Friday, August 31, 2012

Finnish Fridays: And this little piggy went weeweewee

I've never associated pigs with Finland—except in the form of sauna sausage (mmm...sauna sausage)—so I'm not sure how we're ending up with a porcine theme here on Finnish Fridays, but let's go with it.

This little piggy was some sort of giveaway from the bank Postipannki, and it's so wee it couldn't hold more than a dollar or so in pennies—not sure what its capacity would've been for Finn markka, or Euro for that matter. You can't open this bank because apparently only the bank staff had the key. I guess this was fun for kids? Seems like you'd be making a lot of trips to the bank. Anyway, according to wikepdia, Postipannki closed/merged in 1997 so this pig serves no purpose, except as a repository for money you don't plan to use. But it is pleasant to look at, don't you agree?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

In pursuit of vintage Signet Classics

I believe I've mentioned a few dozen times that I was an English major in college. In those days, I favored the black-and-yellow Penguin Classic paperback editions of the books I was assigned to read; as a result their black spines fill several shelves in my guest room (you never know when a guest might want to peruse The Princesse De Cleves or Gargantua and Pantagruel poolside). But over the past few years of estate and library sale shopping, I've become a li'l obsessed with the piquant eye candy that is the Signet Classic paperback, the first printings of which date from the 1960s. I now find myself buying duplicate copies of books I already own just because I love the covers so dang much—and, lo, another paperback collection was born (see: Edward Gorey Anchor Doubleday).

Of this batch, I've only actually read Defoe's Journal of the Plague Years, a fantastic book I recommend to all readers with a taste for the medieval and macabre. I'm sure I'll read Edwin Drood at some point, but it's at the bottom of my Dickens pile. And I like the cover, but I'm certain I'll never read Nostromo because Conrad is just not my bag (unless he's delivered to me in the form of Apocalypse Now). The Kenneth Grahame book is the most thrilling discovery, because for one thing, I never gave any thought as to whether the author of The Wind in the Willows wrote anything besides The Wind in the Willows. Apparently, he did, and the book jacket description suggests it's right up my street:

In this series of tales of five orphaned children who live with relatives in an English country house, the author's superbly modulated prose captures the sensuousness, the mercurial temper, and the fantasy life of childhood. Neither sentimental nor condescending, with perfect sympathy and gentle humor, Grahame creates a world in which each child is a distinctive individual, adults are regarded as doubtful guests, and every passing moment brings the promise of rare adventures.

Sounds pretty irresistible, am I right? To top it off, I'm convinced this cover was illustrated by the great Tomi Ungerer, or else by someone aping his style—though I doubt that: The Signet covers of that period were all done by super-accomplished illustrators, including Milton "I heart NY" Glaser. I'll feature some of his beauteous covers next time.

The Golden Age & Dream Days, Kenneth Grahame, 1964

The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Charles Dickens, 1961

Nostromo, Joseph Conrad, 1960

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Strange bedfellows?

Something I've noticed on my estate sale travels is that bookshelves stocked with Bibles, religious tracts and volumes devoted to Christianity are likely to be sharing equal space with books whose esoteric subjects were probably featured on Leonard Nimoy's 1981 TV series In Search of. The Prophecies of Nostradamus. Chariots of the Gods. Anything on Atlantis, the Bermuda Triangle, Bigfoot, Pyramid Power, poltergeists, UFOs, Easter Island and Nessie. I can't even tell you how often I've observed this Mysterious Phenomenon. What does it all mean? If only Leonard Nimoy would explain it to me.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A bunch more things I didn't buy

I did not buy any old toiletries at this estate sale because, seriously, do you have to ask? I'm not sure which is more grim: the sight of unfinished tubes and bottles for sale, evidence of health and/or beauty regimes permanently interrupted. Or the sight of people actually buying the stuff.

Sometimes (a lot of times) I do just say no to my kids, and usually it's when we've strayed into the crafty section of a flea market or antiques mall. She did not get this red-white-and-blue $25 scarfy thing, even though it was 4th of July. I am that hard.

I didn't buy this totally 80s relic, Stay-Put: the Non-Slip Shoulder Pad, though I was sorely tempted. Just for the logo. Why is that lady so mad? Why is she yelling at that dog? What does that have to do with shoulder-pads-in-a-can?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Clueless is a great movie.

I had the pleasure of accidentally stumbling across Clueless on cable a few months ago, something that rarely happens since I almost never deviate from what's on my Tivo. I don't think I'd seen it since it came out back in 1995, but let me just say, it totally holds up. No Jane Austen update/adaptation holds a candle to it (I'm looking at you, Pride & Prejudice & Zombies). Alicia Silverstone? Simply brilliant. Stacey Dash? So gorgeous, why didn't she go anywhere after that? Come to think of it, that was the apex of Alicia's career as well. Brittany Murphy, sigh. R.I.P. Only Paul Rudd has gone on to fame and fortune, though more often as the disaffected friend than adorable love object, which he so totally was as the uptight Mr. Knightley-ish ex-stepbrother Josh.

I don't have so many laudatory things to say about this silly tie-in book, Cher's Guide to...Whatever by H.B. Gilmour ("based on the characters created by Amy Heckerling"). It's so awful I can't even bring myself to quote from it. But unlike the movie, which doesn't seem at all dated (well, maybe the Uptown Julie Brown cameo), the book is a time capsule full of quaint references to the ’90s, including:

The Watchman (as in the hand-held TV), MTV (that it was once relevant), CDs, Christian Slater, Marky Mark, Buns of Steel, Smashing Pumpkins, Coolio, Nine Inch Nails, The Bridges of Madison County, Arsenio Hall, Prozac, The Body Shop, The Nature Company...

Who knows? If the movie had come out when I was in high school as opposed to when I was 27, I might've dug the book too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I think I've sounded this theme often, but I'll reiterate in case you've not been taking notes: I don't like games. Board games are boring. I would always rather read. I might even prefer organizing Lindsay's recipes into clear plastic binders, or cleaning the birdcage. Anything else.

But if I must play a game, I always choose Scrabble. Not this Facebook phone stuff that Alec Baldwin seems to enjoy so much; I'm as baffled by that when I see it cluttering my FB feed as I am by those games about jewelry and farm animals. Don't try to tell me how great it is, how addictive if you're a wordsmithy-type person—cuz I'd be too busy reading novels on my phone.

The last adult I played Scrabble with was Lindsay. We were rusticating in Tobago, in a very austere cottage with lots of interesting insects and not a lot of intact mosquito netting. There was no nightlife to speak of; or at least not where a couple of Americans would feel welcome some six months after 9/11. We dined on the same fish special at the only restaurant in town every night. The service was grudging, if not hostile. When we revealed ourselves to be New Yorkers, we were grilled on our 9/11 experiences and informed that the whole thing was an American conspiracy, if it had even happened it all, which we assured everyone it did, since we were eyewitnesses, but they weren't impressed. (Later we'd learn that Hugo Chavez had found refuge in Tobago after a brief coup at the same time we were there. Like I said, Americans weren't too popular then—I wonder if anything's changed.)

Given the circumstances, then, what choice did we have but to hang out in our cabin each evening, with a couple of genial stray dogs for company, drink gin and tonics and play game after game of Scrabble while tropical rain pelted the rooftop? A lovely Scrabble memory, except that maybe Lindsay vowed never to play with me again because I was "too cutthroat" and a "sore loser." Or something like that.

So I didn't play until my kids got old enough to string some letters together and call it a word, and then to string some words together and call it a sentence. Have you ever seen the Scrabble Sentence Game for Juniors? Well, like most games made in 1973, it's pretty awesome (and there's plenty available on eBay for around 10 bucks). Like Scrabble for Juniors, the board has an easy side and an advanced side: The easy side just requires simple matching (good for learning sight words) and the hard side encourages the drolleries of fledgling Becketts, as you can craft all manner of absurd one-liners. If there's a scrabbulous or words-for-friends-like app for that, I might actually consider getting it for my kids.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Even more things I didn't buy

I did not buy this Igor painting because I'm not going to start collecting campy sex kitten art of the 1960s. This was one of a pair, however, and it seemed reasonably priced on the first day of this estate sale ($30), so I went back on the second day when it had dropped by 30% but I still didn't buy it because it was very grimy (its mate was water-damanged). Was it original? I spent a lot of time standing in front of it, conspicuously googling Igor Pantuhoff on my iPhone, but couldn't make up my mind. I resolved to return the next day, when the prices would be cut in half, and buy it if it was still there. I never went back. Probably for the best.

Despite my affection for obsolete technology and especially old-fangled writing machines, I didn't buy either of these typewriters. I didn't even consider it for a moment. I just thought they looked so picturesque, relics strewn about in the grass, like a kind of typewriter graveyard—the sort of image that's just begging to be instagrammed. What about replacing garden gnomes with old typewriters? In the hands of the right design blogger, I'm sure this is an idea that could be sold in certain hipster enclaves in Brooklyn.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Finnish Fridays: Picky, picky

Is the world divided between pickers and flossers? If so, I fall in the latter camp, though if I were a picker, I doubt I'd use toothpicks like these, since they're about the size of tongue depressors. Probably some indication here of the state of Northern European dentistry, circa the 1970s, when I think my parents received this as a gift. For decades it remained in some box, original packaging still intact, till it mysteriously arrived on my doorstep, and what am I supposed to do with it? Too cute to get rid of, like most Finnish things, even porcine toothpick holders. The word "kaivinkone" is stamped on the side, which seems to translate as a digger or excavating vehicle. I guess that's a play on the toothpick's purpose? Grody.

One cool thing: The company that made this item, Nikkarien Oy, is still in business. They seem to specialize in cute home goods, mostly sauna paraphernalia, which I love gawking at even though a sauna would be the wrongest thing to have in South Texas. Sauna hats and sauna guestbooks—it's a whole 'nother world of things to buy.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

M*A*S*H up

Once upon a time, I watched M*A*S*H three times a day; four times on Mondays. It aired at 3pm when I came home from school; it was on from 7 to 8pm after dinner, and on Monday nights a new episode aired on CBS at 8 or 9. It goes without saying that M*A*S*H was my favorite show, and a formative influence on my sense of humor, such as it is/isn't, right up there with various BBC comedy series (Fawlty Towers, Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin) and Howard Stern.

I know from Grape Nehis and stills, Toledo Mudhens and meatball surgery. I know that the M*A*S*H theme song was entitled "Suicide is Painless," because, along with "You Light Up My Life," it was the song I most enjoyed playing on my flute. I made a pilgrimage to see the M*A*S*H set at the Smithsonian. I went to see age-inappropriate movies like The Four Seasons and The Seduction of Joe Tynan just because I was such an Alan Alda fan.

I have definite M*A*S*H opinions, some of which don't jibe with the popular view. BJ over Trapper John. Henry Blake over Colonel Potter. Frank Burns WAY over Charles. Frank Burns was probably my favorite character; "Frank Burns eats worms" my favorite line in the whole series (it still slays me). I slightly preferred Klinger to Radar but could've easily done without both of them. Colonel Flagg was my favorite recurring guest character, but I also liked Dr. Sidney Freedman (and by high school his stock shot up when I discovered he was a photographer once married to Diane Arbus). I was glad that Hawkeye and Hot Lips never got together; I hated that episode when they kinda sorta did. Barf. I liked it when Hawkeye was with that nurse who went on to star in the Polaroid commercials with James Garner. I never saw the original M*A*S*H movie, and yes, I know it's Altman and it's so much better and darker, and I don't care. I hated the series finale, like most people, but maybe that's just because I didn't want it to be over, or because I was over it. I'm not sure which. It was 1983. I was 15, and already deep into Cheers, which had premiered the year prior. And like most TV series of that era (any era?), M*A*S*H didn't exactly get better with age.

I can't really watch M*A*S*H now, though I'll happily sit through back-to-back episodes of The Odd Couple, Hogan's Heroes or Mister Ed. Its earnestness can make me queasy; the laugh track hurts my brain. And I have a hard time refraining from reciting all the dialogue I've memorized, which can be annoying if I'm with someone and sad/weird if I'm watching alone.

Anyway, it stands to reason that I should kick sargent-major ass on these Golden Trivia M*A*S*H cards, which came out in 1984, the year after the series ended. I bought these at an estate sale earlier this summer, when I knew my brother and fellow M*A*S*H couch potato would be visiting. I wasn't as good as I'd expected to be, but over cocktails, we both managed to horrify our respective spouses with our M*A*S*H knowledge. I mean, seriously, who doesn't know Frank Burns's blood type?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I tawt I taw a Limoges butterpat

Brooklyn is famous for its stoop sales, though I'm not sure why. I lived and loved in Brooklyn for about ten years and the only thing I ever bought at a Brooklyn stoop sale was a set of Limoges butter pat dishes with weird babies painted on them. Here are two from the set. I'm not a baby person—I was fond of my own babies but Anne Geddes calendars you will not find in my home—yet I like these babies, particularly the one under the umbrella. I get the impression that the artist was planning to paint frogs but at the last minute changed his mind and went with babies.

I also love the concept of the butter pat dish. It's right up there with the personal ashtray. I've got quite a few of those but will I ever have cause to use them again? I may have given up Camel Lights but you'll have to pry my butter from my cold dead hands. And someday I'll have a fancy dinner party and all my guests will have a place to put their pats (and hang their hats).

(A final thought on butterpat: It's a good name for a dog, a pony, a cat, or a bunny. I keep meaning to create a file of future pet names because you know you're going to need them at some point and when that moment arrives you can't remember all the awesome names you've come up with over the years and you end up letting the kids name the pet for a movie character or the color of its fur.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

More things I didn't buy

I did not buy a pile of ’80s Vogues, despite the nostalgic pull (this is totally when I started subscribing!), because they were lying on someone's gross bathroom floor, next to the toilet, possibly since the ’80s. Also, they were $4 each, which is just about the stupidest price for anything that I've been quoted in a while. I mean, seriously, do you think you're selling your old magazines on the hipster-clogged sidewalks of NYC? Cuz I'm pretty sure you're selling them in a dismal San Antonio tract house that smells like pee.

I did not buy this stack of Texas Observers, even though I know it's supposed to be a great publication and Molly Ivins was so awesome and I'm embarrassed to say I've never read it and wouldn't this have been a great place to start?

I didn't buy this midcentury piano with its glorious Danish modern legs and to-die-for matching piano stool despite the fact that my daughter plays piano and really appears to enjoy it no thanks to any Tiger Mom tactics on my part. I just can't commit to a piece of furniture this large, especially when we already have two organs and several keyboards.

I did not buy this Dawn doll and Dawn accessories in their original boxes even though I loved Dawn waay more than Barbie because they wanted like $50. Always annoyed when people know the value of things.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Finnish Fridays: Fun with stencils!

Our two-week trip to NJ culminated with a late flight from Newark to San Antonio, which got us in well after midnight. When I arranged for the tickets, I was a wee bit trepidatious—my kids do not sleep in cars or on planes or on anything that doesn't resemble a comfortable bed in an air-conditioned room fortified with blackout shades and a full complement of stuffies. Would they be able to keep their shit together on a plane at that hour? Never liking to leave anything to chance, I packed their rolling carry-ons with more entertainment and food than most humans would require for an Atlantic crossing. Pointlessly, as it turned out, because we were lucky enough to end up on a plane equipped with individual Direct TV screens in coach. We swiped our debit cards and the overstuffed carry-ons remained untouched at the kids' feet till landing.

Back in January 1976, when I flew from Helsinki to NYC (with stops in Copenhagen and Amsterdam), the DC-10 did not have Direct TV. I've already written about some of the contents of my meager carry-on, but neglected to mention this cute farm-animal stencil kit that my parents bought for me at some Helsinki book shop. My favorite thing about it is the "As seen on TV!" in the corner. At least that's what I think it says; you know my Finnish isn't too good. Anyway, just trying to imagine what a Finnish TV commercial for stencils would've been like is a pleasant way to pass five minutes.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Back to the old house

I've returned from the land of Kliban cat sheets and Moomins, moldy-oldie books and boxes of ancient correspondence, with little to show for it in terms of vintage scores and finds, which is too bad since that's the subject of this here blog. I even managed to hit the usual thrift stops without my distracting, demanding kids in tow and still, somehow came away empty-handed, save for an armload of kid books—how did that happen?? My head was obviously not in the game. The second weekend there was a city-wide garage sale in the old hometown and I did not hit a single one. My parents did the early-bird circuit on Friday and I slept right through it. Weird.

Perhaps I figured I'd already spent enough money in NYC, on haircuts and pretty dresses. Or maybe my acquisitive compulsion was satisfied by a nostalgia trip to my parents' storage units on Day One. As we speak, three boxes containing my childhood detritus (as well as some cute pottery) are wending their way via the USPS from rural NJ to exburby TX. I will share those objects as soon as I get around to uploading my vacay photos. Till then, make do with a few images of my parents' house, and you'll get why sometimes thrifting is totally unnecessary.

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