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November 16, 2005

All beautiful and some obviously magical
Posted by Teresa at 02:23 PM * 28 comments

You know that seriously cool toyshop that keeps turning up in fantasy stories? (The benign version, I mean.) The Grand Illusions Toy Shop comes as close to it as anything I’ve seen. Prices range from £3, for a pair of non-transitive dice, to £4,500, for your very own almost-Enigma machine. (It’s actually a Nema machine, the postwar version the Swiss manufactured for use by their own military.) They pay all the shipping costs.

The rest of their site is likewise full of marvels and wonders: orreries, optical illusions, short articles about their various toys, short articles about other intriguing subjects, stuff you can make

Shiny!

Comments on All beautiful and some obviously magical:
#1 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 03:37 PM:

There goes my afternoon.

#2 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 04:08 PM:

Ah, to have my own decoding machine...

#3 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 04:13 PM:

Unfortunately they're only selling the one decoding machine; who would you have send you the encoded messages?

#4 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 04:19 PM:

Oh, my. Shiny. Look at all the pretty things!

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 04:44 PM:

That's the word I wanted!

Thanks, Mad.

#6 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 05:20 PM:

Ok, this is driving me crazy-I know the topic title's a quote from somewhere familiar. Where, please?

And those are fascinating toys!

#7 ::: Dan Blum ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 05:46 PM:

The title is from The Fellowship of the Ring, in the Bilbo's birthday party section (courtesy of Google - I was pretty sure it was Tolkien but couldn't recall where from, exactly).

#8 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 05:50 PM:

Details, Jakob, details...

#9 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 06:08 PM:

Shiny.. I feel compelled to change the topic briefly and ask a question that's been bugging me.

Shiny is an interesting bit of "idiom" (I'm sure there's a better word than that, but I can never come up with the right words when I need them) introduced in Firefly -
but is it a bit of Chinese, like the cursing, or is it just something that was brilliantly made up/adopted from English, and and we'll all be using for the rest of our lives? When will it get into the OED?

#10 ::: Steph ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 06:09 PM:

Blast it, that Harry Eng bottle is going to keep me awake all night wondering how he got that deck of cards in there.

#11 ::: TChem ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 06:25 PM:

Steph--The same thing caught my eye. I was thinking he might've drilled a hole through the deck, then disassembled everything and added the cards to the deck one-by-one before resetting the bolt. Or maybe there's nothing in the card-box. Or did you *want* to be kept awake all night?

#12 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 07:08 PM:

Re: "Shiny": I haven't seen enough Firefly not to identify this with The Tick. Which is apt in its own way.

Yes, shiny.

#13 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 08:14 PM:

:slaps forehead: Of course! Thanks, Dan!

#14 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 08:22 PM:

I'll send this link to my only relative who not only understood but truly appreciated getting a Klein Bottle for Christmas.

#15 ::: Irene Ferris ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 08:48 PM:

I am now frantically trying to figure out how to afford enough of those pop up snowman cards for everyone on my Yule list. Short of taking out a second mortgage, that is.

I wants it, Precious.

::le sigh::

#16 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 09:11 PM:

Aaaaah! I remember that freaky dragon! (BoingBoing?)

#17 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 16, 2005, 11:49 PM:

For truly shiny:

Chris Ware, the eternally depressed and self-loathing funny book* author / artist, makes artifacts based on his comics.

Like a coin-operated automata based on his two-headed cat character. It is in antique-looking wood and glass case with olde fashioned looking fittings.

#18 ::: HP ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 12:18 AM:

Re. "Shiny": I haven't seen Serenity, and I haven't see Firefly since the series first aired, but Madeleine's use of "shiny" is consistent with my own ideolect for years and years.

I know it was at least six or seven years ago that I rechristened a bassist I worked with "Shiny" because of his ability to become completely distracted by nearby pieces of technology for hours at a time. (We had a gig once that involved walking past a parked helicopter, and he very nearly made us late. OTOH, he once saved a gig by rewiring an old repurposed console organ with a paperclip, so it was all for the good.)

Wait a sec -- wasn't there some work of children's fiction that had a character who was an anthropomorphized packrat (or was it a magpie?), who could never finish a sentence? He'd say, "Of course I'll help you, Mr.--- Oooh, shiny!" and go running off after scraps of cellophane or whatever. Dim memories of childhood characters from thirty-odd years ago.... But I suspect that might be the source.

I also dimly recall the phrase "easily captivated by bright, shiny objects" as a mildly pejorative euphemism and a minor catchphrase around the same time.

#19 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 01:56 AM:

Shiny is an interesting bit of "idiom" (I'm sure there's a better word than that, but I can never come up with the right words when I need them) introduced in Firefly -

You'll also find Kiki the ferret in Sluggy Freelance exclaiming "Shiny!"

#20 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 08:34 AM:

I also associate shiny with magpies (my husband thinks I'm part magpie, because I'm easily distr) and often talk about the bright shiny object that is the Internet so I was well pleased to see "shiny" on Firefly.

#21 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 08:42 AM:

wasn't there some work of children's fiction that had a character who was an anthropomorphized packrat (or was it a magpie?), who could never finish a sentence? He'd say, "Of course I'll help you, Mr.--- Oooh, shiny!" and go running off after scraps of cellophane or whatever.

I believe you are thinking of The Secret of NIMH, which was a movie of Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. There's a crow in the movie who keeps exclaiming "Sparkly!" and trying to get the titular Mrs Brisby (changed to avoid problems with the Frisbee people) to give him the Plot Coupon, a magic amulet which is not in the book.

Oh, side note: I noticed the other day that there's another Carrie around, so I'm going to be Carrie S. to avoid confusion

#22 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 01:44 PM:

Shiny, indeed.

And I have ADD, so I'm all about shiny --

something just caught my eye, back later.

#23 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 02:14 PM:

The Buffybot on Buffy said "oo, shiny" too.

#24 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 03:14 PM:

I've been calling myself an intellectual magpie for years; I see a shiny new idea, figure out how it works, get bored, and go on to the next shiny idea. (Hey, I should have patented that!)

#25 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 03:33 PM:

I downloaded and built that dragon, and it's really wonderful.

You have to look at it from below, and from a distance, and you have to move, not it (else shifting shadows will reveal the trick) but ... as something to put on a high shelf, it's Neat.

#26 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 05:55 PM:

I've been wondering about Firefly's "Shiny", too, since it sometimes gets used in ways that are divorced from the Magpie meaning. I can *almost* see the one evolving into the other, but only almost.

#27 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 09:06 PM:

Yes - that's what bugged me.
The meaning on Firefly seems to me _not_ to be the magpie "that's pretty", but more "that's cool" or often simply "nice".

Anyway, the magpie meaning is a fine derivation, and I'm convinced it isn't a corruption of the Chinese -
so we can return this hijacked topic back to its original shiny origins and illusions.

#28 ::: Melissa Mead ::: (view all by) ::: November 17, 2005, 09:27 PM:

Carrie S:

"Oo, a sparkly! You're wearing a sparkly!"

I'd forgotten about that! My sisters and I quoted that line for weeks afterward. Dom Delouise did the voice, right?

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