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December 8, 2010

It’s Mid-Winter Gift Season Again
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:28 PM * 66 comments

And what could be the more perfect gift for the discriminating bon viveur on your list than an item made from a genuine cane toad?

When the Sell Line is “Largest Toad in the Range” you know you’re on to a winner.

Imported from Australia; buy ‘em wholesale (because you’ll want to give away lots of these honeys). I’m thinking of writing a book called The Cane Toad Murders just so my publisher can distribute imprinted key-chains instead of the dull old bookmarks other folks get.

Cane toad! The new black! Set the trend! Wherever fine toad products are sold.

Comments on It's Mid-Winter Gift Season Again:
#1 ::: Kirby ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 12:48 PM:

Ew. I need a unicorn chaser.

#2 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 12:51 PM:

I've always wanted an Armadillo purse, but I'm not sure about the Cane Toad. Although if a squeaker can be installed, I bet my dog would love it!

#3 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 01:03 PM:

I've long wanted a keyring with a miniature kitchen sink attached to it. That way, when my let's-bring-everything-we-might-need-for-this-trip wife and I hit the road, I could say that we did bring everything AND the kitchen sink.

#4 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 01:06 PM:

Do the purses and keychains retain the psychedelic properties that live cane toads have? Particularly good for those on MAOIs, according to Wikipedia.

#5 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 01:11 PM:

Tom @ #4 -

Oh, then maybe not so good for my dog. The last thing I need is a tripping corgi.

#6 ::: Alan Braggins ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 01:25 PM:

Serge, you want a compact folding sink: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Mates-Compact-Folding-Kitchen-camping/dp/B001YYYD6S

#7 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 02:02 PM:

Oooh, now I want some cane toad skins for bookbinding! (I already have eelskins, chicken feet, tilapia skins, and salmon skins.)

#8 ::: Lindsay ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 02:08 PM:

Jesus Christ. I may never sleep again.

#9 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 02:22 PM:

Alan Braggins @ 6... That'd make for a heck of a keyring's attachment. :-)

#10 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 02:26 PM:

abi @ 7... A book bound with the skin off a chicken's feet? Must be a very small book.

#11 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 02:30 PM:

Serge @10:

Chicken-foot leather is useful for inlays and onlays. It's also, by the way, frequently used for watch bands, because it's interestingly scaly, relatively tough, takes dye well, and is readily available.

The Evilrooster Bindery, of course, has plenty of chicken foot leather. Because I'm evil.

#12 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 02:48 PM:

Shhh...don't tell Abi about these.

#13 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 02:48 PM:

abi #7:

A spellbook, components included in the binding.

#14 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:01 PM:

abi @ 7:

Chicken feet, perfect for binding "The Tale of Baba Yaga".

#15 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:08 PM:

Hey, they finally figure out what to do with all those ^&$%#* cane toads!

Serge #10: I'm more startled by the fishskins! (I", I know about eelskin, but tilapia?)

Soon Lee #13: (nice snag on the # :-) ) All she needs is some bat wings and eye skin of newt.

#16 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:13 PM:

David Harmon @15:

I had some salmon skin as well, but I used it. It was pretty garishly dyed.

My tilapia is undyed, kind of a grey color, with a grid-work of leather sticking up a little where the scales were.

#17 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:14 PM:

Soon Lee @13:

A really nice printing of the Witches' Song from Macbeth would suit a toadskin binding.

#18 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:19 PM:

After reading Charlie's post that mentioned Advance Reading Copies, I had to wonder if anyone's thought of Readers of the Lost ARC?

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:29 PM:

Actually, the bookbinding material I'm having the hardest time finding is a clothbound edition of Hamlet.

Just Hamlet. Not a Complete Shakespeare or Collected Tragedies. And it's got to have cloth-covered boards.

(Why? I have a sewn copy of Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead that I want to rebind using only a binding of Hamlet for materials*. I need to unweave the cloth and spin the strands into thread to sew the book with.)

* OK, that and adhesive.

#20 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:39 PM:

David Harmon @ 15... I'm more startled by the fishskins!

Perfect for school books.
(BAM!)
Ow.
That frying pan hurt.

#21 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:43 PM:

Our own Mad Bookbinder... :-)

(<nudge> "That's "spark", Dave."
"Why? What difference does it make?"
<ZAP!>
"Ow... OK, 'spark' it is...")

#22 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:47 PM:

Hamlet
William Shakespeare
Bookseller: Still Water Books (Cambridge, CAM, United Kingdom)
Bookseller Rating: 5-star rating
Quantity Available: 1

Book Description: Cambridge Pocket Shakespeare, 1967. Cloth. Book Condition: Excellent. Dust Jacket Condition: Very Good+. D/j clipped. Nearly like new. Dispatched by established Cambridge UK bookseller. Bookseller Inventory # L92921


Price: US$ 4.07


#23 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:49 PM:

abi @19 -- I recall seeing a clothbound (not just boards) set of the Shakespeare plays done individually from the 1950s or so; and I'd expect a hardbound edition from the early 20th century to be cloth rather than pressed paper. I think it was OUP who did them. They tend to show up at thrift stores and older used book stores; I'll keep an eye out for you.

Ah, research: ABE lists some fairly cheap copies, where people do seem to know the difference between cloth and hardbound, including an OUP edition from the late 1930s. Filter using "before 1950" and kill PoD copies.

#24 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:55 PM:

Would a book bound with the skin off a crow's feet be a Necrownomicon?

#25 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 03:58 PM:

Serge @ 24 -

Maybe a reference book so bound would be a Heckleopedia?

#26 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 04:01 PM:

While a book bound in soaked-off whiskey labels might be the OldCrownomicon.

#27 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 04:13 PM:

You can get all the cane toad skins you like in Hawaii, and all you need is a shovel to scrape them off the parking lots and roads.

To the best of my knowledge, Australian cane toad secretions aren't actually psychedelic. They are however quite likely to send dogs who try to eat them or pick them up into convulsions, possibly fatal; that would probably apply to humans too. Nasty stuff, also a skin irritant; not recommended to touch them at all.

#28 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 04:19 PM:

Clifton @ 27: That would be one way to stop people from stealing borrowing your books, wouldn't it?

#29 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 04:47 PM:

And if it's covered in leather from small amphibians, it's a Newtcronomincon.

The "To Serve Humans" supplement is the Necronomnomnomicon.

Anyone remember which sf story has the bit about siblings from a very wealthy family giving each other the ugliest gifts they could find? The premise was that mere money can buy quality, but ugly takes time and thought. Either the author or the siblings didn't consider the possibility that people can be hired to find ugly.

Exotic leather shoes. I don't know if they've still got the alligator shoes with the little glass eyes, but you can get python sneakers marked down from $999 to $250.

#30 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 04:48 PM:

As Clifton knows, it's not just cane toads we have in abundance. Coqui frogs are also thriving here. They seemingly came in from Puerto Rico by mistake, and they've been a noisy addition. This has infuriated people who live near them, and the state Ag. Dept. has been trying to eradicate them. I'm not sure how successful that's been, but a LOT of money has been spent trying.

#31 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 05:11 PM:

A book bound in Jamaican vulture skins would be the JohnCrownomicon.

#32 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 05:34 PM:

Clifton Royston #27: To the best of my knowledge, Australian cane toad secretions aren't actually psychedelic.

I'd heard that was disinformation planted into the Anarchist's Cookbook, lo, these many years ago.

#33 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 05:43 PM:

If you write a book about toads who refuse to follow orders you could bind a copy of The Cane Toad Mutiny.

#34 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 06:25 PM:

That's just disturbing...

#35 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 06:34 PM:

Well, fine, but you can't make them into canes.

#36 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 07:01 PM:

Steve, #12: Good ghod, somebody killed Baba Yaga's hut!

#37 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 07:48 PM:

Clifton Royston #27: I have no direct knowledge of the matter, but on general grounds, it's entirely plausible that a frog toxin might be hallucinogenic in sub-lethal doses. That's the usual pattern for natural hallucinogens, with psilocybin and mescaline as prominent exceptions. (I'm not sure if datura fits the pattern.)

I find myself wondering how European history might have turned out differently if they'd had a decent hallucinogenic of their own along the way....

#38 ::: Sam M-B ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 07:53 PM:

The most interesting (non-bookmark, obviously) book accoutrement which I remember is Mary Robinette Kowal's sandalwood fold-out fans for her Shades of Milk and Honey book. Those were nice.

I am not sure if it is a good thing or bad thing that cane toad shoulder bags exist. It is certainly an interesting thing.

#39 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 08:33 PM:

Those creative Aussies, waste not, want not. They've also found a use for kangaroo scrota: coinpurses.

#40 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2010, 11:18 PM:

David Harmon @37 -- you might want to look into R. Gordon Wasson's Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality for an indigenous European hallucinogen (Amanita muscaria. The processing to make it less nauseating is nauseating to some people in this culture (processing through human kidneys).

All hallucinogens have a fatal dose associated with them (as does water). The question is how great a difference there is between the fatal and the fascinating.

#41 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 12:42 AM:

Jim, Tom:

I don't know why it didn't occur to me to look on the internet. I'm used to buying new virtually and used in person, I guess, and my used-book purchasing has been severely curtailed by living in a country whose language I do not read with ease.

I've now ordered a suitable copy, and picked up an edition of Thomas the Rhymer to replace one lent out and never retrieved.

#42 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 01:39 AM:

A couple of animators were inspired by a documentary 'Cane Toads: An Unnatural History', which described the Australian love/hate relationship with the cane toad. Their original website had mentioned cane toad skin being used for exotic leather, as well as stuffed cane toads made into odd souvenir figurines.

The animation is described on this blog. The animation itself can be seen here on YouTube. You can even find the documentary which inspired them on YouTube as well.

#43 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 02:25 AM:

Cane toads are just one of the introduced species which are wreaking havoc on the Australian biosphere. It's just they're extremely effective at it - not only are the toads themselves toxic, but so are their spawn and their tadpoles. Native animals try to eat the wretched things (at any stage of life, from spawn through to carrion) and wind up dying themselves, as do household pets and small children who attempt this.

Just to add insult to injury, they're also one of the species which appears to be benefiting from global climate change - their range is shifting southward (out of Queensland into New South Wales) and westward (they're trying to block 'em at the border in the Kimberley (north of Western Australia - the Northern Territory is already a lost cause). One of them was found in a suburban garden in Perth recently, and nobody was really certain how it had got there. They're a ruddy menace.

Abi, if you want cane toad leather, I'm sure there'd be at least half a dozen cheerful suppliers Down Under.

#44 ::: Emma in Sydney ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 04:12 AM:

Meg, you beat me to it. They are horrible creatures. Queensland youths are known to use them for golf-driving practice, but I think you'd have to have a strong stomach. They have decimated native amphibians, because they are bigger and stronger. If Making Light can inspire a worldwide fashion for Australian cane toad products you'd be doing us all a favour.

#45 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 07:48 AM:

When we were in Hawaii my wife and I bought two wooden cane toad carvings, made from a single piece of wood. They each have a seperate piece of wood that, when you use it to rub the back of the carving, makes exactly the same noise a cane toad does.

I doubt my wife would go for one of those cane toad purses though.

#46 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 08:10 AM:

Tom Whitmore #40: (1) Once you get into "as does water", the idea of a fatal dose becomes rather contrived. (2) "Processing needed" represents a definite loss of accessibility for the drug. (That's part of why I'm iffy about datura.)

Psilocybin and mescaline (plus the weak hallucinogen cannabis) can all be harvested and used fresh from the wild, and even massive overdoses are not physically damaging. Amanita, in contrast, is a matter of "get it right or you die", which is the usual pattern for natural hallucinogenics.

#47 ::: rgh ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 12:02 PM:

Cane toad accesories can't be licked.

#48 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 12:04 PM:

The "To Serve Humans" supplement is the Necronomnomnomicon.

*genteel applause*

Anyone remember which sf story has the bit about siblings from a very wealthy family giving each other the ugliest gifts they could find? The premise was that mere money can buy quality, but ugly takes time and thought.

Yeah, my brother did that one year. We all got "bath salts, or inexpensive scent/ or hideous tie so kindly meant".

#49 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 12:36 PM:

Dave Harmon @ #37, datura definitely does fit the pattern. Jimsonweed was originally "Jamestown Weed", made famous by the antics of several men who ate it as a pot herb and had DAYS of hallucinations.

#50 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 01:17 PM:

hideous tie so kindly meant

I confess to finding ties a little mysterious. My husband has -one-, and wears it as seldom as possible. When are they classy, as opposed to merely boring? When are they edgy or assertive, and when do they cross the line and become hideous? My subconscious has been pondering this since Tuesday, after seeing a pink/purple/orange paisley number in a fairly posh shop window.

Coming back on topic, there are ties with cane toads. (Also ties made of cane toads. Don't google it.)

#51 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 01:22 PM:

The difference between the therapeutic dose and the lethal dose of any given drug is the called the therapeutic index, or the therapeutic ratio. You find it by dividing the lethal dose by the effective dose.

Some drugs have a high therapeutic index. Others have a low one.

You have to be very careful with the drugs that have a low therapeutic index.

#52 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 01:44 PM:

John L #45:

Like one of these? It's common in Malaysia, and presumably surrounding countries?

#53 ::: Doug K ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 03:11 PM:

if tilapia leather, why not carp or catfish ? they have thick strong skins and few or no scales. I'd like to have The Compleat Angler bound in carp skin..
"The Carp is the queen of rivers ; a stately, a good, and a very subtle fish "

#54 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 08:37 PM:

Lila #49: Hmm. I note that apparently none of the men died of their uncontrolled (and apparently formidable) dose. The story you linked notes that the weed was boiled❦; I wonder if that took out the most toxic alkaloids?

❦ "Boiled for inclusion in a salad" -- was this usual custom at the time/place, as compared to fresh veggies?

#55 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 09:22 PM:

David, apparently they ate both raw and cooked veggies, but the Elizabethan term "sallet" (which survived into the 20th century in Appalachia) refers to cooked, young leaves; cf. "poke sallet", the young cooked leaves of the Pokeweed plant, which may have been what they thought they were eating. Mature, raw pokeweed is poisonous, though it's also a powerful emetic, so it's pretty hard to kill yourself by eating it.

#56 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 09, 2010, 10:00 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz at 29: That's Elizabeth Moon's Winning Colours, or at least that's one example of it.

I don't have anything else to contribute to the post, except to note that Falkiner's, on Southampton Row in London, stock cane toad skins (and whole ray hides, which are interesting to feel), or at least always used to—the recession has been hitting UK art supply shops very hard. I've only barely begun venturing into bookbinding myself (I go there for printmaking paper) but I have a one-third-assembled book on my worktable.

#57 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 01:40 AM:

Sam @56:

Their web catalog doesn't list anything more exotic than reindeer right now. I've only been by their new consolidated shop once, when I was in London on a trip. I love their curved bone folders, and they're the most reliable source of shellac-based glaire.

There's a guy in Den Haag who does exotic leathers; I met him at a Society of Bookbinders conference a few years ago, and order my eelskins, chicken feet, etc from him. I should ask if he does cane toad as well as manta ray (nubbly, but I bet it's a pain to pare...I would still bind any book Teresa did on moderation in it, as the closest thing to trollskin) and other oddities.

So tell me about the binding you're doing.

#58 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 03:36 AM:

I was bitterly disappointed when I learned sharkskin suits were not made from sharks.

Although with a bit of Googling, one can find real sharkskin boots, purses, wallets and... huzzah!... tanned hides. So one could probably have a custom suit made from actual sharkskin.

#59 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 06:19 AM:

Somewhere in my general issue author's kit of a million words o'crap there's a magical realist novel from 1988 set in Dewsbury, in darkest Yorkshire, featuring a bunch of junkies who are into cane toad licking. Among other things.

(I am not planning to recycle this in a future book: it is dead and stinky.)

#60 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 06:21 AM:

... Just in case anyone doesn't know what I'm talking about, here's wikipedia on psychoactive toad-licking.

#61 ::: john ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 08:01 AM:

Nancy Lebovitz @ 29
> And if it's covered in leather from small amphibians, it's a Newtcronomincon.

Also known as a Hellbenderbinding?

#62 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 09:39 AM:

Lila @ 49: I note that, according to your source, the story with the Jimson Weed occurred during the 'Rebellion of Bacon'.

I feel that John Scalzi should be informed...

#63 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 01:46 PM:

Abi at 57: I decided to start by making a blank notebook, just under A6 size, using Redeem 130gsm, a nice offwhite recycled paper. (And speaking of paper, and of Falkiners, they sell Gmund bierpapier. Which is indeed made from beer, and is a pleasure to work with.)

I have a pile of signatures sitting on my worktable, pressed cooperatively flat with one of those nice bone folders and by leaving it under a pile of books for a week, and I'm making a couple of painted panels for the cover using the same technique as the mountboard pendants I've been making.

Incidentally, I was a bit skeptical about the durability of what's basically lacquered cardboard, but then I accidentally put one of those through the wash and it survived just fine.

The book's now sitting at the "really must get around to sewing the signatures" stage, but that's an improvement over the "really must try making a book" stage it was at for a year or two.

#64 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 01:49 PM:

Charlie Stross @60 -- is there an echo in here? That's what I linked to back at #4!

#65 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 02:27 PM:

Tom #64 -- my bad! I skimmed chunks of the thread and did a quick search for the string "toad licking" rather than reading it exhaustively. (Have had a busy blog-moderating day today ...)

#66 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2010, 02:45 PM:

No problem at all, Charlie (and allow me to say publicly that I really like your writing!). Just amusing when someone I admire cycles the conversation back to a place I started.

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