Feb 042017
 

February Special

I can’t believe I’m writing this, but from Christie and Cornwall to Patterson and Woods, we have way too many mysteries and suspense. We could triple the shelf space and still not have enough…so our overload is your benefit. Stop in during the month of February and we’ll give you 20% off your mysteries. We have British mysteries with quirky detectives, urban mysteries with hardboiled detectives, spies from World War II to present, and cozy mysteries with knitters, bakers, and nosy neighbors. If you are collecting a writer and missing the older works, check with us first…we may well have it and this month you get a discount on every one you buy.

Gunsmoke, The Virginian, and adding a new section…

Like most of my generation, I grew up with Roy Rogers and Fess Parker, although I probably lived in one of the few households where Westerns were banned.  My mother detested Gunsmoke because she grew in in Kansas. My father detested The Virginian because he grew up in Montana.  They were more inclined to watch Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers than anything sponsored by Twenty-Mule Team Borax or that involved ranch names like the Ponderosa. I finally understood why when we moved to Virginia in the late 1960s, and most of my classmates thought that being from Montana meant that I liked to ride horses, which I get along fine with as long as we are both on the ground with a fence inbetween, and meant that my father owned guns (he didn’t…they were on the list of things he detested, along with Westerns). It came as a surprise that my neighbor in Giles County had a cowboy hat (I’ve never actually owned one) and believed that the west was populated by people who still used wagons to get from point A to point B ( a fact I learned when she asked if I missed traveling in a buckboard).  It took me may years to understand that Westerns had absolutely nothing to do with western culture, and everything to do with the American myth.

Westerns (as well as everything written by James Fenimore Cooper) are the American myth, and while the popularity (both in readership and viewership) of westerns may have decline over the past 40 years. the myth still holds sway and shapes may of our views on individualism and the role of guns and grit in our culture. The cowboy is our archetype, although he has been relocated to urban areas and outerspace.

When we first opened Whistle Stop Books, we had very few Westerns. We had a lot of books about the West and a fair number of novels written by writers from the West (Ivan Doig, Wallace Stegner, Michael Dorris)–but none of the novels fit within the western genre of Louis L’Amour and Owen Wister (The Virginian). In the past couple of months, that has changed, so we are adding a section for Westerns. I should note that the writers from, like Jim Harrison and Richard Hugo, are still located in the General Fiction section, not the section on Westerns.

So, if you are a fan of Westerns, check out the bottom shelf under the paperback mysteries (at least for the time being until we can figure out how to shoehorn in another shelving unit.  We have books by the following authors (plus some others not listed):

  • Max Brand
  • Guy Brewer
  • Ralph Compton
  • Ralph Cotton
  • Zane Gray
  • Ernest Haycox
  • Joan Johnston
  • Terry Johnston
  • William W. Johnstone
  • Jake Logan
  • F.M. Parker
  • Jake Slade
  • Robert Vaughn
  • J. Washburn

Stop by and check our our full selection (or at least as much as we can shove on the available shelf)….

And Finally This…

I would like to take a moment to thank all of the folks (Paul, Lisa, Angie) who have been donating books to the cause down here in the past week. We have a wonderfully eclectic selection because we have some wonderfully eclectic donors. I thank you and the depot (if it could speak) thanks you.  I would also like to thank the Collegiate Times (Megan Maury Church, writer, and Tayo Oladele, photographer) for their wonderful article, although the headline was somewhat geographically challenged (we are located in the Cambria section of Christiansburg rather than in Blacksburg).

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Feb 032017
 

If you haven’t noticed, American’s love kitsch. Pink Flamingos. Genuine souvenir plates from places like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. Black velvet paintings of Jesus and Elvis on top of a semi with flames shooting out of the tail pipes. We love roadside attractions like Wall Drug and South of the Border and all of the odd motels along Route 66, like the place with Teepees and the one with the restaurant in a giant cowboy hat.  We love novelty gadgets and songs and birthday cards with a moving mouse singing “Shake Your Bootie.”

So it should come as no surprise that we also like kitschy holidays, celebrations, and remembrances.  February is loaded with them. Pull Your Sofa off the Wall Month. Jell-O Week and Love a Mensch Week. Bubble Gum Day (February 3rd) and Read in the Bathtub Day (February 9th)

We have listed some of our favorites for February below:

February, 2017

1

Cordova Ice Worm Festival (February 1sth – 5th)

2

World Play Your Ukelele Day

3

Bubble Gum Day

4

Ice Cream for Breakfast Day (always the 1st Saturday)

Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week (February 5-11)

5

Popcorn Day

(Always times out with the Super Bowl

6

Canadian Maple Syrup Day

7

National Periodic Table Day

8

Opera Day

(Spend some time with Hansel & Gretel)

9

National Pizza Day

10

“All Tne News That’s Fit to Print” Day (NY Times birthday)

11

Get Out Your Guitar Day

12

Paul Bunyan Day (b. in 1834 in Bangor ME)

13

World Radio Day

14

Ferris Wheel Day

Make a paper model of a ferris wheel.

15

Random Acts of Kindness Day

Actually, this goes on for a full week

16

National Almond Day

17

World Human Spirit Day

18

Pluto Day

(Learn more about Pluto here.

19

Chocolate Mint Day (any excuse to eat ice cream in February)

20

Love Your Pet Day

This should be every day!

21

Plan a Kitsch Vacation Day

Okay, this isn’t a real day, but it should be.

22

World Thinking Day (GS)

23

Curling is Cool Day

Learn more about curling here.

24

Girl Scout Cookie Weekend

25

Girl Scout Cookie Weekend

26

For Pete’s Sake Day

Celebrate obscure and obsolete idioms

27

Inter-national Polar Bear Day

28

Mardi Gras

Okay… perhaps not quite so obscure.

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Jan 082017
 

Before robots…

Before computers…

There were clockmakers…

The next time you are driving north through eastern Pennsylvania, add a trip to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and take a look at the Automaton by machinist and clockmaker Henri Maillardet, c. 1800. Featured on CBS Good Morning in 2012, Maillardet’s brass automaton has the largest machine memory ever constructed; can produce four images and three poems, two in French and one in English; and provided the part of the  inspiration for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick.

Automatons (automatas), machines designed to duplicate pre-determined (programmed) real life movement using a complex combination of cogs, cams, pistons, gears, belts, pulleys, and other assorted mechanical elements, are not new. References to moving mechanical devices can be found both in Ancient Greece and Ancient China, but the real heyday of automata coincided with the development of increasingly complex clockwork mechanisms during the Renaissance and the early Modern era (1450 to 1900).

Projects & Activities:

Start with a paper model. There are a number of interesting projects available online.

Most automata models are from European, British, and Japanese sources. As with a lot of companies in the modeling industry, ourselves included, a significant portion of the available paper models and instructions can now be purchased online and downloaded. Be sure to read the instructions before you print the model. Different models use different weights of paper, although typically they use a medium weight cover or card stock. Regular 20 or 24 lb. paper is generally too light for paper modeling.

Swing in and check out the Wooden Kits, available at Cambria Toy Station:

 

Automaton, Paper Engineering, and Mechanics Resources

  • My Brush with Hugo and the Automaton” Andrew Baron, 2008. Baron restored Maillardet’s Automaton for the Franklin Institute.
  • Paper Engineering from RobIves.com.  If you are interested in learning about Paper Engineering and Automata, robives.com is probably the best place to start. A one year subscription ($30.00 US Funds per Year) provides you access to all of their downloadable projects, as well as a wealth of information of paper mechanics. It is well worth the cost of a subscription.
  • Devices of Wonder. Getty Museum. A great collection of mechanical and optical devices, including how they work.  Take a look and interact with all of the devices and then explore the other materials included in the site.
  • Wonders of the Clockwork World. A short film (45 minutes) on the development of the Automata and world in which they were created.
  • Animations of every mechanical device you can think of from Noah Posner and Thang010146 (Youtube channel). A great collection of short videos that illustrate how mechanics work. From basic cogs and cams to turning a right hand thread–this is an excellent reference resource.
  • Mechanical-toys.com. Another excellent site that covers the types of mechanisms used in creating automatons, including an excellent overview of tools and construction techniques.

Cool Videos

Our favorite automaton:

and how it works:

To learn more about Wintergaten and their Marble Machine, check out their Youtube channel.

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Oct 302016
 

flamigoIf you have stopped in the Cambria Toy Station, you already know that we are a very small store (although we do manage to pack a lot in to the available space). When we started the shop, we wanted to focus on encouraging kids to “do stuff.” The thing is, no toy store (no matter how large or how small) can carry every single thing and some of the best things can’t be carried at all. So we decided that we were going to expand beyond the norm of toy stores and offer something of value even if you never walked in the shop (although, of course, we think you should if for no other reason than we are located in the world’s coolest places–a 149 year old train station).

The Creative Play Pages (see the right hand column of our front page) were created to provide parents and kids access to some very cool stuff–from games (some of which were created out of cardboard boxes) to science projects to history, civics, and geography.

We believe that kids learn best through play, exploration, imagination, and curiosity. While we carry toys, kits, games, and puzzles that encourage these activities, there is a whole lot more out there in the world for them to try that no toy is going to teach them or to encourage their interests.

The Creative Pages are our way of helping youngsters to pursue their passions, learn cool new stuff, hone skills, and have fun. We continue to add new stuff to the pages periodically (mostly when we have some time to spare or are avoiding less pleasant tasks).  We also includes access to materials for parents (choosing toys, thinking about safety, encouraging creativity, etc.). We encourage you to explore the pages and if you have a suggestion, just fill in the form below.

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Jun 252016
 

Cozy Mysteries.

Wander through the mystery section of a bookstore, new or used, and you’ll notice a burgeoning section of what is affectionately referred to as cozy mysteries, those mysteries that provide a fun read after a long day. Great for a long soak, for sitting on the back deck with a glass of wine or a cup of tea, for the beach. They are fun, intelligent, and not particularly gory. A few happen in urban areas, but most are centered in small towns with detectives who are far more familiar with knitting, baking, or reading than criminology and police procedure–in short, your next door neighbors.

Cozy mysteries trace back to some of the best from the Golden Age of Mysteries: Agatha Christie (Miss Marple and Tommy and Tuppence), Dorothy L Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey), and  Margery Allingham (Albert Campion).

For more information, explore the Cozy Mystery List (a great resource for the lovers of murders and light reads).

Cozy Writers on the Shelves:

Susan Wittig Albert Janet Evanovich Ellis Peters
Margery Allingham Joanne Fluke Ann Purser
Nevada Barr Anthea Fraser Monaca Quill
Lorraine Bartlett Caroline Graham Ruth Rendell
Lawrence Block Martha Grimes Dorothy L Sayers
Duffy Brown Joan Hess Dell Shannon
Rita Mae Brown Ellen Hart Alexander McCall Smith
Chris Cavender Erin Hart Kathy Hogan Trocheck
Agatha Christie Sue Henry Margaret Truman
Laura Childs Hazel Holt …and many more…
Carol Higgins Clark Jane Langdon
Mary Higgins Clark Leslie Meier
Mary Jane Clark Elizabeth Peters

A Dead Body in a Hot Tub:

contestThis month’s writing contest only had a few days left, so grab a pen (or your computer keyboard) and start scribbling. Each month, we will pick a winner (who gets a free book of their choice) and we’ll publish the best of the best on the website.  Rules (such as they are): 1) The story must include the prompt (this month is a dead body in a hot tub); 2) Stories should be no longer than two pages (500 words); 3) Stories can be submitted in hard copy (drop it by the depot) or electronically (email: whistlestopbooks@gmail.com) by the  last day of each month. The next month’s prompt will be published on the the website and on the Whistle Stop Books Facebook page. The monthly contest is open to writers of all ages. Results of the previous month will be announced in the first Our “Weekly Reader” of the month, as well as on the website and on Facebook. Be sure to include your email address so we can send you your certificate good for a free book.

@the Depot: June 26-July 1, 2016

  • June 26: Recipe and Produce Swap. Short on tomatoes but have an abundance of zucchini? Just in time for the 4th of July–trade recipes, gardening tips, and extra produce.
  • June 28: Read Anything Good Lately?  Our weekly Tuesday Afternoon Book Chat. (Adults)
  • June 29: Construct This–Paper Building Projects for Kids ages 9 and up. 2:00-4:00 p.m.
  • June 30: Pick-a-Book — Reading, Art, and Storytelling Activities for kids ages 6 to 9. 1:00-3:00 p.m. (activities and stories vary per week).

 

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