price-compare results for meta vendor sites


25 February 2007

Recent Reading in Books Acquired Lately


Recent Reading in Books Acquired Lately

A few inter-related centres of gravity for my interests in understanding the past have emerged from what I've been reading recently. One of these centres relates to the period around 1890 to 1910; geographically the Klondike and Pacific Northwest is what I've kept 'running across' in several of the books I've just now acquired, while the other reading I've gotten into centres around Montreal.

The poet Milton Acorn fits in here somehow, but the collection of poems I've got of his is not from the Montrteal period but rather about Prince Edward Island. (There are essays specifically about PEI history as well as poems, many I am certain were written by Acorn as a young man on the island.)

Since I have got many notions about how all these writings, writers and their subjects seem to work together into something coherent, I will just post short items about them and my thoughts from time to time, without trying to wrap anything up into one neat package. (That's a benefit at least I, if not you the reader, have license to enjoy.

Although I've sold nearly everything of Jack London's I once owned, I still have Irving Stone's bio of him written in 1935. Yesterday I picked up Laura Beatrice Berton's autobiographic "I Married the Klondike". For photos mostly I've been looking through the folio format "The Streets were Paved in Gold" by Stan Cohen. Many other books and collections, including Robert Service's poems, have also influenced my thinking about the two or three poles of attraction I am thinking of here.

Two interesting points: in Dawson a Carnegie Library was built with a $25,000 donation from that foundation in the same year that Laura (née Thompson) Berton arrived to teach kindergarten - on a salary that was more than 5 times what she'd been earning in Toronto. She and the new library arrived just after the gold seams in the Klondike had run out: at least the placer deposits one or two men could get out by digging.

Nearly all the American prospectors had returned home (many a bit richer) or moved on to another Eldorado just as Dawson was being 'institutionalized' with permanent emplacements for the bank, the Mounties, the established churches and this Carnegie Library . . as well as the school where L. Berton was to teach.

I won't even attempt to tell the stories of the Klondike and these people in a post, I've barely digested the stories myself and could spend a year going over what I have here.

The Berton who Laura Thompson married was a miner-prospector, one of the Canadians who stayed on. For 20 years in the Yukon, he as a working journalist, she as a teacher and amateur novelist, they dug in in a rigorously more domestic manner than the first prospectors had accomplished. In the Yukon, the couple raised the famous-to-Canadians man-of-letters Pierre Berton. The Berton seniors settled in Oakville, Ontario in 1932.

Jack London, like Berton senior, was on the early trek up over Chilkoot Pass and up to mining territory by river raft with the first wave. They both braved the worst conditions and yet also lived the early high-times of a boom town that had struck it rich.

Robert Service arrived later. (I see that he figures in the I Married the Klondike narrative, and I cannot wait to dig into read more about how Service succeeded early as a writer-poet and started earning more from publication than the bank manager for whom he worked.)

London had a harder time of it to get good pay for what started out as 'partial publication' of the Klondike stories, even though he had already been well received in print for stories about roughing it -- both at sea and on the western plains all the way to Chicago.

(to be continued)

24 February 2007

My Own Info-Cultural Overload


John Murray Gibbon wrote and published in 1935 a history entitled "Steel of Empire" which is subtitled "A Romantic History of the Canadian Pacific, the Northwest Passage of Today". The maps and illustrations are magnificent, including the one of Canadian water and rail routes on the inside covers. No, I did not Google J. M. Gibbon or search for the book on ABE or anything -- I left that task to my friend at the bookstore, who finally sold me this 423 page tome for CAN $10 instead of the $28.95 my other friend, the bookstore owner, had marked lightly on the fly-leaf page.

Yes, I probably will also purchase and read Pierre Berton's "The Last Rail" plus a few other histories of Canadian railroads and railroading.

The really interesting of part of this visit to the neighbourhood bookstore yesterday, however, revolved less around the titles I scanned on the shelves but the conversation(s) three of us had about 'transportation' into Montreal. Turns out that the woman (I forget her name, dammit!), the one who always comes in on Fridays to buy three pop-lit titles, arrived in Montreal by rail from Halifax in 1950 -- at age 3 after a sojourn in a DP (displaced persons) camp in Eastern Europe from birth to her departure to Canada. Her family was from Lithuania and did I ever get an earful about the situation of Lithuanian immigrant to Canada following the last world war (the present 'world war', actually . . the war that never really ended . . in my humble opinion).

You would be privileged to have heard, or to have me recount here, her personal history (which is not at all a private history). But in the 45 minutes or so that we spoke, the topics ranged so widely that it would take a volume greater than Gibbons's to relate the details and enough background for anyone outside my neighbourhood to understand the facts properly. This just shows the complicated state and entertwined themes of personal, local, social, ethnic, religious, world and linguistic histories. And this is no exaggeration.

(The rapport we three experienced and our mutual interest in exchanging stories is typical of the many high-points in interaction with customers that one sees in the typical used-bookstore on a typical day, by the way. Something I find nobody has time for in the retail trade for new books.)

Such conversations, of course, stimulate my interest in finding out more, meeting other Lithuanians and having more conversations with people I've met over the years who were also DPs before arriving in Canada. In terms of piquing my interest in reading, well one doesn't even know where to begin. But is my reaction typical? Aren't most people simply overloaded with all the details and complications of life as we've lived it over the past half-century or so?

Communities of people in my immediate vicinity seem to be so fractured along linguistic, familial and political divides that the last thing that comes to my mind is that they have a common culture, a common literature. The most common literature I can think of would be a book like 'Microsoft XP for Dummies' or some guide for shopping, dining out in or simply visiting in 'City X'; tour guides to the amusement park, in other words.

Sadly, as well, it seems so typical that the notions about 'sharing stories' are mostly being mouthed by narrators who are thinking more in terms of undergrad or graduate courses in lit and creative writing than by the real DPs in our midst. Or, one day I meet an interesting Cuban and learn immediately that her family 'fled Castro' and the next day the Cuban I meet is in a cultural delegation loyal to Castro! It's the same thing with the Chinese, although none of them are formally sponsored by the present regime. The Chinese storekeeper plays the capitalist entrepreneur card AND the card-carrying Maoist card simultaneously! And where does all this leave the 2nd-gen Eastern European who fled both the communists and the fascists and whose parents got jobs with Northern Electric and whose pension and estate melted when Nortel went into free-fall? But, typically, where does this leave the person who doesn't care a damn about politics but who wishes that their parents had immigrated to Los Angeles instead of to Québec. Where do you even start?

It is no wonder that the No. 1 Target being attacked by the performance poets I've heard and seen lately has been the boob tube and/or the instant stardom 'for everybody' epitomized by " Star Academy" shows. But where would we be if the show were called 'Estonian for a Night'?

Conclusion? I guess I'm suffering from information overload just based on one 45-minute conversation in a bookstore yesterday. I think I too will turn on the boob tube and tune out for a little break or pick up an escapist novel I see on the shelf. I don't think I could handle a romantic-historical narrative about how all history revolves around circumnavigating the earth in a timeless search for oriental spices.

23 February 2007

Photo Images, Imagination, and Hard-Pan Montreal and Urban Reality in Hindsight


There is an interesting comment thread that ran yesterday on 'neath's' blog Walking Turcot Yards. It's happening under some photo images of Montreal's Sohmer Park from around 1910 and for Blogaulaire the discussion has opened up many issues (and a few books) about the history of industrialization in Canada, Québec and the world.

What's so important about Sohmer Park? Check out the post HERE first and see what it looks like in the images.

First, the park started as a private investment sort of like some amusement parks in the twentieth century - but not the kind many of us are familiar with. (I remember the Palisades Park in Council Bluffs, across the Missouri River from Omaha, Nebraska, with the big roller coaster ride, for example).

Sohmer Park gets two types of photo treatments as far as we can find: one treatment makes it look like a Manet painting, almost like a bourgeois urban paradise. The other photo treatment makes Sohmer Park look like some sort of after-birth, some sort of spectacle and fight arena as a sop to the working class out behind the rail yards out beyond the 'Chateau' Viger . . the Viger Hotel and Railway Station.

Perverse as it may seem, I am most interested in the latter view: Sohmer as a low-rent version of Madison Square Gardens for the Francophone workers. But they did hold, over the last quarter of the 19th century, higher brow concerts and orchestral performances with a resident conductor in the concert hall there. So there was a complex reality reflected.

It all has to do with how workers looked at culture and how the real bourgeoisie looked upon the workers. And, especially for Montreal, these realities are far from simple and most difficult to work out conceptually from the perspective of the 21st century.

What is traditionally projected back into time is a notion that the English lived on the west side of town and the French on the east side. Add to East versus West view the notion that the Irish lived south of the Lachine Canal, down around the Victoria Bridge (both of which the Irish came to build - not far from where thousands of them had died of 'ship fever' in the fever sheds) and you start to paint the social history of Montreal the way it has come down through the mists of time.

What such a view of social and industrial history is likely to miss is the rural penetration of piece-work at manufacturing textiles, a trade run by French Canadian entrepreneurs . . and with the total collaboration of the church hierarchy. It is a phenomenon that antedates heavy industry in Lower Canada.

When you scan photos of Montreal taken in the late 19th century or early 20th, it becomes easy to lose all distinction between light and heavy industry and to completely forget about domestic piece-work. The shoe and clothing manufactures were immense industrial operations that spread out from Old Montreal to the east and the machines were run on steam power - burning first coal and then oil. So if you look east, you see smokestack after smokestack and are likely fooled into seeing the east side as the heart of Montreal's manufacturing activities. But it doesn't matter which direction you face: from Old Montreal, look in any direction at this time and the whole thing (as a panorama) looks industrial.

You are 'looking over the heads' of the more traditional bourgeoisie of "La Cité' with any photographic panorama. The well-off districts, the homes of the notaries, the clerical establishment, even of the financiers are still concentrated near the centre of trading activity - clustered around Old Montreal and around the mountain. The manufacturing is also nearby. Textiles, though, are moving east to Hochelaga and then north to the plateau while the metallurgical industry is moving from St. Anne's parish out west along the Canal Lachine over time and with development of the railroads. But because these industries all rely on heavy generation of power in the plant (not from hydro-electric power) they are 'soiling the nest' so to speak of Montreal's urban black-frocked elite.

Photographers and those of us who keep gazing at the documentary records in the image archives may collectively think that we are staying close to the 'best' original sources. But the silver and albumin images lend themselves as easily as do any contemporary novels and belles lettres to a misreading and anachronistic projections of 21st century prejudice backward in time.

There may have been a time in the 19th century when doing piece-work or taking a job in concentrated leather manufacture was considered more dignified than working in heavy metallurgical industry. If anything, it is the trade union struggles that drove wages up in industrial manufacturing and the failure of same in textiles that drove wages down in that sector (today considered tertiary). The same could be said of mining: prospecting for gold is different from digging coal.

Sohmer Park evolved as a venue for concerts into a venue for wrestling and exhibits of brute strength by strongman Louis Cyr. The Chateau Viger moved from a luxury hotel to a bland complex of white-collar offices serving as stenographer to the beer business and the paper-pushers at City Hall and the Palais de Justice. Trying to 'understand' Sohmer Park in 1910 is NOT the same thing as trying to situate the original intent of building a concert hall east of Old Montreal in 1871, and for many reasons including the Great Fire of that year in Montreal (not to mention in Chicago).

Social and economic realities in Montreal are complex. There are elites competing for power over Lower Canada and the Maritimes whose wealth depends either on the Dominion or on more native wealth. There are those whose status depends either on Rome or on Chicago and New York. Some 'capitalists' depend on trade with the interior; others depend on trade with the Mother Country. And there are those in-between. And then there are the ex-slaves be they Black or Irish or what Pierre Vallières termed the 'white niggars of America'. Very complex, indeed!

Note: We need to keep in mind the 'vestimentary' history, i.e., what people wore in the various epochs of modern times. In fact, Charlie Chaplin playing a bum in a bowler hat in the silent film Modern Times should always be kept in mind when reading photographs. I decided to not run photos with this post, but what I could run from the Gold Rush in the Klondike would blow your mind . . . the dresses that the women in Skagway and Dawson 'packed in on their backs' in 1897 . . .

You cannot even begin to read a 19th century photograph until you understand what workers and miners thought about how 'clothes make the man'. And I most certainly include women in this remark.

And you cannot understand a thing about Québec history from photographs unless you conceptualize the competition between manufacture being legitimate IF it is in the hands of the French Catholic merchant-manufacturer versus the "illegitimate" English-Protestant focus upon producing wealth inside a Colony. This distinction, by the way, goes all the way back to the fur trade. But we tend to forget it when looking at smokestacks on the Montreal horizon as we scan photographs taken in the period 1880 - 1910. To be explicit: I am saying that a smokestack is not a smokestack; that in the popular mind it matters very much whether the smokestack bears the name Royal Electric Co.' or 'Hudon Cotton Mill.' And that in this period, more and more of the names on the plants, of light or heavy industry, become Scots, English or colonial. If Sohmer Park evolves from a watering hole for the Francophone bourgeoisie to become an amusement park for the Francophone working class, the change in status reflects more fundamental changes in the division of labour and wealth in Lower Canada generally.

Everyone knows, however, that in the rest of Canada power and population flows North-South, not straight back to the Mother Country. (After all, the railroad was not built East-West overnight. All the 'images' in the West are a reflection of the demographic centre-of-gravity south of Canada's borders.

The entertainers - even out in the backwoods of western Canada - could have come straight from New York's Broadway! And it becomes oh so vulgar compared to what Queen Victoria would have wished for her dominion!

It is like the old joke we used to play when the tour guides at St. Gabriel Farm were all nuns: 'So les filles du roi were sent over from France so that the 'colons' (the King's New France settlers) could have wives and propagate in the colony? And you say these 'filles du roi' were from the 'best families' of France? Well, what about all those abandoned children, the offspring of prostitutes on the streets of Paris and Orléans? What did the King propose to do about them?. Those were some interesting, ironic, conversations with the nuns concerning the 17th century. Back then, the Church did have the aspiration of molding the colony. But in the late 19th century, two hundred years later? Who, then, had aspirations of molding the colony? Was it another King, another Queen, or was it the Church or was it the captains of industry? Or were they all competing over the seat of power? Who?

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 23 Febuary


from Justin Wintle

"There is plenty of gold around but how many white haired friends?"

. . (215) Chinese
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

22 February 2007

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 22 Febuary


from Justin Wintle
"A man does not know what poverty is until the bottom of his cooking pot burns through."

. . (207) Chinese
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

Anderseed's Oilpatch Expressions Defined for the Layman (5)


Alaska Governor “We are crafting this whole process with our arms open, even for Exxon,” Ms. Palin said. “Come on in and let us know what you have in terms of a proposal to commercialize Alaska’s natural gas.”

Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska


Robert W. Service

The Spell of the Yukon

I wanted the gold, and I sought it;
I scrabbled and mucked like a slave.
Was it famine or scurvy - I fought it;
I hurled my youth into a grave.
I wanted the gold, and I got it --
Came out with a fortune last fall --
Yet somehow life's not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn't all.

cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

(Previous posts: 1) annunciator, Australian offset, bait box, bastard, bean, behind the pipe, big-inch pipeline, bird cage, and bird dog; 2) spudding bit, bituminous sand, black oil, black oils market, block tree, bobtail, bobtail plant, bogies, boll weevil, boomer, BOPD; 3) brass pounder, bristle pig, bronc, caliche, company camp, carbon black, carbon plant; 4) chatter, cheater, cheese box, churn drilling, circle jack, city gate, collar pounder or 'pecker', come-along, condemnation, core boat, crooked-hole country, crowbar connection )
A person responsable for cleaning and keeping an oilfield bunkhouse supplied with towels, bed linen, and soap; a construction camp housekeeper.

Crude oil containing no dissolved gas when it is produced.

A well that will not flow and in order to produce must be put on the pump.

Gas produced from 15,000 feet or below, which commands an incentive price because of the high cost of drilling three miles deep into high-pressure formations. Such wells cost in the high-rent neighborhood of 4 to 8 million dollars, depending on the difficulties encountered.

The man who first devised a method for shipping crude oil by rail. In 1865 he mounted two iron-banded wooden tanks on a railway flatcar. (shortened)

Organizations of women employed in the oil industry. Such clubs now exist in about a dozen major oil centers. The purpose of the organizations is partly educational and partly social. (added - not in Langenkamp)

A humorous reference to a large, old car or truck.

Bunker fuel and other black residual oils.

A term used to describe certain petroleum products that have been treated to remove sulfur compounds and mercaptans that are the sources of unpleasant odors. A product that has been so treated is said to be "sweet to the doctor test."

A portable one-room shelter . . . serves as a lunchroom, change house, dormitory and a room for keeping small supplies and records.

To do less than one's share of work; to hang back; to drag one's feet.

A loyal aid or underling who does disagreeable or slightly unorthodox (shady) jobs for his boss; a master of the "midnight requisition."

A witching device; a twig or branch of a small tree (peach is favored by some witchers) that, when held by an "expert" practitioner as he walks over a plot of land, is supposed to bend down, locating a favorable place to drill a well; a popular term for any of the various geophysical prospecting equipment.

To draw the wages one has coming and quit the job; an expression used in the oil fields by pipeline construction workers and temporary or day laborers.

from R. D. Langenkamp. Handbook of Oil Industry Terms & Phrases. 4th Ed. Tulsa: PennWell Publ, 1984, 347 p

21 February 2007

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 21 Febuary


from Justin Wintle

. . (207) Chinese

"Fools long for chaos; poor men hope for a riot."

cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

Anderseed's Oilpatch Expressions Defined for the Layman (4)


from R. D. Langenkamp. Handbook of Oil Industry Terms & Phrases. 4th Ed. Tulsa: PennWell Publ, 1984, 347 p **

Ida Tarbell. "History of the Standard Oil Company," from McClure's Magazine, 1902 - 1904.

cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

"The price of oil has nearly tripled since President George W. Bush took office in 2001, yet the majority of the people who live in the countries from which the fuel flows still experience grinding poverty. "

Oil Trip: Nigeria, Chad, Liberia


(Previous posts: 1) annunciator, Australian offset, bait box, bastard, bean, behind the pipe, big-inch pipeline, bird cage, and bird dog, 2) spudding bit, bituminous sand, black oil, black oils market, block tree, bobtail, bobtail plant, bogies, boll weevil, boomer, BOPD, 3) brass pounder, bristle pig, bronc, caliche, company camp, carbon black, carbon plant)

A noisy indication that a mechanical part is behaving erratically and destructively.

A length of pipe used to increase the leverage of a wrench, anything used to lengthen a handle to increase the applied leverage.

An early-day, square, box-like refining vessel; a still to heat crude oil for distilling the products in those days--kerosene, gas oil, and lubricating oil.

Another name for cable-tool drilling because of the up-and-down, churning motion of the drill bit.

A device used on the floor of a cable-tool rig to 'make up' and 'break out' (tighten and loosen) joints of drilling tools. (shortened)

The measuring point at which a gas distributing utility receives gas from a gas transmission company.

A pipeline worker who beats time with a hammer on the coupling into which a joint of pipe is being screwed by a tong gang. The purpose is twofold: to keep the tong men pulling in unison and to warm up the collar so that a tighter screw joint can be made.

A lever and short lengths of chain with hooks attached to the ends of the chains used for tightening or pulling a chain. (shortened)

The taking of land by purchase, at fair market value, for public use and benefit by state or federal government as well as by certain other agencies and utility companies having power of eminent domain.

A seagoing vessel for drilling core holes in offshore areas.

Said of an area or field in which there has been a high incidence of crooked holes drilled, boreholes that have deviated alarmingly from the vertical . . . See Pendulum Drill Assembly; also Fanning the Bottom.

A humorous reference to an assemblage of pipe fittings so far out of alignment that a crowbar is required to force them to fit.

20 February 2007

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 20 Febuary


from Justin Wintle

"Of the ten reasons which lead a judge to his decision, nine are not disclosed."

. . (204) Chinese
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

Anderseed's Oilpatch Expressions Defined for the Layman (3)


from R. D. Langenkamp. Handbook of Oil Industry Terms & Phrases. 4th Ed. Tulsa: PennWell Publ, 1984, 347 p **

Mayo (Yukon 1933) unloading a barge of oil.
Photographer: Claude Tidd

cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca


"Whimsical looks at words used in an industry which leaves many of us unamused and whose track record few words can even begin to express."

(Previous posts: annunciator, Australian offset, bait box, bastard, bean, behind the pipe, big-inch pipeline, bird cage, and bird dog, spudding bit, bituminous sand, black oil, black oils market, block tree, bobtail, bobtail plant, bogies, boll weevil, boomer, BOPD)

A telegrapher, especially one who uses a telegraph key. Until the 1940s or so, much of the communication from oil patch to division and head offices was by telegraph.

A type of pipeline pig or scraper made of tough plastic covered with flame-hardened steel bristles. Bristle or foam pigs are easy to run, do not get hung up in the line, and are easy to "catch." They are usually run in newly constructed lines to remove ruse and mill scale.

A new driller promoted from helper; a new toolpusher up from driller; any newly promoted oilfield worker whose performance is still untried.

A term used in the Southwest, New Mexico, and Arizona, particularly for a brownish, buff, or white calcareous material. (shortened)

A small community of oilfield workers; a settlement of oil-company employees living on a lease in company housing. In the early days, oil companies furnished housing, lights, gas, and water free or at a nominal charge. ... Camps were known by company lease or simply the lease name, e.g., Gulf Wolf Camp, Carter Camp, and Tom Butler.

A fine, bulky carbon obtained as soot by burning natural gas in large horizontal "ovens" with insufficient air.

Carbon plants are located close to a source of gas and in more-or-less isolated sections of the country because of the heavy emission of smoke.

19 February 2007

Atlantic #3 Oil Rig Blow-Out - 1948


Learn the story of the worst blowout in Leduc County, Alberta, Canada.

Oil Rig BlowoutIt all happened in 1948 when Atlantic drilling rig #3 lost circulation and the well blew wild for 7 months.

All attempts to control the gusher failed.

The Alberta conservation Board took over the well and hired Imperial Oil Ltd. to control the blowout. Imperial assigned Vincent John "Tip" Moroney to the project and contracted two steam operated rigs to drill south and west directional relief wells.
The lost circulation and high flow rates caused the ground under the surface casing to rupture, and on September 6, 1948 the Atlantic No. 3 rig collapsed into a crater.

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 19 Febuary


bright corridor

from Justin Wintle

"The laws of religion bind us like silk threads; the laws of government are as heavy as a golden yoke; but the laws of national tradition are as inflexible as an iron pillar."
. . (197) Tibetan
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

Anderseed's Oilpatch Expressions Defined for the Layperson (2)


from R. D. Langenkamp. Handbook of Oil Industry Terms & Phrases. 4th Ed. Tulsa: PennWell Publ, 1984, 347 p **

"Whimsical looks at words used in an industry which leaves many of us unamused and whose track record few words can even begin to express."

A B.C. oil drilling rig built and abandoned in 1914. Credit: Gerald Kornelsen - Roadside Attractions
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

Oil Lexicon Illustration
(Previous posts: annunciator, Australian offset, bait box, bastard, bean, behind the pipe, big-inch pipeline, bird cage, and bird dog.)

A large-diameter drill bit used to make the initial hole (the top hole) when putting down a well. A spudding bit may be from 15 to 36 inches in diamaeter . . . The conductor casing fits into the hole made by the spudding bit.

Tar sand, a mixture of asphalt and loose sand that, when processed, may yield as much as 12 percent asphalt.

(1) A term denoting residual oil; oil used in ships' boilers or in large heating or generating plants; bunker oil. (2) Black-colored oil used for lubricating heavy, slow-moving machinery where the use of higher-grade lubes would be impractical. (3) Asphalt-base crudes.

See Resid Market (in a later post)

A short-bodied truck.

A gas plant that extracts liquid hydrocarbons from natural gas but does not break down the liquid product into its separate components.

Colloquial term for small transport dollies. A low, sturdy frame or small platform with multiple wheels (4 to 8) for moving heavy objects short distances.

A type of well-completion Christmas tree (upcoming post) in which a number of control and production valves are made as a unit in one block of steel. (shortened)

An inexperienced worker or "green hand" on a drilling crew.

(1) A link-and-lever mechanisms used to tighten a chain or cable holding a load of pipe or other material. (2) A worker who moves from one job to another. See pipeline Cat (upcoming post)

Barrels of oil per day: bo/d

18 February 2007

Breaking the Grip of Mid-Winter Freeze-In and the Block of Ice around Bookstore Sales


As in the Midwest and Atlantic Canada , as well as in Northern and Central New England, here in Montreal and the rest of Québec, generally, the last two weeks have been a virtual freeze-in (or snow-down if that suits your vocabulary) for bookstore owners and book buyers.

Yes, 'speaking for' my two closest bookstore friends, the crop of shoppers dropping in has been sparsely sewn on snow-packed ground regarding all but the mail carrier and closest friends. Yet, for at least two shopping afternoons, the sun did break through, for enough time to avoid a total disaster.

At present, as a sometime supplier, I do not have very many books placed on consignment in either of my friends' shops. In the locale with the most traffic (call it Jenny's), Jenny won't take on my McSweeney's titles, saying that McSweeney box sets are too sophisticated for the indigenous clientele (GRXNBX !! ?? I muttered to myself) and despite the FACT that everything she does take on consignment from me sells quite well. And Jenny gets 50% of the asking price.

Where there is less traffic, at Marilyn's, a few books that have my name tucked inside on a card have been sold and I've been rewarded at 100%. (I'd virtually written then off.) So things keep selling at 14 C below.

Two conclusions: 1) the deep of winter is not completely a 'death zone' in our neighbbourhood, where Montrealers are hardy folks who still get out in all sorts of weather, and 2) I must urgently come to a workable agreement with these bookstore owners in terms of what they will take on consignment and how we divy up the monetary returns.

There have been a couple books (entire genres perhaps) that all three of us have felt in our bones will sell fast: the nicely illustrated, clean copies of books featuring Marilyn Monroe on the cover plus and things like the Princeton Edition of the I-Ching. Search me why: we just knew they would sell.

What everybody is hoping for is that SUDDENLY the public's interest will suddenly turn toward exactly our own personal focus for some theme we each focus on in collecting old books.

Or that instead of having (as at present) only one single customer interested in, say, the Harlem Renaissance, or old poetry anthologies from circa 1925, OR EVEN anything about military insignia and regalia, OR instead of that one customer who wants and needs a book about Taoist approaches to male sexuality, . . that there be, INSTANTLY, four or five MORE customers ready and willing to buy up everything along the SAME LINE that comes into the store.

My friends and I need some sort of HANDLE of what people want in triplicate, not in dribbles and drabs.

The real question is precisely this: why, with thousands or tens of thousands of books on the shelf, must one be reduced to making money on the last and latest purchase of some handful of titles that fell out of the sky only yesterday?

All I can say to such questions is this: 'Where there is a will and a wish, there is a way.'

I would wish for a new boom of interest in African fiction authored by Africans . Or that Québec poets from the 1960s and '70s period become numero uno as a HOT ITEM. Fat chance, I know.

What I am thinking about investigating and collecting (no matter who else gives a shit) are VHS videos where there is some hero-star macho type whose job it is in the flic to put out well-head fires on oil rigs. Somehow I am convinced that there are more than one film title in this oh so specific genre. I want every one of them.

So much for my Report from the North this Sunday eve. Now YOU, for YOU my advice is to "Think layers." "Think cotton under wool under Gortex (TM) under down." Keep warm.

This is definitely not motorcycle weather: Forget the leather except for lined gloves . . And Keep Warm.

Anderseed's Oilpatch Expressions Defined for the Layperson *


from R. D. Langenkamp. Handbook of Oil Industry Terms & Phrases. 4th Ed. Tulsa: PennWell Publ, 1984, 347 p **

"Whimsical looks at words used in an industry which leaves many of us unamused and whose track record few words can even begin to express."

A B.C. oil drilling rig built and abandoned in 1914. Credit: Gerald Kornelsen - Roadside Attractions
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

Oil Lexicon Illustration

An electronically controlled device that signals or sounds an alarm when conditions deviate from normal. (shortened)

A humorous reference to a well drilled miles away from proven production.

A pipeliner's lunch pail.

(1) Any nonstandard piece of equipment. (2) A kind of file. (3) A word used in grudging admiration or as a term of approbrium.

A choke used to regulate the flow of fluid from a well. See Flow Bean.

Refers to oil and gas reservoirs penetrated or passed through by wells but never tapped or produced. Behind the pipe refers usually to tight formations of low permeability that, although recognized, were passed through because they were uneconomical to produce at the time. Today (1984), however, with the growing scarcity of oil and high prices, many of these passed-through formations are getting a second look by producers.

A 24-inch pipeline from Longview, Texas, to Norris City, Illinois, built during World War II to meet the problem caused by tanker losses at sea as a result of submarine attacks. Later during the war the pipeline was extended to Pennsylvania. Following the war the line was sold to a private company and converted to a gas line.

(1) To flatten and spread the strands of a cable or wire rope. (2) The slatted or mesh-enclosed cage used to hoist workmen from crew boats to offshore platforms.

To pay close attention to a job or to follow a person closely with the intention to learn or to help; to follow up on a job until it is finished.


** PennWell (Books: Tulsa, Oklahoma; publishers of Langenkamp's Handbook)
Since 1910 PennWell has been known for providing comprehensive coverage of several strategic markets. In those early days, PennWell was a pioneer in the emerging oil industry with Oil & Gas Journal magazine, founded in 1902. Today PennWell publishes 45 business-to-business magazines and newsletters, conducts over 60 conferences and exhibitions on six continents, and has an extensive offering of books, maps, directories and database services.

Oil & Gas

Electric Power Generation

Electric Power Delivery


Electronics / Semiconductors

Contamination Control

Optoelectronics / Photonics

Fiber Optics / Communications

Computer Graphics / Graphic Arts

Enterprise Storage

Defense / Security

Fire / EMS


Imaging/Machine Vision

* Next year will be the centennial year for production of the very first Model T Ford and the first anniversary of the authors of CPE living without an automobile.

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 18 Febuary


Montreal Church

from Justin Wintle

"A bell must be struck before it rings and a man must be goaded into virtue."

. . (194) Chinese
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

17 February 2007

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 17 Febuary


from Justin Wintle

"What is said in private is heard like a peal of thunder in heaven."

. . (191) Chinese
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

An American and Canadian Crude Look at Oil


Blogaulaire suspects (backed by careful observation) that the average reader of Cheap Priceless Editions is both a practical person (always on the look-out for a good deal) and a rather bookish person . . perhaps with literary tastes, endowed with a progressive outlook, worldview, et cetera.

Does looking at raw numbers give you the hives? Are you reaching for an ointment for your urticaria, after reading figures for economic projections? Relax, there won't be a test, not even answers from me about any of this.

Call the STATISTICS portion of this post laconic. Terse news. It gets right to the point of all the rest.

We are just introducing -- call it a game, call it a word feature (more on that in upcoming posts as the blog here evolves on its own course - so STAY TUNED TO THIS WEB ADDRESS). But first, the eye candy:

February 18 : Chinese New Year
on the grounds of
the world famous
Calgary Exhibition & Stampede

The Biggest Game in US - CAN Trade -- PETROLEUM

Crude Oil and Total Petroleum Imports Top 15 Countries:
Highlights Released; February 16, 2007

"Preliminary monthly data on the origins of crude oil imports in December 2006 has been released and it shows that three countries have each exported more than 1.20 million barrels per day to the United States.

Including those countries, a total of five countries exported over 1.00 million barrels per day of crude oil to the United States (see table below). The top five exporting countries accounted for 69 percent of United States crude oil imports in December while the top ten sources accounted for approximately 88 percent of all U.S. crude oil imports.

The top sources of US crude oil imports for December were Canada (1.829 million barrels per day), Saudi Arabia (1.471 million barrels per day), Mexico (1.245 million barrels per day), Venezuela (1.045 million barrels per day), and Nigeria (1.010 million barrels per day).

The rest of the top ten sources, in order, were Angola (0.610 million barrels per day), Algeria (0.421 million barrels per day), Iraq (0.419 million barrels per day), Ecuador (0.254 million barrels per day), and Kuwait (0.163 million barrels per day).

Total crude oil imports averaged 9.584 million barrels per day in December, which is a decrease of 0.253 million barrels per day from November 2006.

Canada remained the largest exporter of total petroleum products in December, exporting 2.409 million barrels per day to the United States, which was a slight decrease from last month (2.598 thousand barrels per day). The second largest exporter of total petroleum products was Saudi Arabia with 1.491 million barrels per day."

What do you say to all that? (Isn't it a bit odd to be reading EIA (Energy Information Administration) data practucally the day it's released?

The major exporters of oil to the US are taking in tons of cash - they are not giving this stuff away! So: if you happen to be in the commerce of words, images, books, new ideas and/or services to the people interested in same, remember the following . . .

. . . the best time to sell a farmer a new tractor is after he has harvested a bumper crop . . .

In fact, if you've got anything to sell, to offer, to provide and it happens to be right after a bumper year for growing (we're seeing fewer and fewer of them), it is the farmer who will seek you out with the cash burning through his or her very pockets.

Rod Proudfoot (far right) congratulates Rod B. and wife Dorothy!
The Winner of (Stampede Casino's) January "Casino and a Movie" draw.
Rod and Dorothy took home a 32" LCD TV and - Sony Soundsaround system. -Worth over $2,000!-

Everybody, by the way, is dependent upon oil. If you live in Mahattan (Blogaulaire is certain) then on your own streets you are seeing more oilmen dressing their part than I am just sitting here in Montreal. Oil money at the top gathers with other money, and Manhattan is still at the top, though one wonders for how much longer.

People here in Canada with little things to sell, things no bigger than a flat screen TV or monitor, things like books, are catching on to a general migration of young and not-so-young residents and members of the active workforce who are headed 'out West to Alberta' where all the jobs are. And the rest of us are saying that this energy dependence on oil can't keep going on and on without the world sinking into its own slime ball. And the people still keep Heading West.

Alberta ex-pats have always been a counter-culture theme in Montreal. These recent transfuges are less and less Bohemian, more and more bourgeois in lifestyle. Some oil patch ex-pats even have enough money to buy books from local used bookstore owners . .

Learn the language(s) of the next frontier, not the last one. Every economic development is social change. Every exploration of a thriving, dying or recycled technology requires a new vocabulary, a different lexicon of terms.

From what we all learned about export-import of oil up top, for the 5 biggest providers of petroleum to the US market, the Official Languages in the exporting nations (the ones taking in the cash as price-per-barrel rises) break down as English (2); Spanish (2); Arabic (1). If we crudely ask whether the transfer of wealth from importing states to exporters represents a shift from one linguistic centre of gravity to another.

As a Can-Am myself, aware that "American" means English, French and Spanish already, (for me at least) the numbers look totally status quo ante . . no big shift, no surprises.

There will be upcoming demographic shifts within nations, regions, and hemispheres toward the world capitals of oil production. It may, eventually, be bust and boom.

In terms of the publishing and book trade, I think that the biggest question is not about the expansion of literacy generally. Arabic, Spanish and English as spoken and read in the Middle East and Central Asia or in Central and South America, and in Western Africa ... well everywhere people will become literate. I think we should concentrate on how functional literacy will change here at home and we should be sensitive to the competition for reader in places like Canada's western provinces.
Will a literacy boom, i.e., more active readers, happen out West? Or will the people moving West just take their satellite dishes with them or have their cable service contracts switched over from Ontario and Quebec to new homes in Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia? And for those who do read on a printed page, does the book trade have anything particularly unique to offer people as this demographic shift emerges? Tentatively, all my answers are Yes, Yes and Yes.

Will it be a boom or an echo?

16 February 2007

Semiology 'Runs' to Catch Up with the Internet : On Book Power


"About Umberto Eco"

------------------ Also quotes from a 2002 article
in The Guardian,
Saturday October 12, 2002

"Signs of the times"

by Maya Jaggi

When the former hotel building in Milan where Umberto Eco lives was converted into flats, he preserved the winding corridors as a labyrinthine library, housing some 30,000 volumes. The shrine to learning seems apt for the creator of the 14th-century monastery in The Name of the Rose (1980), the medieval murder mystery that combined metaphysics, theology and the enigma of Aristotle's "lost" tome on comedy, with poisoned monks and the twists of a Sherlock Holmes whodunnit - a "book built of books".

His paternal grandfather was a bookbinder and "socialist typographer who organised strikes". During the second world war it was one of Eco's duties to go down to the cellar with a candle and pick up the charcoal: "I spent hours opening the old books and forgetting the coal." Among books he found were works by Jules Verne and Marco Polo, and included Darwin's The Origin of Species** and piles of adventure comics. His maternal grandmother, barely schooled but a "compulsive reader" who subscribed to a mobile library, stoked this eclectic passion. "She had no real cultural discrimination: she could read dime novels as well as Dostoyevsky and Balzac."

** ( - - Note by Bogaulaire: and "The Voyage of the Beagle" was what U. E. liked most about the book . . I'll bet.)


Photo of Umberto Eco by Robert Birnbaum

In 1978 . . Eco's career took a dramatic new turn. At a friend's invitation, he decided to write a detective story . . .
. . . He also decided to make it a demonstration of his own literary theories of an "open text" that would provide the reader with almost infinite possibilities for interpretation in the signs and clues the protagonist must decode in order to solve a mystery.

Set in a fourteenth-century monastery, The Name of the Rose is the story of a monk who tries to solve several murders while struggling to defend his quest for the truth against church officials. A main theme of the novel is Eco's own
love of books, and the solution to the murders ultimately lies in coded manuscripts and secret clues in the abbey's library. Dense with learned references and untranslated Latin, it is both an exhaustively detailed murder mystery and Eco's semiotic metaphor for the reader's own quest to derive meaning on many levels from the signs in a work of art. Its publishers expected to sell no more than 30,000 copies, but the novel became an international bestseller. In 1986 it was made into a film starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater.

. . .

In recent years Eco has become increasingly involved in debates of how electronic media and computer technologies will affect culture and society. At the International Center for Semiotic and Cognitive Science in San Marino in 1994, he organized a seminar on the future of the book that attracted hypermedia experts from around the world. His own observations on the Internet, virtual reality, and hypertext have appeared in Encyclomedia, a CD-ROM history of philosophy that he helped to develop. Recently he has become involved with the Multimedia Arcade, a complex in Bologna offering Internet access, a computer training center, and a public multimedia library.

. . .

"We are marching toward a more liberated society in which free creativity will co-exist with textual interpretation," he said, but we will need a "new form of critical competence … "a new kind of educational training, a new wisdom" to cope with the sheer quantity of information.

. . .

Writing in The Nation, he asserted that "books still represent the most economical, flexible, wash-and-wear way to transport information at very low cost." Books will remain essential not only for literature but for "any circumstance in which one needs to read carefully, not only to receive information but also to speculate and reflect about it." In his opinion, a device which allows us to invent new texts has nothing to do with our ability to interpret pre-existing texts.

. . .

Eco is an avid book collector who has apartments in Milan, Bologna, and Paris, as well as a summer home near Rimini. In addition to running the Program for Communication Sciences at the University of Bologna, he travels frequently to speak and teach. He continues to publish scholarly treatises, which number almost two dozen, and to contribute to several foreign and Italian newspapers.

. . .

See Wikipedia Article HERE.

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 16 Febuary


harley t-shirt

from Justin Wintle

"Patience in a moment of anger will save you a hundred days of anguish."

. . (186) Chinese
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

15 February 2007

Qin Rule



Ancient China: The Art, Culture and History of the Ancient Cathay


Much of what came to constitute China Proper was unified for the first time in 221 B.C. In that year the western frontier state of Qin, the most aggressive of the Warring States, subjugated the last of its rival states.

(Qin in Wade-Giles romanization is Ch'in, from which the English China probably derived.)

Once the king of Qin consolidated his power, he took the title Shi Huangdi ( First Emperor), a formulation previously reserved for deities and the mythological sage-emperors, and imposed Qin's centralized, non-hereditary bureaucratic system on his new empire. In subjugating the six other major states of Eastern Zhou, the Qin kings had relied heavily on Legalist scholar-advisers. Centralization, achieved by ruthless methods, was focused on standardizing legal codes and bureaucratic procedures, the forms of writing and coinage, and the pattern of thought and scholarship. To silence criticism of imperial rule, the kings banished or put to death many dissenting Confucian scholars and confiscated and burned their books . Qin aggrandizement was aided by frequent military expeditions pushing forward the frontiers in the north and south.

Tang Writers; Tang Tales

In the middle of the Tang Dynasty many well-known writers and poets began story writing. Their stories incorporate a wide range of subject matter and themes, reflecting various aspects of human nature, human relations and social life. In form they are not short notes or anecdotes like the tales produced before them, but well-structured stories with interesting plots and vivid characters, often several thousand words in length. Among them are many tales whose main characters are gods, ghosts, or foxes.

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 15 Febuary


from Justin Wintle

"Do not dispair because there's no go-between; books can provide you with a queen more beautiful than jade."

. . (182) Chinese
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

14 February 2007

Booksellers Do Not Have All Their Bases Covered


Between finding a book and selling a book, the preservation and the display of a collection of books is an integral part of the bookseller's trade. As an important part of the trade in books, apart from the title catalog or the arrangement of displays inside his or her boutique, the bookseller also narrates stories about and educates the public regarding diverse aspects of literate culture in order to keep people interested in books; books as both artifacts of a common heritage and as worthy of their purchase price.

Despite the niche markets and categories in the book trade, booksellers elect on their own to sell books - they self-select with few gatekeepers or hurdles to jump over in becoming a bookseller. Yet, having learned their business, bookshop owners and effective dealers can rightly claim that they serve as cultural guardians and, in their realm, sentries for how people imbibe in culture and traditions through written and recorded language.

Despite how vaunted some of this description may be, how rightly or wrongly it fits the trade as a whole, book dealers as a class exercise little social or economic power and enjoy less and less social status (along with the medical profession one should add).

On an entirely different plane, each level of government, in its turn, exercises a greater and growing power over the professions and commerce.

See the post below about the City of Longueuil, Québec exercising eminent domain and dumping the half million book, document and recording titles of an impecunious bookseller into a regional landfill dump.

In response to this news, IN THIS POST, j godsey at Bibliophile Bullpen remarked,

I'm starting to get the serious feeling that our society as a whole is distrustful of anyone in possession of voluminous numbers of books, regardless of whether they are just a collector or truly a professional bookseller.

I share those feelings. I am confident the author of those remarks was much angrier than the words sound after reading the post, at least I am angrier than my words!

Why am I controlling my anger? Because I think that all of us in the book trade, now in touch with one another by email and on several websites, need to pool our thinking and our resources to come up with alternative solutions to protect the used and antiquarian booksellers from the most savage tendencies that are threatening the book trade from on high and from three sides.

It's impossible to anticipate what the future solutions will be. Will the proposed solutions favor senior dealers with proven track records or favor the new entrants, who for the first time recently uploaded a ton of books to the Internet vendors' sites? Are scholars more in need of protection than house-bound retirees earning extra cash. I do not have an answer, yet.

The simplest solution to the problem of the bankrupt bookstore I can think of is to have the means to truck away the stock in documents to a safe locale before the landlord or the local mayor hauls the entire stock to the dump. Something simple like that and something direct. I am convinced that we need to face such situations as a book-trade-wide challenge.

I have read a few posts on interesting blogs about photo-documentary projects to image bookstores across the North American continent. That is fine and good. But wouldn't it be ideal to have confidence that what happened to Paul Saindon, shown (below) standing before the Saint-Nicéphore landfill site with nearly his entire bookstore amidst the rubble . . wouldn't it be ideal to have some assurance that such a fate as this will not befall any one of today's bookstores shown in the photos with their doors open?

I can just see the 12-wheel tractor-trailer rig rolling down the Interstate with the logo emblazoned on the side: 'Another Bookstore Saved by the ASBBASN (whatever that means)!

In the spirit of a personal blog, but not to sound maudlin:

As I type these words, I am listening to a privately recorded 33 1/3 vinyl of a religious women's choir from Rwanda. The phonograph record was cut in a Montreal studio for a Catholic religious order. There is a photo of the choir members and the names of the arrangers and technical notes are printed on the record's sleeve. The music is beautiful.

I rescued (have not yet catalogued) this disque from a pile of familiar commercial LPs at a junk emporium. You can fill in your own blanks regarding how precious these songs may be as personal artifacts - for someone who survived the Rwanda genocide more than a decade and a half ago.

I keep asking myself: "What records of our culture were destroyed when the Saindon collection was destroyed?")

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 14 Febuary


from Justin Wintle

"If you would know the road ahead ask those who have been down it."

. . (178) Chinese
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

13 February 2007

500,000 Books and CDs are Buried in a Landfill Deliberately by the City of Longueuil, Québec


La Presse

Tuesday, 13 February 2007
by Émilie Côté

500 000 livres au dépotoir

Paul Saindon, in front of the landfill site at Saint-Nicéphore where his 500,000 books and 30,000 CD disques were dumped.
Photograph Robert Mailloux,

La Presse


Blogaulaire was book picking in a 'friperie'. He began discussing 'better' places (better prices)with the only other customer, a man searching titles next to him on the next shelf over. And then the guy told him about all these books being trashed on the South Shore, near Longueuil, Québec. So I am blogging this horrible story.

Yes, it is horrible and the City of Longueuil did not have to destroy this huge stock of music, literature, history . . . and who knows what other documentary treasurers! The city had possession of the material, the city was storing the entire lot on city property and decided, through its ultimate domain (and ignorance) to trash everything!

Paul Saindon had a bookstore on Chambly Road in Old Longueuil with a floor-space of 4,600 square feet. Saindon himself (Blogaulaire never visited it) describes the local as a bookmans 'Ali Baba Cave'. As is typical, the landlord raises the rent 25% after the first 5 years of operation and the bookstore owner finds cheaper digs, but smaller; in fact so small he cannot accomodate his stock.

The collection, which runs the gamut from the mid 19th centure to today and includes all the highs and lows of North American literature as well as music - - with all the greats of Québec culture represented in multiple editions and formats - - is left to the whims of an unsympathetic landlord and a city administration uncertain of its role, uncertain of anything it seems.

The city did pressure Saindon to claim his property after putting it in storage. When Saindon could not find a buyer and was unable to come into the municipal warehouse with enough helpers to sort the books, according to the City Clerk, nonprofit cultural associations in the area were offered the books free of charge.

The whole story suddenly becomes confused and cloudy. Interviews to track down who was offered what by whom seem full of contradiction. It does appear that Saindon was making an honest effort to save the collection by contacting community centres, cultural groups, probably the municipal libraries.

Whoever did or did not refuse the collection (which was a total mass of tumbling piles by now) the final decision was taken and acted upon. Everything was dumped like so much rotting refuse into the Saint-Nicéphore landfill dump and is now utterly beyond salvation.

Everything was carted off on January 29, 2007, which is close to the date that on the north side of the St. Lawrence River, Montreal was throwing George Butcher out of his apartment for stockpiling nearly 15,000 books and documents in his home. See the article HERE.

There is nothing yet that I can offer as a conlusion or summary to these stories. These situations are both personal and collective challenges in this and probably in your own community. I blog the news; I invite discussion. I will pick up this thread again.

Consider using the Google Language Tool to read the La Presse article in English if you find wading through the French text onerous. Just copy the address url of the title of this post into the 'Translate this page on the web' box under the language page options offered by Google. Most of the translation will be useful. Just prepare yourself for half a dozen 'false friends' between English and French. A couple phrases are real gems (I tried it) and you will have at least one hoot while you cry over the tragedy of this heritage being destroyed totally by mindless boobs who are paid by the public purse.

Montreal's Expozine Zine Fair


zines for sale

Each fall, Blogaulaire keeps missing Expozine, the exposition of zines, independent small press productions, chapbooks et cetera. Ignorance is not bliss, however, when you link to photographer Denis Carl's desktop wallpapers site (see the LINKS on the right) and find his 9-image coverage of Expozine 2006 HERE. (On flickr, I use the slideshow feature for coverage like this.)

Of course you will want to browse over to the Expozine website HERE as well.

I must be in a buy-sell frame of mind. I keep thinking of how unique and interesting those zines on the exhibitors' tables must be 'in person' or 'in paper' or 'in plasma screen' or WHATEVER.

On the Expozine website homepage, be sure to scroll down and look at all the logos for sponsors of the fair. These cultural entities - some private-sector, some nonprofit - are a sampling of who and what is active in Montreal on the publishing front.

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 13 Febuary


from Justin Wintle

"Good and evil, life and death, love and separation."

. . (171) Malay
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

12 February 2007

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 12 Febuary


clydesdale harness

from Justin Wintle

"It is the horse that dines in the night that puts on weight."

. . (171) Chinese
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

11 February 2007

Southwest Montreal's Friendly Recycling Centre


In a post about three posts below (click on the TITLE above), Blogaulaire advocated that bookstore owners dispose of box-loads of 'overstock' that constitute nothing more than printed materials: all the magazines and books that no one will take from a bookstore or on-line dealer whether or not it is sold for a dime out of some bin left sitting on the sidewalk in front or is given away for free. (I can just see the antiquarian dealers among my thousands of daily readers shudder at the image! Ha!)

Blogaulaire wants to AVOID ANY IMPLICATION that the used bookstore dealer in a working class neighbourhood is at the very bottom of the food chain (despite what I wrote). We are NOT SAYING that once Mister or Misses bookdealer 'disposes' of a printed document at some recycling centre, that said document has been irrevocably DESTROYED.

Well I know better than that . . . because:

At the municipal recycling depots in Montreal, there are workers clustered around an entrepreneurial person who acts as gang-boss. This team almost immediately salvages the material that is dumped in the recycling bins to give it One More Chance , another opportunity to be picked over by folks who drop by driving vans or with big backpacks or saddlebags on bikes.

The recycle-cycle never ends . . . not for old televisions, not for cheap credenzas, not for nada or ninguno. All of which is an opening for CPE to upload a few images that introduce you to an area recycling centre and its environment:

Southwest Recyle BossAll year-round, even when the snow blows off the highway overhead, somebody is there to put the recycled books and household rejects under tarps for people to come pick through . . . 'come rain or come shine'.

Autoroute 15The recycling centre for the Southwest is between Côte St. Paul and St. Henri - halfway between the Champlain Bridge and the Turcot Interchange.

Ganja SteveRecent immigrants from the Caribbean Islands seem to gravitate to this recycling centre for work out-of-doors and with great demands physically and to their ingenuity at fixing stuff.

Locals can feast their eyes on an acre of appliances and electronic gadgets or jump in under the tarps and dig through the National Geographics and Readers Digest Condensed Books to hunt out the leftover treasures of publishing traditions.

The Dragon's Almanac 2007 - 11 Febuary


Arts Cafe Class

from Justin Wintle

"If you do not discuss the faults of others, no one will blame you for not discussing your own."

. . (168) Chinese
cheap_priceless_editions (at) yahoo (dot) ca

Artifacts of the opium trade _ gnarled wood of the Thai phrik khi nu chili bush


Blogaulaire just couldn't resist sticking those words in a title after reading them on-line at in an article from March, 2003. Here are those words again, in a full sentence:

"These pipes are part of the museum's collection, including one fashioned from the gnarled wood of the Thai phrik khi nu chili bush, which was said to impart a spicy flavor to the opium smoke."

Pipe Dreams in the Golden Triangle

By Steven Martin
Mar. 17, 2003

"High and Low: Visitors can check out facsimiles of Asia's infamous opium dens at the Thai museum"

In the early 1950s, newly communist China took draconian steps to rid its population of addicts, but the vice lingered for another decade in the expatriate-Chinese communities of Southeast Asia. Thailand was the last place in the world with licensed opium dens. In 1959 those licenses were revoked; the Heng Lak Hung on Bangkok's Charoeng Krung Road, said to be the world's largest opium den, with more than 5,000 users in residence, shut its doors, and thousands of opium pipes, lamps and other smoking equipment were burned in a massive bonfire at the royal cremation grounds near the Grand Palace.

In the past few years, however, aficionados of Asian art and antiquities have rediscovered the dens' often delightfully ornate accoutrements: pipes, oil lamps, pipe bowls, opium trays and beds. When curators began gathering artifacts for the Hall of Opium, some of the best pieces were found in the Thai Excise Department.

. . .

Patterns on pipe bowls ranged from geometrical designs, such as the Hindu swastika (also used in Buddhist art), to whimsical portraits of Chinese roosters, tigers, dragons and phoenixes, to floral renderings of bamboos, orchids and peach blossoms. To those versed in Chinese iconography, this is rich irony: these positive attributes so artfully symbolized -- longevity, strength, happiness and wealth -- were all certainly lacking in the lives of the average opium addict.

The Hall of Opium uses a multimedia approach to trace the history of opium from highly valued ingredient in the pharmacopoeia of the ancients to the scourge of addiction that brought China to its knees in the 19th and 20th centuries. There is a re-creation of a British East India Company clipper ship's hold and its cargo of opium from India destined for the South China coast and a reproduction of a typical 19th century opium den, where a visitor can take himself through the opium smoker's paces (sans opium, of course).

Patrons, according to this life-size diorama, entered through an innocuous-looking tea shop. The poorer users could choose doses of low-grade opium self-administered in spartan surroundings. Better-heeled junkies could smoke pipes of pure opium prepared by servants in opulently furnished rooms. Lest visitors get carried away amid their reveries, the curators have mounted cautionary tributes to entertainers who overdosed, such as River Phoenix and Zhu Jie.

On Cheap Priceless Enditions, we reviewed Nick Tosches. THE LAST OPIUM DEN. (Bloomsbury, January 8, 2002, $12.95, cloth) HERE.

That CPE post touched on the subject of opium as a typical theme of the grit lit genre.

10 February 2007

Nobody is an Authority on Nuttin' - But We Try


Blogaulaire likes to jerk people's heads around . . around the very same issues he finds his own head is being jerked around. I guess misery loves company, or something like that.

Perhaps I think that I am an iconoclast. I like to break up other people's preconceived notions and the icons of complacency that rule in their thinking in their little niche, their little nest. I would like to think of myself as a radical, able to 'get at' the root of, the core of, things . . without pussy-footing around with other people's preconceived notions.

But what those descriptive, value-laden words above amount to is merely one more of the most familiar North American stereotypes that are current (and have been for a long time) current among the ranks of Young Turks practicing journalism, literature and/or among today's million-member mass of the scribes who blog on the Internet today. So even THAT image of me as an iconoclast is hardly worth a hill of beans!

There are many, many challenges facing the bookselling trade today.
And there are many, many booksellers who are failing to meet these challenges while many others are succeeding financially in today's market. Where I place myself is as one who is outside this sort of mêlée yet one who can, while learning from others, see through many conceptual traps booksellers are laying down for themselves as they attempt to see through each challenge that presents itself.

Blogaulaire refuses to jump into the groove of those who complacently argue that somehow 'we' (the booksellers) will muddle through. And I see a large gap between the successful booksellers who fit neatly into their local community of book readers/bookstore patrons and the unsuccessful ones who have not made a similar organic connection with their own local book-buying public.

At times, pessimistically (with a touch of hubris, admittedly) Blogaulaire smirks at the emails on a listerv written by wise-old book purveyors who seem totally preoccupied with queries about how to connect with buyers on the Internet. I say to myself, self says I, maybe they should first start worrying about their disconnect with their own local community. In fact, I know deep down that these wizened owners of brick 'n' mortar bookstores have given up on their own local community because that particular community is no longer rushing their bookstore to buy more books!

So people who no longer have a face-to-face community are looking for a virtual community. But, wonder of wonders, it seems that everybody and her brother is searching for the same thing! They are all uploading their titles to the half-dozen or more meta-vendor websites and, generally, slashing their prices. The iconoclast in me says "Duh?". The realist in me asks "What do we do about it? How do we resolve all these obvious disconnects between these book sellers and their clienele, and the book suppliers (the pickers) who are suddenly The Competition?"

What I see that is stable and continuing to flourish surrounded by this maelstrom of turbulence is the voluntaristic approach of non-profit book fairs, such as the University of McGill's and the Sir Thomas More Institute's book sales in Montreal or any one of the even more local sales such as Verdun's St. Willibrord's Church's monthly event. (Plus, I could name a dozen mor local book fairs on the West Island).

Obviously, the worst prescription to offer to anyone working to put meat on the table is to tell that person to go out and volunteer their time and forget about earning money. Yet there are elements of the book fair that can be brought into the formula for the commercial boutique bookstore owner.

Let me just name a few for starters with the caveat that more experienced people could parse such a list better than I could discuss these issues.

Publicity. The fairs are announced in public service announcements in the local papers.

Support. Large numbers of residents attend because it is 'for a good cause.'

Price. Everybody expects bargain prices - even the pickers who intend to list their treasure discoveries on ABE and e-Bay.

Timing. The events are announced well in advance and last, at the most, a couple days.

Space. Charity events do not pay rent and they have access, normally, to vast spaces such as auditoriums and church basements.

Volunteers. The grunge work is done by unpaid, usually enthusiastic, members of the community.

Expertise. Retired leaders from the bookish professions serve as unpaid co-ordinators.

Few constraints to turn a profit or pay out a percentage. I think I'm on weaker ground on this one. Maybe there is more pressure from 'the administration' to turn in a good income than some of us realize.

I think I've listed enough elements that describe the volunteer sector of used book selling. Let me just list another, singular, element -- then I can pat myself on the back self-righteously for being an iconoclast:

One thing that
The book fair people know --


I think that commercial bookstore owners have a handle on ALL of the basic elements listed above -- or at least they seem to in their own email discussions -- but that as a group they are unwilling to air-out in public purview two subjects. The following points are the dirty laundry of the book trade.

What is not being discussed, in my humble opinion, follows:

When a bookstore no longer enjoys local, public support, the owner has to be hog-tied and practically tortured to admit this is so. Not that I think all this is their own fault. But book people really do need to take personal ownership of how, why and the commercial consequences of losing the support of their local community.

This seems fundamental. Especially in communities where the book fairs thrive and the bookstores do not.

The second point is neither openly discussed by the book fair people nor by the bookstore owners, viz: How do you get rid of the left-overs at the end of the day?

Because, if and when the book event and sales venue has community backing from the grassroots, that same public will inundate you-the-bookseller with all kinds of books, including titles that no one in his or her right mind would want to purchase and take home. And to stock and store these books at your own expense will cost YOU money and/or valuable resources like floor space.

Do you send these leftover books to Africa on the next freighter out? Then pity the poor Africans is what I will add. (But of course you don't send them abroad . . that, at least, is one urban myth of the book trade we can quickly dismiss.)

There remains one final point to all this: The book fair people do try to head off the magazines, old newspapers and unsalable print material at the door before it becomes a burden to their organization. But when the commercial bookseller tries to head off 'trash' coming in from a regular, loyal customer, this puts the store owner in the role of a snarky, penny pinching and mean gatekeeper.

But who knows. Maybe the next load of books this same patron drops off will be loaded with priceless treasures?

You don't want to look mean to such a bountiful supplier as this well meaning customer, now do you?

At the end of the day and the end of this long post, what I advocate is that bricks 'n' mortar bookstore owners try to emulate that same communty-based formula that works so well in the volunteer sector I counsel all of us to remain as graciously in the good graces of even the most benighted client. Be as friendly to them as possible.

The shopkeeper must have a quick EXIT STRATEGEY. A backdoor procedure that centres around some local friend with a good pickup truck. A guy or gal who will help haul all of what is mere 'printed material' from your store's receiving end to the shipping end at the back of the store -- STRAIGHT to the collection bins at the local recycling or paper-drive collection centre!

Short of everybody closing shop and operating out of their own basement or apartment, Blogaulaire's proposal to bookstore owners about reconnecting with their communities (while still remaining Spartan about display and storage space), PLUS the idea of holding big open-door sales evebts, are topics that deserve more wide discussion by book bloggers and subscribers to bookish email listservs.