Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Is that smoke I smell? And what have we got to read around here?

Wildfires abound. Not in my neighborhood, thank god, but in nearby towns. Looking at the mountains this afternoon I saw a huge plume of smoke. My wife, who was with a friend across town, called me to ask if I knew anything about it. I’d been watching a TV news report on it just minutes before and was able to relay information. We have had over a couple of dozen major fires in our state, many of them started by people not thinking, doing dumb things. The fire that was all a’blaze last Friday in the Southwest corner of the Salt Lake Valley (and burned four houses to the ground) was caused by a man who parked his pickup truck over dry grass, and caught it on fire with his hot catalytic converter.

Taken from my front porch. The fire is burning in a town of 10,000 on the other side of the mountain.

Of course they evacuate whole neighborhoods while the fire is being fought, and despite the best, often heroic efforts of firefighters, unfortunately, some structures are lost. People get on the TV news programs to tell their stories: “We only had minutes to get out so I grabbed our important papers and ran!” It made me think, where are my important papers, and define important. I'd probably grab my two external hard drives. The computer I could replace, but those hard drives back up everything I have. For important papers themselves I suppose they mean birth certificate, marriage license, U.S. Army discharge, et cetera...but I can replace all of those because they're public documents available from various bureaucracies. Not so the most important stuff, the hard drives and my massive collection of books and magazines, which fills my basement, and which. if it were to catch fire would turn my house into a fireball that could be seen from space. Because of all my paper goods I'm mighty careful about fire, as you can probably tell.

Earlier today I reached into a magazine holder next to the couch, just to see what I had available nearby for reading material. I drag things from the basement to upstairs, and back downstairs again all the time. I want to read it or use it for reference, so I haul it around until I'm finished with it. I scanned the covers of magazines I had at hand. I’m sharing them with you so you can see that I have many eclectic interests. But many of these magazines (and these are just the magazines, not the books, which number in the thousands) I have because I like the covers. The Vanity Fair cover with Penélope Cruz is straight glam, and there's nothing wrong with that. I also like the Lego Club magazine I picked up at a thrift store. Toy catalogs and reference are fun to look at, but if I had as many toys as I have magazines and books I'd have to build a house behind my house just to keep them. I also have an old Mechanix Illustrated with a great cover (interchangeable bodies for cars!) from 1957; and a National Geographic from 1991 with an article on the Wyeth family of artists. There are more, of course, but I’ll show them to you and you can tell me if I'm nutty or not, worrying that someday these might go up in flames. If they do I might just jump into the fire with them: MAN CAN'T LEAVE COLLECTIONS, BURNS ALONG WITH TONS OF BOOKS AND MAGAZINES. I can see that headline right now.

Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts from 1988 is an academic journal with beautiful graphics inside. I found it at a library sale, and wish I'd found more. You don't find this sort of thing on a newsstand, so I've always got my eyes open for specialized magazines, especially when they have anything to do with graphic arts.

I also found almost all of the 2004 issues of Fortean Times, published in the UK, at a library sale for a nickel apiece.

Mechanix Illustrated  has a article, “You'll Own ‘Slaves’ by 1965!” by Otto Binder, which is about robot servants. Snort. As if. Otto was a science fiction writer who created the Adam Link (human-like robot) stories in the 1930s and '40s for Amazing Stories and the fanciful article in MI is just an extension of his science fiction presented as “fact.”

I have books about N.C. Wyeth, with most of his book illustrations. It's the sort of collector I am, though, that when I see something with his art, even if I already own it somewhere else, I'll buy it. It helps that I get this stuff so cheap in thrift stores, but it reminds me I'm obsessive-compulsive.

So many New Yorker covers are so well done. This colored pencil cover is an explosion of bright colors and despite the deadpan expression of the Asian girl in front it gives me a feeling of joy.

Rudy Nappi, who was also a paperback book cover artist, did this detective magazine cover. I like the covers with paintings a lot more than photographic covers. Except for the New Yorker I can't think of any other magazines that always use artwork on their covers.

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