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Things I've Found 8 (Buy a Newspaper, As Long As It's Bound and More Than 50 Years Old)—12/5/2001

by Mark Rose

Good Causes: Nicholson Baker is one of my favorite authors. You MUST read him (start with his first novel “The Mezzanine”). His latest, the non-fiction Double Fold, is a scathing condemnation of public libraries’ habit of microfilming original printed material and then discarding that material because they have it on film. Unfortunately, so many libraries have done this that there are now large runs of American newspapers that do not exist in original form, anywhere. Libraries nationwide don’t have a lot of space, and even though microfilming is expensive, libraries just love the idea of freeing up more shelf space for . . .for . . .well, for what I’m not sure. They just like to throw out stuff I guess (folks in Seattle who attend the library discard sale will know what I mean). Libraries want to brand themselves as community centers, and want to abrogate their responsibilities as cultural and historical custodians to become whizbang computerized information specialists. Mmmm, you can dress a deer up in a skirt and call it Jessica, but it’s still a deer, at least until it gets shot.

Er ok, where was I heading with this? That’s right, Nicholson Baker and his American Newspaper Repository! http://home.gwi.net/~dnb/newsrep.html Baker put his money where his mouth is and bought up an entire warehouse full of bound copies of American newspapers that the British Library was discarding. He is my hero. He is also a nice guy who actually writes back to you, which is pretty amazing. (He perks right up if you give him some money.) This guy is a hero, unlike the goofball sports freaks we’ll discuss later. Buy his books or donate to his repository. Or heck, buy a bound newspaper volume yourself.

I was in Coupeville over the weekend and spotted a bound volume of The Idaho Statesman from 1912. Putting the lie to microfilmists who insist that old paper brittles and breaks easily, the pages were practically virgin white and still smelled like a newspaper. Soon, this volume shall be mine.

Interesting Link: http://www.bmpl.lib.me.us/shame.htm is a cooperative database for public libraries. [Sigh, although the original link still works, it points to a personal site which no longer loads.] Here, they list books for which they’ve paid $20 or more, and then found that the binding was so poor that the book self-destructed shortly thereafter. It’s a pretty common occurrence especially with American books. For some reason, books bound in the UK seem to be more sturdy. You can’t trust everything on the site (for instance, Lithgow Public Library seems to have a lot of titles on the list) but titles like Protect and Defend and Winter Solstice that are reported by numerous libraries may be ones to stay away from.

Growing Up: I’m now grown up, I own my own propane tank. Propane tanks are so common in Spain that the locals decorate them, and then create Web sites to display them: http://www.vudumedia.com/butano/default.asp

These aren’t the strip clubs I get to visit: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/nm/20011129/od/dancer_dc_1.html [and now you can no longer visit this site either since it’s out of date.]

R.I.P. George Harrison.

Sports: It’s been a busy week for our sporting role-model heroes! Cleveland Browns defensive lineman Gerard Warren was arrested for possessing an unlicensed firearm, and Browns running back Mike Sellers and cornerback Lamar Chapman were arrested with a pound of marijuana and traces of cocaine. Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith tested positive for cocaine but claims he doesn’t know how it got into his system. Eagles safety Damon Moore abandons a 3-month old puppy and faces animal cruelty charges (http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news/ap/20011120/ap-eagles-moore.html [link is dead, but you can try this one: http://www.pet-abuse.com/cases/2132/NJ/US/1). Boxer James Butler sucker-punched his opponent after the fight and knocked him out (http://msn.espn.go.com/boxing/news/2001/1127/1285276.html, watch the video [you can access the story, but not the video]) and has now been arrested for assault with a maximum penalty of seven years. Florida State Athletic Director Dave Hart says “nanny nanny poo poo” to Florida coach Steve Spurrier (http://msn.espn.go.com/ncf/news/2001/1127/1284985.html). And it’s going to take a court case to decide who owns Barry Bonds’ 73rd home run ball (http://msn.espn.go.com/mlb/news/2001/1127/1285330.html). Of course, we need the trial because there may not be baseball at all next season due to an impending labor strike. And don’t forget baseball’s potential contraction of two teams, one of which is angry because taxpayers won’t pony up for a new stadium. But that’s ok because Congress will start hearings soon to remove baseball’s exemption from the antitrust laws that they have enjoyed for over eighty years anyway. Wow, I’m so glad we have these people to look up to for hope and inspiration!