Sunday, June 07, 2009

The art of gift giving

He's done it again. It's not easy to come up with awesome, ship-able gifts from 1.5 million states away. But The Man manages to find me things that are thoughtful and beautiful and exactly what I've always wanted... even if I never knew they existed. I've already told you about the flowers, The Thing, and the tea set, and about the ingenious t-shirt subscription. But his talent for finding unique gifts - things not known to exist to even the most prolific of online shoppers - is best exemplified by the most recent arrival.


This is a deck of cards.* Not just playing cards, but arty playing cards. They're by Kahn & Selesnick and are a reproduction of the actual 1920s Eisbergfreistadt playing cards.

Never heard of Eisbergfreistadt? I hadn't either. But it's a fascinating story, and had The Man not sent me these cards I never would've known of it.

In late 1923, a huge ice burg drifted to the German port of Lubeck. The ice burg was named Eisbergfreistadt (Ice burg Free State) and proclaimed a free trade area. Though it failed to become the offshore banking haven as was hoped, it captured the attention of the people and became something of a tourist attraction. Thought to be a sign that the polar ice caps were melting and an apocalypse brewing, the burg inspired gloomy songs as well as souvenirs - playing cards, for example. (I'm paraphrasing from this article. You should read it because I'm leaving out a lot of specifics, and generally retelling it poorly. Move your mouse around on it, and you'll find a number of live links.)

The artwork is lovely, with an intriguing image depicted on each card. Laid side-to-side, the individual images of each suit flow together to create a larger scene. And the poetic warning of the Jokers is eerily timely.

They are far too divine to ever shuffle. I should almost like to frame them.

*Photos taken from the Kahn & Selesnick website, where you can also purchase the cards.

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