

-You have two cows.
-Your neighbor has none.
-You feel guilty for being successful.
-Barbara Streisand sings for you.

-You have two cows.
-Your neighbor has none.

-You have two cows.
-The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
-You form a cooperative to tell him how to manage his cow.

-You have two cows.
-The government seizes both and provides you with milk.
-You wait in line for hours to get it.
-It is expensive and sour.

-You have two cows.
-You sell one, buy a bull, and build a herd of cows.

-You have two cows.
-Under the new farm program the government pays you to shoot one, milk the other, and then pours the milk down the drain.

-You have two cows.
-You sell one, lease it back to yourself and do an IPO on the 2nd one.
-You force the two cows to produce the milk of four cows. You are surprised when one cow drops dead. You spin an announcement to the analysts stating you have downsized and are reducing expenses.
-Your stock goes up.

-You have two cows.
-You go on strike because you want three cows.
-You go to lunch and drink wine.
-Life is good.

-You have two cows.
-You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
-They learn to travel on unbelievably crowded trains.
-Most are at the top of their class at cow school.

-You have two cows.
-You engineer them so they are all blond, drink lots of beer, give excellent quality milk, and run a hundred miles an hour.
-Unfortunately they also demand 13 weeks of vacation per year.

-You have two cows but you don't know where they are.
-While ambling around, you see a beautiful woman.
-You break for lunch.
-Life is good.

-You have two cows.
-You have some vodka.
-You count them and learn you have five cows.
-You have some more vodka.
-You count them again and learn you have 42 cows.
-The Mafia shows up and takes over however many cows you really have.

-You have all the cows in Afghanistan , which are two.
-You don't milk them because you cannot touch any creature's private parts.
-You get a $40 million grant from the US government to find alternatives to milk production but use the money to buy weapons.

-You have two cows.
-They go into hiding.
-They send radio tapes of their mooing.

-You have two bulls.
-Employees are regularly maimed and killed attempting to milk them.

-You have one cow.
-The cow is schizophrenic.
-Sometimes the cow thinks he's French, other times he's Flemish.
-The Flemish cow won't share with the French cow.
-The French cow wants control of the Flemish cow's milk.
-The cow asks permission to be cut in half.
-The cow dies happy.

-You have a black cow and a brown cow.
-Everyone votes for the best looking one.
-Some of the people who actually like the brown one best accidentally vote for the black one.
-Some people vote for both.
-Some people vote for neither.
-Some people can't figure out how to vote at all.
-Finally, a bunch of guys from out-of-state tell you which one you think is the best-looking cow.

-You have millions of cows.
-They make real California cheese.
-Only five speak English.
-Most are illegals.
-Arnold likes the ones with the big udders.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Something Hot's on the Stove...

Good news for Top Chef fans- that annoying Katie Lee Joel is gone, along with her baby-doll lace belly shirts. She's being replaced as host by Padma Lakshmi, who is actually a cook, as well as being Salman Rushdie's wife. Apparently she's also a supermodel... I'm sure that had nothing to do with it.

The new season starts tonight at 11 on Bravo, right after the finale of Project Runway.

We'll have to watch. Suddenly I feel all, uh, "culinary"...

PS- I'm starting work on a new State of Denial series for the elections today.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Censorship on Parade-

From the New York Times this morning, more bad news for authors- it seems that writing a book critical of a Conservative pundit can cost you your job. The Times reports that Reuters financial editor Joe Maguire had obtained permission from Reuters to write a book about Ann Coulter (not for Reuters, but on his own, but he still needed their permission, which is also screwed up, but never mind...), but that once it was done and turned out not to be complimentary, Maguire was told that his services at Reuters were no longer needed. Reuters confirms that Mr. Maguire was fired (though they refuse to use the word) and, as the Times notes- "When asked what changed once the book was ready, a company statement pointed to Reuters’ principles of “integrity, independence and freedom from bias.”

Now I'd really like to give Reuters the benefit of the doubt here, but one has to wonder why Reuters seems to be so certain that anything critical of Coulter must, apparently by definition, lack "integrity, independence and freedom from bias"? Sounds as if Reuters is the one lacking integrity, independence and freedom from bias to me...

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Dangerous Side of Bookselling-

A reminiscence from our last Italian trip...

In Florence it always rains at night in September.

It can be cozy - or murderous. I dodged maniac scooters and cars as I ran down the narrow cobbled streets with lights glinting off them like slivers of ice and ducked in for the 8 pm seating at my favorite neighborhood trattoria. A little vino, a dish of white beans in tomato sauce, maybe try the sole, some sambuca.

A companion...

She was tall and dark and slender, her eyes flashing with centuries of Florentine pride and passion. She moved as smoothly and naturally as a river running swiftly between rocky banks, and when she walked into a room everyone would turn and gaze. It was another of her talents that she could slip out of a room without anyone noticing, just the soft scent of perfume, a swift rustle of silk and she would be gone. She was my main contact in this city of brick and stone and soot-stained art, and I had no reason not to trust her. Sure, her last contact here had come to a bad end in vat of boiling rotini, but that was five years ago.

We opened a bottle of Chianti -not the kind you buy back in the States for $5 a bottle, the good stuff. The waiter came with a plate of porcini quickly grilled and drizzled with a little olive oil. She made small talk, asked about my flight, pushed the plate toward me and I reached out with my fork...

Something about the glint in her eye set off an alarm in the back of my mind. The Chianti was working, but there was still that danger flag. I hesitated and she frowned and reached for something in her purse. I wasn't looking, not really, but I saw the cracked leather spine of a small book in there. Faded guilt lettering stamped on the red spine label told me all I needed to know -it was the mushrooms.

I reached for the purse and she struggled with me for a moment, then gave up and went limp. I took the book and handed the purse back to her. Everyone in the trattoria was frozen, watching us. I knew better than to make a move. She gave me a quick, wry smile and got up and walked quickly out the door. No point following. I knew I'd never see her again. I finished off my Chianti and left. I've kept that little 18th century book on poisonous mushrooms for a dozen years, but now I'm going to sell it.

I'm a bookseller.

That's my job.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Book Pricing Strategies-

There's been a lot of confusion over the years as to how booksellers price their books. In order to bring some transparency to the situation, we are going to begin being really, really honest and including a key at the back of every catalog we issue-

* -priced by guess & by gorry

** -priced by dartboard

*** -priced while drunk

**** -priced so as not to sell

***** -price on request: will be priced according to our estimate of the potential customer's ability to pay

I think that's fairly clear. And folks say selling old books is complicated...

Friday, September 29, 2006

Gotta spend more hours at the library...

I've been meaning to post this very-very-book-related advertisement for a few weeks now-

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Good Grading is Important-

No, no, no. Not that kind of grading...

Book-grading terms are always controversial and usually good for a few hundred bickering emails whenever the topic comes up on an email list. Over the years I've come up with a system of my own, which I now humbly offer to the honorable book-buying public as well as my fellow bookselling scum-

AS NEW: Literally "new". Since most books, once read or even handled, no longer qualify for the term NEW, the use of the qualifier "AS" has led to some controversy, with opponents pointing out that a book is either in new condition or it isn't. Proponents and opponents like to bicker about this point, and can usually only be distracted from it by the sound of someone dropping the phrase "VERY FINE" into the conversation.

FINE: A controversial term for a grade which may or may not exist, denoting a book that has slight wear that disqualifies it from the grade AS NEW, which also may or may not exist. Opponents contend that any book that has been handled cannot qualify for a grade above "NEAR FINE". Proponents generally counter this argument by asking Opponents how many angels they think can dance on the head of a pin.

VERY FINE: A grade between FINE and AS NEW. If the grade "FINE" has been controversial over the years, it has nothing on the long, confused and violent history that has attended the use of the grade VERY FINE. The Bern Convention of 1826 officially allowed the term and defined it as any book showing no signs of wear except for an allowance of 2.5 creases not to exceed .0005 mm. in depth, or bumps on the corners not to exceed 5 microns. Smudges were specifically disallowed, but this was amended by the Paris Treaty of 1887, which allowed for up to 3 smudges with a square area not exceeding 21 mm. The controversy over this point led to the Expulsion of English Booksellers from the Continent in 1889. Although English booksellers were re admitted after the Compromise of 1895, under which smudges up to 37 square mm would be allowed, the bad feelings left in the wake of this controversy are believed by many historians to have been one of the indirect causes of the First World War. Used today by many booksellers on Ebay. Not to be confused with "Very Fined (tm)", which usually means the book has fruit juice stains.

NEAR FINE: Either the top grade even a new book, just out of the box from the publisher, can have, or a grade denoting some general wear. The fact that these two conditions are not at all the same cuts no ice with the NearFiners(tm). Take your pick about which side you are on and hope whoever you are discussing this with agrees with you, or else you are likely to end up with a book stuffed up your nose.

GOOD: Not good. An archaic term mostly used nowadays by bored brick & mortar booksellers who amuse themselves by explaining to befuddled walk-in customers that the term "Good" technically means "Not Good", leaving the befuddled customers to wonder what planet booksellers come from.

FAIR: Poor. Getting the hang of it by now?

POOR: Don't even think about buying it. It not only is probably lacking its covers, some pages and all the illustrated plates, but may well leave you with a nasty rash...


ELSE FINE: A grade used to describe the most minute portion of a book which has been left undamaged. As in: "Ex-library with stamps, embossures, and orange-day-glo spine numbers; covers warped; hinges reinforced with duct tape; 3 plates with crayon scrawls, slight mold odor; pages 47-52 with newspaper recipes glued over text; else fine.


MINT: Another controversial term, used by some booksellers as a synonym for AS NEW. A 1978 research study by Tulane University discovered that the term is mostly used by booksellers who collected coins as children. The study further found that the booksellers who object to it most vociferously collected stamps as children, thus basically boiling the controversy down to the old "stamps" vs. "coins" argument that most of us had with friends at the age of 8 and had left behind by the age of 10.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Stupid Database Tricks -a DUH! Moment

Someone was going on to me recently about how wonderful it must be to be a bookseller- a world of Paradise and roses, or so I am given to understand. Well, sure it is, but there are a few thorns in the garden as well. I was just reminded of another one this morning while strolling through the databases-

There's a certain "bookseller" (term used really, really loosely) on one of the major databases who has gotten hold of a whole bunch of 100-year old Century Magazines and other periodicals and offers xeroxed articles from them. That in itself is a fine service, and quite valuable for anyone who needs a specific article. Nothing wrong with it at all.

The problem begins with their pricing structure- for $19.00 they will send you the article you want, usually 2-6 photocopied pages. In the description the "bookseller" states that "This reference is for personal use only. It may not be reproduced for commercial use. By ordering this reference you are agreeing to these terms".


It gets better. Further down the listings you will find exactly the same article, from the same vendor, offered for $44.00, with the note- "this reference is authorized for commercial use. It may be reproduced in books, magazines, television, or in any manner desired".

Well thank you, God! The only problem is that it's a photocopy of out-of-copyright material. No new content has been added, not even new covers. Nobody can claim copyright on 100-year old, out-of-copyright text, not even somebody who photocopies it.


There are some choice words to describe blowing smoke out your ass this way, in an attempt to scare people into paying twice what they otherwise would have paid. I'm feeling fairly charitable this morning, so I'll simply stick to "stupid".

Friday, September 22, 2006

What's in an inscription?

We've got a nice Ann Beattie first edition up on Ebay at the moment with a great inscription-

In the past few years there is a certain school of bookselling on Ebay and elswhere which claims that books which are simply signed with the author's name are more valuable than books with good inscriptions.

Well... maybe.

And perhaps there really were WMD's in Iraq.

All I will say is that the entire history of bookselling, as well as common sense, both indicate that the reverse is true. Of course a nicely inscribed book is worth more than a simple signed copy. People want a story, something interesting, something to catch hold of their imagination -simple signatures are boring. The moral of the story is that there is always somebody around selling something, but just because they claim something to be true does not mean it is, especially if all common sense indicates it is not.

Remember- be careful out there.

You can see our auction by clicking the "Ebay Auctions" link in the right-hand column.