A look into the history of a silver ring

I brought this ring in on the first day of class as one of my “happy objects.” I have decided to think about and reflect on its history and use.

This ring is made of sterling silver, as indicated by a “925” stamped on its inner circular wall. More specifically, this number means that the metal is an alloy of 92.5% silver and 7.5% other metals, which help strengthen it (pure silver is a very “soft” metal and can get banged up shockingly easily) and make it more resistant to tarnishing (that is, the blackening of the surface as a result of interacting with oxygen in the air, also known as oxidation). Though I did have knowledge of silver and I understood the last links in the chain of the ring’s history, the origins of the raw material were beyond me. I had no idea where silver-mines are located or which countries are the world’s major producers of silver. Admittedly, Natalia’s silver earrings from Mexico definitely should have given me a clue because after a quick Google search, I learned that Mexico is the world’s leading producer of silver, and that the US is among the world’s top ten, with silver mainly coming from Alaska and Nevada. I am going to assume in this post that a scrappy, Hudson Valley-located artist would be more likely to purchase materials made in the US.

So, this metal is mined out west somewhere, and then it finds its way across the country, probably by way of an online supplier because there does not appear to be a single jewelry supply store that would deal in raw metal in the Hudson Valley. The jeweler makes a wax carving exactly like the silver ring on my hand, and then goes through the long, delicate process of creating a mold, into which liquid silver is eventually poured and then shock-cooled in water to complete the casting. After some cleaning up and detailing the three bands, which I have always assumed to be patinated (patina is a catch-all term used to describe a thin layer on metal or stone that is of a color different from that of the base), the jeweler sells it to Crafts People, a local art gallery, and on my first visit there, this ring catches my eye.IMG_4020.JPGAs I believe I mentioned on the first day of class, my knuckle was too fat because I broke my hand when I was younger, so one of the gallery directors—herself a jeweler—ground out the inner wall just enough to make room for my finger. Thus the ring was, in a sense, personalized for me. As I also admitted on the first day of class, I have lost it a good number of times in the three years since I purchased it. Because soap can be abrasive, I try not to wash my hands with it on; however, this means that I often put in on the first shelf or surface I see next to the sink I am about to use, and then I absentmindedly walk away without remembering to put it back on. This being just one example of the way I treat (or rather mistreat it), it is no surprise that despite my taking attempts to keep it away from the harmful effects of soap, it has accumulated a good many scratches and nicks in its surface. I have contemplated sanding it back to its original smoothness, but part of me knows that that would essentially erase the character it has picked up by being worn so frequently and cherished so much by me.

As you can see, the purpose of my ring has yet to change, though I imagine that if I needed to, I could melt it back down and get a good amount for the silver. If I had a scale, I would let you know how much it weighs; nevertheless, I can tell you that for an object of its size, it has quite a bit of heft. Though now it is purely ornamental, in its raw form, the purpose of this ring would shift to a much more utilitarian one. If I pass it down to a child who does not break their hand or have atypically fat knuckles, though, it might one day be worn as a pendant, thereby remaining ornamental, or be repurposed in some other way I cannot imagine at this time.

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Alarm Clocks

I have decided to write this week’s post on the alarm clock I wrote about last week. I must say, it will probably be easier for me to write about a new object since I had already gone in depth about the clock in my last post. However, I have decided to take on the challenge of doing a bit of research about alarm clocks, their origins and how they have come to change to what we know them as today. I have decided to do this research because time has become such an important part of our studies in this class. We have read and spoken about how the objects in our lives are further meaningful because of how long we have had them. Also, we have spoken about how objects have adopted different uses over time or even lost function because of time; yet, we hold on to them and cherish them.

Alarm clocks are strange little (or big) objects that a quite odd if you take a minute to think about it. We have created a device that can be programmed to wake us up at any time of the day/night all based on our construct of time. Time alone is such a phenomenal invention but because its concept is so ingrained in our society we do not think of it as a construct but as a reality. Instead of making time beneficial to us we have come to structure our societies around time and subsequently have become its slave. We get scolded when we are late to places and get praised when we are early. Our timeliness to places is now determined and based on not our circadian rhythm but on these little devices we call alarm clocks. I fully recognize that I am writing about time mannerisms in a very Westernized cultural view.

Apparently, the first alarm clock was created by an American who needed it to wake up early for work. The first patented alarm clock was created in the 19th century. It is interesting to think of the first alarm clock as being invented so late in human history but then it only makes sense because around the late 18th century there was a shift in the way we lived. We had the industrial revolutions in Europe and then in North America, but we also cannot forget European imperialism into Africa and Asia. All of these surely impacted the way we structured our lives because now people needed to be at places on time, to be put very simply. It also makes wonder what people had to do before alarm clocks became popular. Of course, we can guess that people depended on their circadian rhythm to wake up on time.

I honestly do not where I am going with this post but I do not want to give up yet. Perhaps, what I am trying to write about will make more sense in person. Perhaps, I will have something better to say based on next week’s assignment. Either ways, my alarm clock does not have much history because it is such a practical device.

–I would love to hear what all of you think about the little I have written about.

Expounded Edition

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This particular object is 8-5/8 inches by 5-5/8 inches.

It seems obvious to state it is a book, but without foreknowledge, it is a black and red rectangular artifact containing what seems like 120 pieces of paper, but is 60 pages, halved, sewn, and glued to make a binding to hold them together.

The item itself declares it has been printed and published in 1929, a first edition, by W.W. Norton and Company in New York. It presumably had a dust jacket but otherwise, is encased in a dyed, black, woven cloth which has been heavily worn by what we can assume to be hands, other books, or the missing dust jacket itself. The edges are rounded and the dye of the fabric of every corner and curved surface has been worn away. The title on both the cover and binding is a glued-fast card stock which states eloquently “MYSTICISM AND LOGIC by Bertrand Russel,” in Minister Black, a typeface which I have found was created in the same year by a man named Carl Albert Fahrenwaldt1. Accompanying the binding’s statement is the logo and name “NORTON.” The paper contained within has a deckled edge, which points directly to the age of the item, and the grandiosity (or lack thereof) of the book. Publisher’s now choose this as a design feature, but at one point was a flaw in the printmaking process, a consequence of a water and frame method of sizing paper. In order to make books more affordable, or ready for sale quickly, the printmaker would forego trimming the edges of the paper stock of a book. W.W. Norton was a company of a mere six years at the time of publishing, so I would imagine that this is a fairly flashy printing2. The company had started out as man and wife transcribing lectures and making pamphlets of classes for Cooper Union, in their living room. Although since deceased, these two have certainly succeeded as Norton is a primary source of my monetary loss.

What I found to be most interesting about this book, beyond how it was made and whom contributed outside of the author in the printing process is the luxurious sets of annotations. There are four distinct sets of handwriting, sometimes arguing over the meaning and connotation of what Russell had published. A mysterious fifth insisted upon putting red checks near paragraphs, I can only speculate, he/she approved of. Some is in pencil, mostly black pen, and noticeably, the person who only uses capitalized block writing, is using this method as a form of highlighting, as we would today. All serial 232 pages, with some form of annotation, none of which I can lay claim to.

I came to own this book as it was given to me as a gift. I have owned two copies, one of which I willfully cast out last month during the beginning of the semester, during the practice of the Kondo Method, in what I refer to as the beginning of the Great Purge. In contacting the gift-giver, my best friend of seventeen years, and fellow book collector, she claims to have bought it at a yard sale for a mere five dollars, in a location she doesn’t recall, and has no connection or relevant information as to whom had owned or written on all of the pages. I came to love this book more than any other, because not only is it a first edition, but it can be encountered as what I thought of as an “Expanded Edition.” The previous owners’ notes are so remarkable in number but in speculation of Russell’s ideas, it is a truly unique object, even on the scale it was  produced. The initial function in its former life and its beginnings in 1929, was that of a philosophical value, like the contents. The reader was likely of higher education or curiosity. I myself would deem it a tough read if you have no interest in either. Although it has stayed in its original manufacturing state for nearly 90 years, it is worth noting that the purpose has not changed, other than how it is handled. I’ve read it four, encroaching on five times, and couldn’t tell you what half of it says. I handle it much gentler than the previous owners and find myself in a salon style debate with the penciled margins every time I open it to read it (which is probably in the hundreds by now).

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Notice T.S. as the only declarative contributor and the myriad of writing adding to the print.

In knowing nothing of the owners, I find solace in the particularities and histories of the publishers, designers, the author, and the work itself. I wish I knew more about the persons who left their commentary and legacy of philosophy in the margins than I do the author or the piece. I think it speaks to not only their willingness to deface the publication, but their divine opinions, of who they were or could have been. I imagine four people having introspective conversation or intellectual argumentation of Bertrand Russell, his relationship with science and thought, and the passion that went into the comment on page VI of the preface,

“T.S. * Russell REALLY says, then, that each thing is itself…”

The script is so small and barely legible so I can assume T.S. is a doctor, as this soliloquy is about 30 words long and I can only make out the first nine and the punctuation, underlines and so forth. It seems the very owner before me couldn’t quite grasp why this is important, so as I jokingly refer to myself as the book conservator, the keeper of ramblings of those since passed, they are safely refuged here, with me, indefinitely. Every so often, admittedly, I take it out to appreciate what’s hand written more than the printed words.

 

 

1 I mention this because I find this name interesting. It can be translated to “to go to the forest,” which is where you might find the paper that may be useful in printing your type creations.

2 This title, along with Freud’s works, as they were his ONLY American Publisher at the time, had launched Norton into popularity.

 

It’s a Pillow…it’s a Pet…

For this blog post, I decided to write about the “happy item” I brought in on the first day of class: my infamous Pillow Pet.

That’s him, the one and only. The Pillow Pet was invented around 2003 and was marketed toward little kids. I remember growing up seeing the commercials on Nickelodeon as a kid. It has two primary and obvious functions: to be a stuffed animal that a child can play with and be comforted by, and it’s also a pillow. Both the filling and the outside cover are made of 100% polyester. According to the tag, this particular Pillow Pet must have been made in the year 2010. He apparently was born (manufactured) in Jiangsu, China, and eventually was imported by Ontel Products Corp. to Fairfield, New Jersey. He eventually made his way to Queens, New York, where my mother purchased him as a Christmas gift for me. This little guy has probably done more traveling in 7 years than I have in my entire life.

I received my Pillow Pet either in 2014 or 2015. I have absolutely no reason or desire to use my Pillow Pet as a stuffed animal, so he mostly hangs out as a little pillow and for decoration. He mostly used to hang out on my bed, until I studied abroad in Germany and actually needed to sleep on him as a real pillow (okay, I didn’t need to use him as a pillow, I just preferred him over the pillow I was given). Although he’s a smaller pillow designed for a child’s head, that didn’t hinder me much from using him as a pillow. So far, I am the only person to ever own this particular Pillow Pet, so its function hasn’t really changed and there isn’t any “chain of ownership.”  In a way, you could say he went from a display object to one that was actually functional; however, the function I chose to use weren’t different from the function he was made for.

What I think is cool about my Pillow Pet is that, although Pillow Pets were originally intended to be for a significantly younger age group (the tag says “3+”) and the idea was clearly a mass-marketed capitalist scheme (who doesn’t know the Pillow Pet song?!), this Pillow Pet in particular has become a part of my story and my life. I can never tell the story of what it was like studying abroad without including my Pillow Pet. He is the only stuffed animal I bring to college out of the 10 I currently have at home. When I’m feeling down and alone, I hold him because he reminds me of my mom. I just realized I’ve been referring to my Pet as “he” versus “it” throughout this blog post. Although there are definitely millions of Pillow Pets exactly like this one, none of them have the same meaning to me as him. The idea of objects having a pulse, as Edmund de Waal describes in The Hare with Amber Eyes, holds true for this object in a way that it doesn’t with most of my other objects. One day I will probably have to part with him, and I know already that it will be a challenge. Until then, there will be room for him in my suitcase the next time I travel, just in case.

A License Plate Through the Years

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This license plate has been on display in my different living spaces (my rooms at home and now my dorm) since around 2004. As I’m typing this, I realize how long that actually is. What use did a license plate bring, whether it be aesthetically or functionally, to a 6/7 year old?

This is a 1986 design of a New York license plate, which was retired in the year 2000. Its a rectangular metal sheet with New York painted in blue on the top and a picture in red of the statue of liberty underneath. Punched into the metal is a combination of letters and numbers which is painted over in blue. The background is white with red stripes on the top and bottom. It’s obviously been used, which is displayed by it’s cracked paint and bent state.

This license plate was either from a car of my parents, that was given to my brother or directly from my brothers car in high school. For clarification, my brother is in his 30’s so he was in high school in the late 90’s early 2000’s. Regardless, I would consider it’s original ownership to be that of my brother.

Technically, you could say it’s original ownership was the United States Government, since all license plates must be issued by the DMV; a United States agency. Yet, I don’t consider that ownership in my mind. To me, it was just created and distributed by them. Also, apparently the creation of license plates is done by prisoners, but I don’t know the validity of that.

The function of this object is obvious to anyone living in the modern day world; to identify a car for purposes of registration and other bureaucratic things. It’s a car version of a social security number. The numbers itself have helped immensely with crime in recent years with the advancement of technology; if one gets their car stolen they can try and track it with security cameras and identify the car with this number. In a more personal and simple sense, this plate allowed my brother to drive his car legally.

When it came time for this plate to retire, my brother put it on display in his room.It’s functionally was completely removed; the plate was now just a symbol or a nice display on a wall, like some sort of trophy. A couple years later, come 2004, my brother now went to military school and my parents were separated. I was sharing a room with my sister previously, but with my brother away, I was given his room. All his stuff was half packed into boxes or gone, but the plate still sat, pinned to the wall. I don’t know why I loved it so much; I always thought it was just “cool”. When we moved into our current house, I brought it with me and pinned it to the wall also.

Over this winter break, my brother noticed it in my room and he asked me how I got it. At this point, over 10 years later I almost forgot about it. He told me you could use old plates if it was the same year as the car was made, and he had been looking for it cause he bought an older car and wanted to use them. I told him how I took them with me when we moved and had it ever since. He let me keep it and told me it wasn’t a big deal but I just found it interesting how he remembered after all these years that he had kept this simple old license plate. I brought it back with me to my dorm after and I still can’t really figure out what I like so much about it. In a way, it’s a stolen nostalgia; remembering the past that was never truly mine.

Dagger

I would like to answer this week’s assignment with an exploration of an antique military dagger that my parents own. I do not have access to it now, unfortunately, so I cannot provide any pictures. The dagger blade is about 8 or 9 inches long and resides within a sheath—both are a dark steely grey color. The sheath is decorative, which keeps with the overall theme of the object. Inscribed on the blade, near the base, is a name: Trota, if I remember correctly. The handle is royal looking, even sporting golden tassels, which, in a combat setting, would serve only to hinder the draw and wield, so it is likely that this dagger belonged to an officer—likely one high ranking and far enough removed from the melee environment to sacrifice some functionality in return for aesthetic appeal. On the center of the handle is an eagle symbol, wings outstretched, and beneath the eagle is a swastika. Did I forget to mention that it’s a Nazi dagger? Anyway, moving on.

The dagger was likely manufactured in Germany in the 1930’s or early 40’s, and would have been one of many issued to Nazi officers throughout the war. Also likely, is that the original owner of this particular dagger was, indeed, the man whose name is inscribed on the blade: the aforementioned Trota. The engraving does not look like one done by an amateur, so my guess is that it was done by supply command before it was issued to Trota. I know nothing of this man besides that he is a deceased Nazi officer; even though, as far as ownership goes, my parents are only twice removed from him. As far as I am aware, the dagger was taken from Germany by my grandfather at the end of the war: I do not know any nitty-gritty specifics, but I imagine it is more likely that the dagger was picked out from amongst other seized personal effects, than that it was taken directly by my grandfather from the late Trota.

Regardless, the dagger has been on quite a journey: It was born in a factory in Germany, furnished to the Nazis, hung on Trota’s hip, sat in on God knows how many events and secret meetings—and probably frequented many a Nazi officer’s club; it was then taken into American possession, stowed away in my grandfather’s Alice pack, shipped across the Atlantic, to then reside in my grandfather’s house for decade, after decade, after decade; and then, finally, was given to my parents. After all this time, the dagger – probably manufactured for a few reichsmark worth of materials – has accrued a value of approximately $1400. What was first designed, technically, to kill men, was likely never used for such purposes, instead decorating the belt of some Nazi officer; further, this same object witnessed the fall of – as Miller would say – the big beautiful fascist whole of which it was an infinitesimally minute part, then traveled thousands of miles across the world in the hands of its owner’s enemy, eventually winding up in a house in New York, only to be written about in a blog by someone its original owner would have happily used it to kill.

Bitter Bottles

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For this blog I have decided to explore a different object. I have a acquired a set of vintage bitter bottles from my parents home on Long Island. To my knowledge these bottles were purchased and owned by my mother however, I am not completely certain about this fact. These bottles are pretty iconic for me. They lived on the mantle above my staircase for quite a while. Going up and down the stairs I was so enamored by the teal, pink, purple, brown colored bottles. I always thought of them as bottles I could hold different magical potions in.  I could absolutely never touch them as my mother though I would break them. The bottles eventually made their way into my basement and for what they thought was going to be their final resting place–forgotten and collecting dust. Fast forward to last spring. I was getting ready to move into another apartment and while I was preparing and packing I was looking around my parents house to see if they had any furnishing I could take along with me. While rummaging downstairs I came across these bottles once again and after 22 years of being told to keep my distance with these objects, I finally picked them up. I finally got to feel the smooth texture of each bottle, their lightness, and I could finally get close enough to read what was engraved on the bottles.

These set of bottles I am currently exploring for my thesis project. While analyzing these bottles, I questioned why these bottles were fashioned in a set to be collected as a decorative object. The set has never held any liquids just merely for show. When I began researching, I found that collecting antique bitter bottles was a hobby of what seems like a pretty large community of people.

James H. Thompson in 1947 wrote the first book on bitters. Bitters being alcohol disguised as medicine. According to this book bitter bottles are one of the older bottle collecting categories. Bottles in this category must be embossed with the word “Bitters” or have a label which has the word “Bitters” printed as part of the trade name. Today, bitters bottles may sell anywhere from a few dollars for common clear or aqua examples to over ten thousand dollars for unusually colored figural varieties. These bottles meant a lot to me already but, to find out that they might be precious and valuable aside from the inscribed memories was exciting. However, this excitement did not last that long. While going through the process of identifying the traits that prove the bottles authenticity, I came across an engraving on the bottom of the bottle that said “made in Taiwan.” This only devalued these bottles monetary amount– in many ways the bottles are priceless to me.

Although these bottles are not originals, I do want to share some history about them. I never really used bitters and knew much about them until just a couple months ago. As I said earlier they used bitters to disguise alcohol as medicine. The practice of adding a small amount of herbal bitters to gin was so that it might be sold without taxation under the guise of medicinal liquor .This practice originated in England and became popular from 1850-1870, when laws which taxed liquor, the popularity of various temperance movements, and local restrictions on the liquor trade made bitters very appealing and highly valued. Additionally, the civilized man of the 1870’s could sate his desire for strong drink being condemned by the temperance union or from his neighbor for wasting his family’s money by taking his libations in the form of bitters. At this time everyone knew that a dose a day of “Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters” was not only respectable but would keep one in good health as well.

I am pretty amazed at the amount of information I did not know about these bottles until very recently. I would love to come across authentic bitter bottles from this time. I only own a replicate set of them and I think they are so beautiful but I could only imagine what it would be like to have an original.

Cups Made for Memories

Previously, I’d described my habitus as the map I have in which I’m tracking which baseball stadiums I’d been to, and which ones I still need to conquer. Prior to this tracking system, I had developed a collection to commemorate where I’d been, and perhaps piece together when. In every trip I’d take, every stadium I’d attend, I would purchase the souvenir cup. The plastic, oversized cups used for marked up beverages, something I was willing to pay an additional $10 for, and may every time. That endeavor, assuming I ever attend all 30 parks, will run me $300 (another $230 now), before even considering tickets and travel.

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All 7 cups in order in which I bought them. Left to right: Yankees (2009), Orioles (2009), Rangers (2012), Mets (2012), Red Sox (2016), Nationals (2016), Phillies (2016)

 

Despite this low-value exchange, I have a fond attachment for my collection. I must concede that if they were animated, and hoping to be used for drinking, they’d be bitterly disappointed in the role they play. I use them as a display, and a reminder of where I’ve been, and when I see seven, I remember that I still need 23 more.  These seven plastic cups, varying in size though I’d venture approximately 32 ounces, all made in China, have the team logos, promotions, and the season’s schedule. I have accumulated this collection over time, ranging from 2009-2016, I would presume each one was manufactured in the year in which I bought it.  They vary in the messages they send, and are meant for drinking, I suppose, given that they are literally called souvenirs.  These cups obviously haven’t changed hands much, from manufacturer to buyer to the stadium concession stands where I purchased them.  I would enjoy my beverages on some hot days and nights, and some much cooler than I’d like (night games in May tend to leave you a little numb from cold).  Perhaps the most interesting part of compiling this collection is how difficult it is to get the cup from cupholder back to my house.  They’re so big and clunky and often still wet or sticky, without a lid to hold everything in.  It honestly is far more of a challenge than one would believe.  That fact, the obnoxious task of having to bring the cups from stadium to home, only increases my appreciation of them, as it is far more of an investment than it seems, I promise.  I’m sure you’ve all done it at one point or another, and you’ll probably agree, it’s just not as simple as bringing it home, there’s always something else at play.

This Camera is Older than Me

I have chosen a new object for this blog post: my Polaroid camera. It is a legit Polaroid camera, and it is legit from the 90s. I recently started using it again. I remember using it when I was very young, probably not more than 6 or 7 years old. We have Polaroid pictures scattered around our house from me and from my parents using it when my brother and I were very young. About one year ago now it popped back into my head. I have always loved the aesthetics of Polaroid film, but I didn’t like that sizing of those itty bitty Fujifilm frames. It seemed too small to capture anything. I researched Polaroid film online and found a company that produces the 3.3 in. by 3.3 in. frame that I desired. It’s called The Impossible Project. They managed to save the last standing building that produced the original Polaroid film long ago, and out of there they produce today’s film with a new recipe. You can purchase it on amazon; the colored bordered film is a little cheaper than the white bordered film, but either way they estimate to be between $23 and $25 a pop.

(And you only get eight photos in each pack, yikes!).

My interest started up again as I said about one year ago, and I have slowly gotten more into photography since then. I wanted to purchase a digital camera, as my phone camera was not satisfying enough, but I didn’t want to spend the five hundred or six hundred dollars to take ridiculously clear, digital pictures. I decided to investigate something I already had. Somewhere, stowed away in my parent’s bedroom was our old Polaroid One Step Flash camera. I asked my mom about it, she confirmed it still existed, and the next day it was in my hands. I didn’t want to risk spending money on expired film, though the vendors said it had been stored in the refrigerator and unopened (since the ‘90s? Wow). I found the above mentioned film company and have been purchasing with them ever since. I have had some really nice results!

The history of the Polaroid company stems back all the way to the 1920s, when the founder Edwin H. Land, left Harvard after his first year to research light polarization. He later collaborated with a former professor of his. In 1948, the first Model 95 Land camera was sold, and this was the prototype for all of Polaroids later models. This specific model, Polaroid 600, was released in 1981.

My mother purchased the camera for her wedding to my father in November of 1991. They left it out on a table with film, a notebook, and a glue stick for guests to make their mark in. My mom said she took it to California for their honeymoon. She took pictures of the Redwood forest and Yosemite National Park. I think there is a photograph somewhere at home of my dad standing in one of those tunnels made through the redwood tree base. The tree is dumbfoundingly huge. The purpose of it then seems to be to remember really important events in my parents’ lives, specifically their wedding and honeymoon. I now have the camera and I have to make sure it’s really something I want to take a picture of, given the high price of the film and only getting eight exposures per pack. I don’t yet have an album like they did, so right now all the pictures I’ve taken here are sitting in a pile in one of my drawers. I like the idea that it was passed down from my mom to me. Since I have such a limited means of taking these pictures, I feel like it gives me more of a chance to decide upon the really important moments in my life that are “worthy” enough for me to take an instant photograph. Also, in every picture there is some little imperfection. There are odd spots that look like the film got messed up from the heat or cold, but it’s not so prominent that it messes up the whole photo. It gives the pictures personality. If someone were to view all the pictures I’ve taken with this camera, it would give insight to my life; the events that happen and the choices I make. It’s unique. These little imperfections in the film it gives life to it and the camera itself after all it’s been through. It’s traveled across the country!

High-five If You Have A Hamsa!

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Behold another necklace! This necklace has a silver colored chain but it is not real silver. The pendant shape is called colloquially known as a “hamsa.” This word comes from the Arabic word, Khamsah, which means five. The number five refers to the number of fingers on a hand. The number is also connected to protection against the “Evil Eye.” It was traditionally an amulet, and many describe it to be a representation of the hand of God. Somehow this symbol has made its way into popular culture—specifically a Jewish one. Any young woman who has traveled to Israel returns to the United States with one for herself, and possibly with some extra for her friends and family. Young Jewish women—observant or secular—can be spotted wearing this necklace in all different shiny colors. I’d love to see men wear them, but I haven’t so far.

The pendant itself is nothing but a little piece of cheap plastic with little reflective flakes. My necklace in particular is white with green and blue flakes, but there are pink pendants, red ones, blue, etc. These necklaces are worn more often and openly than a Jewish star necklace, believe it or not. It’s like being in a club. If you see someone wearing it, it is not uncommon to start a conversation with that person, even if you have never met them before, and say “Hey! I’ve been to Israel, too,” or to ask “Hey, when did you last go?”

I have been to Israel twice. The first time I went, I really wanted to get the necklace, but I was low on cash and I didn’t. There was something so appealing about a small piece of cheap plastic. The necklace is definitely mass-produced and made in a factory. It is completely commercial. There is nothing unique about it, and yet I, like many others, felt an immense pull to buy one. During my second trip to Israel I finally bought one. I had found a bunch of these necklaces hanging in a small tourist jewelry shop in the Old City of Jerusalem. There was an older woman in the shop who sold the necklace to me for 32 shekels. This is the equivalent of about eight dollars in Israel. I bought it on Israel’s Independence Day. Outside a parade was about to start. The only two necklace colors available where white and blue, which are the color’s of Israel’s flag.

So first, this necklace was made in a factory in who knows what country, sent to a gift shop in Jerusalem, and then bought by me and brought to America. I wore it every day after I got it—right up until I started wearing my turtle necklace which I previously talked about in my blog. This necklace symbolizes my trip, my at times strained but beautiful connection to Judaism, and is a token of my honorary membership to the “I went to Israel” club.