Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Dad says there are more than

three thousand letters in the Japanese alphabet, which could pose a problem. There are only twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, and I get into enough trouble with them as it is.”
~ Rin Chupeco,
The Girl from the Well   

I walk the Avalon beach every morning, and the other day I noticed some small squares in the sand, and, thinking they were mini tiles, I picked them up.  I did not notice until I brushed the sand off of them that they were old scrabble tiles, and I did not realize what they spelled until I pulled them out of my pocket today.  Of course, I have to wonder how they stayed together, so to speak, in the tides, but I just thought, what a wonderful find.  It does not take much to make my morning out there!  I am already overwhelmed by the sky and sea.
This got me thinking about simple letters.  I watch grown people in the shop going through a box of block letters.
Trying to spell out that special word...you just need the right...
Of course, today words are morphing into letters...U know?
                                                    
This did get me thinking about letters and words, and Scrabble came to my mind.  I never knew the history of Scrabble, but it dates to the 1930s and an unemployed architect, a victim of the Depression.

Alfred Butts studied games, and he realized word games had no scoring motif.  "Attempting to combine the thrill of chance and skill, Butts entwined the elements of anagrams and the classic crossword puzzle into a scoring word game first called LEXIKO. This was then refined during the early 1930s and 1940s to become CRISS CROSS WORDS. It’s been suggested that he also drew on a story he’d read as a child, Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Gold-Bug", in which a pirate’s treasured map is decoded by matching symbols to letters based on how often they appear in the English language. Either way, the upshot was to limit the role of chance and allow knowledge and strategy to play a part, resulting in a blend that’s crucial to Scrabble’s enduring popularity."

Butts studied the front page of The New York Times to make his calculations for the letter distribution in the game. This skilled, cryptographic analysis of our language formed the basis of the original tile distribution, which has remained constant through almost three generations and billions of games.

His guinea pig was his wife Nina who, in a twist that would seem scandalous today, had been his schoolteacher growing up. Was it her fault that Butts always claimed to be a terrible speller? Invariably, Mrs Butts beat him at his own game, reportedly once playing the word ‘quixotic’ across two triple-word scores, notching up close to 300 points in a single turn.

Nevertheless, established game manufacturers unanimously slammed the door on Butts' invention. It was only when Butts met James Brunot, a game-loving entrepreneur, that the concept became a commercial reality.

Together they refined the rules and design and then, most importantly, came up with the name SCRABBLE - a word defined as 'to grasp, collect, or hold on to something'; and a word that truly captured the essence of this remarkable concept. And so the SCRABBLE Brand Crossword Game was trademarked in 1948.

Brunot rented a small, red, abandoned schoolhouse in Dodgington, Connecticut. Along with some friends, they turned out 12 games an hour, stamping letters on wooden tiles one at a time. Only later were boards, boxes, and tiles made elsewhere and sent to the factory for assembly and shipping. In 1949 they made 2,400 sets and lost $450. 

Then in the early 1950s, the president of MACY'S discovered the game while on vacation and ordered some for his store. Within a year, the SCRABBLE game was a 'must-have' hit, to the point that SCRABBLE games were being rationed to stores around the country!
From 1952 through 1989, the game went through several owners, and it finally was purchased by Hasbro on 1986.  The 1950s games were marketed by Selchow & Righter.  Then in 1986 the company was bought by Coleco.  When Coleco went under, Hasbro, owner of Milton Bradley, bought Scrabble and Parcheesi.

There is a National Scrabble Day!
So, now you know those scrambled letters went through a lot to get to game night...and now to your ipad or iPhone!  But...pre digital Scrabble...

Everyone must know by now that the aim of Scrabble is to gain the moral high ground, the loser being the first player to slam the board shut and upset all the letters over the floor.
Craig Brown




Saturday, August 5, 2017

"Anybody can buy.

 It takes an artist to shop.”
Jennifer Finney

Every now and then, you know I have to vent about being in business.  I read several articles this week about the demise of shopping malls, iconic stores, and consumer buying.  All in all, it felt like the phrase I sometimes use...stick a fork in it...it is done.  Has shopping been so "Amazoned" that we are losing another cultural motif?  I have had my shop 26 years now, and I confess that I am a little overdone myself.  This is an excerpt from one of the articles about the death of malls..."the grandmothers and goths, the flirting teens, the mall walkers and mall rats. They're all online now, face-to-screen, interacting in ways impersonal and impulsive. It's a different sort of marketplace, unsurpassed in its efficiency and with its own code and culture, but without the skylights, the sweet smells, the splashing fountains, the ethereal Muzak--all of which are still around, but you have to look hard to know it."

That got me thinking about what is missed when you just look at the flat screen...and many times the smartphone index card sized screen.  You cannot appreciate the colors or the shapes of vintage pottery.  A fellow dealer who visits every summer always brings me a tote of some wonderful pottery from out her way in the Midwest.  Consider this piece of Abingdon Pottery, a pottery that was established in 1908 by Raymond E. Bidwell as the Abingdon Sanitary Manufacturing Company. It started making art pottery in 1934 and stopped production of art pottery in 1950. Abingdon Pottery was known for its plumbing fixtures and its dense, white vitreous china, resistant to hairline cracks and chips, yet here is a wonderfully shaped vase in this coral color that seems so soothing.  Now, here it does look nice but to feel the cool porcelain on a warm day and see the shape up close and personal...a different experience.
Or consider a Royal Copley vase with the coral blended with the now popular gray and a touch of white.  Royal Copley china was made by the Spaulding China Company of Sebring, Ohio, from 1939 to 1960.  Just the colors alone attract the eye...
I am wondering if the younger generation is losing touch not just figuratively with life.  Another article on smartphones and the younger generation quoted a 13 year old...“We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”

So, as I put out vintage pottery, I wonder what the vintage shops will be like in another 26 years.


There has been all the chatter about making America great again...what about the shops that are preserving what was great in American arts and crafts and supporting those artists who are creating even as we speak?  What about the shopkeepers who are still searching, cleaning, displaying for your pleasure?  We agonize over cheap Chinese labor, and then we expect these shopkeepers and artisans, the protectors of our past and the creators of our future, to work for pennies also.  

So, if you love to shop and not just point and click, step away from the screen and head out into the wilderness of stuff!

     "If you wait until you have enough money to decorate and make your home your own, it will never happen.  If you wait until you can afford to buy everything new, you are missing the point.
It is the old, the new, the hand-me-down, the collected, the worn (but loved) things in your home that make it your own."
  Stacy Risenmay