Thursday, June 29, 2006

Heavens to Betsy!

I'm very excited about the 4th of July this year- for the first time we have an enormous front porch that we can hang red-white-and-blue bunting from, and it's going to look very cool. Of course, the bunting still has to arrive...

Silly me- on Monday I wandered into a few stores where you'd expect to find that sort of thing and they either didn't have any or were sold out. But never fear, the handy-dandy internet is here, and before you could say "Made in China" we'd purchased a set of 6 6-foot railing banners for less that I'd have paid locally, except, of course, with 2-day air shipping it was slightly more... but hey, have another hot dog and forget about it!

The one thing I will miss is being able to walk down to the Charles River and watch the Boston fireworks -that was always an awesome display. And it was always good fun to watch the enormous traffic jam afterwards, as we strolled quickly back to our condo.

Our condo was near the corner, and a few years ago, with traffic backed up on both streets, there was a minor fender-bender in the intersection. That stopped traffic completely for a while, and there were two police cars there, clearing things up, when some jackass about four cars back hits his horn long and loud. We were walking by, and I saw the cop who had been directing traffic on the corner shake his head in disbelief, and then walk v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y, hands on hips, over to the car which had honked, lean down with both hands on the driver's side window frame, shake his head again, and demand, very loudly, and very slowly- "Where do you think you're going to go?"

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It is the Humidity-

Hard at work getting a new catalog together before we leave for vacation next week. And it is even more humid than yesterday -such a thing should not be possible; yesterday it was so humid that there were fish swimming along 3-feet above the damned lawn.

What does Emma, Lady Hamilton, have to do with this? Well, all together now-


It's too humid to write anything, so I went digging in the joke bin-

One day at a busy airport, the passengers on a commercial airliner are seated, waiting for the cockpit crew to show up so they can get under way. The pilot and co-pilot finally appear in the rear of the plane, and begin walking up to the cockpit through the center aisle. Both appear to be blind. The pilot is using a white cane, bumping into passengers right and left as he stumbles down the aisle, and the co-pilot is using a guide dog. Both have their eyes covered with huge sunglasses.

At first the passengers do not react; thinking that it must be some sort of practical joke. However, after a few minutes the engines start spooling up and the airplane starts moving down the runway. The passengers look at each other with some uneasiness, whispering among themselves and looking desperately to the stewardesses for reassurance.

Then the airplane starts accelerating rapidly and people begin panicking. Some passengers are praying, and as the plane gets closer and closer to the end of the runway, the voices are becoming more and more hysterical. Finally, when the airplane has less than 20 feet of runway left, there is a sudden change in the pitch of the shouts as everyone screams at once, and at the very last moment the airplane lifts off and is airborne.

Up in the cockpit, the co-pilot breathes a sigh of relief and turns to the Captain, "You know," he says, "one of these days the passengers aren't going to scream, and we're gonna get killed!

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Crying Game...

What an annoying day- seems some folks are annoyed that we have begun selling on Ebay, and they are annoyed that we take advantage of the lists that offer a venue to promote our auctions to do so. Folks natter on about the morality, or lack of morality, of selling books through Ebay instead of putting a price on them- well, any idiot can stick a price on a book, there's no skill or honor in that pastime anymore; if anyone questions my use of the term "idiot", I can steer you to some book database listings. The definition of a bookseller as one who is willing to stick prices on his books has lost a lot of luster in my eyes since the databases came along.

I read a thread on a list recently about what constituted a "real" bookseller, and one of the answers that came up was that a professional bookseller uses their skill and knowledge to add value to a book. You buy the book at one price and do *something* to add value. Usually that includes some or more of the following actions-

-Correctly describe a mis-described or under-described book.

-Re-context the book so that its' inherent value is more obvious to potential buyers, possibly in a field that differs from the field and context it was first offered in.

-Promote the book to a different, probably more knowledgeable and deeper-pocketed group of buyers.

I'm not sure why the professional bookseller who researches a book thoroughly, has a very good idea of what its' value is, and offers it up on Ebay in order to take advantage of their marketplace reach has become the industry pariah. In my experience, the "real" professional bookseller is one who practices his trade with skill and care; but if it really simply has to do with throwing an arbitrary price on a book and throwing it onto a database, then all I can say is I've been wasting my time for the past 20 years.

As for making people waste their time reading our posts when we follow the list rules and list some of our auctions- my heart bleeds. After wading through dozens of off-topic crap about politics on one list, and hundreds of totally useless crap emails about stuff I have no interest in (and is that not the true definition of the word "crap"?) on another list, I'm not apt to be overly sympathetic, especially for the clever ones who couch their emails in nicey-nice terms of wanting to save *me* time from sending those emails... thanks, but no thanks. Here's a golden nugget of information- if you are not interested, it is possible to delete the email.

But don't tell anyone, that's a sooper-dooper secret.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


Well, after a half-week or so of good weather we're back into the rain again, with no good weather in sight through at least next Saturday. All that means more time spent in front of the computer, even Sunday mornings, which can have an upside- I just finished a draft of tomorrow morning's "State of Denial" which I think is pretty good. You can judge it for yourself anytime after about 8 a.m. tomorrow.

This morning's 'Parade' magazine has a cover story on Global Warming which is not what I expected- it's a pretty mainstream rag, so you'd think the story would be another of the "is it happening or isn't it?" type, but it wasn't- the story was focused on "how it is affecting us now." Being Parade, of course, it was pretty hysterical and got a lot of easy stuff wrong (such as blaming the increased power of last year's hurricanes on it, for which there is zero evidence), but still, I was somewhat shocked to see a story like that in a magazine like that which pretty much took Global Warming as a given, which, of course, it is.

We have a lot of Ebay auctions ending tonight- I wanted to get them in a week before the 4th of July weekend, which will probably be a little dead. We will be running auctions though, just to keep folks checking in, but we're going to put the nice, expensive stuff aside, for the most part, for a few weeks. That hunting book we were worried about ended up going for a bit over $400, so the bourbon we toasted it with was a good toast, not a weepy one.

And now, because it's Sunday, I dug up an old joke from the archives. You've probably heard this one before, but pretend you haven't...

It was getting a little crowded in Heaven, so God decided to change the admittance policy. The new law was that, in order to get into Heaven, you had to have a really bummer day on the day That you died. The policy would go in to affect at noon the next day.

So, the next day at 12:01, the first person came to the gates of Heaven. The Angel at the gate, remembering the new policy, promptly asked the man, "Before I let you in, I need you to tell me how your day was going when you died."

"No problem," the man said. "I came home to my 25th-floor apartment on my lunch hour and caught my wife having an affair. But her lover was nowhere in sight. I started searching for him. My wife was half naked and yelling at me as I searched the entire apartment. Just as I was about to give up, I happened to glance out onto the balcony and noticed that there was a man hanging off the edge by his fingertips! The nerve of that guy! Well, I ran out onto the balcony and stomped on his fingers until he fell to the ground. But wouldn't you know it, he landed in some trees and bushes that broke his fall and he didn't die. This ticked me off even more. In a rage, I went back inside to get the first thing I could get my hands on to throw at him. Oddly enough, the first thing I thought of was the refrigerator. I unplugged it, pushed it out onto the balcony, and tipped it over the side. It plummeted 25 stories and crushed him! The excitement of the moment was so great that I had a heart attack and died almost instantly."

The Angel sat back and thought a moment. Technically, the guy did have a bad day. It was a crime of passion. So, the Angel announces, "OK sir. Welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven," and let him in.

A few seconds later the next guy came up. "Sir, before I can let you in, I need to hear about what your day was like when you died." The man said said, "No problem. But you're not going to believe this. I was on the balcony of my 26th floor apartment doing my daily exercises. I had been under a lot of pressure so I was really pushing hard to relieve my stress. I guess I got a little carried away, slipped, and accidentally fell over the side!

Luckily, I was able to catch myself by the finger tips on the balcony below mine. But all of a sudden this crazy man comes running out of his apartment, starts cussing, and stomps on my fingers. Well of course I fell. I hit some trees and bushes at the bottom which broke my fall so I didn't die right away. As I'm laying there face up on the ground, unable to move and in excruciating pain, I see this guy push his refrigerator, of all things, off the balcony. It falls the 25 floors and lands on top of me killing me instantly."

The Angel is quietly laughing to himself as the man finishes his story. "I could get used to this new policy", he thinks to himself. "Very well," the Angel announces. "Welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven," and he lets the man enter.

A few seconds later, former-President Clinton comes up to the gate. The Angel is almost too shocked to speak. Thoughts of assassination and war pour through the Angel's head. Finally he says "Mr. President, please tell me what it was like the day you died."

Clinton says, "OK, picture this. I'm naked inside a refrigerator..."

Friday, June 23, 2006

Gentlemen- More Dolce, Please...

I'd like to spend today featuring one of my favorite items in our current crop of books on Ebay- I'll be sad to see this one go to a new home. It's an uncommon early American traveler's phrase book for a popular 1830s destination of American writers and artists- Italy!

The title is "De Porquet’s Italian Phrases; or, Il Fraseggiatore Toscano. A Copious Choice of Italian Sentences to facilitate a complete knowledge of the formation of the verbs and syntax of that elegant tongue" and it's by Carlo Alfieri, "Professor of the Italian language, London". Published in Boston by S. Burdett & Co., in 1832. “With familiar and easy dialogues in Italian and English, and rules on the different forms of addressing persons, used by the Italians”.

Entire books have been written on the exodus of Americans to the Continent in general, and Italy in particular, in the 1830s and 40s. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and sculptors Hiram Powers and Horatio Greenough all sojourned there. American artist Rembrandt Peale wrote his own guide to traveling in Italy, and sculptor Thomas Crawford settled down in Rome and became a leading figure in the American expatriate community there for several years.

Charleston, South Carolina artist James DeVeaux loved Italy so much that he lived there for several years before his tragic early death in 1844. In fact, although he loved Rome and Venice and Florence, DeVeaux did not enjoy the excess of visiting Americans very much. While staying in Florence he wrote- "There are American painters and sculptors here of all sorts. I find nothing in their society to please me, and so keep to myself. Strange that so much venom should exist among professors of a liberal art -but the truth is, that envy and jealousy are our (painters) besetting sins, and the first thing I heard of here was a flare up at Rome 'mongst the American artists, and now they are all in Florence for the summer, so I keep housed."

And yet, the warm Italian sun and pretty signoras and centuries of art and monuments would draw the visitor out again. DeVeaux continued a few months later-

"Whilst looking down from the steeple of the Campodoglio upon Rome, my companion warmed into a classic fit, and bringing up from the bottom of his pockets notes and memoranda of history gathered from Goldsmith and others, he would glance from one scene to another, till I was deluged in declamation, -flinging his arms into the air and stretching himself so far over the railing, as to induce me to wrap the skirt of his coat around my hands to ensure his safety, -he pointed to the spot where "Ceasar's body lay", -passed to Lucrezia the chaste, and Virginia the innocent, -Camillus pausing to look back upon the city, from whence he was issuing a banished man; and had got as far into his story as to be busily engaged with the Goths and Vandals in sacking Rome over again, when the old attendant cut short the oration by declaring that the "Signore" had detained him too long, as his wife waited his presence for dinner."

But we have strayed far from our charming little phrase book. Or perhaps not, because this is just the sort of book any of these American travelers would have picked up when preparing to take the “The Tour”, or join the expatriate community there. An interesting little piece of Americana and not all that common- a search of internet sources failed to turn up another copy, and the OCLC database of institutional library holdings (which is an imperfect tool, but still gives some indication of scarcity) locates only 3 copies.

It sells on Ebay Sunday evening, and I'll be sorry to see the little fella go. What's Sophia Loren got to do with it? I dunno...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Nail-Biting Time-

The Ebay experiment continues, and now the question comes up- is it really a good idea to offer very good books, with low opening bids and no reserve? That's how we've been doing it, and so far it's worked pretty well, but now it looks as if we're being tested-

Last week we put up a very nice American hunting book, Malcolm Mackay's 1925 "Cow Range and Hunting Trail". There are only a few copies listed on the databases and those are priced between $350 (an ex-library copy) and $1000 (an inscribed copy, a lot like our copy, actually).

And the bidding has been non-existent. The auction has just a few days to go (it ends Saturday) and the bid is (as I write this) $10. Ouch ouch ouch. People have told me I'm being foolish not to "pull the auction", but that's a violation of Ebay's rules, and it's just not right, you know? We make a big deal of putting our books up with no reserves, and low starting bids (the point is to get folks bidding early) and the books bring what they bring. It's worked out well, until this one.

So this book could well be a huge bargain for somebody -bad for us, but good for them! Hey- some days you're the windshield, some days you're the bug.

So how will it all turn out? Stay tuned. Even Fay Wray is apprehensive...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

And the living is Easy...

At 7-30-something this morning it officially became Summertime!

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Summer and loathe Winter? Winter storms are ok- I'm always up for any drama the weather has to offer, but I'd rather be hot than cold any day, and all that snow and ice and slush and the long, dark days... ick. Makes me shiver just thinking of it.

But now it's Summer, and I can amuse myself watching the radar on Weather Underground for thunderstorms and such, though I have to admit that since we moved to the country and are now in a house surrounded by large, old, heavy trees, I'm not as hopeful for a real rip-snorter of a thunderstorm as I once was.

My wife calls it "weather porn" when she comes in and I'm peering at the computer screen where I've got the Tropical Weather page up, reading about embedded tropical waves and whether they have associated convection... btw- it's been a quiet week, but just an hour ago they put up a note that there is "an area of disturbed weather over the Bahama Islands associated with a non-tropical low pressure system that has the potential to develop into a tropical depression later this week. Currently, the disturbance is embedded in an area of strong vertical wind shear of about 15 - 25 knots, but a small area of lower shear is expected to develop over the Bahamas starting on Thursday."

I mean, OK, so I've got a satellite picture of a hurricane on my Opening Page with links to local weather and the tropical weather pages- she acts like that's not quite, you know, normal...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ben Franklin rewrites the Bible-

Got time for another Ben Franklin tale? I've been a big fan of ol' Ben, from the time I first read Robert Lawson's "Ben and Me" in third or fourth grade.

We recently found a copy of a little American Institute of Graphics Arts keepsake booklet done in 1927 called- "The Parable Against Persecution. A Proposed New Chapter for the Bible. By Benjamin Franklin".

Why, you ask, was Ben Franklin writing Bible chapters? That's a perfectly reasonable question...

The parable itself can be traced back to ancient times (but it was never in the Bible)- it tells the tale of a visitor to Abraham who is at first welcomed, and then chased into the night when he admits that he does not worship God. God then rebukes Abraham- “Have I borne with him (the visitor) these hundred and ninety eight years, and nourished him, & cloathed him, notwithstanding his rebellion against me; & couldst thou not, that art thyself a sinner, beare with him one night!

So Ben Franklin rewrote the original parable in Biblical verse and committed it to memory. When he was in the company of a Bishop or other church figure Franklin would open a Bible and then recite the parable from memory, while pretending to read from the book. He'd then slam the book shut and demand of the churchman what chapter and verse he had just read.

Now was that really very nice?

The fun was ruined when a friend in England published the parable and attributed it to Franklin. We put the booklet, which has a striking Art Deco illustration by Carl Purlington Rollins, up on Ebay. Click our Ebay link for more info.

There was an interesting discussion about the power of positive thinking over on the Biblio list yesterday. Several tales of going into flea markets or library sales and "willing" oneself to find good stuff. Of course, if you do it enough you do develop a sense for where to look -it's probably like a geologist for an oil company looking at a rocky landscape and being able to point to an area that looks the same to all the rest of us, and saying, "drill there!"

My favorite post in the thread was not book-related though. Somebody commented that they used the power of positive thinking when looking for a place to park, and it often worked, which caused another list member to inquire exactly how much positive thinking it took to vaporize a parked car.

Monday, June 19, 2006


FB and I have spent the last several nights watching bull riding from Omaha on the cable channel OLC. It's amazing; we'd never watched this sport before. If I had one single observation to make it would be- these guys are NUTS.

These are LARGE, professional bulls, bred for the task. The cowboys risk having their heads pulped, legs broken, collar-bones snapped, shoulders dislocated (saw one of those) and assorted other less serious injuries. And they do it for peanuts. The top prize for this event, which featured the best bull-riders in the country, was $25,000. In baseball, the New York Mets Pedro Martinez gets $25,000 for pitching to a single fucking batter. Next time Pedro talks about being shown "respect" (he used to mouth off about that a lot when he was pitching for the BoSox) I suggest somebody sit him on top of a 2500 pound bull and pop the gate open.

Friday, June 16, 2006

On the Road-

Well, I've decided to take my "State of Denial" blog on the road -although it will also still be posted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday on it's blogspot site (see the right-hand link). But in an effort to get a slightly larger audience I've started posting it on the Daily Kos, that hotbed of Liberalism run amok. You can see the "diary" page here.

The cool thing about the Kos site is that every new diary shows up on the Main Page, in the right-hand column marked "recent diaries, for a while at least, so you get eyes. Then, if you get enough recommendations I think they put you in another spot on the main page. I'm still finding my way around how they do things over there, so I could be wrong about that.

So if you're a "State of Denial" fan, take a look at it over on Daily Kos. I have a feeling that not everyone over there knows quite what to make of it. Somebody left this comment this morning- "Whether anyone else will admit it or not, your parodies are both entertaining and spot-on:) How could anyone not enjoy?"

Huh... what the fuck are they saying about it, anyway?

What does Maude Adams have to do with any of this? Nothing, why? Is there ever a wrong time to post pictures of Maude Adams? I don't think so...

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Problems for Publishers-

I was cataloging a very interesting Ben Franklin item last night, which gives amusing insight into just how far back price-comparing and complaints about high publisher's prices go. The booklet is titled "A Letter from Benjamin Franklin, Passy, April 21, 1785, to Benjamin Vaughan, containing some observations on the prodigal practices of publishers". It was published in Princeton by the Friends of the Princeton Library in 1949, and is a facsimile of Franklin’s famous letter denouncing the practices of English publishers. Franklin begins by writing of the controversy over cheap Irish goods in the English marketplace, and eventually gets around to books-

"If Books can be had much cheaper from Ireland, (which I believe for I bought Blackstone there for 24s when it was sold in England at 4 Guineas) is not this an Advantage, not to English Booksellers indeed, but to English Readers and Learning? And of all the Complainants perhaps these Booksellers are least worthy of Consideration. The Catalogue you last sent me amazes me by the high Prices, (said to be the lowest) affix’d to every Article. And one can scarce see a new Book, without observing the excessive Artifices made use of to puff up a Paper of Verses into a Pamphlet, a Pamphlet into an Octavo Volume, and an Octavo into a Quarto, with Scab-boardings, white Lines, sparse Titles of Chapters, & exorbitant Margins, to such a degree, that the Selling of Paper seems now the Object, and Printing on it only a Pretence".

We put the booklet up for auction on Ebay. For more information click the "Our Ebay Auctions" link in the right-hand column.

Speaking of problems for publishers, a judge has just given the copyright to ten early John Steinbeck novels back to the family, even though Steinbeck's will specifically left them to someone else. The judge cited the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act of 1998 which not only extended the period of original copyright, but granted an author's descendants the right to "reclaim" copyright. According to this judge, copyright law now reads that "blood heirs" have rights that cannot even be altered by things like the author's will.

Now correct me if I'm wrong but... that's just nuts. When you leave something to someone in your will, I find it creepy that decades later your family can sue to get it back, but that's exactly what can now happen. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out in the courts as the case is appealed. What's Hedy Lamarr got to do with John Steinbeck? Bonus points for the right answer!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Attention, Home Depot Shoppers...

This just in from today's Boston Globe-

June 14, 2006

SOUTHWICK, Mass. --A plumber who bought a bathroom vanity for a home renovation found something else in the box: a stash of 40 pounds of marijuana and three grams of cocaine. Police did not identify the plumber or the store, though WWLP-TV reported the vanity was purchased at the Home Depot in Chicopee. Southwick Detective Lt. David Ricardi told The Republican of Springfield that at least one other vanity containing a drug stash had been discovered, though he declined to say where.

- - - -

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


The Sun is out, for the second day in a row, which must be a record not only for June, 2006, but probably May as well. Farmers around here have been held back from planting because of all the water, which doesn't bode well for Summer crops. Last Fall a lot of the pumpkin crop was left to rot in the fields because they couldn't take their trucks or tractors in to harvest them for fear of getting stuck.

But now the Sun is out, so all is well. What's that have to do with Kim Novak? Well, the Sun is a star, and so is she...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Collectors & Jean Arthur

Interesting thread on Biblio the other day about "hidden" collectors, and the potential market they represent for the enterprising dealers selling them books and ephemera.

Well... that's exactly what several of us have been saying off and on for several years now. Lynn talks about it every now and then, when he isn't out on his beach, or whatever it is they do in Mexico between bullfights. Serious collectors, folks who want everything they can find on dining cars, or skiing, or the First World War, are a huge source of potential income.

The bookselling business has always been divided into those who have serious collector customers and those who do not. In the past, those who did not tended to sell a lot of material to those who did, and many of them made a darn good living at it, though they also worked very hard to do it. They were "pickers", or general dealers, and many of them cultivated specialist dealers, who they would call when something interesting came in in their field. The specialist dealers then turned around and sold the item to their serious collector customers.

Then along came the internet, and the book databases, and the idea that you could make a living selling single books to one-time-only customers, which is fine, but it only works if the internet isn't glutted with books priced cheaper than yours.

The other idea that came along with the internet is that it would kill off the specialists, because all the serious collectors would be able to buy from anybody who had the material. The pickers and general dealers were going to be able to sell directly to the collectors, and many accordingly raised their prices and stopped calling in the specialist dealers when they got something good. Specialist dealers, as the "middlemen" in the chain, were expected to go belly up.

Except it did not work out that way.

Although many serious collectors have found their way to the internet, many have not, and have little wish to. The fact is that it takes a lot of time to ferret out good obscure stuff on the internet, and there's a lot of dross to sift through in getting there. Many serious collectors, while they enjoy going to book fairs and ephemera shows, don't get the same joy out of sitting in front of a computer screen scrolling through page after page of misdescribed, overpriced crap.

Which is where the specialist steps in- the specialist, as he always has, acts as a filter, spending his time scrolling through page after page of misdescribed, overpriced crap, to find the gems that he needs to feed the collectors.

So, yes -serious collectors are a good source of income. How does one find those collectors? It takes time and money (often lots of money) -it takes advertising and otherwise promoting yourself, some of which is free, and some of which is not, and remember that your time is money too.

What does any of this have to do with Jean Arthur? Well- I'll bet there are some Jean Arthur collectors out there...

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Enuf, already...

It's been raining for what, two months now? Last year we had a wet May, but June was ok. Now June looks like a washout too. A story in the paper today laid blame on the jet stream, which is doing an un-seasonable wavy thing this year, resulting in wet, wet weather here in New England.

Global Warmy at work? I dunno. Global Warmy (as George calls it) is going to change the flow of the Gulf Stream, but the jet stream too? Well, the water is the largest source of cold and heat around- and it does affect air currents. Here's the thing- I was into Global Warmy. We're a few hundred feet above sea level now, in a rural area away from the riots, and most of the year it wouldn't hurt New England to be warmer. But if Global Warmy means we're going to turn into Seattle, with mosquitos the size of softballs and the ferns growing mold, well then, I object!

There's also the problem with our lawn- mainly, that we really can't mow it if it never dries out. FB mows the lawn- I grew up mowing lawns, but she didn't, and when we got here last year she thought that lawn mowing was some kind of cool privledge. Well... what could I say but admit that she was right? But it isn't any sort of cool when the grass hits 10" high. Our across-the-street neighbor has one of those industrial mowers that's about 40 inches wide. FB wants one. I knew Global Warmy was gonna cost us all money, I just didn't think it was going to be so soon.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Not a Hoax...

Well, House Republicans are trying to do away with the nation's Public Broadcasting Service once again, only a year after a similar effort fell flat. The problem this time is getting people to believe it is happening. I posted the story to one email list and was directed to snopes.com to read the "truth" about this hoax.

The problem is it's not a hoax -it's real. The other problem is the perception that PBS and NPR don't need public funding at all, because "only 15% of their budget comes from the government". Well, that's true enough for the national org., but many small local stations, which, not coincidentally, serve largely rural areas where there is no other independent alternative for news, make up a much, much larger percentage of their budgets through government funding.

Supporters of the move, which will slash the PBS budget 25% next year and eliminate it entirely in two years, make the argument that money needs to be saved somewhere, and we cannot cut funding for education or health care in favor of PBS. That type of argument is called "mis-direction" -no PBS supporter wants to cut funding for education or health care; but what about billions for futile wars, or billions in rebates, in the form of tax cuts, for millionaires on their stock-market gains? A country that can subsidize millionaire's yacht purchases to the tune of billions, and then turn around and tell us that we have to chose between cutting education or information services to save several millions, is on the wrong track.

I believe the word is "bamboozle".

The other word is shameful.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ebay -Part 2

A few months ago I mentioned that we were going to be experimenting with selling some books that have been hanging around forever and are not in our specialties on Ebay. It's been going pretty well- some have actually sold for more than I had them priced at in our catalogs, and almost all of them have at least recovered their cost, which was the point to begin with- to clear out dead stock.

We've come around to the belief that it's best to start everything low, with no reserves, because reserves annoy people, and it seems to be better to get folks bidding than to try and start things at higher levels. The secret is to get people bidding, and a $9.99 starting price seems to do that. I had one book I started at $40, got no bids on, and then re-auctioned it starting at $9.99. The result was a bunch of bids, and a selling price of $40!

We've also been learning what type of material does well and what does not, which is important when you start things low with no reserves. So this week, in a further experiment, I actually bought some books at the local book auction with the intent of putting them up on Ebay. That is not at all the direction I saw this Ebay Project going in when we started- the point was to move stuff out, not bring stuff in, but hey, whatever sells books, right?

Besides, I've found that there is a certain drama and excitement to running the auctions- you watch the number of bidders and watchers grow as the week goes along, and then, with any luck, you have that final surge of bids at the end. It's fun.

And because I know that you are all absolutely fascinated by my yammering on and on about our crap on Ebay, I've put a link on the right-hand nav. bar to our current auctions. I view that as a public service, because I know that you all need an 1850 print of a Zuni spring, or an 1837 book on beet sugar production in America, or the fashion print of the pretty young lady that started this entry.

Doesn't everyone?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

well well well...

I have to admit, I love Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's paintings. For those who are not fans, Alma-Tadema was famous in the Victorian art world for his meticulously-detailed paintings of ancient Rome and other poetical locales, enlivened by semi-nude women. Hey, what's not to like?

Like other things Victorian, he was largely forgotten in the 20th century until Allen Funt, of Candid Camera fame, began collecting his works.

Anyway, when I found the painting that's now above us the other day, I loved it the moment I saw it. But is it too much on the masthead, with the quote? Am I reading too much into this?

Everyone gets a vote, and then I'll make a decision.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Trapped in Poetry

An interesting thread came up on Beekslayers yesterday. Somebody mentioned "The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde, in which one of the minor characters gets trapped inside a Wordsworth poem. This brought up the question- if you could be trapped inside a poem, what poem would it be? Or, if you feel like you are trapped inside a poem, what poem is it?

Given the chaos on the internet and the state of the nation in general, Lewis Carroll immediately sprang to mind...

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

well now.

Here's the poem that started the discussion-

"Daffodils" by William Wordsworth (1804)

I Wander'd lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

more coffee...

ok, I am going to stop trying to edit posts now. Having just deleted two. I canna say it was all my accomplishment -stupid dial-up connection shorting-out helped.

To update, the post was about Mike over at Gin & Tonic hanging it up, and how his blog was an inspiration for my own blogging, and how much I always enjoy his entries. And then there was a picture of a lot more of Jessica Alba than you usually see (well, I guess that depends on where you look) which I have also lost.

Fortunately the daffodil post was written in Word beforehand, so I have a copy. There is no copy of Jessica- she is a unique Force of Nature.

Monday, June 05, 2006

How the Databases are Ruining the Book Business

This will not be the usual plaintive wail you have seen other places about the Big Bad Databases. I like the databases. For the most part they make my job of locating good books easier. But there is also a downside, and that downside is represented by IGFs- Ignorant Greedy Fucks.

A quick story will illustrate. Last year I was buying books from one of my usual private sources, an ex-antiques dealer selling off her library. The last book she brought she laid proudly in front of me and proclaimed- "I'll bet you don't know what this is worth!"

I looked at the book, an uncommon and good silver title, and said "As a matter of fact I do, because I just sold a copy. $750."

"No, No," she said smiling. "It's worth $5000!"

"Um, no," I said, frowning, "it's not."

Upon returning to the office I found the source of the problem- a copy listed on a major database for $5000. Now let's get real- I have been selling books in the very specialized field of the decorative arts for 25 years. We deal with major collectors, dealers and institutions. I know and monitor the other specialists in my field. That book was worth $750.

Yet one ignorant idiot, with pretensions of grandeur almost spoiled my opportunity to buy a saleable book at a fair price (fortunately my seller had faith in me, and I got the book).

But the plague continues. Just today I got a want-match on an out of print 1990s furniture book which is, possibly, on a good day, with a tailwind, worth $1000, and the price was $4500. I've sold 17th century decorative arts books for that price.

That's all fine and well- it's a free country after all, except that other dealers use the databases to price. How much do you want to bet that a new copy comes up tomorrow for $3000, that dealer also being ignorant, and thinking to undercut the current price? I love dealers undercutting other dealers prices, except where the original price was hatched in a crack dream. And not long in the future I will have that price quoted to me by a collector looking to sell.

What can be done? Not a damn thing that I can see. There have always been dealers, like this one, who simply add an extra digit to the highest number they can think of. The problem is that, with the internet, everyone else takes their cue from those fantasy prices. The other ethical problem is what if someone actually pays that price? I know, I know, a "fair price" is determined by a willing seller and informed buyer, but the key here is "informed". Everyone in the book business knows that many buyers are not informed. A certain Ebay seller has made a fortune taking advantage of uniformed and deep-pocketed buyers. Does that make it right? The greedy preying on the ignorant?

I dunno.

But it's a problem.

What's Veronica Lake have to do with all this? Nothing, I'm just a fan, and they were talking about her on Biblio the other day.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


How about a Quicky Quiz? First a few headlines from this morning's news-

21 commuters were dragged from their vehicles and shot dead on a street in Bagdhad yesterday.

Iran had ratcheted up the nuclear-standoff again by hinting that confrontation with Washington could start a global energy crisis by endangering the flow of oil from the entire Persian Gulf.

The investigation continues into multiple incidents of US Troops in Iraq killing innocent civilians on purpose.

The Canadians have uncovered a widespread terrorist plot that included 3x the amount of explosives used to blow up the Oklahomha City Federal Building.

A new report shows that amid surging sales of their more fuel-efficient cars, Asian brands have captured a record share of the US auto market.

Gas prices are up again, new jobs creation is down, the deficit is growing, bird flu spreads, Global Warming is speeding up...

So what is the #1 item on the President's agenda this week?

You guessed it- pimping for conservative votes in the Fall elections by starting a new campaign to amend the Constitution so that the secular legal contract of civil marriage is in accordance with Fundalmentalist Christian religious standards.

Now there's a good use of George's time...

I certainly feel safer now.

Because God knows that whether or not Dick Cheney's daughter can enter into a civil contract of a certain type with her gay partner is much, much more important than Iraq, Iran, bird flu, Global warming, the economy, terrorism, or anything else that's going on.

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. George Bush panders while the world implodes.

Way to go, Mr. Decider.

Wrong Ivy...

Good News from the Global Warming Front- increased CO2 in the atmosphere means bigger, better, more potent Poison Ivy!

No, no, I'm not talking about Drew Barrymore-type Poison Ivy, I'm talking about the other kind.

That's ok, lots of folks make that mistake, and a lot more, when dealing with poison ivy. In fact, just the other day I caught George Bush making an odd mistake about it...

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Spy Who Didn't Love Us

I don't know if you've seen this yet, but the Bush Administration wants to know every detail about where you go, and what you look for, on the internet. They are leaning on the search engines, like Google, and the service providers, to keep records for at least two years about every web search you do, and every website you visit, and every email you send. Given the Chicken-heart predilictions of most isp's and search engines, I don't imagine they are having to lean very hard.

Were you concerned about what sort of nuclear work Iran might be doing? Have you run a Google search on: "Iran nuclear bomb"? Congratulations. You're now on a list...

Over the last few days I've been blogging about the breakdown of the wall between private lives and public lives; although it is far removed from slobs munching tacos on a public bus while yakking on their cellphones, what we have here is, actually, just another instance of that. It used to be that what you read, who you talked to, and what you were interested in were your own business.

Not anymore. Now it is the goverment's business as well, and they are taking steps to find out.

We are not talking about fun, sexy spies like Barbara Bach; we are talking about a government that spies on you from the time you get up in the morning and check your email, through the day as you buy things with a credit card and make bank deposits, 'till nightime, when you call a friend in London or New York or Ottumwa. Every single one of those actions is now being monitored by the government. And this is the same government that bans folks who disagree with it from flying.

Feel safer yet?

George Orwell is spinning in his grave.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Random thoughts

-The Feds have slashed Boston's anti-terror funding by a third for the coming year. That makes sense- after all, only two of the four 9-11 planes came from here, and we wouldn't want to deprive potential terrorist targets like, oh, Dubuque, of their fair share. Especially since they vote Republican and we don't and it's an election year. Oh yeah- two other low-risk Democratic cities, New York and Washington, also saw their funding slashed.

-One of the cats (Pyewackett) is currently sitting on a $2500 19th century pamphlet. The problem with removing her is that she will then come back and sit between me and the computer screen. Life is all about decisions.

-Scientists have recently discovered that temperatures in the Arctic were about 74 degrees 55 million years ago, and that the reason was a gigantic burst of "greenhouse gases" into the atmosphere. Hell, I'd take one of those "ice cruises" if it were 74 degrees up there. The fudsy-dudsy scientists are all worried about the fact that this may show just how dramatically greenhouse gases can affect the climate, and how hot it can get. Well phooey. The Beloved Leader says Global Warming is a good thing; who needs to know more? I'm buying more beach chairs.

-They say Microsoft is thinking about buying Ebay. Great. Evil Empire meets Moral Vacuity. The combined company will be called ME-bay.

-Speaking of Evil... (some) people are all aflutter over an upcoming date- 6-6-6, which happens this coming Tuesday. I was reading a story about this on the web, and the author pointed out that recent archeological work has discovered that the Number of the Beast may not be 666, but 616. Damned transcription errors. That also means that if you see a guy with horns walking around today spreading death, chaos and destruction, for just this once it may not be George Bush...

-Today is the start of the 2006 Hurricane season. I don't know about the rest of you, but my main concern is that we've got good names this year. This year's names are Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie, William.

I dunno about you, but those names strike me as a 70s flashback- Chris (Evert); Debby (Gibson -ok, not 70s, but work with me here); Florence (Henderson); Gordon (Jump); Helen[e] (Reddy); Isaac (Hays); (Captain) Kirk; Leslie (Neilson); Michael (Douglas); Oscar (of the Odd Couple); Patty (LaBelle); Sandy (Duncan); Tony (Randall); Valerie (Bertinelli); William (Shatner).

The Odd Couple and Star Trek tie, with 2 each.

I may need more coffee...

Here's a great page with info about Hurricanes.