Sunday, July 31, 2011

Librarians rule!

 Thought I'd share this great vignette from shelfawareness:
"Once a month a lumbering green van pulled up in front of our tiny school. Written on the side in large gold letters was State of Maine Bookmobile. The driver-librarian was a hefty lady who liked kids almost as much as she liked books, and she was always willing to make a suggestion. One day, after I'd spent 20 minutes pulling books from the shelves in the section marked Young Readers and then replacing them again, she asked me what sort of book I was looking for.
"I thought about it, then asked a question—perhaps by accident, perhaps as a result of divine intervention—that unlocked the rest of my life. 'Do you have any stories about how kids really are?' She thought about it, then went to the section of the Bookmobile marked Adult Fiction, and pulled out a slim hardcover volume. 'Try this, Stevie,' she said. 'And if anyone asks, tell them you found it yourself. Otherwise, I might get into trouble.' "
—Stephen King, reflecting upon his discovery of William Golding's Lord of the Flies in the Telegraph's edited version of King's introduction to an upcoming centenary edition of the novel.
Does anyone have a similar story? I remember being thrilled when I realized there was no prohibition against taking out books from the adult section.

Speaking of childhood days, I came across this fabulous title and cover design while perusing You can watch a very funny interview with the author here.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Forbidden images: vamps & tramps

The burlesque practitioners I wrote about yesterday revel in the glamor, performance art, self-expression, and humor aspects of their routines. The movie house personnel who censored the clips in this collage obviously found nothing funny in women at ease in their bodies! No no, these red-hot mamas are très dangereuse and must be obliterated! According to "cinegraphic," who uploaded the footage: "All of the clips used in this film came from a reel of 35mm nitrate found in an old theater somewhere in Pennsylvania. The projectionist clipped these scenes to meet local moral standards of the time."

For a movie star who smoldered, it's hard to surpass Greta Garbo. Watch and swoon as she takes command of passionate love scenes with John Gilbert and other co-stars in the 10-CD boxed set Greta Garbo: The Signature Collection. Michelle Pfeiffer singing "Makin' Whoopee" lounging on the piano in The Fabulous Baker Boys is nothing to sneeze at either; nor is Elizabeth Taylor swanning around in fur coats, slips, and skin-tight dresses in Butterfield 8.

What say you re the sexiest women in film?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ecdysiasts and such

H.L. Mencken's 1940 word for "strip-tease artist" (from Gk. ekdysis  "a stripping or casting off," used scientifically for serpents shedding skin or crustacea molting) was supposedly coined in honor of Miss Gypsy Rose Lee.

I got inspired by the wealth of information, resources, and images provided in the liner notes of Girls! Girls! Girls!: The Best of Burlesque & Striptease Music to do a little internet digging. One of my favorite finds is this invigorating film of what appears to be an authentic French can can. Wow! As the World War I song put it, "How 'Ya Gonna Keep Em Down on the Farm (After They've Seen Paree)?" And exemplifying the modern art of burlesque in all its classy, campy splendor is Immodesty Blaize, who is seen in action in the second video. She and a number of other contemporary performers (such as Coco Framboise, Amber Ray, Gentry de Paris, Scarlett James, Michelle L'amour, and Renea' Le Roux) were interviewed by watchmojo, and their segments are well worth seeking out on youtube.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The wisdom of fairy tales

I love Tod Davies' mind ... she reminds me of the late Mary Daly ("whatever is the most disregarded and scorned thing in the culture is what you should look at"). In this book trailer she speaks of her mission as a publisher of Exterminating Angel Press.

Several exhilarating examples of adult interactions with fairy tales have wafted across the blogosphere lately. The first is from Simone Massoni's series 12 Famous Fairy Tales Deconstructed and the second from Christian Jackson's array of minimalist kids-book posters.

Here are three more of Jackson's brilliant graphic distillations.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Random gleans

Gotta love this fetching "book dress," courtesy of Trashonista:

If you're in the mood for a laugh (or a flashback), partake of this vintage anti-LSD film about the Stephen King-esque hot dog that terrorized this woman (or was it vice versa?)
Wasn't that a trip?
British singer/songwriter Lily Allen, whom Elton John calls "Britain's best lyricist," is writing songs for a musical based on Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones's Diary, scheduled to open in London in 2012. (Hope one of them uses B's catch phrase "and similar.") Bets on whether the lead actress will have to gain weight for the part?
Did anyone see the PBS documentary Biblioburro last week? It was described as "the story of a librarian—and a library—like no other. A decade ago, Colombian grade-school teacher Luis Soriano was inspired to spend his weekends bringing a modest collection of precious books, via two hard-working donkeys, to the children of Magdalena Province's poor and violence-ridden interior."

Looks heartwarming .... All it takes is one gaucho and one donkey to make a difference!
Jane Austen is a fairly perennial topic around here, and I tagged Stephen King, so I just had to share this item from historicLOLs:

If you're someone who enjoys sending and receiving beautifully printed cards instead of e-mailing or texting friends and family, you will want to peruse our vast collection of discounted notecards—everything from the Brontes to beach parties to lavish images from Russia's Hermitage Museum to album covers of John Coltrane to images of African American "buffalo soldiers." Floral exotica, folk art critters, Inuit and Native American art, Impressionism, kimono designs, Kliban's cats, reproductions of art nouveau-era theatrical posters, Madonna and child images, landscapes, cartoons, Michaelangelo drawings, illustrations of Shakespeare plays, Japanese prints, vintage images of New York and Washington DC, Women Who Dared .... the list goes on and on!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A sylvan glade with scrumptious food

I've been meaning to visit the Farmers Market in Lewes for the last few years when staying in Rehoboth Beach, DE, but never seemed to get up early enough. Finally, thanks to the good offices of a friend in Lewes, I made it. Wow, have I been missing out! We have four such markets in the city in which I live, but this one was special. The day was murderously hot, but the park-like setting of the Historical Society grounds were bathed in shade from giant trees. An array of cool old buildings, which have been transported there, rimmed the perimeter, as did the booths of farmers and other assorted purveyors of local, unadulterated, delicious comestibles. Wunderbar! Everyone seemed so happy, both customers and booth tenders (several of whom told me what a difference the market has made in their businesses and in orders from restaurants). Bravo all around.
I noted with interest that Susie Middleton, the author of Fast, Fresh and Green: More Than 90 Delicious Recipes for Veggie Lovers (which we carry) had given a talk that morning. Sated with homemade ice cream and bearing bags of fresh peaches, corn, canteloupe, and jam, I ambled off, completely fortified, to scope out the local antique stores.
Thanks to photographer Judy Rolfe for the photo taken at the market. 
If you're in the Delmarva area, you should check out one of her guided photo tours.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The father of album cover artwork

"I needed to shake up the industry. We had to do something like 
European poster art to draw the attention of the buyer.”

Alex Steinweiss died last week at the age of 94. Before he transformed them in the 1930s, record sleeves consisted of brown paper. As the art director at Columbia Records, Steinweiss pioneered illustrated jackets and sales zoomed.

"I love music so much and I had such ambition that I was willing to go way beyond what the hell they paid me for. I wanted people to look at the artwork and hear the music." —Alex Steinweiss
The cover for Thelonious Monk's 1964 Columbia album Solo Monk carries on the Steinweiss tradition beautifully.
In regard to CD art, this cover for Gillian Welch's The Harrow and the Harvest is one of my recent favorites. And the music is great too.
Any LP/CD cover favorites, past or present, to share??? I actually own this 78 package of the Jerome Kern musical about a fashion house:

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Herbie Hancock is UNESCO's Goodwill Ambassador

The UN Director-General has asked the celebrated jazz pianist "to contribute to UNESCO's efforts to promote mutual understanding among cultures, with a particular emphasis on fostering the emergence of new and creative ideas amongst youth, to find solutions to global problems, as well as on ensuring equal access to the diversity of artistic expressions." Basically, Hancock will continue what he's been doing lo these many years!

Here he is in one of his many awesome collaborations, part of the "Imagine Project."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Identification quiz

The first photo is a shrimp tail magnified x230 and the second is cake sprinkles x65 (pretty deadly looking!) These are just two of the photographs in an online exhibit by Caren Alpert called My Life with Science, Art and Food
What’s the difference between a bird’s-eye view of a remote vegetable crop and a microscopic swath from a pineapple leaf? How distinct is a pile of table salt from miles and miles of icebergs? As a food lover and a photographer I answer these questions visually. Using scientific laboratory photo equipment, I journey over the surfaces of both organic and processed foods: my own favorites and America’s over-indulgences. The closer the lens got, the more I saw food and consumers of food (all of us!) as part of a larger eco-system than mere sustenance.

Equally hard to fathom are these minute, pencil-lead sculptures by Dalton Ghetti. He takes this humble writing/drawing instrument and fashions wonders from its graphite tip. His work reminds me of "In the Reign of Harad IV," Steven Millhauser’s fable about a miniaturist that Cynthia Ozick read recently on a New Yorker podcast. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter refracted

From Brigham Young University's sketch comedy group, here's a kicky spoof of the hold the world of Hogwarts and environs has on the imaginations of the untold fans of the Harry Potter series:

I'm not one of those who braved the lines for the midnight showing, but my sister (who teaches 4th grade) is. She told me that some kids brought video devices and watched the previous movie during the long wait for the denouement to begin. She also was bemused by several of her pupils' assertions that the HP series constitutes a "classic" (they were doing a unit on literary classics and had to pick one). She steered them in other directions, but I suppose it's inevitable the series will eventually have the enduring impact that other literary classics have had—from the Aeneid to The Canterbury Tales to Huck Finn to for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf. All of which and more we have in stock (as well as Michael Dirda's Classics for Pleasure to suggest even more hallowed paths to follow).

Did any of you see the finale? Did you feel bereft/longing for more/sated?  (Personally, I can't wait to see what goes on with the new interactive website JK Rowling is unveiling in October.) The website Letters of Note recently ran the following compassionate letter from Rowling to a young woman who had found succor in the Potter books during a painful period in her life.

You can read Sacia's original letter here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

More "Weird Books": Stranger Than Fiction

As Anna Russell used to say, "I'm not making this up." Courtesy of AbeBooks. Words seem extraneous somehow.... Enjoy!

Synopsis (Critter Cuisine: A New Twist On Backyard Cooking)
"For the cook who's cooked it all--new and wonderful dishes based on the creatures that crawl in our yards at night, swim in our drainage ditches, and flap around in vacant houses. The Claytons give new meaning to the old idiom "cooking from your own backyard". 20 full-color photographs."

Other gems: The Joys of Jello, The Pop-Up Book of Phobias, Outwitting Squirrels, 300 Ways to Serve Eggs, The How and Why Wonder Book of Guns, Cheese Rolling in Gloucestershire, and Help! A Bear Is Eating Me….

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spy stuff

Vera Atkins CBE, Légion d'Honneur, C de G
British Intelligence Officer; SOE F-section
"In the real world of spies, Vera Atkins was the boss"—Ian Fleming 

Few individuals were as vital to the success of the resistance efforts in occupied countries as Atkins, whose fascinating life and times are chronicled in William Stevenson's  Spymistress.
Vera recruited her agents carefully, trained them until they dropped from exhaustion, constantly tested them, then personally packed them off on missions. Her clandestine army went deep behind enemy lines, linked up with resistance fighters, destroyed vital targets, helped Allied pilots escape capture, and radioed information back to London. Her agents and saboteurs were not armed with aerial fighting machines. If they chose to die to escape capture, they crunched on lethal cyanide pills.
The origins of many elements of Fleming's novels are to be found in the work of Atkins and her circle before and during WWII, including the prototype of Miss Moneypenny and the arsenal of spy gear described by Stevenson:
Gadgets included incendiary bricks, limpet mines, tire bursters, silenced weapons, daggers, magnets, rope ladders, railroad charges, underwater gear, dehydrated rations, double-sided briefcases, pedal generators, a one-man submarine, whiskey flasks, folding shovels, watersuits, explosives disguised as wine bottles, driftwood, plastic fruit and flowers, rusty bolts, stone lanterns, bicycle pumps and even a German flashlight that detonated when switched on. By 1945, the catalog of secret gadgetry filled 200 pages.
In this video Fleming reveals the intriguing origin of his hero's name:

On a lighter note, I just had to pass on these relevant items from's gallery of "Weird Books."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"They Always Pick On Me"

I picked up this sheet music at a used bookstore because of the cover art. Never having heard the song, I looked on youtube and saw that Betty Boop had sung it!

The Library of Congress's National Jukebox Project has the original Ada Jones recording from 1911, which is most enjoyable as well. The other hits of Harry Von Tilzer , who wrote the music, included "A Bird in a Gilded Cage," "Cubanola Glide," "Wait 'Til The Sun Shines Nellie," "Old King Tut," "All Alone," "The Ragtime Goblin Man," "I Love My Wife, But Oh You Kid!," and "I Want A Girl Just Like The Girl Who Married Dear Old Dad."

I love to collect sheet music, pulp fiction paperbacks,  LP album covers, and many other items for the graphics but long ago ran out of space to exhibit them. Maybe House Beautiful: Decorating with Your Favorite Objects will help. Do you have a similar collecting problem (or solution?) 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Moving books; Austen makes belated big bucks

Here's a cute design that a French moving company uses to designate boxes of books (courtesy
Speaking of book packing, I have always been astounded by the expertise and expense that go into packing each shipment of books I've ordered from Daedalus. Only an act of God, as the insurance people say, could prevent these items from being damaged in transit!
"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not 
pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."
The manuscript of Jane Austen's unfinished novel The Watsons was auctioned by Sotheby's last week. The Bodleian Libraries of Oxford picked it up for a tad more than £990,000 (US$1.6 million). Not bad for a spinster of modest means! Can one even fathom the millions that have been made from the products of her brain? If you're looking to fill in a few gaps, we currently have a broad collection of Austen's works, from the sublime (The Annotated Persuasion) to the spurious (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters).

Speaking of moving books, British booksellers in Lichfield, Staffordshire, have outfitted a houseboat into a "Book Barge" that meanders down a canal bringing cheer to all. According to the owners,
the bookshop comprises a mix of new and secondhand fiction that tries to reflect the very best of contemporary, classic and children’s literature. Books have been carefully selected to offer a quality alternative to high street bestseller lists including, among others, specialist sections exploring topical issues, titular oddities and travel ephemera. Although a bookseller should never admit to judging works on their cover, we are also rather proud purveyors of some dazzling dustjackets and retro paperbacks.
More power to them!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Famous rejection letters

April 19, 1912.

Dear Madam,
I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

Many thanks. I am returning the M.S. by registered post. Only one M.S. by one post.

Sincerely yours,
(Signed 'A. C. Fifield')

Miss Gertrude Stein,
27 Rue de Fleurus, Paris, France

(Boy can I relate: Stein's prose has always given me a pain!
The letter below was written by Harry Cohn to Rita Haworth,
who was dejected by the critical reception of Gilda.)

Put the blame on Mame, boys!
Dear Rita:-
Virginia tells me you were disappointed by a few of the New York reviews. In the first place, you should only be discouraged if they don't notice you - a personality can only be the subject of criticism after they have been the subject of much conversation. And a person is not a personality until they have been the subject of much conversation. In the second place, why would you weigh the opinion of a couple of probably impotent guys against the hundreds who have seen the picture and told you that you were absolutely great?

If you don't believe me on this score, here are some of the opinions of critics from some of the greatest thinkers of all times.

"Critics! - Appalled I venture on the name, these cut-throat bandits in the paths of fame." Robert Burns.

"A poet that fails in writing becomes often a morose critic. The weak and insipid white wine makes at length excellent vinegar." William Shenstone.

"Critics in general are venomous serpents that delight in hissing." W. B. Daniel.

"Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, if they could; they have tried their talents at one or the other, and have failed; therefore they turn critics." S. T. Coleridge.

"Reviewers, with some rare exceptions, are a most stupid and malignant race. As a bankrupt thief turns thief-maker in despair, so an unsuccessful author turns critic." P. B. Shelley.

"For critics I care the five-hundred-thousandth part of the tythe of a half-farthing." Charles Lamb.

"He who would write and can't write can surely review." J. R. Lowell.

"Nature, when she invented, manufactured, and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left." C. W. Holmes.

"The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all." Mark Twain.

"Insects sting, not in malice, but because the want to live. It is the same with critics: They desire our blood, not our pain." Nietzsche.

"Criticism is easy and art is difficult." Destouches.

"The pleasure of criticism deprives us of that of being deeply moved by beautiful things." Jean de la Bruyere.

"Criticism is a study by which men grow important and formidable at a very small expense." Samuel Johnson.

"They who write ill and they who ne'er dare write, turn critics out of mere revenge and spite." John Dryden.

"Critics are like eunuchs; they can tell you what to do, but they can't do it themselves!" Harry Cohn.

I am very excited by your performance in GILDA. Pretty soon everyone in the country is going to be. You should be dancing in the streets, baby. I am.

Wonder which of Cohn's minions did the research for this opus?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The girl can't help it

Because it's Friday and we could all use a laugh, I'm revisiting images from the book on 60s illustration I wrote about yesterday, with captions this time.
When she was crossed, Patsy's drill sergeant training came roaring to the surface.
Pansy was such a sweet girl—pity about her Eliza Doolittle fixation.
This Janeane Garofalo–vampire–witch person is clearly not welcome.

His only tune was Kumbaya, but it slayed them every time.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder in action.

Unfortunately, he took 'Over my dead body' a mite literally.

"I only wanted to see you laughing in the purple rain..."

~Your reputation? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ….  I'll be on the line to the tabloids so fast your career will be in the toilet by teatime!~