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Entries in Books (3)

Saturday
Jul232011

Lovely lovely libraries.

I've always been fascinated by libraries, by their smells, their endless rows of stacked volumes, the eclectic and often eccentric crowds that frequent them - I love it all. I love that they come in all shapes and sizes too. From the grand halls built as beacons for the enlightened, to collegiate shrines where one learns to read between the lines, onto the musty suburban throwbacks to a time before the internet. Corridors comprised of clues to our collective past line our nation's official shrine to information, the Library of Congress. As the traditional library will most likely become a thing of the past, (that darned interweb is taking over) it's nice to know that such an institution of our country's identity will be preserved for new generations to discover. It's a really pretty place y'all, flip through the pics below and see your tax dollars at work. 

 

Maybe it's because you have to be quiet when you're inside, but libraries have a sort of a hushed reverance that can only be compared to churches and museums. They demand respect for their aspirations in design while remaining practical since they are functional spaces. Back when books were rare & cherished instead of disposable or even (gasp!) digital, literary lovers around the world built beautiful shrines to house their treasures.  The slideshow below features some magical, majestic and even maudlin examples of libraries far and wide. I particularly love the example of Communist Russia's take on fanciness in Minsk - and modern mix of art & literature in Ronda, Spain. Take a little tour why dontcha... I'll wait here until you get back. 

 

 

Architecture & posterity aside, for me, the real mystery of the library lifestyle lies in the heartbeat of the operation -  the librarians. What kind of person chooses to spend their lives amongst the tomes of our times? Serious, inhibited wallflowers with a steampot of sultry sensuality just waiting to boil over with every tedious task of filing dewey decimal style, of course!

As stereotypes ago, I'm sure this one is totally annoying to most hard-working, intelligent, well-adjusted, single-personalitied librarians. The reality is that the library sciences attract smart, scholarly, fastidious types with a love for organization, systems, books, history and helping the public. That being said, if you have any kind of romantic relationship with the written word (I'm talking to you Henry Miller) you can't help but wonder what kind of woman (or man of course) has the calling to spend their time in the stacks. One can't deny the romantic pallor of all literary professions ... hence the fantasies of the libidinous librarian linger. Hopefully the fantasies don't only thrive in our imagination... smart is sexy after all.

 

Sunday
Jun262011

Free books. Reason I love the internet #222


L.A. Vaught

The internet is amazing - if for no other reason that it serves as a gigantic library for obscure and obsolete literature and written ephemera for people like me with way too much time on their hands. Recently boingboing pointed me to a fascinating little treasure -  a grossly outdated/outrageous pop-phrenology/psychology handbook about judging one's character primarily by one's physical characteristics. Vaught's Practical Character Reader (1902) by L.A. Vaught is an entertaining read. Read it here online or on your Kindle for free. Yup, FREE!

So, this book has amazing illustrations of what to look for in a person. Pointy head? Saggy ears? Bulbous nose? It all says something (probably sinister) about you. If your head is egg shaped, you're golden. If it's square... you might be a serial-killer. The image at the top of the post is basically the premise for this entire book. According to the author, people should be judged immediately based upon nothing but their looks. Their face shape completely controls their personality and underlying character. 

The above illustration shows that two Roman noses are surely too many in one family, especially in husband and wife.The buzzing of the presidential bee is nowhere else than in the faculty of Approbativeness. No further explanation is needed.

The commentary on the illustrations is pretty hysterical. "Approbativeness" is solely responsible for the ambition needed to be president, no further explanation necessary. Who says? While "Roman" nose love attractions obviously represent a sign of dreadful domestic discord - so I suppose the folks on the Jersey Shore obviously better start dating outside their reality show.

Here's a list of pointers Vaught recommends when sizing up friends, family and strangers alike:  

  • The broader the head the more selfishness.
  • The higher the crown the more pride.
  • The fuller the upper side temples the more taste.
  • The fuller the lower forehead the more practicality.
  • The rounder the head the more feeling.
  • The more square the head the more thought and exactness.
  • The narrower the head the less force.
  • The less backhead the colder the disposition. 
  • The more closed the eyes the more secrecy.
  • The higher the eyebrows from the pupils of the eyes the more credulity.
  • The more middle face the more energy.
  • The more lower face the more sensuality.
  • The finer the hair the finer the brain.
  • The tougher the hair the tougher the brain.
  • The thinner the lips the less afection.
  • The more the teeth are shown the more love of applause.
  • The more features that turn upward the more cheerfulness.
  • The more affectation in the voice the less substantial the character.

 Perusing this little guidebook, I was inspired to find some well-known folks and match them up to the hypotheses proposed by Mr. Vaught. Was he onto something? Let's start with the shape of the head. Thin = Terrific. Wide = Worst. Crap, he might be on to something... this is a basic premise of much of our modern society. Anyways, Jimmy Cagney vs. Jimmy Stewart is a pretty good comparison if you're relying on Hollywood casting for your "judgement" of these men's characters. 

Here is a very positive demonstration. All very broadheaded humans, animals, birds, reptiles and flies are vicious. Very narrow-headed men and snakes are harmless.

On a related note, doesn't the guy at the top left look a lot like Dick Cheney dressed as Benjamin Franklin? A wolf in sheep's clothing perhaps? Maybe this Vaught guy isn't totally bonkers after all. Here's another uncanny/unfair parallel with Mr. Burns and Adrien Brody. Who has the more deceitful nose? Team Burns ftw.

Deceitful Nose: Remember this nose when you deal with people.If you're not a believer, behold the ace up Vaught's sleeve - the predeliction of psychicness and interest in paranormal, occult and all things morally unsavory perfectly manifested in Twilight's Kristin Stewart. Her visage is the spittin' image of his depiction of the "center of psychichal phenomena". It's like she sat for the book in 1902. Maybe she did... she is the center of psychichal phenomena after all. 

Sunday
Apr042010

One man's 10-year love affair with the dictionary...

This video is seriously fascinating! It follows Johnny Carerra's journey to recreate his grandfather's old worn-out copy of Webster's Pictorial Dictionary. What a labor of love! He hand sets all the pages... hand makes and sews the binding - pretty amazing stuff. Having spent a good deal of time in my career working at a commercial printer and knowing how tedious it is to put a book together with all of today's fantastic technology - I can't even fathom how there were ever enough books for anyone to get a chance to read back in the day. Now I understand why a personal library was so valuable and a true luxury.   Enjoy the video - then go hug your dictionary!

Pictorial Webster's: Inspiration to Completion from John Carrera on Vimeo.