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In a boring world, values are inverted; the most lackluster is trumpeted as exciting. The things that are dismissed as garbage are the only things worthwhile. Or to me anyway. At the Catacombs warehouse in my role as antichrist uh, computer support, I have a fortified diet that exceeds the Recommended Daily Allowance of Ordinary, but I balance it back out in my real life in pursuit of the interesting, the obscure and the beautifully flawed.
Here are a few books to help prop up the vast sow's ear that threatens to smother us all under a blanket of pig-values.
by Robert Mainardi
I collect photos of men I don't know, so it's no surprise that I would love this book. Mainardi has done a great job of collecting and reproducing these photos of muscular males. Some are famous, some are just men who perhaps wanted a visual record that they were here and were once physically strong and attractive. Of the well-known models, there's a photo of one of my all-time favorite musclemen, Mickey Hargitay. This is another of my favorite books, a visual stunner.
by Mike Shay
Mike Shay is my new hero. I found this book just a few weeks ago, and it has already made its way into my favorite books. Coming from me, that says a lot, because I usually hate poetry. Some would argue that Shay's poetry is amateurish; maybe so, but I love his sentiment. Poems like "Popular", "Pretty Boy" and "Debutante" are some of my favorites, but who can pick favorites in a book like this? They're all my favorites. I like to read this one when I'm on the train without my glasses on so I can pretend everyone around me is attractive.
by Troy Howarth
Italian movies from the 1960s and 1970s have special appeal to me, and none have it more than the films directed by the late Mario Bava. This book by Troy Howarth is as great to look at as Bava's films are. More than a filmography, the book gives a background to Bava's early days in Italian cinema when he often completed films that temperamental directors walked out on. The book then goes into an extensive synopsis and review of each film in chronological order. There are interviews with people who worked with Bava, such as John Saxon, and the book is chock full of photos, many in full-color. A hefty volume that should be on any film buff's bookshelf.
by Piotr Uklanski
This is a book of nothing but photos of Nazis as portrayed by film. No text, just photos, and I love it. There are pictures of General Burkhalter from "Hogan's Heroes", Marlon Brando as George Lincoln Rockwell, Klaus Kinski as a Gestapo officer and plenty more. I constantly look at this book and find myself rating them as Nazis: "He's got it, he doesn't." A perennial favorite.
by Hans Suren
Hans Suren was the founder of the naturist/nudist movement in Germany in the early 20th century. He wrote several books on gymnastics, massage and the naturist lifestyle, but this one is my favorite. The text is all in German in a Gothic typeface that's hard to read, but even if you can't read German, the photos are really all that you need. There are a few "artistic" photos of women in ballet poses, but most of the pictures are of groups of men. One of my favorite photos has four men lined up Kraftwerk-style, all in the same pose, flexing their biceps. Another shows a group of men lounging around in mud, and there are photos of nude men in the snow (brrrrr!). A wild, wacky look at German nudists in the 1920s, and one of my very favorite books.
by Johnny Viney
Now that war and the military are back in style, this book is as timely as when it was written during WWII. The book is written in the style of "salty letters from a sailor to his girlfriend". The title of the book tells you what you're in for: a combination of cornball humor and sexual innuendo, usually of a homoerotic nature. The illustrations by Poucher are great and, because of the era that they were drawn in, racist and sexist. There's also a dictionary of Navy Slang at the back of the book to help out on the translations for landlubbers, so put on your bundockers and skivvies, invite a Red Mike over and dive into this sunken treasure from WWII.
by Johnson Smith and Co
When I was a kid, I always loved the Johnson Smith ads on the inside covers of comic books. They sold Joy Buzzers, Whoopee Cushions and X-ray Specks. That was in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This catalog, the 1942 edition, is even better. The items for sale at the time look great, and the illustrations and descriptions only make me want them more. Anton LaVey, founder of the Church of Satan, called this catalog his Necronomicon, and I can see why. A week hasn't passed since I found this jewel that I don't spend at least an hour poring over it. It might be hard to find a copy of this wonderful catalog, but it's worth the search.
by Oscar Kiss Maerth
I've always thought that, instead of shirts versus skins basketball games, there should be creationists versus evolutionists games. I imagine the creationists yelling slurs at the evolutionsits ("Monkey man!"). This book is the next best thing: the theory that what has been called "evolution" is really "de-evolution." Sound familiar? Yes, this is the book that inspired the band Devo. The author's theory is that long ago, apes ate the brains of their rivals in conflict and found that by doing so they enhanced their sexual pleasure. This incited them to continue the practice of eating brains. One of the other side effects of this cranium-salad diet was increased intelligence; eventually, mankind evolved from these brain-eating apes. The book also has photos showing different apes and the races of man that possibly evolved from them (one even looks like Mae West). I enjoy reading this book in my kitchen, occasionally looking up at the pictures on my walls of monkeys dressed in clothes with humorous captions. A must.
by Bernarr MacFadden
Bernarr MacFadden is considered one of the godfathers of the physical culture movement in America; in fact, he started a magazine of the same name, Physical Culture. He established a sanitarium in Battle Creek, Mich, and wrote quite a few books on diet, exercise and healthy living. This book, published in 1904, is a bit of an overview of some of his other books. For a one hundred year-old book, my copy is in very good condition. The book has chapters on exercise and diet, and is especially concerned with correct breathing. There are lots of photos of Mr. MacFadden himself, who was famous for taking off his clothes and saying "Look at me" to photographers into his old age (he was in great shape all of his life). Some of his advice tells the reader to sleep with the head of his bed sticking outside the window. There's an illustration of such a setup, complete with an awning over the sleeper's head to protect him from the rain. A must-have for the physical culture enthusiast or just fans of strange advice.