Monthly Archives: October 2014

Puberty Books of the Damned: How to Say No (Like a Sociopath)

A very bored teenage boy.

Here we go again! It’s time for another round of pointers from those Admirable Adjuncts of Adolescent Advice over at TEENWORKS. They’ve taught you how to flirt, make friends, and walk on your buttcheeks. Now they’ll instruct you on the fine art of turning someone down.

If you’ve been following the TEENWORKS method to the letter, you should be enjoying the kind of long-lasting relationship that makes your friends groan in envy. Each day should be a fresh study in unspeakable bliss, marked by moonlit strolls and amorous exclamations like the following:

I'd rather go to the movies with him than have a private audience with the King of England!

That’s fortunate, given current English monarchical realities.

But what if you’ve fallen short somehow? What if you’ve played the wrong hand, spoken the wrong line, attracted the wrong man? What if–heaven forfend–you actually need to reject somebody? How can you shake a sub-par would-be suitor?

Don’t Be Direct
One thing you definitely don’t want to do is be direct. The consequences of an improperly softened “no” can be disastrous.

A harsh no can put a guy off dating for an entire term!

An entire term, ladies! In a society that caters endlessly to the young male ego, a single “no” can break a guy. The most tedious of women’s libbers might suggest we condition young boys in such a way that they can cope when life fails to hand them everything on a platter, but let’s be real: isn’t it easier to keep training girls to cushion the blow?

“Sorry,” you might say. “Although you are extremely virile, I need to wash my hair tonight.”

“It’s not you, it’s me,” you might also try. “Your masculinity overwhelms me; also, I’m overdue for a vigorous round of buttcheek jogging.”

“Please don’t feel bad,” you could additionally remark. “I can’t be in a relationship until I sort through my problems. My vagina problems. In my vagina.”

If He Can’t Take the Hint
Sometimes subtlety runs off teenage boys like piss off a plastic bed sheet. TEEN WORKS acknowledges this. In fact, TEEN WORKS indirectly recognizes the possibility that a guy might miss the message eight or nine times.

Can't you take a hint?

The above question is from a quiz called “Are You a Caring Person?” If you choose Option A, it means you’re a callous jerk. (Whether it also means that Ben is a pushy lunatic, TEENWORKS doesn’t say.) Again, you can’t be too direct–so what do you do?

The answer lies in the immortal words of Seal: you’re never gonna survive, Dear Reader, unless you get a little crazy.

Continue reading


“Let’s all go down the Strand!”: NYC’s 18-Mile Book Store

Over the weekend, I made the sort of stupid decision that 27-year-olds in general, and I in particular, are famous for making. Despite having exactly no money and exactly one fever, I elected to go to New York City with some friends.

We had a good reason (or so I told myself at the time): there’s a haunted house there called Nightmare NYC, which was created by the editor of Weird Tales Magazine. If you don’t know why that’s significant, then give yourself a pat on the back. You probably have a functional sex life.


I couldn’t take any pictures inside the house itself. Suffice it to say, the event began with Typhoid Mary grabbing me by the hair and slamming me into a wall and ended with me drinking my first glass of absinthe (well, first two glasses–I had a but-one-get-one coupon) at a bar called Lovecraft. The latter promised to make me feel like a proper writer at last.

“Here I am,” I told myself. “In the middle of the city. Downing libations to the Green Fairy. Hanging out with prostitutes and the rest of society’s outcasts. Truth! Beauty! Love!”

Sadly, the night failed to devolve into an orgy of wanton sensuality. What happened instead was I got very drunk and watched a Syfy original movie in the basement. Still, it was a good time!


But let’s back up a bit.

We had a whole morning and afternoon to kill before any haunted housing could begin. And what better way to spend it than at The Strand Book Store, home of 18 miles of books?

Now, when I first heard of The Strand, I got things somewhat twisted and envisioned an unbroken 18-mile line of book stores lining a beach. Which would have been astounding, since Manhattan’s only 23 miles long. In actual fact, The Strand is one book store with 18 miles of shelves. That’s somewhat less jaw-dropping, but let’s be clear: it’s still stinkin’ immense.

The Strand Book Store

The first of the Strand’s three floors houses new releases and literary standards, while the second is mostly art and fashion books. The third, though–the third is where they keep the rare books.

And when I say rare, I mean “weird and also occasionally creepy.” In the spirit of Halloween, allow me to present some spooky things I found on the Strand’s top floor.

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The 60th Annual Michigan Antiquarian Book Show: Phony Bill Nye and Other Heartbreakers

Here’s a whole mess of book show pictures that cannot be categorized, or that I am simply too lazy to categorize. (It’s more the second one than the first one.)

Bill Nye's History of the United States

“Bill Nye’s History of the United States?” you shout. “Oh boy! I hope it will include spoofs of recent pop songs that present hard facts in an entertaining format!”

I’m sorry, my friend, but you’ve got the wrong idea.

"Not the Science Guy!"

Why must the world hurt us this way?

Speaking of game-changing qualifiers, try this one on for size. Here’s an erotic paperback called Immortalia.


I wish my boobs could do that.

That man selling it assured me that it was “genuinely raunchy,” but I had my doubts. If you’ve seen one vintage erotic novel, you’ve seen ’em all, and none of them contain half as much sex as their covers seem to promise.

Then I saw this:

For ADULT Adults

This isn’t just an adult novel–it’s an ADULT adult novel. That, my friends, is a sexy horse of a different sexy cover. I meant to buy Immortalia on the strength of that endorsement alone, but alas, I ran out of money. Perhaps, if the gods be merciful, I’ll find another copy someday.  Continue reading

The 60th Annual Michigan Antiquarian Book Show: The Lost Art of Kokigami

Book shows can be stuffy places. Whether it’s listening to someone wax pedantic about first editions or getting told off for daring to touch a book you look too poor to purchase, there’s a certain prim atmosphere that can spoil some of the fun.

Thankfully, books like Kokigami are there to save the day.

Kokigami: Origami Penis Costumes

What do you notice about this book? The title is Japanese, and there’s a picture of what appears to be an origami pig. So then–kokigami is origami? Perhaps an animal-specific subcategory thereof?

That’s accurate, so far as it goes. But take another look. What’s sticking out of that little pig’s mouth?

Kokigami: Origami Penis Costumes

If you said “a bellend,” you are correct! And also probably British! But, more importantly for our purposes, correct!

As the authors of this book explain, kokigami is “the art of the little paper costume.” To put a finer point on it, kokigami is fancy dress for your dipstick.

Kokigami: Origami Penis Costumes

Kokigami: Origami Penis Costumes

As someone who lived in Japan, and also someone with plural brain cells who can type things into Google, I am burdened with the sad necessity of informing you all that kokigami is not real. At least, it’s not a practice that has risen to any kind of cultural prominence. Yet.

Dreamers of the world, hear my plea: let’s make kokigami a thing. We’ll start with a kokigami meet-up, tentatively scheduled for October of 2025. It will be held on the moon, which, thanks to all the people standing around with paper masks on their dongs, will be only the second most ridiculous thing about it. I don’t know how to use Kickstarter, but as soon as I figure it out, I’ll kickstart the hell out of this project. Crowd-funded video games and potato salads of the world, prepare to meet your match!

Until the day my dream becomes a reality, let us keep kokigami (cocky-gami–get it? GET IT?) in our hearts and minds.

The 60th Annual Michigan Antiquarian Book Show: Victorian Calling Cards

I don’t really think anyone needs a Victorian calling card explained to them, but just in case, let me whip out an explanation 12-year-old boy style:

The Victorian Era was a dumb time with a bunch of dumb people who didn’t even know how to use Facebook, so they used calling cards instead. The calling cards had dumb pictures on one side and some idiot’s name on the other. They were the stupidest thing ever. If you disagree, you’re a bigger buttlord than my stepdad.

Was that credible? I think I achieved my effect reasonably well.

All kidding aside, Victorian calling cards are pretty neat–and pretty flirtatious! Check out a few of the cards I found at the book show yesterday.

Victorian calling card - clasping hands

A man and a woman clasping hands–my, my, my! If that doesn’t suggest future romantical encounters, I don’t know what does.

Victorian calling card - "Think of me"

“Think of me” — ooh la la! Whatever lucky gentleman drew this card must have been knee deep in babes, or at least one particular babe.

Victorian calling card - "Friendship"

Last, but not least, we have…”Friendship.”

*sad trombone sound*

Imagine being the poor bastard who got this one. Everybody else is getting veiled invitations to entwine limbs (in the Biblical sense), and what do you wind up with? Friendship.

Victorian gentleman in fedora

And thus, a movement was born.

The 60th Annual Michigan Antiquarian Book Show: Kinderbuecher

Boy, did I take a lot of pictures at the Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show. It’ll take me days to sort them into coherent categories. While I toil away, please enjoy this batch of children’s books. Some of them are delightful, some of them frightful, and others impolite-ful. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

The Hobbit: Pocket Edition

Here’s a “Pocket Edition” of The Hobbit that only a true optimist or a connoisseur of clown pants could call pocket-sized. It’s rather adorable, all the same.

Toot & Puddle: Welcome to Woodcock Pocket

Ho ho, Toot & Puddle! What funny names those are. And look–they live in a place called Woodcock Pocket. Tee-hee, tee-hee! Of course, that’s just me being prurient. In reality, children’s literature is a serious art form that should occasion no mirth whatsoev-

The Sea Man

Oh dear. Let’s move on, shall we?

Der Struwwelpeter

From Wikipedia:

Der Struwwelpeter (1845) (or Shockheaded Peter) is a German children’s book by Heinrich Hoffmann. It comprises ten illustrated and rhymed stories, mostly about children. Each has a clear moral that demonstrates the disastrous consequences of misbehavior in an exaggerated way.

I understand that literature must be viewed within the context of its time. With that said, what in the name of Christ was going on in mid-nineteenth century Germany? And what sort of misbehavior is punishable by transformation in a frizzy-haired, barrel-chested, wraith-fingered, red-cheeked abomination? More to the point: which of the Elder Gods did Struwwelpeter upset?

Once again, Wikipedia comes to the rescue:

“Struwwelpeter” describes a boy who does not groom himself properly and is consequently unpopular.

Ah. You know, all things considered, I’d say unpopularity is the least of Peter’s worries. The boy’s more in need of an exorcist than a makeover.

The Vegemen's Revenge

But brace yourselves, kids, ’cause Peter ain’t got nothing on Bertha Upton’s The Vege-Men’s Revenge. This is hands-down one of the most disturbing children’s stories I’ve ever seen, though the synopsis makes it sound harmless enough:

Poppy, a little girl, is taken to Vege-man’s land by Don Tomato and Herr Carrot, where the king demands that she be placed in a hole in the ground to learn how to grow.

Here we see Poppy meeting the aforementioned Don and Herr, unaware that anything is amiss (though perhaps Don Tomato’s muttered allusions to cement shoes should have clued her in):

The vegemen kidnap a little girl

Above: Herr Carrot introduces himself to Poppy, cleverly omitting his stint in Argentina following World War II.

Following her fateful meeting with the Vege-King, Poppy is placed in a hole and instructed to grow. The true horror arises when she does exactly that.

A little girl becomes a vegetable


Oh, but we’re just getting started. For young Poppy soon bears edible tubers, into which her consciousness (and the pattern of her dress) is transferred.

The Vege-Men take the Poppy tubers and proceed to cook and consume them.

The vegemen cook a little girl


The vegemen chop up a little girl


Poppy then awakens, shaken by her macabre dream.

The moral of this story? Unless you want to get lost in the sort of nightmare David Lynch has after bingeing on salad, do not, under any circumstances, eat your vegetables.

The Story of Little Black Sambo

There was a lot of Sambo at this book show. In a way, I understand: copies of Little Black Sambo are few and far between these days, and you’re unlikely to find one outside this type of venue. On the other hand, there’s totally a reason they’re rare, you guys. Sambo’s parents are called Mumbo and Jumbo, for Christ’s sake.

Ah, well. Let us turn elsewhere for more politically correct entertainment.

Do Look Out, Noddy!

That’s better. Noddy. Good ol’ wholesome Noddy. Beloved by generations of British youngsters. Surely there’s nothing in here to give offense.

Noddy's Golliwag

You probably saw this coming.

Yikes. Apparently the thing Noddy should be looking out for (but almost certainly isn’t) is institutionalized racism. What a scamp!