Monday, March 31, 2008

Workin' at the karma wash

Today I picked up some valuable karma points but missed a significant sale on out-of-print books.

A requester from Los Alamos National Laboratory wanted two copies of a book on explosives published in 1980; he was pretty vague about the title, didn't know the author, knew that "LASL" was in the title somewhere, and provided nine digits of the 10-digit ISBN. I told him that the book was probably out of print but that I'd be glad to search for a used copy of whatever it was.

So I got online and within a few minutes apparently found what he was looking for. Perry then stuck his head in the office and said the guy called back with the names of the editors. I was looking at the exact title he wanted: it was published in 1980; the names of the editors matched; the title of the book and the title he gave me were in the same alphabet. Woo-HOO! I used Google to find more about the book and found a site where he could download all 400+ pages in .pdf format for free, so I called him and gave him the link.

Then, just for fun, I consulted the websites of some of our third-party out-of-print vendors and found two copies of the book for $250 each, plus our surcharge. I was bummed because we could have made some serious coin on the sale, but I felt okay because the guy might spread the word that we were nice about finding what he needed.

(God, I hate being noble.)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

And speaking of urinal cakes . . . .

I recently unearthed an article from the July 1975 issue of Esquire magazine in which the editors say that the Seventies are funny. The list below was "compiled by a ruthlessly independent humor research organization and computer selected for funniness from a master list, a list that included everything remotely funny under the sun. Read the list aloud." Where did you crack up? What words or phrases always make you laugh?

rubber chickens
chipped beef on toast
socks with five toes
colored condoms
chopped liver sculpture
the Italian Post Office
Limburger cheese
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
Whoopee Cushions
belly-button lint
Oral Roberts University
Bebe Rebozo
civet sweat
boxer shorts
Little Lulu
big Jewish weddings
big Italian funerals
duck feet
pet turtles
Manischewitz concord grape
Moby Grape
Adam’s apples
Screaming Yellow Zonkers
pasta fasu
the NiƱa, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria
pink chinchilla
Goldberg’s Pizzeria
the Wife of Bath
catcher’s mitts
heartbreak of psoriasis
gold lame wedgies
Ernest and Julio Gallo
a dead horse in the bathtub
Fig Newtons
the wet look
Froggy Gremlin
Cold Duck
Hammacher Schlemmer
sitz baths
nose jobs
Tupperwear parties
short sheets
Madria-Madria Sangria
prairie oysters
meadow muffins
Rose Ann Scamardella
urinal cakes
swamp gas
sheep dip
onion dip
Silly Putty
socks with four toes
Louis Prima’s Great Italian Love Songs
Pete LaCock
kasha varnishkes
the Zuider Zee
bowling shirts
Hamburger Helper
passing gas in the bathtub
Toity-toid and Toid
cocktail onions
bat shit
Bella Abzug
Bela Lugosi
the Tidy Bowl man
goosing people
kosher for Passover
cement shoes
Longines Symphonette
pre-tied bow ties
hippos defecating
lobster bibs
plastic dog poop
Earl Butz
Wayne Newton
Oscar Mayer wieners
French Lick, Indiana

I say it's spinach, and I say the hell with it

One of my favorite cartoons from The New Yorker is this one one by Carl Rose, with the caption by E. B. White. The kid brooks no nonsense and is not fooled by the adult. The pithy observation has become a part of the language. Three things happened this week that reminded me of the cartoon. First, my kid friend Niccolo is now in second grade. He hates conflict of all kinds and will go to great lengths to avoid it. His mom told me about a playground fight when Niccolo was in kindergarten. The two combatants wouldn't stop their fight, so Niccolo took decisive action to divert attention from them and to stop the fighters: he mooned them.

Naturally, the playground cops nabbed him and marched him to the principal's office. His mother was summoned. His mom said she and the principal delivered a serious talk to Niccolo about their appreciation of his efforts at peace-keeping and the necessity of keeping one's pants on, even when the situation seems dire. After he went back to class, the mother and the principal loosed their clamped-in laughter.

The second instance occurred when I was at the counter in the store and was idly reading the message pad while I was on hold with a phone call. One of buyers had bought gummi Mexican dinners, and another staffer had sampled one. His note on the pad read, "The gummi tortillas taste like urinal cakes."

The third instance happened when I was working with Perry Thursday evening. He said that a customer came in and was so delighted with his service during the Christmas season that she had to come in and tell him. He admitted that he didn't quite recall her, so she refreshed his memory. She had come in and said, "I need To Kill a Mockingbird." Perry told her several ways she could kill one, and by the time he finished, they were both laughing hysterically. He said she told the story to all her friends, and now they all want to meet Perry.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"No, you smell. This has an odor."--Dad

Fragrances, scents, and odors are powerful memory triggers for me. Research has shown the link between odor and memory.

Robert Benchley wrote in "Saturday's Smells" (The Benchley Roundup) about his new pipe tobacco that "smells like Saturday, and frequently puts me in a chronic holiday mood." When I smell the scent of the Russian olive blossoms in the spring, for example, I'm transported back to grade school and anticipating the beginning of the Lassie League season. Pair the Russian olive blossoms with the scent of a leather softball glove and you really have something. I smell the odor of unwashed feet and am repelled, but when the same odor comes from a container of feta cheese, I anticipate a great meal of pizza with garlic, spinach, and feta. I used to enjoy the smell of woodsmoke a lot, but after the Cerro Grande Fire, not so much.

And, of course, we have the body odors of people. One of our staffers (no longer with us) at the store exuded a gamy air of oily flatulence that no Febreze could subdue; a colleague at Los Alamos National Laboratory smelled like six quarts of whole milk left on the porch in the summer sun for three weeks.

What odors, scents, fragrances, aromas, and smells bring back memories both good and bad for you?

Monday, March 24, 2008

I'b odly od page sevedty-two

The junipers are becoming sexually active, which means that nearly every sinus in northern New Mexico is wrecked. I now talk like Isador in Nize Baby by Milt Gross.

"Bissus Sbith has twetty-seved cows, ad Bissus Burphy has twicet as beddy chickeds as Farber Browd's hed lays eggs. Dow, if wud-half of the dubber of pails of bilk that Bissus Sbith's cows give cost seved tibes as buch as wud-teth as buch as Bissus Burphy's chickeds cost per poud--how buch bore would Farber Browd get for a duzzed eggs if three tibes the dubber of calfs that Bissus Sbith's cows had was equal to wud ad wud-teth tibes bore thad the dubber of worbs that Bissus Burphy's chickeds catch id twetty-four hours, if each chicked catches seved ad a half worbs in three biddits ad ted secods?"


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weee-eeeTUN my wuv, a wonging buhns deep inside me

We are Wagner virgins no more! Michele and I went to see Tristan and Isolde live from the Met yesterday at the Lensic. But first we had a hearty late breakfast at Tia Sophia's so we could enjoy the opera without having to worry about staving off the hunger pangs of midafternoon or the second intermission, whichever came first.

Throughout the first act, the guy next to me kept saying, "Wow!" and we agreed with his assessment (but not with his rudeness in talking out loud), because Deborah Voigt, whom we heard in recital in Santa Fe, and Robert Dean Smith were excellent vocally and were good actors in a park-and-bark. I also liked Michelle DeYoung; I love mezzos. The opera didn't seem 20 minutes long to us, but, as I said, we are Wagner neophytes.

By the second act my enthusiastic neighbor had left the embrace of Polyhymnia and was deep in the arms of Morpheus.

At the second intermission, many in the audience were outside fortifying themselves with the snacks they had brought. We noticed jelly bread, granola bars, pastries, and such heartier fare as ham-and-cheese sandwiches. Inside, the ushers were remonstrating with an elderly gentleman in front of us for bringing in his thermos of coffee into the theatre. He remarked mildly that he had already finished his coffee and was just screwing the cap back on.

We also saw our former neighbor, Ginny R., who said we should read Wagner's biography, because all his operas about "sex and dirty stuff" will make suddenly make sense. She says hi to everyone.

The woman who directed the production for the cinema was roundly booed during the credits. I thought the effects were interesting, but after a while, it seemed that we were watching a movie, and all sense of seeing a live opera was pretty much lost.

After the opera we went to the creperie at The La Fonda Hotel, near the banks of the big Rio Grande River, for a snack. I hate it when the waiter asks, "Are you still working on that?" as if what what's on the plate is a pile of building rubble I'm trying to move. Our waitress yesterday didn't even ask that. She removed Michele's plate because it was obviously empty and Michele had put down her fork. The waitress, plate in hand, then stood in front of me as I continued with my Nutella crepe. Finally she asked, "Do you want me to take your plate?" I said, "No, thank you. I'm still eating." She looked down at at my plate and the half crepe remaining and said, "Oh! I'm sorry!" hustled away, and hustled back with the check.

Here's the link to What's Opera, Doc, because I had trouble uploading the video.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Pad thai by night and bidet

Michele and I got together for lunch today at the local Thai restaurant. I had a noodle bowl with grilled pork, and Michele got her favorite curry with tofu. We stepped up to the counter to pay the bill and saw a stack of brochures offering a product not normally associated with restaurants (well, probably after you go to a restaurant). It seems we have our own local distributor now.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A penny saved is a penny earned if invested in tax-free munis

For the past 11 years I have been keeping track of how much money I find on the streets, under counters, in parking lots, and in similar locations. I call it my street account. Since 1997 I have found the following:
  • 1603 pennies
  • 159 nickels
  • 346 dimes
  • 147 quarters
  • 24 one-dollar bills
  • 2 five-dollar bills
  • 4 ten-dollar bills
  • 1 20-dollar bill
  • 1 100-dollar bill
That's a total of $279.83. It takes nothing to keep me entertained.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Don't blench! Here come the F.A.N.T.O.D.S.!

Thanks to Izzy, I've made it my goal the past many years to read 25 new books. However, I quickly realized that that goal was much too conservative for a bookseller, so thus far this year, I've read 21 new books.

The latest one, The Portable Obituary, seemed like a good idea at the time, but as I read about the deaths of many famous people, I became increasingly annoyed by the author's (or maybe his copyeditor's) sloppy usage and straining to make weak or snarky jokes.

Throughout the book, for example, anyone who committed suicide by hanging is said to have "hung himself." Hanged, as a past tense and a past participle of hang, is used in the sense of " to put to death by hanging."

In the account of the death of Julio Gallo, who mass-produced inexpensive wines, we read, "In 1993, at age eighty-three he died while surveying his vineyard in Modesto, California, after his Jeep overturned when it hit a ripple in the road. (Ripple was another Gallo brand once popular with the alcoholic, the destitute, and college students.)"

But I digress. I recently picked up a book on word origins, and the first thing I read was that the word cop began as an acronym for "constable on patrol." And then I started thinking about the supposed origin of the f-word: "for unlawful carnal knowledge" or "fornication under consent of king" back in the Middle Ages. From there it was only a short leap to packages of manure stamped "ship high in transit" so they wouldn't produce methane gas when wet and blow up the ship.

And then I got cranky and had to lie down with a cold rag on my head. I'm expected to make a complete recovery.

He's not psychotic; he's practicing for retirement

In a recent post on newspaper comic strips, ChuckBert made me think of my own favorite comics. Garfield isn't one of them.

Jon has the IQ of a toaster; Odie is a one-trick doggie with his drooling; and Garfield (known as Gustav in Sweden; he isn't funny there either) is a gross blight upon the gloss of all things feline. And yet I read it every day and became peevish and fretful because the strip was still in print after all these years.

But then I found Garfield Minus Garfield, a blog devoted to removing Garfield and his thought balloons from the strip to create "an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life." Now, instead of reading Garfield and getting cranky, I look forward to mentally removing Garfield from the strip. It's like watching a play by Harold Pinter now.

Monday, March 17, 2008

A copying cat

In The Return of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N by Leo Rosten, the class is discussing Christopher Columbus, who shares the same birthday as Hyman Kaplan himself. In the discussion of other explorers, Miss Caravello accuses Admiral Byrd of being a copying cat when he set out to discover the "Sout Pole." "Is only da one Columbus! No more lak--before, behinda!"

I, too, am a copying cat. Three of my four siblings have blogs that are very interesting, and everyone in the family can tell a good story. I think my postings will address quotidiana, that is, the everyday and the commonplace.

Is only da one Chuckbert, Izzy, and BobBIE-Baby! No more lak--before, behinda! Still, I'm going to be a copying cat!