Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Quote of the Day: "There's a buffalo there. Has there always been a buffalo there?"

I'm through V in Literary Criticism ... on to W! Doug says we should have a party to celebrate when I'm done. Personally I think we should have a party to celebrate Shag the buffalo. I raptly documented the long process by which Doug wrestled ladders, screws, and lightbulbs in order to mount Shag. A glorious photo essay results!


Doug cleans and prepares the work area.

Joan coordinates efforts from the ground.

Looks good ... but something's missing ....

Ah! Perfect! How dignified!

Doug says that we might end up selling the buffalo head if, after a few weeks of buffalo presence, we feel overwhelmed and unfortunate. So if you might be interested in owning Shag the buffalo head, you should email and let us know. I haven't decided my stance yet, but I think I'm becoming pro-buffalo-in-the-store. If you would like to file a vote, please feel free to email or leave a comment!

In order to install Shag, Doug had to temporarily move the busts of Jefferson and Dickens normally kept on top of those two shelves. Apparently, they were gifts to Mr. O'Gara, who owned the store for a long time; a local Catholic church gave them to him after he sent them lots of books. People keep asking to buy them, but they're not for sale, so I try to redirect customers' attention to this week's Collector's Item:

These circa 1920, painted iron bookend-gentlemen sport excited grins, as if nothing could possibly make them happier than sitting reading in their libraries. Since there's two of them and they're identical, I was reminded of an interesting plaque I saw once in an exhibit of aboriginal material at the Art Institute; it said that ancient cultures considered twins sacred. The reason behind this was the cool part -- every person alive was considered to have a sacred doppelganger in the post-death lands; if twins were born, it was thought that the sacred doppelganger had come through to our reality by accident. Basically, therefore, one of the twins was sort of like an angel, but didn't know it yet. Well, I thought it was cool, anyway ... if you agree, you can find more awesome doppelganger superstitions at this site (click here). You can also buy these bookends for $125.00 ... and yet -- which is the sacred doppelganger?

Ya like how I used innocent-looking bookends to rant about something completely unrelated? I definitely won't do that with this Affordable and Interesting item:

Ludvík Vaculík is a Czech writer and thinker who began his life as a fairly idealistic communist, but later began to criticize his government's communism. Now, I would be the first to admit that I know nothing about Czechoslovakia except what I found out on this hilarious California-Czech restaurant page (click here), but Vaculík is an interesting enough character that I feel the urge to know more. One of his most famous works, "Two Thousand Words to Workers, Farmers, Scientists, Artists, and Everyone", was published with sixty signatures (from intellectuals as well as everyday folks) and soon actively condemned by the Czech Communist Party. Encouraging peaceful protests and elections, it caused such a furor that it's often cited as a factor leading to the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by "normalizing" Warsaw Treaty forces. It must be amazing to write something so powerful! Vaculík was censored soon thereafter, and forced to pass out his work in the form of signed, hand-typed "manuscripts" (since it was against the law to print his words) for many years. By reading this book of his short essays (many of them originally distributed in rare "manuscript" form), you will learn all about recent Czech history, as well as what it's like to be an oppressed idealist. You will also totally show up anyone who tries to act pretentious because they've read the much more famous Czech writer Milan Kundera. (Why do snooty folks so love to brag about reading Kundera?) That's definitely worth $5.00!

Czechoslovakia is not especially close to the Ottoman Empire, but my Favorite item this week is about the Ottomans anyway.

I've been interested in the Ottoman Empire for a long time. During their Golden Age under Süleyman the Magnificent, the empire outshone every country in Europe. It espoused comparative religious tolerance, allowing members of many persecuted religions to settle on its lands; and it produced incredible art, particularly calligraphy. So I was very excited when I discovered this huge, beautiful book full of portraits of Ottoman sultans. In both English and Turkish, this gorgeous folio discusses the basics of portrait-painting (European portrait types, costumes in which subjects were painted, etc.) and describes each individual sultan's life and reign -- for instance, Süleyman:

Süleyman I extended the borders of the empire to embrace three continents and reach from the Persian Gulf in the east to the western Mediterranean. He also developed a strongly centralized system of government control and fostered the development of a social order based on the equality of his subjects through laws that abolished distinctions based on religious tenets or national origin. ... In addition to his success as a statesman and an administrator, Süleyman I had a degree of sensitivity worthy of a poet, as well as a thirst for knowledge and an appreciation of the arts ....

Did I mention that Süleyman was magnificent? Because he was. If you want to be almost as magnificent, you could buy me this book ($125.00) ... though I think I can live without it, as long as I get some quality time with its glorious pages first.

There's your history lesson blog entry for the day, gentle readers! I hope none of you were bored enough to go do homework instead. For myself, I think I'll dream of handsome sultans tonight (not to mention limpid buffalo eyes).

No comments: