Originally created 11/23/04

Book briefs

A book for readers 'turned on' by fire hydrants

NEW YORK - Some photographers travel to various parts of the country to photograph people. Others have done so to document lighthouses or roadside attractions or the variety of ways in which the U.S. flag is displayed.

For Sean Crane, it's fire hydrants.

His book "American Hydrant" is a color-photo album of hydrants, at least one from each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Although the hydrants themselves vary only somewhat in size, shape and color, the variety is in their settings, which document the rural, urban and suburban landscape of America.

A bright orange hydrant seems to glow against the drab landscape in Boring, Ore. A station wagon defiantly parks at a hydrant on a suburban street in Defiance, Ohio. And a black hydrant is the only thing in sight unmarred by graffiti on an urban street in New York's borough of the Bronx.

At the corner of Peachtree and Peachtree in Atlanta stands a nondescript peach-colored hydrant, while in Detroit, a red-and-yellow one is seen reflected, appropriately, in the shiny wheel cover of a Buick.

Bright red hydrants stand at the ready in Carrizo Plain, Calif., where there seems to be nothing for miles around that's likely to go on fire; and near a wire fence that is keeping a bull at bay on the corner of Broadway and Fifth in Manhattan - Manhattan, Mont., that is.

"American Hydrant" contains 176 pages and is published in paperback at $24.95 by Santa Monica Press.

English, sort of, spoken here

NEW YORK - A foreign-language guide is invaluable on trips abroad. But it's no help when English-speaking travelers to foreign lands come across attempts at English that prove disastrous.

In "Here Speeching American," authors Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras have compiled "A Very Strange Guide to English as It Is Garbled Around the World."

The book offers hundreds of examples, in sections that include signs at the airport, hotel and on the street, brochures and maps for tourist attractions, directions for driving and using public transportation, product names and restaurant menus.

A helpful road sign in Malaysia warns drivers, "Water on Road During Rain," while a sign in Singapore asks pedestrians, for reasons unknown, to "Please Walk Backwards."

Product names that probably sound better in their native tongues than in English include Zit (a Greek soft drink), Old Beans (a Japanese coffee) and Barf (the most popular laundry detergent in Uzbekistan).

Shoppers at the 68 Percent Perfect Shop in Indonesia might find that quality control is not its priority, while families visiting a Madrid museum might not get past the sign at the entrance that warns, "Children Must Enter With Parrots Only."

To drink or not to drink? That is the question at a lounge in Turkey, where a sign declares "No Drinking Prohibited."

Such losses in translation might be traced to "A, C, B," an English alphabet book from Japan, or to the English primer published in Egypt and called "Good English in As Little Time."

"Here Speeching American" contains 223 pages and is published by Villard in paperback at $9.95.


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