Extra/Ordinary Stuff!

1000 Extra/ordinary Objects by Taschen

I have long admired German publisher Taschen’s affordable art and design books – I have quite a few in my library on favourite artists (Hopper, various Pop Artists, etc).

1000 objects

To celebrate their 25th anniversary, they produced a series of books, and 1000 Extra/Ordinary objects (note the slash) is one of them.  I found this in one of my local charity shops, and snapped it up.

It simply features 1000 objects clearly photographed against a white background, with a short descriptive text for each in English and German. But what a collection of objects!

They are divided into thematic chapters:  Food, Fashion, Animals, Body, Soul, and Leisure.  A short foreword by Peter Gabriel discusses our relationship with our stuff…

People like to surround themselves with objects – it’s part of our nature. It may be an anal instinct, but we like our stuff.
People are surrounded by their objects, whether they are useful, decorative, beautiful, ugly, common or rare, we can’t help but leave clues everywhere as to our identity. Clues about our culture, national identity, political ideology, religious affiliation and sexual inclinations, our objects reflect who we really are and who we want to be. …
We have made pictures of our ancestors from the things they have left behind. So it will be for the archaeologists of the future – by our objects you will know us.

I’ve picked a very small selection of objects to share with you below. The majority are even more interesting than these, but would be difficult to show here in isolation for all sorts of non-PC reasons…

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Food: (left) 3.7 million cans of this were sold in 1997 – the shapes include dolls, bows, necklaces, high-heels. There are all sorts of brain and designer foods in this section too.

Fashion: (right) A South African carry case for your AK-47, only available in black. Also featuring a variety of boots, pubic wigs, bottom enhancing pads etc. Very few conventional clothes!

Animals: (left)  US La Pooch perfume from 1987 was available in his (spicy) and her (musky) fragrances for your dog.

Body: (right) you can buy aerosols containing pure oxygen.  NB: Most of the objects in this section are sex-toys or body enhancements!  I did learn why condoms are called ‘French letters’ though (they were illegal in England at one time, and were sent inside letters from France – simples!)

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Soul: (left) a Star of David slinky in national colours from the USA.  Also many plastic icons, prayer aids, and the cilicio (as worn by Silas in The Da Vinci Code, a device to make you feel uncomfortable).

Leisure: (right)  Now the war is over, you can buy engraved bullet cases in Sarajevo.  Also a Polish Lego model of a concentration camp, Philippino paper chains used as room separators made from ciggie packets.

All of human life is here – absurd, funny, fascinating – but nasty, gruesome and thought-provoking too.  None of these items are ordinary – those future archaeologists will have a field-day!

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Source: Own copy. To explore further on Amazon, please click below:
1000 Extraordinary Objects, Taschen (2000), Colors (2005). Currently o/p.

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Through the keyhole …

Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About Youby Sam Gosling

I defy any browsing bibliomane not to pick this book up on seeing the arrangements of books and comfy armchair through the keyhole on its cover!

I’m sure that you, like me, sniff out the bookcases as soon as you go in someone’s house. If they do have lots of books, I believe you can get a feel for their owner(s), and even the most  dedicated library user will have some evidence of their bookish loves.

Snoop is, of course, about much more than bookshelves.  Gosling is an English-born Professor of Psychology in Texas, and his speciality is a kind of benign psychological profiling by looking at peoples’ possessions.  In particular, he researches into correlations between the big five personality traits: Conscientiousness, Openness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism, and the stuff we own and how we treat and display it.

Initially, he recruited and trained a team of ‘snoopers’ and set them to work on volunteer students’ rooms. He ended up later on national television comparing the rooms of TV news anchormen. In between, there is loads of psychological discussion of the subject and case studies (all American).

Gosling is an entertaining teacher – his writing is straight-forward and free from jargon.  It’s also witty, and being a Brit, he is self-deprecating – we gradually get a picture of him too from his descriptions of his own stuff, (no TV – Shock!).

I was entertained, but was I transformed into a super-snooper?  For a man who  has spent his professional career trying to read peoples’ posessions, Gosling has largely proved how inexact it all really is!

  • You can only really deduce information about conscientiousness (how tidy you are) and openness (generally evidenced by a wide range of books, music, etc). You can tell tidy from tidied.
  • Stereotypes are useful initially, but be prepared to dump them – there are too many exceptions to the rule.
  • Popular musical tastes are largely irrelevant.
  • How can you tell whether the ‘you’ through the things you display is the real one?
  • You can be wrong-tracked as a snooper by stuff not belonging to the snoopee, just left behind or being looked after.
  • As a snooper, you need to be familiar with the cultural mores and brand awareness of the snoopee to get the most information out of it.  There’s no point in looking at someone’s music and film collections or make-up bag if you haven’t heard of the artists or brands.

I quite like pop science books, so I enjoyed dipping into this one. I haven’t learned much, and it certainly won’t stop me from snooping at other people’s bookcases, which I find usually give a clear indication of intellectual pursuits!  (6.5/10)

Do you enjoy snooping around other peoples’ bookcases?  Bet you do!

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I bought my copy. To explore further on Amazon UK, please click below:
Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About Youby Sam Gosling, pub 2009 by Profile Books, 288 pages.