Monday, December 05, 2011

2011 Pratt Book Sale

This Year's Score: Less is More

Enoch Pratt Central Library Book Sale, December 2-4, 2011

I, the ultimate hoarder, behaved myself at this year's
annual Enoch Pratt Central Library Book Sale and only got as many items as I could carry without a beast of burden or U-Haul, limiting myself to a few CDs, books, and one video (yes, just one for Capt. Video!). And pretty much everything I picked up was intended as gifts for friends that I thought might dig these scores. Total investment: $12.50 (which is about the price of a ticket at the Landmark Theater in Harbor East - shop and compare, I say!)

Fountains of Wayne - Out of State Plates CD
Book Sale Price: $2

I go WOW! for FOW and have everything they're ever done, but like an annoying missionary I like to convert others to the faith, so I picked this one up for my friend Dave Cawley. I truly envy Dave Cawley's ears when they receive this early holiday stocking stuffer, for FOW's songwriting duo of Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood are probably thee premiere purveyors of poignant power-pop for the melodically-inclined intelligentsia. They're also personal faves because, going by their song lyrics, they must have also suffered through some temp jobs in the corporate world I used to know so well. I mean, songs like "Bright Future in Sales" show them to be well-versed in the Dilbert-dominated world of "corporate cubicle culture" (the best depiction of which is currently airing on HBO's new Laura Dern series Enlighted).

This is my favorite release by them, a double-CD collection of B-sides, outtakes, demos and other non-LP "bonus" tracks including the great "Maureen," "The Girl I Can't Forget," their straight-faced Britney Spears cover "...Baby One More Time," the Dan Clowes-evocative story-strip "Comedienne" ("Comedienne, make up your mind/Are you laughing or crying/Are you killing or dying tonight?") and their Oasis carbon-copy rocker "Elevator Up." Besides the Britney song, they also cover Gene Pitney's "Today's Teardrops," Bacharach/David's "Trains and Boats and Planes," Jackson Browne's "These Days," and Aztec Camera's "Killermont Street" (Roddy Frame!). Oh, I almost forgot their ecunemical holiday season platters, "I Want an Alien for Christmas," "The Man in the Santa Suit," and "Chanukah Under the Stars."

Trainspotting: Music from the Motion Picture CD
Book Sale Price: $2

My girlfriend Amy has both volumes of this excellent soundtrack from the 1996 Danny Boyle film based on the novel by Irvine Welsh. I needed this, Volume 1, specifically because it completed my collection of music by Sleeper, the mid-90s Britpop band fronted by Louise Wener (who these days writes young adult novels for teen girls). Here Sleeper cover Blondie's "Atomic" (after Blondie refused to allow their version to be used), which accounted for their only blip on the stateside music radar. For more on my infatuation with Sleeper, see my blog post "Sleeper: If You Are But a Dream, I Hope I Never Wake Up."

Feeling guilty for getting something for myself, I made sure I picked up They Might Be Giant's Apollo 18 for Amy. It was only $2 bucks and had "I Palindrome I" on it, so it was a no-brainer. Miraculously, it was right next to Trainspotting, giving me the brief hope that someone had actually alphabetized the CD table. Yeah, right - in my dreams!

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Will the Circle Be Unbroken CD
Book Sale Price: $2

I remember my brother had this 1972 double album by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in collaboration with many famous Bluegrass and country-western players, including Roy Acuff, Mother Maybelle Carter, Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, Merle Travis, Bashful Brother Oswald, Norman Blake, Jimmy Martin, and others. Wikipedia claims the record is notable for, among other things, introducing fiddler Vassar Clements to a wider audience. I really like it and put it on as background music when I get up in the morning. It's laid-back and relaxing, like listening to Prairie Home Companion. Plus, the Civil War-era cover dude makes me think of today's current Beard Rock Revival.

Eliott Smith - Figure 8 CD
Book Sale Price: $2

Picked up this CD for myself, as I've always liked Smith and even aired his 1/2-hour documentary short Strange Parallel (featuring the "Robot Hand"!) on Atomic TV back in the day. But it's always amazed me how the poster boy of sensitive singer-songwriter Emo gave up his mortal coil in such a violent way: stabbing himself in the heart!'s always the quiet, soft-spoken types.

The Mike Hammer Collection Volume 1
by Mickey Spillane
Book Sale Price: 50 cents

Picked up this collection of three Spillane classics (I, the Jury; My Gun Is Quick; Vengeance Is Mine!) for Spillane otaku Dave Cawley. If he has it, I'll keep it, though I was always more a fan of the Raymond Chandler-Dashiell Hammett-Howard Browne "School of Hard-Boiled Detective Fiction" than Spillane's heavy-handed, hit-'em-over-the-head, borderline sadistic prose. Still, Kiss Me Deadly was a great movie, and you can't go wrong with girls, guns and guts! (Though I tend to prefer liquor, love and laughs!)

Jane & Michael Stern's Encyclopedia of Pop Culture
by Jane and Michael Stern
Book Sale Price: 50 cents

I already have this book (I think I have all the non-food books by the Sterns), but I figured somebody I know would like this great (although by now a tad dated) 1992 guide to "Pop Culture" - which the Sterns call "the closest thing America has to a national faith." This A to Z of who's what and what's what covers everything from Aerobics and Bubble Gum to Valley of the Dolls and Moon Zappa. Not to mention the world's best known (and only) pan flute maestro, Zamfir! The Sterns astutely point out that "Pop Culture" is American Culture, for the rest of the world does not know us by our ballet, great painters, or poet laureates. No, they know us by Disney World, Elvis, Oprah, Levis, fast food, action movies starring Sly Stallone, and Cher's tattooed butt cheek. Naturally, my beloved Three Stooges are honored in this selective-but-impressive tome, right alongside Twin Peaks and Televangelists. I consider this a great introductory primer to an evolving American national faith that would explode with the rise of cable TV and the Internet in the decades to come. Or, to paraphrase what Darth Vader would think of this book: "Impressive, but you are no Jedi yet." Yes, for the true Pop Culture Jedi would now subsitute Lady Gaga for Madonna. For aerobics, update to Pilates, hooping, and belly-dancing. For Sly Stallone and Schwartzenegger action movies, sub Vin Diesel and the Rock. Keeping the faith, baby!

Hurly Burly video
(Video Yesteryear, 1951, b&w)
Book Sale Price: $1

This Video Yesteryear rarity (the only other mention I can find for this film is in the Something Weird Video catalog, where it's offered in DVD-R format, as shown in the picture above) - which should not to be confused with the 1998 Sean Penn-Kevin Spacey movie Hurlyburly - is a collection of 1950s burlesque shorts featuring dozens of strippers, baggy-panted comedian wags, and "pulse-pounding music." Featured peelers include Georgia Sothern the Red-Headed Bombshell, Nikki the Dynamic Pepper Pot, Francine the Tulsa Wildcat, Diane Lund the Texas Tornado, Tandalaye the Slave Dancer, Honey Alden the Dynamic Blonde Menace, and Melba Merry (she of the "Sex-Sational Dance"!)

There's actually a strong Baltimore connection to this film curio, specifically to H. L. Mencken. You see, in 1940 Georgia Sothern wrote to Mencken to ask him to come up with an alternative word for "strippers," one that would raise the tenor of her profession. She wrote: "I am a practitioner of the art of strip-teasing...there has been a great deal of...criticism leveled against my profession. Most of it...arises from the unfortunate word strip-teasing, which creates the wrong connotation...if you could coin a new and more palatable word to describe this art, I and my colleagues would have easier going. I hope...(you) can find time to help the...members of my profession."

Mencken replied, "I sympathize with you in your affliction. It might be a good idea to relate strip-teasing in some way to the...zoological phenomenon of molting,...which is ecdysis. This word produces...ecdysiast."

Sonny Watson's web site continues the story, noting that Georgia Sothern the stripper became Georgia Sothern the ecdysiast and promoted both the profession and the word.
In almost no time at all a union arose called the Society of Ecdysiasts. Nevertheless, it was more than guns and roses for the Empress of Ecdysiasts, Gypsie Rose Lee who was not enamored at all with the new word to describe her profession. In a May interview of that same year, she took aim at Mencken and fired off an angry reply, "Ecdysiast, he calls me! Why, the man...has been reading books! Dictionaries! We don't wear feathers and molt them off...What does he know about stripping?" Despite her scathing review the humorous term continues today...

Indeed, there's even a web site for post-modern burlesque hipsters called Ecdysiast: A Pole Dance Studio.

Georgia on My Mind

Georgia Sothern had one of the most fascinating lives of all the ecdysiasts. One of the hardest working gals in her profession, her career began in 1922 when she was 13 and continued until 1977 when she finally retired at age 67. (Georgia Sothern passed away four years later in 1981 due to cancer.) She was once the main dancer in Michael Todd's 1942 Broadway show "Star and Garter," which featured the likes of Gypsy Rose Lee, Lily St. Cyr, Ann Corio, and others.

Watch Georgia Sothern's "Star and Garter" dance.

She was also one of the fastest strippers in the business; today, doctors would probably write her a scrip for Ritalin! Her unique "whirling dervish" style of striptease - allegedly born out of nervousness - eventually led to having a signature tune written for her, “Hold that Tiger.” She was quoted as saying: "I have a style all my own. Most teasers, just take off their clothes and parade around for their audience. Now I really work for my fans." In her book This Was Burlesque, Ann Corio agreed: "The mere sight of this red hot red-headed temptress tossing her hips in fantastic abandon to the wild music of the band caught up everybody in its spell…the audience was almost as exhausted watching as Georgia was performing. Sometimes she would get so caught up in her exuberant dance steps that she would end up taking off and putting on her clothing several times during a number, leading one fan to remark, 'She strips just like she had dynamite for lunch!'"

Performing the carnival circuit in the later years of her career, Georgia eventually took her own shows on the road, Sothern’s Red-Headed Revue and the Top Hatters. She For more information on Georgia Sothern, see also her autobiography, Georgia: My Life in Burlesque.

And, speaking of G-strings...

The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything
edited by Richard Sandomir
Book Sale Price: 50 cents

I got the paperback edition of this a few years back and regifted it to somebody for Christmas. But for some reason there were 10 copies of the hardback at the book sale. It's pretty funny, and I thought of my colleague Marc Sober (right) when I saw that his beloved To Be Or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942) trumped all comers in the Classic Film Comedy final four. But I demand a recount after seeing the Underwire Bra top the Thong (an early victor over the G-string) in the Women's Underwear final. Say it ain't so!

Thong Sung Blue

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