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#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.

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#a290 :: Newspaper Guild badge

November 30, 2008

If you believe in the primacy of the American union, you’d be within your rights to believe that joining the American Newspaper Guild would give you job security. Two things have dashed that myth for me: First, I spent a good six weeks, Monday through Friday sitting on the sidewalk outside the Philadelphia Inquirer building […]

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

#a284 :: Pirate doubloon

November 24, 2008

Down at the other end of the mock-currency spectrum, plastic doubloons are minted in China by the chestful to lend that yo-ho-ho feeling to your kid’s birthday party. I found this in the grass at a park today at another kid’s birthday party, while watching yet another birthday party setting up. The trappings – and […]

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#a281 :: Cupcake topper

November 21, 2008

More than 500 million human beings live in absolute poverty. Right now. Their lot is not changing. More than 15 million children die of hunger every year. Starve. To. Death. How many children is that? Numbers are pretty meaningless when you’re talking about entire nations of people, but do some math: Remember the faces of […]

Filed under: Art, Artifact, Ephemera, Facsimile, Fetish, Found Object, Jetsam, Miniature, Model, symbol, Toy | Comments (0)

#a280 :: Copper pipe fitting

November 20, 2008

This has been skittering around the floor of our back hallway for a while, a relic of the unpleasant shower-valve failure incident. Copper is the lushest metal color, more wonderful than gold.

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#a274 :: Electronic shriek box

November 14, 2008

A simple soundboard, wired to a switch and a speaker. I disemboweled it from (?) an 8×11 promo folder for “Scream 2008” that landed in my wife’s office. When you opened the cover of the folder, a horrific shriek would ensue: “AUUUGHHHAAAAAAAGOODDDDNOOOOO!!!” Soon, I’ll be attaching it to Screaming Tiki so that he can get […]

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

#a263 :: Battery package

November 3, 2008

A barely recyclable skin, shucked from the future corpses of non-recyclable devices that are designed to power other devices that would otherwise be helpless without them. Could we do without these husks? Could we bind batteries together with rubber bands or zipties or something less insulting to the environment? Could we design solar chargers for […]

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#a262 :: Religious medal

November 2, 2008

We hold these things close – our beliefs. They guide our acts, they govern our thoughts, they control how we vote, whom we love, what we do in the dark. And we bind ourselves to these intangible self-truths with talismans – headdresses, tefillim, hair shirts and medals. This is an odd little find – it […]

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#a261 :: Candy wrappers – War of the Worlds on Twitter

November 1, 2008

I’m winding down from a raucous, madhouse Halloween night. It was also my son’s birthday. It’s been deadline time for a pretty ambitious project at work. It’s the day a friend got married in the space of 10 minutes at lunchtime at the top of a mountain (up the wrong side of which I hiked […]

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#a260 :: Meteorite!

October 31, 2008

Oh my gawd: Readers of this blog know that I don’t tend to post gushy teenage exclamations like “oh my gawd” that often (as in, never) But here it is, one of those Heavy Little Objects that really makes you say “oh, my effing gawd: A chunk of bona-fide space rock. But check the picture […]

Filed under: Artifact, Found Object, Microfiction, Part | 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 […]

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#a246 :: Creepy Crawlers mold

October 17, 2008

This deeply iconic toy from my youth let you commit a sort of reverse archaeology: Begin with the shapes left in metal by “disgusting” creatures – an aluminum “fossil” that holds the power to create a form of life. Pour plasma-like “Plasti-Goop” into their very absence. Heat it on a small thermoelectric hotplate. Watch the […]

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#A244 :: Obama campaign pin

October 15, 2008

THE U.S. MEDIASPHERE (Oct. 14, post-debate) (HLO) – Joe the Plumber. Indeed. Look, this blog isn’t political. I don’t dump my heart out about the government here. Most days, this stuff is just one more step in my years-long tabletop parade of things. But please, if you’re thinking of voting for one would-be U.S. president […]

Filed under: Adornment, Art, Artifact, Ephemera, Objet, symbol, Tool, Toy, weapon | 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 […]

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#a232 :: Chromat-o-scope

October 3, 2008

Almost 70 years ago, this was the height of compact multimedia viewing equipment: A dark, swirled cube of oxblood-and-black Bakelite with a simple double-convex eye and the weight of history upon it. Slip a 35mm slide into it, point it at the light and gaze. Good, clean American fun. And now obsolete.

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#a231 :: Playboy Club ashtray

October 2, 2008

This gem glinted out at me from the cluttered shelves of an antiques mall in nether San Bernardino County, and the $1.95 price tag sent it home with me. Back when the Playboy Club was truly the capital of hedonism – and not just another seedy Hollywood venue – back before the bunny head, this […]

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#a230 :: Tintype

October 1, 2008

Balefully he stares at the lens and struggles to hold his pose. The photographer has gone to lengths to make him appear comfortable – with a little wall and urn upon which to lean poeticallly – and “natural” – with tufts of grass and twigs underfoot and a bough of oak leaves overhead. But he […]

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#a229 :: Marx mule deer

September 30, 2008

Back in 1969, the Louis Marx and Company was casting its “WILD ANIMALS” series in plastic. These beautiful little facsimile animals were hand-painted (in Taiwan, according to the garish and lush four-color offset-litho box) and turned them loose in the wilds of American family rooms. The box copy says (in all its unproofread glory): MULE […]

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#a223 :: Sawyer View-Master

September 24, 2008

In the 50s multimedia realm of celluloid filmstrips and magnetic tape, this was, arguably, the iPhone of its day. You could get “reels” of stereo photos or cartoons on virtually any subject – 8 shots each – and completely immerse yourself in 3-D imagery – even sometimes with a soundtrack. Sawyer’s View-Master put images of […]

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#a211 :: Tennis ball

September 12, 2008

Pock. Puck. Pock. Puck. (shuffle-lunge)Pock*blick* “Out!” (applause). I never got any good at this game, but I adored watching Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Venus Williams play Wimbledon. Another bit of trivia from the summer trip to London – Henry VIII used to play tennis in the great stone hall at Parliament. […]

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#a210 :: Exposed film

September 11, 2008

Digital imaging technology has robbed us of the act of uncovering mystery. I shoot everything digital now – but I still have a handful of exposed film cassettes lying around that I never bothered processing. I remember with more than a little nostalgia the wonder of darkroom work. I learned it in school, and honed […]

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#a207 :: Cat’s eye reflector

September 8, 2008

This is what became of California’s elegant Bott’s Dots: Instead of a crisp ceramic disc, this species – a hideous amalgam of ceramic compound and cheap-ass diamonded plastic – now graces the centerlines and gore-points of California, indicating to anyone who cares to notice, where the center of the road lies. Quite literally, millions of […]

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#a199 :: Melted neon tubing

August 31, 2008

The morning after, we bike out to the smoldering embers of the Burn, and we glean for souvenirs. Most prized among us early-Sunday ash-diggers are melted blobs of the Burning Man‘s neon veins. Twelve hours ago, you could still grasp the electrodes of a galvanometric device hookup that measured your pulse and send it up […]

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