Tag Archives: book

The Commies are coming?

I was born far too late to have lived through either of the “Red scares”, but that doesn’t mean their detritus isn’t available for me to find. Here is one example:


The publisher of this one is far from “lost”: The American Bar Association is still around, probably as strong as ever. Their “Standing Committee on Education against Communism”, however, appears to no longer exist.

Do note the “bar” in the ABA’s logo, though.

This Book Costs More in Canada!

A commenter to the by now notorious Awful Library Books website pointed fellow readers to the hilarious work of Mark Longmire. Taking dime-a-dozen romance novel covers from Silhouette and Harlequin, he creatively changes the titles to more “appropriate” ones.

My personal favorite is the titular “This Book Costs More in Canada” about half way down.

A bus from “shicagoe”

My grand mother’s house is full of discarded teaching and educational methods and trends from her decades of working in a public school. One of them is a stack of little books written in the “Initial Teaching Alphabet“, which was sortof a quasi-reformed spelling and writing style to help children learn English without reference to the obnoxious spelling of English. It has evidently faded out of any practical use.

Here is the book cover in question:


If anyone is interested, I will scan the rest of it (it’s a small, short book) and provide comments on it.

An odd type of tax return and an old novel

Some time ago on Guternberg I tried to read “The Boarding School” but it turned into a very sour-reading morality tract.

I had forgotten the name of the book and tried to remember some choice phrase that would bring it up in Googlewhacking. Eventually, I found it from remembering the word “botanizing” being used. It was on page 44:

“Botanizing, my dear! I fear you require light upon the subject; if there is any rare, very curious plant, give it the name of ‘Caroline Vincent,’ unless you prefer ‘the Spy detected.’”

But before that I tried to remember this passage (page 26):

When Miss Vincent entered the music-room to receive her first lesson, with haughty indifference she seated herself at the piano, and in a careless manner began a voluntary.

I, for some reason, had misremembered the expression used; searching for “noisy voluntary” turned up… tax law! It turns out that there is such a thing as a “noisy voluntary” when you admit to a past tax evasion and openly ask the criminal investigators at the IRS (This is in the United States) if you’re clear now.

To me, a “noisy voluntary” sounds like a shart in an office toilet that gets magnified by the hard surface walls and floors, but I have an immature sense of humor.

Bible read along “confusion”

Here is some more from the “Journal and Letters” of P. V. Fithian.

Background: Fithian is the private schoolteacher for the Carters of Nomini Hall in northern Virginia back in the 1770s. He instructs the family children who include Harry (confusingly his real name is Henry) and Bob, who is a troublemaker. It is Wednesday, December 22, 17731:

At Dinner Mr & Mrs Carter gave their opinion concerning what they thought pleasing and agreeable in a person; Mrs Carter said she loved a sociable open, chatty person; that She could not bear Sullenness, and stupidity—Mr Carter, on the other-hand, observed that it is just which Solomon says, that there is a “time for all things under the Sun”; that it discovers great Judgment to laugh in Season, and that, on the whole, he is pleased with Taciturnity—pray which of the two should I suit?

Before that interchange which must have put him ill at ease, Fithian describes teaching the school something out of the Bible:

It is a custom with our Bob whenever he can coax his Dog up stairs, to take him into his Bed, and make him a companion; I was much pleased this morning while he and Harry were reading in Course a Chapter in the Bible, that they read in the 27th Chapter of Deuteronomy the Curses threatened there for Crimes; Bob seldom, perhaps never before, read the verse, at last read that “Cursed be he that lyeth with any manner of Beast, and all the People shall say Amen.” I was exceedingly Pleased, yet astonished at the Boy on two accounts.—1st At the end of every verse, befor he came to this, he would pronounce aloud, “Amen.” But on Reading this verse he not only omitted the “Amen,” but seem’d visibly struck with confusion!—2d And so soon as the Verse was read, to excuse himself, he said at once, Brother Ben slept all last winter with his Dog, and learn’d me!—Thus ready are Mankind always to evade Correction!

For the explanation of people who aren’t familiar with English, especially KJV English: the term “lyeth” here means to have a sexual relation with. So in other words, bestiality. Bob on the other hand, was just getting warm with his dog. (Sigh, unfortunately even that sounds sexual).

The rest of the day is spent inveighing in secret against his employers and neighbors for their slave holding and one overseer in particular who goes into detail about his torturing skill.

  1. I can’t link directly to the page because Gutenberg checks referrers. It is pages 37-38. 

A true full-blooded Buck

Most everyone should know about Project Gutenberg, the site that types up and publishes free old literature that has lost its copyright, or never had a copyright. One such book is the “Journal and Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian“. In it, Fithian graduates college in New Jersey and then moves to Virginia to teach some wealthy planter (this is in the 1700s) children.

Fithian was a divinity student and evidently later on minister, but his tutoring or teaching was not specifically religious. He mentions things like arithmetic and languages. Notably he is displeased with several people for slave-holding and their treatment of their slaves, including his employer.

I will have to reread this to point out every part of it, but one thing I remember specifically, was this:

In Dr Thomsons Room there was hanging against the Wall a Skeleton!—Balantine, either to shew himself a true full-blooded Buck, or out of mere wantonness & pastime turned the Bones (as they were fixed together with Wires) into many improper and indecent postures; but this officious industry met with such reception from the company as it Justly merited, and as I wish’d might happen; for they gave visible signs of their contempt of his Behaviour

To me, the reading is so much enjoyable because of the archaic and unique wording, although the image of this person (who is the head of a firm!) playing around like this is amusing as well.

Some Clues in the Embers

So I checked out another of the old(er) Hardy Boys books because I got caught up in it when I was at the library last time. This one is “The Clue in the Embers” – an intriguing title if nothing else, and is number 35 in the series. Unfortunately this isn’t one of the very early editions, but a later revision. Even so it’s not a bad read.

Continue reading

Comments on the “Great Airport Mystery”

I’ve taken to reading some of the odd volumes of the original “Hardy Boys” series the local library has while I’m there volunteering. This time I pickt out #8, the Great Airport Mystery. My observations:

The book had copyright dates of 1930, 1957, 1966 and 1993. The first was obviously the original publication. The subsequent ones indicate some revisions here or there. I was able to find a reference to plexiglass that was obviously a post-WWII addition, and a comment about building Cape Kennedy hangars would have been added in 1966. I am not sure what was done for 1993, other than possibly remove material. There may have been some offensive material that was excised so it could still be acceptable. Of course now it’s hopelessly dated since we have the following material intertwined in the story:

  • The sole and exclusive presence of landline telephones.
  • Film cameras.
  • Use of low altitude airplanes for picture taking instead of satellite images.
  • Uninhabited Caribbean islands.

The last one is definitely noteworthy and seems to be pre-1930 even. Also, some out-of-contact natives in the Caribbean also figure slightly, which is a definite throwback to earlier times.

I am not sure who was “Franklin W. Dixon” for this book (the name rotated among writers), but whoever it was was definitely familiar with aeronautics. Various jargon associated with the profession turns up and “radiation fog” is mentioned and explained a couple of times.

The Hardys’ have a convertible car (and are evidently old enough to drive) and keep “emergency detective kits” on hand. These contain at least “vivid red paper” that can be torn up and dropped to create a trail.

Corporate branding doesn’t appear to exist in their neighborhood. Company names are uniformly descriptive and bland. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your view of management consultants.

In the past, the DMV was required in most states to provide open access to registration information. This lets the boys look up the owner of a car via its license plate, as opposed to having to let the police do it.

The two know sign language! This is explained as being useful for detective work (I can easily believe that), but is such an ingenious idea on the part of the author that I am quite charmed by it. I don’t know if he (“Dixon”) got the idea from a real life event or person, but it is original in my experience.

I don’t know if I’ll bother with more of these comments, since the books seem to get less likely with later revisions and those are mostly what the library has.

Some thoughts on the “Short-Wave Mystery”

Going to the Library to kill some time today, I didn’t find any work to do, so instead I just found a book to read. I ended up picking out the 24th original “Hardy Boys” story: The Short-Wave Mystery. You can read the semiofficial summary on WikipediA, while I share some observations:

The story was written in 1945 and set in the northeastern United States, so I was completely amazed and surprized that there is absolutely no reference to the World War anywhere. Even more surprizing – and gratifying – was that the lawbreakers in this aren’t somehow spies or working for the enemy. I found the restraint in that respect quite enjoyable.

The crimes being investigated are stealing things and operating an illegal radio factory. I’m not sure what made the factory illegal (it wasn’t that it was using stolen equipment, that was covered separately), or what you needed to do to run a legal radio factory, or why.

Back in 1945, you could call the telephone operator from a phone booth and request that a call to a closed business be transferred to you. The boys have to leave a diner when it closes and immediately afterward the phone inside starts ringing. They go to a phone booth and call the operator and request she connect them to the caller. I’m guessing this would only be possible on a fully manual exchange and not a dial exchange.

A minor juvenile delinquent plays a part in the story. The boys visit his parents and it is strongly implied that he’s a delinquent because both parents have jobs. Scandalous. This is resolved before the end of the book. His father is injured and has to stay home. Unconventionally, his mother doesn’t quit her job.

At the end of the book, the FBI gives them a walkie-talkie with a television! Shades of Dick Tracy and his “two way wrist television”! Hoover is not mentioned at all.

The ending – which I can’t really mention without spoiling too much I think – has an outrageous co-incidency of plotlines that might ruin the enjoyment for some people. It was just a little too, well, unlikely even for FW Dixon to pull off.

Even though I’m sure it was edgy at the time, it seems quite ridiculously “clean cut” now. Technology aside, the crooks never go further than tying up or slugging their enemies and even the ones that are supposedly “international” seem really regional more than anything. Still, I liked the book and the library was nice to have it. I wish they had the entire series, but they only have every other one or so. A sad fate to a good series of books.