Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's a Knick-Knack, Patty Whack

The mainstream media is dropping the ball on this majorly important story, and you may have missed their fleeting mention of it, so I am bringing it to your attention to get your input. After he is sworn in as president on January 20, Barack Obama will have a "luncheon" with members of Congress, and they will give him an inauguration present. It will be this crystal bowl on a little pedestal.

Congress commissioned it from Lenox, Inc., the china company, who also did the inaugural gifts for the last several presidents. It took hundreds of hours to make, was handcut and etched, and weighs 8 pounds. According to the press release from Lenox (which all of the news reports just reproduced), "As the bowl is rotated, the president's residence can be seen through the cherry trees on each side." Well, golly! Apparently Joe Biden will get a similar bowl, but with a picture of the Capitol Building.

I didn't even know that Congress had a tradition of giving gifts to the newly sworn-in presidents. When I saw this bowl, I thought, "Um, really?" In the press release, Senator Dianne Feinstein says that the bowl "captures the beauty and dignity" of the inauguration. But when I look at it, my reaction--dare I say--is, "That's tacky." Something about the way his name and "The Presidential Inauguration" is etched right on there. . . to me it makes it less beautiful and more like a souvenir. A tchotchke. Like a shot glass or, ooh, one of those ceramic bells you can buy in truck stops.

Okay, okay! It's not a shot glass. I kid. It's not TOTALLY vulgar. But it is a tiny bit vulgar. The engraved pedestal makes a statement, and the statement is, "This object is for show, not to be pretty and useful. You'll want to use this for showing off." If they had etched the name and date onto the bowl somewhere, instead of having that extra piece, it would have been 100 times klassier. So it's for show, but unlike other beautiful objects that are "just for show," like a china plate on a mantelpiece, it never had a life as a useful object. It also has no history except what it announces, itself, with its engraving--it's designed to be an "instant heirloom." And its $2,500 pricetag does not justify its sad ostentation: it is showy--"here's a gift, we had your name put on it for you"--but it lacks either artistic importance OR real beauty. The bowl is touted as one-of-a-kind, but it doesn't seem like that. It's safe, it's boring, it would be better as a snow globe. Or is my reaction weird? I know that the issue of taste is a minefield. What do you think?

I am just picturing Michelle's reaction when Barack brings it home and hands it to her. Like, "What am I going to do with this?" So Michelle, not that you need help in this area, but here are a couple of ways that this gift can be used tastefully, in my opinion: First of all, lose the pedestal. Like, put it in a drawer where no one can see it. Now, either put the bowl on a hall table as a cellphone-and-keys receptacle, or put it in a guest bathroom filled with little toiletry products. That would be witty and appropriate. Any other ideas? And Michelle, I would love to chat about that or anything, so call me, girlfriend. I mean, Madam First Lady.

16 comments:

Veronica said...

You're right, it sort of looks like instead of being engraved with "Presidential Inauguration," it could read "West Wing employee of the month" or something. Maybe Michelle could ask him to leave it in the Oval Office, and visiting dignitaries from other countries could drop their business cards in there, or something? Do dignitaries carry business cards?

Jane said...

I'm with you: tacky. It even has a touch of an obligatory feeling, like the desk calendar you got the aunt you don't really like for Christmas. "Look, I didn't know what to get you and I know you won't actually enjoy this. But you can see I was appropriately thoughtful, so can we all just play nice?"

Michele said...

It's inauguration fever! And if Michelle calls you will you please blog about it. Cuz, it would Rock!

Keely said...

Totally looks like it came straight from the souvenir shop and they just slapped a pedestal on it.

I bet they even sell little replicas AT the souvenir shop.

A Day That Is Dessert said...

You are so funny! My first reaction was also "that's tacky" and I'm sure Michelle is already trying to figure out how to hide it.

Carrie said...

Yeah, it's tacky. And yet, I don't think it would set quite the right tone with Congress to stick their inaugural gift in the bathroom.

David said...

wow. it's awful... i've got a wager for you: ten bucks says replicas will be produced and sold on late-night television. i don't know if you've noticed, but there are already like a thousand "commemorative" stamps, coins, and -- huh? -- even a stainless steel twenty-dollar bill being shelled around this inauguration. and why are we hearing about *this* gift -- when we've never heard about any such gifts being given to past prezes? maybe we'll be able to get our own, less lenox-y version for three easy installments of $19.95? like the sham-wow.

Amy said...

I agree, it looks a bit cheese to me. Like what you'd get for graduating or something. I think Michelle oughta put it on top of her dresser and use it for the extra buttons that come when you buy new clothes.

An interesting topic for commenters would be, what would be a more appropriate gift for the new president?

Kate said...

Yeah, totally tacky. It reminds me of one of those t-shirts "I went to the 2009 Inauguration and all I got was this lousy shirt." It's that kind of tacky.

Bren said...

I hear that the page who was sent to pick it up at "Things Remembered" at the mall pocketed the free engraved keychain that came with it and traded it in for an Orange Julius.

Becky said...

You guys are hilarious. You said it way better than I did in my post. Anyway, I did ask Matt what he thought an appropriate gift for the new president would be, and he scrunched up his face and said, "Wool socks?"

I guess that's what you give the man who has everything.

Coffee with Cathy said...

But are we surprised that Congress chose a tacky, useless and totally too-expensive thing that's just going to take up space with no redeeming value whatsoever? I rest my case.

Casey said...

How very strange. I think your idea of cell phone/keys holder is perfect. In fact, Michelle can ship it my way since I need to work on the clutter that is my countertop.

Cassie said...

Bren, hahaha!

I agree. Obligatory and tacky. Now I'm dying to know what kinds of things were given to past presidents...

Veronica said...

Dude, I just watched them get presented with their new bowls. They're much bigger than I had realized. And still tacky.

Becky said...

Ooh, okay, I just saw them too. They are very big and shiny. I thought the picture taking moment with the bowls was a little weird.