Monday, February 22, 2010

in time for Easter...

The closest I've ever really been to Russia was flying a mile over the Sea of Okhotsk en route to and from Japan. Seeing Okhotsk's name finally show up on the digital map in the head rest in front of me was always a welcome sign heading to Japan because it signified that the bulk of the flight time was behind us, as passengers on transpacific flights know that "Are we there yet?" is a mantra we unconsciously chant as we drift in and out of achy sleep.

However, the closest I've ever felt to Russia were during occasional trips to Richmond as a child. My family often visited the Virginia Fine Arts Museum (thankfully reopening this May) and its Feberge exhibit was always my favorite part of the trip. Until now, I didn't realize that the VMFA Faberge exhibit happens to be the largest public collection of Faberge items outside of Russia. I would make several laps through the exhibit, repeatedly trying to choose my favorite, which one I would've liked to be my Easter egg. One Christmas, I even received a tiny replica egg charm which I worn adoringly on a gold necklace for several years.

Last September, after a new company acquired the rights to the Faberge name, the company has been relaunched and is now producing super-luxurious jewelry. When I first saw a few of the pieces, especially the flower-inspired rings, I was impressed, but the more I thought about it, the more I disdain the whole idea. This is definitely a case of taking a well-known name steeped in arts and crafts history and removing it from its traditions. When is it okay to continue to have an artist or designer's name posthumously attached to products and objects that may or may not coincide with their original visions?

Part of the allure of Faberge collections is not just the incredible quality of craftsmanship and perfect materials used to create these symbols of luxury, it is the history represented, the story behind each piece. Most were gifts to and from royal family members, primarily created during the reigns of Alexander III and Nicholas II. After the Bolshevik revolution, several of the large eggs were sold by Joseph Stalin for foreign currency and according to Wikipedia,"Of the 65 known large Fabergé eggs, only 57 have survived to the present day. Ten of the Imperial Easter Eggs are displayed at the Kremlin Armoury Museum, Moscow in Russia. Of the 50 known Imperial eggs, only 42 have survived."

Who knows, maybe someday someone will have a hell of a tale for Antiques Roadshow, "I found this thing in my great aunt's attic in a box labeled "comic books" in a trunk buried under suitcases of my grandfather's old pajamas. Think it's worth anything?" (cue bearded antiquities appraiser falling dead on the spot due to a heart-attack). Everyone likes a modern-day treasure story and finding a lost imperial Faberge egg would definitely take the cake.

This little foray into a small piece of Russian history coincides perfectly with a recent library acquisition - Siberian Dawn by Jeffrey Taylor. Taylor chronicles his trek across Russia in the early 1990s.

This site also has a wealth of information about the eggs and their place in Russian royal history. And a WSJ article discusses my new library checkout/amazon purchase, Faberge's Eggs.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

wishes for windy winter wednesdays

your toes aren't cold. the wind isn't blustery and biting at your nose. you don't hear the sound of trucks and plows and spinning tires. you don't see constant shades of white and gray.

a warm late summer afternoon, outside wearing this

or this

and maybe these vintage diors
sitting and drinking this

...and in a few hours, it'll be this

reading this (full text found here on project gutenberg)

because you're here

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

get buck in here

until reading this ny times article, i had never heard of the popular alcoholic beverage, buckfast, made and sold mostly in the u.k.. apparently the drink, a syrupy-sweet wine, has come under scrutiny lately as it's widespread consumption has been linked to alcohol-related violence in the u.k., specifically in scotland.

the humor in this bbc study lies in the fact that buckfast is linked to violence in two ways - that violent drunks have a high probability of having drunk buckfast before starting their altercations and that the bottle itself is more likely to be used as a weapon than perhaps other bottles.

"3 out of 4 scots prefer the quality skull-shattering glass of a buckie's bottle. when aiming at that boggin' arse in a back alley brawl, don't let cheap glass cost you the fight."

the times article also refers to recent fda discussions on the implications of caffeine-laden alcoholic beverages. while caffeinated cocktails sound good in theory (especially for chronic sleepy drinkers like myself, who have gained reputations for being the first to fall asleep at alcohol-heavy social events), apparently mixing the two could be bad for you. who wouldv'e guessed?!

some caffeine amounts for common drinks:
Coke - 34 mg (12 oz)
Red Bull - 80 mg (8.4 oz)
Sparks - 87 mg (16 oz)
Coffee - 130 (8 oz)

so in spite of my abhorrence of red bull and vodkas and usually those who drink them, i guess that as far as combining your uppers and downers, an irish coffee is a lot worse.

at least they're honest - "the name 'tonic wine' does not imply health giving or medicinal properties."

though buckfast may be hugely popular in parts of the u.k., it doesn't seem likely that a restriction on the beverage will lead to a decrease in alcohol-related crimes. there'll always be other bottles to take swigs and swings with anyway.