Monday, July 30, 2007

Looking at Sidewalks in a Whole New Way

Somewhere along the road, Sam has picked up this little chant, which he likes to say a hundred or so times a day:
Engine, engine number nine,
Going down the railway line.
If you step upon a crack,
You will break your mother's back.
My question for all you experienced moms out there is this: at what point, if ever, does this rhyme stop striking cold terror into your heart every time you hear it?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fruit: The Musical

I've got to tell you: I've had a killer headache on-and-off for most of this week, which is killing productivity in pretty much every area of my life. I'm going to pop an Advil or ten, then go and lie down, but not before I offer you something that just might make the click it took you to get here worthwhile. Because I'm all about providing value.

Bibliophiles get a bad rap. Pretentious, some people call us. Highbrow, accuse others. Snootypants... well, no one actually says that, BUT THEY THINK IT.

Lest anyone think that all we book-lovers do is sit around on the floor with wine and cheese, mispronouncing words like "allegorical" and "didacticism", I offer you an exhibit of just the kind of antics that regularly take place here at the 50 Books salon:

(In case you're wondering, yes, Sam is in fact channeling the vocal stylings of William Shatner.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Famous Poems Rewritten as Limericks

I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud
There once was a poet named Will
Who tramped his way over a hill
And was speechless for hours
Over some stupid flowers
This was years before TV, but still.
This is just a smackerel of the doggerel to be found here. I'm working on my own right now. More on that later. My muse can't be rushed.

[via Rusty via Metafilter]

Monday, July 23, 2007

This Is What a REAL Book Collection Looks Like

Friday's post about fake libraries reminded me that Karen had emailed me suggesting that I add my own pic to the collection of home library photography that Kim is amassing over at Kimbooktu. If you're the kind of person who takes long twilight walks in residential neighbourhoods solely for the purpose of peeking in people's homes, you should definitely check it out (and dare I say, add your own?).

In the meantime, here's a sneak preview of my contribution to the project. After a lot of experimenting with angles and trying to shoo various animals and people out of the shot, here's the best photo I managed to take:

Note: By "best" I don't mean "good."

If you're still reeling from this assault on your taxonomical sensibilities, check out this same photo on Flickr, where I've added a number of rollover tags to give additional insight into the travesty that is my book collection. You could argue that in the time I spent creating these rollovers I could have just cleaned my damn shelves, but then I'd reply that you just don't know me at all.

And since I'm all about the participation today, I would be remiss if I did not let you know that the most excellent Carrie, of the most excellent site Try Harder, is having a contest. Yes! A contest! With prizes! She's challenging people to make a story from the following spam subject line:
Brian LaBovick: I think it was an accumulation of things
What's the prize, you wonder? You would do well to ask. One lucky person will receive a box of books and other assorted goodies. All the info is here.

Friday, July 20, 2007

How to Build a Fake Book Collection

I just read this post over at Apartment Therapy and knew that I had to share it with you immediately:
Hello AT,

I am working with a client who has a new apartment, loads of beautiful bookshelves and no books. We'd really like to build a book collection relatively quickly. We'd like it to be based on his taste, but also be a great collection of classics and aesthetically as pleasing as the work that's gone into the rest of the apartment. Do you have any advice or know anyone or any place that can help??
The best part of this post is the comments... over 200 of them, each more outraged than the one before. Delicious. This is one of my favourites:
Why not collect all the Yellow Pages in all the lobbies in all the buildings in know, the new Yellow Pages that sit, bulk-wrapped in the lobby until the super throws them away...then display them with the spines at the back of the bookcase. It would be a lovely shade of yellow, and it would fill the shelves. And it's FREE.

Goodbye, Bufu Periglenes. We Hardly Knew Ye.

I've mentioned before that Sam has discovered the small cache of children's books I co-authored back in the day. Since "the day" was actually between 1992 and 1995, there's always the chance that some of the information is now out of date. On the last page of Frogs and Toads, there's a mention of the Golden Toad, which at the time was on the endangered species list. Every time Sam and I read this book at bedtime, I make a mental note to look up the Golden Toad and see how it's doing, but a combination of crappy short-term memory and subconscious dread has kept me from doing this. Until just now.

According to
The Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes) was a small, shiny, bright-orange toad that was once abundant in a small region of high-altitude cloud-covered tropical forests, about 30 square kilometers in area, above the city of Monteverde, Costa Rica. For this reason, it is sometimes also called the Monteverde Golden Toad, or the Monte Verde Toad. Other common English names include Alajuela Toad and Orange Toad. They were described in 1966 by the herpetologist Jay Savage.

Since 1989, not a single Golden Toad has been seen anywhere in the world, and it is classified by the IUCN as an extinct species. Its extinction is cited as part of the decline in amphibian populations, and may be attributable to climate change brought on by global warming.

This Mantra Sucks

I don't need any more t-shirts.
I don't need any more t-shirts.

I don't need any more t-shirts.

I don't need any more t-shirts.

I don't need any more t-shirts.

I don't need any more t-shirts.

I don't need any more t-shirts.

Nope. No matter how times I say it, I still find myself coveting
this t-shirt:

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Fun to Say, Pirate Style

bilge rat
grog blossom
poop deck

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Harry Potter 101, or How I Really Knew, for Once and for All, That I'm a Total Dork

This will be especially funny to anyone who's (a) read the Harry Potter books at least once, and (b) studied literary theory. (That's pretty much everyone, right?)
3. Post structuralism: Harry Potter and the violent hierarchies of opposition
Deconstruct the Voldemort character. To what extent does he exhibit Derrida's theory of binary opposites? Include in your analysis a discussion of how "his" power is everywhere and nowhere, how He Who Should Not Be Named has no physical or solid identity and how he represents "pure" evil. To what extent is Azkaban influenced by Foucault's Discipline and Punish?

Monday, July 16, 2007

He's a Monomaniac, Monomaniac on the Dance Floor

So. Sam seems to have rounded a bend with the heavy equipment obsession that has dominated our lives for months.

Oh, he still enjoys a visit to a contruction site every now and again, and his toy excavator is definitely his most precious possession, but, generally speaking, machines no longer form the central focus of all our activities. When we're drawing pictures (or, more specifically, when Rusty and I draw while Sam dictates the subject matter), we're now allowed to draw animals, trees, and alien spaceships. When telling Sam stories, I no longer have to bastardize old fairy tales by replacing the characters with construction equipment (i.e. Goldilocks and the Three Excavators, The Three Backhoes Gruff, Jack and the Dump Truck, etc.). And at mealtimes Sam no longer demands that we feed him by pretending to be Mike Mulligan while his spoon is Mary Anne.

So, you know, progress. Yay.

But like any hardwired monomaniac, Sam, of course, has to trade one fixation for another. And right now he's all about animals. I'm cool with that, though. For one thing, I like animals, whereas (and don't tell Sam I said this, because I will deny it vehemently) I couldn't give a rat's ass about construction equipment. And for another thing, there are way more species of animals than there are types of heavy machines, so the repetiveness factor, while never totally eliminated, goes way down.

So no one was more gung-ho than I when Sam proposed a recent trip to the library to get more animal books. Once there, we trolled the shelves with the thoroughness that only an obsessive two-year-old can muster, and Sam eventually picked out his allocated five titles. The first four were pretty much the kind of fare I expected, given his preference for exotic critters:
  • Alligators and Crocodiles
  • Australian Animals
  • Animal Dads
  • Nights of the Pufflings (Note: This book makes me cry.)
But this last book (one that I'll admit I tried, in my own futile way, to dissuade him from getting) has me freshly worried:

Someone hold me. Please?

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Dog Ate My Post

Holy shit. I just realized how far behind I am on updating my 50 books tally. Fourteen books. (Which, incidentally, brings me up to thirty for the year. Go, me!) But shit. I don't know what I've been doing with my time. Oh, yeah... wasting it on the internet looking at bookshelves I either don't like or can't afford.

Clearly I have some work to do this weekend.
In the meantime (don't you love it when I say that?), let's get all shelve-y for a bit.

I want to like this Branch shelf (right), but there's just something plasticky and artificial about it that, ironically, belies the fact that it's "inspired by nature's imagery and structures". The Legend (below) attempts to hit the same nature-y chord, and does a fair bit better, but it's still kind of on the precious side. Maybe in the right setting...

This Fachermann shelf kills me every time I look at it. He's ugly as hell, but I still find myself wanting to hug him and squeeze him and call him Jeeves. It occurred to me that you could organize your books based on his anatomy: your philosophy texts and more cerebral fiction in his head, your DIY books in his arms, your adventure stories and collections of outdoorsy essays in his legs, and of course your porn... well, I don't have to say it. And if the Fachermann has tested your credulousness to the limit, don't look at this next one.

Hi. This is the See Saw bookcase. Now scrape your brains off the nearby walls and try to scoop them gently back into your head. It'll only hurt for a few more minutes, I promise.

In the "I really want to like them but just don't for some reason" category are these Show Off shelves:

And because I can't write one of these posts without mentioning at least one set of shelves that almost makes me want to cry with jealousy, let me show you this bad boy from Italian design house Molteni:


And for the rest of us, here's this nifty IKEA hack, which shows how you can use the Borghamn height extender to create cheap, attractive, hard-to-find shallow shelving for your paperbacks:

Have a great weekend, all. I sure plan to.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Pimp My Bookcart

I'm way late on this one, but I got an anonymous tip about the winners of Unshelved's Pimp My Bookcart contest, and I had to share. The winner was a pretty in pink model, which was cute and all, but my fave is this macked-out baby right here:

All it needs is a "My Other Bookcart Is a Camaro" sticker -- as well as my celebrity boyfriend Xzibit at the wheel -- and it'd be perfect.

[via BoingBoing]

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Librarians Are the New Black

Hey there, internet peepz. Things have been a little more hectic than usual on the home and work fronts, but I just wanted to say a quick howdy and give a shout out to Susi and Kari, who each sent me a link to this article about the fact that librarians are SO hot right now:

Librarians? Aren't they supposed to be bespectacled women with a love of classic books and a perpetual annoyance with talkative patrons — the ultimate humorless shushers?

Not any more. With so much of the job involving technology and with a focus now on finding and sharing information beyond just what is available in books, a new type of librarian is emerging — the kind that, according to the Web site Librarian Avengers, is "looking to put the 'hep cat' in cataloguing."

It's no surprise to me -- nor is it to many of you, I reckon -- that librarians are awesomely cool, but I think this article kind of misses the point that one can have a love of classic books and a perpetual annoyance with talkative patrons, AND still rock the stacks like nobody's bidness.

This article did get me thinking about one thing, though: the largely unaknowledged sub-genre of library films. The piece cites Party Girl and Desk Set, of course, both of which I've seen several times and loved (and if I can figure out who borrowed my copy of Party Girl and, ironically, didn't return it, there'll be heck to pay). But are there others? Do tell.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hot or Not

I think I like these Skyline bookshelves. Though I could be confusing this emotion with befuddled rage. This happens to me sometimes when I'm confronted with things that are different.

[via CribCandy]

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Monday, July 02, 2007

Your Challenge for the Day

About a million years ago, I used to write and edit non-fiction children's books. It was pretty fun and extremely interesting. For several months at a time, I got to immerse myself in subjects ranging from ecology to early settler life to the people and culture of Peru.

My favourite books, however, were the ones on natural history. I've loved animals my entire life, and every time I worked on a book I'd try to write the kind of book I liked reading when I was a kid. If the relative success of the titles I worked on is any indication, I didn't do too shabby a job.

It never occurred to me at the time that someday my books would find an audience with my own child. I can't even describe to you how thrilling it is that Sam, all on his own, has discovered the books I wrote and now clamours to have them read to him. His favourites, perhaps not surprisingly, are also mine: a book entitled Weird Animals, which achieved modest success and spawned a sequel, Really Weird Animals.*

It's more than ten years since I wrote these books, and not to toot my own horn (hee! I said "toot"), but the writing has held up a lot better than most other things I've written, which I'd pretty much rather peel off my own retinas than re-read. I still like kids' books (obviously), and I still like animals, and I still find it interesting to read about some of the amazing creatures that once captivated me.

There's the three-toed sloth, with its admirable tenacity and ruggedness. Then you've got your star-nosed mole, who just keeps on keepin' on, despite being blind as a bat and having ten hairless pink feelers growing out of its snout. After that there's the proboscis monkey, the Bozo the Clown of the animal kingdom; not only is he blessed with an incredible schnozz, but it also makes the obligatory honking noise and -- AND -- flies up in the air exactly like a novelty necktie.

And then you've got the hagfish, a creature whose entire raison d'etre seems to be to make you go "Ewww!" when you hear about it. To wit:
The hagfish has no bones! Its muscular body has only a long piece of tough, bending tissue called gristle, which acts as a spine.

The hagfish is sometimes called a "slime eel" or "slime hag" because of the thick layer of slime, or mucus, that coats its skin. Glands down the side of its body constantly produce mucus, making the hagfish so slippery that it can crawl inside its prey. When the single nostril os the hagfish becomes clogged with slime, it simply sneezes to clear its nose.

When a hagfish finds a dead or sick fish, it uses its toothless mouth and raspy tongue to burrow into the fish. Once itside, it sucks out the flesh.
You read correctly. Gristle on the inside, mucus on the outside, and prone both to sneezing and to sucking out the living flesh of its scavenged prey. It looks pretty much how you'd imagine:

I don't know if you can tell from this picture, but that's its head over there on the right. The anus-y part is the mouth. Those spiky things are feelers called barbels that the hagfish uses to feel its way around the ocean. Don't bother looking for the eyes; they're there but covered by a layer of skin.

I love all -- well, most, anyway -- of Mother Earth's creatures, but the hagfish sure doesn't make it easy. Try for yourself. Tonight, when you're saying your prayers, don't forget to include the hagfish in your blessings. Be sincere. You only get points if you mean it.

*It just occurred to me that this post might come off as shilling my own books.
I don't get royalties, so not to worry.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Evolution Convolution of the Book

First there were books.
Then there were movies.
And then there were books made out of a movies.

FlipClips are individually crafted flipbooks, created using your own digital video. FlipClips are available in three styles, and are made using only the best materials around. Acid and lignin-free, heavy bond digital paper makes your video spring to life. Industrial-strength binding ensures your book will feel like a quality paperback, made just for you.
It seems absurd, yes. But that doesn't stop me from suddenly wanting to convert every single video clip I have to flipbook format.