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# a426 :: CD opener keychain

April 18, 2009

To someone who uses knives as much as I do, this thing is about as useful as Truck Balls. You press it against the side of a sealed CD or DVD, depressing a spring-loaded cap to reveal a tiny steel blade that slices open the shrink-wrap. They were giving them away today at Amoeba for […]

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#a392 :: Old Rohrshach pin

March 14, 2009

Twenty-two years after Watchmen changed my psychotopography and appreciation for the nuances of fiction forever, they finally got it completely right. We saw it again this afternoon, and fell even deeper into it than we had at the midnight premiere at the Dome a week earlier. The movie is an extraordinarily accomplished telling of the […]

Filed under: Adornment, Art, Artifact, Ephemera, Fetish, symbol | Comments (2)

#a389 :: Amethyst “crystal”

March 11, 2009

She regards it with suspicion. “Amethyst?” The Chinese shopkeeper nods firmly. “Finest, from Xian province. Xian province. Terra cotta warrior. Xian.” He keeps nodding. She drums her French-tipped nails against its too-glossy sides. She pricks at her fingertips with its perfectly asymmetrical point. She hefts it. Rolls it over in her perfumed hand. Then she […]

Filed under: Artifact, Fetish, Microfiction, Mineral, Objet, symbol | Comments (0)

#a381 :: Flexplay DVD

March 3, 2009

This is one of those freaks of science that will have completely obsolesced within 10 years. I weep at the sheer volume and depth of technological experimentation and collaboration that culminated in its manufacture – all of it doomed to the landfill and a fascinating footnote in Wikipedia because of FlexPlay‘s very wizardry: A Flexplay […]

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#a379 :: Las Vegas tiki culture artifact

March 1, 2009

The Aku-Aku Restaurant opened in 1960 inside the much-fabled Stardust Casino in Las Vegas. When the Stardust was imploded in 2007, mob-culture journalist Nick Pileggi called it “the Bellagio of its day, the most dazzling casino out there.” The Aku Aku ran for 20 years.=, a veritable temple of tiki culture (Here’s its appetizer menu). […]

Filed under: Art, Artifact, Ephemera, Facsimile, Fetish, symbol | Comments (0)

#a369 :: Lucky lead pig

February 19, 2009

Once upon a time, his paint was perfect. You can see it on his good side – the bright and chipper eye facing the lucky shamrock dangling from his left jowls – that look that says fortune will smile on us both if you keep me close. Flip to the other side – the stem […]

Filed under: Artifact, Ephemera, Fetish, Miniature, My father's HLOs, symbol | Comments (0)

#a366 :: Original copper transmission line – Hoover Dam

February 16, 2009

This is almost the holy grail of heavy little objects: a thing with history, patina, functionality, exciting manufacture and moving parts. Jesus, it made me one happy tool-using ape to find this: a chunk of the original copper electrical transmission line installed during construction of the mighty Hoover Dam. For five bucks you get a […]

Filed under: Artifact, Ephemera, Fetish, Jetsam, Part, symbol, Tool | Comments (2)

#a365 :: Lead type

February 15, 2009

It’s fitting that I mark the end of my second full year of daily obsession on this blog with such an archetypal handful of heavy little objects: I found these samples of a truly lovely display font in an antique shop in rural Arizona earlier this week – artifacts of a dead technology going for […]

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#a364 :: Las Vegas thrill tickets

February 14, 2009

I work in this office, in my home. It’s a nice office, in a very nice home, but when you’re in a building 24/7, you develop a deep need to get the hell out before your urge to claw your hair out turns too real. Cabin fever and a three-day weekend conspired to send us […]

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#a360 :: Temperance-era novelty bar tool

February 9, 2009

This conflicted fellow was cast in pot-metal and chromed in cheap silver probably more than 100 years ago. His top-hat is a jigger, his feet end in a spoon, the better to mix you a nice drink and present you with a little moral dilemma in the bargain: Do you spoon something into your drink, […]

Filed under: Artifact, Ephemera, Facsimile, My father's HLOs, Objet, Tool | Comments (2)

#a357 :: Rokenbok ball

February 6, 2009

Children’s toys approximate reality. In the happy world of Rokenbok this is not a huge, filthy boulder shot through with veins of iron and smeared with the engine oil it’s been sitting in in the junkyard where you unearthed it after the glacier dropped it 3.2 million years ago. It’s just part of a load […]

Filed under: Artifact, Ephemera, Jetsam, Part, Toy | Comments (0)

#a341 :: Obama campaign pin

January 21, 2009

I never repeat heavy little objects. I mean, never. My little daily obsession can be a cruel taskmistress, sometimes commanding me to find something cool to post even when nothing cool has come through my life. But like an idiot samurai, I live and die by a code set in motion long ago and over […]

Filed under: Adornment, Artifact, Ephemera, Facsimile, Fetish, Objet, symbol, Tool, weapon | Comments (0)

#a336 :: Railroad date nail

January 15, 2009

According to the Nailhunter, who has a dizzyingly exhaustive collection of these online, workers pounded date nails into railroad ties, bridges and telephone poles to identify and date the structure, sequence and ownership of the structures. You can pick them up at swap meets for a buck or two. This one really appealed to my […]

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#a334 :: Tin advertising whistle

January 14, 2009

Vintage viral marketing, for what may or may not be Captain Black tobacco. Blow through the stem and you get a sweet bosun’s-pipe peep. By the look of the printing, this dates back at least 50 or 60 years, but Googling bears no clear clues to its origins. You gotta love the mascot’s pissed-off expression […]

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

#a328 :: Glass syringe

January 7, 2009

She fiddles with it. Finally squeezes a needle onto it. And fixes up. Big fucking horse syringe. Soup spoon full of horse. The snap and heat of the Bic under the spoon brings her to:

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

#a326 :: Porcelain doll head

January 5, 2009

He was rendered in porcelain bisque, no bigger than the end of my thumb many, many decades ago. This angelic countenance stands ready to receive whatever whim, benediction or mad wish a child of 18XX might bestow upon him. If he had a body, it’s gone now. No matter. Capped with glazed curls, his smile […]

Filed under: Artifact, Facsimile, Miniature, Part, Toy | Comments (0)

#a325 :: Padlock

January 4, 2009

Two chunks of cast brass, a loop of hardened steel, a little red paint. An amulet against burglary. A barrier against the night. Put it in your magpie’s hoard. Slip it into your boxing glove. Clamp it through the hasp of your Navy trunk and lose the key, dooming yourself to a 10-minute round of […]

Filed under: Artifact, Objet, Tool | Comments (0)

#a321 :: Shooting badge

December 31, 2008

William Randolph Hearst had a thing for guns. The newspaper magnate and industrialist (and model for the titular character in Citizen Kane) had his name put on rifle events in the 40s and 50s, and they’ve been resurrected lately for reasons that may or may not bear Googling. This badge was awarded to some sharpshooter […]

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

#a320 :: Traveling Ganesha

December 30, 2008

He is the lord and destroyer of obstacles and like his brother, he came from San Francisco – indeed from another shop in the same block on Columbus Avenue. He is brass, barely 1.25 inches high, carrying his teapot and parasol on the road from here to there. He smiles benevolently, secure in some knowledge […]

Filed under: Artifact, Ephemera, Fetish, Microfiction, Miniature, symbol | 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)

#a304 :: Agitprop

December 14, 2008

Even with the massive combined forces of a wronged and angry nation of voters, a reinvigorated Democratic party machine and some of the savviest campaigning in history buoying him up, Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 presidential election was hardly the landslide it should have been. The count was 69.4 million to 59.9 million, which […]

Filed under: Art, Artifact, Ephemera, symbol | Comments (1)

#a298 :: Porcelain numbered sphere

December 8, 2008

To be fair, this has pinholes in either end, making its utility as some sort of glorified golfball-sized bead more apparent. But I prefer to ignore the hole, and imagine it as a prop from Her Majesty’s weekly bingo game, held secretly in the rooms beneath Buckingham Palace. It’s made of porcelain and fired with […]

Filed under: Adornment, Art, Artifact | Comments (1)

#a297 :: Chinese novelty matchboxes

December 7, 2008

I can’t tell if these are serious products of Chinese public-health propaganda agencies or just an Engrish yock cooked up by China’s ever-creative but English-impaired export trade. Not sure it matters – they’ll own us completely by 2020. All I know is these were 40 cents each at a curio shop in Chinatown, and they […]

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#a296 :: 4H Pin

December 6, 2008

California is a land of exiles. For that reason – among many others – I love it. Anyone not born here has come to explore, to self-reinvent, to escape forces of oppression or boredom or hopelessness left behind. This westward tide has flowed for centuries, pulling wave upon wave of Spaniards, gold-rushers, dust-bowled Okies, Sinaloan […]

Filed under: Adornment, Artifact, Ephemera, Found Object, symbol | Comments (0)

#a294 :: Ideal “Powermite” orbital sander

December 4, 2008

In 1969, the Ideal Toy company came out with a line of fully operational miniature powertools that plugged into battery supplies built into their small carrying cases. This “Powermite” sander is about three inches long by two inches tall and less than an inch wide, and came with little sheets of sandpaper, which clamped onto […]

Filed under: Artifact, Ephemera, Fetish, Found Object, Miniature, Tool, Toy | Comments (0)


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