BoM June '10
- Oct 27, 2009
- Amesbury MA
Thank you for the informationFind a comfortable chair (PART II)
Not much more on the box. The front slips up nicely, just loose enough to slide easily, but tight enough to avoid that frustrating cross-bind while sliding. The front is heavy, so you dont need to worry about the kids popping it off and coloring on the white book bindings. The curve inset at the top of the front for lifting has a pleasing curve and is just right for gaining purchase for lifting while not being aesthetically intrusive. I think the picture on Flying Cigar makes it clear the back can be slid down on the backside of the box.
The only possible oversight I can see is that it would have been nice to have a clear front to put in place of the wood front when one wants the books viewable but still somewhat protected. Anyone desiring it can have one made himself. If I were to own a set, I might consider tempered glass. The white books are classily contrasted as wrapped by and set upon the bamboo shell and base.
This thing is built to last, but if I were the seller and offering a Limited Lifetime Warranty, I would be covering myself in exactly the same way he is doing in the warranty. The warranty qualifiers about level floor surface and use of risers I am sure is due to the potential torqueing of the base that can happen given the weight of The Book, although I cant imagine that base tweaking a bit if it stood on only three of its legs.
The Book: Binding, Paper, Layout, Resolution, in order:
Here I am neither a professional nor a technician, other than my life-long love for and acquisition of good books and what appeals to my eye. I say this as I have skimmed over some technical stuff on some of the posts regarding computer/print resolution technical capabilities that I dont pretend to understand. I know MRN has gone into some detail as to camera used and other photographic aspects, so I leave that alone. What follows is simply my experience of my viewing of the books.
Binding: Looks to be high quality Smyth-sewn. Boards are very thick and back proportionately so. Nice, slight softness to the surface of both, which I think is due to the thickness of the material used (superior to the soft-feel of my 1970 Encyclopedia Britannica set, which softness I think was effected by padding). Binding joints look about as solid as Ive ever seen. The cover material is, to my best guess, some sort of silky-smooth, high-quality rubberized vinyl. Dont quote me. When I say rubberized, dont think like it grabs: the hand glides over it very smoothly. Its not leather, and I think thats a smart move in light of the special care required of leather in certain climactic conditions.
The look and feel of the material is plush and even a bit posh. It works with the visual appearance. Obvious to all who have looked at the pictures online, they are bound in plain white with black lettering. I like it. I cant imagine messing up or busy-ing-up something this size. It may come back to reading the man behind the vision, a sort of minimalism consistent with cultural elements here that would be consistent with the simplicity of the box and, frankly, the authorial voice he uses in the text. A little on the latter later (I love alliteration...).
Ive never heard of anyone offering a Limited Lifetime Warranty before on a book, but Im quite certain that the caveats in the warranty are primarily owing to the size and weight of each volume. If I owned this set of books, I wouldnt let anyone handle them. Sure, I would want to show them off, and I would do so by ME setting a volume out on a large table, and I would do the page turning for them. Not because it is flimsy, but because it is too nice to risk others handling. Many people dont know how to handle a book this size and weight..... like how properly to turn large pages, how not to torque the binding, how not to wipe greasy fingers over pictures to see if they are 3D or not, etc. Who doesnt have something in his home that elicits a cringe within when inexperienced hands draw near?
The effort behind, and the quality of, the whole encyclopaedia project lead me to believe that MRN will back his product to the hilt, but again, if I were in his shoes, I would be protecting myself. One must view the restrictions of use aspects of the warranty in the context of the offering of a Limited Lifetime warranty.
Paper: higher quality, thicker, and slightly more glossy than the first edition, and also a bit whiter, to my eye, which makes the pictures and print contrast from their background better than in the 1st edition.
Layout: I dont know what to say to some of you on the posts who have been critical of this. I felt all I saw to be spacious and extremely pleasing to the eye, well organized while artfully broken up with the charts, the photos/wrap-around text, the different sizes and colors of fonts, etc. I would imagine, given the small number of pages available, that final editing has not been done. Perhaps I will borrow from one poster in a parallel fashion: a book is aesthetically pleasing if it pleases my eye- I dont need someone else to tell me what I like.
Resolution: Again, I am not a professional. I am very well acquainted with Ansel Adams and have poured over his photographs. I dont know the pixel or resolution numbers data between the two and dont really care. I think one needs to keep in mind that we are not looking at Yosemite Park. Psychologically there is quite a difference between pictures of sweeping vistas and humidors. Maybe there is in reality as well (Its a joke.....) I got my eye right down on it and tried to be as critical as possible. My take in brief- this is the Ansel Adams of cigars (and associated paraphernalia), to understate the case.
I need not make the above stated opinion even as a comparison to other books on cigars or any books, period. Ive never seen anything quite like it, and perhaps it is an accumulation of the size along with the resolution, the content and arrangement, all working together. A related real-life analogy pops into my mind. I remember once seeing a gorgeous rose in a non-transparent vase (so I couldnt see if there was water in it). It was so breathtaking that I remember thinking, This is so perfect, it must be fake. I was shocked to find out it was real, and caught up with a chuckle at myself at the irony of my thought- that fake is better than the real.
In a related take on this analogy, the photographs in the book looked so real that I found it hard to believe they were only photographs. One literally feels one can lift a cigar right off the page. It was simply stunning, from the cigars themselves to the humidors to the first covers and certificates, page after page. It invites one simply to sit there and stare before engaging the text. The tri-fold page with the one cigar on top of the Cohiba 40 Aniversario Humidor- the texture, the pearl inlayI found myself taken up-- one forgets what one is looking at momentarily due to the resolution detail and the simplicity-- one perfectly placed cigar.
I dont know the technical aspects of photography and printing, but I love good pictures and (as of last week) I have 20/20 and 20/15 vision. Enough said.
We approach the end.
Quality of English (a.k.a. How many Chinese restaurants must one have frequented to make an objective comparison between MRNs use of English and that of Chinese waiters?)
By virtue of living in Hong Kong for so long, I believe I am somewhat qualified to speak on the English capabilities of Chinese waiters.
If I were to give the gentleman who made this criticism against the English of MRN in these terms the benefit of the doubt, I could only do so by assuming that he had been to the highest caliber Chinese restaurants whose waiters had had long and vast experience with English-speaking clientele. But, alas, I have a strong hunch that he meant it to be critical, and it is with that possibility in mind that I make my final observations regarding the work of MRN.
If anyone on these forums has ever written a reference book on a very specific topic, let alone any book, in a language other than their own native tongue, please weigh in on the difficulty of doing so.... not just as to grammatical accuracy, but as to stylistic diversity and use of idiom, especially that which employs humor or figurative rhetoric.
Very amicable cigars for those who find other models too rich or strong. (An Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Post-Revolution Havana Cigars, 1st Edition, 2nd reprint, July 2005, p. 71)
One of many examples of a creative manipulation of English, especially for one whose native tongue is not English.
Here we go again: one must not just read the book, but must attempt to read the man behind the book. Here is a quote from my 1st Edition, page VI, which I assume will be in the 2nd addition as well:
English is not my mother-tongue and I hired no one to write on my behalf. I apologize in advance for incorrect usage and grammatical mistakes.
As I read it, along with the help of some assistants, MRN has handled all aspects of this project: writing (in a 2nd language to him), photography, designing and arranging binding, the research and the extensive acquisition of cigar treasures, and now the bookstand with his cultural identity integrated into it, etc. What does this say about the man?
While doing his best, I think something else is more important to him than the sterility of being 100% grammar-error proof. I am chagrined at his recent use of words online, but I have no difficulty understanding the force of the explosion conveyed by his words because of the immensity of his life-energy poured into this project, and in light of the nature and tone of some of the postings critical of it. But immensity of energy poured into is, in truth, not enough, even in my book.
In terms of written qualities, I want clarity and exactness, ease of reading proportional to the topic and my level of understanding, clear organization of thought and presentation, pleasing tone and voice, visual beauty, to name a few aspects.
MRNs book more than passes all of the above requirements in my opinion. I have lived in HK for 22 years. Everyday I face incomplete verbal transactions, whether it is asking about a compound miter chop saw at a hardware store, to giving taxi directions, to fending off the incorrect and abusive use of the words of course, to asking if a seat is taken or not, to having a question asked in the negative answered literally (which native-English speakers dont do), to, yes, even to ordering food at Chinese restaurants.
MRNs level of English as a 2nd language is nothing short of astounding. I have read numerous well-loved books by native-English speakers that I simply have had to put down because of the level of English or the flat voice. I DONT believe the bottom line for MRN is jot and tittle. I believe he wanted to write it himself; hence his caveat at the beginning.
I dont remember where I read online that he may have obtained the help of an English professor for the 2nd edition. It may have been someones surmising. I do remember that with the comment was something to the effect that its not enough to get his commas and dashes in place; it would have been better to hire an author.... (my paraphrase from memory).
I think hiring an author would be the worst thing possible for this book. Again, his writing passes the above tests regardless of the occasional grammatical glitch or slightly stilted wording or phraseology. I think MRN wants this work to bear his stamp, and, in an oddly understandable way to me, that includes his preferring some idiosyncrasy, even inaccuracy, of language usage to remain that comprises that stamp, rather than the loss of his voice and himself that would ensue were he to turn it over to the hands of an author or editor.
MRNs style utilizes a lot of sentence fragments, ellipses, independently standing absolute phrases and other stand-alone phraseology and grammatical structures. It includes one-word sentences: Avoid. And he pulls it off. It works. Frankly, it would be a difficult style for many native speakers to pull off as well as he does, for at the same time, ironically, a distinct, personal conversational voice comes through. It feels at times as if I were in the same room and he were talking only to me. Obviously I dont mean it is the same as if I were an active part of the conversation, but he successfully manages to avoid that stodgy, bland academic voice of so much reference writing.
It is an encyclopaedia that is not trying to masquerade as a piece of literature. There is necessary concision and succinctness, and yet a real mans personality and causal voice of extensive experience coming through. This balancing act by an ESL author on such an esoteric subject is, I feel, laudable.
To sum it all up for me: I love my 1st Edition and what I have seen of the 2nd Edition. Totally my personal opinion with some basis to warrant speaking out on it. I think most of the fuel underlying many of the posting, especially the more inflammatory ones, has to do with the pricing, the limited number of editions, the plan of distribution, and not having access to it first-hand. There is no way that computers can convey the reality of the photographs; none that Ive ever seen. I have no idea what MRNs profit margins are, nor do I know what he does with the profit he makes. There are way too many unknowns and possibilities for me to judge or even hold an opinion on that. Thats his business and I dont care.
One other possibility for some of the posts has crossed my mind as a way of making sense of them, and it wrings my innards even to think it. And that is the thought that some may feel, with regard to cigars, or whatever: Can anything good come out of Hong Kong/China? In this regard, I have deliberately chosen the benefit of the doubt for all involved.
Although I have found some of the postings unbecoming and unwarranted, I have tried not to react so much as to give you the benefit of my access to the 2nd Edition display and my limited experience. If you got this far, thanks for reading. Ten-four, over and out.
How about you introduce yourself and stay a while it looks like you may enjoy it here