Thursday, February 28, 2013

When Scholastic was cool: all-girl edition

Jenny Lind and Her Listening Cat by Frances Cavanah

I think you all know my feelings about Scholastic books by now. With my younger daughter home with the flu almost all week, I've been keeping myself busy excavating the bookcases and marveling over just how many vintage Scholastic paperbacks I've managed to amass—the kind that must've been originally purchased on a BookMobile—and marveling over how few we have actually read. A shame, really—I mean, don't these girl-centric titles look awesome? And so much more interesting than those American Girl books?

Okay, I'm not knocking those American Girl books. Not really. I haven't finished any of them (mercifully), so I don't have the right. Some of them might be great. But what I've read is just dull, dull, dull. And how about the boring cover designs? Compared to these old-school Scholastic books? I guess I'm mostly just a little fed up with the idea of excusing books for being boring/crappy just because they get kids interested in reading. Good books get kids interested in reading too. Maybe we should stop racing to make our kids read before they are ready—then we wouldn't have to fill their heads with such deadly prose. This is on my mind because my younger daughter is an audiobook addict and lately she's been listening to the Magic Treehouse series, "chapter books" designed for early readers. Which, okay, is fine. Does the job. If you think it's important that a 6- or 7-year-old can read books divided into chapters. But the colorless language, cardboard characters and unimaginative plotlines are really thrown into sharp relief when she's listening to Roald Dahl, Beverly Cleary, E.B. White and Laura Ingalls Wilder the rest of the time. Bleh.

Kate by Nan Hayden Agle

Lillian by Gunilla B. Norris

Nellie Bly reporter by Nina Brown Baker

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

More things I didn't buy: Toikka birds and Scary Monsters

How happy was I to find a Toikka?

I know it's not right to bitch, but it does bum me out when an estate sale service does a good job executing its fiduciary responsibility to get the best price for its clients. Toikka birds are the work of Oiva Toikka, glass designer extraordinaire for the Finnish design company Iitalla, and they aren't free. They're also as scarce as peacocks in South Texas (actually my neighbor has peacocks so I don't know why I said that—as scarce as kiwi birds?), and I hardly ever find any Finnish design objects...

The original brochure!

...let alone Finnish design objects with the original paperwork! You might be thinking, doesn't she have enough Finnish design objects? But you know the answer to that. Anyway, I passed. Too rich for my blood, especially after I paid money I don't have on such a great score at the same sale! Which I'll share soon.

Bowie forever stamps

I didn't buy these limited-edition David Bowie Scary Monsters stamps, which apparently came from some obscure import 12-inch, because they were $20. That might have been a mistake. I don't know the market for David Bowie stamps; I just know I wasn't sure what I would do with them. Frame them? Bah.

An unnecessary object

If you're ever on the estate sale trail you know indoor barometers were once mighty popular items. Makes me wonder how we've been managing without them. Anyway, I usually see them in a nautical theme, not this supercute German Black Forest cuckoo style, but $20? I don't pay $20 for just anything.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Servy-Etta Mystique

Ah, the napkin lady, she is a stern mistress, is she not?

I bought this Servy-Etta Napkin Holder at a flea market in Brooklyn many years ago because I thought it was cute and it came with the original box. But in all that time, I have never managed to weave "luncheon-sized napkins" through the slats in her very severe columnar skirt. What a time suck! This is the sort of thing that should remind everyone who in any way idealizes/venerates/reveres the idea of the Midcentury Hausfrau that, despite all the cute dresses and graphics, it was not all that—time and brainpower were frittered away on nonsensical tasks like this one, and is it any wonder that Betty Draper is such a seething head case? Who wouldn't have been? How did our mothers survive it?

As a collector of vintage Betty Crocker cookbooks and cute midcentury whatnots, I sometimes feel compelled to remind myself of this point, and it seems only right to make it on the much-ballyhooed 50th anniversary of the publication of Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique. This napkin lady was a weapon of oppression—just like irons and this thing women feel compelled to do called "folding the laundry." But I'll save my anti-ironing and laundry-folding diatribe for another day. Today it's all about the tyranny of the napkin lady. Who I still think is very cute, even if her skirt isn't as voluminous as it's supposed to be—the sleek silhouette becomes her.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Memories are made of this

Last stop on our trip down Memory game lane: This 1968 Milton-Bradley version is the best I've encountered since it's basically a Midcentury Illustration's Greatest Hits, featuring work by Alice and Martin Provensen, Roger Duvoisin, Mary Blair, Eric Carle and of course, our beloved Eames House of Cards. How did all this great stuff end up in one game exactly? I dunno, but the box says "under license to Otto Maier Verlag, Ravensburger, Germany." Ravensburger is the German game and puzzle company founded by Otto back in the 19th century, and obviously the Germans know (and create) good design so somehow it must all be owing to their genius. So to them, I say, "Thanks!" And also to the members of the Bain family (the name scrawled on the box in a couple of places)—I bought this for two bucks at his/her/their estate sale and I've cherished it ever since.

One of the subjects/themes of this blog (apart from the overarching theme of I-am-cray-cray-and-need-to-stop-buying-so-much-stuff) is...why do we like what we like? Why do we buy what we buy? Aesthetically speaking, what attracts us to an object? I'm not given to philosophizing; I was an English major and, I'm not speaking for all English majors here, but personally I'm not capable of deep abstract thoughts. I once attempted to take a class on the philosophy of aesthetics but dropped out after the first week on the grounds that I did not understand a single word that the professor said. ’Twas definitely a roadblock to learning. Anyway, why do you like to look at what you look at? What makes it pleasing to your eye? I find it hard to divorce aesthetic appreciation from nostalgia. I like it because I've always liked it. I like it because I grew up with it. I like it because I remember it. I like it because it reminds me of another time and place that's still somehow this time and place cuz it lives on in my memory. Memory mixed with desire. Wasn't that T.S. Eliot? Okay, sorry, I'm going off the rails—deep thoughts, watch out!—but then again, maybe not. After all, "mixing memory and desire"—isn't that what the best purveyors of vintage do?

Dean Martin - Memories Are Made Of This by beautifulcynic

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Pikku, the Finnish Memory game

As promised, this week I'm strolling down Memory game lane. I got this one on my storied trip to Finland back in 1975, and look how beautiful it is! You wouldn't expect anything less from a Finnish Memory game, would you now. I've talked about how I only had a few things with which to amuse myself on that three-week trip—complimentary puzzles and art supplies given to all kids on the Finnair flight, a farm-animal stencil kit, my Asterix books, my brother's Tintin books, a book about mammals entirely in Finnish... Well, suffice to say, I squeezed a lot of good times out of this game, on the trip and for many years after. Like the Eames House of Cards, its images are burned on my retinas, deposited for good in my memory bank, and see below—there's even at least one photograph from the House of Cards, the nails (or are they pins? I've never been sure).

Sometimes I let my kids play with this game, when I'm feeling very generous, but mostly it stays on a high shelf of treasures while they use their own, a 1980 version put out by Milton-Bradley, which I forgot to photograph but you can see all over etsy (like here, for example). It's cute, but not as cute as this one—nor is it a repository of my precious memories!

But the 1980 Memory is waay cuter than the current incarnation put out by Hasbro, which is seriously fugly. My kids have received several over the years as birthday presents, and I keep donating them or regifting them yet somehow there's always one in the game closet. Maybe it's like the proverbial single fruitcake being passed around the universe?

I think if you want a new Memory game that in any way rivals the vintage ones you have to make it yourself. As I was photographing these game cards a couple weeks ago, I suddenly realized how much their perfect squareness makes them resemble Instagram photos (really good Instagram photos, anyway, not so much the ones of your dinner or your latte). Naturally, I thought I'd hit on a great money-making idea—custom Memory games made out of your favorite Instagrams!—but a few seconds of googling confirmed that I was a little late to that particular party. But is anyone Instagramming images of vintage Memory games and turning them into Insta-Vintage Memory games? Hmmm... that might just be meta enough to work...

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Eames House of Cards

At some point early in my life I came into possession of this House of Cards set. My parents gave them to me, I assume, and of course, Crazy Lady still has them. The House of Cards, if you're not familiar, was designed in 1952 by Charles and Ray Eames for children. Like me! A deck of cards, a series of images, that celebrated what they called "the good stuff...familiar and nostalgic objects from the animal, mineral and vegetable kingdoms." I loved my cards to tatters, as you can see from the box.

The cards have small notches on the sides so you can build all manner of structures, but I was never a builder—more of a gazer—so I think I mostly just gawped at mine. A lot. Because those images—the snail shell! the pills! the technicolor veggies! the buttons!—all of them are absolutely etched in my brain, the way the Eameses meant them to be. And every time I see them, I get that Proustian chill of recognition and remembrance (excuse me for being one of those assholes who references Proust without actually having read Proust—I need to learn French! I don't trust translations! You already know that about me!).

So here are just a few of my favorite images from the cards. I've been thinking about them lately because I've discovered that they are also used on a couple different vintage editions of the Memory game, which I plan to share this week if I get my act together.

On a practical note, you can still buy these cards—I believe they're published by the Museum of Modern Art and come in a variety of sizes and styles. They're a bit pricey, but I think this is one of best gifts you can give a kid who has advanced beyond the stage of gnawing on cards or ripping them up just for ha-ha's.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Here, bookie bookie bookie bookie...

This week you can find me guest blogging about a few of my favorite children's book discoveries over at my pal Burgin's blog, Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves. This past fall Burgin got an actual factual job, as the Bearenstain Bears might say, and that has left her with far fewer hours to devote to book collecting, the not-so-vicious cycle that goes something like this: hunt and gather books, read books, cherish books, hoard books, reshuffle piles of books, cull some books, box up certain books, start to really freak out over books, sell books, give away books, dump books by the truckload at local goodwill. Rinse. Repeat.

Meanwhile, I find myself with two kids in school full-time for the first time and therefore with far more opportunities to forage for books (and other vintage stuff, but mostly books) than is probably healthy. Pictured here is the result. I try to use my time more constructively—distance running, household-maintaining, even freelancing for actual money (to buy more books!), but you can see the temptation of what might be at this week's estate sales or library sales or what might've just been donated at the thrift store is all too much for me.

That probably puts me at the reshuffling/culling point in the not-so-vicious book-collecting cycle. I'm definitely not ready to part with my books by the truckload but I am able to accept that while it's okay to hoard doubles of your favorites, triples and quadruples is a bit ridiculous. Thus you will find some good ones over at the etsy shoppe. Happy hunting—and happy reading!

Friday, February 8, 2013

More things I didn't buy: John Belushi/Nostradamus edition

This Animal House poster is super-rad and I have no idea why I didn't buy it. Even if it'd ended up hanging in the garage, it would've been a worthy investment at $15. Poo.

I did not buy any of these 8-tracks; in fact, I never buy 8-tracks. Much as I love me some obsolete technology, certain media-delivery systems are too clunky and cumbersome and ugly to be revived (don't get all cocky, VHS and CDs, cuz I'm looking at you, too).

Do you ever wonder what will happen to all your precious refrigerator magnets when you die? Assuming your kids don't want them—and I'm going to assume that—they will be organized into Zip-locs and offered for cheap at your estate sale. No one will buy them and they will end up in a landfill. Consider this next time you're tempted to buy a souvenir magnet at some truck stop on your next road trip (says the person who recently discovered a Zip-loc full of grimy refrigerator magnets from her refrigerator in Brooklyn, which she hasn't seen in eight years).

Despite his being totally on the money with the Hister/Hitler prediction, I did not buy this copy of The Prophecies of Nostradamus... Wait a minute, I totally did! The eyes of Nostradamus compelled me to do so!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...