Sunday, July 19, 2009

That's MISTER Jibber Jabber to YOU!

A lot of great conversations happen here at Spine and Crown.

You may not have been a part of one, but that says more about you than us, because we're usually jabbering like the Chipmunks (all three) at 78 rpm. And it's grand. If it weren't for all the eccentric and fractured mother-lovers on Capitol Hill, this thing wouldn't be worth doing!

Something that distinguishes all the verbal lather around here from a lot of the communication available to the modern hairless ape is that it happens face to face. Certain Eastern traditions maintain a firm "back to back" theory of communication, and there is even the Kazakh custom known as the "buttock communion," but we don't subscribe to such notions. No, we like it up front and personal. We don't hold with this FriendFace or TwitterBook or whatever. We're not even sure why those things exist. Maybe we'd feel differently if we'd ever been "poked." Or, dare we dream, "super-poked!"

And there we've hit upon the crux of the problem. You can super-poke away, all ye so inclined, but the humanzee needs the presence of another humanzee to accomplish anything that's worth a hill of beans in this goddamn crazy world!

Solitude is great for fortresses, but for every Einstein you hand us, we'll hand you back a Rowan and Martin! No? A Horkheimer and Adorno? Never heard of them, eh? Hmmm. This is harder than we thought. A Lee and Kirby! A Gilbert and Sullivan! A Brecht and Weill! A Taylor and Millis!

Take that, isolates! Show us parts, and we'll show you a whole that is greater than their sum! The law of conservation of matter and energy means nothing to us!

But we've digressed.

Hang out in a public place, like say, a book shop, for instance. Listen to those people jibber jabber! They just can't get enough of it. They're making the magic glue that sticks civilization together!

Sure, they can do the same thing into their wireless tricorders, but then it's only jibber, for the jabber is happening on the other end, far out of view. Unless you're near the person on the other end, in which case you have jabber with no jibber.

But those people in the book shop, those lucky ones who look into the face of another and see that their meaning is understood, (without emoticons!)... It is they who receive the invaluable treasure that is validation.

Validation! The only meaningful gift one human can give another! You are valid! You're opinions don't induce immediate barking laughter! And they matter! YOU matter!

(All examples of validation presented above are understood to be purely hypothetical, and not actual reactions to your implausible, half-baked theories or 3/4 cracked personalities. Our lawyers made us say that!)

Blessed, blessed physical proximity! You can't beat it with a stick, and you can't beat anything with a stick without it! All that body language, all those micro-expressions! No validation through TweetFace! No validation via Nokia! Only tepid bath water!

Shit on the modern age! Don your home-tanned leather leggings and bang a drum! Ned Ludd, revive! Captain Swing, do your thing! Cell towers were made for toppling, and you! You were made for getting naked and hooting and hollering en masse in a lusty chorus, nude, out of doors, naked! Throw the bluetooth on the fire! Join the uni-mind of thrashing primate interaction! Let the ages roll!

Then buy a book from us (so we can stay in business), go home, lock the door so no one can bother you, and read it alone.


This week:

All items mentioned below are first come, first serve. If you want something, let us know post-haste (because they're also for sale on the interweb)! All new items sell for cover price, used items as marked. Sadly, trade credit cannot be used for new items.

Our books are always searchable via ABEbooks.


Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 2, Jack "King" Kirby

Legend has it that Jack Kirby was so besieged by ideas, he resorted to scribbling them on little scraps that ended up covering his work space like snow. He once put his cigar down in the ashtray and lit a pile of ideas on fire. He was inconsolable. Explaining things to his wife Roz, he estimated that he might have reduced upwards of 50 new story concepts to ashes. Roz shrugged and put things in perspective. "So you've lost an afternoon's work. Get over it!" Nowhere is the comic world's most generative imagination harder at work than in these Fourth World volumes. Top notch!

($25) [Sold]


Essays Ancient and Modern, T.S. Eliot
(Hardcover, first edition)

Such a high level of erudition, it ALMOST occludes our memory of Eliot's unsavory death; electrical cord wrapped around neck and genitals, left hanging in a Bangkok hotel wardrobe like a stained tuxedo jacket. Almost, Tom! Almost!



Gnosticism: Beliefs and Practices, John Glyndwr Harris
(Paperback, out of print)

So the archons, see, are like angels. But nasty angels who hate us. Why? Because we were created in god's image, and they weren't. Meanwhile, god turned his back on creation. These days, the archons call the tune and make us dance the lambada of misery.

A world ruled by nasty angels who hate us. Why does Gnosticism seem like a religion for our times?



Mysterium Coniunctionis, C.G. Jung

In the caves under his vast estate at Bollingen, Carl Jung used his view-o-tron to spy on the past. He watched alchemists turn lead into, well, lead. But they had a rip-roaring time doing it! And Jung watched them encode their lore in dark tomes, which, when fed through his decoder ring, became veritable doorways into the unconscious mind! O mighty view-o-tron! Mighty, mighty view-o-tron!

And thank christ he finally took an interest in alchemy! It was a welcome change from his constant watching, rewinding, and masturbating to the moment of his own conception. Dirty old wig-picker!

($15) [Sold]


Tertium Organum: A Key to the Enigmas of the World, P.D. Ouspensky
(Hardcover, third American edition, authorized and revised)

Poo-poo! Wee-wee! Brother-sister incest! Mouse-skin eyebrows! Yah!

Had to get all that out, because we've got to sneak in another serious review. We were prepared to go to town on this guy and his Gurdjieff/Blavatsky/Theosophy hoo-hah! But now, after looking into it a little, we're not sure if we want to sell this book at all. We're sick of being stuck in this three dimensional horse-shit! If we can just get these old brains up to the 4th dimension, maybe we can be disappointed by a whole new dimension's horse-shit. Bring it on, P.D. Ouspensky!

P.S. - We'll still sell it. We're hungry and our belly hurts.

($12) [Sold]


!!!!!This week, we're giving all our love to Goldman Sachs!!!!!


Matt Taibbi's controversial Goldman takedown!

What economy?


Everything's turning into a pile of shit.

Except this.


# of weeks since Spine and Crown inception: 193

# of weeks since inception that no mention of Spine and Crown has appeared in the print edition of The Stranger: 193

Friday, July 03, 2009

The Wisdom of Crowds

A common refrain on the internet these days is the importance of crowd-think. That is, that there are patterns to be distilled out of the collective decisions of large groups. And there probably are, if you can be bothered to be enough of a code-stroker to extract those patterns. For our part, crowds seem to have the same amount of wisdom as the average individual, minus about 100%. Or maybe as much as a large pile of sausage casings, we're not sure. Another word for crowd, after all, is mob. Can we get a "Hell yeah!" for the wisdom of mobs?

Despite this, we'd like to do something different this week... We'd like to hijack the wisdom of our own personal mob to solve a problem that's been nibbling at us. No tricks! It's an actual problem, a mental exercise that defeats our feeble think-muscles. Maybe you will conquer it and can crow to us of your victory.

Here it is: This whole thing is like a game show. You've got three curtains. Behind one is a shiny new glittering something or other. Behind the other two is a kick in the pants! You have to pick a curtain and hope for the best.

After you pick your curtain, the host decides to make things interesting. He pulls back one of the curtains to reeveeeaaallll... a kick in the pants!

So now you've got two curtains left. The host offers to let you switch to the other unopened curtain or stick with your original choice. And here's the core of the problem: Do you have a better chance of winning the shiny something by switching or by sticking?

You started with a 1 in 3 chance of being right. Now that one of the wrong choices has been revealed and eliminated, you've got a 1 in 2 chance, right? That's a 50/50 proposition, a coin toss. Why should you switch?

Because, according to the stupid book we got this problem from, switching gives you a 2/3 chance of being right. The authors explain it thusly: "Since by the time it comes to sticking or switching, the big prize must be behind one of the two remaining doors, there must be a 2 in 3 chance that the prize is behind the other door (i.e., a 2 in 3 chance your first guess was wrong)."

Wha? Huh? "There MUST be?" How MUST there be? The authors offer a variation to help illustrate the right choice (switching). Imagine, they say, the same set up with 1000 curtains; 999 of which hide kicks in the pants. The host reveals 998 of them to be booby prizes, and you're left with two curtains.

Switching, they say, gives you a 999/1000 chance of being right - and this is true- and it's pretty certain that you'll win with odds like that. However, this explanation pretends that your original choice doesn't count as a choice. That is, with 998 of 1000 decisions already made, adding one more decision (whether it be your original or a new choice) comes to 999. So you've got a 999/1000 chance of winning, no matter which one you choose. You're stuck with 50/50.

Marilyn vos Savant, smartest person who ever lived, says this is wrong. The the authors of the stupid book say this is wrong. Do YOU say this is wrong? Can you explain it in plain english? We're tempted to offer a prize, like some trade credit, but it all hinges on your being able to explain it, not your ability to understand it yourself, so that makes winning a little hazy. After all, we can just claim absolute ignorance (not much of a stretch), and we're off the hook. But do your best, and we'll work something out.


This week:

All items mentioned below are first come, first serve. If you want something, let us know post-haste (because they're also for sale on the interweb)! All new items sell for cover price, used items as marked. Sadly, trade credit cannot be used for new items.

Our books are always searchable via ABEbooks.


Aesthetic Theory, Theodor Adorno

More of an absolutist than he would ever have admitted, Adorno's critiques of Enlightenment ideals rendered the entire mass bath water and admitted of no baby. However, having this book on your shelf will certainly make you more attractive to graduate-degree-seeking potential sexual conquests, so it's kind of a trade-off.

($19) [Sold]


Scientific Self-Defence, W.E. Fairbairn
(Paperback, out of print)

Dapper '20s gents knocking the bejeezus out of one another. If the previous book shines a lust-light in the eyes of eurostyle glasses-wearing, ivory-tower-dwelling hotties, then this one will land you all kinds of booty among those who are impressed by a good wrist-fracturing or swift knee-capping. Get out there and make some poor sap yelp like a caned puppy! There's a reason the human body has all those pain-receptors - so you can get lucky!

($18) [Sold]


, Michel Butor
(Hardcover, out of print)

Another of the elite and rigorous French literary giants we keep trotting out. Not well-known to English-speaking audiences, but hey, when you've got tonight's Deadliest Warrior pitting an Apache brave against the entire Taliban, well, it looks like old Butor's gonna have to suck the sour baguette of obscurity a while longer.



Women Pirates and the Politics of the Jolly Roger, Ulrike Klausmann, et al.
(Paperback, out of print)

Just, you know, gettin' on with it - slittin' throats, hoardin' capital, wenchin', groggin', reefin' the bloody topsail and keepin' the scurvy away with a lime a day. But in a girly way.



The Complete Dirty Laundry Comics, Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, and Sophie Crumb

The book is kind it's own reward, so can we just forget about it for a second and bitch about people who refer to Robert Crumb exclusively as "R. Crumb"? The original title of this book was Bob and Aline's Dirty Laundry, for chrissakes! If one more person comes in and asks for R. Crumb, mistakenly thinking this puts them inside some hazily-defined circle of hipness, we will personally tattoo his full name inside their eyelids with one of Bob's cast-off Grumbacher pens!



Mexican Fireworks!


Everything's turning into a pile of shit.

Except this:


The Wire ate our lunch!


# of weeks since Spine and Crown inception: 192

# of weeks since inception that no mention of Spine and Crown has appeared in the print edition of The Stranger: 192