Tag Archives: books

Antiques, IDs, etc

-from Dulac's The Sleeping Beauty and other tales

I spent two days at Brimfield last week. Brimfield is a major antique show/flea market in the area. (Well, Brimfield is the town the show is located in…) It lasts for six days and is held three times a year. Thursday I brought two friends who’d never been before. They just didn’t understand the scale of the show when I tried to explain it. There’s a book, 1000 places to see before you die, and it describes 120 acre (divided into 23 fields) Brimfield show as the world series of flea markets.

We had fun looking at old clothing and vintage hats, got frightened by some truly disturbing mixes of doll parts and old tins, and searched for treasure. (Despite two days of looking I was sadly unable to find a pith helmet. I did find a really fun Edwardian bowler, but it was well out of my price range…) I’m glad both of my newbies found fun spoils to bring home. We lucked out on the weather. I’ve done the show in driving rain (Dyed my socks pink once when I put CVS bags over them under my sneakers to keep from getting too squishy…) and in brutally hot weather too. So clear if a bit dusty was a kind start.

One of the tents had vintage trims and lace as well as buttons and modern cameos with an old-fashioned feel. We unearthed some unusual ones too. Two of us split a package of carnelian colored cameos with a Wedgwood style look that are of the god Ganesha. I also picked up more modern cameos in black and bronze of an eastern style goddess.

Any idea who she is?

They were very eye-catching. I’ve yet to decide what to do with the Ganesh pieces. The black and bronze I figured out how to do a two-tone basket weave style wire wrap with a sneaked in swarovski crystal, and I’m pleased with how she looks, but I’m not sure who she is! She reminds me of portrayals I’ve seen of the goddess Kuan-yin, but I’m not as familiar with Eastern mythology as I ought to be, so if you recognize her please let me know!

My second day I got sad news and an old book. My favorite antique book and print dealer is retiring. I tried to explain to her husband that she couldn’t retire until she found me an Arthur Rackham illustrated copy of the Tempest, but he didn’t seem to find that a valid objection. I bought a (quite mangled and therefore something I could afford) copy of The Sleeping Beauty and other tales that had been illustrated by Edmund Dulac from about 1910. Dulac is another one of my favorite golden age illustrators. He used richer colors than Rackham, and had more of a pseudo-eastern flair, though I don’t always find his little creatures as much fun as I do with Rackham. But he also has such wonderful shapes and detail. I would love to get my hands on a copy of his 1909 Rubaiyat or his illustrations of Edgar Allen Poe’s works.

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Books Galore

I know a literary crowd! Dawn‘s book is due from Penguin Putnam next month, and now my friend Meg  just published her first book.

It’s been a long time since Meg and I have been able to do the ‘sit at the diner till the wee hours and edit each other’s work’ thing. I’ve pretty much given up on my writing, though I’ve still got worlds bouncing around in my head. (Yes, they sometimes collide with the craft projects always bouncing around in there.) She pulled through and decided to skip the fighting with publishers and print it herself. It’s called Cursing Fate, and is already available, so go take a look! Cursing Fate is a paranormal romance available as a traditional book or as an ebook.

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Luminous

A (scarily brilliant and clever and by my standards even more amazing-coordinated!) friend of a friend has her first book, Luminous, coming out on June 30th. We’re getting close! Here’s her official site with further info as well as fun meanderings and artwork.

Proper summary:

When sixteen-year old Consuela discovers that she can remove her skin, revealing a lustrous mother-of-pearl skeleton, she slips into a parallel world known as the Flow; a place inhabited by archetypical teens with extraordinary abilities. Crafting skins out of anything – air, water, feathers, fire – she is compelled to save ordinary people from dying before their time. Yet now someone is murdering her new friends, one by one, and Consuela finds herself the focus of an intricate plot to end the Flow forever when all she really wants is to get back home, alive.

I’ve been itching to read it (and the one she has planned after it) since I first heard hints of it, so here’s a link to her contest to get a free bookmark and a chance at an advance reader’s copy.

If you talk to her, ask her about clothespin dolls. She also makes a mean ray gun. (Really!) I love creative, crafty people!

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Spoon!

Fine gold wire around a crytal formed from a single element. (element 83) Kean explains how Bismuth forms its escheresque shape in his book.

This summer I read a great book by Sam Kean called The Disappearing Spoon.

It was essentially an introduction to/history of the periodic table, with digressions for fun facts and quirky personalities along the way. I’ve already reread it once. His writing is very good and his explanations clear. The title of the book comes from a trick he describes, where students mold gallium, which is a silver metal with an extremely low melting point, into the shape of a spoon and bring it with tea. The unsuspecting victim goes ot stir the tea, and the spoon melts. I kept meaning to look that trick up and forgetting about it. Then I ran across this video, which warmed my little geek heart.

And since we’re playing with the periodic table:

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Cleopatra

John William Waterhouse's image of Cleopatra

I’m currently reading the new biography of Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff. Rather like the Bill Bryson biography of Shakespeare (an excellent quick fun-yes really it is-read) it is at least as much about dispelling myths as it is about giving facts. (Not that I don’t enjoy the outlandish Shakespearean or Pre-Raphaelite renditions…) There is a good bit of ‘well, they say *this*, which is actually unlikely due to *that*, so here’s a best guess…’

I have a hunch that aspect is going to annoy some people, but that’s how history works. We very rarely know *anything* for certain; as the famous adage goes, history is written by the winners. So a fair best-guess probability with explanations of why and who and how and where to look further works for me.

I also enjoy her quiet moments of snark. She won me over in the first few pages by explaining Cleopatra’s heritage (as Larry Gonick pointed out, she’s several generations of Greek inbreeding) and summing it up by saying that Cleopatra was about as Egyptian as Elizabeth Taylor.

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Warning: Word Rant

Death Riding by Albrecht Durer

I’m reading an excellent book by David P Clark called Germs, Genes, and Civilization. I like histories and epidemiology, so the two mixed together are right up my alley. It has several interesting aspects, mentions some things that ought to be obvious and yet are not really so self evident, and has a few really fun theories about plagues in Ancient History. Unfortunately it also hits fairly regularly on one of my pet peeves, which is a recurring issue in popular books on plagues and disease. It’s an English language geek one, so probably sounds pretty silly to most people.

The word decimate literally means to kill one out of every ten, from the Latin word decimus, meaning “tenth.” Think decimal system, they have similar roots. Using the word more loosely, but still appropriately, it should be used to refer to the death of a significant proportion of a population, but still in the ballpark of a tenth. Otherwise say, a quarter, a third, a half… a proportion with a hint of precision. The problem is that decimate has become a synonym for destroy, a word used when a very large portion, or a majority, are killed. (This is not to say that one tenth of a population being killed by anything is insignificant…)

One book I took out from the library used decimate in place of destroy approximately every five pages in a chapter on bubonic plague. I couldn’t take it anymore and brought it back to the library unfinished.

The problem is that it still holds its original meaning but is also in the process of that terrifying change whereby if enough people use a word incorrectly it eventually takes on the incorrect meaning. This problem becomes especially confusing when the meanings are a distance apart rather than a matter of nuance.

For example, in one part of the Clark book he was discussing about the decrease in virulence of a specific disease over time. On one page he refers to plague decimating the city, then the next page he points out that a few hundred years later it only killed one tenth of the population. Contrasting a word against its original (true) meaning doesn’t give any meaningful data or even a fair impression of the numbers we’re dealing with here.

Besides, if even super villains can get it right, surely academics can too?

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