Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Triumphant return, sans liquids

Ah, gentle readers ... having returned, I (Lydia) fear that it is beyond my abilities to write entries as hilarious as those penned by Mr. Alan. I guess it's lucky for me that he's got too much to do to write the blog entry every week! Well, sort of lucky, because that means I get to research ridiculous topics and wander around the store looking for books to feature myself -- but unlucky, because his blog entries (one and two) made me laugh hysterically all the way in Berlin, and I'd like to read more.

Berlin! Yes, Berlin! I was in Berlin -- seeing the remarkably beautiful, vibrant city for the first time, and learning all about the place, including the German people. Did you know, for instance, that Berliners in particular are famously rude? They disdain saccharine smiles and soft-spoken courtesy -- hallmarks (they maintain) of American interactions. If I notice any Berliners coming into the shop, I will be sure to scowl at them and shout invective in order to win their respect.

I was inspired by my newly vast knowledge of the German people to investigate this week's Collector's Item:

This seventeen-volume set from our Germany section was first written by the well-known Catholic priest and historian, Johannes Janssen, in the late 1800s. It's a facsimile (printed in the 1960s) of the 1890 15th edition -- indeed, it was a successful series! Janssen himself apparently felt that he was redressing quite a lack: "I ... resolved to bring out ... the civil and intellectual growth of our nation; not to give marked preference to so-called leading state events, campaigns and battles, but to depict the German national life in all its varying conditions, and stages, and phases of destiny ...." A man of modest aims, I see. I do think he either was very fair-minded or very sarcastic, given that he describes earlier Protestant scholars as "trustworthy and unprejudiced".

Volume 1 alone describes everything from a totally unbiased description of 16th-17th century German writing ("in place of the earlier simple, natural, fluent writing, a sort of clumsy, jerking stuttering and stammering had come into fashion, which cannot be read without a feeling of pain") to 1400s pictures of headgear ("Women wore pointed lace caps a yard high, or head-dresses formed of coloured stuff pressed and ornamented with gold and precious stones"; I have to say that if I had something like that on my head, I'd be rude too). If you're interested in sixteen volumes (plus index) of similarly trustworthy and unprejudiced discussion, they can all be yours for a mere $275.00!

This week's Affordable and Interesting item was also published by Catholics:

The Daughters of St. Paul, an order that apparently puts out quite a lot of media, published this book in 1967. It gathers several decrees from the Pope regarding the use of modern media. The book is mostly the decree itself, plus pictures; it mainly encourages Catholics not just to view properly Catholic media, but also to produce it. Interestingly, it also instructs authorities to pass laws that will restrict media to a certain moral level. In some parts, it sets up Catholic offices to oversee media and tells them how best to control the beast. I would be intrigued to see what Catholics who currently work in the media thought of this book. It might also be a good resource for students of religious history or media studies; it's a good price for students -- $7.50!

Not particularly Catholic, but possibly related to the beginning of this entry (Berlin!), I now present you with this week's Favorite:

How can a cane be relevant to Berlin, you ask? Well, look at this:

It's a flask-cane: you can store beer in it! (Not to stereotype Germans, or anything.) Imagine: a beer-storing cane, just for you. Only $30.00. Please, come buy it and take it away from me before I consider sneaking all manner of strange liquids into my workplace. Ooh ... I wonder if you could sneak liquids onto a plane with this cane?! (I had a delicious energy drink removed from my possession on the way back into the U.S., and I still miss it.) Or perhaps one could fill the cane with poison, and become a famous and subtle assassin -- always smartly dressed. But why limit it to liquids? You could fill the cane with sparkles and be a street magician ... or with sand to create impromptu Zen gardens wherever you go! The possibilities are endless! Indeed, I hope whoever buys it doesn't just use it for beer.

It's good to be home. I'll be dreaming up strange fancies of what to put in that cane all week, now ... I love my job!

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