What “Wood” You Do For Dads & Grads? Plus How To Wear A Watch At Work & For Job Interviews

When Jord came to me with the offer to review one of their handmade wooden wristwatches, I took one look at them and I knew that the Koa & Black, from the Dover Series, was special. While the idea of a wooden wristwatch is certainly a novel one, it was the gears that moved me… Usually all glorious gears and stuff that makes a watch tick is usually hidden on a watch. But with this Jord watch, you can see it work!

jord wood wristwatch dover Koa & Black

I knew it would be perfect for my dad. He’s not only one who appreciates craftsmanship but is a craftsman himself. Not only does he make new things, mixing the old with the new, but he’s handcrafted furniture for the house. I just knew he would love the juxtaposition of the smooth wood next to the metal gears as much as I do. (Admittedly, my dad often prefers his gears rusty; but then the timepiece wouldn’t work!)

Just as I’d hoped, my dad did love the watch too.

dean at elkhorn antique flea market wearing jord wood watchSince one of the relatively important aspects of a wristwatch is the personal statement it makes, the attention it receives, I asked my dad to wear it when we were selling at the opening weekend of the Elkhorn Antique Flea Market. (Just like hubby and I, my parents are antique dealers.) I just knew the wooden watch would garner the attention of those who appreciate quality timepieces, as well as those who admire craftsmanship — and just plain like cool stuff. In spite of the bad weather, which required us to cover ourselves (and our antiques!) up more, when the watch was visible it received a fair amount of admirers.

But perhaps the most telling compliment came from my nephew, Nicholas, who is the youngest of the grandchildren. Because my dad has made so many things, Nicholas asked if Papa made the watch!

jord wooden wristwatch

For many younger folks, wearing a wristwatch seems unnecessary if not antiquated. But hold on; if you think that our tech gadgets have replaced the “antiquated wrist watch” and clocks in general, I have news for you. It comes via some of my dad’s knowledge too…

You might have noticed in the photos that my dad wears his wristwatch in an usual manner…

how to wear a wristwatch

With the face of the watch not centered on the wrist, but rather sitting along the side of his wrist (on the radius, if you want to be technical about it). For as long as I can remember, my dad has worn his watch this way. And there’s a reason for it.

For decades, my dad worked as a salesman selling tools to big companies in what is now known as the Rust Belt. Often in sales meetings, or any meetings at all, there might be a reason the you might want to make note of the time. But being spotted checking your watch communicates all sorts of negative things. While you might merely be wondering if you’re running on time for your next appointment, the client may see your peek at your watch as an indication that they are being rushed — or worse, that they are boring you. What to do?

One of my dad’s first bosses taught my dad a trick: Wear your wristwatch as shown so that you can take a look at the time without the person across the desk from you ever noticing.

stealthy look at the time without offending anyone

Wearing the watch as my dad does allows for a surreptitious look at the time without offending anyone you are trying to impress — be it a buyer or an interviewer.

Honestly, it works without a desk or conference table too.

how to wear a wooden jord watch

I’m not sure wearing a watch this way would have helped Ben Carson, or even President George H. W. Bush in ’92; but it certainly can help most of us. Take heed, graduates and others going on job interviews!

(I dare suggest that many of the young people rejecting wristwatches are not employed. They don’t yet know the value of being able to reflect your personal style at work — or how important it can be to steal an unnoticed look at the time. Meanwhile, as many younger folks seem to be eschewing watches and clocks, the prices for vintage and collectible timepieces have been soaring. Perhaps it takes a matter of experience to appreciate not just “old” stuff, but the value of timepieces as well.)

But back to the stunning Jord watch…

elegant wood wristwatch goes wtih green bay packer gearIt’s at once rustic and elegant, combining earthy and tech to make a functional timepiece that’s unique. The wood also works nice with less formal attire, including Casual Friday, hanging out with friends — and, as it must do for any Wisconsinite, looks great with Green Bay Packer gear!

It arrived as expected for a pricey luxury wristwatch, in a nice wooden crate of a box, with all the related info inside. The only bad thing I can find to say about this watch was that the information card included in the box was difficult to read: black text on a busy image-laden background — and slick & shiny with lamination yet. Even for the younger among us with better eyesight. I can understand wanting a “sexy” card. And giving it a protective coating so it can last. But, honestly, the company would be better off going with black text on a white or light background so that it is easy to read.

That said, we obviously figured out how to work it. And, yes, this beauty works. In fact, with the visible gears, this wristwatch is really cool to watch. If you aren’t a fan of the gears, there are other styles as well — and, yes, there are women’s watches as well.

Watches Made From Wood

Official review disclaimer: While I did receive the wristwatch from Jord for review purposes, it did not sway my opinion in any way. It never does.

The Pretty Reckless

During last week’s long road tip to Wisconsin to sell at the Elkhorn Antique Flea Market, I stumbled into The Pretty Reckless.

Once smitten with Heaven Knows, we turned to Spotify to hear more. One word: Love.

Many of the songs remind me of Devil Doll’s Queen of Pain. (If Devil Doll lead singer Colleen Duffy hadn’t already been dubbed “the punk rock torch singer your father warned you about”, Taylor Michel Momsen could earn that title.)

Listen, I was ahead of the curve and right about Cage The Elephant. I was ahead of the curve and right about Macklemore’s Thrift Shop. And I’ll be right about The Pretty Reckless (and Fever Ray) too. Maybe that’s because mom’s are the greatest music influencers. Or maybe it’s just because I am awesome. Download some of The Pretty Reckless now.

PS My Wisconsin friends should check them out at Summerfest this year.

the pretty reckless

The Scoop On Content Curation & Scoop.It

Once Snip.It pulled the plug on the content curation site, thereby pulling the rug out from under the feet of content curators like myself, I began speaking with the fine folks at Scoop.It.

As always, Community Manager Ally Greer was there with more than kind, supportive words but with some action too. Thanks to her, and the other responsive folks at Scoop.It, there will be some great news coming from my now favorite curation site soon. (Hint: They are working on a way for the exported Snip.It file to be uploaded to Scoop.It; details to follow, so stay tuned!)

Meanwhile, I wanted to talk about why why many had not been using the site – like myself, had not been as dedicated to Scoop.It. After all, while many are scrambling to move their online curation, the same reasons why they hadn’t used Scoop.It before may very well still apply, right? And what better way to discuss this than with Guillaume Decugis, Co-founder and CEO of Scoop.It.

Thanks so much for making the time to discuss this with me, Guillaume.

Decugis: Thank you for giving us this opportunity to communicate with you as we try to find Snip.it users a solution to migrate their topics to Scoop.it.

You might not feel that way after I shoot some hard questions at you! Here’s the first one:

The problem, comparatively, with Scoop.It vs. Snip.It, was the limited number of collections or topics. Many of us had 20 or more collections, and even the business plan has a limit of 15. Can you explain Scoop.It’s reasoning for limiting the number of topics?

Decugis: In the very early phases of Scoop.it private beta, we were confronted with a very simple problem: some people were doing domain squatting on Scoop.it urls without actually using them to curate content. Scoop.it topic urls are unique and it works really well with our topic-centric model: we’re not just about curating content but we also strongly believe that we offer better discovery capabilities to our users by having this model where you curate, discover and follow topics. Making urls unique encourages users to be specific on the niches they cover. So preventing domain squatting was one pragmatic reason to implement topic limitation.

What we discovered since then is that even though we fully understand that some people might want to do more than these limits, this limitation actually forced them to focus on what they felt was essential — one of the objectives of content curation. Content curation in general, and Scoop.it in particular, is biased towards quality vs. quantity after all. We’re not saying you can’t have both, and there are exceptions, but so far the scheme has been working pretty well even though that’s of course something we might revisit at some point.

Of course, paying is also a concern. We obviously feel the pain of “free that can go away” (despite millions of dollars Yahoo! paid), but paid service sites also disappear… Can we be assured Scoop.It won’t vanish? Or at least not in a matter of minutes, without warning?

Decugis: First of all, we’re not forcing anyone to pay: Scoop.it is a free service and will always remain free. Free users are very valuable to us as they help the Scoop.it brand awareness by bringing qualified traffic to the platform. Thanks to them we grew from 0 to 7 million monthly since our launch. So everyone is welcome to use Scoop.it as much as they want for free. Premium plans are here to add value to professionals who want more from Scoop.it or businesses and companies who want to use content curation as part of their content strategy.

No company can ever say “we’ll be here forever”. However, I think free Web services without any implemented business models are likely to be much more vulnerable which is why it’s been very important to us to launch Scoop.it publicly only until we had a good idea what our business model would be. We had close to a year of private beta (yes, we took our time…) but this was very important to us to understand how the balance between free and paying users would work, what people or businesses would be ready to pay for and at what price. We can’t say the current model is perfect, nor that there won’t be any changes. But a bit more than 1 year after our public launch, we’re very happy with the revenue we’re generating, the number and growth rate of our paying customers and, more importantly, their strong loyalty to their premium plans and the low churn rate we’re observing. In the long run, profitability is the only thing that can guarantee any company’s survival and while growth has been our main focus, having a sound business model has been one of our other priorities from day 1.

The last thing I want to say about this is that we view Scoop.it as an open platform: we offer multiple interfaces with social networks but also blog platforms like WordPress or Tumblr as well as RSS feeds and an open API. This provides multiple export capabilities for our users’ curated content and we’ll enable even more in the future. We think the value we build as a company is in our active and growing community – not in locking up our users in a proprietary platform.

I know beggars can’t be choosers, but is there a way former Snip.it folks could get a discount on Scoop.it services?

Decugis: Though we’re happy for Ramy and the team at Snip.it and wish them the best in their integration with Yahoo!, we feel sad about the Snip.it service shutting down. We didn’t plan to do anything specific, but some Snip.it users like yourself have asked us whether they could import their Snip.it collections to Scoop.it and we’re investigating that. We don’t plan to offer a discount on Scoop.it premium plans, but we’re looking at what we can do to welcome Snip.it users who want to join our community while obviously being fair to our existing users. Stay tuned.

I can’t thank you enough for your time, Guillaume. Hopefully this will address the concerns and potential fears of people who are considering using Scoop.it.

As for me, my final thoughts are this: Scoop.It may be forcing us all to limit or tighten up our topics of interest (which does have both its pluses and minuses), even when you pay to play — but they’ve always had their strong points that can’t be refuted.

One, they’ve always had the best means of connecting and disseminating curated content to social media sites and blogs.

Two, they’ve always had the best method of suggesting content to a curator. In fact, they may be the only curation site to offer that option — which has proven to draw in members who may not even curate, but read and watch. Turning lurking subscribers into participating, engaged members is not to be undervalued.

Three, as you can see with this interview, the folks at Scoop.it are readily available to discuss issues, concerns, and suggestions.

As Guillaume Decugis and I have both said, stay tuned!

The Early History of Women & Film

Every so often, we women complain about women in the media. When it comes to movies, we complain about the diminished roles for maturing women; we complain about the way women are portrayed in films; we complain about the history of films, most notably The Hollywood Code which seemed to destroy & limit our potential as women in film — on both sides of the camera. But long before all that, in the very beginning, it was even worse.

In Movie-Struck Girls: Women & Motion Picture Culture After the Nickelodeon, by Shelley Stamp, we learn more than just the roles of women in films or behind the camera — we learn about women’s role as patrons of cinema.

The book is an eye-opening look at a long ignored part of American film history — and an astonishing look at the history of women as media consumers.

Stamp spent over ten years researching for this book. She studied trade journals, fan magazines, ephemera, and many official documents and records at the National Board of Censorship Archives in New York City, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library in Los Angeles, & the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Many of the films she reviewed are no longer readily available, let alone circulating, but can be found at the Library of Congress & the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

It sounds like a huge undertaking, & I thank her for it. ‘Movie-Struck Girls’ presents a wealth of information that I had never known before.

Movies began with the nickelodeon, and as such, movies were not places for proper or even improper ladies to be. In the early 1900s, when films were being moved from temporary places with projection onto sheets & walls, and cinemas were being built, many in the business of film, began to reconsider women. This was a purely economic move. For if these new developments, these more expensive buildings, were going to pay for themselves & gain profits to pad pockets, the new movies must include women as patrons & gain their approval.

Why? In ‘Movie-Struck Girls’ the author reminds us of an America where women were seen as the keeper of the family morals. Neither little Johnny Jr. nor Johnny Sr. would be allowed to go to such places if Mother didn’t approve. In order for women to view movies as more than sordid places where her family wouldn’t be caught dead, these new cinemas would need to gain the respect of women. The best way to do that, would be to show women, fine respectable women, how respectable & fine the theaters were. It was thought that if women would give the theaters a try, and continue to come, their physical presence would elevate the standing of film viewing.

So, movie theater owners began to court women as patrons.

They did so via premiums & tie-ins & in addressing the decor of the cinemas themselves. As a marketing person, I enjoyed the conceptions about women, and how they would lure them into the movie-going fold — with many of the tricks still employed in the movie trade today. As a woman, I felt more than a bit bitter to see what they thought…

As Stamp illustrates, cinemas were designed with appeal to women in mind. They were located near shopping and offered services such as package holding with hopes of luring women into the buildings. The buildings themselves were decorated to attract the feminine. It was suggested in industry publications that cinemas ought to have lobbies, with plenty of mirrors, to encourage female patrons — by appealing to their vanity. They thought ‘what woman doesn’t want to see herself & parade for others?’

But then, they complained that women didn’t know how to behave properly: they talked, they interrupted the absorption of the movies themselves. The very women they encourage to be vain, to come to the theater to be seen, these women didn’t want to sit quietly in a dark room full of others who were not paying attention to them. These women who were, by societal standing, to ‘dress’ for these public events, they wore hats that blocked views. And so even while courted by the film industry as valuable assets to ensure the viability of films as safe, moral entertainment for families, the industry mocked them in articles & cartoons. The debate within the industry as to the need for women, how to both cater to while educating them to achieve their purpose, was entering full swing.

But this was only the industry side of the debate; Next, Stamp shows us society’s debates.

In the early 1900’s, the most popular films were vice films, & in the teens, a major societal concern was The White Slave Trade. Sensational white slave films were made during this time, to warn folks of the dangers to their women. Conflicting with the as-billed-educational-films messages, cinemas brought women-folk out into public where they could easily fall prey to such ills as the white slave trade. Debate centered around the irony. Other debate focused on the films themselves, and censorship issues were raised. And to make matters worse, women seemed to enjoy such films! Oh, how could such tender beings watch & enjoy such lewd filth such as scenes from brothels?!

Obviously, women enjoyed the films from the same points of fascination as men, but as the author clearly reminds us, there is more. Adding to the fascination, was the fact that women themselves has seen little of ‘the world’ — even if that ‘world’ was part of their very own city. Through movies, women vicariously saw their nation. This alone would make these films riveting for women.

Again, as movie houses were public gathering places, classes mingled. Not only were there the fine upscale families as so recruited by theater managers, but along with them, the working class — including single women. Single women moved about the theater as patrons, both in danger & dangerous themselves. A woman alone could end up in the slave trade, or she might mingle with gentlemen of good standing… In fact, theaters often hired pretty, single young girls to be ticket sellers, ushers, cigarette girls etc. This was seemingly at odds with the motives of ‘women adding respectability’ and elevating the idea of theater, but it was a lure that worked. But the independent woman, even if only a work-class-girl, is dangerous. Much debate centered around the appropriateness of such places for women & families.

Since the elevation of cinema depended upon the stamp of approval from women, including materials & promotions designed to engage them, the talks about women’s roles in film viewing were discussed by women. Given the general fear of ‘those darn suffragettes,’ encouraging women to debate the social & safety issues of women viewing film — in the context of women viewing educational films about civil matters — seemed a dangerous thing indeed.

The film industry needed to ‘clean up’ the entertainment, so they began to focus on films aimed at women, with stories & formats they knew — Enter the serial film.

The industry coordinated film with print versions of stories in newspaper & print publications. Again, these were often aimed at women, but then came the ‘oh no!’ cry, as women did in fact enjoy the adventure stories. It is at this time that film gave rise to the very popular female star. She was now revered for both her on-screen & off-screen antics. So much so, that young women everywhere started dreaming of being a movie star themselves!

To counter act the scary notion of independent women, adventure serials, & vice films it became routine to mock independent women, with notions of becoming a movie star, or worse, civic ideas. The author clearly shows examples, such as a 1916, The Motion Picture Classic cartoon with the following poem to illustrate this concern:

“When our dear grandmas were girls,
They’d smile and smooth their pretty curls.
Look in the mirror then & say
“Oh, will he think me fair today?”

Today the girlies everywhere,
In the mirror gravely stare;
“Am I fair enough,” they day,
“To be a movie star some day?”

But poetry would not be deemed enough. There would also be many films to lampoon the suffragette.

Mainly these films attempted to show how crazy things would be if women could vote. Movies depicting women taking over government & leaving men’s needs behind darkly illustrating the dangers present to men were made, but more often, comedy was used. Cross-dressing men & women exchanged roles, with only love ‘saving’ the women from their folly. Ironically, it seems to the reader that perhaps these movies did more favor to the opposition than to their own cause.

The suffragist movement noted the power of cinema. If educational films were popular, and women not only allowed but encouraged to attend, why not make propaganda films of their own? Both the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) & the Women’s Political Union (WPU) made films to both rally women to the cause & to educate resistant men & women. Sadly, many of their films seemed to falter at romantic notions. In order to make the female stars appealing, less threatening, most often the female lead would succumb to love & home, happy with her vote, but definitely not claiming civic responsibilities.

In ‘Movie-Struck Girls’ you learn all about these long-hidden details of American film history & it’s collision with turn of the century American values — including titles, studios, stars, organizations, & political figures. For a person who adore film & is a passionate feminist, this is a great read. Why it’s as thrilling as those old adventure serial films!

Stamp does a great job of presenting this long ignored part of film — and women’s — history. It’s definitely an academic read, which means it is meaty enough for those who want to further search for clues, artifacts & films themselves. It may not read like a novel, but it’s so fascinating & full of details, it won’t disappoint. Fans of film, especially silent films, cannot call themselves educated in the subject unless they know this history. And women, well, we start to see a much larger image emerge — our complaints regarding women in the media have much deeper roots than we previously knew.

50 Shades Of Humiliating

Fifty Shades Magazine

When I spotted the cover of the Fifty Shades magazine leering at me from it’s in-your-face product positioning in the check-out lane at a local grocery store, I immediately broke out into a grin of disbelief. Here? In Fargo, North Dakota?! How utterly fabulous!

In a world where human sexuality is taboo — and women’s rights to have it is steadily shrinking, I was so giddy with the mere idea of the magazine sitting on display so blatantly, so defiantly, that I pounced on a copy. And unable to contain myself, I dared to speak aloud.

“I bet you’ve seen a lot of these leaving — and with old ladies like me,” I said to both the male cashier and the bag boy precisely at the moment the cashier was scanning the publication.

The cashier managed to avoid eye contact and comment via hyper-focus on his check-out duties. The bag boy, caught off guard, looked to see what I was speaking about as it was handed to him and he awkwardly, loudly, replied, “Umm, we must have just got these in; I haven’t seen them before now.” Followed by profuse blushing as his brain caught up with what his eyes were reading.

It was rather anticlimactic.

Even though I’m not sure what I was expecting or hoping for.

But if buying this magazine was anticlimactic, it was a major disappointment to read it.

Filled with pages of uncredited “articles” which were so bland it would make the much disliked and even hated Cosmo seem intelligent, Fifty Shades just left me feeling sad, yet again, about the sad state of magazines for women.

In Underwary, feminist platitudes serve to bolster mocking men — while focusing primarily on male pleasure: “It’s your body,” “Men don’t understand lingerie,” “He will blow it,” “Instead of letting him navigate the world of satin and lace all alone, surprise him and say you’re going shopping together. He’ll think you look great, you’ll feel great, and everyone will benefit. (But mostly him.)”

Oh, and don’t forget to exercise and diet too.

Because it’s important for women to focus on their appearance even during fantasies.

*heavy sigh*

Now, I’ve never ready any of the 50 Shades books, so as an ethical reviewer I can’t say anything about how “true” the magazine is to the “steamy series”. But that won’t stop me from having an opinion — an educated opinion — regarding the reaction to the books.

As a woman, I’ve not only taken a rather long road to my own personal sexual discoveries and satisfaction, but along the way I’ve uncovered and pondered our historical and cultural cues regarding sexuality — these being, largely, the reasons it was such a long road. And as a collector, I’ve been documenting this as a part of women’s history as well. The short story is that this whole Fifty Shades thing is not new. Not in terms of books; not in terms of shock and backlash either. We have a lot of dumb rules and taboos about gender and sex (NWS).

For those reasons, this Fifty Shades magazine will not be tossed out but rather saved as part of my collection. As will my scarlet letter “A”. (I got mine! Did you get yours?) The difference, obviously, is which one I believe in, like, admire…

The biggest question then is, do I leave some sort of notes about that so that my kids or future people know why I saved these things, what kind of person I was?

Things I Learned At and About Tumblr

Tumblr Logo
Tumblr has a bad rep in the blogosphere; it’s notorious for its members taking the content of others without crediting it. But clients have asked or stated that they should “be on it,” and so to be fair, I spent some serious time (about 11 months) using Tumblr — under various niches and topics.

These are some of the things I learned about the site.

Tumblr is far more social network or community oriented than a standard “blog”; or maybe it’s more accurate to say that Tumblr is more of an intense microcosm of blogging. The posts are shorter, more rapid, more plentiful — mainly because nothing is actually created there. Instead it’s based on reposting what others have created around the Internet, and then reposted and reposted over at Tumblr, in and out of the interconnected social circles of followers.

Tumblr is so based on the notion of regurgitating the posts and reposts of others, that the only real way to keep up is to stay logged in to Tumblr and sit at your dashboard, where you can see all the reposts of those you follow go by. For this reason, it has an addicting quality. But the price of such a glut of rehashed stuff is the need for more speed — people clicking repost as fast as they can, more stuff flying at you.

That can be a time waster, but let’s look at the more important things in terms of promoting your business, your site, your writing.

Tumblr is incredibly image oriented. Text posts and links are virtually ignored. Even when the photo you post has text or a link, these are seldom what makes a post popular i.e. reposted. In fact, your text and link have at least a 60% chance of being removed by the person reposting it. And link click-through rates, even when the link is the image credit (i.e. clicking the photo to get a larger version), are much lower than at regular blogs and websites — including in the adult area.

That is the number on reason why using Tumblr to market your site or business is ineffective.

The popularity of a post is reposting. “Likes” do very little for you (since they are a one-click thing not requiring them to leave the dashboard, they are just a way for a user to more quickly add their “note” to a post).

Readers, followers, etc. are numbers that don’t matter as much as the long string of “notes” (the list of people who reposted and liked the post). This is obviously increased by the number of people following you; but as long as your post is reposted by someone and reaches another circle of users, your post will go on and on, showing up on your dashboard over and over again. But, if no one is clicking the links, visiting your store etc., then so what?

Tumblr is also not the best way to have conversations with your customers or your target market either.

Comments are not actually built into the system (though you can add DISQUS) and conversations are discouraged in general. You can send a message via the “ask me” feature, but if you answer it, it’s published at your Tumblr — and the one who asked or commented does not get a notice of it. So unless they are logged in, are following you, and see it on their dashboard, how will they know you replied? And in order to continue the conversation, one of you will have to go back to the “ask” and start again. It’s incredibly awkward.

Tumblr is also a rather closed community in the sense that anonymous (non-Tumblr users) are clearly second class citizens. In your Tumblr settings, you can allow or disallow anonymous to “ask” questions, but unless they say, “Hi, it’s Susan,” or otherwise identify themselves, you won’t know who it is because Tumblr either recognizes a logged in user or labels them anonymous.

While the rest of the Internet is trying to engage readers across platforms, regardless of whether or not they are an official user/subscriber, Tumblr and, more importantly, Tumblr users deride and mock the “anons.”

That’s a closed community.

And now we get to the issue of what most irks people about Tumblr…

Contrary to what most of us were taught, having something unique to say or offer is not important at Tumblr. In fact, unless you are a big wig at Tumblr, your original content is likely to go completely unappreciated. People prefer to repost what the cool kids repost rather than be the person who finds unique or new things. These are the majority of the users at Tumblr.

The other group of users is a smaller group, but they are far too often those with larger followings. These are the folks who like to pose as the news makers, the creators, taking credit for what they found with the omission of where they found it, who owns it, etc. — and they are to blame for Tumblr’s poor reputation, even if the majority users are guilty of perpetuating it with all the reposts.

Some blame the ease of Tumblr’s reposting and sharing widget are to blame for this, but if people were truly lazy and using Tumblr as it is, nearly every image raped from a site would have a link crediting where it was found (and, one hopes, more information on original source, etc.). But these people take great efforts to right-click-save an image, then upload it to Tumblr — never crediting the photographer, scanner, or image owner.

This is a malicious act. It’s done on purpose. It requires more effort than the one or two click of the Tumblr Bookmarklet sharing widget — and it’s done so they can act as if they put the time in on something they didn’t. Often times, once they’ve saved the image on their computer, they’ll even go so far as to remove copyright and URL information before uploading and posting to Tumblr.

The number of people who post that they’re “going home to scan more photos of X” — and then perform image searches for such photos and scans are astonishing. Those of us who spend the time scanning know what our scans look like — where there’s a wrinkle on the page, tanning, if we included text or not, etc.

All of this would be the silly poser stuff of teenagers — if it weren’t so infuriating. Because the bottom line is, there are many big bloggers out there who are so popular because they find and credit the cool stuff; they are like antique dealers who are adored by collectors with less time.

As if this weren’t bad enough, many Tumblr users take great pride in expressing their indifference and defiance regarding copyright and intellectual property. Sidebars and profiles are filled with “I find stuff lots of places and if you’re one of the credit nazis, don’t follow me” and similar statements that I gather are supposed to appear as cool non-conformist, punk-rebellious, barbs at The Man. Unfortunately, the Internet is not The Man; so the ones they hurt are the ones who create the content — artists, photographers, dedicated folks who scan antique and vintage works, etc.

No, Tumblr is not a good way to market your product, your website, etc.

Yeah, this post is so not going to make me popular at Tumblr. But what am I going to miss? Even more of my content going out and about uncredited?

I have since deleted my old test accounts at Tumblr. But I do retain a personal account there for two reasons:

One, a few ethical people I met there only post at Tumblr and so I can keep up with them

Two, sometimes logging in and scrolling the Tumblr dashboard provides some good leads on cool stuff. Such a stream of photos can provide a quick way to see things — but it’s deceptive in the sense that once I spy something cool, I’ll have to put a lot of work in to searching for the images. (For that I use TinEye; a detailed account of how and why to use it is here — the site is NWS.)

And when I do use it, it can be a tremendously frustrating time suck because so much uncredited stuff is coming at you so fast.

So overall, I do not recommend Tumblr as an effective way to market yourself or your blog; but it has its entertainment value and can be useful if you don’t invest too much time in it.

Ethics In Virtual Book Tours & Other Blog Tours

Blog Tours
Blogging is a form of self-publishing — and it’s a beautiful thing; but it comes with its own set of responsibilities.

I personally don’t abide Paid Posts and proudly proclaim my No Payola status, but as those posts rather cover my sentiments, today I’ll focus on the ethics involved in Blog Tours — specifically in terms of the rules of UP to the DL Blog Tour Services.

These rules are based not only on the experiences we’ve had hosting blog tours, posting reviews, receiving pitches to promote this or that, but on fundamental ethics — good ol’ common sense. And these rules are designed to protect the integrity of bloggers, blog readers, consumers, and promoters alike.

Rule #1 It is not ethical to review something you’ve never used, read or otherwise employed; that’s fraud. Therefore, asking a person to commit a fraudulent act is unethical, at best.

Rule #2 It is unethical, to say the least, to insist a reviewer not publish or share a review that is not flattering. Such “reviews” are not reviews at all; reviews are to be thoughtful opinions, educated critiques, and, above all, honest. Individual hosts may, after reviewing the item and honestly disliking it, post their negative (but not hate-filled or personally attacking) review as they wish; or, they may wish to contact us for help regarding their conflicted responses and uncomfortable situations.

Rule #3 Follow-through on what you promise. Send your review copies, samples, contest prizes on time; publish your blog tour event as promised; get back to people as promised. In the rare cases where “life happens,” please contact U.P. to the D.L. as soon as possible to communicate and problem solve the situation.

Any and all persons who break these rules, are found to be guilty of such unethical behavior, will not be allowed to participate in any U.P. to the D.L. projects of any kind. Offenders may also find themselves the subject of unwanted press, with a public disclosure of their behavior.

I know these rules may sound more stern or even scary rather than inviting, but practicing these principles protects and respects the integrity of all involved! It is our expectation that everyone upholds these values and has a commitment to the rights of consumers and brands.

Busted! As Good As “Our Bodies, Ourselves”

Bra Coach & Author Ali Cudby

Continuing my talk with Ali Cudby, author of Busted! The FabFoundations Guide To Bras That Fit, Flatter and Feel Fantastic. (Enter to win a signed copy of the book here!)

As a researcher *, I disagree that corsets were as restrictive as the roles women had in society. Because women controlled how tight they laced, could remove stays, etc., there was far more control by the individual over her corset than her culture. Culture has been far more damaging, suffocating, than any corset.

There were actually significant health issues directly tied to corsetry, as well, particularly when the fashions dictated the smallest possible waist. Women did permanent damage to their lungs and even rearranged their internal organs to accommodate corsets! Plus, it was (in my oh-so humble opinion) a lovely turn of phrase…and I love a good turn of phrase. :)

In that sense, women today who are not wearing a properly fitting comfortable bra are doing far worse things to themselves and their bodies than corsets, really. We are imprisoned by the places and times we live in, yes, but our ignorance of our bodies, our bras, is some sort of self-inflicted madness at this point…

Agreed, especially as society is less rigid today and women have much more opportunity to make decisions for themselves about how to dress, especially underneath their clothes.

To that extent, I see your book as a companion piece to the iconic Our Bodies, Ourselves. How can we be the action figures we need to be in our lives without knowing this fundamental functional part of our lives? That question may be rhetorical… (Feel free to comment though!)

Busted By Ali Cudby

Naturally, I love the idea of being a companion piece to the seminal Our Bodies, Ourselves! When it comes to bras, specifically, the thing I love is how empowered women feel when they figure out how fit works on their bodies. It’s fantastic to help a woman feel better in her skin and move past the negative body image messages perpetrated by the media.

I’m glad you mentioned body image messages in the media… Fundamentally, we women think we know our breasts. But we really don’t. I think we more about how our breasts are “supposed” to appear, clothed or not, and we certainly have feelings about that… But we really don’t know our own breasts, do we? How does this compound the matter of fit?

I don’t think I’ve said that women don’t know their own breasts, but women certainly get mixed messages about the role of breasts in society.

No, you didn’t say that bit about women not knowing our own breasts; I did. *wink* It seems we don’t know as much as we should, or we wouldn’t suffer with bras that don’t fit!

If you’ve never been taught how a bra should fit, and you may not even be aware of brands that are designed for your specific body type, it’s like trying to hit a moving target with a blindfold on!

In Chapter Two, in Once Upon A Time, When Fit Was A Fairy Tale, you discuss the fairy tale of fit:

Bra fitting can be confusing because there are so many pieces to literally fit together, and it’s not something most American women are taught — not at home, in school, or anywhere else. There’s no real mechanism for that education. It’s not taught in high school health classes. Many mothers overlook the chance to help their daughters get fit correctly, perhaps because they never experienced the benefits of the right fit themselves.

So poor bra fit is literally passed down through the generations!

Historically, speaking, what’s to blame for this? How much of women’s ignorance to the issues of bra fit are our fault? How much do we, must we, hold others accountable for? How do we take back our breasts, our health, our lives? Is there anything we can do at the consumer level?

I think economics and the bottom-line thinking that has been so pervasive in America is the culprit. Customer service has left the building in a lot of areas of the department store (except the men’s suit department…hmmm).

The good news is that I see a swing of the pendulum in the opposite direction. There are an increasing number of fit-based boutiques out there. Right now, most of them cater to the high end of the market, but it could be a beginning of a movement. I’d like to think so, at least! The product is there, the message is getting out…so I’m optimistic about the direction this industry is going.

We’ve all heard (and quite possibly ignored) the percentages of women who are not wearing a properly fitting bra; what does this percentage mean in terms of number of women?

The numbers are staggering. Between 80-100 million American women spend several billion dollars each year on bras that don’t fit and cause them physical and emotional harm!

And that’s just women over the age of 18 — the youngest group of women are actually most likely to wear bras that don’t fit.

Warning! The Wrong Bra Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

I know you’re not a doctor; and neither am I, but I’d guess this phenomenon of poor fitting bras and the increase of medications for depression, anxiety, aches and pains, lethargy, et al. is likely related. My readers might think I exaggerate — do you have any comments on the links between poor fitting bras and the things that ail us?

I know that women who have gotten fitted report that they no longer have daily headaches, shoulder aches and back pain. They stand taller and feel better — both physically and emotionally. I know that was true for me, and my experience is what led to me writing this book.

To say that proper bra fit can be life-changing may sound overblown to some, but I’ve seen it happen way too many times to question the phenomenon!

The reason I find your work, your book, so amazing is that women spend how many hours a day in their bras? I mean, even if we take them off the second we can, it’s a lot of hours to be miserable! Like that seminal feminist work, Busted! is based on the principal that we can be instruments of change — for ourselves, personally, and for society itself. In order to do that, we need to be educated. Did you have any idea when you began your work as a bra coach that you’d be writing such a book? Did the connections between bras and health, society, etc. surprise you?

First off, thanks! I really appreciate it. My work has evolved very organically. It started with my own moment of realization, when I found pretty bras that fit and were comfortable. I started talking to my friends about my discoveries and began helping them. Then friends started bringing friends, and the seeds of my fit methodology began to gel, and I started talking to industry experts and blogging about my experiences. The more I learned, the more I realized how pervasive this issue is, both from a comfort standpoint and also that connection to self-image so many women face.

Bra coaching goes way beyond bras — it goes to the core of how we carry ourselves as women. I didn’t expect that, and every time I hear back from someone who has benefitted from my fit methodology, it’s incredibly fulfilling. Helping women feel better about themselves is rewarding on so many levels.

Is this an American problem; are things better in the UK or elsewhere?

Culturally, women from the European countries seem to value buying fewer items of better quality more than in the US. And in the UK there is a wider array of product available in more places, it’s just easier to find stores that carry a variety of sizes. But availability of product doesn’t necessarily translate into excellence of fit. Fit is a challenge worldwide, simply because there are so few standards for sizing within the industry.

I would love to see American women placing more value on finding a quality garment that fits, versus going for the least expensive, or only buying on promotion.

Since you work with bra designers and other in the manufacturing industry I have to ask, how much of the problems regarding limited bra sizes begin there? Or is it the retailers who are the biggest problem?

I think there’s a ton of great product out there in a huge range of sizes – like I’ve said, 28AAA through 56N. The challenge is finding what works for you.

There are real issues for retailers when it comes to stocking that wide range of products, the amount of inventory required is mind-boggling. So (as with most things in life) it’s more complicated than it seems and I honestly believe that most manufacturers and retailers want their customers to be thrilled with their purchases.

Rather than focus on the inherent problems, I see a great opportunity for women — own the solution by understanding fit on your own body and finding the products that work for you, either in local stores or online. It’s very empowering!

Now go forth, ladies, empower yourselves with Busted!

Further reading: Another interview with Ali Cudby at A Slip Of A Girl.

* In fairness to Ali, and for clarification for you readers, I should note the following. Ali and I had a bit more of a discussion about corsets and history. She is operating off the more generally accepted wisdom about corsets, yet when I proffered her my research (What If Everything You Knew About The Corset Was Wrong?, Corsets Are Too Sexy?, Corsets Bound To Stay Suffrage), she not only read the posts but called them “fascinating!” We happily agreed to the following: Corsets, while restrictive, may not have been AS restrictive as women’s roles in society. That is probably more than a humble research obsessed feminist historical blogger can really ask for.

Book Review Blog Carnival #83

Reading Is Lovely

As promised, and with a little delay, I’m pleased to present the late latest edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival. Having been some time since I last hosted this book carnival, I’m pleased to see some familiar bloggers/book reviewers. That’s one of the great things about hosting carnivals; all those intentions to visit sites are realized because they are now part of your “to do” list. Another thing, for those of you who never seem to know just what to do with a “blog carnival,” here’s a tip on how to use them: Even if the books reviewed don’t seem to thrill you, check out the types of works presented, the titles of the blogs themselves, and see if they motivate you as actual book titles do, inducing you to “pick them up” by clicking the links and seeing if there’s more than meets first glance. Treat the carnival listings like a book shelf at a book store or in someone’s home… Browse and linger, stay awhile!

book reviews

Jim Murdoch presents The Instructions by Adam Levin posted at The Truth About Lies, saying, “This is the story of Gurion Maccabee, age 10: a lover, a fighter, a scholar, and a truly spectacular talker. Gurion has been expelled from 3 Jewish schools for acts of violence and messianic tendencies. He ends up in a special lockdown program for the most hopeless cases at Aptakisic Junior High. But in just 4 days Gurion’s search for righteousness sparks a violent, unstoppable rebellion. Driven equally by moral fervour and teenage exuberance, The Instructions is hilarious, troubling, empathetic, monumental, breakneck, romantic and unforgettable.”

JessicaLCope presents Book Review: The Devil’s Delusion posted at Grumbling & Gratitude, saying, “Concise thoughts on David Berlinki’s 2009 book The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions.

Rachel presents To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) posted at Books In The Sun.

Zohar presents Thoughts on: Across Many Mountains by Yangzom Brauen posted at Man of la Book.

Jim Murdoch presents The Whole Truth by Jim Murdoch posted at A Book A Day, saying, “Tonya Cannariato is the first to review Jim Murdoch’s ebook ‘The Whole Truth’ which at one point she compares to Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’. It’s a book containing two novels (which originally appeared separately as paperbacks) in which an old man ends up spending three days with the personification of truth for company. Philosophical, metaphysical, surreal and darkly comic by turns.”

KerrieS presents Review: THE DEAD HAND OF HISTORY, Sally Spencer posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE, saying, “Good reading. If you like Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope, or Helene Tursten’s Irene Huss, or Aline Templeton’s Marjorie Fleming, then you’ll take to Monika Paniatowski.”

Zohar presents Thoughts on: Jacob T. Marley by R. William Bennett posted at Man of la Book.

Zohar presents Thoughts on: Dracula by Bram Stoker posted at Man of la Book.

Jim Murdoch presents Moving Parts: an introduction to the poetry of Tim Love posted at The Truth About Lies, saying, “There are thousands upon thousands of poets online so why should you pay a blind bit of attention to Tim Love? Because Tim Love knows what he’s talking about, that’s why. He has written dozens of essays over the years talking about all aspects of poetry. This article focuses on his chapbook ‘Moving Parts’ but includes excerpts from his blogs and links to his various sites. Well worth checking out if you’re in any way serious about poetry as a craft.”

Zohar presents Thoughts on: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller posted at Man of la Book.

Cham Cuartero presents GOT FIGHT? by Forrest Griffin = Guaranteed Guffaws posted at eat ur banana.

Katie Sorene presents 2 Travel Books for Girls posted at Travel Blog – Tripbase, saying, “Reviews of Emily Barr’s latest novels – travel fiction for adventurous females with complicated lives.”

Pavarti K Tyler presents Book Snob Reviews – The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi posted at Pavarti K. Tyler – My life of Books and Beauty, saying, “This review was posted on Amazon and Goodreads as well.”

Jim Murdoch presents String Bridge by Jessica Bell posted at The Truth About Lies, saying, “Jessica says: I wrote String Bridge because I wanted to break into the women’s fiction market and steer it away from the stereotypically glorified woman that is most commonly portrayed today. Not every woman is inspirational to others. Not every woman can leave their comfort zone to better their future. But, so what? Does that mean a less strong-minded woman doesn’t have an interesting story to tell? Definitely not.”

Kalyan presents The Secret of the Nagas posted at Book Marks.

children’s books

Amy Broadmoore presents 10 Children’s Books About Math posted at Delightful Children’s Books, saying, “Here are ten excellent picture books about math. These books get kids thinking about numbers and problem solving in neat ways without realizing that they are learning math.”

Jamie presents Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins posted at The Perpetual Page-Turner – A Book Blog For Young Adult & Adult Books, saying, “Young adult fiction/teen fiction review technically but it could go under children’s.”

Read Aloud Dad presents If You Had To Choose, What Would You Do? posted at Read Aloud Dad.


David Gross presents The Picket Line — 6 October 2011 posted at The Picket Line, saying, “Simone de Beauvoir’s novel The Blood of Others”

Ilaria Linetti presents Aftertaste posted at Developing Report.

KerrieS presents Review: WHISPERING DEATH, Garry Disher posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE, saying, “Looking for some quality Australian crime fiction? Here is an author and a title you shouldn’t miss.”


Andy Hayes presents Tales from the Fast Trains of Europe posted at Sharing Travel Experiences, saying, “Learn about the long storied history of Europe via it’s new sleek, speedy rail network.”

non fiction

Rebecca Turner presents A Review of Paranormality by Professor Richard Wiseman posted at World of Lucid Dreaming.

Clark Bjorke presents The Guild Guitar Book posted at I’ll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book!, saying, “This book will be of interest to vintage guitar buffs, otherwise, not so much.”


Sarah Ahmad presents The Lord of the Rings posted at The Book Nook.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival right here. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the
blog carnival index page

Police At The Funeral: Vintage Book Review

I’ll admit I was drawn to this vintage paperback because of the cover. Spotting the sad little sweater girl, I thought to myself, “Why so glum, chum? What can happen to a pinup wearing a pink sweater? …Aside from the cruel misogyny of the world, that is.” But Police at the Funeral is a vintage murder mystery book, so there are larger crimes to come. (That’s why there’s a limp bound wrist illustrated on the cover; it’s not a BDSM book. *wink*)

Oh, and when I flipped through the book, I found this little goofy thing:

Who can resist a murder mystery with a sideways smiley face, of sorts, supposedly as a clue?

Since I was lured in by the pulp-esque cover, I had no clue as to the work or the author, Margery Allingham; as I typically do when I have no clue about the book, I scanned the covers and the copyright page for more clues. My copy is the second printing (April 1967) of the Macfadden publication (MB book #60-280). However, the work was originally published and copyrighted in 1931 and 1932, by Doubleday; which, I later discovered, was a later US publication of the original work put out in the UK in 1931 by Heinemann. So basically, what I have is a later reissue with a more “mod” retro pulp packaging, designed to lure new readers to an old (by now cheap) story. A tradition long upheld in publishing — one that obviously still works, as I’m a modern example.

Aside from being of interest to book collectors, fanciers of the book publishing industry, and the odd duck who cares about my behaviors, the dates of the work are important in terms of the review. For the book has that “formal” tone one oft equates with “old mysteries” — both from the British author and the time period standpoint; i.e. the book reads much like those of Agatha Christie, who was Allingham’s contemporary in what is now called the Golden Age of detective fiction.

The basic non-spoiler story is this: Albert Campion is called in by a friend to investigate the disappearance of a man. The man is found — dead. And so Campion winds up investigating by staying at the victim’s family home, the very “Gothic” Socrates Close, in Cambridge. Socrates Close, and the Farraday family it houses, are relics of Victorian times and mores. (The book’s title, Police At The Funeral, is a reference to the deep embarrassment felt by the scandal of murder; similar social rules regarding gender and race are also present.) More mystery, mayhem, and murder ensues until Campion solves the case. Here’s the back of the book for a full cast of characters:

Usually, I have the “who” in whodunit figured out quickly; one of the many reasons I’m not a huge reader of mysteries. But I’ll admit that I didn’t see this one a-comin’. Perhaps this is because, as Inspector Stanislaus said of the culprit and the culprit’s deeds on page 203, the book has “the right mixture of cleverness and lunacy — an elaborate, ingenious scheme.” However…

While not deducing the murderer (early on or at all) is one of the delights of reading a murder mystery novel, I found myself not caring so much.

Firstly, I found myself not caring so much because, formal tone and style of the work or not, I found the characters cold — cold enough that I didn’t particularly like any of them. So even though my morality demands that the criminal be caught, I didn’t so much worry who it was, why they did it, or what the effects of discovery might mean. And those, for me, are required parts for enjoyment of reading such novels. For even if I do figure it all out on page three, I still (hope to) enjoy the character driven consequences of discovery. In this book, this was absent — save for the unique personal gift Campion receives for a job well done: an antique (even then!) gaff taxidermy mermaid skeleton.

Secondly, I found the most interesting and engaging mystery to be that surrounding Albert Campion himself. There are subtle references, most often from the wealthy Great Aunt Caroline Farraday, that Campion’s real name and identity will be kept — even though there are a few clues here and there… Right up to the end of the book, where Great Aunt Caroline mentions that his grandmother is “dear Emily.” This was the mystery I was more concerned with! And it turns out, fans of the author and her works are too. Now that I’ve read the book, I did a little detective work of my own (research) and learned that not only was Police At The Funeral Allingham’s fourth novel with Albert Campion, but the character would eventually go on to feature in a total of 17 novels and over 20 short stories — and at no point is Campion’s true identity given! Now there’s the mystery worth solving! Perhaps 16 more novels and all those short stories later, I could piece a thing or two together…

Thanks to Allingham’s decent writing, I might consider such an endeavor — if only time were infinite. For I have sagging bookshelves awaiting me…

Speaking of sagging bookshelves, I’m willing to divest myself of this one now.  You can buy it from me using the button below for just $6, including US shipping. Or you can try eBay or Amazon.

Since I’ve now finished the book, I’ve allowed myself the opportunity to look up the author, and found that she was cheekily self-aware enough to say that she had “a figure designed for great endurance at a desk.” I sincerely take that to heart. For more on the author, see The Margery Allingham Society.

New Vintage Reviews #8

New Vintage Reviews Carnival

Welcome to the long overdue New Vintage Reviews Carnival, edition #8.

In this blog carnival, we review everything from classic film to vintage vinyl, from out-of-print books to games found in the basement — we hope to make the old seem shiny and new again!

If you’d like your review (or one you’ve read) to be included in the next edition, please submit it!  If you’d like to host, just contact me (Deanna.Pop.Tart@gmail.com) and put “New Vintage Reviews Host” in the subject line.


At A Penguin A Week, Karyn reviews The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley.

At { feuilleton }, a review of Joseph Balthazar Silvestre’s Alphabet-album, circa 1843, by John Coulthart.

My review of 1962’s Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans For Physical Fitness, here at Kitsch Slapped.


At Immortal Ephemera, a review of 1950’s Bright Leaf, starring Gary Cooper, Lauren Bacall, and Patricia Neal.

At Out Of The Past, a review of Garbo’s Ninotchka (1939).


At Steamboat Arabia, an illustrated review of The Game of Life aka Checkered Game of Life by Milton Brady — first sold in 1860.


At Scratch, Pop & Hiss, a review of James Luther Dickinson’s Dixie Fried (1972).

At Kitschy Kitschy Coo, my review of Toni Basil’s self-titled album.

At Silent Porn Star (obviously NWS), a review of the 1957 LP My Pussy Belongs To Daddy, which is silly and risque.

At The World’s Worst Records, Darryl W Bullock reviews A Soldier’s Plea by Bishop J M Smith and the Evangelist Choir.

My review of MTV’s High Priority, here at Kitsch Slapped.

And… This last one isn’t truly a review… But in the spirit of living with “old stuff,” surely the story of Phil Cirocco’s full restoration of a Novochord dating from 1940 fits in.  (Via Scratch, Pop & Hiss.)

Sexism In The Royal Canadian Air Force Fitness Plans?

Here’s a little gem: the Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness booklet.

This edition is the forty-third printing of the revised U.S. edition of the official RCAF fitness plan, published in 1962. It’s two books in one, as it contains both XBX (Ten Basic Exercises), the twelve minute a day plan for women, and 5BX (Five Basic Exercises), the eleven minute a day plan for men, which were previously published separately. (Note, the “X” in XBX does not refer to the two x-chromosomes of women.)

The plans enable you, the common folk, to get fit just as the fancy airline folk do — by yourself, at home, in your spare time, at your own rate, without any equipment.

I can’t speak to the effectiveness of the fitness plan; however, the exercises, created by Canada’s “pioneer” of physical fitness, William A. R. Orban, look like the general movements, tasks, and poses I’ve found in so many publications over the years (none as bad as beating your fat against a wall). But I can and will speak to the quirky fact that the two fitness plans differ greatly in terms of how the exercises are depicted by gender.

The women’s exercises are shown with step-by-step photographs of women in leotards:

While the men’s are shown with cool, graphic, iconic, illustrations:

While it’s true that the men’s fitness plan predates the women’s by a couple of years, I still find the differences striking… Was one gender thought to be confused by less-than realistic images? Is the female form just more acceptable, if not titillating, when shown in photographs? Or was continuity broken because greyscale printing became cheaper or otherwise de rigueur?

Before you decide, let me just show you one more thing…

While the men get a great phallic graphic, we women are sans a powerful ovarian homage.


Bombshell Manual Of Style Giveaway!

Used Book Contest Copy

I’ve decided to part with my copy of The Bombshell Manual of Style, by Laren Stover (Ruben Toledo, Illustrator). This hardcover with dust jacket is in like-new shape, and sex kittens, vamps, etc. will enjoy it.

In a previous review, I wrote this of the book:

A fast fun romp through the lives of bombshells. No so much on the ‘how tos’ of makeup or fashion, but a funny & fresh look at what makes a girl glam! Covers excuses, words to live by and how to throw a tantrum – you know, the stuff you really want to know. A great book for reading as you soak in a champagne bubble bath!

There are many ways to enter…

To Enter:

* Follow me on Twitter: @DPopTart. (Please leave your Twitter username in your comment so I can check.)


* Tweet the following:

I entered @DPopTart’s contest to win a FREE copy of The Bombshell Manual Of Style http://t.co/vJp33Va

(Remember to come back here and leave a comment with your tweet for me to verify.)

You may tweet your entry once a day.


* Friend me on Face Book: Deanna Dahlsad. (When making the request, note that you are entering the contest.)


* Post about this contest at your blog or website — if you do this you must include in your post to this contest post or Kitsch Slapped in general.

(Please include the link to your blog post in the comments section so that I can find your post.)


* Post your entry as a comment — if you do this, please make sure I’ve got your email address, because if you’re the winner I’ll need your email address to contact you regarding your shipping information.

Here’s the giveaway fine print:

* Giveaway is open to US residents only
* Be sure that you leave your email so that I can contact you
* Contest ends September 15, 2011; entries must be made on or before midnight, central time, September 14, 2011. Winner will be announced/contacted on September 16, 2011. Winner has 48 hours to respond; otherwise, I’ll draw another name.

The “Cherry Bomb” Bomb: An Ignorant Hetero Midwest Girl Reviews The Runaways Film

Cherie Currie and Joan Jett, back in the days when they were Runaways.

I don’t ever claim to be first with the reviews (I deal in old stuff, so why even rush to hop on the bandwagon with films about retro bands?), so you’ve likely already heard about, read reviews of, or even seen 2010’s The Runaways, starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning. Anyway…

The Runaways is an incredible film. You should see it. My only real comments are really about my impressions of myself…

I wasn’t actually going to write any sort of a review, but then I stumbled onto Susie Bright’s commentary:

“What is this Little Debbie BULLSHIT?” I said. “This is a disgrace.”

Director Floria Sigismondi’s “pretty-in-glam” Runaways promo wasn’t the underground punk scene I remember from Los Angeles in the 1970’s.

And then I thought, “Hey, someone needs to speak for the rest of the un-cool kids here in the Midwest.”

You see, I didn’t know of The Runaways until after there was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ I Love Rock and Roll.  That made it on the radar — and radio waves — in Midwest suburbia.  Heck, my mom was a HUGE fan of that song!  (Rock on, Mom!)

Before Bright’s commentary, I’d viewed the relationship between Jett and Currie as a more complicated version of the college lesbianism experience, mixed with drugs, celebrity-too-soon, and, sure, what looked in the film like a bit of opportunistic, if not predatory, moves on Jett’s part — which seemed more natural and less creepy than it sounds, really. And I don’t suppose Bright’s commentary really changes any of that. ( Or that my interpretation of the film is accurate; or even that the film was entirely explicit about many intimate aspects of their personal lives. It was, after all, a film; not a documentary.) But I feel it’s worth noting that Los Angeles is, and was, a million miles away from my Milwaukee suburban experience. Or even my imagining.

I was in gay bars in the 80’s. However, I’m sure they weren’t anything like the punk scenes you big coastal cities had. I’m sure even the leather and dungeon rooms would have seemed comical (at least by comparison at the time). But my point is that even though I wasn’t phobic, wasn’t ignorant, and therefore wasn’t shocked or put-off by anything in The Runaways that would have freaked my version of the world at that time, the sort of cultural context Bright feels was a necessary part of the story has me thinking… Maybe too much.

Yes, it may be accurate to say, as Bright does, that, “The Runaways band would not have happened, could not have been conceived, without the Underground Dyke Punk Groupie Slut culture that stretched from the San Fernando Valley to the bowels of Orange County,” but is it necessary to understand or appreciate the film, the story of (at least two of) the girls in the all-girls band?

Maybe it’s some sort of “ism” for a heterosexual chick to say it doesn’t matter; or at the very least, I’m being insensitive and dismissive to a movement. I certainly don’t mean to be.  Yet, I thought the film was about forging ahead against the odds, the isolating experience of individuals — of female individuals — and maybe all that cultural context wasn’t integral?  Then again, I’m always harping on the context of things, and certainly the counter-culture is as important in the story of where this band, these women, sat as the cultural norms I was carrying in my own head.

I just can’t decide.

Because fundamentally, I felt the tidal waves of emotion of abuse (self, drug, management, the industry, etc.), dreams gained and lost, friendships, trust, creativity, and being a woman with little respect through it all… And I’m not sure that being more precise in the documentation or depiction of what Bright described as the scene at the time is would have enhanced that ride. Though I guess I’ll never know because that film hasn’t been made.

At the end of The Runaways, I was left wanting to discover what others already had; the music of the band itself. (And the music each made with other bands and in solo careers — save, perhaps, for Lita Ford.  Hubby had a crush on her, so her discs are around… Plus, at the end of The Runways, I didn’t like her. Sure, I understood what motivated her snits; but ick.)   Though, what Susie Bright said now not only colors my thoughts about the film, but thoughts about the music as well.

Such is the plight of one who thinks too much, I suppose.

Can I continue to rock to Crimson & Clover without having any such thoughts of celebrating a “dyke rock’n’roll legacy” — and not have that be dismissive or exclusionary, not have it be a political or social statement at all? Yes, I think I can. So I think I can enjoy The Runaways as a film without any of that too.

I think that’s the question, and the answer.  For me.

I’ll tell you how that works as I listen to more of the music.  …Maybe watch the film again.

PS The end of the movie left you rather feeling like Cherie had relegated herself to, or was even happy with, some sort of boring mainstream life after the band split. Clearly the film focused on Jett. (Odd because the movie was based largely on Currie’s autobiography, Neon Angel: A Memoir of a Runawayoriginally published in 1989; reprinted to coincide with the film.) But Currie’s life indeed went on.  Cherie also went on to play more music; to marry and divorce from Robert Hays (of Airplane! — what an odd pairing in my mind) — they even had a son, Jake Hays, who accompanied his mom and dad at The Runaways premier, and to rock the art as a chainsaw chick.

MTV Cared About Your Breasts

Over a decade before Rethink Breast Cancer & MTV News Canada launched (to public outcry; video), and the Women Rock! Girls & Guitars breast cancer benefit too, MTV had the High Priority campaign against breast cancer.  (You can be cynical, and view MTV’s interest as self-interest — be it sexist preservation of the sweater-puppets which jiggled in videos, or a way to combat judgement that rock videos and music television would be the end of civilization, but whatever MTV’s motives, they’re active in PSAs.) The campaign began in 1984, but my thrift store find is the 1987 High Priority album.

(I say “find” because up until spotting for $1 at a thrift shop I was ignorant of this MTV effort. In my defense, we didn’t have cable; our family only managed to get a color TV in the late 70s or early 80s — but we were the first to have a microwave oven. My parents only got a video player after I moved out; and they just got cable two or three years ago. So that tells you something about our family values. And why, even if we had cable, I would have likely opted to read anyway instead.)

The profits from this album went to the AMC Cancer Research Center. The album cover featured unfinished, yet signed, art by Andy Warhol on the front; monthly self breast exam info and other cancer prevention tips on the back; and ten songs from leading female performing artists of the time:

Side One

Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves; Aretha Franklin with The Eurythmics
Manic Monday; Bangles
I Can’t Wait; Stevie Nicks
You Give Good Love; Whitney Houston
Time After Time; Cyndi Lauper

Side Two

Oh People; Patti Labelle
Le Bel Age; Pat Benatar
Nothing At All; Heart
I Feel The Magic; Belinda Carlisle
Slave To The Rhythm; Grace Jones
More Than Physical; Bananarama

While the High Priority Campaign holds no “remember when” significance, the songs and artists do.  So I’m lovin’ listening to it. Grrl power!!

Want it? Infrequently posted on eBay; less expensive at Amazon.

If You Believe “Good Guys Finish Last…”

It’s easy to be pessimistic today, especially when it comes to business. Those of us not in the upper two percent, those of us with little in our pockets but our sweaty palms, those of us who don’t just feel beaten-up by big business but have the financial and even physical marks to prove it, those of us who are the “other” under the heels of the “us” that is Corporate America, we can easily draw the conclusion that the only time virtue comes up is when the fat cats greedily giggle over their “there’s no virtue in business besides money” mantra.

These feelings infiltrate, or, if you prefer “trickle down” (the only time the principal actually appears to work) into every aspect of our world, at every level. From realized fears of neglect and victimization in our political system to the mentalities of school bullies, controlling abusers, and national “pro-life” terrorists., it seems we are increasingly forced to live in a black & white world of virtue — and to consider which side we are on… Should we remain the down-trodden good guy who will finish last, if at all? Or should we give in to the dark side, just to survive?

I hear this echoed in discussions everywhere.  Activists wondering if they should adopt the same tactics their opponents successfully use.  Entrepreneurs who cringe at identifying themselves as such because of what “being in business” implies. Parents wondering how they can continue to teach their children to be “good,” “fair,” and “generous,” when their children see what the rich and ruthless reap.

It seems hopeless.

Enter hope. Or rather enchantment.

Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions, by Guy Kawasaki is primarily touted as a business book — a small-business or entrepreneurial manifesto. And sure, it works for that. But more than that, Kawasaki’s book explores the power of enchantment.

Enchantment can occur in villages, stores, dealerships, offices, boardrooms, and on the Internet. It causes voluntary change of hearts and minds and therefore actions. It is more than manipulating people to help you to get your way. Enchantment transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility. It reshapes civility into affinity. It changes skeptics and cynics into believers.

Firstly, Enchantment is a breath of fresh, good, air; it’s an affirmation that good guys and gals don’t have to finish last. And there are real stories, real cases, of real good people who are examples.

Secondly, Kawasaki outlines the principals of enchantment — sound psychological principals and insights into human behavior that are easy to read and even easier to comprehend.

Thirdly, the book inspires action.  Heart lightened with the affirmation and validation that Good is indeed good, heart warmed by the examples of Good successful people, and armed with the knowledge of how it all works, you, the reader, are inspired to live enchantingly.

It’s good that you are inspired because the author is now going to offer you opportunities to implement the strategies.

Kawasaki provides a checklist of things to consider and opportunities to explore, rather like self-help books do. (In the book’s Coverphon, there’s evidence neither the author nor the publisher would like this “soft” self-help comparison; but I think the work is to be commended for it’s uplifting, affirming, readily understood, easy to incorporate strategies as well as it’s “hard” business acumen.)

And, yes, the author includes plenty of tips and methods for businesses and entrepreneurs to put to work online (i.e. push and pull technologies such as email, Twitter, Facebook, websites and blogs, etc.).

While nearly all stories, prompts and checklists are business related (including chapters on how to enchant your boss, resist enchantment, etc.), there’s no reason the information couldn’t be applied to any facet of your life, including parenting. Where else does one need to model integrity more?

(There are even concrete stories for you to counter wise-ass remarks from kids who dare you to prove that greed and might are the only ways to get ahead — in fact, stories and examples that suggest that life ought not to be viewed as a race in which one must “get ahead,” but rather how to work for the betterment of many.)

In short, Enchantment is just the breath of fresh air that good guys and gals need to reaffirm their vows to be a person of delightful integrity. It gives us the tips to enchant — and the permission to be enchanted with ourselves.

PS If you do buy a copy of Enchantment, you might want to know about this enchanting offer from Guy:

When people anywhere in the world buy a copy of Enchantment in any form (paper, recording, or ebook), they can get a free copy of Garr’s book called Presentation Zen.

Presentation Zen is one of the best books ever written about making great presentations. Seth Godin said this about it: “Please don’t buy this book! Once people start making better presentations, mine won’t look so good.”

Disclaimer: I was given a free review copy of this book. While the free copy was appreciated and enjoyed, the fact that it was free has no bearing on this review or the contents of this post — other than the legal requirement to make such a statement.

Ranch Romances & Adventures

Ranch Romances & Adventures, May, 1971.

Ranch Romances & Adventures

Contrary to what Jack Martin/Gary Dobbs says, I do not see Ranch Romance (& Adventures) magazines as primarily for women.

Jack/Gary says they must be “aimed at young women since all of the stories have a romantic element to them.” But come on now, dude, I know this may be difficult for a man who loves Westerns to admit but the whole genre – from books to films — is nothing but male romance novels and dick flicks. Sure, there’s some action in there; but the guns and body counts are there to win the damsel, the dame — the 500 miles he would walk just to fall down at her door.

Stop living in denial.

You men are just as much suckers for romance as we women are. You want to read about a good chaste kiss, a ravishing bodice ripping — and this publication proves it.

Or does it… Perhaps I am biased more than a bit by my feminine experiences and feminist equality-seeking nature. For over at Laurie’s Wild West, Laurie Powers shares the story behind the pulp magazine, using the publication founder’s own words. Harold Hersey claimed full credit for launching Ranch Romances in September 1924 (The “Adventures” joined the “Ranch Romances” in 1969) in his biography, Pulpwood Editor. Hersey writes:

My home run was Ranch Romances. I conceived of the idea of combining the Western and the love themes in a single magazine under the title of Western Love Stories. Our distributors considered it too close an imitation of the Street & Smith titles. We were told to think up another. The result was Ranch Romances and it was an almost instantaneous hit with women readers. Instead of the cowboy hero, we offered the cowgirl heroine. Bina Flynn, the editor we chose to handle the fresh idea, built the magazine into a huge success.

While I think combining Westerns and Romances is redundant, either I’m wrong — or Hersey’s another one of these men afraid to admit the romantic truth about men. Maybe, just maybe, the truth of Ranch Romances‘ success lies in the complicated truth of this simple line: “Instead of the cowboy hero, we offered the cowgirl heroine.”

Vintage Ranch Romances Magazine

Women likely responded to dreaming the possible dream of a strong female heroine who was still desired by men. Men likely felt reciprocally reassured that even today’s ballsy woman still could be wooed and won by a macho male. (However, as always, the stories end before the truly difficult part of meshing roles and living happily ever after begins; like dirty dishes in the sink, no one wants to get to that part.)

Laurie Powers touches on some of this modernized gender stuff in her post too, so read that as Exhibit A. And as further proof of the male adoption of this publication I’ll let you know that the previous owner of my May 1971 issue was male. And check out the sexist ad on the back cover.

Anyway, this Ranch Romances & Adventures I have makes me sad. (It probably made others sad too as it was the publication’s last year.)

Ranch Romances may have been more of a pulp publication, prior to the mid-1960s at least, with fantastic graphics and fantasy fiction, but by this point the magazine was more personals ads digest than pulpy delight.

Of course, I may be biased. Again. I prefer the vintage styles more than the retro ones, and my “like” barometer is built upon that grading system. But from what I’ve seen and read, Rance Romances & Adventures is a desperate combination of personal pleas and ads designed to make money off those in despair.

(I’ll be sharing more of scans from this particular issue here and over at Kitschy Kitschy Coo as Valentine’s Day approaches.)

British Ladies Cat Fight With American Women, 1832

Since I love old beauty tips and their cultural context, I was intrigued by A Slip of a Girl’s posts sharing clippings from the March 1831 issue of Atkinson’s Casket (aka The Casket).  In that same issue, found via Google Books, I found this great article on painting on glass — but I wanted more.

In another issue, from 1832, this incredible review of Frances Trollope‘s Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832):

Mrs. Trollope has treated America with the same liberality, and her success in depicting the character of our people, has been nearly as great as captain Hall’s. An unsuccessful speculation in Cincinnati, awakened, it appears, the indignation of Madame T. and she forthwith—with the assistance of the notorious Fanny Wright, with whom she travelled, and whose abominable doctrines she appears to have imbibed—resolved to glut her revenge by writing a book. No doubt she is now satisfied, for she has the pleasure of seeing it stated in print, sanctioned by her name, that the Americana are the most illnatured, ungenerous, wicked, illiterate and vulgar people on the face of the earth ; that their moral sentiment is less elevated than that of the savages, and that the half-horse and half-alligator population of the Mississippi Valley, are as uncouth and as barbarous as a nation of Ourangutangs.

Mrs. Trollope, however, certainly unwittingly, pays American ladies, a very high compliment. Having fixed upon the society of Almacks as the criterion by which to examine the character of our ladies, she finds that they are all utterly destitute of polish; of that easy, lady like deportment, by which English ladies are distinguished throughput the world, and entirely ignorant of those amiable accomplishments in maneuvering, &c. which give her own countrywomen so strong an influence over their husbands. Our ladies are too modest in their behaviour and dress, to meet the views of Mrs. T. ; in company they want loquacity ; they seldom visit theatres; they arc respectful to their husbands, and indefatigable in instructing their children ; they are but indifferent dancers, and speak Italian shockingly incorrect ; and finally they are not carried away with foolish and ridiculous fashions. All these are serious faults in the opinion of the immaculate Trollope, and she vents her spleen at them in no measured terms.

Trollope’s sentiments seem very much to echo those of this article from 1907 — so much so, that I double-checked that Trollope was indeed deceased in 1863. However, as this article, titled British Cockney Writers, shows, this apparently was quite the trend during this period.

Included in this issue of Atkinson’s Casket are some excerpts or “extracts” — of which I found the following quite amusing:

The ladies have strange ways of adding to their charms. They powder themselves immoderately, face, neck, and arms, with pulverised starch; the effect is indescribably disagreeable by daylight, and not very favorable at any time. They are also most unhappily partial to false hair,which they wear in surprising quantities; this is the more to be lamented, as they generally have very fine hair of their own. I suspect this fashion to arise from an indolent mode of making their toilette, and from accomplished ladies’ maids not being very abundant; it is less trouble to append a bunch of waving curls here, there and every where, than to keep their native tresses in perfect order.

Though the expense of the ladies’ dress greatly exceeds, in proportion to their generalstyle of living, that of the ladies of Europe, it is very far (excepting in Philadelphia) from being |n good taste. They do not consult the seasons in tne colors, or in the style of their costume; 1 have often shivered at seeing a young beauty picking her way through the snow with a pale rose-colored bonnet, set on the very top of her head: I knew one young lady whose pretty little ear was actually frost-bitten from being thus exposed.— They never wear muffs or boots, and appear extremely shocked at the sight of comfortaole walking shoes, and cotton stockings, even when they have to step to their sleighs over ice and snow.

They walk in the middle of winter with their poor little toes pinched into a miniature slipper, incapable of excluding as much moisture as might bedew a primrose. I must say in their excuse, however, that they have, almost universally, extremely pretty feet. They do not walk well, nor, in fact, do they ever appear to advantage when in movement. I know not why this should be, for they have abundance of French dancing masters among them, but somehow or other it is the fact. I fancied I could often trace a mixture of affectation and of shyness in their little mincing unsteady step, and the ever changing position of the hands. They do not dance well; perhaps 1 should rather say, they do not look well when dancing; lovely as their faces arc, they cannot, in a position that exhibits the whole person, atone for the want of tournun-. and for the universal defect in the formation of the bust, which is rarely full, or gracefully formed.

PS Apparently this had all been previously published in The Saturday Evening Post; the connections between and history of The Casket and The Saturday Evening Post are well documented here.

The View From Here, Part II

So, like Stacy (who gave birth during The View), I’ve spent the last few weeks as a Brand Ambassador for The View and thought I should share some of my thoughts on the experience. I’ve blogged about a few of the shows, but I think the most interesting conversations were those I had with friends and family.

Most of my closest friends are internet friendships — not only because my life as a freelance writer keeps me glued to my monitor, but because these friendships have been formed on mutual interests and issues. As a result, we all seem to have the same likes and dislikes about The View — most especially our feelings regarding the ladies of The View. For example, we love and trust Whoopi, Joy, and Barbara as steadfastly as we pity and mistrust Elisabeth and Sherri. However, I have several family members who feel exactly the opposite.

Perhaps most interesting is that after all these years of watching, after all the Hot Topics discussion, we each continue to remain rather married to these feelings, beliefs and attitudes despite our firm belief that it’s through this discussion, both the ladies on the show and our less public personal conversations, that we not only can but will learn, grow and change.

Yet, I remain as heatedly fixed on Hasselbeck’s righteous fear-based stupidity (yes, “stupidity,” because she cannot claim ignorance) applied as fear mongering to limit and control others as I’ve always been.

Heck, I still get hot about Hasselbeck‘s confusion between love and sex, her insistence that fairy tales are sex education, and her preaching that the only way we can be saved from the realities of the world we all live in is to stick our heads in the sand — including forcing everyone to join her under said sand and limiting the rights of others even further; she discriminates and insists we all do it with her! That was years ago and my ire won’t die. Not until such stupidity is gone and done.

But neither does the support of Hasselbeck’s position.

So does The View really do what we all believe it will?

Perhaps not — if the only way one measures the importance of such talks is a change in position. But if you consider the benefit of talking in other ways…

Most of the time we take the high road and agree to disagree, taking it to the extreme of avoiding such conversations out of respect. But the cost of doing so is that we avoid the issues.

With The View, we have a frame for the conversation, a table to sit at, and, perhaps best of all, a time frame for discussion. If we listen and talk with each other and then move along to the next thing — be it an issue we agree on, a celebrity interview, or some shopping thing — we have set limits and prove that we can discuss, agree to disagree, and still connect on other issues. Our conversations can be challenging but our relationships need not be challenged.

This, however, is thwarted by The View‘s time slot.

Too many people work days when The View airs. Watching “together” even though miles apart isn’t the only problem; TiVo space and hours in the day not being infinite, intentions of watching later may pave the road to hell. Even watching episodes online is problematic… Even if these family members of mine use the internet (and many of them don’t use it beyond email & photo sharing), it’s just not the same viewing experience.

Maybe ABC should consider giving The View an additional evening showing.  Who wouldn’t rather watch it than another same-old Jay Leno dealio?


As a Brand Ambassador for The View, I am a participant in a Mom Central campaign for ABC Daytime and will receive a tote bag or other The View branded items to facilitate my review; as you can tell from my long-winded posts about The View, the tote or whatever I may get is not my priority, but I mention it to be ethical.

Of Brown Marie, Yellow Marie, And Pickaninny (Or, Of Racism In The Toy Wife)

I don’t think I can let Black History Month go by without mentioning 1938’s The Toy Wife.

Primarily the movie is the story of Frou Frou (played by Luise Rainer), a woman found to be so guilty of a frivolous nature, so childlike in her approach to life, that she must suffer the wrath of The Motion Picture Production Code (aka the Hays Code or Hollywood Code). But I think any woman or thinking man who watched the film will see that others are not only guilty of perpetuating her frivolous nature, but of exploiting it as well — especially those who claim to love her.

In many ways, Frou Frou, the character, reminds me much of Norma Jean Baker, or at least the creation of Marilyn Monroe… A woman literally and figuratively corseted by the studios to be “feminine charms personified,” who was then resented and mistreated by the very persons who had shaped her. (Any feminists reading here likely can feel the echoes of such things in their own lives.)

Jaynie’s done a great job in her review of the movie, so I’ll leave it at that and get onto the other thing to note about this film: the racial issues.

Heck, slavery and racism are so prominent in this film that it’s used as proof of Frou Frou’s poor frivolous and immature state.

Her inability to manage her household and slaves leaves her poor husband dealing with bickering slaves; leaving us to conclude that Frou Frou is so childish, she cannot even manage the childish Negros.

Sure, The Toy Wife is a period piece set during the Civil War on a plantation — with all that implies. But unlike Gone With The Wind, The Toy Wife shocks with insights into the treatment of slaves.

We see the traditionally accepted sanitized version of supposed mutual devotion and affection between master and slaves, both on individual bases and and in groups — such as when the mistress of the household stand on the magnificent steps of her plantation mansion and leads the slaves in prayer.

We see Frou Frou slap her slave, something which tells as much about the immediate situation straining their close relationship (you know how women are so willing to slap one another’s face when we get peeved *snort*) as it depicts slave relations.

But we also see and hear family slaves threatened with whippings and being sold, the rather nonchalant pronouncement of such things by white folks punctuates their manipulation and mastery of human beings — exposing the very same frivolous, spoiled, childlike assumptive behavior that Frou Frou is charged with.

But perhaps most shocking is the story of Frou Frou’s devoted personal slave. Played by Theresa Harris (more here), this slave hasn’t any name — they just call her “Pic” (or “Pick”) short for pickaninny.

We discover this supposedly amusing fact when Frou Frou returns home after years away, being schooled abroad. One by one the female slaves identify themselves — including both Maries who individualize themselves as “Brown Marie” and “Yellow Marie.” You will see and hear it in this YouTube clip (at roughly 37 seconds) but Pic’s story, which should immediately follow once the young woman is spotted beneath the stairs, has been (curiously and infuriatingly) omitted.

So while The Toy Wife offers a sad story of womanhood, it also offers an historical slice of southern pie that’s hard to swallow.

But you should watch it. It’s a wonderful film, capturing so many moments of truth… Even if a lot of them are ugly and painful.

Book Review Blog Carnival #36

Welcome to the 36th Book Review Blog Carnival — and welcome to my weirdly organized little library.

Why a “weirdly organized little library?” Well…

Doing these carnivals is always a lot of work — fun, but work. It’s not just the volume of submissions, but the sorting through them… You have to categorize them, and I find that “by subject” is nearly as subjective as a book review itself. And, as a reader, it’s hard not to “buy subjects” aka find books which will make your wish list, if not your to-be-read pile. Which is a completely personal thing.

So, this carnival is broken down into rather arbitrary classifications. Other than the first set (intrigued enough to buy), they are in no particular order; and they are in no particular order within the categories either.

Intrigued Enough By The Reviews To Put Them On My Wish List:

Nicole Langan of Tribute Book Reviews says that Silent Girl, a collection of short stories by Tricia Dower, is “a tour de force from an author employing Shakespearean characters as a springboard for illustrating the condition of modern women.” (Sounds completely yummy!)

Sparky Bates got the old synapses firing reading Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar, by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein over at Accidental Reads.

Cold SnapDragon reviews Plains Song, regrettably said to be the only book by Wright Morris still in print.

Frequent Shoppers & Brown-Nosers:

At Mysteries in Paradise, KerrieS has been busy. She reviewed The Brass Verdict, a legal thriller set in Los Angeles by Michael Connelly; Consequences Of Sin, crime fiction by Clare Langley-Hawthorne set in Edwardian London; Blood Of The Wicked, crime fiction by Leighton Gage set in Brazil involving the assassination of a bishop; and Stephen King’s latest release for Kindle, UR. (When does she eat?!)

Dimes2Vines has been reading well, and presumably snacking less, reviewing Red Light, Green Light, Eat Right, a book designed to help parents teach their children about healthy habits, and Prime-Time Health, by Dr. William Sears with his wife, Martha Sear, RN.

Bernadette reviews Mistress of the Art of Death, historical crime fiction that’s “loaded with wit,” and The Rule Book, “brilliant debut crime fiction novel” by Rob Kitchin, over at Reactions to Reading.

Brown-Nosers Who Made Me Put Two Books On My Wish List:

At The Truth About Lies, Jim Murdoch sinks his teeth into The Mimic Men by V S Naipaul, a novel about British rule and dependency — which really really whets my appetite. He also reviews the latest volume of The Paris Review Interviews.

Over at Home Biz Notes, Mary Emma Allen got snuggly under the covers with some strange bedfellows… She’s posted reviews of Building Brand Value the Playboy Way and This I Accomplish: Harriet Powers’ Bible Quilt and Other Pieces.

Kids, Parents & Home:

Dave Roller, Home School Dad, was researching poets for a poetry teaching unit when he found Poems for Children Nowhere Near Old Enough to Vote, a book of children’s poetry by Carl Sandburg published posthumously. He says the book is “fantastic!” (This might yet make my wish list…)

Shaunta Alburger dishes on Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annailse G. Roberts over at Live Once Juicy.

Amanda CMJ names and reviews her Favorite Book in 2009: Nurtureshock over at Yield to Pedestrian.


Terence Gillespie (understandably) gets whipped into a frenzy reading One Nation, Under Surveillance — Privacy From the Watchful Eye over at Your Optimal.

Tim, A Progressive on the Prairie, reviews The Last Train from Hiroshima by Charles Pellegrino. (Which reminds me, it’s always strange to say you love a book about such horrific real-life things, isn’t it?)

Erm, ditto my sentiments for Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures, reviewed by Alyce at At Home With Books (which could have gone in the kids/parenting section too, I suppose — but it’s horrific too, right?)

OK, maybe it’s not much better when it’s fiction which plays on real fears… Meg reviews The Lovely Bones (now a much-advertised film) over at Simpson’s Paradox.

Speaking of real fears, over at at I’ll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book!, Clark Bjorke read Going Rogue, so we don’t have to. Though I do think you’ll want to read the review *wink*

Awesome Idea For A Book Club:

At Be the Change Bookclub, Meg presents Small is Possible: Life in a Local Economy, a collection of stories about the successes and failures of attempts to build a sustainable economy and thriving community.


At Incurable Disease of Writing, Missy Frye says Listen by Rene Gutteridge is “a superbly crafted treatise on taking responsibility for our words as it lays bare the damage they can do.” Proof that truth lives in fiction.

Ms. Smarty Pants reviews Potato Branch by Joe Richard Morgan — a series of short stories by her high school English teacher about his childhood. (That had to be weird, huh?)

Robert Hall can’t contain himself — he must talk about Just After Sunset, Duma Key, and Under The Dome over at All Things Stephen King.

Money Matters:

At Blueprint for Financial Prosperity, Jim recommends that we all Get Financially Naked. (What else can seduce – err, induce you to go read it besides the title?!)

At RabbitFunds.com Adam Williams was pleasantly surprised by inspirational author Richard Paul Evans’ The 5 Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me.

The Smarter Wallet reviews The Smart Cookies’ Guide To Making More Dough — with a foreword by Jean Chatzky.


Glenda A. Bixler reviews A Slow Burn, the second book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy Christian fiction series over at Book Reader’s Heaven.

Sandie of Bumples Family First offers up another helping of Chicken Soup For the Soul: Count Your Blessings.

At Sue’s Book Reviews, Sue reviews A Smile on the Face of God, by Adrian Plass. She says it’s worth hunting down.


Andy Hayes of Travel Online Partners (TOP) submitted his brief review of Seth Godin’s new ebook, What Matters Now saying, “Just because it’s an eBook doesn’t mean it can’t change your life.” I can’t argue with that — or a free download. *wink*

Thanks to all who submitted — I found a lot of cool books and blogs too!

Got book reviews? Submit them to the carnival! Love books? Visit the carnival home page for past & future editions of the carnival.

There Are Flowers In The Attic

flowers-in-the-attic-original-paperback-coverWhen V.C. Andrews’ Flowers In The Attic was published in 1979, it became all the rage for a teenage girl to read it — and by ‘the rage’ you can presume not only the inclusion of the outrage of those who prefer to censor for all rather than interact with their children as well as the rebellion of teens who wanted to flaunt their right to inflame. And I was one of them.

I can’t imagine there’s anyone who doesn’t, 30 years later, know the story of the four Dollanganger children locked in an attic. But if you don’t…

A) you can find reviews via the comments and ‘links to this post’ at The V.C. Andrews Movement / Reading Challenge

and 2) you might want to stop reading this post now — because while I’m not going give a classic book review, I will be discussing the reading of this book and my reactions to it, which certainly will contain spoilers.

I don’t recall buying the book (I believe my younger sister, ever much-hipper and popular than I, got it and I feasted on her literary leftovers), but in any case, I definitely recall reading Flowers In The Attic as a teen. (It was the paperback version, so that would have been when I was about 16.) In fact, it was an incredibly vivid book, which left its marks (marks — not scars) on me. It haunted me so that I had planned to name my son Cory, after that ill-fated twin, in some sort of sentimental attempt to wipe away the sins or offer retribution via resurrection. But before I would come to that decision I would have to find redemption for myself and my reading habits.

I was horrified reading Flowers In The Attic. I’d read Gothic novels before; I’d read so-called smut before. But nothing disturbed me like this V.C. Andrews novel had — and the rumors that it was based in truth did not help my ambiguity at all.

I was repelled by what I was reading — yet compelled to continue reading it. I couldn’t put it down and walk away from it… Why was I reading this creepy story about a cruelty and performed on children by family members? Especially as I’d elected to neither watch Sybil nor read the book just a few years before simply because it was too horrifying. How was I now reading this book — and sympathizing with incest and rape?! And, heaven help me, I was itching to get the next book in the series. It was scary and confusing and it made me question my own morality.

I could have gone to my parents with my feelings; they were open and easy to talk with, as I’ve described before. But I figured whatever I was going to have to articulate to them, I ought to be able to articulate to myself — and so figure it out for myself from there. And let’s be honest, there was a significant about of shame which kept me from admitting what I was thinking and feeling to anyone else.

So I endeavored to struggle through it on my own.

Eventually I learned that my fascination was simply that of a reader drawn to a compelling story, into the lives and emotions of characters. The creepy and horrifying things were supposed to be creepy and horrifying — I was supposed to cringe and feel crazed for those characters (and despise others). And if I allowed (or was willing to have) the author manipulate and suspend my disbelief into feeling for these characters to the extent that I sympathized (or even romanticized in the Gothic sense) the matters of sibling sex and rape (if not classic violent rape, that scene certainly raises questions of ability to consent), I was not some lewd damaged being caught up in some literary Stockholm syndrome-esque relationship with the author — the very fact that I was bothered enough to be forced to sort through so many shades of grey (and pure evil) proved that. If I was engrossed enough in the characters to want to cheer them on through darkness to some sort of victory and happiness, I was simply human.

By the time the sequel, Petals on the Wind, was released in paperback, I had no qualms about reading it. I would go on, with a clear conscious, to read the entire series (save for the prequel), but I never did name anyone Cory. I got over it.

Being reminded of this book recently, I wondered if it would still have such a powerful effect on me; so I decided to get a copy and read it again.

I titled this post There Are Flowers In The Attic for two reasons. The first one is that in rereading the book, I was again moved. Yes, it’s lighter fiction than I am used to reading (perhaps not young adult reading per se, but light in literary terms), but the dark subject matter still moves. I did spot continuity errors (in two places, Andrews confuses the two twins with one another, which made for bumpy & annoying rereading), but it’s still a solidly creepy, horrific novel.

The second reason the flowers remain in the attic refers to a parenting opportunity.

flowers-in-the-attic-vc-andrewsWhen the 13 year old spotted the ‘scary cover’ of the book, she hinted (she’s forever hinting, not asking) that she’d like to read it. Being that there is a strong sibling effect, I knew the oldest daughter would then want to read what ‘we’ were reading.

Both are pretty strong readers, but the eldest, 20, is an Auspie, so she might have additional confusion reading this book, and the 13 year old has abandonment and other issues resulting from her mentally ill, neglectful biological mother. Suffice it to say, I had concerns how either of them would process the book’s subject matter. So I sat them both down to talk about the book and its content.

I told them that I had no problems with either of them reading the book, but that I wanted them to know that the book was scary — and at was at this point that they interrupted me, laughing about how they watch and enjoy scarier movies than I do. Which is true, but, as I explained to them, Flowers In The Attic was far scarier because it wasn’t about vampires, zombies or other fictional monsters; people did the horrible things.

Mothers and grandmothers abused their own children (the girls’ faces fell) — and as a result, the children themselves did things which would, I supposed based on my own reaction to the book, make the girls uncomfortable.

“What things?” they asked.

“There’s some inappropriate sex,” I replied, not wanting to completely spoil the book for them.

There was a pause; no laughing now.

I told them that the book had made me feel creepy and I was ashamed I continued to read it — so much so, that I was too embarrassed to talk to my parents (their benevolent grandparents) about it. So if they wanted to read it, and they felt uncomfortable, they should feel free to quit reading it, talk to someone about how they felt, or both. (This is a general ‘rule’ we teach the kids; but I felt the need to be specific about it with this book.)

The girls looked at each other and then at me, sitting there with my eyebrows arched into question marks. The 13 year old passed on reading it (I suspect it was the ‘sex’ part; she’s quite the prude). The eldest took a look at the book, read the back of it, and said she’d look for more books by the author at the library the next time she was there.

On one hand, I fear I may have not only ruined a potential good read for them but removed their individual opportunity to struggle with their own morality… My intent was not to censor or turn them off of the book.

But on the other hand, I was honest about the book, the subject matter and issues which might arise, and left it to them to decide for themselves what they could handle and/or were interested in reading; and that, in my opinion, is what parents should do.

Even if I denied them the chance to bloom as readers with this specific book, there will be others — there are always others. I hope our continuing discussions about books, and my respect for them as readers, is simply more seed sowing.

FYI, The Complete V.C. Andrews has a contest to win a copy of the newly released Flowers in the Attic/Petals on the Wind bind-up (two books in one) edition to give away.

Whatjamacallit Wednesday: Soap Opera Challenge, Y&R Edition

young-and-the-restless-soap-opera-challenge-gameHubby grabbed this 1987 Soap Opera Challenge game for me at a rummage sale this summer for a buck or two and I’ve just now gotten around to attempting to play it.

This particular game in the series by The United States Playing Card Company is based on television’s The Young and the Restless daytime soap. There were several others in the series — and had I either the As The World Turns or Guiding Light versions, I might have fared far better… As it is, my puny knowledge of the Y&R was limited to either my high school summers (1979-1982) when my sister insisted upon watching it because she discovered that the show’s fictional Genoa City, Wisconsin, was based on the very real — and visited — Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, and a few episodes in my freshman year of college (1982-83), when the boys in the dorms insisted upon watching it. (Though most of them locked their dorm doors and pretended not to be ‘home’ whilst watching the show, Y&R had a huge male following at the University of Whitewater; mostly the same guys who watched pro-wrestling, so no surprises there, really.)

Anyway, since the Soap Opera Challenge games are, as you’ve likely surmised, trivia games, my lack of viewing of the soap itself, especially around 1987, impedes my ability to play the game with any success. If you were a fan you’ll likely do much better — though that’s not saying much, because I stink.

However, I endeavor to be fair in my reviews and my lack of knowledge isn’t the game’s fault. While pretending that can fathom just who Jack Curtzynski is/was and so make a guess as to who his first wife was won’t quit cut it, I will focus on the game’s play.

ynr-tv-soap-challenge-game-legendThe game itself consists of a game die and deck of 54 question & answer trivia cards, categorized as Love Affairs & Friendships, The Family Tree, Characters & Circumstance, Disappearing Acts, It’s A Crime, and Challenge Plus (“Outrageous questions challenge even the most devoted soap opera fan. It’s in the name of the game!”). Each of the six categories is represented by it’s own icon (Broken Heart, Tree, Theater Masks, Question Mark, Scales, and a Star, respectively) which are then repeated on the game die.

Here’s how it’s played:

Two or more players gather. Each rolls the die and the player who rolls the Star goes first.

Game play begins with a (fresh) roll of the die. The player to the right of the die-rolling player picks a card off the deck (with questions facing ‘up’) and asks the question which corresponds to the icon on the die. If the question is answered incorrectly, the card is placed at the bottom of the deck and the player on the right begins their turn. If the question is answered correctly, the roller keeps the card and rolls again until she gives an incorrect answer.

When there are no more remaining cards, each player counts the cards they ‘won’ and the player with the most cards (correct answers) wins.

There also is a Solitaire version of play. In this version, the player draws a card from the deck, rolls the die to determine the question category, and takes a stab at answering 54 questions (one question off of each card). Cards answered correctly are placed to create a ‘yes’ or ‘correct’ pile; cards answered incorrectly are placed to create a ‘no’ pile. After going through the entire deck, the player counts all the number of cards in the ‘correct’ pile:

If there are 27 or more cards in the ‘correct’ pile in front of you, you are a winner and a devoted soap opera fan.

If there are less than 27 cards in the ‘correct’ pile, don’t take it to heart, these questions are truly a ‘Soap Opera Challenge.’

Again, I can’t really experience the joy of playing, let alone winning, this game; but if you are a Y&R fan — who knows the show’s history — I can’t see why you wouldn’t dig it. A gaggle of giggling girl’s night guests who know the soap opera’s score (and who scored with whom) would have fun; and lonely girls with a half-gallon of ice cream could distract themselves well enough.

And, if all else fails, you could turn it into a drinking game by having the loser take a shot for failing. Just be sure that stinky players such as myself do not drive themselves home.


The Very Best From Hallmark: Greeting Cards Through The Years

the-very-best-from-hallmark-book-coverThe Very Best from Hallmark: Greeting Cards Through the Years, by Ellen Stern, is not a collector’s guide, really; there are no prices or discussion of the secondary market at all. However, savvy collectors and historians who view the world through pop culture vision glasses can learn much from this out of print book published in 1988, which is approaching collectibility itself.

Collectors who are lucky enough to find their cards represented here may ascertain their card’s publication date. Or identify potentially rare cards, such as those which were pulled as failures — like the time Hallmark inadvertently used an X-ray of human bowels rather than the intended heart X-ray for its “heart’s in the right place” card. (Pulled cards would mean fewer in circulation and even rarer finds for collectors — worthy of higher prices, certainly.) But mainly, collectors will gain more insight into greeting cards — in general, and, especially, the Hallmark variety.

(Clearly The Very Best from Hallmark is a corporate sanctioned publication, but I don’t think anyone can challenge Hallmark’s market share superiority or the company’s longevity — both of which speak to the book’s genuine insight into a culture that buys so many greeting cards.)

Ellen Stern’s introduction to the book gives a very brief history of the greeting card along with a rather erratic telling of the story of Joyce C. Hall, Hallmark’s founder. I realize Stern’s job of taking centuries of greeting card history and stuffing it — along with greater detail of the Hallmark company specifically — into a mere 12 pages (including space for images) is no small task; but something’s wrong when I have to re-read paragraphs over again to understand what she’s saying. However, when Stern gets into the aspects about the workings of Hallmark, from art department design to product marketing, she shines.

Here are a few gems:

On a trip to New York in the 1940s, accompanied by Hallmark’s head of corporate design and a couple of artists, [J.C. Hall] would visit Lord & Taylor, Bloomingdale’s, and Bonwit Teller — and there be ushered out because the group was taking too many notes on colors, styles, and windows displays. Everywhere he roamed he analyzed, assessed, and appreciated the wares and wonders…

I do this myself; but as I do my note-taking without entourage, I’ve never been escorted out.

In the 1940s and fifties, in department stores and card shops, Hallmark clerks adhered to a dress code — wearing only black, brown, navy, or charcoal gray — so as not to compete with the merchandise.

As a person who’s served a long retail sentence, I find that fascinating — and wonder why they changed the policy.

Dean Walley was a journalism major at the University of Missouri before joining Hallmark. Now one of the senior writers, he’s also the man who offers a marvelous course in American manners — and manners of speaking — to the artists and writers. Projecting slides of old cards from Hallmark’s archives on a small screen, he will rhapsodize on a colloquialism here, chuckle at an antiquated idea there, applaud an adjective, blast a dialect. He loves the high-falutin’ use of the word “grand,” the bravado of “staunch,” the evasiveness of “To a certain cheerful someone.” His sentimental olio embraces cards of every era, every province: a bluebird of the twenties chirping “Please Hurry Back,” a Dutch girl saying “To mine friend,” a tippler saying “Happy Birschday to You,” greetings to the dentist, a quack from Donald Duck. The point is that Hallmark writers must keep up with the language as it changes.

If you collect or read any vintage printed matter &/or antique publications, you know how true — and puzzling — this is; language is often as ephemeral as old paper itself. (Oh, how I’d love to dish with Dean Walley!)

And that’s all before we get to the over 750 images of vintage Hallmark cards.

Looking at the images, I reaffirm my love of vintage illustration. But it’s not all charming — or at least not all simply charming. There are things to note about our culture here.

vintage-hallmark-birthday-cardsSome of these things are noted by the author, like on page 45 where among the images of vintage greeting cards (birthday cards from the 1930s, shown at left) the author observes, “You couldn’t get a drink, but you could still say ‘Hell’ on a greeting card. By the fifties, it would be just the opposite.”

There have been many changes in deed; and our general history has been documented in this specific form of ephemera. In the forward, Stern has this to say:

The ups and downs of our economy, our hemlines, and our mood: such is the grist for the Hallmark mill. The days of our lives, as you will see on the following pages, are reflected in the cards of our days. Prohibition, fitness, the income tax, Vietnam, the G-man, the G.O.P., women’s suffrage, women’s lib, the radio, the jukebox, the computer, talkies, hula hoops, the Atom bomb, the gray flannel suit, the mini skirt, My Fair Lady, Huey Long, Mickey Mouse, the TV quiz show, the fireside chat, the Duchess of Windsor, Miss Piggy, Sputnik, the beatnik, Charlie Brown, Charles Lindbergh, canasta, Mussolini, rationing, cowboys, hippies, hillbillies, bobby soxers, flappers, the Dionne Quints, Valley Girls, the airplane, the blackout, the Crash. The seasons come, the seasons go, and Hallmark is up to the minute.

“Actually, says Bill Johnson [head of Hallmark’s public relations from 1966 to 1985], most cards reflect more everyday life than national events. And a national event does not in itself bring about a card. Most are ignored by the greeting card industry. It would be a folly to pretend that by looking at cards from 1920 to 1935, say, you’d get a full idea of what was going on in America.” But you get a pretty good one.

I think that’s true. Especially what Johnson says. But it’s here that we learn some things which are (rather miraculously) not noted by the author.

As you critical thinkers probably have noticed, there’s not a damn mention of civil rights. I didn’t not present them; they are not in the book (even though Beatniks garner two pages worth of attention).

vintage-hallmark-cards-with-kidsOK, I’ll admit a “civil rights” themed greeting card is probably not too likely to become a best seller, but where are the persons of color? In the over 750 images of “Hallmark’s best greeting cards, spanning seven crowded decades of American life,” I found exactly two cards of what I’ll call non-white people — that weren’t Mussolini or other rather racist depiction of foreign public political figures. I’m sure too that Hallmark made many more racist cards once upon a time — which they were too ashamed of to share in the book — but to not address the whole issue of race is odd… At least show more than two cards with black folks, right?

Whether or not Hallmark does or doesn’t make cards which are more reflective of our society is research I’ll leave for others; but we don’t see much represented here.

Then again, perhaps that’s a problem best explained by the context of the time at which this book was published.

This 1980s book makes clear choices to mention and display the G.O.P. several times (yet I found no clear representations of the Democratic Party) and the republicans of the 80’s certainly weren’t building their platform on civil rights; ultraconservative republicans disliked Affirmative Action and, in a backlash against it, President Ronald Reagan cut funding for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the civil rights division of the Justice Department. Of course, I could be connecting some dots based on those missing dots, creating an image that doesn’t really exist, but I don’t think so. I think the G.O.P. populist pride slant is part of the book’s construction.

But that doesn’t necessarily detract from the book either. At least not if you are a critical thinker. This book may have intended to document our American history through the social connection of greeting card commerce up to its then present day of 1988, but it also documents, through its selections and omissions, a view of that once present day of 1988 which is now a part of our history.

If this is the sort of stuff that fascinates you half as much as it does me, get a copy. (The book is not as common as you might think for a 1988 title; however, it’s not as rare as the Amazon listings might indicate, so check for it at eBay.) If you’re not sure yet, stick around; I’ll be discussing some more from this book during the next few weeks. (If I make the posts really long, I know you won’t read all of it!)

Of Long Fingernails & Gravediggers

in-the-land-of-long-fingernailsIn the Land of Long Fingernails: A Gravedigger in the Age of Aquarius isn’t a work of fiction, but with such a setting and characters like this, Charles Wilkins’ memoir reads as well as one.

In the summer of ’69, Wilkins took a job at a cemetery. The gig alone would be worthy of many stories — and they are in there, believe me — but being a memoir, Wilkins focuses on the people in the place. This may, to some, seem a bit silly — like he’s ignoring the, umm, meat of the situation. Especially when the inside flap of the dust jacket says, “Hardly a day passed that Wilkins did not witness some grim new violation of civility or law, or discover some unexplored threshold in his awareness of human behavior.” But by letting the gross and the grisly, the physical and emotional disturbances, be the backdrop for the stories for what living humans do to and for one another, Wilkins presents the reality of life lived in contrast with death that literally surrounds it. A reality most of us manage to avoid as blithely as we avoid becoming a gravedigger.

Mostly a group of manly-men who hide their lots in life, these gruff men grumble their intolerance of one another and complain about their labor; on the surface they are seemingly oblivious to their proximity to death and loss. But beneath this noise, it’s clear they are aware and questioning… They open coffins to take peeps inside, debate philosophy, and view the pomp & ceremony of religion as a capitalistic endeavor more than comforting faith. Who can blame them? But there’s also a certain poetry to this rag-tag lot of misfits too; from page 93:

“If there were such a thing as a soul, Wilkins, can you imagine what this kind of experience would do to it?” He glances upwards, taps his fingers on the coffin top.

“Wilkins,” he says, baiting me gently, “maybe there’s a soul, and it lasts only as long as the body.”

“And then what?”

“It becomes a story,” he says

Among the big issues of life and death, The Land Of Long Fingernails is a memoir and as such holds the coming of age story of the college-aged Wilkins; in light of all the gruesome, Wilkins grew some.

Readers can too.

In terms of the writing itself, there is one bump. Frankly speaking, the first nine paragraphs of chapter two should have been been the start of chapter one. Getting a close-up of the very real (yet renamed to protect the author and the not-so-innocent) Willowlawn Everlasting cemetery, only to be moved backward for the establishing shot of the 60’s culture was jarring. Rather like stumbling up a staircase, you eventually reach your destination, but really, did you need to be so startled? Fortunately, we recover quickly and Wilkins never makes such a mistake again.

The repellent realities of nature and the “Oh. My. Gawd. That’s unreal!” human actions (be they the repugnant human hypocrisy or cold calculating illegalities) are shocking — but neither they, nor the folks buried underground, are more powerful than the stories of the humans which dig, sculpt, and stamp about living upon the surface.

If Halloween is supposed to be the time at which we explore the veil between the living and the dead, then now is the perfect time to read In The Land Of Long Fingernails; however I wouldn’t limit the book so seasonally. A highly recommended read.

New Vintage Reviews Carnival, 7th Edition

Welcome to the seventh edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival, where we review “old stuff” — from the classics to the forgotten — that is likely new to someone…


Jaynie discusses Spencer Tracy as a father on film in Father’s Little Dividend over at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

Yours Truly reviews The Adventures of Ford Fairlane over at Kitschy Kitschy Coo.

Cliff Aliperti posted Peter Lorre stars in MGM’s Mad Love (1935) over at The Examiner.

Jaynie of Here’s Looking Like You, Kid has a review of The Goddess. (I love this film!)

Cliff Aliperti on Warren William in Arsene Lupin Returns over at Warren-William.com. (Can you tell he’s a Warren William fan?)


Kerrie reviews Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by the Queen of the Golden Age of Mysteries, Agatha Christie, at Mysteries in Paradise.

Yours Truly reviews Mary Stewart’s Airs Above The Ground here at Kitsch Slapped.

At The Viewspaper, Surbhi Bhatia reviews the classic Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier.

Alessia (of Relationship Underarm Stick) takes a quick look at the vintage fortune-telling book, Fortune-Telling by Cards — and you can find excerpts here.

Mee reviews Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories, by Truman Capote, at Books of Mee.

At Collectors’ Quest, I review Magnificent Obsessions.

Surbhi Bhatia, of The Viewspaper, reviews Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

Monte Cook reviews the three original Dungeons & Dragons books at The Escapist.


In A Board Game Fit For a Suffragette, Thursday Bram reviews Pank-A-Squith, a suffrage-themed board game posted at Science of Board Games.

Yours Truly reviews the Dark Shadows‘ game, Barnabas Collins, here at Kitsch Slapped.


Cindi Albright‘s What’s in your Vintage Cookie Jars? (at Muggsey & Mae Vintage Collectibles) is an unusual review of cookie jars.

At VintageMeld.com, Cliff Aliperti reviews the 300 Piece Uruguayan Movie Card Set.

Honorable Mentions:

My old live-Twitter account of Night of the Lepus at Kitschy Kitschy Coo might fit your Halloween mood…

Hyde and Seek doesn’t review games so much as present a visual museum of vintage Australian games, but it’s cool to see!

There’s also some “old books” in the 29th edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival I hosted — so check ’em out!

If you’d like your review to be in the next edition, please submit it (or one you’ve read) to the next edition of the blog carnival using the carnival submission form. (If you’d like to host the carnival at you blog, just let me know!)

Book Reviews Blog Carnival #29

jane-russell-readingWelcome to the 29th installment of the Book Review Blog Carnival!

In order to keep this list a more digestible length (for those of us with short attention spans!), I’ve taken the liberty of moving a few of the entries to my monthly New Vintage Reviews Carnival (the latest edition of which will be was published on Monday). This was only done in the cases where bloggers had multiple submissions and there were reviews of older books. I hope this upsets no one; I was thinking of visibility/readability (and those ‘bumped’ to the other carnival get more exposure for their review efforts).

A Merry Heart: Jeanne (of Necromancy Never Pays) submitted her review calling the book “a kitsch Amish romance.” This book is presumably (as Jeanne doesn’t provide author info or link to buy the book), by Wanda E. Brunstetter; the first book in the “Brides of Lancaster County” series. (I have to admit that I have a giant perverse streak and so I read this good review about a bad book twice, laughing each time!)

Cleaving: Jessica (of Desperado Penguin) reviews Julie Powell’s follow-up to Julie & Julia, a book about Julie’s foray into the butchery business. (It may not be pleasing — topically or in terms of praise for Powell — but Jessica’s review has it’s own shining moments; a two word hint: “parenthetical asides.” lol)

Code Orange: Nathan of Books For Sale? reviews a thrilling science fiction mystery by Caroline B. Cooney. (Apparently this epic of a boy’ science project gone (potentially?) epidemic is classified as “Young Adult” fiction; but from the review, I’m interested!)

Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover: Jim Wang of Bargaineering reviews Dave Ramsey’s flagship book on personal finance. (Check out the advice Jim dispenses along with his recommendation at the end of the review!)

Do-Over!: Azrael Brown’s review of Robin Hemley’s memoir of his attempts to give himself “do-overs” on the first 20 years of his life (going back to Kindergarten, etc.) is posted at Double-Breasted Dust-Jacket. (“Azrael Brown” is my husband, so I dare not comment! lol)

50th Law: Gene Simms of APMID reviews this book on how useless and restricting fear is by — wait for it! — 50 Cent (aka Curtis Jackson) and Robert Greene. (For those who, as Gene acknowledges, might say, “Wait what? 50 Cent wrote a book?” I strongly suggest this review. I’m pretty ignorant about 50 Cent and might have overlooked this review myself; but Gene’s review is just the sort of book review I like to read and, merits of 50 Cent’s book aside, the review itself is worth the reading.)

Foe: At The Truth About Lies, Jim Murdoch reviews J. M. Coetzee’s supposedly true account of Robinson Crusoe as related by a woman, Susan Barton, who shared Cruso’s last year on the island. (I love how Jim also shares what he learned from his particular copy of this book!)

4-Hour Work Week: DR of The Dough Roller revisits Tim Ferriss’ book and philosophies. (Did he change his mind, or dig in more? Are there merits in re-reading books you didn’t like?)

Gently Does It: At Mysteries in Paradise, Kerrie reviews the first book in Alan Hunter’s British crime fiction series featuring Chief Inspector George Gently. (I particularly enjoyed Kerrie’s inclusion of the author’s foreword, which includes a classic disclaimer: “I hate being criticized for not doing what I had no intention of doing.” That alone makes me want to get a copy and read it. Heh Heh)

In Xanadu: Surbhi Bhatia (of The Viewspaper) reviews William Dalrymple’s travel memoir of a trip retracing Marco Polo’s trip along old Silk Route, from the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem to the the summer palace of the emperor Kublai Khan in China, complete with vial of a vial of holy oil, as Polo did. (Included is an excerpt from the book which humorously exposes the difficulty of communication while traveling — and proves the book isn’t some dry old thing.)

My Body Belongs To Me: At Motherhood Metamorphosis I review this book by Assistant District Attorney Jill Starishevsky (illustrated by Sara Muller), intended to be read to children 3-8 years of age to educate them about their rights to their own bodies and how to respond if someone should violate their rights.

Rapunzel’s Revenge: Monkey Poop‘s Amitha Knight reviews this child’s fairy tale in graphic novel format, by Shannon & Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale. (Amitha’s excited — and it’s catching!)

Red Sauce, Whiskey, and Snow: Christina M. Rau reviews this book of poetry by August Kleinzahler over at Livin’ The Dream (One Loser At A Time). (Christina is both concise and amusing in her review.)

Requiem for a Paper Bag: Celebrities and Civilians Tell Stories of the Best Lost, Tossed, and Found Items from Around the World: Here at Kitsch Slapped I review an anthology of stories based on found paper objects — fiction & narratives collected, aptly, by Davy Rothbart of Found Magazine.

Strangers: Mee, of Books of Mee, reviews the novel-sized ghost story written, originally in Japanese in 1987, by Taichi Yamada. (Included are many links to additional reading which both supports and refutes Mee’s opinions.)

Superfusion: How China and America Became One Economy and Why the World’s Prosperity Depends on It: At ChinaBlog.cc, Jensen Liu breaks down Zachary Karabell’s discussion of the geopolitical and economical interactions between China and United States as well as current world economy issues “from a unique angle.” (Liu does an excellent job of breaking down the book into a digestible review — even as he challenges the author.)

The Age of the Unthinkable: Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us And What We Can Do About It: Clark Bjorke (founder of this carnival and blogger at I’ll Never Forget the Day I Read a Book!) reviews this book by Joshua Cooper Ramo who, apparently, believes that things have recently gotten both much worse and much better in a whole new way. (I think it’s quite, err, brave of Clark to confront & question, from time to time, an author who, as Clark admits, probably does hang out with Henry Kissinger. lol)

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane: This novel of a 1991 college student’s investigation into the witch hysteria in 1692’s Salem by Katherine Howe is reviewed by EP of xoxoxo. (Might you be hearing more of this story?)

The Ruby Key: Over at J. Timothy King’s Be The Story, a dad and daughter duo review the youth fantasy novel, which is a first in series by Holly Lisle. (And you get to see the 10 story related items the daughter collected for her show-and-tell “Book Bag” school project too!)

The She-Ra Collector’s Inventory Guide: At Collectors’ Quest I review the only book devoted to these retro action figures which were part of the Masters Of The Universe world. (No flying ponies needed to enjoy the review!)

White Nights: Over at Reactions to Reading Bernadette reviews the audio version of Ann Cleeves’ second book in the Shetland Quartet series, crime fiction set in the Shetland Islands. (Among other things, Bernadette also addresses the issue of jumping right into a series at book two.)

Woman With Birthmark: This forth book in the Inspector Van Veeteren mystery series (by Hakan Nesser) was first published in Sweden in 1996 and has been translated into English (by Laurie Thompson) in 2009; it’s reviewed by Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise. (Kerrie’s review includes info on the chronological order of translation v. publication, which will be of great use to readers of this long crime fiction series.)

Honorable Mention:

While James J. Gormley’s Exclusive Interview with Dacre Stoker: Co-Author of Dracula the Un-Dead (over at Vampire Books Navigator) isn’t a book review, it is worth reading (Halloween on the horizon or not).

The Book Review Blog Carnival is published every two weeks; here’s where you submit your own book reviews for the next edition. I also will remind you that the New Vintage Reviews Carnival is a monthly carnival, open to reviews of books 10 years or older &/or those books which are OOP (as well as other vintage entertainment items) — I welcome your submissions!

Once Upon A Time… Gothic Romance Tales: Airs Above The Ground

Once upon a time, I read romances.

First of all, they were plentiful in my youth. Not only did the popular paperback novels go from house to house as the adults around me swapped and traded books, but one of my aunt’s neighbors worked for a mall bookstore and he often went (against rules of his employment) and raided the dumpster for the paperbacks which were dumped after the covers had been torn off and returned to the publishers for credit, sharing the free books with anyone who would show up to grab copes when he put out the call.

Second of all, when in junior high our family moved a few miles away from that home near extended family, I ended up at a new school. A shy bookish sort, I was sorely in need of a friend, so when befriended by a fellow reader, I tried to read what she did. And she read romances.

I quickly gave up her favored Harlequins and turned to the bit more complicated, less predictable, suspense and Gothic romance novel varieties. But the shared romance novel reading ended quickly — even before she stole my first boyfriend.

I can’t say that the devastating loss of “Skip” hasn’t tainted, by association, any appreciation of the romance genre (they are forever tied together in my mind), but I honestly had been bored and annoyed with romance novels prior to that tender teenage heartbreak experience. Really. When I was about eight, I had practically gone from horse stories to non-fiction, so I felt silly reading predictable sappy love stories.

Yet, whenever I’ve spotted a Mary Stewart or Phyllis A. Whitney novel, I must confess, I’ve felt a fondness…

At first I told myself that this was some simple sense of nostalgia, memories of early years happily reading at my grandparent’s house while the adults played cards combined with the remembrances of myself as an wistfully romantic girl. Such things would make romance novels seem comforting — like pulp versions of turkey pot pies. Yet there there seemed something more…

Something compelled me to remember these authors and their books favorably after all these years. If I was ever going to know the truth, my truth about these books, there was only one thing to do: give in, purchase a few, and read them.

mary-stewart-airs-above-the-groundI selected Mary Stewart’s Airs Above The Ground to read first because I knew it was not one I had read before (surprising as the book boasts of the beautiful Lipizzan stallions I was so dreamy about as a youngster) and figured that would remove the potential of too much nostalgia.

My copy is a 1970 printing (thrift store score for a dollar or less), but the work was copyrighted in 1965 (a year after I was born!) and that means there are some beguilingly sexist passages for a feminist reader like myself.

On page 216, “our young wife’s” husband asks her if she can manage the “hellish” walk that lies before them in the dark; this is our heroine’s response:

He was already leading the way at a good pace. The question, I gathered, had been no more than one of those charming concessions which make a woman’s life so much more interesting (I’ve always thought) than a man’s. In actual fact, Lewis invariably took it serenely for granted that I could and would do exactly what he expected of me, but it helps occasionally to be made to feel that it is little short of marvellous for anything so rare, so precious, and so fragile to compete with the tough world of men.

On page 219, along the “hellish” walk:

For me the night had held terror, relief, joy, and then a sort of keyed-up excitement; and drugged with this and sleepiness, and buoyed up by the intense relief and pleasure of Lewis’s company, I had been floating along in a kind of dream — apprehensive, yes, but no longer scared; nothing could happen to me when he was there. But with him, I now realized, it was more than this; more positive than this. It was not simply that as a man he wasn’t prey to my kind of physical weakness and fear, nor just that he had the end of an exacting job in sight. He was, quite positively, enjoying himself.

Another favorite, from page 234, about Timothy, the son of the friend of the family who accompanies her on this mystery adventure:

Something about his voice as he spoke made me shoot a glance at him. Not quite authority, not quite patronage, certainly not self-importance; but just the unmistakable echo of that man-to-woman way that even the nicest men adopt when they are letting a woman catch a glimpse of the edges of the Man’s World.

When one removes (or forgives) such things, as (or if) they can, and reads for the story itself, what remains?

mary-stewart-airs-above-the-ground-backOfficially billed as a “romantic suspense story” (presumably not officially labeled “Gothic romance” as it only has the air of the supernatural; there are more logical reasons for creepy mists and the seemingly impossible), Airs is not so much a will-he-ever-love-me romance as a is-my-man-a-dirty-rotten-creep mystery. This, of course, appeals to my jaded personality. So I quickly devoured the 255 pages, wondering if he is a creep, what his weak-arse story will be — and if Vanessa will fall for it (or, maybe, fall for the much younger Timothy?)

I won’t ruin the book for you with too many details or the outcomes. (However, I must tell you that the promised backdrop of Royal Lipizzan Stallions isn’t as rich and predominant as a horse-lover might like… But I’m supposed to have outgrown that romance too, right?) The bottom line is that Airs Above The Ground is, as far as expectations for a bit of romantic suspense fiction goes, pleasantly complicated enough not to be predictable.

It won’t win any awards from me; it is what it is. But I cannot disparage it. And maybe that means I ought not disparage the genre… A few more books will tell.

Cheap Thrills Thursday, Retro Halloween Edition: Barnabas Collins Game

A character in the Gothic soap opera television series, Dark Shadows (1966 – 1971), Barnabas Collins was a long-suffering vampire — tormented both by his status as a blood drinker and his doomed romance with the beautiful Josette. But none of this really matters when it comes to playing the Milton Bradley Barnabas Collin’s game; it’s just a “scary” game for the kiddies.


I only paid $1.50 for the game (# 4003, copyright 1969, Dan Curtis Productions, Inc.) at a thrift store; the original store price tag was $3.99. (Ha! Take that, inflation!)

Our game is complete, save for the toy fangs which, while originally included in the game box, were “not part of the game” and ” to be used by the owner of the game when playing the role of Barnabas” (printed inside the box’s lid — twice). Of course, kids being kids, there’s also the proviso that “they should be washed before a player uses them.”

The game is rather like hangman — at least visually. Only instead of trying to spell words, you spin the spinner and try to build your glow-in-the-dark skeleton by “hanging” him, piece by piece, on the cardboard scaffolding.


Each of the 2-4 players takes a turn spinning, hoping for the chance to collect bones/parts from the coffin. In order to begin building your skeleton, you’ll need either the skull or the body piece; so the first few spins can be anti-climactic. When the spinner lands on the ring, it’s like a wild card; the player chooses any bone, skull or body piece from the coffin.

winning-move-dark-shadows-gameBut beware, you could land on the wooden spike space! When you do, you’ll need to take a wooden spike from the coffin; collect three of them and you’ll need to remove a bone from your skeleton (and then you may return the three spikes as well). There is an “advanced game” option, in which the player with the three spikes may challenge a player of his/her choosing to a “Vampire Duel.” (They take turns spinning to see who will spin the ring space first. If it’s the challenger, the s/he doesn’t lose a bone; the challenged player does. If the challenged player wins, the challenger must remove two bones from their skeleton.)

As game play is based upon the spinner, there’s very little strategy involved (other than having luckily guessed to use your wild ring spin to get an upper arm when your next turn gives you the lower arm, etc., it’s all chance), making it rather simplistic (even for the ages 6 to 14 stated on the box). But it’s certainly a cheap thrill — on any day of the week.

And it’s cool for Halloween — though it’s not anywhere as scary as indicated in the original television commercial (I doubt it was seen as scary then either).  But before you watch it, here’s an FYI: if you’re a Dark Shadows, Gothic fan, or just a Johnny Deep nut (perhaps all three?), Depp’s apparently signed to play Barnabas Collins in Tim Burton’s film adaptation of Dark Shadows.

Now for the word from our retro sponsor: