Category Archives: Trivia

What is a First Edition of The Catcher in the Rye Worth?

alex atkins bookshelf booksJ. D. Salinger introduced the world to Holden Caulfield, the quintessential cussing, anti-phony, cynical, disillusioned, rebellious adolescent, on July 16, 1951 after working on The Catcher in the Rye for about a decade. The 277-page first edition was published by Little, Brown. Salinger objected to cover art and illustrations on his books because he didn’t want readers influenced by any artistic interpretations. However, The Catcher in the Rye was an exception. With this particular book, the iconic artwork was drawn by E. Michael Mitchell, a close and trusted friend of Salinger. The dust jacket features the pen-and ink-drawing of a carousel horse painted red-orange. The title is superimposed in yellow over a field of red-orange. On the lower left, obscured by the hind leg of the horse, is a small sketch of Central Park overlooking the New York City skyline in the lower left. Attentive readers will recognize that Holden’s sister, Phoebe, rides a carousel horse in Central Park (Holden refuses to join her); but more significantly, the horse is an important metaphor in the novel. On one level, the horse represents lost innocence. On another level, it represents Holden’s attempt to jump into adulthood but is inextricably bound to the carousel horse of his childhood. The back of the dust jacket features a black-and-white photo of Salinger taken by Lotte Jacobi.

Back in 1951, a first edition of The Catcher in the Rye cost a paltry $3.00. Since then, the book has sold more than 65 million copies. But more significantly, the value of a first edition has risen exponentially. Most first editions sell for about $20,000 to $25,000. However, first editions signed by Salinger are extremely rare and fetch much higher prices: Currently, there are two signed first editions for sale: one for $55,000 and one for $125,000. This more expensive one is inscribed: “To Ned Thompson with all good wishes J.D. Salinger Windsor, VT Nov. 5, 1961.” Both books are housed in custom clamshell boxes.

One wonders what Holden Caulfield would make of all this. Perhaps he would say, “Half a grand for a lousy book about some whiny jerk and his sister? Leave it to a bunch of phonies to read the book and then smoking and talking about how important it is. And it takes another goddamn phony bastard to come up with that much dough for a book because he believes it’s actually worth that amount. That kills me!”

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The World’s Largest Tie Collection

alex atkins bookshelf triviaOne of the most popular father’s day gifts is a neck tie. According to Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group (a market research company), the typical American man owns about a dozen ties. Silk ties range in cost from $15 to $120. The tie industry saw its peak in the mid 1990s (with over $1 billion in sales), and has been dropping ever since. Specifically, in 2010, neck tie sales were down to $418 million. Part of the reason is that the boom traded power suits for casual wear as the new standard office attire. And for dressier occasions, it became fashionable to wear tie-less dress shirts and blazers. In short, men began buying less ties and recycling their old ones. Cohen adds, “”Men don’t throw away their ties. They collect them without trying.”

Which begs the question: what do you call someone who collects neck ties? Interestingly, a person who collects ties is a grabatologist. And this begs a followup question: who owns the largest neck tie collection in the world? That distinct honor belongs to Alex Bennet of Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Bennett, 28, an assistant manager at a clothing store when he was last interviewed in 2013, has been collecting ties for 25 years. His collection boasts more than 60,000 ties — so you can honestly believe his claim that he never wears the same tie twice. He also knows the 85 ways to tie a tie. And yes, he wears bow ties.

The inspiration for his expansive tie collection began with the gift of several ties from his maternal grandfather when he was a young lad. Then his paternal grandmother contributed to this initial collection by taking him to garage and estate sales to buy ties. Bennett explains, “I was buying [ties] with my allowance money. I was a weird little kid.” But you can interpret “weird” as stylish, and certainly out of place sartorially among his peers since he wore a suit and tie to school every day since the sixth grade. Naturally, Bennett was known around school as the “tie guy.” Bennett put up with all the hazing and is not tongue-tied (sorry, couldn’t resist) in his own defense: “I don’t care what anybody thinks. It never bothers me. I’ve been dong it so long.”

Bennett looks for old ties (think polyester, wide, with crazy, bright patterns): “The older they are, the more I want them.” Some of the oldest ties in his collection are more than 100 years old. He typically buys his ties one at a time, with one exception. Several years ago, the previous neck tie record-holder, Derryl Ogden, passed away. Guinness had authenticated his tie collection at 16,055. Bennett climbed into a car with his father and drove to Lincoln Nebraska. His collection grew dramatically when he paid $500 for about 20,000 ties. Of course, like any collector, Bennett has a clear favorite: a white tie with black polka dots made by Soprano, a London-based firm that was founded in 1992. And, naturally there is a story behind it: “I wanted this tie so badly. I saw it in a movie when I was a little kid [12]. I looked and looked and looked and finally found it.” He finally found his Holy Grail at a T.J. Max store in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Although the black polka dot tie is Bennett’s favorite, it is not the most valuable tie in his collection. The most valuable tie in his collection is the Salvador Dali tie, which was made in the 1930s, and features one of the artist’s paintings. The tie is worth more than $600. But wearing the tie with a freshly pressed dress shirt and impeccably tailored jacket — priceless.

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For further reading:–20100302_1_tie-makers-tom-julian-fashions

How Many Parts Are Needed to Build an Airplane?

alex atkins bookshelf triviaIt’s one thing to build a model airplane out of balsa wood, Lego bricks, or even a detailed plastic model kit. (Remember that awful-smelling glue?) But to build a real airplane — like a 737, 747 or an A380 — takes enough parts to make your head spin: 3 to 7 million individual parts! The Boeing Company is one of the world’s largest and most efficient manufacturers of airplanes. It employs more than 158,000 workers. The Boeing factory located in Everett, Washington, takes about 83 days to build a 777. The timeline breaks down like this:
Time to manufacture: 49 days
Painting: 4 days
Flight testing: 30 days

Over at Boeing’s factory in Renton, near Seattle, workers can build a 737 in nine days. Each month, the factory assembles 42 planes per month with a workforce of 9,800 people. Since 1967, Boeing has manufactured more than 6,700 737s for clients around the globe.

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Why Do We Collect Things?

alex atkins bookshelf triviaJames Halperin is a professional rare coin dealer and the founder of Heritage Auctions, the world’s largest collectibles auctioneer. In an essay for The Intelligent Collector, Halperin answers one of the most frequent questions he gets asked: why do people collect things? Halperin believes collecting is a basic human instinct that has been intensified by centuries of natural selection: “Those of our ancient ancestors who managed to accumulate scare objects may have been more prone to survive long enough to bear offspring.” That is to say, acquisition of rare items led to wealth that allowed someone to have and care for more children. But collecting is not just an instinctive behavior, observes Halperin, it can be a combination of some or all of these other reasons:
Knowledge and learning
Relaxation and stress reduction
Personal pleasure (eg, pride of ownership)
Social interaction (eg, sharing knowledge and pleasure with other collectors)
Recognition from other collectors
Competitive challenge
The desire to possess and control a small part of the world
Connection to history
Accumulation and diversification of wealth
Competitive challenge

And collecting diligently over many decades has its rewards. Halperin shares a story of a friend who with a modest income, who studied coins and built an extensive collection. He even mortgaged his house to be able to travel and purchase rare coins. When he passed away, “with no apparent regrets”, his coin collection was sold at auction for more than $30 million dollars, benefiting his family beyond their dreams. For example one Canadian coin that he bought for $400 in 1954, sold for $345,000 in 1999.

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Pie Day Trivia

alex atkins bookshelf triviaMarch 14 is a fascinating number for math and science geeks. First off, it is National Pi Day, in honor of the irrational number 3.14. Second, it is Albert Einstein’s birthday (3-14-1879). And third, it is the date that Stephen Hawking died (3-14-18). Put why should pi, the ubiquitous mathematical constant, get all the attention? Princeton University, where Einstein once taught, celebrates pi day with an Einstein look-alike contest (hashtag crazy hair), pie tossing, pie eating, and other pie-related tomfoolery. Now that’s the spirit, mates! To honor the humble pie, Bookshelf presents fascinating, fun — and delicious — pie trivia:

In 1959 rock-and-roll legend Buddy Holly, along with musicians Ritchie Valens and Jiles Richardson (known as “The Big Bopper”), died in an airplane accident. The plane was named “American Pie.” The tragedy inspired Don McLean’s famous song “American Pie” released in 1971. You know the one: “The day that music died / So bye-bye, Miss America Pie / Drove my Chevy to the levee, but the levee was dry…” In an interview, McLean noted “By the time he was 22 years old, [Holly] had recorded some 50 tracks, most of which he had written himself … in my view and the view of many others, [all absolute hits] … Buddy Holly and the Crickets were the template for all the rock bands that followed.”

In his 38 plays, Shakespeare killed off 74 characters. 30 of them were stabbed to death, 4 were poisoned, 4 were beheaded, and 2 were baked into a pie. In Titus Andronicus, the protagonist exacts revenge on Queen Tamora and her evil family by baking her sons in a pie and serving it to her. Bon appétit! Pass the pepper…

Speaking of meat pies, British actor and producer Peter Shaw wrote The Tale of Sweeney Todd in the late 1990s that was adapted into a screenplay of the same name by Peter Buckman in 1998. It tells the story of an evil barber that murders his clients to sell the victims’ jewelry and gives the corpses to his mistress, Mrs. Lovett, who makes them into meat pies to sell to her clients. Move over Marie Calendar…

Each year, grocery stores in America sell more than 186 million pies, generating more than $700 million

America’s favorite pie: apple pie (19%), pumpkin (13%), pecan (12%), banana cream (10%), and cherry (9%)

Favorite dessert to bring to a dinner party: Top three — pie (29%), cake (17%), and cookies (15%)

Family member that makes the best pie: mom (27%), store bought pie (26%), and grandma (17%)

Number of Americans that identify Apple pie as their favorite: 36 million

Number of men (age 35-54) that have eaten last slice of pie and denied it: 6 million

Percentage of Americans who have eaten an entire pie by themselves: 20%

Americans who believe that a slice of pie represents one of the “simple pleasures in life”: 90%

Americans who have passed off a store-bought pie as homemade: 7%

Americans who have eaten pie in bed: 33%

When is a pie not a pie? Boston Cream Pie is a cake, not a pie.

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How Famous Tech Products Got Their Names

alex atkins bookshelf wordsAround 38o, Plato wrote in book 2 of the Republic: “…the creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.” Over the centuries that sentence has morphed into the modern proverb that everyone recognizes: necessity is the mother of all invention. And in the competitive world of tech products, that proverb is something that all engineers and product designers fully embrace. But designing and building a great tech product is only half the battle — that product also requires a great name. In this endeavor, once again, necessity of a cool, catchy product name is the mother of all creation. Many times, the names were developed in-house at no cost; otherwise fees for a product name can command up to $1 million or more. Here are how some famous tech products got their names.

iPod: In 2001, Apple hired freelance copywriter Vinnie Chieco to come up with a name for their MP3 player, which they described as a hub to other gadgets. He brainstormed all kinds of ideas involving hubs, but came back to the central element in Stanley Kubrick’s dazzling, groundbreaking film, 2001: A Space Odyssey — a spaceship. In particular, Chieco recalled one of the most famous lines in the movie. In the 1968 film, as the spacecraft, Discovery One, is headed to a secret mission to Jupiter, the computer that runs the ship, the HAL 9000, begins killing off the ship’s crew. The lead astronaut, David Bowman, climbs into a space pod and leaves the ship to retrieve the body of his colleague, Frank Poole. As he returns to Discovery One, Bowman instructs HAL to open the ship’s outer door: “Open the pod bay door, HAL.” And HAL devilishly responds, “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that… This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.” So we can thank Kubrick and co-writer Arthur C. Clarke for coming up with the concept or space pods. Finally, Chieco added the “i” to the beginning of the name to link it phonetically with the pre-existing iMac computer.

Blackberry: In 2001, Research in Motion hired the naming company, Lexicon Branding, to develop the name for it wireless email device. Someone on the team noted that the small keys looked like seeds. So they explored names of fruits with seeds. They found that blackberry (the black describes the color of the device) tested positively among consumers.

Twitter: In 2006, cofounder Biz Stone remarked that users sending short communications (initially 140 characters) to one another was like birds chirping to one another: “Short [trivial] bursts of communication… everyone is chirping, having a good time.” That led to “twttr” that morphed to “twitter.” The word twitter was used as early as 1374 by Chaucer to refer to the sound of a bird chirping. There is another form of twitter, that emerged in 1530, that is the form of the verb twit, which means to tattle-tale; thus someone who tattle-tales, is a twitter.

Kindle: In 2005, Amazon hired Michael Cronan, a Bay Area graphic designer, to name their e-reader. His wife and partner, Karen Hibm, elaborates: “Michael came up with the name through our usual practice of exploring the depths of what the potential for the new product and product line could be and how the company wanted to present it. Jeff [Bezos, the CEO] wanted to talk about the future of reading, but in a small, not braggadocio way. We didn’t want it to be ‘techie’ or trite, and we wanted it to be memorable, and meaningful in many ways of expression, from ‘I love curling up with my Kindle to read a new book’ to ‘When I’m stuck in the airport or on line, I can Kindle my newspaper, favorite blogs or half a dozen books I’m reading.’” The word Kindle, derived from the Scandinavian word, kynda, means “to set fire to,” or derived from the Middle English word, kindel, which means “to give brith, or bring forth.” Hibma continues: “I verified that it had deep roots in literature. The instruction we find in books is like fire. We fetch it from our neighbours, kindle it at home, communicate it to others and it becomes the property of all.”

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The Many Wacky Phobias of Donald Trump

alex atkins bookshelf triviaAlthough the recent stories in the Wall Street Journal, Slate, In Touch, and Mother Jones about President Donald Trump’s alleged affair with porn star Stormy Daniels are filled with salacious details about his sex life, they also offer a fascinating glimpse into his many idiosyncrasies, particularly his many wacky phobias. Several years ago, journalist Richard Conniff wrote The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide, which looked at rich people from an animal-behavior perspective. Conniff wrote, “the rich are different than you and me… [The] rich get more candy than the rest of us. Or rather, they get more of whatever it is they happen to want, at any given moment. Whenever any animal gets more of a resource, it has a way of changing the animal’s behavior.” Moreover, because they live a very opulent and insulated life, often surrounded by loyal and enabling family members, sycophants, and subservient staff, the idiosyncratic behaviors and beliefs of the rich become amplified and deeply ingrained — to the extent that to any outsider these behaviors and beliefs seem, well, simply batshit crazy.

Take some of Tump’s phobias. Based on the news coverage from the past year, and from the recent Stormygate coverage, one has learned that Trump has several wacky phobias. First of all, Trump is a self-professed germaphobe. In several interviews, he has expressed the belief that shaking hands in a “barbaric practice” because of the spread of germs and “all sorts of things.” In Trump’s Art of the Comeback he wrote: “One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking hands, and the more successful and famous one becomes the worse this terrible custom seems to get. I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible.” (Interestingly, although Trump has germophobia, he does not have corresponding cypridophobia: the fear of sexually transmitted diseases. According to the Daniels’ interview published by In Touch, Trump and Daniels did not use protection when they engaged in sex. Go figure.) However, it is possible that Trump does have mysophobia, which is a morbid, overpowering fear of contamination.

The In Touch interview, conducted in 2011, also revealed that Trump has selachophobia (or galeophobia): fear of sharks. Daniels recounts: “Trump] was watching Shark Week and he was watching a special about the U.S.S. something and it sank and it was like the worst shark attack in history. He is obsessed with sharks. Terrified of sharks. He was like, ‘I donate to all these charities and I would never donate to any charity that helps sharks. I hope all the sharks die.’ He was like riveted. He was like obsessed. It’s so strange, I know.”

Trump also has phalacrophobia (or peladophobia): the fear of going bald. Dr. Ronny Jackson, Trump’s White House physician, during the president’s routine annual physical, noted that Trump took Propecia to treat male-pattern baldness. In the In Touch interview, Daniels shared: “I asked him about his hair. I was like, ‘Dude, what’s up with that?’ and he laughed and he said, ‘You know, everybody wants to give me a makeover and I’ve been offered all this money and all these free treatments.’ And I was like, ‘What is the deal? Don’t you want to upgrade that? Come on, man.’ He said that he thought that if he cut his hair or changed it, that he would lose his power and his wealth. And I laughed hysterically at him.” Perhaps Trump, like Samson from the Book of Judges in the Old Testament, was visited by an angel and promised him special powers as long as he didn’t cut his hair. It’s so strange, I know.

Michael Wolff’s fascinating book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, reveals that Trump has toxophobia: fear of being poisoned. Trump’s toxophobia is one of the reasons he prefers eating fast-food from McDonald’s and KFC. Wolff writes: “[Trump] had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald’s — nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely remade.” In an interview with CNN, Trump stated, “I’m a very clean person. I like cleanliness, and I think you’re better off going there [McDonald’s] than maybe someplace that you have no idea where the food’s coming from. It’s a certain standard.”

We close with a quote from Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, who often muttered this phrase to get through each day at work: “You can’t make this shit up.”

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

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For further reading: The Natural History of the Rich: A Field Guide by Richard Coniff
Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff
The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President by Bandy Lee, et al

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