30 September 2009

47 "Secret" Letter Squares

. . . I list below a group of 47 "secret" letter squares. These are groups of words that all use the same four letters (with a few 5-letter words included). What are they good for? you may well ask. Well, if you're addicted to Boggle, which I am, then having these "letter squares" memorized gives you three, four, or even five, six or seven words for the price of one.

I can see you're still confused. Well, to be more specific, when you're playing Boggle, or any Boggle-based wordgame -- Babble, Bookworm, Scramble, Wordsplay, whatever -- and you see one of these words in a cluster on the grid, then, in most cases, you can get all the words in the group in one fell swoop. (Okay, some of these games don't accept some of these words. No matter. Don't try to remember which game will take which words; just type 'em all as fast as you can.)

Of course, in a perfect game, the four letters will appear in a perfect 2x2 square, but in many cases you can still make all the words even if the letters appear in a 1x2x1 cluster, or some other pattern. As long as they're all together.

Those of you who have played Boggle with me will be shocked that I'm revealing one of my secret strategies. Don't be. This is just one of my strategies and it's not all that secret. I have plenty other strategies that I'm not going to share. 8-)

I have arranged each group starting with the word that I tend to find the most often, followed by less common words, and then the least familiar words at the end of each group. Enjoy!

---o Seven-Word Letter Squares o---

1. lair > liar > rail > rial > lira > aril > lari

2. seat > teas > eats > east > sate > ates > etas

---o Six-Word Letter Squares o---

3. meats > teams > mates > tames > steam > metas

4. spot > stop > tops > pots > post > opts

5. steel > sleet > leets > teels > stele > teles

6. times > mites > items > emits > metis > stime

---o Five-Word Letter Squares o---

7. ales > sale > seal > lase > leas

8. peas > pase > apse > apes > spae

9. deer > dere > dree > reed > rede

10. diet > dite > tide > tied > edit

11. lone > nole > leno > noel > enol

12. hate > haet > heat > eath > thae

13. tale > teal > tael > late > tela

14. seam > same > mesa > mase > maes

15. meat > mate > team > tame > meta

16. miter > mitre > timer > remit > emir

17. pins > spin > snip > nips > psi

18. rose > roes > sore > ores > eros

19. roti > riot > tori > tiro > trio

20. rotis > riots > tiros > trios > trois

---o Four-Word Letter Squares o---

21. said > dais > aids > sadi

22. slap > laps > alps > pals

23. pass > saps > asps > spas

24. anan > nana > anna > naan

25. rats > star > arts > tsar

26. coin > cion > icon > coni

27. send > dens > ends > sned

28. door > rood > odor > ordo

29. seel > lees > eels > else

30. time > mite > item > emit

31. gore > goer > ogre > ergo

32. sink > skin > inks > kins

33. noir > iron > nori > inro

34. lion > loin > lino > noil

35. nose > noes > eons > ones

36. part > tarp > trap > prat

37. rile > lier > lire > riel

38. soil > oils > soli > silo

39. tows > stow > twos > swot

---o And a Few Fun Three-Word Letter Squares o---

40. duel > lude > leud

41. taxer > extra > retax

42. fate > feat > feta

43. huts > shut > tush

44. lane > lean > elan

45. pane > pean > neap

46. nitro > intro > niton

47. fret > reft > tref

Visit my bookstore: http://www.gwenfoss.com/

Visit my friendly colleagues in the used-book business: http://www.tomfolio.com/



28 September 2009

What is The Church Where People Laugh?

. . . It's the world's best collection of jokes for and about Universalists, Unitarians, and Unitarian Universalists!

We Unitarian Universalists, or UUs for short, tend to have great senses of humor and we love to laugh at ourselves. It was not difficult to put together this great collection, though it did take a few years. There are over three hundred individual jokes, quotes, and anecdotes in this little book.

I started compiling this collection some time in the 1970s while I was in the youth group at the Universalist Unitarian Church of Farmington, Michigan. After many years it was just too big to keep in a looseleaf so I had to publish it.

For those of you who have never heard of Unitarian Universalism, it is a liberal, post-Christian religion which grew out of Universalism -- "God is love" -- and Unitarianism -- "God is one" -- two radical beliefs that have been around since the early days of Christianity. Each of these beliefs was declared a heresy after having been accepted for hundreds of years.

Today, UUs celebrate diversity of belief and the right to think for yourself. We have no concept of heresy except as an accusation against those who exercise free thought and freedom of conscience.

While you're here, please visit my bookstore, Alan's Used Books (http://www.gwenfoss.com/), where you can order The Church Where People Laugh and many other great books.


27 September 2009

What's a "Book Doctor?"

. . . Book doctor is a term from the publishing business, which I was in before I got into the used book business.

The term means, basically, an emergency editor. A book doctor gets handed bad manuscripts -- ones that the publisher has already paid for -- and has to fix them up in fast time. I was in the business of nonfiction so when one of these messes was handed to me, I would check and fix any misspelled proper names, check and correct any incorrect facts, and so on.

A similar term in showbiz is a script doctor.

Now, if you thought I was someone who fixes old, damaged books, sorry, I'm not. For that you need a bookbinder or a document restorer, not a book doctor.

My bookstore: http://www.gwenfoss.com/

My colleagues: http://www.tomfolio.com/

(Please note: Because this blogsite was forcibly taken over by another blogsite, my earlier posts have been squashed down to the infinitesimal size of about 0.000001-point type. I have given up trying to fix them. You can still see them down there. So I am going to repost some of my earlier posts. This is one of those.)


24 September 2009

Formatting Rant.

Just a brief post today. I'm looking at all the ways this blog's formatting got destroyed when blogspot got taken over by google. I've given up trying to fix the problems and have decided to ignore them instead.

Now, I'm going to say that google apologizes to everyone for all the hassle they have obviously caused by all their "new and improved" formatting. I'm sure they don't really apologize and that they would never apologize but I'm going to say it anyway. There. That felt good.

20 September 2009

36 Beatles Firsts,
Excerpted from an essay on The Beatles, by Gwen Foss

. . . This is excerpted from an essay and listening guide I wrote in February 1996 as a gift to a couple at my church who were having their Golden Wedding. The wife was a big Beatles fan, but the husband was not: he thought the Beatles were "derivative" (but derivative of what he never said). Thus a small gift to entertain the former and perhaps convince the latter of the error of his ways. I am just posting the list of "firsts" here. (Album titles are in bold type.)


The following list of thirty-six extraordinary "firsts" chronicles the Beatles' unquestionable impact on the world of popular music. While a few of these innovations were tried only once and then discarded, most are now considered by the music industry to be standard practice.

1. First band to have a lead guitar (George Harrison 1962). Rock bands had "lead guitars" before the Beatles, to be sure, but the Beatles invented the term. Since that time, nearly every band has a guitarist so designated, and the position has gained prestige similar to the first violin (concertmaster) of classical symphonies.

2. First band to put out an album having more than eight or ten songs (Please Please Me 1962). Pop albums always contained ten or fewer unrelated songs and the songs were usually only two or three minutes long. The Beatles consciously wanted to give their patrons more value for their money and chose to put fourteen songs on their first album. They continued this practice, either with more than ten songs or with longer songs, on each of their albums.

3. First band to put out an album on which they wrote half the songs (Please Please Me 1962). It was normal in the world of popular music for a singer mainly to perform songs written by others. Elvis, for example, wrote none of the songs that he made famous. It was a startling event when the Beatles released their first album with eight of fourteen songs written by members of the band.

4. First band to establish a collaboratory relationship with their producer (George Martin 1962). "[George Martin] became their arranger and record producer… [and] the role of record producer changed with him… Before him, the producer functioned in one of two ways: Either he would approach an album with a concept in mind and mold his artists to fit that concept, or he would be a technical clerk attempting to get a pretty song, prettily sung, on tape with a minimum of expense and creative interference. All this changed with the Beatles-Martin relationship." Milton Okun, music educator, producer, composer, conductor and editor of several publications of Beatles music

5. First band to use a harmonica (Love Me Do 1962). The harmonica was not considered a rock instrument until the Beatles used it in several songs; it then became common.

6. First band to combine ska with rock (I Saw Her Standing There 1962).

7. First band to write a song with recognizable artistic merit (I Want to Hold Your Hand 1963). "The melody of I Want to Hold Your Hand, when heard apart from its driving rock arrangement, can stand on its own." Milton Okun

8. First band to star in a feature film drama ("A Hard Day's Night" 1964). By 1964, the Beatles were popular enough (that is, commercially viable enough) to be featured in their own film. Now, of course, it is fairly common for popular bands to make movies. "A Hard Day's Night," incidentally, was the first film to use deliberately non-sequitur editing, now a staple technique of TV ads and other visual media.

9. First band to set a television viewing record by generating the world's largest TV audience (Ed Sullivan Show 1964). The record held for three years.

10. First band to do an album of all original songs (A Hard Day's Night 1964). The Beatles, concentrating more on writing their own songs, all but ceased with this album to include covers (songs by other artists) on their releases.

11. First band to use the guiro and claves in rock (And I Love Her 1964).

12. First band of the "British Invasion" (1964). Prior to the Beatles, no British rock artist had managed to have a hit song in the US. Beginning in 1964, and because the Beatles then occupied most of the top slots on the US charts, every big rock group in the US was British, and US rock artists and fans began imitating British culture and music. This phenomenon was nicknamed the "British Invasion."

13. First band to deliberately avoid repeating themselves. "In the recording marketplace, it is a rule of thumb that once you do your thing successfully, you do it again, with minor changes . . . What is startling about Lennon and McCartney's music is its consistent growth." Milton Okun

14. First band to play a stadium (Shea Stadium 1965). A band had never commanded such a large audience before. Incidentally, no technology was available at the time to carry the music to the audience; the Beatles had to use the stadium's public address system.

15. First band to create experimental sounds in the studio (Rubber Soul 1965). The Beatles began, with this album, to experiment with sound distortion, extensive overdubbing, and other creative techniques using the many new electronic recording devices that were invented at this time. These techniques soon became standard practice.

16. First band to combine East Indian music with rock (Norwegian Wood 1965). When George Harrison played the sitar for the first time on this song, the sitar became, for a few years, an essential instrument for many popular music groups.

17. First band to combine rock with classical music (Yesterday 1965). This hit song is accompanied by a string quartet in addition to traditional rock instruments. The song Eleanor Rigby (1966) has no electronic instruments, just a string quartet and Paul's acoustic guitar.

18. First band to make rock videos (short films, each with a hit song as the soundtrack). When touring became impossible, the Beatles reached their fans by making short films of themselves performing their songs, intercut with various unrelated scenes. While some critics consider the musical segments of "A Hard Day's Night" to be the first rock videos, these Beatles performance films are the first true rock videos. Thus, George Martin, the Beatles' producer, credited the band with "inventing" MTV. And, as with most of their innovations, it is now standard practice for a band to make a video or short film for each of their hit songs.

19. First band to utilize psychedelic rock (Revolver 1966). "The Beatles' next release, Revolver, was a complete departure musically. It combined heavy elements of psychedelia and Indian raga with straight pop and pop with orchestration, unified on Eleanor Rigby . . . The psychedelic period changed the sound of rock and roll forever, especially in terms of production. Compare the sound of a pre-1966 album to one recorded after 1966. The changes are remarkable. And the Beatles are responsible for much of that change. The Beatles' psychedelic music has influenced every rock form from 1967 to the present. Everything." Stuart Madow and Jeff Sobul, Introspect: The Beatles' Psychedelic Music

20. First band to do a song using a deliberately reversed lyric (Rain 1966). What is unusual about this song is that at one point the lyrics were recorded and reversed, while the music was not reversed. This new gimmick, which was subsequently used by many artists, started a craze in which rock fans tried to find hidden meanings in their favorite songs by playing them backward, whether the songs were engineered with reversed lyrics or not.

21. First band to utilize concept rock (Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band 1967). Concept rock consists essentially in creating a new character or theme for oneself or one's band, using it for one album, then discarding it. The Beatles invented this amazingly versatile and entertaining new modus operandi and a large segment of rock industry followed their example.

22. First band to do a concept album (Sgt Pepper 1967). Prior to Sgt Pepper, rock albums were merely collections of short, unrelated songs, lacking any kind of unifying theme or idea. While some credit Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention with the first concept album (Freak Out), the Beatles made it a success and thus made the concept album a viable new form. "Pepper was the first concept album in history, not that the songs together told one story. The concept lies in the Beatles' creation of Sgt Pepper's band, which performs a show to a created audience. It has an opening, a performance and a closing, and a brilliant encore, A Day in the Life." Stuart Madow and Jeff Sobul.

23. First band to create songs with so many studio effects they could not be performed live (Sgt Pepper 1967). During their most creative period, the Beatles produced not only songs but whole albums that were impossible to perform live. Breaking tradition again, they created deliberately distorted recordings of their own voices and made artificial alterations to the sounds of their instruments. They used layer upon layer of overdubbing, and other innovative engineering techniques, to combine and create new sounds. Their heavy concentration on studio production even unwittingly led to a backlash: By the mid 1970s the majority of hit popular music albums had become so bland and uninspiring due to carefully sanitized studio production that a reactionary style known as punk rock was invented, starting a new wave of artistic creativity in the popular music industry.

24. First band to do a song that does not end with either a traditional fade-out or a short, simple chord (A Day in the Life 1967). The Beatles once again set out to break the rules with this song; it ends with a chord that is held a full forty seconds, the longest single chord in rock history. During the recording, the engineer slowly turned up the gain until the studio air conditioner could be heard humming away, so it may also be the first piece of concrete music produced by the rock industry.

The album Sgt Pepper was groundbreaking in many other ways, including:

25. First album in which every song contained distortion or other new and experimental sounds.

26. First album with no banding (breaks between songs).

27. First recording including sounds only a dog can hear.

28. First album to include material recorded on the run-out groove.

29. First album with the lyrics printed on the jacket.

30. First album with anything printed on the inner sleeve.

After Sgt Pepper, the Beatles continued to break the rules of popular music:

31. First band to do a song that fades out and fades in again (Strawberry Fields Forever 1967). This unexpected little trick once again pointed up the Beatles' ability to disrupt "the way things should be done." A year later, on their song Helter Skelter, they took this gimmick to its extreme.

32. First band to have a hit single longer than standard (Hey Jude 1968). Pop and rock singles of the era always consisted of a simple combination of verses (usually 16 measures each) and a bridge of contrasting material (usually 8 measures), making up a song less than three minutes long. The Beatles broke the mold again with this seven minute single.

33. First band to do an extended fade out (Hey Jude 1968). Songs are supposed to fade out relatively quickly, but Hey Jude fades out almost imperceptibly over four and a half minutes.

34. First band to do an album that did not have the band's name on it ("White" album 1968). The Beatles poked fun at the music industry with a solid white album jacket containing no printing or identification of any kind. Many bands since have released albums with similarly enigmatic jackets.

35. First band to do a double album of original material ("White" album 1968). Until this album, bands would only put out double albums containing some or all previously released material. The Beatles again broke new ground.

36. First band to do an entire song by sampling (cutting and manipulating taped sounds, not singing and playing instruments) (Revolution 9 1968). The song is the most experimental piece of rock music to emerge during the era. Sampling was a new innovation and, while some don't agree that Revolution 9 is music (that is, having pitch and rhythm) it is indeed music at its most primal.

visit my bookstore www.gwenfoss.com

search for Beatles songbooks here http://www.tomfolio.com/bookscat.asp?catid=116


02 September 2009

70 Idiotic Used-Book Descriptions found on Amazon and Other Portals

. . . I sell used books online through several separate websites. Sometimes customers find me via Amazon, where I function as one of their "third-party" vendors. Amazon's encouragement to amateurs to become used books sellers may sound noble but some of the used books being offered online are truly horrific, to put it politely. Most of these descriptive gems were found on Amazon, but a few are from eBay or other venues.

One should be aware: Most professional used book dealers employ standard grading terms and definitions. In order from best to worst, and with an equivalent number grade on a scale of 10 to 1, these terms are:

  • 10. As New
  • 9. Fine
  • 8. Near Fine
  • 7. Very Good
  • 6. Good
  • 5. Fair or "reading copy"
  • 4. Poor
  • 3. (anything lower than a 4, just get rid of it)

Any book that is so damaged that it cannot be graded as at least "Poor" should be tossed or its parts recycled. Such books include: books with missing text pages, moldy or encrusted books, books with stains that make pages unreadable, books with pages stuck together due to water damage, etc.

Amateur sellers, in most cases, do not bother to learn these terms and so make up their own. For example, they often use "Fine" on a book with so many flaws it should be graded as "Poor." Makes me wonder how they could even read a book without having any brains.

An assortment from my never-to-be-complete collection of these creative names for condition grades, in approximate order of quality, will be given here soon.

Thanks to bookdealers Norman Riger, Joseph Oprisch, Andy Gutterman, and probably others, for collecting and sharing some of these outlandish terms and descriptions.

[My comments are in brackets.]

Turns a Flaw into a Feature

1. "This book would be trash if it weren't for all the interesting pictures."

2. "90% of pages are clean and unmarked."
[Meaning 10% of the book is completely ruined.]

3. "Book has underlining & comments in pencil for quicker & more interesting read."

4. "A good reading copy with critical areas already noted by previous owner."

5. "Jacket a little grubby but easily removed!!"
[Seller a little stupid but easily ignored!]

6. "The paper has that lovely yellowing color of old books."

7. "Dust jacket is made from pieces of dust jacket pasted to color stock -- looks good."

8. "The book contains soft easily handled paper."
[Translation: book was dropped in a puddle.]

9. "The boards and spine are well-preserved, and there is a light, musty odor."

10. "Somebody else read this book. If you need it, it will be there for you."

Completely Contradictory Conditions

11. "Very Good+; New. A bit shop worn. Gift quality."
[Four different condition grades in one book. It's magic!]

12. "Highlighting and notes in the margin make this very clean book YOUR bargain!"

13. "Extensive marking in the first part of the book. Prior owner's address label on front fly page. Otherwise LIKE NEW."

14. "Very good condition WONDERFUL CONDITION. A few 'excellent notes & important highlights' inside (for those of you pressed for time while doing research....) Book is in SUPERB condition//book was babied--looks like a 'brand new paperback.'"

15. "1978 First Edition Hard Cover Book Club Edition."

16. "Unknown Binding. Clean ex-library in reinforced binding. Trade paperback."
[The seller thus invokes all three of Amazon's binding types: hardcover, paperback, and "unknown"]

17. "Textbook is in mint condition with mild highlighting"

18. "Might have damage to the cover/binding but goodness Certainly intact."
[Goodness certainly you've never touched or examined this book.]

19. "Excellent Condition! Small bite in corner! (from my puppy)"

20. "Fine. Smudges & scuff marks. Some outside wear. Been in smoking environment."

21. "Penguin Putnam, children’s HC Paperback, Used - Good, Grosset, 1972, Hardcover."

22. "MINT condition with absolutely NO flaws except some pages loose from binding -- SUPER FAST shipper!"

23. "A couple of Kool-Aid stains and lite ware otherwise Very Fine++. I can't find the dustjacket."

Scrupulously Honest or Just Unintentionally Humorous?

24. "Not pretty but totally functional."

25. "Horrible copy strictly for the desperate."

26. "An extremely worn-out copy that has seen its last gasp."

27. "Book cover has issues, wants to separate from book."
[Book psychology 101]

28. "Book in very poor condition. There is no cover, and there are tears on the front and back pages. The binding still holds the book together, but does not look good cosmetically. Find this book a home at just 75 cents!"

29. "Not a perfect copy but indubitably a signed first edition."

30. "The finest copy in the world. Must have belonged to some kid that hated to read and never did."

31. "A bit doggy, but acceptable."

32. "Good minus, almost poor, guaranteed to be complete. Very weak at hinges, covers very stained. Pages wavy. Appears to be cloth covers but may be boards. Paste-on title. Wavy pages. If you can find another copy get it."

What the Heck Is It?

33. "Assume book is in good or better condition unless otherwise stated."

34. "Nth printing F/- uvo."

35. "Used-Like New Hardcover ART - CH-904--2029 Picture shown may not match actual book."

36. "Book is slightly whoppered."

37. "Clean with light shelf wear, top front & back descretely closed shelf wear tear and pressure point."

38. "Pretty good condition for the condition it's in."

39. "Good condition. It is a paperback!!!!!!!!!!"
[Translation: book has already been purchased and returned twice by two different buyers who expected a hardcover]

40. "I have been collecting books and music for over 35 years and have amassed an enormous collection. I do not subscribe to 'grading' as it is so subjective and most of the 'graders' truly have no clue! Therefore I'll simply describe things in normal English!"

41. "Other vendors charge $15.00 and up, but our copy is only $6.99! That's less than half price!"

42. "V.G. or better - email for details. Binding is 191."

43. "Book in condition, dust jacket."

44. "The hardcover is near LIKE NEAR."

[No comment.]

46. "This is a romance novel. Fourteen years ago which Hubert Silvis first novel last winter brought raclette appeared Allison Ginsburg said it exploded like a rusty hellish bombshell over America. Sell these new novel goes even further and the gutwrenching story of two young man and a beautiful woman is desperate dreams take on a horrifying dimension. Copyrighted his paperback book in fair to good condition's 1978."

47. "Back of DJ was hevily scravished at edges."
[I kind of like this new word, scravished. Lewis Carroll must be selling this one.]

Just an Overpriced Wreck

48. "About like new except it's mildewed for about an inch in from the edge of every page and also for an inch or two in from the edge on the front and rear."

49. "Bottom half of the book looks like it sat in coffee on the edge of the book but really is in new condition never read!"

50. "Whart a scarce find! I found one, and cut the price. The corners are bumped. But there is no writings, names, marring, etc. Stored very well. You won’t be sorry, I guarantee you that."

51. "Slight mold infestation but overall a great reading copy."

Seller is Insane

52. "Pages 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 17-38, 42-44, 48-52, 56-58, 70-72 are missing, but everything else is perfect."
[Plonk! The sound of my jaw hitting the floor.]

53. "Hello! This book is in very good condition. There are minor scuff marks and creases on the cover. There is some writing in the book. Thanks for looking!"
[Hello! This is not a chat room!]

54. "You will not be disappointed in this book. It is a FIRST EDITION! Originally published in 1988 by (name deleted), working in cooperation with the Air Force Historical Foundation. This special Reprint Edition was published in March 2000 by (name deleted)."
[I could post a hundred examples of sellers who are clueless about first edition identification.]

55. [List of keywords found on a description of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea]: "childrens junvenile fiction non-fiction sports military sex science math cooking classics rare"

56. "VG slight dj wear, fast I am not sure if this is the correct file format. I just got started on (website name deleted) yesterday. Thanks."

[Hey, all my books have Very Good+++ karma, so there!]

It's All in the Details

58. "Printed in Germany: NY: Locust Valley."

59. "May have a small tear and remember mark."

60. "No sun no damp no ink."

61. "No dust marks throughout."

62. "Dustjacket has a small sip on one corner."

63. [Found on description of book supposedly printed in 1539]: "The book is considered one which was printed before actual printing was invented."

64. Published by "Charles Scrinber And Sons"

65. Published by "Charles Scibner’s Sons"

66. Published by "Batman Books"
[Bantam Books, presumably. It's sad to see booksellers who can't type or spell or construct complete sentences or use correct syntax or link two words together.]

67. "We Ship Anywhere! Absolutely no shipping to prisons!!"

68. Seller located in "Louisvile" Kentucky

69. Seller "has severed thousands of customers accross the world."

70. "dippy book plate"

[I had a mighty struggle with myself to not order this one just to see how dippy the bookplate was]


Please visit my bookstore http://www.gwenfoss.com/

Or search the inventories of my reputable colleagues at http://www.tomfolio.com/