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The Noble Collection

The other day, a new catalogue surfaced among the many regulars. "The Noble Collection: Holiday 2005" offers "Gifts and Treasures for the Season." Before my eye found the Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter logos at the bottom of the cover, I was wondering if this was some sort of Disney Dark offering. The castle on the cover, basking in moonlight, looked vaguely like Cinderella's, but the mood said "Vlad the Impaler." I couldn't tell if the castle was drawn or real. It's real - "resin," no doubt. Thirteen inches tall and perhaps slightly more than that square, this model of Hogwarts is yours for $295.

What would you do with it? Where would you put it? How long would it interest you? (It has no moving parts.) If someone gave you one, perhaps as a "gift for the season," what would you think the donor was trying to say? And what do you think it's going to look like in ten years?

I'm sure that there are jillions of Harry Potter fans who think that this architectural digest is more wonderful than any real castle. For them, happily, there is the actual Neuschwanstein, in deepest Bavaria, to look forward to. In the meantime, I hope that their parents and guardians find a better use for the three C notes.

What I want for my birthday, however, is this magnificent Revolutionary Guillotine Cigar Cutter. It's not only charming, but edifying, as well. Every time you use it, you can meditate on some hapless aristocrat, dragged from a burning château in her nightclothes... Or whatever lights your cigar. The cigar cutter is a steel at $97.50. Stainless steel, that is. Aren't good razors always?

There's nothing new about bad taste. There's nothing new about expensive bad taste, either. But I think we've reached new heights of expensive, mass-produced bad taste. I really am curious about the quality, too. There's a cunning collapsible Batman desk clock made of - well, it doesn't say. It does have a "High Polish Finish," however, and at four inches (collapsed), it won't take up much houseroom. Fully expanded, it can be priced at ten dollars the inch. Do you think I should buy it and find out how long the high polish lasts?


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And I thought it was just my own impression. Yes, there seems to be a huge growth industry in the mass production of expensive items of phenomenally bad taste and poor craftsmanship. McMansions sprout up cheek by jowl, crowding out the greenery which drew people to the suburbs in the first place. These "have it your way" villas are often built to appallingly low standards and are inevitably filled with a rising tide of embarrassingly tacky, yet expensive furnishings and toys. It seems like we are in a new Victorian Age, filled with gimcracks purchased by people with no regard for their fellow man and societal well-being, let alone good taste. It begs the question, where is all this money coming from and why can't it be apportioned for a better world? Too large a question, perhaps.

I would even settle (being interested in dynasties and the lovely detritus they have traditionally left behind) for the nouveau riche splurging on themselves as long as the results were tasteful and of quality, affording the succeeding generations new heirlooms,as well as talismans of taste, style and craftsmanship.

I find it all curious, in light of the overwhelming number of how-to shows and publications of the past few years having led to the appreciation and saving of much of our national built heritage and having sparked the (renewed) craze for antiques. One would have thought that this would lead to a more refined appreciation for quality. I can only surmise that the current wave of cheap and ugly is a result of people having too much money too soon, and perhaps, more importantly, having the need to fill the psychic void which our era seems to be wrestling with, using novelty as distraction, however cheap that novelty may be. Your post touch a nerve; now, off my soapbox.

Jeez, don't talk about the quality of this stuff. Muggins here ordered the Harry Potter illuminating wand for her wunderkind -- and just returned it. What are you going to do when it's the only thing your kid asks for for her birthday? *sigh* But I simply couldn't keep it. It was a piece of plastic-- a $38 piece of plastic. I don't know what I'm going to give my little Potterphile now, but that's another problem for another day.

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