Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

Modern Day Ghouls: The Estate Sale

By LilDebbie in Culture
Fri Nov 04, 2005 at 03:39:01 PM EST
Tags: etc (all tags)

The phone is ringing. It's still dark out. Who the hell calls at this hour? What hour is it anyway?

Waking up is never easy. Waking up at 0620 on a Saturday is especially difficult. The confusion dissipates as I recognize the number on the phone. It's my mom, calling to wake me for the estate sale.

So that's why I slept in my clothes.

I grab my wallet, keys, et al and head outside to find my dad's SUV illegally idling on the street. No worries, the meter maids are still in bed. I'm amazed she managed to drag Dad along. The only reason I'm awake at this ungodly hour is the desperate hope I might make a score like Mom did two Christmases ago. Knowing my bibliophilic tendencies, she got me the Harvard Classics [eBay auction of the same set I have]. Now, in and of itself, this was a pretty awesome gift, but I was stunned when my mom told me she only paid $15 for it.

Fifteen dollars? For the Harvard Classics? How can this be? The answer is simple: she looted it from the house of someone recently deceased.

Y'see, when people die, they leave behind a lot of stuff and whoever inherits it usually doesn't need the vast majority of it. Sure, they'll keep the sentimental stuff and maybe some furniture, but most of it has to go. Enter the estate sale, where grieving relatives liquidate a lifetime's worth of possessions to unscrupulous bargain hunters for fast cash. The same people go to these week after week, obsessed with the prospect of the killer deal. My mom has since cut back her habit after her collection of antique glassware started to get out of hand. She's down to about once a month, just to look, she swears.

About a week ago, I was talking to Mom when she brought up her unhealthy obsession with the remains of the dead. Apparently there was one coming up that weekend and, as she does with damn near all of her activities, invited me along. The thought had been there for a while; a little romantic desire to hunt for rare books á la The Ninth Gate. What the hell, I agreed and Mom was happy.

Cut back to 6:30 in the morning last Saturday. The parents have thoughtfully brough along an extra thermos of coffee for me as I am barely awake stumbling into the back seat. The reason we are all awake, according to Mom, is to get pre-numbers. Apparently, the freaks who go to these things regularly are not satisfied waiting a mere two hours beforehand to get numbers in the line for the sale. They have therefore set up their own system of "pre-numbers" in a line to get numbers, and thereby adding another two hours of waiting. This is organized entirely by the people who go to these things and remarkably enough the official organizers recognize the pre-number system.

It's still pitch black out as we roll up to the estate in question. Mom tells us this should be a good one based entirely on the knowledge that property taxes for the estate are roughly $33,000 a year. This is a rich dead guy's stuff we'll be picking over. In front of us is a parked car with the engine running and the lights off. Wedged in the driver's side window is a plastic bag with slips of paper inside - the prenumbers. Dad grabs three and we head back to the car.

Despair hits. We got good prenumbers, 4, 5, and 6, but they all say "must wait" on them. Mom explains that means we "must wait", i.e. can't drive off and go back to sleep like she promised us when roping us into this deal. Now this is already a pretty shady operation from my point of view, but now we're expected to sit in the car with it idling from 6:30 to 8:30 in the posh part of town. Dad wants to leave, but Mom insists we can't because then we'd lose our spot in line for the numbers, so she concocts a dubious plan to get us out of there without the organizer realizing we left.

Here's the plan: Mom and I walk back to their house and get her car. We then pick up Dad, leave his car there and go to the local bakery for coffee and puppy dog tails. Nefarious, I know. The house isn't too far away and we make it back before Dad gives up and drives off.

After breakfast, we head back to get our official numbers. The sun is up and people are milling about in front of the house. Mom says hi to a few people she recognizes and learns that it's actually only a moving sale. She apologizes to Dad and me that no one died. The numbers are handed out on a pack of playing cards with the official number written in black felt pen. I get the King of Spades. As promised by our pre-numbers, we are still 4, 5, and 6. Not obligated to wait this time, we take both cars back home.

We sit around and read the paper until it's time to leave again. There are more people present when we return, but according to Mother it's a small crowd, what with the owner still alive and all. People line up on the front yard and ready themselves for the sale. Some have brought bags and boxes, like number 1, a woman who recently moved up from Phoenix. She tells us this is her first estate sale in the ten years it's been since she moved down to Arizona - I guess the pickings are slimmer down there.

The vultures start to get restless as 10:30 rolls around. A gentleman comes to the front door and checks the first few numbers to see if we're in order. He takes a moment to explain what floors have stuff to buy and that there's also some furniture in the garage and three season porch. Finally, the doors open.

He counts off as he takes the cards and people literally run into the house. I feel out of place casually strolling through as others dart around me. In the first room I see some silver candle holders that look interesting, but are more than I want to spend. Anyway, I'm here for books.

Turns out the guy who owned the house was part of the theater department at the University of Minnesota. While his play collection was impressive in quantity, they were for the most part shitty paperback prints. The rest of his books were an abysmal assortment of champagne socialist literature.

Wandering through his house, I learned all sorts of things about the owner. He listened to vinyl instead of CDs, was most likely nouveau riche given his terrible taste in art, and was an overly indulgent parent who bought his daughter a pony for her birthday. As for objects of note, there was a dusty Apple IIe in the basement no one was going to buy at $35, and a 19th century wooden bench which was cool if you're the kind of person willing to spend $1300 for a wooden bench.

I ended up buying Tom Stoppard's "Rosencratz And Guildenstern Are Dead" - I've been meaning to read it - and the one worthwhile book in his entire library, a copy of Romeo & Juliet which, according to the inscription, was a Valentine's Day gift from 1899. Sadly, it's missing the front cover, but is in otherwise excellent condition.

The price? One dollar.


Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure


Related Links
o eBay auction of the same set I have
o The Ninth Gate
o Also by LilDebbie

Display: Sort:
Modern Day Ghouls: The Estate Sale | 98 comments (67 topical, 31 editorial, 0 hidden)
If you like books... (3.00 / 6) (#5)
by jd on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 07:30:04 PM EST

Then I would suggest forgetting the dead - a trip to Britain might be more in order, especially the older towns and villages. I've picked up several books from the mid 1700s and was narrowly beaten to an excellent collection of early 1700s recipes for "medical" alcoholic drinks.

I would also suggest a visit to Hay-on-Wye - one of the largest collections of rare and antique books for sale in the world (according to them and I'm not inclined to doubt it).

You can find some interesting stuff in stately homes, too. They discovered an early 1600s printed recipe book in Longleat - lost in some obscure place for centuries - but it's doubtful they'd let you explore for precisely that reason. On the other hand, they might be talked into letting you look through their rare books. It's always possible.

I do what I can here (3.00 / 2) (#8)
by LilDebbie on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 07:50:42 PM EST

I worry that the English have a sense of what those books are worth though, and I'm a cheap bastard.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
best place for non-collectible books (none / 0) (#84)
by krkrbt on Fri Nov 04, 2005 at 06:25:31 PM EST

Thrift shops are my favortie place to get books.  All of the Salvation Army's books go for $.50 (paperback) or $1 (hardback).  And if you go on half-off day, you get an even better deal.

Used bookstores are good too, but at 1/2 cover price or higher (if the owner knows a particular book is rare), they're relatively expensive.

[ Parent ]

No (3.00 / 10) (#7)
by toulouse on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 07:49:59 PM EST

The price was a lot more than one dollar.

You had little sleep. You milled around for hours. You played the system. You drank coffee. You had to hang out with your folks.

Even at the scale of minimum wage, given the time involved, you got fleeced. I shudder to think what that book cost you in time at decent wage rates. It would have been cheaper to pay $10 bucks next time you were passing a bookstore.

Yes. The corollary of this is that we've wasted $millions here at K5.

'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki

Where is this bookstore (3.00 / 2) (#9)
by LilDebbie on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 07:51:46 PM EST

that has century old copies of Romeo & Juliet for $10?

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Why get a hundred-year-old one (3.00 / 4) (#11)
by toulouse on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 08:04:10 PM EST

when you can get a brand new one?

Unlike, say, "The Origin of Species", or "The Brothers Karamazov", a hundred-year-old copy of "Romeo and Juliet" isn't particularly special in any way. It's just older, in the same way that a copy of "Catch 22" from '84 is older than one from '97.

I'm not completely against these things, but have attented a lot fewer of them once I made my peace with the time-vs-payoff factor: The truth is that they are a massive gamble. On the majority of occasions, you won't find anything to justify the time investment (although you can often buy something to convince yourself you did "OK"). Once in a while, you'll hit paydirt. It's a case of YMMV as to whether these rates balance up.

'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki

[ Parent ]
I dig on old books (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by LilDebbie on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 08:17:05 PM EST

Cut pages, old school inscriptions back when books were worth something, personal cards used as bookmarks, all that rot.

And you're right, I hardly needed it. I have a recent copy of the play, plus a compleat works.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]

In which case (3.00 / 4) (#15)
by toulouse on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 08:29:13 PM EST

I'd agree with jd's earlier advice. Try and get to Hay-On-Wye. It's a fucked-up little town on the England-Wales border (technically on the Welsh side, IIRC), in middle of nowhere, but it's got this weird bibliophile heritage, an international book festival once a year and about fifty second-hand book shops. You can buy all the 100+ year books for $10 you could ever want.

'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki

[ Parent ]
I second that (none / 1) (#18)
by Have A Nice Day on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 09:22:20 PM EST

The town is full of bookstores with all sorts of ancient books in them. Highly recommended.

Have A Nice Day may have reentered the building.
[ Parent ]
I'll be sure to check it out (none / 1) (#21)
by LilDebbie on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 10:37:58 PM EST

if I'm ever in England. Unfortunately, I am presently landlocked in the middle of North America.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
had to hang out with your folks (3.00 / 2) (#31)
by wiredog on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 08:10:45 AM EST

For some of us that's not a price, it's a benefit.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
On a relaxed Summer or Christmas afternoon (none / 1) (#37)
by toulouse on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 11:22:22 AM EST

where nothing is hurried, it can be as you say. At six o'clock in the morning, having had little sleep ... I think I can honestly say that I'd rather have my genitals smeared into pink film by a piledriver.

'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki

[ Parent ]
I guess I just get along better (none / 1) (#43)
by wiredog on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 12:48:35 PM EST

with my family. It probably helps that I'm a couple thousand miles from Dad, and only get to see him twice a year. Any hang time is good.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
Absence makes ... (none / 1) (#50)
by toulouse on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 01:47:05 PM EST

Mine live an hour away.

'My god...it's full of blogs.' - ktakki

[ Parent ]
Mine are five minutes away (none / 1) (#51)
by LilDebbie on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 02:01:11 PM EST

What kind of self-respecting empty nesters move out of the suburbs into the city?

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Yeah (none / 1) (#14)
by localroger on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 08:17:09 PM EST

My wife got a mink coat valued at over $4000 for $250 at an estate sale many years ago. We also have a couple of jeweler's benches, which are wonderful for their great number of perfectly fitted doors, for like $50 apiece from a bankruptcy sale. Hey, if carrion is floating around vultures get rich. Join in or lose out.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
That was a bizarre metaphor. /nt (3.00 / 3) (#16)
by Ignore Amos on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 08:31:51 PM EST

And that explains why airplanes carry cargo on small boats floating in their cargo aquarium. - jmzero
[ Parent ]

How? (2.00 / 2) (#59)
by localroger on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 04:01:37 PM EST

It's actually pretty exact. In nature, vultures perform an important service; nobody wants rotting dead animals lying around and spreading disease. Similarly, in our acquisitive society a dead person usually leaves a pretty impressive mound of junk in his wake, which can be a real burden for those who inherit it who don't share the dead person's zeal or tastes or shoe size.

One example: The grandfather of a coworker of mine spent his lifetime collecting miniature airline booze bottles. He had tens of thousands of them, special editions, rarities. He had meticulously built display racks which filled his basement. When he died and the house had to be sold, it all had to go. Currently it's in storage, a waste, too valuable to discard but too expensive for them to house properly and display. It would all make a nifty little roadside museum but nobody in the family has the time to deal with it.

Stuff like this is carrion -- it is dead rotting meat, a drag on those who must deal with it. If you score a huge deal at the estate sale they certainly aren't going to be upset, and it takes this shit which would have been wasted and puts it back in a place where it creates happiness for a living person.

Now, hanging around estate sales all the time hoping for these deals is indeed a bit vulture-like, in that exact sense which inspired the legend of "ghouls." But these dark creatures perform a vital and necessary service, however awful their breath may be. You have no reason to be ashamed if you get the chance to scoop up a little roadkill yourself by and by. Not everyone has the constitution of a vulture (or an antique shop to stock), but sometimes the kill is fresh enough or the curio so personally alluring that we can share in the unfortunate good fortune.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]

My issue was less ... (3.00 / 4) (#63)
by Ignore Amos on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 05:07:53 PM EST

... with the core of the metaphor than the odd turn of phrase used to express it. Vultures presumably don't get rich, they get fat, as they ostensibly have no means to accumulate possesive wealth. Additionally, while it's certainly possible for carrion to float (as I'm sure you're well aware in NO), I don't typically think of it doing so upon hearing the word. Thus the bizarreness of the mental image I got from your post: buzzards in top hats and monocles floating around atop corpses.

And that explains why airplanes carry cargo on small boats floating in their cargo aquarium. - jmzero
[ Parent ]

I am so proud of your wife. (none / 0) (#86)
by Harvey Anderson on Sat Nov 05, 2005 at 10:32:14 AM EST

That really was a great find! You guys are great. I love you guys.

[ Parent ]
Gee Harvey, I didn't know you cared. (none / 0) (#88)
by localroger on Sat Nov 05, 2005 at 10:28:31 PM EST

We take good care of our stuff, and we hope when we're done with it someone else is as happy to get it from us.

I am become Death, Destroyer of Worlds -- J. Robert Oppenheimer
[ Parent ]
God, you are worse than a pedo... (1.33 / 9) (#17)
by weedaddict on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 08:35:54 PM EST

You are a 60 year old retired women from Oklahoma. Fuck you and your estate sale shit. A story about abolishing the estate tax because it forces small buisnesses to close after owners death would be better. -1

Reality has a certain cynical bias - Cattle Rustler
Man you must have some good green over there... (2.50 / 2) (#39)
by kraant on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 11:29:18 AM EST

No offense, but given that the rule of thumb for loans is that you need %25-$50 in personal equity to match the loan you're trying to raise if you can't raise a loans to evenly match the equity you'd have in the business; which, assuming a death tax of %50, is the most you'd have to raise, your business has much bigger problems than the death tax, and was probably going to fail anyway.

That's the absolute worst case scenario. See this article from APPC to get a better idea of how much and how many small businesses the Estate Tax affects.

What the Estate Tax does is stop Paris Hilton from getting all of daddy's money, of which she hasn't earned a cent, when he carks it.

Poor Paris Hilton. See how she's oppressed by only standing to inherit a goodly portion of her daddy's billions.

How'd you end up spouting a Republican Talking Point anyway? Too much Limbaugh and Fox News?

"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

You are so dumb (3.00 / 2) (#40)
by Lemon Juice on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 11:53:31 AM EST

Why do you want to pay more taxes? Are you rich? no then why are you promoting policies that will make you pay more taxes? You honestly think the estate tax affects businesses?

[ Parent ]
It affects small farms (2.50 / 2) (#53)
by weedaddict on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 02:45:52 PM EST

and any buissness worth 3.5 million. THis may not seem like a small buissness but in Cali 3.5 million isn't really anything. Farmland in California is expensive and 3.5 will barely produce enough food to live on. We hate estate tax in cali because there are many small farms that are forced to close when owner dies.

Reality has a certain cynical bias - Cattle Rustler
[ Parent ]
Ah, (3.00 / 2) (#76)
by kraant on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 09:56:58 PM EST

So you don't actually have a problem with estate taxes at all. You just have a problem with the exemption amount being set too low so why not argue for the exemption amount to be raised to say I dunno 5 to 10 million or so or just have a blanket exemption for family owned farms.

Or are you just some whiney trust fund baby trying to get a free ride off those hard working farmers and businessmen? Because if you're in college the only way you could possibly be there is with your parents greasing your way with their money.

"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

That's funny... (none / 0) (#85)
by The Rizz on Fri Nov 04, 2005 at 06:41:47 PM EST

Last I heard, there had never been a single family-owned farm driven out of business by the estate tax. The Feds actually have support plans in place to ensure that this doesn't happen - worst case scenario has the taxes paid over 10-20 years at 0% interest. If you can't afford that with your farm, it's time to sell it, anyway.

[ Parent ]
Estate sale? (none / 1) (#19)
by gr3y on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 09:47:17 PM EST

Get thee to an estate auction, if you really want to experience vultures picking the bones of the dead.

I am a disruptive technology.

There's nothing better (none / 1) (#23)
by minerboy on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 10:50:19 PM EST

then looking for an obscure item, amongst hordes of red neck, obsessive collectors, eating cheap hot dogs and kraut. I saw a 3 year old police scanner go for $ 90. They're also a good place to get cheap guns

[ Parent ]
Meh. (2.33 / 3) (#20)
by lowkey on Wed Nov 02, 2005 at 10:32:11 PM EST

It's fine, editorially, and I was interested enough to read through, but it's a pretty flat story. No depth, no climax. It would be better if you went ahead and made it fiction; adding some conflict. As it stands, it's not bad, but has the style of a story with the content of an article. It's disappointing when it fails to be an interesting story.

some of my garage sale finds this summer (none / 1) (#27)
by jsnow on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 02:40:05 AM EST

  • The Joshua Tree (U2) on vinyl ~$1
  • Pair of 50 pound crossbows made in china $2
  • Meade 117mm reflector telescope $35
  • ~200 vhs movies, avg price about $2
  • Kenwood vr-505 receiver and speakers $65
  • Hanafuda card deck 50 cents
  • Standing wave ratio meter ~$10
  • Old 24 port ethernet switch with two 100mbps fiber ports $1
  • 5 port gigabit ethernet switch $5
  • Pair of 4-channel radio control aircraft radios with receivers and a handful of servos $15
I spend a lot of time going to garage sales. Everyone needs a hobby. What weird things have other people found?

You forgot: "A basket full of pr0n." (none / 1) (#38)
by shm on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 11:24:36 AM EST


[ Parent ]
My stepmother (none / 0) (#83)
by Sgt York on Fri Nov 04, 2005 at 06:13:06 PM EST

goes to those things all the time. I have a very interesting collection of medical, chemistry, and biological science texts circa 1900, with a few from just after the US Civil War.

There is a reason for everything. Sometimes, that reason just sucks.
[ Parent ]

Nice. (none / 1) (#29)
by xC0000005 on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 03:40:42 AM EST

I have a (very) old book of mormon, circa 1890, some school books from the 1880s, and one of my favorites, a medical book from 1899. I'm so glad I didn't live then, judging from what I read.

Voice of the Hive - Beekeeping and Bees for those who don't
Trashpicker (1.50 / 2) (#30)
by Makenzie Smith on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 07:58:54 AM EST


+1FP (1.66 / 3) (#32)
by monad on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 09:00:08 AM EST

Good post, and it leaves room for (and leaves me wanting) a sequel.

By the way, isn't sitting in a car for two hours with the engine idling a little wasteful? I can't believe some of the shit like this in the USA. Bill Bryson said in Notes From A Big Country that he's seen people get out of their cars to go into the post office or whatever, leaving the engine running while they're away. WTF. I mean, I'm from the UK and no-one idles for that long. For example, in long motorway traffic jams people turn off their engines and get out of the car. No wonder you guys use so much oil.

Economies of fuel... (none / 1) (#34)
by Parity on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 10:16:38 AM EST

You have to consider that starting the car is an extremely inefficient process that burns as much fuel as five or ten minutes of idling, so, it's not really hurting anything to leave it running while you go into the post office to check your PO box. It is, of course, very inefficient to leave it running while going in to stand in line during the Christmas mailing season - that sort of thing is because people want a warm car to come back to.

Leaving the car idling for two hours while you're in it is another thing of course and depends on a whole bunch of considerations. Do you have to leave the lights on for safety? After 2 hours, you might not be able to start again...

Often, though, it's the simple desire to stay warm or cool with a/c or heat, and have the radio, all of which takes energy, and that could be considered wasteful.

OTOH, I use more fuel getting up to highway speeds than I would in idling for 2 hours for heat & radio... a/c takes more juice, though, and that probably is more like 1/2 hour = accelerate to highway speed, depending on current outside temperatures (and highway speeds).

[ Parent ]

Restarting doesn't use that much fuel (none / 1) (#56)
by fairthought on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 03:37:32 PM EST

You have to consider that starting the car is an extremely inefficient process that burns as much fuel as five or ten minutes of idling

None of the estimates I've seen suggested that stopping and restarting an engine used more fuel than about 30 seconds worth of idling. Some recommend leaving a turbocharged vehicle idling for longer than that to allow oil flow to cool down the turbo after heavy usage, but not to save gas.

This web site says 10 seconds:

If you're going to be stopped for more than 10 seconds (except in traffic), you'll save fuel and money by turning off the vehicle and then restarting it when you're ready to drive again.

[ Parent ]
But it's cold out! (3.00 / 2) (#45)
by LilDebbie on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 12:49:48 PM EST

And if gas gets too expensive we'll just invade Saudi Arabia.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Bibliophilic ordeal (2.00 / 2) (#36)
by Alien zombie on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 10:46:23 AM EST

Give me the simpler sources.

Queue abuse (1.66 / 3) (#41)
by Lemon Juice on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 11:55:09 AM EST

you are just keeping this shit on the queue because you want to gather comments, then when ti comes time to vote people will +1 it to keep the comments.

Good point. (none / 1) (#44)
by a paranoic guy from a shitty country on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 12:49:43 PM EST

I think it is ready for the vote process. Apparently, he is not going to make major changes in the text, so there is no reason for using the edit queue. I will vote for section, I think that is fair.

Welcome to k5, sorry you're here - some nerd
[ Parent ]
I just got in! (none / 1) (#46)
by LilDebbie on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 12:50:39 PM EST

Sheesh, can't a guy sleep? Anywho, fixed the other nit someone brought up, so to voting it goes.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Sentimental items (3.00 / 2) (#52)
by MichaelCrawford on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 02:01:29 PM EST

After Grandpa Swope died, Aunt Peggy suggested I take a couple books. I didn't have much room to carry many books, and Grandpa Swope's books weren't stuff I was very sentimental about.

But I took two of Granpda Speelmon's books. He was Grandma Swope's first husband. He died when my mother and my aunt were young.

Grandpa Speelmon was an army doctor. The two books I took, and still have, are a World War II edition Army Officer's Handbook, and Rats, Lice and History, which was about the influence of public health problems on world history, especially military history, as it can be difficult to maintain adequate sanitation on the battlefield.

Did you know that uniformed Army officers are not permitted to push baby carriages? Well, now you do.


Live your fucking life. Sue someone on the Internet. Write a fucking music player. Like the great man Michael David Crawford has shown us all: Hard work, a strong will to stalk, and a few fries short of a happy meal goes a long way. -- bride of spidy

champagne socialist literature (3.00 / 2) (#57)
by thekubrix on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 03:55:24 PM EST

+1 FP

he the term from that recent FP (none / 0) (#95)
by Cloud Cuckoo on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 05:42:36 PM EST

little debbie steals everything.

[ Parent ]
stole the term rather. (none / 0) (#96)
by Cloud Cuckoo on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 05:43:00 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Not everything! (none / 0) (#97)
by LilDebbie on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 07:10:34 PM EST

Only the good stuff.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Your mum rules. (3.00 / 3) (#67)
by Russell Dovey on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 06:56:18 PM EST

"She apologizes to Dad and me that no one died."

Man, I can see where you get it from now. You were lucky you weren't sold to organleggers at a tender age.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan

I don't think she had the connections (none / 1) (#68)
by LilDebbie on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 07:58:50 PM EST

That said, my sister has an extra liver if you're interested...

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
Nope, mine will be fine for a few more years yet. (none / 1) (#69)
by Russell Dovey on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 08:06:09 PM EST

But when the wine level finally breaches the dam wall, so to speak, let's talk.

"Blessed are the cracked, for they let in the light." - Spike Milligan
[ Parent ]

The "Harvard Classics" and Orientalism. (3.00 / 6) (#70)
by razumiking on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 08:06:24 PM EST

I suppose that but for a small, intellectual elite amongst the readers here, the five foot shelf of racism that is the so-called "Harvard Classics" is no princely gift to any Westerner with so slight a slice of modernity as Allen Quatermain. It doesn't take a Fanon to see who Eliot's rooting for in his "critical sections."

His criticisms of Hindu and Confucian texts (and the dubious translations he selected) show a markedly patronizing, culturally elitist point of view, colored by a distinctly Anglo-Imperial partisanship that no sensible reader could mistake. Indeed, even in his critiques of Russian and other Eastern European texts, the Western European/American chauvinism is palpable.

It would take a real lover of books -- a lover in the sense of a curator rather than a reader or librarian -- to think much of such an overtly condescending, occasionally antisemitic, collection. But perhaps such a lover is all we have here. God forbid you actually read the damned things!

I give this troll an 8 out of 10 (3.00 / 2) (#71)
by LilDebbie on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 08:18:28 PM EST

Just in case I'm wrong, I'd point out that the other century old book in my collection is the Rubaiyat. While I deride the Gitas, I hold Classical mythology in egal contempt. Cute stories, but that's about it.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]
You seem to be channeling Bernard Lewis, (3.00 / 6) (#74)
by razumiking on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 09:24:19 PM EST

Without the urbanity to realize readers won't be impressed that you own books older than you are. But hey, maybe you're right and Said is just a troll. After all, who else would take the side of a bunch of coolies and mohammadans but a troll?

What the hell kind of place is it where racism is so deeply ingrained that when called on it, one can complacently appeal to the notion of trolling (itself little more than a social construct -- in this forum in particular, it is little more than an excuse for acting like the twelve year old son of a single mother) and move confidently to the next comment in which you valiantly defend secret prisons in Romania.

[ Parent ]

Why shouldn't I be a chauvinist? (none / 1) (#77)
by LilDebbie on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 10:47:01 PM EST

I do not blanch at an African lionizing African culture, nor a Chinaman praising Confucious. It is well and meet that we should celebrate our own.

As for other cultures, I shall take from them what I find of value to me. Does this make me an imperialist? So be it. It is no bad thing to be thought imperious.

My name is LilDebbie and I have a garden.
- hugin -

[ Parent ]

I like my reply better (none / 1) (#79)
by kraant on Fri Nov 04, 2005 at 01:25:07 AM EST

You just conceded that buying Harvard Classics is chauvinist when it's just a bloody good set of books bought dirt cheap. ;) Think about it, how can your taste in books be racist? Unless you're choosing those books because of the authors race and really what sane bibliophile does that? A good book is a good book dammit.
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]
Reality check (none / 1) (#78)
by kraant on Fri Nov 04, 2005 at 01:19:18 AM EST

If I'd paid $15 just to get the works by Milton, Darwin, Smith and Hobbes out of that collection I'd be over the moon delirious with joy.

And you're worried about the introductions and criticisms sections of the books? Those are the publishers contribution to the worlds toilet paper supply. No matter when a book was published at the very best all they ever do is point out the bleeding obvious. The only thing ripping those sections out of a book diminishes is the resale value. Introductions are totally useless unless they were written by the author or translator everyone knows this. Why would these books be any different?

As far as the quality of the translations go the only text I feel qualified to have an opinion of is the expert from the Milindapańha and yes it sucks. Eliot would have been better off using T. W. Rhys Davids translation. But I think his failure is because he is totally out of his depth - like most scientists, even now, would be in this field. The translation he chose is internally consistent in its logic, it just mistakingly translates atman as ego instead of soul.

Keep in mind I only picked this mistake out because I know this text inside out. I wouldn't be able to spot anything like this in say the The Bhagavad-Gita or the Chapters from the Koran. So why attribute to racism what can easily be ascribed to incompetence or lack of knowledge?

Sure the intros are racist I agree, but every time I pick up a novel by a non-anglo/white author I get to read yet another paternalistic introduction, gushing about how important the ethnicity of the author is and how, like wow, the author is so authentic and ethnic, as if a non-anglo/white author can't write a good novel on their own terms. The person writing the introduction is always of course one of those people who is oh, so heroically, shouldering their share of the "white mans burden" by claiming that minorities can't be racist (they can't be held to the same standard of behavior as us whitefolk) those poor things.

Same shit different arsehole.

Now that kind of intro isn't going to stop me from buying and reading those novels if they're good. Sure I'm paying those racists salaries, but like I said; introductions are the publishing industries contribution to the worlds toilet paper supply.

Now explain to me again how buying several dozen great books and several crap ones all with the usual lame introductions in them makes a person racist.
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

Oh please. Introductions are crucial. (none / 1) (#80)
by razumiking on Fri Nov 04, 2005 at 07:47:48 AM EST

Most people do read introductions, at least, those with the humility to recognize that scholars really do have useful insight into the tomes they edit and translate -- but evidently we are in the presence of greatness. To kraant, literary genius, introductions are "toilet paper" that "state the bloody obvious," obvious even before he read the book at all! They say that the great literary critics have a sixth sense for literature. This must be what they're talking about.

The question here is about the character of the author's insight. Eliot seems to have a lot of insight into the inferiority of colonized peoples. The example of replacing the word "soul" with "ego" is a perfect case in point. Of course he chooses a translation that selects Freud's "scientific" term rather than give the Indian subcontinent a claim to spirituality and therefore equal humanity. This is a akin to the way National Geographic so frequently pictures naked African women as if it were just a day at the zoo, but of course we never get a glance of their female photographers strutting around topless. I suppose we are to believe that these natives were children of another creation and never learned to feel shame at their nakedness -- so why not call their soul "ego"? Their essence, like their nakedness, is an essentially scientific phenomenon!

And it should be fairly obvious that the issue isn't buying the thing -- it's been out of print for a long time and Eliot's dead anyway. It's praising it in full knowledge of its contents and making excuses for them as you have here.

[ Parent ]

Eliot isn't the author he's the Editor (none / 0) (#90)
by kraant on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 02:01:47 PM EST

Eliot isn't the author, the various, uh, authors of the various tomes are the authors. Eliot is the editor. Calling an editor an author is a horrible insult to authors. (I used to work as an editor, I'm allowed to say this)

You're claiming that scholars who write introductions really do have useful insight, privileging their interpretation of the text, and at the same time claiming that Eliots interpretation is bunk. Pick one position or the other you don't get both. At least I'm not assuming that people are stupid, incapable of reading with a critical eye, and incapable of forming their own interpretation of the text. And you have the nerve of accusing me of elitism. You're arguing for the privileging of scholarly interpretation, and accusing me who is arguing against it, of elitism in the same paragraph. Is the doublethink hurting your brain yet?

In Buddhist thought the concept in the text from the Milindapańha that I'm referring to is translated variously as self, continuous self, ego, soul, and permanent individuality. The Buddhist concept of soul is quite different from the Western one and if the literal translation was used unless the reader had a good grounding in Buddhist philosophy they'd likely end up more confused after reading the passage than before they started. I could argue that you're characterization of eastern philosophy as spirituality is a choice you made because you don't want to give the Indian subcontinent claim to philosophy and therefore equal humanity. I won't however because, like Eliot, you are working from a position of obvious ignorance. The passage itself by the way is an argument against the existence of a soul.

Here are some choice words on the matter:

"My confidence in venturing into science lies in my basic belief that as in science so in Buddhism, understanding the nature of reality is pursued by means of critical investigation: if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims." -- Dalai Lama
Does this look more like the response of a philosophy or a religion to you? Perhaps you should take a look at your own latent racism which is displaying itself as a casual dismissal of non-western philosophy as spirituality before throwing claims of racism at others.

As a non-white I'd like to say that your opinion of Eliot, a progressive, whose advocacy for racial equality allowed among others DuBois to get an education at Harvard laughable. Eliot was a product of his times and in retrospect some of his views are, well, quaint. The praise for the Harvard Classics is based on its impressive scope, the the important texts it contains, and honestly the quality of its bindery.

I can praise it for these despite its racism in the same way as I can praise the Vedas, Slovo o polku Igoreve, Aristotle, the Book of Invasions, or Le Morte d'Arthur etc etc. For what they do achieve rather than for what they don't. If you don't think people can read with a critical eye and think for themselves then we may as well just go ahead and burn all books.

ps. I'm guessing you're white.
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

Before we go any further with this, (none / 0) (#91)
by razumiking on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 03:24:12 PM EST

ps. I'm guessing you're white.

White as the newly fallen snow. Is that a problem?

We can get into the less idiotic aspects of your post, particularly what you seem to think is a very clever observation about my use of the word "author," after we've cleared up this first point.

[ Parent ]

Nah (none / 0) (#92)
by kraant on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 05:06:33 PM EST

Not really, it's just that I've noticed that people who go around lobbing the term racism around willy nilly, like it's candy or napalm or something, and deconstructing how progressives from centuries ago who fought racism in their time were racist tend to be white. So I took a wild guess and hit the mark.

Us *cough* non-whites tend to be more worried about little things like being stopped by police for questioning because of the colour of our skin.

Now do go on... After a couple more rounds of this we may even end up finding some common ground here.
"kraant, open source guru" -- tumeric
Never In Our Names...
[ Parent ]

D1-ary (2.66 / 6) (#72)
by stuaart on Thu Nov 03, 2005 at 09:11:47 PM EST

Good diary, mind. But still a diary.

Linkwhore: [Hidden stories.] Baldrtainment: Corporate concubines and Baldrson: An Introspective

I too have a copy of the Harvard Classics (none / 0) (#87)
by Kasreyn on Sat Nov 05, 2005 at 01:23:36 PM EST

When my grandfather died a couple years back, I was helping my mother prepare for a yard sale of many of his things that no one else in the family had wanted, and I grabbed his old set of the classics, along with a lot of other great books. I've yet to obtain enough shelf space to display the Harvard Classics, so they live in a box in the closet. But they make excellent reading.

I don't know about going to estate sales of strangers... it would kind of creep me out rooting through their possessions, whereas I'd grown up admiring and loving my grandfather's huge library. It kind of felt like it should stay in the family. Whenever I see a yard sale with a lot of neat books I always wonder why they don't want to keep them. I wonder if their dead relatives would be happy with their grandchildren and great-grandchildren not growing up around books; somehow, I doubt it.

"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
I went a few with my mom years ago... (none / 0) (#89)
by claes on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 10:15:07 AM EST

back in the 70s. This was in new england, and to me the sales always seemed like time travel 50 or 60 years into the past. I guess people stayed in one place longer, and in many cases took over the home of their parents.

The sales were usually auctions (new englanders being big on auctions, the yankee mercantilisim showing up), so there wasn't really much effort to get there really early, just early enough to look the stuff over and be ready when the auction started. As I think back, it seems the houses were all large and old, with weathered shake siding, set well back from the road, probably originally farms. Nice places. The auctions were almost always ouside.

I don't remember buying much myself, my mother bought an odd piece of silver or a serving dish (she was a big cut glass collector). No, wait, I did buy an eazy-bake oven at one when I was really little.

There was one auction where we bought a bright yellow inflatable navy 2-man life raft, complete with paddles and a pump. That was a lot of fun.

-- claes (thanks for bringing all this back)

The real drama and intrigue (none / 1) (#93)
by Grayworld on Sun Nov 06, 2005 at 09:25:34 PM EST

is not with the newspaper add or street sign estate sale vultures.

It's with the family vultures fighting over who gets what. They often come out of the woodwork when a person with a good sized estate is near death to "protect their interests" in their sick relative's estate from competing heirs. They'll make a few trips to the deceased house just before they die or just afterwards to do a little post mortem estate planning (i.e., looting) before the other heirs get there. There is no end of imaginative techniques to be the first vulture at the carcass or soon to be carcass.

Conversely, when an old and sick person has no money, it's amazing how few vultures you'll find circling overhead as they approach death. In these situations, one loving and faithful heir to nothing will usually take it upon him or herself to bear the brunt of the costs in time and money of their relative's final years. The other siblings, nieces, or nephews find excuses why they must be scarce during this time.

This happens alot more frequently than you think.

Fair but a bit unbalanced to be sure!

Estate sales are great.... (none / 0) (#94)
by Anonymous #n on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 11:15:32 AM EST

Try going to one nude the next time though.
That way you won't have to sleep in uncomfortable clothes.

Have you pointed out (none / 0) (#98)
by opusman on Mon Nov 07, 2005 at 08:51:56 PM EST

to your mother the irony of the situation? All the junk she buys is just going to end up being disposed of in a similar fashion when the time comes. Enjoyable reading anyway, +1 FP.

Modern Day Ghouls: The Estate Sale | 98 comments (67 topical, 31 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:


All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest © 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!