Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Story of Yiddish: How a Mish-Mosh of Languages Saved the Jews by Neal Karlen.

The Story of Yiddish: How a Mish-Mosh of Languages Saved the Jews by Neal Karlen.  Hardcover book published by William Morrow 2008, 324 pages.

I don’t speak Yiddish.  I wish I could and I guess it is still a possibility, but at this point in time it doesn’t appear to be very likely.  I remember the first time I heard Yiddish being spoken.  I was on a tram travelling through Balaclava in Melbourne’s South when I heard what I thought was German.  (Before anyone comments about my eavesdropping on other people’s conversations, these people were sitting straight across from me and unless I began singing or humming it was a bit difficult to avoid hearing them talk.)  I do speak a bit of German and I can understand it fairly well, so I was fascinated when I realized that here was a language that whilst sounding vaguely familiar, wasn’t.  Yes there were a few words that I picked up in the conversation that were German(ish) and strangely I got the basic gist of the conversation (they were talking about the people on the tram and the streetscape outside). 

Ever since then I have had a fascination for Yiddish.  It’s not something that you hear very often here in Australia particularly as those older speakers that do speak it become fewer in number and also, as far as I am aware, there are no Yiddish speakers here in Clunes (country Victoria, Australia).  When I do feel like a hit of Yiddish I listen to some excellent CDs that I bought a while back (click here and have a quick listen).   I’m not the only person with a fascination for it… there’s the author of this book, a speaker of Yiddish since childhood… and a few others of which I know a few thereof.  Apparently Yiddish is steadily increasing in popularity and who knows one day it may even overtake Esperanto in number of speakers*.  For anyone with an interest there’s a Yiddish Wikipedia and there’s heaps of stuff on the interwebs… but the best place to start is with this book (… sometimes my hard sell shocks me).

*On the eve of World War II, there were 11 to 13 million Yiddish speakers (Jacobs 2005). The Holocaust, however, led to a dramatic, sudden decline in the use of Yiddish, as the extensive Jewish communities, both secular and religious, that used Yiddish in their day-to-day life were largely destroyed. Around five million people—85 percent of the Jews who died in the Holocaust—were speakers of Yiddish.  (Wikipedia)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Military Sun Helmets of the World by Peter Suciu.

Military Sun Helmets of the World by Peter Suciu.  Hardcover book with pictorial boards (no dust jacket) published by Peter Suciu, Stuart Bates and Service Publications 2009, 90 pages with black and white and colour photographs and illustrations.

Speaking of interesting books… I was a bit shocked when I found this little number.  Who would have thought that there would be a whole book devoted to Military Sun Helmets and only Military Sun Helmets?  Not me.  I will confess to being more than overjoyed at finding this title.  This is another one of those books that one knows is just that little bit more special, or a little bit more 'of interest', than some others. Just look at these pictures:

(Yep, even the Nazis wore them.)
There are also heaps of photographs and illustrations of the helmets in situ, and all of the wonderful details are obviously written by a man with a passion… and if there’s one thing I like, it’s a book written by someone with a passion.  This passion has also spilled over to the interwebs and the world of the helmet is there on the www for all to appreciate, not just the lucky few who hold this wonderful book in their hands.  Some of you may think I’m a little slow to pick up on the whole helmet thing.  Yes, this is true.  I had no idea other than the idea that the subject is one that I can imagine people would be interested in… and they obviously are.  My gleanings from my brief search of the helmet world have also introduced me to the $$$ value of the helmet… something else to keep my eyes open for.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Managing Bird Damage to Fruit and Other Horticultural Crops by John Tracey, Mary Bomford, Quentin Hart, Glen Saunders and Ron Sinclair.

Managing Bird Damage to Fruit and Other Horticultural Crops by John Tracey, Mary Bomford, Quentin Hart, Glen Saunders and Ron Sinclair.  Paperback book published by Commonwealth of Australia 2007,  268 pages with colour photographs and maps.

Bird damage is a significant problem in Australia with total damage to horticultural production estimated at nearly $300 million annually.”

Despite not having a passion for gardening, I do have a few fruit trees in my yard.  There’s this plum tree that whilst not usually over abundant, does bring me great joy with the little I do manage to harvest.  From experience the fruit on this tree is best left until it falls, otherwise there is less of that rich sweetness that is so enjoyable. So this year I waited patiently and watched passers by sneak the odd plum and then all of a sudden, the tree was empty.  The mystery is whether this sudden decimation was due to human, possum or bird.  Somehow I think it was a combination of all three with a little less human activity… although I have had a few too many people in town tell me how tasty my plums are.

From my little experience of fruit trees, I can say that bird damage is quite extensive.  There’s nothing worse than picking up a piece of fruit and it’s got anything from a tiny hole to a large hole in it.  It’s just so depressing that the rest of it has to go to waste (or compost).  It’s not as if the birds are not wanted and appreciated and realistically i don’t mind them stealing a piece of fruit here and there (… a bit like my neighbours), it’s just that they seem to enjoy eating small amounts from lots of pieces and wasting the rest of it.

I don’t have anything near $300 million of damage but I do recognise the need for a book such as this. I can’t even begin to imagine how disheartening and costly large scale bird damage is to a farmer.  This book is quite technical and is definitely written for those with more than a casual tree in their front yard.  The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry obviously also see a need for this book or they wouldn’t have produced it.  I’d be very interested if they ever do a follow up book on Managing Human and Possum Pilfering.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Down to the Beach: Mentone Life Saving Club History 1920 to 2010 by David Grant.

Down to the Beach: Mentone Life Saving Club History 1920 to 2010 by David Grant.  Hardcover book published by Mentone Surf Life Saving Club 2010, 244 pages with black and white, sepia and colour photographs throughout.

I’ve been to the beach… I didn’t like it.  Unfortunately, due to my minimal beach adventures, I’ve never had an opportunity to be saved, so I have minimal experience of Life Saving Clubs here in Australia.  Fortunately the people at the Mentone Life Saving Club have been to the beach and do have some experience.  Surf Life Saving Clubs are volunteer based organizations that patrol beaches and save unfortunate inexperienced schmucks like me from drowning… that is if I was there and if I needed saving. 

1920, the year this club was founded, is early in the history of Surf Life Saving Clubs.  The first documented Australian clubs were only founded a few years before this in Sydney (1903 or 1907, depending on which wave you wish to catch) although according to this book, Victoria had a Royal Life Saving Society in 1904… but of course this is not as important as Sydney and New South Wales have long been considered the homeground of life saving.  I guess that old rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney extends to all facets of Australian life… even the saving of schmucks like me. 

“Port Phillip hosts many beaches, most of which are flat, shallow and long, with very small breaks making swimming quite safe. This attracts many tourists, mostly families, to the beaches of Port Phillip during the summer months and school holidays. Water sports such as body boarding and surfing are difficult or impossible, except in extreme weather conditions.” Wikipedia  

Mentone is a suburb of Melbourne.  Melbourne is situated on a Bay by the name of Port Phillip Bay.  Despite not being a big fan of the beach, I have been more than once and I think I can safely say that there ain’t no surf in Port Phillip Bay, which is probably why the title of this book refers to the Mentone Life Saving Club and not the “Surf” Life Saving Club.  Despite the title and the name of the club the book was published by the Mentone Surf Life Saving Club, which is (or was) possibly their official name.  Realistically though they have probably avoided using the word “surf” in their public name so that idiots like myself don’t comment about the difference… which I guess is what I’ve done.

The book is what I would call a lavish production.  It’s large format, hardcover and full of photographs.  I can’t imagine this was a cheap exercise on behalf of the club (the publishers), yet I am tempted to say that the book does appear to be a labour of love.  Any volunteer organization such as this depends greatly upon the goodwill of its members and I reckon the book is mainly aimed at current and past members of the club.  If you lived in Mentone or were interested in Surf Life Saving Clubs or just plain Life Saving Clubs then you might have an interest as well.  If you surf the net you should easily find this copy as it’s currently the only one available through the usual book sites… and it desperately needs saving.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Builders to the Nation: The AV Jennings Story by Don Garden.

Builders to the Nation: The AV Jennings Story by Don Garden. Paperback book published by Melbourne University Press 1992, 417 pages with some black and white photographs.

It seems like just yesterday that I was growing up on the outer fringes of suburban Melbourne.  It was so outer suburbs, that I could easily walk to farmland.  All of that farmland is now gone.  I don’t want to get all bleary eyed and nostalgic about rolling green hills with cows and sheep, or about having childhood adventures amidst the birds and bees… or even teenage adventures with the birds and bees.  Let just say that the green grass of home is now just homes.  The reason I mention all of this, besides a weird sense of nostalgia for nostalgia, is that I have never reminisced about any of this before writing this blog entry.  And why now?  It was AV Jennings that took all of this away and this book is a history of this taking away… actually it’s just a history of AV Jennings and has nothing specifically to do with the taking away of my youthful haunts.

Jennings began building in 1932 and are still happily building today.  For anyone reading this that is not from Australia and has no idea what AV Jennings is, we are talking about a construction company that built housing and housing estates, as well as larger projects, that we here in Australia of a certain age are very familiar with.  I think this is due to good promotion and advertising*, and the fact that they operated on such a massive scale.  I don’t remember any other company that built housing in the 1960s and 1970s other than Jennings, although I’m sure that they existed.  I do remember seeing large and small billboards promoting Jennings and it seemed as if everyone back in the day was moving into an AV Jennings home on the edge of the suburban sprawl.  Of course this meant that the land had to be made available for housing and therefore the farms were sold and the houses built, which is why the green grass of home is now brick veneer.

Jennings wasn’t (and isn’t) just Melbourne based and according to this book they were building all over Australia.  The book highlights many of those projects up till publication and has some great photographs and brief histories of those developments.  We now have many newer companies other than AV Jennings, that are “Builders to the Nation”.  I was recently talking to a friend from Woodend (about an hours drive from here) about her communities concerns with a Villawood** development in the area.  I guess they also are about to loose some of their easy access to the green grass of home.

I’ve sold a copy of this book in the past and I feel fairly confident that I can sell it once again.  The increase in middle class Suburban sprawl here in Australia is an important part of Australia’s post WWII history and AV Jennings were a big part of it.  Anyone interested in this aspect of Australian history, or living in a vintage housing estate, could possibly be interested in this book.  

*In that it worked.
**Villawood began in 1989.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Hangman's Hands by Charles Wogan.

The Hangman's Hands by Charles Wogan.  Hardcover book published by John Long 1947 (first UK Edition),  224 pages.


I have no idea who Charles Wogan was (is?) and the quickest of searches of the interwebs doesn’t bring up any answers either. I’m fairly certain that the Charles Wogan that wrote this book wasn’t the Jacobite Soldier of Fortune or any other the other Charles Wogans that Google can point me too.  All of this makes it very hard to know what this book is all about other than it is a vintage crime book that has a modest on line value.  What I’m trying to say is that The Hangman’s Hands is a complete blank to me and by the looks of it, to the interwebs as well.

“Introducing Sebastian Stole.  An exciting story, introducing a detective who might have been a king.  Sebastian Stole has come to stay! The murder of Pierre, the waiter at Sebastian's club, who is found on his own hearthrug with his throat cut, calls for all Sebastian's ingenuity, brilliant reasoning, and cold persistance, before the crime is solved and the killer delivered into the 'Hangman's Hands.'”  

“Sebastian Stole has come to stay!” Mmmmm. Really? As far as I can tell this particular Mr Wogan only wrote one other book and I can’t see that either of his books did end up staying… unless of course the publisher is referring to the book staying on the Huc & Gabet shelves!!!  As I write all of this I keep thinking what if I’m very wrong and the book has an incredible cult following which will lead to irate Charles Wogan fans emailing me with abuse.  It’s one of those things where Charles Wogan could possibly be a nom de plume or the book was made into a film starring Humphrey Bogart or… who knows what.  In this instance I welcome any correspondence regarding my ill informed ramblings.  I would love to know the story… any story… about this book.  

I’ve had it for a few years now which means that I have been unable to sell it for a few years now.  Originally I picked it up as there was something about the dust jacket illustration that grabbed my attention (… the red lips, the black gloves, the mysterious eyes), also the fact that I hadn’t heard of the author and it was a vintage crime novel, for which I am aware there is a certain amount of interest, all of this helped me to take the plunge.

… and it hasn’t sold.  It’s not as if this is the only book I have that hasn’t sold… I’ve got a few others… I think what amazes me is that I have no idea at all about this book and the longer I have it, the more intrigued I am.  Help.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Language Most Foul by Ruth Wajnryb.

Language Most Foul by Ruth Wajnryb.  Hardcover book published by Allen & Unwin 2004, 230 pages.

“Swearing relieves the feelings - that is what swearing does. I explained this to my aunt on one occasion, but it didn't answer with her. She said I had no business to have such feelings.” ― Jerome K. Jerome, Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow

I like a good swear word, particularly when it’s used creatively and constructively.  All the big ones are here in this book, including new versions of old favourites and the author doesn’t hold back with the invectives.  There are whole chapters devoted to particular expletives and the usage thereof as well as other chapters delving into blasphemy, cursing, obscenity etc etc. The book is written in an entertaining manner and the author appears to be very familiar with the subject matter at hand.  I have to admit that I’m a novice compared to her obvious dexterity with the subject and I can only hope that one day I will be able to master this sort of dexterous verbosity. 

This is a great book for anyone with, or contemplating, a potty mouth.  It’s obviously not written for Jerome K. Jeromes Aunt (see above) or my mum (don’t ask my mum about this), but rather more open minded/hardened language users who don’t mind a broader use of English.  The author also includes some information regarding other languages and cultures and their uses of “Language most foul” and the whole lot is lovingly written with touches of history and humour.  The publishers blurb sums up who this book will appeal to, very nicely:

“Most foul is a must read for anyone who loves language-or has ever stubbed their toe.”  

At the moment i have two copies of this book available, one on line, and one patiently waiting to go on line.  Somehow I feel that as with many other language books that I do sell, this book will do better in a bricks and mortar hands on selling environment rather than the interwebs. So I think I’ll take the patiently waiting copy and move it to the bricks and mortar and see what happens as my intestinal discomfort tells me that the on line copy is going to be there for a while yet.