Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Stay Hungry with Twisted Sister!

Posted: February 20, 2014 by generationgbooks in Books, Music
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This past week, I jumped ahead on my spring cleaning and went through more of my closet. Not only did I find the Phil Collins Greatest hits that I had been looking for, and some other gems (Emelie Sande, Whitesnake’s Greatest Hits, and Erasure’s Pop: The First 20 Hits), but I found this! My vinyl of Stay Hungry by Twisted Sister! No blog post is a blog post without my incessant rambling on the subject, so let’s go to the tape and give some background.

I wasn’t always a Twisted Sister or Dee Snider fan. In fact, thanks to Jen, for many years, I detested them. That’s right. Detested. Sometimes you’re so enamored of one band or movement (in my case, Duran Duran and New Wave) that you overlook or under appreciate fantastic other genres or bands that are right in front of you. That was the case with Twisted Sister. My brother and I used to cackle madly anything we saw the video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It” on MV50. My brother loved Twisted Sister from the start, I thought it was a great video, and I liked the song, but nothing (I repeat, nothing) could take me away from that sunny beach with those five Birmingham lads singing that catchy “Her name is Rio, and she dances on the sand.” That included Dee’s righteous anthem and the rest of Stay Hungry. I realize, many years later, that I can love more than one type of music, and thankfully, I found out how fucking awesome Twisted Sister was before it was too late. My other best friend Jennie was obsessed with Dee and Twisted Sister (she may have been a bit more obsessed over Jay Jay French, to be honest) but it all ended back at The Temple of Twisted Sister.  She overplayed the crap out of this vinyl and that helped contribute to my being so against the album for many years. As I said, thankfully, I saw reason, and got ahold of a copy. I have never looked back.

The cliche goes “The third time’s the charm”, and in this case, correct. Stay Hungry is Twisted Sister’s 3rd album, and the one that broke them. No doubt a lot of that goes hand in hand with the wild popularity of the birth of music video and the rolling out of the medium that embraced it, a little old cable channel known as MTV.  And, as previously mentioned, the video for “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  The video for “I Wanna Rock” got wide airplay as well, and was equally entertaining. I had never, until those videos, seen anyone who looked or sounded like Dee. Friends of mine are quick to nitpick and say that I said that about Boy George, which is true, but he was an altogether different form of music than what Twisted Sister had coming out of stereo speakers. I really think that as much diversity as there was with music in the early 80’s, that Twisted Sister was a huge precursor to that genre known as heavy metal, except it went (shudder ahead of time. I hate this word) mainstream. Those songs helped blaze a welcome path to bring Twisted Sister into the homes of many a young kid listening to radio in those days, not to mention MTV’s influence on the pop culture populace.

The album, overall, an enjoyable and solid listen start to finish. If I had to pick a favorite, it would have to be “Burn In Hell” (and that was BEFORE Pee- Wee’s Big Adventure). Only one song doesn’t stick in my ribs as satisfying as a three bean burrito, and that song is “The Price”. I am not altogether certain why it doesn’t stick with me as much as the rest of the album. Maybe because I used to (still do) view Stay Hungry as a call to arms, and a “power ballad”(I hate that term as well, but it’s the only one that I can cull from the killing floor this morning) really didn’t fit well with the rest of that album’s feel. Overall, though, an awesome sonic experience that I will recommend to all. Vinyl? I have the nice version of it still unopened, and then I have the rat-tatted vinyl edition which is NOT in good shape, but still plays on the old Victrola. I love the mono quality of the songs when playing the vinyl, as opposed to the remastered edition that came out in 2009. Something so magical about the vinyl recordings that can’t be duplicated in any other delivery.  Addendum to this paragraph: If you want to make a pronouncement on the quality of recordings on vinyl vs. compact discs, make sure you have an actual record player that you play vinyl on, so you can honestly compare the two without seeming like a puffed up Google bot. (Apologies for that last sentence, but I’ve had my fill of people speaking of some sort of authority when they don’t even own said record player.)

Overall, it’s a fine album that stands the test of time and highly worth the purchase price. Since I’m here, I’d also like to recommend you further your Twisted Sister adventure and pick up and read Dee’s entertaining memoir, Shut Up And Give Me The Mic.

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It’s as outrageous as you would hope, but also intelligent, funny, and in parts, heartwarming. His story of upbringing, his love of music and Twisted Sister’s often tumultous ride into and out of the metal music scene, as well as his love for his wife of many years and time as a devoted father, makes this anything but the ordinary biography. Completely worth the read.

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The woman, pardon the wrong term, the LEGEND above, is a huge inspiration. Her story is beyond a rags-to-riches tale. It’s a survivor’s tale. You probably know all about Tina Turner’s abusive marriage to Ike Turner from the phenomenal movie What’s Love Got To Do With It, starring the dynamic Angela Bassett as Tina and Laurence Fishburne as the chillingly psychotic Ike Turner. If you haven’t seen it, let me go Siskel on you for a moment- see it. You won’t be disappointed. Despite her everyday nightmare of a marriage, the music still called Tina. And thankfully for the rest of the world, Tina still shook, rattled, and rolled with her muse.

Private Dancer was released in May of 1984. It was Tina’s fifth solo album, she was the age of 45, and it was her breakthrough. It was a worldwide smash, spawning four songs that were top 10 hits in the United States; “Let’s Stay Together”, “What’s Love Got To Do With It”, “Private Dancer”, and “Better Be Good To Me”The album won three Grammy awards back in the days when they still meant something and were still fun to watch (in case you live under a rock, those days are long past). The videos were a smash, Tina’s concert tour was a smash, she was already beginning work on her autobiography, I, Tina; she was everywhere. More importantly than that, she was discovered by a whole new audience while re-igniting the long dormant ashes of her audience that had been with her through Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm and The Ike & Tina Turner RevueUnlike many acts before her, she got a second chance. And she ran with it. There were a string of bestselling albums following, the autobiography was a New York Times bestseller for over a year, and a multitude of awards were awarded to “The Queen of Rock.” No one was more deserving.

Tina first came into my orbit one night in Summit while having a sleepover at my friend Crystal Reed’s house. It was August of 1984 and I was stranded in front of the TV with Crystal watching this phenomenal and utterly addictive cable channel called MTV. I had been out with her throwing rocks at cars over the overpass, but the heat began to get to us, so we ditched her brother Ronnie who was riding his bike, and went into their little apartment. Her mom brought us lemonade and sugar cookies (probably not the best idea!) and we plopped down in front of the TV. I was waiting for Duran Duran (still am waiting) and I heard this song start. A ship rolling through the harbor, and a shock of wild hair. The woman turned around, the song began, and I was transfixed. She had style, grit, and swagger. And as Ronnie helpfully pointed out upon walking in from his bike riding, she had killer legs (not my cup of java, but I report indiscriminately). The song, obviously, was “What’s Love Got To Do With It”I had it stuck in my head the rest of the day and beyond that. The first album I bought when my aunt Colleen gave us the awesome white phonograph that resembled the starboard of the USS Enterprise? “Private Dancer”I still have it. Definitely not in great shape, but the record still plays and it still sounds fresh, soulful, and raspy. The sounds of a survivor rising from the ashes like the phoenix in leather skirts that she is.

Private Dancer still stands the test of time nowadays. The rest of the album itself is flawless. There isn’t a shite song on it. You have your well-honed and oft-played anthems named, as well as other unreleased gems. “I Might Have Been Queen” could easily have been Tina’s anthem. “Show Some Respect”, possibly an autobiographical slap at Ike and any man who wanted to co-anchor her roost. “I Can’t Stand The Rain”a slow brown-eyed soul dirge, that wouldn’t have been out of place in the Ike and Tina catalogue of days of old. “Steel Claw”a song unlike any I’ve heard in her entire catalog before or since (and a sign of her rock and roll side coming out). “Help!”her very distinct take on the Beatles classic, and last but not least, “1984”her very unique take on the David Bowie classic from his solo record “Diamond Dogs”The album is a winning combination of soul, rock, funk, and Tina. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Here’s Looking At You, Kid: Bogie, Bacall, and Books

Posted: October 23, 2013 by generationgbooks in Books
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I’ve decided to declare a postmortem on my vinyl blogs, at least for the next couple of posts. I don’t feel like I have much to contribute that isn’t tied into relationships of foregone pasts, and there’s no reason for me to revisit those cellar junkies. So I’m going to do my next few posts on different things. Besides, says my inner optimist, maybe changing things up will attract some new readers to the blog. And variety is the spice of life, if not, the undefinable ingredient we need to mix it up, toss it around, and get some things percolating. What am I talking about? Honestly, I have no damn clue.

I am talking about the fact that much of my cinematic appreciation lies at the doorstep of my parents and what they put me through growing up. My mom loved to watch foreign films, horror movies, romantic comedies (the hip set call them “rom coms”, which sounds like robots on porn cam), and anything that Svengoolie enthusiastically recommended. I think my first regular cinema experience was in the living room of the condo that George and I got my parents thrown out of with our abhorrent behavior. Saturday nights she would flip between Svengoolie and Saturday Night Live. My father would find an excuse to go smoke cigars in the kitchen and fix smoke alarms that he seemed to fix every Saturday night when we went through our weekly ritual. My father’s favorite movies are old school and comedies. His favorite movies and actors are Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, Charles Bronson, war movies of any type, Mad Max movies, anything Leslie Nielsen was in, and horror of all horrors, his all time favorite, The Christmas Story. I swear, if I have to see that stupid kid and that stupid leg lamp one more time, I may have to take the leg lamp I got my dad two years ago and hit my bitch neighbor with it. (You wouldn’t have to pay me.). My parents, immediately after marrying at the courthouse, went and saw a matinee show of the James Bond movie Diamonds Are Forever. Since my mother was 4 months prego with me at the time, it gives me a perfect excuse to blame both of them for my lifetime love of the Bond movies. My mom and I did not always share the same film tastes; making me watch The Blob at an earlier age not only gave me nightmares, but it made me weary of future coworkers. Making me watch Dirty Dancing 100 times in a year, not to mention Cocktail, her all-time favorite Tom Cruise movie (really), did not endear her movie tastes into my arsenal. In fact, it made me rebel against them. I do enjoy horror flicks, I just don’t meet many people who do, besides my other best friend Jennie. My father’s taste in movies, as stated, was old school classic cinema or modern day comedies, or vigilante justice. Quite a mixed bag between the two. The one thing I got from both of them that I am eternally grateful for? A love of Mr. Humphrey Bogart.

I own every single Bogart movie on DVD. I still have some, on VHS, in my closet. Bogart’s classy, cool, nonstop cigarette smoking joie de vivre, instantly captivated me. Some dude came in a couple of weeks back and bought a salebook copy of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. The customer went on to talk about how most “young kids these days would have no idea that the movie was a book first.” I should have spoken up at that point in agreement, but we were close to closing time, and neither myself nor my coworker felt like being there later than necessary. That’s likely what planted the seeds for this blog. I saw all of the Bogart movies on his own first, then started into the Bogie/Bacall movies. Since I’m a sucker for old school romance (laugh. snicker. suck it.), I really do love those movies the best. You can’t fake real chemistry, kids, it just oozes from both of them through the movies they made together. We all know how that fairytale ended. It wasn’t the end of my fascination, though. I did end up reading all of the Dashiell Hammett books, and the movies were almost perfect in every way. I also decided to read the best Bogart and Bacall biographies I could find.

The above image for the book Bogart by A.M. Sperber, is my all time favorite biography of Humphrey Bogart. I have read quite a few. This one is not only the most comprehensive in terms of detail, but also in terms of critical analysis of his movies, his marriages, his rough childhood, and ultimately, his end. I hunted high and low for it, and finally obtained a first edition hardcover through Edward R. Hamilton, Bookseller. He does out-of-print titles through mail order. And yes, this one was a bitch to find in the normal channels, so i went through a mail order catalog and got it for $7.98. It was in perfect condition. It is still, miraculously, in perfect condition. And if you want a thorough biography of Bogart, this is the one. mfyO8MJFe0EO4yg2ZgI7Zdw

I went through a Lauren Bacall phase, as well, and I got lucky one night while staying by my friend Misti’s apartment overnight. She shared a room with her mom, while Angie and Tami, her sisters, shared another room. Linda, Misti’s mom, had books all over the room. I asked Misti if she would mind if I found a book to read while she was waxing philosophical over a guy she liked (who later tied her to a tree near the Fuzzy Pelican.). Misti was used to this; she would be chain smoking and applying eyeliner at 2am while I was captivated by a book. That’s how I first came to read Lauren Bacall’s biography, By Myself.  I also enjoyed this title, although I haven’t seen nearly as many Lauren Bacall movies as Bogie films, I’m not as big of a fan, although I have seen almost everything she’s been in this lifetime.  I felt like since that was the love of Bogart’s life, I should get her side of the story. I didn’t have to hunt this book down, as I read it in two days by Misti’s house. Her mom and I had quite the discussion about it also.

I guess what this post is about is how those things that we grew up with shape us in some undefinable way and stays with us through our lifetimes. I’m pretty sure that if my mom didn’t put us through Svengoolie every Saturday night or Cocktail multiple times a week, I would not love horror or slasher flicks, nor would I think Tom Cruise is a cocktail weenie. I thank her for both. I am also pretty certain that I would not have grown to love Humphrey Bogart as much as I did and still do, if my father had not made me watch Treasure of the Sierra Madre with him one late night on WGN Movie After Dark (that was the movie they would play after Cannon every Thur night during the 80’s). I was hooked. It continues to this day. If I have the shittiest fucking day on the planet (more of them lately than I care to admit), I put in a Bogart movie, and not only do I flash back to a simpler time in movies, but a simpler, happier time in life.

2000, 0, 0, Party Over, Oops, Out of Time: 1999 and Prince in Print

Posted: October 9, 2013 by generationgbooks in Books, Music
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 I owned this masterpiece of funk on cassette way before the vinyl. After Purple Rain and Parade, I was determined to own all of his discography on disc (vinyl, not the dreaded laser). I found most of his early catalog rather easily, but something about 1999 holds a special place in my heart. It was actually the first Prince record I was exposed to (great wording there). I got this on cassette in 1983. I was 10 and I got the cheap ass grey Walgreen’s radio with one cassette deck. I was thrilled. I got a lot of cassettes. I rocked out. My mom had a problem with Prince. She called him “the pig” because she got ahold of the lyrics for “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” and she did NOT care for her 10-year old daughter to hear “such filth”. Laugh. You should, for you know how that has turned out. The absolute only reason my mom caved and bought this for me was because she LOVED, LOVED, LOVED L”ittle Red Corvette”. I mean, ridiculous obsession. If she bought it for me and I was at school, she could borrow it and play the hell out of that while I was at school. I do believe, honestly, that’s the only reason I owned that at all. 

When the time came to find it on vinyl, it wasn’t as easy as one could hope. I found Purple Rain, Parade, Dirty Mind, and Controversy easily. For some reason I still haven’t figured out, 1999 was a bitch to locate. I wonder if Prince himself wasn’t somehow responsible for ordering the copies all stricken from public buying. Maybe part of his “Slave” persona and boycotting Warner Brothers was to send his purple paisley clad elf warriors out to grab all copies away from public view (Don’t laugh, you never know, this IS Prince we are talking about). After spending about 7 years looking for it and scouring weird locations, I finally found the bitch- in Oak Park, at a neighborhood institution known as Val’s Halla Records. If you’re ever out in Oak Park, IL, find it and check it out. I guarantee you’ll find something of note. I was there with Mike and Janine, my friends, who were looking for radically different albums. Janine was looking for any Def Leppard, Mike was looking for an album by Selena and a live rare Elton John album. I was just checking for anything great. I had no intention of finding it, and there it was. Gorgeous, not a ridiculous price, and it was mine. I didn’t mind the long wait in locating and owning it. Totally worth it. 

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I figured, since I am talking about the pint-sized Prince of Purple, I may as well discuss a book that I ran into about Prince. It was located completely by accident. I had read about this book in a copy of Mojo magazine at the other book hole. It’s written by Alex Hahn, a journalist and attorney, and the review in Mojo so grabbed my attention that I had to find this book. Of course, the RAM (rednecks a million) folks didn’t have this and it couldn’t be ordered from the Honey Boo Boo Pod Warehouse that distributed our books, so I was out of luck. Shamazon had copies of this at the time that were going for $58.00 and up. I really wanted that book, but not that damn much. I didn’t think of Alibris and I didn’t know of Abe, two far better sites for locating out of print books. I did the usual and hit all the nearby book stores. I finally found this book at Waldenbooks in Woodfield Mall when they were going out of business. It was marked down big time, and I got it for the princely (sorry, I had to) sum of $7.99. Not bad for a hardcover, and hey- it’s a first edition. Double score. 

As for the book itself, it is compelling. You cannot put it down. I’m telling you now, if you’re expecting a glowing portrayal of the Artist known as a Genius, well, it does portray him as a genius, but it also portrays him as a human being, which you may not care for. If you believe in butterflies, magical cereal fairies, and socks remaining clean forever, then this is NOT the book for you. All in all, Hahn tells us like it is. The rise, the mid-point, the top of the heap, and the fall back down quite steep. There are no holds barred, and some people who believe that Prince is not only a genius but a nice, normal chap, are in for one hell of a rude awakening. Hahn covers the all incarnations of the backup band, including the allegations that Prince steals material from his band members and the unceremonious firings of those who helped him get where he is. It talks of all of the affairs, it hits on the critical acclaim and the critical shame (yes, Under The Cherry Moon, I’m looking at you) that individual albums have accomplished, as well as his rudeness to fans that aren’t women, among the mysteries of Prince, as many as Hahn tries to solve, he ends up creating more. And that, my friends, is why you need to read it. If you want to read it, go on Alibris, go on Abe, go on Shamazon, and grab a copy. It is definitely in my top 10 rock biographies that I have read in my lifetime. I feel if there’s a definitive book on Prince, this is it. And it’s spectacular, so you should grab a copy if you can.

Bret Easton Ellis + Danzig > Less Than Zero

Posted: September 16, 2013 by The Social Retard in Books, Movies, Music
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Where to begin? This may be the most convoluted post yet. I guess we’ll start with Less Than Zero, the novel, initially. I believe I saw it when I was 17, at the height of my teenage angst. Who am I kidding? I’m twice that now and still very much full of teenage angst. I had just read the book Generation X by Douglas Coupland and had never been so devoid of hope ever. That book was such a downer. Naturally, my impulse was to go even further down the nihilistic rabbit hole, so where better to turn than the works of Bret Easton Ellis.

If you ever want to read a book full of characters with no redeemable qualities, see Less Than Zero, the introductory dissertation. This is hardly exclusive to <0, however. The Rules Of Attraction and Glamorama are similarly difficult to get through because you have no rooting interest in seeing the characters do anything but self-destruct and die. The main character of American Psycho is equally unsympathetic because he’s a serial killer but at least he’s strangely likable.

The movie, which I sat down to watch recently, shines a neon light on the characters making them less menacing and interesting without making them any more appealing. Robert Downey Jr.’s character, Julian, is more a tragic figure in the movie than just a consummate fuck up and scumbag, as he was portrayed in the novel. We’re somehow supposed to feel sorry for this guy . Maybe this has more to do with RD2’s on-screen presence than anything in the script. In a nutshell, this movie sucks…and hard.

There is something worth saving from the wreckage of <0: the soundtrack. Then up-and-coming producer Rick Rubin was charged with the music and he used the opportunity to put a spotlight on his and Russell Simmons’s still fairly new Def Jam Recordings. Label alumni included LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Slayer, and just signed Glenn Danzig. The rest of the album is mostly throwaway except for the now classic Bangles’ cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade Of Winter” and a track from Roy Orbison. I know. Which one of these is not like the other? Well, fast forward seven years from <0 when Rick Rubin produces American Recordings for Johnny Cash. That, and the subsequent volumes, resurrected the Man In Black’s career and brought it to new commercial heights. On that first album is a Danzig-penned track called “Thirteen”. The performance is legendary and one of the true highlights on that extraordinary album. It would appear something similar might have been in the cards with Orbison.

The Big O’s contribution to this soundtrack is also a Danzig composition called “Life Fades Away”. You can tell that Glenn wrote it for Orbison as it has an old timeyness that we hadn’t heard from his Misfits or Samhain work. Ol’ Roy sings the fuck out of it too, ending on as strong a note as he had ever belted. Who knows if this wouldn’t have led to a career revival on the level of Cash but the world would never know as Orbison passed away the following year. Danzig would also deliver a similar sounding track, “You and Me (Less Than Zero)”, his first as a solo artist. Credited with the Power & Fury Orchestra, (and as “Glen” on the label) Danzig proves that he can do powerful without sheer brutality. His singing is still in full throat and you can’t imagine him standing still in the studio while trying to record it. His delivery is every bit as intense as any of his prior work or since but there is no distortion.

The soundtrack includes flat out stupid covers by Aerosmith and Poison, a lackluster “In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida” from Slayer, the non-Anthrax edition of Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise”, and a decent track from Joan Jett. But after Orbison, Danzig, the Bangles, and even LL Cool J, the album is just not terribly good. However, the fact that the Orbison and Danzig tracks only appear on this soundtrack makes it essential to own.

I hunted mine down on Gemm.com on May 19, 2010 from a less than honest seller. He claimed in the listing that it was sealed but it certainly was not. The cover is pretty fucked up but, to be fair, the record itself is in excellent condition. I would have raised a bigger stink but it only cost $6.10. I would have gladly paid even more for a 7″ featuring Orbison on the A-side and Danzig as the B-side (or vice versa) if such a thing existed. You hearing me, Def Jam? I would still buy it. Make it.

As for Bret Easton Ellis, his last two novels have taken his previous works and turned them on their head, in a good way. He’s gone so fucking meta, it’s ridiculous. Lunar Park is vintage Ellis only with using himself as the main character. Imperial Bedrooms is the sequel to Less Than Zero, only it makes sure to tell you that <0 is a fictional account of the characters within. The movie, laughably so. This allowed him to bring back the Julian character. It is my favorite book of his. I never re-read novels but I recently re-read this one and it is so deliciously twisted. For even more meta-ness, Andrew McCarthy (star of <0, the film) reads the audio book of Bedrooms, which is narrated by the Clay character than McCarthy played 25 years prior. Fucked, right? Yes, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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The above referenced book is one of the best music books I have ever read. Period. This one came to me courtesy of my friend Luke. Luke and I worked together for several years at Crown Books. Unhappily, then the rednecks moved in and took over the now defunct Crown Books. Change was imminent, and change was not pretty. Luke and I got along famously (understatement of the year) and bonded over music and books that we were both fans of. I think The Beatles may have been the first band that we had long talks at the bookstore about, and he knew I read like a banshee, so he recommended this book to me. He described it as the best Beatles book he had ever read. Luke read a lot of music books, and he hadn’t led me down a path of shitty books or music before this, so I took his recommendation to heart and set off trying to find the book. Little did I know that it would take a long while. Happily, I got a chance to find it, read it, and discuss with him before he moved onto rougher occupational waters at the H-dale Crooks-A-Zillion. I have been able to recommend it to fellow Beatle fanatics, and for a while over the years, had to attach a disclaimer that it might take the Ninth Gate to find the damn thing. I am pretty certain it’s now back in print, in trade, and with a spiffy new black and white cover. If you haven’t picked it up or read it, do so. I like to say that the Hunter S. Davies books on the Beatles are Beatles Lite. The Albert Goldman books are a little on the tabloid scandal sheet side, and light on the music. No thank you. This book bares the gold coins and the tarnished spikes on the crown that was the Beatles majestic musical ride. Read it!

I went through a lot of Long Island Iced Teas at Time-Out and watered down Southern Comfort and Cokes at Brixie’s before I found it. There was a trip to some out of print bookstore in the middle of a field in West Lafayette, Indiana. I believe it’s now called Von’s, but don’t think it was called that then. I ran across it years later on one of our many BAM trips through the cornfields for district manager meetings; Donna and Mary were always motoring in attempts to find off the beaten path shops in the middle of exciting, rural Indiana. This was way before that attempt. This time out was my best friend Jen, her mom Carol, and I in the middle of nowhere hunting down cheap cigarettes and whatever little thrift stores we could find. I think Jen was hunting for things to put her altar together; Carol just loved jumping in the Olds and going for a long drive. Indiana wasn’t far and it wasn’t expensive. West Lafayette was also close enough for our G N’R obsessed hearts to say it’s “near” Axl Rose’s birthplace. Von’s had a great selection of things. I found a lot of cool out of print books on the 80’s, a Gus Van Sant biography (why I was hunting that down at that time, no idea), and a hardcover copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels book. I also found a vinyl copy of Culture Club’s 3rd album Waking Up With The House on Fire, which was useless, because once I returned to my hood, I found that Heidi’s sister Cherie had gotten a copy of it in plastic from Tip Tap Toe, where she was working at the time. The Holy Book of Beatle wasn’t at Von’s.

My next try was at what is now Earl Plaza Books, in Lafayette. After the three of us had a run-in with some hick over their attempt to sell  “Amish bread” which was just regular bread (for the record, there is a difference. Janine L. would attest to this) to us, we got the hell out of West Lafayette and head over to Lafayette. There’s jack shit there, I can see why Axl and Izzy both wanted out. But they had Earl Plaza! This place was cool even back then. They had comics, used books, and new books. Comics! I think that may have been my first exposure to comics in a bookstore setting, on the other side of a cornfield. I found a new thing to focus on. My 2nd idiot was obsessed with comics, and got me hooked. In quick fashion and typical of anything in five feet of his reach, he managed to ruin that for me, so I stopped giving a shit- at least until that met its merciful end. That fool was long gone, so I took my time and picked up some comics. Sandman by Neil Gaiman was among my purchases, influenced at that time, no doubt, by a Mr. Joe Vanis Flytrap, who got me into Sandman years back, at LCP in the mid-90’s. The comics were in perfect shape. No dice on the Beatles book, although the owner of the shop knew of it and warned it was going to be a bitch to procure. Indeed.

By this time, we rolled back into Illinois. Jen and I tried a few places in Illinois- the old bookstore in downtown Blue Island that the nice old lady owned (for the love of toast, I cannot remember the name. It was on 147th and Western ,not far from the Caesar’s). Borders on 95th and Western in Evergreen Park. SuperCrown on Lincoln Highway. I am pretty sure there were two other used bookstores near Jen that we tried; time has taken their names away. I was about to give up, when I found it in the unlikeliest of places- a fucking garage sale.

When I was a kid, garage sales were cool to go to. Especially in my family. However, I took myself out of the garage sale ring when I threw my cards down on the cool cats table. Jen dragged me to a huge garage sale out on Dixie Highway. By huge, I mean almost the entirety of Dixie Highway, alongside of it, was full of homes that were having a community wide garage sale. Massive was an understatement. It took Jen and I three whole days to navigate that bitch. Stacey was most understanding of my quest for trying to find this book, so I got that weekend off of Crown. I had never seen so much useless shit in my life than I did at this garage sale. However, as I was getting ready to leave and Jen was again telling me how the four Beatles are more talented in their solo careers than together, I saw the corner of something. I saw the words The Love YouI confess, some pessimistic little book ant said “Come on, get serious. You’ve seen every plaid shirt that Roseanne Barr likely had for wardrobe on her show, why would someone own a copy of this book?”. And with that utterance, I think I found the Holy Grail of Optimism. For there, underneath a bunch of tattered John Denver records, was a tattered copy of the book. It was yellowed, it was stinky from laying in an attic with Uncle Jack’s smelly denim overalls, the cover was creased, but it was there! I bought it for the princely sum of $2.50. I have no idea what, if any, value would be gained from selling it these days, but it matters not for it’s going nowhere. It is definitely in the higher echelon of books I will never part with, and it went with me on the cruise I took with Heidi, Dave, & Lady Samantha in 2002. Was I made fun of for having this on a cruise when most of the passengers were reading the newest jackie Collins? Yes. Did I care? Fuck no. Was I made fun of by Jen, who just couldn’t get over the huge scene I made? Oh yes. Did I care? No, I still reference it with her to see her wince. Totally worth the wait between the time it took me to find it from Luke telling me about it until it became mine.

The Dark Knight Rules

Posted: August 8, 2013 by The Social Retard in Books, Comics
Tags:
The Complete Frank Miller Batman

The Complete Frank Miller Batman

Today is the start of Wizard World in Chicago, so I thought I’d go comics on y’all. For as long as I can remember, Batman has been part of my life. Many of my earliest memories consist of me watching the old Adam West series and the Super Friends. Though I know now just how cheesy and ridiculous those shows are, they were important to my development as a fan. People always talk about how Batman is the most relatable of all the superheroes. Sure, if you’re a billionaire. My parents weren’t murdered in front of me. Not to make this another pity party for myself but my parents were split and neither were around very much. Batman has been the one constant in my life, the one thing I’ve been able to count on. Even more so than Def Leppard. It’s why write about the character over at this other site (please subscribe over there too).

I had never really been a comic book reader when I was a kid. Back then, it was the poor quality paper and the four color palette. The style of storytelling was not terribly interesting to me, even as young as I was. Thought bubbles ran rampant and, most of the time, the thoughts were lame. I relied on other visual mediums to get my Batman fix. When the Tim Burton Batman movie came out in 1989, I was ten years old. This was darker yet more vibrant, more violent, deeper. It was official. Adam West was bullshit (sorry, Adam). I knew Michael Keaton as Mr. Mom, a far cry from my beloved Caped Crusader, but The film changed the way I looked at the character. He was dark and haunted, twisted and broken. I was able to relate to that on a somewhat superficial level. Of course, that film has since been eclipsed as the Christopher Nolan trilogy but that was still sixteen years off.

I was also a massive fan of Batman: The Animated Series. That show has held up better over time, largely due to the fact that no Batman cartoon has come close to matching, much less exceeding, the quality of that program. Now, whenever I read the comics or a Batman novel, I hear Kevin Conroy’s voice as Batman. I’m hardly the only one as the Arkham video game series uses him as the Dark Knight’s voice. Mark Hamill is more the Joker to me now than he is Luke Skywalker. He’s more Joker than Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger or Cesar fucking Romero. I still watch that show fairly regularly to this day on DVD or The Hub.

I didn’t start experiencing Batman in print until 1996 when I purchased Batman: The Ultimate Evil by Andrew Vachss. I was at my doctor’s office in Western Springs and I stopped in at the Crown Books in Western Springs (weird that over ten years later, I would work in that same space). The book was, I believe, $4.97 in their bargain book section. What the hell, how bad could it be? I loved it. Batman wasn’t fighting the Joker or the Riddler, he was fighting a child prostitution ring. There’s no rational minded person that can’t get behind that cause. Those bastards deserve whatever they’re going to get. It’s like when Indiana Jones goes up against Nazis, it’s easy to side with Indy. It’s weird that this was the story that recaptured my attention when it was the most different Batman story I’d ever encountered.

Thanks to Spawn (the cartoon, not the movie) and Image Comics as a whole, I started getting into comics in 1997. The style of comics had changed. The art was a million times better than what I’d remembered. The form had evolved to a point to where it could capture my imagination. Not long after, I got into the work of Frank Miller (though, Miller and Todd McFarlane’s Spawn/Batman cross-over was crap). His run on Daredevil made me see that comics, especially ones from the eighties and earlier, were viable fiction. Sadly, I don’t remember where I found this but I found the Complete Frank Miller Batman. I do know it was under $20. Good luck finding it for under $100 now. I hadn’t read any of it before but it absolutely changed my life. Does that sound weird? Well, it did. It contained the bookends to the story of the Dark Knight. Year One was the story of how he became who he came to be. Origin stories had been done for Batman before but this was the definitive. The image of the pearls falling from from the murdered Martha Wayne has been used in every subsequent re-telling.

Also inside was the greatest Batman story ever told, The Dark Knight Returns. Gone for a decade, Bruce Wayne sees Gotham fall into a state of, wait, why am I telling you? It’s awesome. You’ve probably read it. If you haven’t, there’s something wrong with you. This was supposed to be the final Batman story. Never mind that Miller wrote The Dark Knight Strikes Again years after this volume came out. That story is just not terribly good. I can pretend it never happened since my tome says “complete”. I can maintain a facade of blissful ignorance despite being fully aware of the subpar sequel and my having just confessed my knowledge of it to you, the reader.Ah, well. The CFMB even contains the holiday special, “Wanted: Santa Claus Dead Or Alive”.

The book is leatherbound and has a ribbon book marker. It’s an item that means something to me, that I believe in. It contains my favorite fictional work of any kind, something that I could only ever dream of writing. It’s a little beat up and worn, like me. I have no religion but this book is the closest thing to a bible that I own. I will praise its glory every day until I become too senile to remember it. Can I get a Amen (why isn’t the phrase “an Amen”, I guess it sounds funny)?

Crazy From The Heat, or Crazy From the Hunt?

Posted: July 28, 2013 by generationgbooks in Books, Music
Tags: ,

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DLR, before CLR, Way before CLR. Another exhaustive search for an obscure 1st edition was Crazy From the Heat, by Mr. Showbiz Ninja Pants himself, Mr. David Lee Roth. Former lead singer of Van Halen and then solo artist, this book was his autobiography. It was also his chance to set the record straight about what really went down in Van Halen after 1984 that had him bounced out of the group for one Sammy Hagar. The cover alone was enough to make me thirst for its hardness in my hands. Oh wait, that was awkward wording there…then again, it is me. I had to have it. Oh wait, that wasn’t much better. The cover made me want it. Never mind, obviously a blog cannot be posted without a dirty mind sinking it beforehand. Onto the story.

In 1997, David Lee Roth’s hilarious autobiography, was released. 1997 wasn’t a good year. I was shackin’ up with Redneck Flats and fearing for my life. My mom had passed the year before, I was trying to save an addict and have some semblance of a “relationship”, and I was stuck in a job where i had recently taken a demotion based on grief. Not my finest hour, nor my happiest. I needed some cheer. There came along David Lee Roth’s book.

This one was one that the aforementioned Waldenbooks in Countryside had. However, every time I saved enough of my check and went over to buy it, it was sold out. I finally decided to act and call around for a copy. Orland Park’s Borders had it, and there’s where I finally got it. The first copy. I read it in 3 days, and passed it onto my brother. I don’t think I remember my brother laughing so hard after my mom’s death, or before that. He loved it and thought it was as great as I did. I think Jen got it next, and she thought it was hysterical. It made the rounds of my heavy-metal and classic rock loving friends, and then, I made the fatal mistake- I gave my precious, much loaned copy to Steven (aka Redneck Flats, The Poor Man’s Scott Weiland, Dumbass, Useless, BudMan, GoatMan, etc). That was the last I saw of it. He took it to Lawrenceville, Georgia, to see his uncle, aunt, and second cousin, who I later found out, he had some sort of relationship with (he is Southern, y’all). He returned with a suitcase full of Wizard comics (which i stole, in retaliation, for my book disappearing), a lizard (not in the suitcase, but oh boy, a pet!), some cassette tapes of him singing Creed, and other inadmissible forms of lunacy. I asked him where my book was, and never got a straight answer. There was some sort of mumbling about a poker game, moonshine, the cousin, denim skirts, cowboy boots, a rodeo, and money lost. So I gather from that incoherent pothead, drunk mumbling that he sold my book for moonshine. That wouldn’t have bothered me. But if he lost it in a poker game to the cousin he wanted to poke? That wasn’t allowed! Although some part of me thinks DLR would dig that kind of wild story and would maybe write a song or make a great video from it (the beginning of Yankee Rose, with the convenience store and the black lady and Tic Tacs- that’s what I’m talking about!), that didn’t mean he got off the hook for it. That, my friends, was really the beginning of the “Dawning of the Age of the Goat”. Meaning, the end of the relationship. No Southern-Fried Creed fan was stealing my book! Except that he had, and left it somewhere in an attic in Georgia.

I started by going back to that Borders. All they had were, by now, 3rd editions. I hit the new Barnes & Noble down the block- same story. The Crown Books in Oak Lawn (Irony!) never had it. The one in Western Springs? Stacey offered to order it, but I didn’t know when I would have the money again to get it. I decided to wait. Big mistake. No more luck was had- until finally, in 2003, i found a copy- on Ebay.

Ebay is a mystery I will never solve. Like Japanese noodles and old ladies’ knitting circles. One of my friends from the Orland BAM, Kevin S. Cook, pointed me to Ebay. He told me he had found a number of H.P. Lovecraft sci-fi books that were out of print, by bidding on them on Ebay. I liked a pissing contest, minus the appendage, so I created an account. Then all sorts of hell broke loose. I had too much time on my hands one day and got to searching for Boy George coffee mugs. I found one and bid- except I didn’t realize that it was like a live auction, and I had to sit there and reply to any and every bid to win. I did win, but the problem was, I was drunk when I bid and didn’t realize that the pounds were not converted to American dollars. Once it did, holy crap, that was more than one week of pay for a cup. Except I had won the bid, and they now wanted my payment info. There was no way I was paying $75 for a Boy George mug. I worship the man, but I had my limits. I sent an email saying I didn’t want the mug, and I would let someone else have it, etc. Next thing I know I get clobbered with a number of Ebay emails saying I have broken the Holy Grail of Online Ebay etiquette, Blah, blah, blah. I ignored it and went on my merry way. However, due to this juvenile miscreant behavior, I was BANNED. From Ebay! So there went my hope of DLR 1st editions.

Flash forward. 2007. I am at a closeout sale at Crows Nest in Crest Hill. It is, unfortunately, not long before the end of this location. Sadness fills my pores as pizza fills my face; but there, on a cart of “Closeout, No Returns”, is my long unfulfilled destiny. The book. It is not, sadly, in prime shape. It has a horribly bright yellow sticker on it with the giant crow that was the mascot and a giant “Closeout. No Returns” sticker with the price- $4.99- on it. The cover is slightly torn. It looks, like DLR himself, like it has seen better days. I can’t stand it. I open the cover and find the copyright page. And there it is. The 1st edition. I am one lucky midget that day. I purchase it, I have the clerk wrap it in plastic bag, doubled, and I walk out of there with Jen and a big smile. Almost as big as the one that I had the whole couple of hours it took me to re-read this. If you haven’t read it, borrow it from me, I guarantee you will laugh your ass off. Totally worth the long and winding days to finally find it and call it mine.

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The book above was another exercise in my attempts to find impossible things. Boy George’s autobiography (and a New York Times bestseller) came out in July, 1995. 1995 was a rough year. I was 22. I was crazy in love, eating Little Caesar’s all the time, smoking cigarettes, not sleeping, and drinking insane amounts nightly. Basically, living it up. I honestly could not have cared two shits about Take It Like A Man. In the incandescence of heady youth, I somehow managed to not realize that one of my all-time music muses had released his long-hyped autobiography.

This was, as I have referenced in other posts, before the Internet blew up. Not literally, unfortunately. AOL was beginning its long held strangehold on the Interwebs, but there was not the wealth of knowledge that we now call “The River” ( I call it other words), Goodreads, Riffle, etc. It wasn’t easy to pull up a bestseller list on the old Dell, but it easier to pick up the newspaper and browse the NYT bestseller list. Sometime in October, 1995, reeling from a broken heart, I picked up a newspaper and checked out the bestseller list. I saw Take It Like A Man and Boy George’s name. I may have screamed. I’m pretty sure the word “motherfucker” was uttered. I would have to ask Jen, because I think she was with me when I spotted it. Something akin to rabid fangirling, before it was the “norm”, took place. And then I had to have it. Which is where the insanity began.

By the time I had found out about that the book had come out and I had missed it completely, there were no more 1st editions available. Believe me, I looked. And so did Jen. And Heidi. And my mother. And any poor person who was friends with me at that time. Pretty sure I mentioned it repeatedly to those I worked with at LCP. I went to Waldenbooks on Lagrange Road over and over again looking for it. They never had it. They offered to order it, but I never wanted to. Why? Because I didn’t want to order it and get in there, and it not be a first edition.  Because I would not buy it, and they would be stuck with it. So I kept hoping I would find it. At this point, I was NOT a collector of any kind, but this was about to be my initiation.

Let me give you some background. I am a huge Boy George fan, not just Culture Club, but his solo work, his DJ work, his battle and win over addiction, and his incredible life. His story is bitchy, dramatic, overemotional, and often wrought with bitterness. It’s also wildly inspiring, full of bluntness in dealing with the drug addiction that almost killed him, and a lot of hard truths in dealing with his homosexuality in a time when pop culture and the world at large did not openly embrace gay people as it does in this day and age. In other words, a book I could identify with. He was the first gay man that I idolized and fell in love with (I still think it’s because it’s one of my cherished memories with my mom. When CC was on Solid Gold for the first time in 1981 and we saw who that amazing voice belonged to, we were in love. My mom also was enraptured, and more than a little curious. Truly a bonding experience, our shared love of Boy George). So a first edition it had to be.

Eventually, I found it at a Crown Books in Chicago Heights. Odd that I would end up finding it there before my eventual tour of duty with them four years after that. This was a 4th edition. The nice lady at the counter told me they had no control over what edition they got from the publisher and that I was going to have a “hard time finding one because it’s been out for months and reprinted several times.” I almost wept. Instead, I bought that copy, because the book fiend had to read it. I guess we would call it my desk copy. By the time I eventually gave that copy to Jen (once I found the elusive 1st edition),  there were things underlined, the pages were dog-eared, things written in ballpoint ink in the margins, and I could recite whole passages by heart. I began hitting record stores, hoping I would find it. I did, but it was all the same edition I already had at home. I went to redneck garage sales, in southern Illinois and even in Georgia (I was dating the poor man’s Scott Weiland at the time, so I was in the neighborhood). Years go by, times change, scenes change, records begin to go out of vogue, then cassettes, etc, but I continued to use every avenue to try to locate the book. Tower Records, my beloved, had a great book section, and they couldn’t get it in. It was fucking impossible to find it. Rolling Stone Records in Norridge also has a great book and magazine section, and I used to go there with Czaja and Mark quite frequently, but no dice on the Boy. Of course, those fuckers had no problem having 10 copies of that stupid Pink Floyd biography by some Rolling Stone author, and they were all first editions, but not the one I sought. Life, and my mother’s death, came along and bumped me down a dark road for quite a few years. The twin bitches of responsibility and life took priority to my idle pursuits, so I let it spin off my radar for a while. And then one day, Beavis Jesus finally delivered me that copy I had been trying to find; at this point, for the better part of ten years.  A decade. For one book. Believe it.

The lead-in to this culmination is rather lame, or the Rog without the Rerun. I was waltzing along one day in a Bargain Books, which was on its way to ruination. The minute those people starting wearing the denim overalls and blasting Jesus Music Hour out of loud boomboxes, that was the end of that glorious remainder shack. Heidi and I were hunting for Duran Duran photo books, or possibly a gift for someone, I honestly don’t remember. I saw something buried under a Joyce Meyer (she haunted even then, and that was before the Niles book signing of infamy) book. It looked like a biography of someone from the silent screen era. I love to read stories of old Hollywood. So I turned the Joyce Meyer book over and hid it- under a Sesame Street book. Don’t worry, Grover approved. There- in all its glory- was one battered copy of Take It Like A Man. And battered is being nice. The corners of the book were dodgy, the cover was in deplorable shape, and the spine looked like someone was using it for Koosh practice. I grabbed it and quietly remembered to breathe. I open the book. Yep, there’s the first edition. In a balmy, stinky, denim-outfitted book barn warehouse in the middle of Countryside Plaza (The Amish Store–used to be Bargain Books), there was my first edition. Not in the prime condition a collector would hope, but I was to the point where it was for me. I wasn’t selling it, I wasn’t showing it anywhere, and I really just wanted to have it. It was the principle. It still is. I still own it. It still looks like I chewed entire parts of it up while awaiting the Robot Apocalypse, but it’s a first edition, and I wouldn’t trade it for all the red eyeliner in Cambodia. And I’m proud as hell that somewhere in a world of irony, there was a homosexual under Joyce Meyer.

I realize I’ve slandered the epic Sir-Mix-A-Lot anthem. I am sure Mr. Mix-a-Lot (I mean, really, what the hell would you call him?) wouldn’t mind, as it’s in the way of creation of a blog about collecting. I collect many things, so there will be other blogs, but the main one, at least consistently, has been books.

When and how did this start? Not sure, to be perfectly honest. I grew up in a household where reading took a back seat to bad horror films, bad disco music, and bad television shows of the 70’s. My mother’s primary source of reading material was tabloids. I blame her for my continuing fascination with the printed scandal sheets. My father’s primary sources were sales papers (buying a Sunday Sun-Times only for the sales papers, I was the fool reading everything between those papers), old car manuals, old Army manuals, and history books on WWI and WWII. I guess with those lines set early on, it’s no surprise the three of us were avid readers. The point is, it starts somewhere. The love of reading started the obsession with books. The obsession with books means despite the fact that I know better and have even less space, I continue to amass frightening amounts of literature, from multiple sources. The minute you find yourself anchoring a little old WordPress book blog, you find yourself inundated with MORE books. That’s a warning, friends. A warning I happily continue to ignore, for the record.

There was always an indication the books were going to get me into trouble. First there was the war with Joe D in grade school. He was reading the Hardy Boys, I was reading Nancy Drew. There was some spirited discussion of who could finish their series faster. I don’t remember who won, or if we totally stopped, but I did finish all the ND. Joe did finish all the HB, I just don’t recall what the spoils of that hard-wrought battle were(or likely, weren’t). I remember telling my mom and all she could say was “With all your homework, that’s what you’re worried about? Put that down and let’s watch Welcome Back, Kotter.”(sad AND true). No one thought of pointing out that she was telling me to quit reading those Nancy Drew books and watch my beloved Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, while I should have been doing said homework. Oh well, the late 70’s and early 80’s were quite a time of freestyle parenting; this would have been a good example.

Monetarily? The first sign of trouble was shortly after that, when there was a library sale. I don’t remember if it was at WSS or if it was at my cousin’s school in Hickory Hills, but I went and my entire allowance was gone. I had a motherload of books. I was excited. I stacked them all up in my bedroom, on the side that my nihilistic brother didn’t have taken up with those GI Joe dolls. The same weekend found me going to garage sales with Darlene, my mom’s best friend. More books. The pile grew higher. I would plow through those suckers, but it’s a battle that cannot be won. No matter how many I could read, there was always that hirsute bitch, Miss Responsibility, sitting outside to ruin my book party. I was never going to NOT have a collection of books. Nor would my desire to have mountains of books about, ever truly cease.

The psychology involved here is that no matter how much i enjoy reading, how fast I can read and blog about these books, and how often I tell myself to not buy books, I just cannot part with them. I continue to collect them, win them, borrow them, buy them cheaply at HPB, have them sent to me by publishers and colleagues. They aren’t going anywhere. For every box that gets donated (3 boxes today alone), I’m already figuring out which books I can afford to buy this week from my job (I’m a manager at an independent bookstore). By the way, choosing to have a career that is even in the remotest of ways connected to your passion, will not quench your thirst to further add to that collection. In fact, it will no doubt feed the fires, even more so.

For anyone to pour their heart, soul, wallet, creativity, and time into something that is a leisurely pursuit, and to do it for many years, in many different economic times, amid tumult of professional, personal, and mental types, and still not lose that desire, it means that this is an edifying passion that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I used to scoff at people who would go to craft shows religiously, and sell goose clothes. Who the fuck has a goose on their lawn, and why would they outfit an inanimate object? Well, guess what? It’s their passion, I have no fucking right to sit here and judge and snicker, because I collect books, they are my passion. I have no right to ridicule others, when I am in a different class of the same school of thought. Ridiculous amounts of them, many different subject matters, and many different editions. I have found books that I had hardcover and paperback editions of, but I can’t bear to throw out the hardcover, although I also have the paperback. If I go to a thrift store, where do I end up? Books. Do I end up buying them, even if it’s a Jackie Collins yellowed dog eared copy that I probably won’t read until I’m 68? Sadly enough, yes.

Overall, there isn’t much to add to this, except a bit of advice. When you go to move from one residence to the next, that is really when you realize just how much of a collector you are. Meaning- you now have to make sure your items of worship are lovingly preserved so they don’t expire or disappear in the move. It also means that you have to find room for all those items. This, in itself, should be a blog posting. My act of having to move two years ago, with my 3,660 books, was an ugly thing. I have more books than clothes. I have more books than records. I have more books than scruples. Would I have it any other way? Hell to the no.