Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Holy Flaming Volumes, Batboy!

Reading is one of the primary joys of life- I cannot imagine the house without thousands of books in it, and it has always been like that. It surprises some people, therfore, when I say that most books are crap.

You may have seen this story in the news over the last several days-

Mo. Man Burns Books As Act of Protest
Associated Press, May 28, 2007

KANSAS CITY- Tom Wayne amassed thousands of books in a warehouse during the 10 years he has run his used book store, Prospero's Books. His collection ranges from best sellers like Tom Clancy's ``The Hunt for Red October'' and Tom Wolfe's ``Bonfire of the Vanities,'' to obscure titles like a bound report from the Fourth Pan-American Conference held in Buenos Aires in 1910, didn't sell. But wanting to thin out his collection, he found he couldn't even give away books to libraries or thrift shops, which said they were full.

So on Sunday, Wayne began burning his books protest what he sees as society's diminishing support for the printed word.

``This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today,'' Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books.

The fire blazed for about 50 minutes before the Kansas City Fire Department put it out because Wayne didn't have a permit to burn them. Wayne said next time he will get a permit. He said he envisions monthly bonfires until his supply - estimated at 20,000 books - is exhausted.

``After slogging through the tens of thousands of books we've slogged through and to accumulate that many and to have people turn you away when you take them somewhere, it's just kind of a knee-jerk reaction,'' he said. ``And it's a good excuse for fun.''

I assume that the basic reaction in much of the rest of the world is "How awful to burn books!". In the bookselling community the reaction has been more along the lines of "Wow, what a cool idea!" and "Why didn't I think of that as a way to get publicity?"

The basic fact of bookselling life is that too many books out there are utter trash when they are published, and are completely unsaleable forever afterwards. If you are not very careful you eventually end up with thousands of such "duds" lying around, and they can be very hard to get rid of, as most landfills will no longer take them. When we moved we succeeded in recyling about 60 boxes of books, but we had to tear the covers off all the hardcovers, because the cloth isn't recyclable, just the paper.

My only problem with burning them is that it contributes to air pollution, and one never knows what sorts of toxic chemicals may be in the inks. Color inks certainly give off toxic fumes. We bought a wood chipper this spring- I wonder if they'd gunk it up?

For those who would argue that books are scared things, and are aghast at all this talk of destroying books I can only reply that I believe that the freedom to write, publish, sell and read any book you want is sacred... but many books are just crap.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day

On Sunday Hatfield held its' annual Memorial Day parade and ceremony. The parade marches down Main Street. It's quite a small parade, but it's quite a small town-

The Smith Academy marching band won the National Marching Band Championship in Pennsylvania last week, quite an achievement considering Smith Academy has about 400 students and was competing against much larger schools-

There were several speeches and VFW presentations in Smith Park afterwards. Hatfield has several service members in Iraq, and the young Marine in the background is about to be deployed there. The chaplain of the Hatfield V.F.W., who read the names of members who died this year, is in the dark blue suit on the far right; he's also my barber.

A fly-over of A-10's from nearby Westover AFB was scheduled, but did not happen during the ceremony. After the ceremony we walked home, which is only a few hundred yards down the street from the park. About half an hour later we were sitting on the deck eating lunch, and a pair of A-10s slowly flew over at about 2,000 feet, then came back around a few minutes later, as if they were looking for something... then, about a minute later they came screaming directly over our deck at about 400 mph, only 100 feet off the ground, which was quite a way to end the day!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The End of the World As We Know It-

How the Media would cover the Apocalypse-





Microsoft Systems Journal: APPLE LOSES MARKET SHARE.

Victoria's Secret Catalog: OUR FINAL SALE

Sports Illustrated: GAME OVER.




Readers Digest: 'BYE.






Microsoft's Web Site: If you didn't experience the rapture, download software patch RAPT777.EXE.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Storm Clouds & Killer Chihuahuas-

From today's News You Can Use Dept.-

Stormy Weather- The National Hurricane Center has released its predictions for the 2007 season, with a higher-than-normal total of 13-17 named storms, 7-10 hurricanes, and 3-5 major hurricanes expected. That's all well and good, but what, you want to know, will these storms be named? Well, along with prosaic Barry, Jerry, Karen and Mellissa, we'll also have Chantal, Felix, Humberto, Lorenzo, Noel, Olga, Pablo, Tanya and Van.

It all sounds a bit like the roster of a prep-school bordello.

& More Stormy Weather- Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center's bosses at the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration are going to spend $4 million to publicize their 200th anniversary celebration, while cutting $700,000 from hurricane research.

A NOAA spokesman said “It's part of our responsibility to tell the American people what we do.”

No, goombah. It's your responsbility to tell us what the freakin' weather is going to be. Cutting $700,000 from hurricane research to spend it on party banners isn't going to do that.

Killer Chihuahuas American Idol SuperBabe Paula Abdul was hurt on Saturday when she tripped over her Chihuahua, 'Tulip'.

"I took a nasty fall trying not to hurt my dog. I bruised myself on my arm, my chest, my waist all the way down to my hip. All from my little chubby Tulip. Tulip has no remorse. She just stared at me," Abdul told US entertainment TV show, Extra.

Tulip was unhurt. Ms. Abdul suffered a broken toe and a broken nose. I guess if you're going to inflict a name like 'Tulip' on a dog, you'd better watch your step...

UPDATE: Catalyst has noted that any story about Paula Abdul needs more pictures, a sentiment I quite agree with. As pictures of her PCE (Post-Chihuahua Episode) show her a bit banged up, I decided to go back to the archives for an old favorite-

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Is that your car in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Car names have always fascinated and appalled me. Back when I was a kid they at least made some sort of sense- you had a variety of animals such as the Impala, or things you could do, like the Rambler. But then things began to go south. VW came out with the “Golf”. I mean, wtf? Worse things came as car manufacturers discarded the actual language completely and began to make up words- Lumina. What the Hell is that?

Some names these days are frighteningly accurate- the Chevy ‘Suburban’, for instance, or the Ford ‘Expedition’ (yeah, like anyone who buys one actually goes on one). Some seem to be taking their buyers for such idiots they end up being simply silly- the Dodge ‘Caliber’ & ‘Nitro’, the Ford ‘Edge’, Nissan ‘Maxima’, or the Jeep ‘Patriot’.

And then there are the made-up names, which get weirder each year- Cadillac ‘Escalade’, Mitsubushi ‘Galant’, Nissan ‘Altima’, Toyota ‘Yaris’, VW ‘Eos’ and ‘Touareg’.


So I decided to have a contest. I'm sure we can all come up with better names than the crap out there now. Here are my modest entries-


* Acurra Agressa
* Ford Phalanx
* Toyota Rollova
* Chevy Guzzla

Luxury Cars

* Cadillac Mobsta
* Mercedes Indebta
* Mitsubishi Exclusiva

Sports Cars

* Porsche Testes
* Ford Phallus
* Lexus Wannabe
* Mazda Mefirsta
* Pontiac Pissoff

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Candidate Who'll Bring Home the Bacon...

John Ashcroft, as some of you may remember, became Attorney General because he was out of a job, having lost his Senate re-election to a dead man. That was pretty embarrassing.

Not nearly as embarrassing however, as losing your office to a ham sandwich.

No, really. Down in Prince William County, Virginia, there's one running

The ham sandwich is leading the incumbent, 75% to 25% in the latest polls.

And he's delicious with a pickle, some chips, and a cold beer.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Random Thoughts for a Rainy Friday Evening-

The Red Sox are almost ten games in front of the Yankees. That's waaaay too good to be true. Come August I have a feeling we'll want a few of those back. What sort of reception will Rocket Roger get when he pitches at Fenway June 1st? Heh heh heh...

ABC premiers a new show in prime time tonight- "American Bingo!" Network TV is now officially dead.

If you have missed it, the most important environmental news story flying under the radar is the mysterious die-off of American bees. Our neighbor is an apiarist and lost half his bees this year. The story has major implications for American agriculture. I'm assuming Katie Couric will be reporting on it... when?

Do you suppose Alberto Gonzales will be the next President of the World Bank?

It's been a beautiful week here in Happy Valley, but this weekend it's going to rain. Just one more argument for being self-employed and working from home- I spent half the work-week in the garden and will work at my desk all day Saturday and a half-day Sunday, and if the boss accuses me of slacking off, I'll tell myself to go shove it.

The front window box under the port cochere has always been a bit problematic as it gets no sun whatsoever, so this year I decided to try some ferns- we have about 6 billion ferns growing in the back and side yards, so if they don't winter over they can be replaced. Here's a view from the front stairs looking across the box back towards where Amy and I sit and have lunch in the front corner of the porch-

Have I mentioned lately how lucky we were to be able to sell the place in the city for a grossly inflated price and move out here to the country? God, this is a little piece of Heaven.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

"Not Tonight, Josephine"

This op-ed piece from today's New York Times relates to one of the 20th century's more macabre collecting sagas. If I recall correctly, New York autograph & maunscript auctioneer Charles Hamilton once sold the relic, and wrote about it in one of his books, published in the 1970s. I had not heard much about it since then, but, it's baaaack...

New York Times: May 17, 2007

THE owner of Napoleon’s penis died last Thursday in Englewood, N.J. John K. Lattimer, who’d been a Columbia University professor and a collector of military (and some macabre) relics, also possessed Lincoln’s blood-stained collar and Hermann Göring’s cyanide ampoule. But the penis, which supposedly had been severed by a priest who administered last rites to Napoleon and overstepped clerical boundaries, stood out (sorry) from the professor’s collection of medieval armor, Civil War rifles and Hitler drawings.

The chances that Napoleon’s penis would be excised so that it could become a souvenir were improved by his having lived and died at a moment when the physical remains of celebrities held a strong attraction. Shakespeare didn’t become Shakespeare until the dawn of the romantic period, when his biography was written, his plays annotated and his belongings sought out and preserved. Trees that stood outside the bard’s former homes were felled to provide Shakespearean lumber for tea chests and tobacco stoppers.

After Napoleon’s capture at Waterloo, his possessions toured England. His carriage, filled with enticing contents like a gold tongue scraper, a flesh brush, “Cashimeer small-clothes” and a chocolate pot, drew crowds and inspired the poet Byron to covet a replica. When Napoleon died, the trees that lined his grave site at St. Helena were slivered into souvenirs.

The belief that objects are imbued with a lasting essence of their owners, taken to its logical extreme, led to the mind-set that caused Mary Shelley to keep her husband’s heart, dried to a powder, in her desk drawer. Of course, relic collecting long predates the romantic period; medieval pilgrims sought out fragments of the True Cross. In the aftermath of the Reformation, religious relics that had been ejected from monasteries joined secular collections that freely intermingled belemnites with saints’ finger bones. When Keats died, his hair took on the numinous appeal of a religious artifact.

Napoleon’s penis was not the only Napoleonic body part that became grist for the relic mill. Two pieces of Napoleon’s intestine, acquired by the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1841, provoked a long-simmering debate beginning in 1883. That year, Sir James Paget called the specimens’ authenticity into question, contrasting their seemingly cancerous protrusions to the sound tissue Napoleon’s doctor had earlier described. In 1960, the dispute continued in The Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, long after the intestine pieces had been destroyed during a World War II air raid.

Dr. Lattimer, a urologist, could claim a professional interest in Napoleon’s genitalia. Not so its previous owner, the Philadelphia bookseller and collector A. S. W. Rosenbach, who took a “Rabelaisian delight” in the relic, according to his biographer, Edwin Wolf. When Rosenbach put the penis on display at the Museum of French Art in New York, visitors peered into a vitrine to see something that looked like a maltreated shoelace, or a shriveled eel.

Whether the object prized by Dr. Lattimer was actually once attached to Napoleon may never be resolved. Some historians doubt that the priest could have managed the organ heist when so many people were passing in and out of the emperor’s death chamber. Others suggest he may have removed only a partial sample. If enough people believe in a possibly spurious penis, does it become real?

The pathos of Napoleon’s penis — bandied about over the decades, barely recognizable as a human body part — conjures up the seamier side of the collecting impulse. If, as Freud suggested, the collector is a sexually maladjusted misanthrope, then the emperor’s phallus is a collector’s object nonpareil, the epitome of male potency and dominance. The ranks of Napoleon enthusiasts, it should be noted, include many alpha males: Bill Gates, Newt Gingrich, Stanley Kubrick, Winston Churchill, Augusto Pinochet. Nevertheless, the Freudian paradigm has never accounted for women collectors, nor does it explain the appeal of collections for artists like Lisa Milroy, whose paintings of cabinet handles or shoes, arrayed in series, animate these common objects.

It’s time to let Napoleon’s penis rest in peace. Museums are quietly de-accessioning the human remains of indigenous peoples so that body parts can be given proper burial rites. Napoleon’s penis, too, should be allowed to go home and rejoin the rest of his captivating body.

Judith Pascoe, a professor of English at the University of Iowa, is the author of “The Hummingbird Cabinet: A Rare and Curious History of Romantic Collectors.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Apologies to Audrey-

I really must apologize to my six or seven readers out there- days go by and the time I usually spend drinking, bitching or posting have been devoted to slogging through the mud and muck in the gardens for the past week or so. My only excuse is, boy does it feel good to go out and do a few hours work in the dirt each day. Being cooped up here in the office on beautiful spring days seems like being behind bars, as Audrey Tatou could tell you-

Here at Foggygates we are just beginning to get things under control. The first year here was devoted to unpacking and figuring out where the hell we were. Year 2 was devoted to starting to establish some gardens and whack back the weeds and woods (4 acres of it out back) and this, the third year, is the first year I really feel as if we are making headway.

Even Audrey would be impressed.

We hit two garden club sales this past Saturday, discovered a rare woods wildflower yesterday, and have plans to do four more sales this coming Saturday. I also created a new Victorian CroquetCue area where we can sip gin and tonics while waiting to take our turn whacking a wooden ball through a hoop, and am working on a fern garden for the front, and a wall garden for the back.

Next week we turn our attention to vegetables.

I have a few pictures to share in a day or so. I'm hoping that will make everybody, including Audrey, happy...

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Favorite T-Shirt Sayings-

Spring is here, t-shirt weather. But remember, t-shirts are not just an article of clothing, or a chance to pay excessive amounts of money to promote multi-national companies or over-paid sports stars- they are a means to tell other people what's really on your mind...

I'm visualizing duct tape over your mouth.

I see the fuck-up fairy has visited us again...

We're all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.

What am I? Flypaper for freaks!?

The fact that no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist.

I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.

Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.

I like you. You remind me of when I was young and stupid.

It's a thankless job, but I've got a lot of Karma to burn off.

Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.

How about never? Is never good for you?

You sound reasonable...Time to up my medication.

I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.

I don't work here. I'm a consultant.

My toys! My toys! I can't do this job without my toys!

It might look like I'm doing nothing, but at the cellular level I'm really quite busy.

At least I have a positive attitude about my destructive habits.

You validate my inherent mistrust of strangers.

I see you've set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.

Someday, we'll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject.

OK, everyone, any additions to the list?

Friday, May 11, 2007

Holy Flaming Toilets, Batboy!

From our 'News You Can Use' Department-

Japanese Toilet Makers Warn of Flaming Bidets
The Irish Examiner
May 9th, 2007

Japanese toilet makers issued a warning to electric bidet users today, saying at least 105 units have caught fire or sent up smoke...An extensive investigation was ordered by the government after Toto, Japan’s biggest toilet manufacturer, offered to repair 180,000 bidet toilets last month, saying several of them emitted flames in 2006-7 because of faulty wiring.

The Japan Warm Water Bidet Council, which represents nine bidet manufacturers, reported at least 105 cases of incidents involving flaming or smoking bidet toilets, the Trade Ministry said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear whether any injuries were involved.

High-tech toilets fitted with warm water sprayers and dryers are a standard fixture in Japanese homes. Toto’s problematic Z series of bidets also feature a pulsating massage spray, a built-in-the-bowl deodoriser and a lid that opens and closes automatically.

I can count on the fingers of one hand the household appliances which I want to be able to describe as "emitting flames"... Since toilets are not amongst them, I guess it's back to the old style for us-

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Family Ties-

Recently, Mike was posting about family history, so I decided to do my part-

On my father's side my ancestors were good, hard-working English folk, although they sometime had differences of opinion with the authorities (and their wives) as to what contsituted "hard work"...

Having listened to enough criticism of his chosen lifestyle, my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, Jedidiah Colonel, sailed for the New World in the middle of the 17th century. Upon arriving in Boston he did what any enterprising, red-blooded young American would do- fell in love and took himself a bride.

Unfortunately, at some point the local authorities were informed by the English authorities that he had, in fact, already done the same thing in England, and his English bride was wondering where he was. Since Brigham Young was still a century and a half from being born and polygamy was not yet a legitimate lifestyle choice, the ugly word "bigamy" surfaced and they cut off one of Jedidiah Colonel's ears.

Such is the life of a pioneer.

A few decades later, one of Jedidiah's grandsons ran afoul of another set of authorities in Salem, Massachusetts and got himself executed as a witch.

Obviously, the Colonel family has had "issues" with authority over the years.

Nothing much of interest happened to the family for a few hundred years, until the 1890s when my great-great grandad, Horace Colonel, decided to go into the airline business about 30 years too soon-

On my mother's side, the relatives came from Germany in the mid 19th century, and their sole claim to fame is having a quarrel with their cousins; the cousins (after breaking all ties) went on to found the Poland Spring water company...

oh well.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Thoughts for a Distracted Monday-

The weekend and week so far have been nuts- no time to finish any of the original, interesting blog posts I had in mind. But Audrey Tatou and I had some stray thoughts for a distracted Monday, stolen from somewhere else-

Good health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

Men have two emotions: Hungry and Horny. If you see him without an erection, make him a sandwich.

Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day; teach a person to use the Internet and they won't bother you for weeks.

Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, and you can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

Why does a slight tax increase cost you $200.00 and a substantial tax cut saves you $30??

We know exactly where one cow with Mad-cow-disease is located among the millions and millions of cows in America but we haven't got a clue as to where thousands of illegal immigrants are located. Maybe we should put the Department of Agriculture in charge of immigration.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Parking Problems-

This just in from our Developing Parking News Department-

Boeing 737 stuck in city road
By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai

Residents of the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) are wondering how long it will take to remove a disused Boeing 737 that has been abandoned in a busy road. The decommissioned aircraft was being driven through the city at the weekend when the driver got lost and then abandoned the plane.

The Boeing used to belong to the private company Air Sahara. Some locals are angry that no action is being taken to move the plane. Others say it is a tourist attraction. It appears that after taking a wrong turn, the driver found himself facing a flyover that was too low for him to take the plane under. The driver has not been seen since and no-one is assuming responsibility for the 737.

Restaurant owner Ramji Thapar is one of the puzzled residents of the Chembur area of the city. He woke up Sunday morning to find the aircraft on a giant trailer abandoned on the road. "Saturday night I shut shop and go home and everything is fine," he told the BBC news website. "Sunday morning when I get here, this aircraft is here near my restaurant!"

The fuselage of the decommissioned aircraft, with the engine, wings and tail removed, was being taken by road to the capital Delhi late on Saturday night. Reports say it was supposed to be used at a flight training academy.

The plane has become the centre of attraction with people coming from all over the city to take a look. "I've been fascinated with planes and never seen one so closely," engineering student Vamsi Shastri said. "It's huge!"

His friend Ankur Rane said, "It's fascinating to see an airplane on the roads when one is only used to seeing cars and auto rickshaws." However, for Pradeep Malhotra, who runs a catering service in the area, the plane has become a huge problem because it is parked right in front of his shop.

"My work is suffering because the food cannot be loaded in the big vehicles," he said. "I have to load it in the smaller vans and then carry them to the bigger ones parked at the back. I don't know how they are going to take it out because you can't reverse it, its too big, and you can't go further down the road."

Some residents said they had not complained simply because they assumed that the authorities would be making it a priority to get the plane out of the city. Five days on, it is still not clear who is responsible for the aircraft and its transfer to Delhi.

I Can't Hear You...

Some of you may recall that a Monday or two ago I posted a 19th-century picture of a gentleman wearing what turned out to be a long-range listening device -my thanks to the Good Reverend for pointing out exactly what we were looking at.

Well, I've come across another example, of sorts, this time on the bookplate of book and type designer W.A. Dwiggins. This dates from the early 1930s-

Very stylish, I think.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day!

It's May Day, and a beautiful Tuesday here at Foggygates. Time to throw off all the old winter clothes and dig out our Spring Hats-

Time also to dig out our Sporting Togs-

Happy May, everyone!