Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Of Dewey and Geneology

Coughing one's way through the book-paper dust of an inherited library is a fine way to spend an evening, surely. When my father's Aunt Mickey decided to pack up the essentials and relocate to a home with fewer staircases, I did not -- could not -- understand how many books I was about to glean from her collection. The currency with which the elderly trade is bifold; possessions and the memories attached to them, and my wife Jess's and my reward for muscling Mickey along in her move is books.

Not all of them, not by the longest of shots. Aunt Mickey is a highly clever woman, the acuity of her speech never giving away her eighty-five years, and it would appear that the fountain of her continued youth is reading. As my wife tells it after days spent packing a life's worth of possessions into cardboard with the deftness only an Army-brat upbringing can teach, she owns at least ten times as many books as we do, and has read them all. Imagine that! Actually reading all the volumes in one's personal library.

I flicked through the boxes of books Aunt Mickey sent Jess home with every day, searching for arcane ISBN numbers in order to log them in my own unachievable task list and wondering what rubric she used to determine which would go to us and which to the "donate" pile. Why, exactly, did she feel that I specifically needed 'Robert's Rules of Order'? Why so many 70's-and-80's woman-power paperbacks? The musty pile surrounding me on the couch certainly represented the prism through which Aunt Mickey views us, and sleuthing out the whys made for a lusciously narcissistic diversion.

Corners of paper stick out from many of the books. Aunt Mickey did not just read her library, but continually annotated it. Scraps of notes in the horrific handwriting to which all in my family are heir can be found in a large percentage of the collection. Newspaper clippings have been folded into to the covers with the care of a film preservationist. Would you like to know the answer to Carroll's raven-and-writing-desk riddle? I've got it, tucked into the leaves of an annotated Alice. Images of Mickey sitting in her casually mod living room, gasping with interest at an article and describing it to my uncle as she tries to remember just where precisely that one book got to are now among my favorite non-participant memories.

Time spent with these books has given me an archaeological taste of my aunt's life and those of her family. One of my cousins went through a youthful period of UFO obsession in the sixties, for example. Somebody in the family studied more than a little French. A better argument for dating one's books cannot be made; a reading life like Mickey's could be measured in the tree-rings of the inside covers.

And what of when I am eighty-five? How will some great-nephew know my life? Through a pile of video games and check stubs? At the very least I can hope that my new acquisitions will provide a feeling of connection to family history and that my own library -- and life -- will be as worthy of interest.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Allow me to channel a little Humanist with some Saturday Site-Love for

We all know that manliness has suffered greatly over the last 40 years. The causes of this descent into effeminacy are multifarious, but lingering on them brings us no closer to revivifying the near-dead corpus of Man. This site champions our cause. Want to learn how to shave like your grandfather? Take a little trip.

Turn on the TV for fifteen minutes and you'll see how much modern US society hates men. Every commercial and most shows depicts us as fat, slothful fools. It is our own fault -- as traditional gender roles were destroyed in the previous decades, instead of doing the correct thing and simply eliminating bias against women we unmanned ourselves, incorrectly associating our strengths with the evils of our forefathers.

The rising popularity of gentlemanly items like cuff-links is indicative of the fact that men yearn to return to the days when the positive aspects of our nature were encouraged and revered. So, man up.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A New Hope

My crusade against the word "iconic" has been documented in part here on B A Start. I swear, not three days go by before I see it used. I refuse to believe this is due to some kind of increased awareness -- we all know it was Superman Returns.

I was doing some reading this afternoon and found a suitable replacement: paradigmatic. And this in an essay published in the Spring of 2007. Please, journalists bloggers and ad writers, start using this word as an alternate. I'm starting to lose it.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

All I Need to Know I Learned from 'Big Trouble in Little China'.

#1 - Independence is manly.
#2 - Muscle shirts are only to be worn by men who are a) jacked and b) pricks.
#3 - Childhood fears don't really go away.
#4 - Reporters find the need to put themselves into ludicrous amounts of danger to get something called a "scoop". Don't become a reporter.
#5 - You see a dude dressed in samurai gear, he's probably magic. Do not mess.
#6 - That group of old men who spend all their time playing some board game know something.
#7 - Next time someone throws a knife at you, just grab it out of the air and throw it back.
#8 - If given the option, leave Kim Catrall behind.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


It should come as no surprise to B A Starters that I am and always have been a fan of illustration made during the fifty years encircling the change of the prior millenium. I submit for your halloweeny enjoyment, this pic by Kay Nielsen.

I don't know what tale this is from, but damn if it doesn't look like Castlevania. And it's got the Nielsen big-canvas-small-subject thing going, which I always enjoy.

A bigger version here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

"Kun" is an honorific for boys

I would like an explanation, and I would like it soon. Anyone want to tell me why Domokun is advertising Halloween for Target? How exactly did the lovable if mysterious mascot for NHK become the spokesperson for spooooky holidays here in the US? I, for one, am baffled.

I mean, I get it. Target has been doing their best to get all coolified, what with their off-mainstream music finds etc. Why not grab viral phenom Domo? He's cute, he's from Japan, geeks love him -- he's god damned perfect.

And yet, there's something a little odd about it.

Sure, part of the cool thing about Domo was that he wasn't well-known, but that's a fairly standard geek complaint when stuff gets out to the normies. I tell you what I find unsettling. Domo hatched in front of a TV screen and fell blindingly in love with it. The little fuzzy dude just can't get enough terebi. He's a TV mascot and he loves TV. Unlike here in the US, where our TV mascots encourage us to go outside and play.

So there he stands at Target, his gaping maw hoping to convince us to purchase halloween goodies for the kids, while secretly he's at best an addictive personality and and worst an utter sellout. I love Domo, and seeing him in a US advertisement gives me a bit of evil joy.