Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Diary of a Bookseller/ Music Desk?

I've been reading The Diary of a Bookseller (2017), recommended by librarian Steve at Shadows & Light and written by the owner of a secondhand bookstore in Scotland, Shaun Bythell.

The diary is not jazzed up, it's very much the daily goings-on at a bookstore, which I recognize, except for the book-buying bits, since all the books I handle at the thrift  store are donated.
Even then, I pick and choose what to put out, and to some extent what to price it.

Far from the juiciest parts of the book for a casual reader––that would be his descriptions of customers, I imagine – it's what Bythell says about book selling that interests me most. A lot of it validates or sheds light on what I'm dealing with in my little corner of the business.  

That Amazon is a monster monopolist, for instance, I knew, but even to the point of having bought ABEbooks (which had been started by booksellers and still looks that way)? 
That I did not know.
It's like there's no little corner of The Shire left.

Then, I'd wondered the other day as I priced the twenty-bags of shiny, like-new hardcover crime thrillers at my usual 49-cents each if I was really right in pricing them so low.
But that's Bythell's valuation of that sort of bestseller too.
"What passes for a best-seller in the new book market is precisely the sort of book that will be a dog in the second-hand trade.
erhaps people who buy into the best-seller concept will always buy their books new, to be on the crest of the wave as it breaks rather than the troughs behind it."
 That makes sense--there's a lag time between when a book peaks, and when we get deluged with copies of it. Can't give away Dan Brown's DaVinci Code now, or the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, or Girl on the Train, etc.
They are yesterday's news.

Bythell continues:
"Perhaps also because the Dan Browns and Tom Clancys of this world are published in such vast quantities that there is never any scarcity value in them for the dealer or a collector."


His tales about customers inspire me to start jotting down more of my own exchanges.
Yesterday a couple came in looking for adventure books.
Wild, by Cheryl Strayed?
Already read.

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson?
Too old. (?)

A serious biography on Columbus as an Adventurer? 
They turned up their noses.  

The Fellowship of the Ring, with a personal recommendation: "I'm just rereading this"?
. . .But the only copy we had was too beat up. They would go buy it new.

I bought at my store this fantastic piece of furniture for a laptop desk.Thirty-five measly dollars. I LOVE IT!

Any idea what it was made for originally? It's got musical instruments on the front...
Michael (and Elaine)?

Monday, November 18, 2019

Hard to Love

Hm, hm, hm... It's hard to explain about annoying people--I worry that my post yesterday read as if I were picking on my pathetic coworker. I count on the reader (you!) having also experienced being "talked at"...
The thing is, people who talk AT you almost never listen TO you.

My pathetic coworker has never asked me a single thing, but I know all about his childhood, his health, even what he pays for rent and that his landlord is a train buff!

That's why I mentioned that he really lost my sympathy when he said he didn't know where his grown kids are---
I can imagine what a lousy father he probably was.

I don't doubt he's had a hard time and needs love and friendship.
It's all I can do to be pleasant to this guy, instead of telling him to go bug someone else.

It's a hard fact (in my experience, anyway) that the people who need love the most are often the hardest to love. 

And naturally the people who are easiest to love tend to be bathing in the stuff.

I was dragging with a cold all last week, plus dealing with HouseMate being in the hospital (not that I had to do much but stay in touch and feed the dog, but it has an emotional weight, of course. She is supposed to come home today or tomorrow...
She had (has) one WICKED infection!

So... hopefully this week I'll  be more energetic. I'm off in a few minutes to a fresh week at work. 
Have a good one yourselves, whatever you're up to!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

"No Anecdotage"

Looking for T-shirts related to the Britcom Black Books, I found this photo--not only is Manny wearing a Flipper Dolphin Steaks T-shirt (want), but the chalkboard behind him reads:

That'd make a good T-shirt for anyone who works at a desk in public.
I'd written yesterday about difficult customers because Steve had blogged about how annoying it is when people (not, to be clear, the students using his library) insist on talking at him while he's trapped at his desk in public, trying to get work done.

This isn't a problem in my BOOK's section because I can walk away––"Nice talking to you, gotta go to the back now!"––but it was a problem when I was cashiering. 

The hardest were people who phoned and  gave the lngest possible version of whatever they were calling about--usually furniture pick-ups. 

I sensed the phone-callers were lonely and wanted to talk––and of course they couldn't see I was at the cash register, where I usually had several people in front of me too. (I didn't answer the phone when there were customers in line, but as soon as I picked up the receiver, customers would materialize.)

But some people talk at you even if they can see you're busy.
The worst annoyance is a former coworker who got moved to our other thrift store across the river. 
A sad, toothless, older white man, his stomach hanging over a truss for his bad back, he comes and "volunteers" a couple mornings a week, which means he hangs out and talks to whoever is cashiering. 

By "talk to" I mean "talk at"--
he spouts forth information about his life that means nothing to you. "My landlord finally got that window replaced."
"I'm waiting for the forms from the health department."

Luckily it's trivial stuff like that, not political rants, and rarely anything disturbing, mostly just painfully boring--and insidiously demanding of your attention.

The saddest is when he brags about pitiful successes, like when his attempts to gain social approval by telling jokes go well: "I got her to laugh."
It always sounds a little creepy, like he manipulates people to get some emotional energy out of them.

Once I asked, "Why are you telling me this?"

He looked confused. "I don't know," he said, and kept talking.

Trying to get him to talk about something of some interest, another time I asked him, "What's the best thing that happened to you?"

"This job," he said, and went on to tell me how he was picked on as an epileptic kid.

I don't have much sympathy for him though. I'd also asked him if he had kids, and he said yes.

"Do they live here?" I said.

"I have no idea," he said.

He's the sort of guy who is sorry for himself but not sensitive to others. 

Come to think of it, it's almost like I'm describing Gollum.

As for T-shirts, the ones with the Black Books logo won't do--too much like Black Lives Matter, which is not the point.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The Little Book of Calm (or, How to Not Care When You Do)

I. Crime Book Wave

I had a most unexpected good day at work yesterday. 
Unexpected because I have a fatiguing cold and I'd intended to work quietly for only a couple hours at my desk, which is piled high with books to look up online.

When I got to work, however, Big Boss took me to the side door, saying, "Have you seen these yet?" 
Twenty grocery bags of books had been dropped off inside the door, near my BOOK's area.

I did not (not) feel like hefting all these books, but it was in my best interest to get them on the shelves right away, or else the warehouse guys would move them to the back room and I'd have to haul them farther later.

The books were all mystery/crime novels, mostly hardbacks, all in like-new shape. We get a ton of these, and they do sell . . . for 49¢ each. (Ditto, romance novels.) 

I stock the mystery section regularly, and there was not room to add twenty bags' worth.
I decided to clear a bookshelf in the History, Politics, & Society section.  Books in that section sell faster than donations come in–– I'd guess because people read them slower and keep them [longer] than mysteries, which are on a rapid read-and-recycle loop.
(Not infrequently mystery books get donated back with our .49-cent price sticker still on them.) 

Thinking I should cull the entire BOOK's section but not having the energy, I was feeling overwhelmed... when a young woman wearing a hijab came in and told me she needed to buy one-hundred books for a friend who is starting a senior day care.
Would I help her choose them?

Would I ever!
Clearing out hardbacks of interest to seniors?
Those are among the books that sell the most slowly. 

I loaded her cart with all the LARGE PRINT hardbacks I had; a bag of the new mysteries and another of romances; books about events older people would remember:
The Greatest Generation Speaks
, Eruption: The Story of Mount Saint Helens (can that already be almost forty years ago!?);

and biographies Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Katherine Hepburn...
(I suppose a lot of people will have already read these, but it might be comforting to have books about recognizable topics around).

A few books each on the topics of gardening, cooking, sports, and crafts (quilting); a smattering of Oprah-ish pop-psychology books and general reading novels; a few pretty Anne-Geddes's-babies kinds of picture books; some not-too-specific religious books (an illustrated one about angels, Bruce Feiler's Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion); 
. . . and I threw in a box of maybe fifty issues of National Geographic from this century for free.

I sold her the books for 99-cents each, half of our usual flat-price for hardbacks of $1.99. 
I wanted to give her a deal, because making a nice place for old people is important, but also she was doing me a favor clearing out some of the old stock. It made it much easier to find space for the mystery crime novels.

II. We Make the Path By Walking

We chatted as I was gathering the books, and she told me she had bought a cartload of children's books from me last spring, for her own preschool about ten blocks away, and that I'd sold those to her for half-price too.

Then I remembered her, and felt a little bad I hadn't before, but you know how it is: there are a lot more customers than there are you's, so they remember you more than the other way round.

Her returning to the store where she'd gotten a friendly reception and a good deal reminded me of what I'd written about Lord of the Rings yesterday: 
the way you start out matters--it sets your course.
We might deviate from our original direction, of course, but those first steps, first impressions are key.

I've been BOOK's lady for almost one and a half years, and I'm just starting to be able too look behind me and see the direction I've come--and project the direction I'm going.
I feel incredibly lucky that I've stumbled a bit but haven't taken any terrible missteps. 

I've lost my temper with coworkers a couple times, but I've never lost it with a customer.
NOT because I hold to the marketing idea that the customer is always right, but because a lot of our customers (and a lot of people, period) are vulnerable. 
They tend to be stressed out, and I try not to make it worse.

It takes so much bloody work to survive when you're not thriving, right? When you're not well supported, not well loved.
Maybe you're alone, frightened, new in town... 
You're funny looking or a sexual magnet. 
Your brain or your body is broken, and the ten wrinkled dollars you have in your pocket are literally all the money you have in the world.
You're very old, or very young,  a single parent, addicted, or in recovery. . . 
Or, in any of a hundred ways, you're just not in synch with the culture around you. 

Difficult people are difficult, and I'm not always great with the people who push my buttons [e.g., snotty rich ladies at the cash register who don't look at me as they hand over their money while talking on their cell phones]. 

But I can't see who is dealing with what, so I tend to cut customers a lot of slack. It's easier to think well of them, since I don't know them.
(I get crabbiest with people I know, as people I know will tell you.)

III. Chemical Zen

Empathy is not always emotionally sustainable, when you work with the public.
A couple of my coworkers have broken down and got in screaming matches with difficult customers--one of them just a couple days ago.
The customer was in the wrong, but the coworker made the situation worse.

I don't blame them, but it's a problem.
As usual, I look to poor management---we workers don't have training and support for being on the front lines, as we sometimes are.

Some people are better than others at maintaining their cool.
One of my coworkers, a tough customer himself, never loses it. Because of the recent altercation, I decided to ask him about that.

"How do you handle difficult customers so well?" I asked.

"Look at my eyes," he said. "When I'm at work, I'm high. So I don't care!"

I burst out laughing!
I told him I'd been taking CBD oil--the hemp without the high--to deal with cashiering.

Chemical zen. 
Not the ultimate of tactics, maybe, but in the trenches, anything that reduces stress is welcome.

This morning I read Steve's post at Shadows & Light about the book Diary of a Bookseller (2017). The author, Shaun Bythell, bought a second-hand bookshop in Scotland.
Bythell writes well, Steve says, about the frustrations of working with the public

Once "amenable and friendly", Bythell says the job has made him an “impatient, intolerant, antisocial proprietor” [Guardian review of the follow-up to Diary: Confessions of a Bookseller]--I picture Dylan Moran's misanthropic bookseller Bernard Black in the wonderful British TV show Black Books (2000-2004).

Bythell writes,  for instance, of customers who want to tell your their life story:
"I am going to get a mask and paint 'I DON'T CARE' on the forehead and put it on when such occasions arise..."
Dylan Moran was there first:
I must watch this show again!

OK--now I have watched the first five minutes of the first episode, and  the frantic Bill Bailey (Manny) comes in, desperately demanding The Little Book of Calm.
He reads,
"Let go once in a while. You are a loose lily floating down an amber river."

OMG, I need the T-shirt.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Moral Muddles and Misses

I. Don't Mess with Infection
I'm relieved to report that yesterday the hospital finally got HouseMate's infection turned around––after 48 hours of intravenous antibiotics. 
Lesson: Tea-tree oil is all very fine, but penicillin it is not.

I took HM the copy of The Fellowship of the Ring (the first of the three LOTR books) that I'd finished. HM's at the U, a world-class hospital––even the food is good, she says. 
Their excellence doesn't extend to all areas... The hospital's coffee shop is an Espresso Bar, correctly spelled, but check out the last line of the sign in the elevator:
That wouldn't be enough to make me doubt the excellent medical care, but it did give me pause.
I wonder too about The Meditation Room. Why "The"? That makes it seem like it's missing a trademark symbol:The Meditation Room.

II. In our beginning is our end.

HM called me last night and said a visitor had seen the book by her bed and commented that LOTR is perfect for a long hospital stay:
"On one page, a character turns his head to the right, and five pages later he looks the other way"
[almost always a he].

Yes, and how many ways can you describe a landscape?
Turns out, a lot.

I skim and I skip huge chunks.
I only like the psychologically complex parts, so I'm following the journey of Frodo & Gollum, about the addictive and attractive qualities of Power.

One of Tolkien's themes that I hadn't noticed when I was fifteen is,
the end does not justify the means. The way you start out, the way you go along the way create the end.

Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and this is very Catholic (not only, of course). The Catechism of the Catholic Church spells it out:
“One may not do evil so that good may result from it".*
All very well and good, but people whose moral ducks are in a row don't make interesting (or realistic?) fictional characters. 

The Orcs are boring because they are purely evil.
Characters like Aragorn and Gandalf are fine figures but are two-dimensional, since they are purely good.
In fact, they avoid the moral crux of the story by refusing to take it  on! It's poor Frodo who carries the deadly attractive Ring of Power.

  . . . he fails! Which is a brilliant choice: in the end, it is the morally messed up Gollum who is the (unknowing) instrument of redemption.

I suppose we could read Gollum as Judas, the betrayer who plays a pivotal role in salvation, though Frodo is not the Savior.
Frodo is us, trying and failing, and trying again. 

And failing again... 
By his Good intentions toward a Good end, he creates the conditions necessary for salvation, even if in the end the Conditions get on top of him.

The way the world is, you don't always have the luxury of moral purity. That's what makes Dietrich Bonhoeffer's moral dilemma so interesting:
Should he, a Christian minister who believed it was evil to kill, kill Hitler?

He decided yes, he should.
His reasoning, I think, was that doing evil (killing) can never be Good, but it may be necessary (in this fallen world) to do evil to stop a greater evil. And he failed too, but left us this interesting, complex example...

Most of us aren't forced to wrestle with, or choose not to wrestle with, the Ring of Power of our times on a large scale. But we still have to address the question, either consciously or not, in how we live:
"What then must I do?"
My favorite lines in LOTR come in the very beginning, when Frodo and Gandalf are discussing the necessity of setting your intention. 

Frodo: I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.

Gandalf: So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides the will of evil.


* It's like Tolkein is spinning into story the catechism article "The Morality of Human Acts". This section spells out the three factors of morality: the object, the intention, and the circumstances:
1760 A morally good act requires the goodness of its object, of its end, and of its circumstances together.
"An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention" (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6).

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

All I've Got on iTunes Is George Jones

I. Music & Lyrics

Marz deauthorized her iTunes on my laptop, because she'd reached the limit of number of computers (five) that she could network (or, synch?--not sure of the language here).

The only songs left in my iTunes library are by George Jones––about 100 of them. I almost never download anything on iTunes. Marz must have bought these while she was on this computer? I'm playing them this morning.

I love Country Western. As George Jones sang, it's the brother to the blues. [He also wrote, "Blue must be the color of the blues."]
Lots of it's about hard times and things going  inevitably wrong––acknowledging the law of entropy, the opposite of the currently hyped hygge lifestyle.

Lots of CW is mediocre, of course. I'm with Sturgeon's Law: Ninety percent of everything is crap. But some of CW lyrics are "bad" in such inventive ways, they're fantastically good:
"With the blood from my body, I could start my own still,
But if drinkin' don't kill me, her memory will."
Is that way below or way above mediocre?

It takes a kind of genius to write lyrics worse than mediocre. Most bad stuff is an uninteresting muddle.

It's like donations to the thrift store.
On the one hand, you're hoping for the high quality, top-dollar donations––sterling silver with a maker's mark.

On the other hand, you're looking for the fabulously tacky stuff: 
bubbly green Dippity-do Setting Gel in the vintage jar with stars on its white plastic lid.*

Mostly, you get empty Cool Whip containers.

George Jones is top-notch tacky: 
Dippity-do in a crystal chalice. 

Still, I've got to download some other music.

 The Little Prince enjoying the falling snow ^ this morning

II. Work

I woke up with a cold coming on, outside it's 23ºF and snowing, and I'm trying to decide if I'm going into work. I'm so relieved I'm not cashiering anymore and can choose how to allocate my 24 work-hours/week.
If I were cashiering, I'd go in so I wouldn't burden the other cashiers. (They're burdened anyway since the store hasn't hired a replacement... But that's not my problem.)

I'm working twenty-four hours/week, not twenty: Big Boss asked me if I'd work four more hours doing social media. 
I'm happy about this, and I want to tread carefully.

Last spring, I'd tried to move the store the way I thought it should go, but my efforts set off my coworkers' alarm signals.
Like so:

Mr Furniture especially complained, calling it gentrification.
He acted as if he were threatened, and he was partially right---my vision is a thrift store that's funky and radically charitable like ours, but clean and orderly like Starbucks and Target. 
If we really tightened up along those lines, there wouldn't be much place for many workers who can't read and write fluently and can't use a computer, like plenty of my coworkers.
I don't want that.

So, I tread a weird invisible line, expanding our social media. 
Big Boss wants me to set up an Instagram for the store, for instance, but the point of that would be to advertise to millennials, right? 
Would they patronize a store with disgusting bathrooms?
I think not, but Big Boss and the others don't seem to see anything wrong with our bathrooms...

Well, I'll inch ahead and see where I get.

So... now it's almost noon and the snow is coming down thicker, so I guess I'm not going into work today. Better to lay low, drink fluids, and keep reading Lord of the Rings. I'm just starting the second volume.

III. Home & Away

Meanwhile, HouseMate went to the hospital emergency room yesterday morning and spent last night hooked up to an IV and sleeping on a cot there. Today she is waiting for a private room to open up.

She needs a private room because she has antibiotic-resistant cellulitis--a bacterial infection of her lower leg that started when she gashed her shin on a plant pot outside a month ago.

HM used to work as a nurse, so I figured she'd know if her leg needed attention. 
I figured wrong.
She didn't do anything until the infection started to spread.

TIP: Don't do that.

When even super-sulfa drugs didn't halt the infection, the doctor sent her to the ER. It's actually a little scary-- cellulitis that gets into your bloodstream can even kill you.
Surely it's not that bad! Right?

Pleasegod they'll get HM's infection under control in another day or two, and I can just enjoy having the house to myself, which I was going to have this week anyway.
(HM was supposed to start driving to Georgia today, to protest the School of the Americas.)

Concern for HM aside, I am actually enjoying the time alone, by doing nothing––something I haven't done enough in a long time.
Soooo much has changed in my life in the last few months--or the last couple years (father died, new job, moved house, etc.), and I haven't had enough empty time staring into space to digest it.

I'm going to retire to the couch and do that right now.


* I pulled a full jar of Dippity-do from the trash at work, where the church ladies had thrown it, and offered it for $5 to a woman who I know is refurbishing a mobile home in 1970s decor. 

She bought it, along with these 1970s books based on The Partridge Family

Remember that TV show, starring David Cassidy and Shirley Jones? My sister used to love it and had the album.

Speaking of bad? pop music--not sure what's going on here at the show's Feminist Rally, but here's the catchy "I Think I Love You," from 1970:

Reminds me of the pop songs in one of my favorite movies, Music and Lyrics (2007), like "Way Back into Love":

Is this a bad movie, and bad music?
I'd say they're simple and pleasing. There's a formula for that, yeah, but getting it right still takes some doing.
I wouldn't say it's genius, but Music and Lyrics goes a little above and beyond: because it's about work--the work of musical collaboration between the unlikely pair of Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore.

It's sweet, and smarter than you might expect--and funny too.
"I haven't felt like this since before Frankie said, 'Relax'":
"Don't Write Me Off Just Yet".

As a youtube commenter said, "The touchest scene in this movie".

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Side by Sides

Books I set up side-by-side at the thrift store:

BELOW: Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813; almost two hundred years later P D James wrote a follow-up, Death Comes to Pemberly (2011)––a mystery novel lacking any of Austen's wicked charm.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Staying Warm

I got a new clock--six dollars at the thrift store. 
The clock keeps time. A switch in the back turns on a little light bulb that makes the fireplace flicker.

The girlettes love it. They were warming their toes last night, when the temperature fell to 13º F/ -10 C.

The Little Prince usually sleeps with HouseMate, but he hates the scent of tea tree oil, and HM had annointed a cut on her leg with that smelly stuff.
I've started rereading LOTR and am surprised how much I'm liking it. I'd loved it at fifteen (the perfect age for fantasy?), but when I tried to read it again as an adult, I couldn't stand the hot air of Oxbridge. Now I'm seeing all sorts of other things in it--a palatable Catholicism, political allegory, etc.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

The Low Down on the Girlettes

This is the scene on the sideboard this morning.
Jayne is wearing a green cape that HM (HouseMate) made her for Halloween. 

Low is communing with a sweet potato. A real sweet potato, not the girlette SweePo.

Jayne & Penny Cooper are watching the door because the handmade Bear I ordered is due to arrive from Russia today!

The Bear's name is Pensive. In Russian, that's задумчивый, "zadumchivyy" (per Google Translate, but I double-checked with the bear maker, Olga.) We'll have to wait to meet the bear, but perhaps her name could be Zadu. Or Chivyy... 

Penny Cooper is shoeless because her socks got wet when she was washing her hands in a Wisconsin rest stop.

Low, up High

One more from Wisconsin. Low looking out a window of the Infinity Room that juts out from the House on the Rock. It was Halloween. That's snow on the ground.

A commercial photo:

Living Room

Lots goes on in the mini-park next to the thrift store, from political protests (with permits) to murder (one, last year, in the middle of the night). 
Little camps of cardboard and scavenged furniture appear. Clothes and food containers pile up.  
Someone (who?) regularly hauls the stuff away. 

Freelance seating arrangements in the park, over the past couple weeks:

When I started at the store, I thought it was ridiculous that some people are afraid to come there.
But over a year and a half, I've seen some disturbing things on the way to work, from a girl passed out with a needle in her arm to a car accident so violent, it turned a vehicle upside down. 
(In both cases, help had already arrived.)

There's plenty of fun and kindness too. 
I buy chai at the Somali restaurant on the corner. One day the guy at the counter asked if I'd like ginger in it, and since then always remembers that I do. He shakes the powdered ginger out of an industrial-size, plastic flap-top bottle.
A skittish and scruffy guy who comes in for free bread on Fridays always brings us a bag of donations––things he's scrounged in the alleys. Mostly they are unusable, but everyone is appreciative.
There are lots of everyday exchanges like that.

I don't feel unsafe, personally––or not more unsafe than I generally feel in the city––but I'm an old person who has learned to chat with strangers. I'm no expert on street life, but I've found that if you're respectful, even friendly, people on the street usually (usually) respond in kind. 
I enjoy that.
And I do stay well back from the traffic. 

I have some pleasant chats at the bus stop. If I don't feel safe, I move on––walk to another stop, or cross the street. A while ago I got off the bus because two guys were yelling at each other, and I was afraid it might escalate, due to the close quarters. On the street, there's room to maneuver.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Back to Bookly Beauty, Again

Yesterday was my last cashiering shift. 
Cashiering was good, but physically and emotionally tiring, and in the past three months I haven't done anything much special with the Book's. 
Now I'm energized to pay them more attention.

We got a box of old books that smell of mildew. Normally I throw out odoriferous books, but there are some unusually cool books in this batch.
I'm going to seal them up with baking soda [How To] and see if that'll suck up the odor.

Here's one of the batch, below,
Obstetrics and Womanly Beauty, For Every Lady:
A complete guide to health and beauty, with hints on courtship, marriage, hereditary descent, mental conditions, etc., etc.,
by Horace O. Conger , M.D., and Caroline P. Crane, M.D.
American Publishing House, Chicago, IL.

No date, but it's inscribed 1901.

The scientific illustrations are in a pamphlet in the book's back pocket, "in order that it not attract the interest of children... and used as a private study by rightful parties...."

I wonder if something is missing in my copy, as the illustrations don't show conception, but rather the growth of the embryo.

I especially love this baby balloonist:

And the delivery, but confusingly... How bout those plumey curls of hair?

For all the pussyfooting, the book comes right out and says this information "may be the means of saving the lives of dear ones".

Do modern books on childbirth mention it's such a risky business?
A doctor I used to know told me that a woman giving birth had hemorrhaged and died in front of him, and there was nothing he or anyone could do.

Oh! I just looked it up, and the Harvard Business Review reports that the US maternal death rate is on the rise:
"In the United States, [the] maternal-mortality rate has been steadily rising — the only developed country whose is.
The U.S. maternal mortality rate has more than doubled from 10.3 per 100,000 live births in 1991 to 23.8 in 2014.
Over 700 women a year die of complications related to pregnancy each year in the United States, and two-thirds of those deaths are preventable.

Experts in maternal health blame the high U.S. rate on poverty, untreated chronic conditions and a lack of access to health care, especially in rural areas where hospitals and maternity units have closed in the past few years. "
Aren't these pretty twins?

In the Shrubbery [UPDATED]

Girlettes in the shrubbery this morning. They say they are playing Hobbit.

UPDATE: Wow--maybe the girlettes have been reading the news!
I haven't, but Orange Crate Art reports that Andrew Weiss (former director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian Affairs on the National Security Council) compared Trump to Sauron:
“I think the best analogy I’ve heard for how things work comes from the movie The Lord of the Rings, where there’s this disembodied eye, the Eye of Sauron, that hovers over everything.
In the Trump administration, if the Eye is looking at you, it’s basically all hope is lost.”
The point of LOTR, crucially, is that all hope is not lost, but that it takes enormous effort on the part of small, hitherto unimportant people [hobbits] to defeat the evil lord.

"Whatcha doin'?"

Penny Cooper watching bink sketch, last week at Colectivo Coffee in Milwaukee . . .

. . . while SweePo plays matador with Low.
This matador suit is the last doll outfit I'm ever ordering--not only are the clothes expensive, but the girlettes say they do not want them! They only want handmade or scavenged clothes.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A brief quiet morning

Living with HM (HouseMate) is going beautifully, and I can tell it's good for me, but I do miss living alone sometimes. 

HM drives to Fort Benning, Georgia, for the annual protest of the School of the Americas next weekend. I'm looking forward to being home alone.
Not sure if she's taking The Little Prince (my new name for Dog). I'd rather she take him, but he's not much bother.

Here he is looking out the living room window the other day. (The leaves have since fallen.) 
On the left is my favorite object in the house--a mid-century lamp made out of driftwood, from HM's childhood.

How can I tell living with a housemate is good for me?

It's odd: I feel smoother.

It's like driving on the highway:
the long stretches are good for the car engine--the fluids heat up and flow through the system. 

The annoyances of a housemate are like slowing the car down for the rest stops or going through small towns--they add wear and tear but also interest, so they're OK too...

Today is my last day cashiering. I gave notice a month ago, and the store has not hired a replacement. Now the assistant manager who cashiers a lot has given two-week notice too.

Talk about annoyances. This store is like driving on an interesting but poorly maintained country road with lots of blind spots.

I do love it though.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

"The best art is often powerfully irrelevant."

Not much time to write this morning before work (or in general since going to Milwaukee last week). Sorry, I haven't replied to comments yet either.

I wanted to note this---after I'd blogged that great works of imagination are not necessarily "meant to make you" do/feel/think anything, I saw in the Guardian (11/2/19) this interview with Edwin Frank, the head of the New York Review of Books Classics series (with the always great covers):
"The best art is often powerfully irrelevant".
He's not discussing the same thing, but it's related.
He is "extremely suspicious" of the idea of relevancy, he says.

"I prefer the idea of currency, which is not quite the same as relevance. A book that has currency puts our present concerns in a different but distinct perspective.
"I am looking for a book that still has the power to surprise: not just shock effects, but some sense of lived experience that is still palpable. I tend to be interested in books that have some sense of historical horizon and occasion: the notion that, though this was another time, we can see our own time in it as well."

Yes: "some sense of lived experience that is still palpable".

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Girlettes on Vacation

Best visit with auntie in years, thanks to the procurement of hearing aids!!!

Also, a matador suit for SweePo (bink helping, here):

 Girlettes claim their hotel bed—the best one, with a view:

And a stop at House on the Rock’s Infinity Room:

 Penny Cooper, correct as always:

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Things Unknown

"Most great works of the imagination were meant to make you feel like a stranger in your own home. The best fiction always forced us to question what we took for granted."
--Azar Nafisi, Reading Lolita in Tehran
quoted in David Denby's Lit Up: One Reporter, Three Scools. Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives (2016)

I don't agree that "most great works of the imagination" were meant to do to anything. Do you?

When authors set out to disguise instruction as fiction  ("to make you feel..."),  it doesn't reach the mark of "great works of the imagination". There's a suspicious odor about it, like the grocery bag of donated books with an unplaceable sweet odor that I unpacked the other day
When I got to the bottom, there was the melty body of a mouse.

George Orwell's novels, for instance, might be great political commentary, but they are not great works of the imagination--you can smell their machinery oil. 

And does most great fiction force us (force us?) to question our reality? Often it clearly presents what we knew to be true, but couldn't express.

Anyway, whatever--there is a value to things that shake us out of our mental complacency, and this quote came to me because yesterday at work, two customers asked me when Halloween was. 

Not like, "Oh, gee, how many days is it till Halloween?"
No, I mean, they literally didn't know what date the holiday fell on.

Work works like that--it makes me feel like a stranger in my assumptions. 
I love that. 
You'd think every grown up knows when Halloween is, or that state taxes aren't used to fund war, or that sterling silver shouldn't go in metal recycling.
But no.

Each social group has a community chest containing a general fund of knowledge, and there may be little or no crossover between these GFKs. 

My coworkers know lots of things that I don't even know are things to know...

Monday, October 28, 2019

Because it is bitter...

Coffee is brewing, but I'm starting this morning with liver-cleanser tea. I've set up my orange metal and tile café table in my room, for writing. The windows face west and north, so it's not a great morning room, but I can write without interruption here, [Housemate is chatty], and that's most important.

The tea tastes a bit bitter (dandelion), but its licorice, fennel, and ginger warm it up. Also contains burdock, milk thistle & barberry.

I got a couple ounces of this chunky mix at Tao Natural Foods, one of the businesses from the idealistic Sixties (1968, to be exact) that has survived by going upscale.
They serve kale massaged with EVO [extra virgin olive oil] and carry expensive potions and lotions. In their old wood loft, however, they still carry in bulk reasonably priced plant parts, now called "botanicals". You serve yourself out of big glass jars.
(This tea is $4/oz., and you can steep it more than once.)

I'd first bought this tea for a coworker who has cirrhosis of the liver, tried it myself, and liked it. 
I like bitter tastes--coffee, citrus peel, greens, tonic, etc.

Maybe I like bitterness?
I don't like feeling bitter. But it's a root emotion, and a touch of its honesty can be medicinal––an antidote to the cult of coziness I was complaining about the other day.

I like to BE cozy, but the marketing of coziness seems to be on the upswing, or am I just being crabby?

*googles hygge, Danish for "cozy"*

Nope, not just me being crabby:
The Danish Lifestyle Trend, hygge, . . .  is taking the world by storm".

There you have it: Coziness is taking the world by storm...

Close-up of human eye Photo: Dimitri Vervitsiotis

Coziness should be comfort from the storm, not the storm itself.

I distrust things that deny the demonic storms of our depths. 
I'm thinking about this because I'm going with bink to see my auntie in Wisconsin this weekend, and while I love my auntie, I have to steel myself against her relentless positivity.
Her "look on the sunny side" philosophy has served her well in her 94 years, and I wouldn't wish it otherwise for her, but I hate that it works like an emotional Procrustean bed. Any "negative" feelings get lopped off.

I only challenged her on it once.
She was saying that she believes people can choose to be happy, so if they're unhappy, they need to adjust their attitude.

I told her that I use my mother's life as a measuring stick for my beliefs, and the belief that we can control our happiness levels just doesn't measure up. I knew my mother for forty-one years, and I never witnessed her choosing to be so unhappy that she eventually killed herself...

This was met with stunned silence. My auntie had nothing to say in response, and we never talked about it again. 

There’s life power in resilience, which is not the same as this flattening positivity. 
I stopped my bike to photograph this plant ^ growing up through a bulldozed piece of land along a four-lane road in my new neighborhood.

I've always loved this poem by Stephen Crane

In the Desert

In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter—bitter,” he answered;

“But I like it
“Because it is bitter,
“And because it is my heart.”

Sunday, October 27, 2019


One of this fall's new dolls, hitherto named Myrtle. She says in this outfit she prefers Myrtell  (Mer-TELL), as being more astronauty.