Sunday, March 29, 2009



From the Times (London) archive blog, this 1967 delight on offshore pirate rock stations:

...And as always, the opposition is the most entertaining reading:


Headline of the Week

French Protest By Reading Nicholas Sarkozy's Least Favorite Book

(From The Telegraph)

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Secondhand Bookiestore

A neat find on eBay: someone's in the last day of an auction on a Harry Stephen Keeler book with a letter from ol' Harry himself tucked in. Keeler notes one of the more unusual uses for a bookstore that I've heard of: he found one of his own books (X Jones of Scotland Yard) in a second hand Chicago bookstore... "which was a front for an elaborate bookie joint!"

Sunday, March 15, 2009


Look Out, New Yorkers...

Black Hand Has An Auto.

Maintaining the American spirit of up-to-dateness, which is said to attain its most perfect flower in New York, the Black Hand has now added the automobile to its working machinery.... Gus Marino, who has a prosperous junk business at 2045 First Avenue, between 107th and 108th Streets, has been receiving Black Hand letters for two months, demanding all the way from $5000 to $5. He did not honor even the lowest demands.

... Marino stepped out of his store to get a cigar at the corner of 108th Street, [when] the machine came racing up to him. It swerved to the curb. One of the three men jumped out, yelled, "Hurrah for the Black Hand," or words that effect, and shot three bullets at Gus Marino.
NY Times, 2/13/1909

No word on whether they then yelled "23 Skidoo!" as they sped off...

Sunday, March 08, 2009


Cobblers and Coverless Books

Doing well: shoe repair shops and, according to the Telegraph of London, used bookstores:

At Scarthin Books, a rambling independent shop with new and second-hand books in Cromford, Derbyshire, Dave Mitchell has grown used to things running against him. He says business was expanding nicely until about 1999. After that, with great effort, it has been steady. But this year his January sale brought its best results since 2003; “not back to the glory days before Amazon and Tesco started eating into sales, but certainly no 'downturn’ on the last few years”.

Mitchell does not separate his second-hand and new sales, but he sees two divergent trends in the second-hand trade as a whole. “For the traditional antiquarian shops, business is appalling,” he says. “But the big browsing shops are booming.” Other reports seem to bear him out. Barter Books in Alnwick, Northumberland, and Richard Booth’s Books in Hay-on-Wye – heavyweight “big browsing” bookshops – each reported a strong 2008.

Not doing so well: Stacey's Bookstore in San Francisco. Here's its closing night this last Wednesday.

Saturday, March 07, 2009


Let Them Eat Clicks

I have a piece in Friday's Slate about's seemingly nonexistent corporate philanthropy -- and more importantly, whether that should matter.

But I hid the real barb in the tail of the piece: and its shareholders can claim a philosophical purity of purpose and not spend a penny on charity so long they play by the rules. There's just one problem: doesn't much like the rules. has spent a decade opposing the enforcement of online taxes so that its noncollection of sales tax creates a powerful pricing incentive over bricks-and-mortar competitors. Why buy a MacBook Air in Boston, after all, when online you'll save nearly 90 bucks in Massachusetts sales tax? But there have long been warnings that consumers just might get ruinously addicted to the tax-free ride Amazon and others appeared to be giving them—and that states might just get, well, ruined.

I say the ride appeared tax-free: In fact, there is tax due on some online sales. Amazon and other online retailers have benefited from the lack of an enforcement mechanism.

It's Amazon Marketplace sales -- which were launched in November 2000 -- that actually make the retailer a deadbeat dotcom. And their entry into that market explains this amusing and long-forgotten detail about Amazon's stance on sales taxes: it was for them before it was against them.

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Coppola Directs my Father-in-Law

For reasons known only to themselves, both of my sons have demanded constant rotation of the 1970 novelty hit "Mill Valley," performed by Miss Abrams and The Strawberry Point 4th Grade Class. (Apparently everyone's already heard of this paean to Marin County except me.)

Anyway, after my wife mentioned this to her Dad -- a period instrument artisan -- he said, "Oh yeah, I knew Rita Abrams." He did live in Mill Valley back in the day, but we didn't think much about it until we stumbled upon this:

He's the beardy guy playing recorder in the first seconds of the video -- which was filmed by Francis Ford Coppola (?!).

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