Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Got any fires to put out? We hope not.

Oh yes, gentle readers, we devoutly hope that you don't have any fires to extinguish ... notwithstanding this week's Collector's Item:

They are, indeed, antique fire extinguishers! How awesome is that?! Just look at them! They're so cool! I am seriously losing my mind about how elegant these are. You never see elegant fire extinguishers nowadays! These are $60.00 apiece, and they probably won't actually work for putting out fires, but look at this great close-up on one of them:

A different kind of fire is ignited in this week's Affordable and Interesting item:

Neil Gaiman is a talented science fiction and fantasy writer; he's not my personal favorite, though he's achieved a lot of commercial success. Still, some of his books are just beautiful, and Stardust is one of them. It's a fairy tale and a love story about a star-maiden who falls to earth, and it was even made into a movie. As always, though, the book is better, and you can buy our copy for $6.50.

Finally, this week's Favorites are ... kind of all over the map. Is there a metaphor for fire here? Probably. See, I found this really great, incredibly diverse stack of 1920s-1930s magazines:





1920s home and garden! 1920s fashion! Somewhat racist and Orientalist 1920s magazines about Asia! (Articles about "Peking Playhouses" and "Forbidden Afghanistan" are par for the course here, as are ridiculous assertions about how hot climates make people barbaric.) And then, just to round it all off, in the same pile I found ... memoirs of a solar observatory. Why not? These items are each either $10 or $20, and they're in pretty decent condition. Anytime you want to read about the latest in Art Deco, you know where to find us.

Can you believe the weather, gentle readers? I sure can't. Now I shall go frolic in my t-shirt, in March, and talk to you again soon ....

Friday, March 16, 2012

Another episode of Save Mr. Bill

You may recall previous hijinx with Mr. Bill, whereby the poor little action figure clung precariously to the side of an antique ice grinder ... trying desperately to avoid the gnashing teeth below. Well, we sold the ice grinder, so Mr. Bill thought he was safe. He thought.

He didn't reckon with this week's Collector's Item:

An excellent antique dartboard, complete with darts! For $250.00 you may purchase this charming old game. Here at the store, there has been much ado over Rory's recent accomplishment of hitting the bull's-eye. Mr. Bill has so far escaped harm, but he might not for long:

That pathetic O-shaped mouth! Surely you wish to rescue Mr. Bill. Buy the dartboard, and show him mercy. He'll thank you, and we'll give him a break before his next predicament.

For an even more horrifying experience, try this week's Favorite:

I confess that I've never actually read House of Leaves, although I started it once and became quite unsettled. It's often described as a classically alarming book; for example, it made this list of literature's trippiest books that was published on Lewis Carroll's birthday. The list discusses House of Leaves thusly:

Sometimes described as a “satire of academic criticism,” Danielewski’s unconventional, claustrophobic novel forces the reader to work hard to unravel the plot, dealing with multiple narrators, strange text in unusual places, bizarre typography, and copious footnotes. The act of deciphering the novel is itself a disorienting experience, the text an ominous labyrinth that threatens to trap you inside forever.

An ominous labyrinth! You can't easily get that for $12.50 ... except at O'Gara & Wilson.

Personally, when I think of ominous labyrinths, I think of politics. I would never want to be a politician, and it amazes me how many people do. Witness this week's Affordable and Interesting items:

For a mere $1.00 apiece, you can purchase all kinds of reproductions of antique political buttons. I love the one for solar energy -- still so relevant today! -- but of course the majority of these buttons are for actual political figures. You can see that we've got "I Like Ike" buttons! That was Eisenhower's slogan, and it's probably the catchiest presidential slogan of all time. We've also got Roosevelt, Taft, Calvin Coolidge, ... and did you know that William Jennings Bryan ran for president
three times?

Bryan is now best-known for opposing Chicago's own Clarence Darrow in the famous Scopes trial, where he fought against teaching evolution in public schools. However, Bryan had a long and illustrious career as a politician before the trial, and although his stance during the trial was broadly unpopular, many people mourned his passing.

I'm always intrigued by political history, gentle readers. An interesting lens for modern times indeed. We'll all be keeping an eye on our modern Presidential race ... and in the meantime, if you want to make a really daring statement, wear one of our pins!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Beautiful things from India

I've always had a soft spot for Southeast Asian art. I'm also a folklore buff in general, raised by parents who thought that the best bedtime stories ever were folklore from across the world: Greek myths, Gypsy folktales, Indian legends. My favorite childhood tale was an abridged English version of the Ramayana, an incredible epic that's been told and retold across Southeast Asia for millennia. One fascinating thing about the Ramayana is that there are many many versions of it, because it is largely an oral tradition and it's very very old. In fact, there's an amazing book called Many Ramayanas that is entirely free to read online if you click here -- it outlines and analyzes a bunch of the different incarnations of that beautiful story. Within India alone there are dozens of different tellings of the tale.

I mention this partly because the Ramayana is awesome, and partly because this week's Favorite showcases the diversity of other Indian folklore traditions:

From the Introduction:

This collection of Indian folktales is quite unusual. ... The ninety-nine tales presented here were collected by eighteen regional folklorists from fourteen different languages. They have been edited by four folklorists, two of whom are North American anthropologists and two of whom are Indian experts from two regions in India separated by 1,000 miles.

The Indian subcontinent is vast and various, containing many Indias represented by over 100 living languages, each with its social and territorial dialects, its cultural niches, attendant traditions (oral and otherwise), ten writing systems and over a dozen literary languages.

The stories, of course, are the best part. But I won't spoil them for you when this extraordinary book could be yours for a mere $7.50.

The incredible diversity of India is also showcased in this week's Affordable and Interesting items:

This is a stack of many different antique papers, each bearing the mark of a different seal. The above is a nice one, and others include:


At least two non-Roman alphabets are represented here, and very elegantly at that. There is a note along with the stack of papers that calls them "A fine and neat accumulation of Indian States various court seal documents, all different types. Period: 1845-1940." I am nowhere near an expert, and so my admiration is mostly aesthetic, yet the low price of these seal documents -- only $4.00 apiece! -- tempts me nonetheless. Presumably there are also experts out there who collect historical pieces that show history of the Indian states, and those folks would love these even more. One thing I've learned working at a bookstore is that there are experts about everything.

This week's Collector's Item is both relevant to Indian history, and strangely relevant to modern American history:

Yes indeed, it is an 1866 Indian mortgage contract.

As a calligrapher I am again hypnotized by the aesthetics here, but I think there are probably many more scholarly analyses to be done, if not a sense of pleasure (or sadness) that our forebears dealt with exactly the same issues we deal with nowadays. We are selling this many-paged 1866 Indian mortgage contract for $95.00, and I would be very interested in the perspective of whoever buys it. I'm sure I'll learn a lot from that person if I talk to them.

Au revoir, gentle readers. If you don't purchase any of this India-relevant stuff, then you might at least consider reading the aforementioned Many Ramayanas book (click here!), or perhaps watching the modern cross-cultural video adaptation "Sita Sings the Blues" -- which is free to view online as well. We here at O'Gara and Wilson strive to assist with your cultural education!