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#a431 :: Antique Stanley line level

April 23, 2009

A little bit of rococo molding around a glass capsule half full of air. A tool for sensing the approximate direction of the center of the earth. A gen-yoo-wine aahhhrrr-teeeeeefaaaaaaaact.

Filed under: Instrument | Comments (0)

#a408 :: Meggy Jr. RGB

March 30, 2009

It’s finished. My son and I just soldered the last wires into place on this tonight, and it lit up perfectly. The Meggy Jr. RGB – a handheld video game with open-source, programmable memory chip – is ready for business. Eight solid hours we hunched over a dizzying array of resistors, capacitors, transistors and LED, […]

Filed under: Fetish, Instrument, Objet, Tool, Toy | Comments (0)

#a391 :: Neodymium cylinder

March 13, 2009

I have a thing for magnets. These are powerful enough to leave blood blisters if you let two of them snap together on you. A single one can support close to 10 pounds, depending on how you rig it. And when you place pinballs around one the magnetism distributes evenly through five of them, a […]

Filed under: Instrument, Mineral, Tool, Toy | Comments (0)

#a382 :: Brass bells

March 4, 2009

These have been floating around my parents’ house for as long as I can remember, by the dozens, it seems. There’s a pair serving as a keyfob, another set tied to a Christmas ornament, it seems, and various bells clinking around amidst their never-ending and unintentional collection of heavy little objects. I’d guess they came […]

Filed under: Adornment, Fetish, Instrument, My father's HLOs | Comments (0)

#a372 :: Kaleidoscope

February 22, 2009

I think we forget how to see. We’re so absorbed with processing most of the time that we fail to register the weight of anything in front of us. “Oh, there’s a car.” Not, “if I could have an exploded-view version of that floating around, I’d really have something.” This was a Christmas gift at […]

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#a371 :: Computer glasses

February 21, 2009

This is meta: I usually shoot objects while looking through these. If I flip the metaphor, is there a little me down there on the stand running around behind the lenses with a camera, shooting up? Even spectacles have weird dreams.

Filed under: Adornment, Instrument, Tool | Comments (0)

#a318 :: MINO Flip HD video camera

December 28, 2008

I have a problem with gadget blogs. They gush and bloviate on the merits of equipment that I either don’t need or desperately crave/cannot afford. So when the gushing about this device peaked last month, I reluctantly shoved the MINO Flip from the latter category to the former in my mind, and walked away. Then […]

Filed under: Fetish, Instrument, Tool | Comments (0)

#a312 :: Old “Backwards Bush” countdown timer

December 22, 2008

This thing has been kicking around my office for quite a while. Six years have flattened its battery. It was only supposed to have lasted another two years. I’m such an optimist. While you’re dozing the sand is completely eroded from beneath you and two years stretch to six. By the time you look up […]

Filed under: Artifact, Ephemera, Instrument, symbol, Tool | Comments (0)

#a291 :: Silver-plated pocket compass

December 1, 2008

This has to be the antique-shop-crawl find of all time: A pocket compass in a “hunter” watch case, lined with copper and plated in silver. When you close the lid, a fragile little arm clamps the needle in place, and when you open it, it e-e-e-ver-so-slowly noses north. $10. Unbelievable.

Filed under: Artifact, Instrument, symbol, Tool | Comments (0)

#a285 :: Toy compass

November 25, 2008

Were you lost in the wilderness, this would not help you out. Its needle swings wildly, influenced by the pulse of your hand, the mass of nearby metal, the wind, the whims of its Chinese manufacturers. It is a toy, smaller in diameter than a quarter, and if you put it down on the burning […]

Filed under: Facsimile, Found Object, Instrument, symbol | Comments (0)

#a277 :: Tin bell

November 17, 2008

just about rice-sized spotted by the trash can one day crushed, it will not sound

Filed under: Adornment, Instrument, Jetsam | Comments (0)

#a253 :: Desk cleaning time

October 24, 2008

You own a lot of shit. You accumulate more of it every day. Sometimes, you have to pick through it to get your desk clean. And you make little piles. That might or might not be photographs of your life told in debris. And yet, you never seem to get rid of the things as […]

Filed under: Adornment, Art, Artifact, Blahg, Ephemera, Facsimile, Fetish, Found Object, Instrument, Jetsam, Life form, Miniature, Model, Objet, Part, symbol, Tool, Toy, weapon | Comments (0)

#a252 :: Dental casts

October 23, 2008

Overcome for a moment, if you can, the urge to vomit: You’re looking at casts of someone’s teeth – full bicuspid-to-incisor replicas of a human’s business end, cast in peach-colored plaster, mounted on more white plaster that is set into a hinged contraption meant to approximate the original owner’s jaw. Only the hinge is too […]

Filed under: Artifact, Found Object, Instrument, Model, Tool | Comments (0)

#a242 :: Instocine filter selector?

October 13, 2008

I love mystery gadgets best of all. I have a sense of what this is for – but not, precisely, how to use it. Put the black bakelite eyecup to your eye and what do you see? A thin strip of optical film, with light showing through a tower of letters. Pull out the telescoping […]

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#a236 :: Stanley Handyman bullet level

October 7, 2008

It’s fitting that today’s object is a level. For today I have finally brought HLO completely up to date, after a double-whammy punch of working vacation with my family in London for a month and a full-bore trip to Burning Man crushed my daily blog output. A good level operates with an oracular efficiency and […]

Filed under: Artifact, Found Object, Instrument, Part, symbol, Toy | Comments (0)

#a227 :: Executive Pocket Chum

September 28, 2008

The Executive Pocket Chum measures the thickness and thinness of things to the 32nd of an inch, or the fraction of a millimeter. One can imagine it monitoring the precision of millwork tumbling from Gary, Indiana steel plants into assembly-line catch-bins by the millions in 1950s. Or the diameter of overbored engine cylinders in something […]

Filed under: Fetish, Instrument, Tool | Comments (0)

#a189 :: Tattoo needle

August 21, 2008

There’s a certain serenity to getting tattooed. You sit (or lie) back on the chair or table and agree to let someone cause you tremendous pain for several hours and scar you for life. What gets you through the pain is the promise of how marvelous the scar will be. I’ve been waiting months to […]

Filed under: Artifact, Instrument, Jetsam, symbol, Tool | Comments (0)

#a187 :: iPhone 3G

August 19, 2008

My birthday gift. My wife’s love in a handheld marvel. My new video game platform. My toy. My crack pipe. My next-gen paid-content conduit. My memory bank. My little wallet-suck. My preeeeciousssss. My underestimation of Apple‘s continued brilliance at industrial design. My PDA. My GPS. My portable Thomas Guide. My jukebox. My phone. The blue […]

Filed under: Art, Fetish, Instrument, Objet, Part, symbol, Tool, Toy, weapon | Comments (0)

#a181 :: Handheld laser projector

August 12, 2008

A clear memory: I was 9. We were in the Smithsonian. The room was dark. Someone was demonstrating laser beams. The name, so ineffably cool. L-A-S-E-R. Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Sharp, bright red patterns on the wall. In the future, we’ll all be using lasers. Living rooms and spaceships will look like […]

Filed under: Fetish, Instrument, Toy | Comments (0)

#a177 :: Bamboo nose flute

August 8, 2008

Like the Jew’s harp, this elegant little pocket instrument came from Adaptatrap Percussion in Brighton. You press the curved mask against your nose, shape your lips into an O around the bottom shape and exhale nasally. If you cup your tong right, you get a round, easily dopplered note like that of a slide-whistle. I […]

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#a155 :: Jew’s harp

July 18, 2008

Parsing the anti-Semitic etymology of “Jew’s harp” is a dicey business, as Wikipedia amply demonstrates. Better to appreciate that one of the oldest instruments in the world hasn’t evolved so much as found its shape in many cultures. This one is Vietnamese – an elegantly simple tine of hammered brass that has been shaped and […]

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#a142 :: Rubber watch

July 5, 2008

They gave these out to the kids with tickets for Wall-E. Movie – gorgeous to look at, groundbreaking, but not nearly as smart and funny as Kung Fu Panda. Watch – blue silicone rubber around a little cheesebox chip of Chinese chircuitry. My son’s came broken.

Filed under: Adornment, General, Instrument, Jetsam, Tool | Comments (0)

#a132 :: Korg Kaossilator dynamic phrase synthesizer

June 25, 2008

Fair warning: I held Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson in very high regard when I was, like, 13. I thought Frankenstein was the single coolest thing I’d ever heard played on keyboards (after “The Well-Tempered Synthesizer”). I keep Amon Tobin and DJ Spooky on heavy rotation these days. I am a hopeless synthesizer slut …

Filed under: Fetish, Instrument, Toy | Comments (1)

#a119 :: Broken cleaver

June 12, 2008

I am going to tell you a story now. A man fell in love with a woman. She fell in love back. They married, and to celebrate their marriage, they journeyed to Beijing. They toured the city, mesmerized. They ate rich and pungent food. They heard lush choral music sung by brightly-dressed acrobats in vivid […]

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#a111 :: Moo cards

June 4, 2008

Why is this – get up to 100 of your own images printed on the back of little half-width business cards – such an immensely attractive offer? Because you can print whatever the hell you want. Because it’s like owning the factory. Or perhaps renting it. Because since they’re double-small, people look at them twice […]

Filed under: Art, Instrument, Jetsam, Objet, symbol | Comments (0)


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