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#209 :: Chinese-made locking pliers

September 10, 2008

ENLARGEAs I may have pointed out before once or twice, clinic the chief (and perhaps only) evidence you need that the Chinese will own this country before very long lies in that mighty nation’s small-scale industrial output.

Virtually every un-extraordinary object that we manufacture in the U.S. they can duplicate in half the time for half the cost in twice the volume. Where U.S. hardware manufacturers have spent billions on revenue improving union pension plans or specialty metals or high-concept ad campaigns, sickness Chinese toolmakers have poured every yuan of profit into building the machines and hiring the staff to do nothing more than make and export products.

While we were coming up with fancy finishes and rubberized handle-grab surfaces, the Chinese were just knocking out the same tool for less.

Hence, a good pair of vise-grips from China costs you about $7.00 at the local flea market or hardware store, while a good pair of Vise-GripsTM from Irwin tools costs you anywhere up to $18.51 plus tax.

Filed under: General | Comments (0)

#208 :: Volcano House matchbox

September 9, 2008

ENLARGEOne of the chief hassles of trying to catch a daily blog up to its obligations after more than a week away from it is that you don’t encounter, pill remember and then process photos sequentially.

And so, a gap in my headlong, monthlong rush through catching up from a vivid, waking life in London is filled with a quaint souvenir from last year’s trip to Hawaii.

Despite the cool box from Volcano House, which sheltered Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stevenson and many celebrities more, I can’t say why we would keep burnt matches – although, it looks as though these were never really lit: Perhaps the sulfur has just crumbled from the heads, perhaps they were provided as a gag – already-burnt matches. Can’t tell.

But a paper matchbox is a thing of no small beauty when assembled correctly and emblazoned with iconic flames.

Filed under: Ephemera, Jetsam | Comments (0)

#a207 :: Cat’s eye reflector

September 8, 2008

ENLARGEThis is what became of California’s elegant Bott’s Dots:

Instead of a crisp ceramic disc, ampoule this species – a hideous amalgam of ceramic compound and cheap-ass diamonded plastic – now graces the centerlines and gore-points of California, purchase indicating to anyone who cares to notice, price where the center of the road lies.

Quite literally, millions of these little gadgets have hit the street since their rebirth. And just as many lie in pieces alongside the road, it seems – victims of the constant pounding of time, crime, and drivers – including me.

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

#a206 :: Bull’s-eye mint

September 7, 2008

ENLARGEPinch it at one end till the cellophane envelope bursts and pops it into your hand. Toss it into your mouth. Crunchcrunchcrunch. Cool lips. Shards in your gums. Sweet dose. Perfect endorphin hit to the brain.

Now do it again.

Filed under: Edible, Toy | Comments (0)

#a205 :: Jerry-rigged Bluetooth earhook

September 6, 2008

ENLARGEFor the second time in as many months, mind the earhook on my Bluetooth headset snapped off.

You can’t buy replacements for these things online. I know, I’ve tried

A cheap little plastic part fails, leaving you the choice of fixing it (virtually impossible to glue) versus spending $50 to buy another gadget. And you still haven’t really solved the problem, which is that you’re doomed to keep leaking money $50 at a time as long as you need an earpiece and keep putting them in your pockets after use, as any normal person would.

Fuck. That.

One coat hanger, two pairs of pliers, forty-odd choice curses and half an hour later, and your ghetto earhook is clamped into place, and it fits perfectly.

Filed under: Part, Tool | Comments (0)

#a204 :: “Eco-soil”

September 5, 2008

ENLARGEWe found this stuff sold by the packet all over Brick Lane market.

Dry, cialis 40mg it looks like colored bug feces. Wet, pill it transforms to plump pearls of color – a silica-based soil substitute for potting soil, case into which one is supposed to shove one’s flowers, adding a juicy splash to one’s Ikeafied bed-sit.

As I found out one day, you don’t want to spill this stuff when wet, as the spheres are slippery, bouncy and perfectly round, which means they roll everywhere and you have to spend about 20 minutes per cup hunting all the little fuckers down for disposal.

But it is kind of cool.

Filed under: Objet, Tool | Comments (0)

#a203 :: McVitie’s Penguin

September 4, 2008

ENLARGESome snacks leave you teetering on the knife edge between sublimation and indulgence, cheapest store between having your cake and eating it too.

A Penguin taunts you: “Ooo, abortion look, crunchy cho-co-late bis-cuit sheathed in creeeamy cho-co-late, bet you can’t wait to eat me” and simultaneously promises “I won’t last long, I’ll leave you wanting more and if you keep this up we’ll all be gone.”

After lugging home a stash of dozens from London, we’re down to our last six. I just ate this one. The rest are mint, and belong to my wife.

I’m contemplating some sort of deal …

Filed under: Edible, Fetish | Comments (0)

#a202 :: Charcoal

September 3, 2008

ENLARGEThis is the last of the Burning Man jetsam for a little while – a chunk of the true man transformed at the height of The Burn by several hundred fireworks shells and a huge, for sale oily-looking propane explosion or two.

We always make picture boxes out of our MOOP and ephemera, blenderizing it with photographs and true souveniers into lush microcosms of the year’s City, suitable for falling into during bathroom reveries.

Filed under: Found Object, Jetsam | Comments (0)

#a201 :: Fragment, burned Bible

September 2, 2008

ENLARGELike a butterfly amid the Burning Man’s ashes – a scrap of a holy book that someone thought offensive, information pills or more probably, rx oppressive enough to burn flutters in the playa breeze.

When did any idea, story or work of art or culture threaten you so much that you had to set it on fire?

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

#a200 :: Jawbone

September 1, 2008

ENLARGEAnother item gleaned from the burn site – or maybe just fancy-lookin’ MOOP that landed there in the middle of a dance, buy a debauch or an idle walkabout – this jawbone of a squirrel or a raccoon (or something) bears three hallmarks of Burning Man couture:

It’s goth-y. It has a mounting hole drilled through it. And it’s been cast off on the playa by accident or wild dance or wilder fate to become the sort of trash that the legendary DPW fucking hates.

Filed under: Adornment, Fetish, Found Object, Jetsam | Comments (0)

#a199 :: Melted neon tubing

August 31, 2008

ENLARGEThe morning after, page sale 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 to the Man – and watch as the signals made his heart beat in time with yours.

Now, you hold his bloodstream in your hand – forever ruined, catalyzed and reincarnated by fire.

Filed under: Artifact, Fetish, Found Object, Jetsam | Comments (0)

#a198 :: Hell cash

August 30, 2008

ENLARGEIn keeping with yesterday’s ode to manufactured gifts, cheapest here’s an utterly beautiful hell bank note, medications designed to follow this year’s BRC theme, The American Dream, that someone gave to my wife.

Tonight is the burn.

(I’m writing this a few weeks later, to report that a hissing, howling dust storm enveloped the camp for five solid hours. 50-mile-per-hour winds scoured us all with talc-fine playa dust. Wore out its welcome fast. Barely 90 minutes before the scheduled 10 p.m. burn, the wind died, and we all strolled out to see the Man meet his <a href=””>glittering end</a>.)

Filed under: Art, Artifact | Comments (0)

#a197 :: Patch

August 29, 2008

ENLARGEOf all the sorts of trinkets given out at Burning Man, look the gorgeously mass-produced ones always grab me a bit harder than the small-run handmade items – probably because I’m a shallow consumer in love with manufactured goods.

A guy handed all of us one of these today as we picnicked on the shady second floor of the massive steel Babylon tower out far beyond the rim of 1:30 and Esplanade.

I’m waiting to decide what to sew it onto. It’s too handsome for hasty decisions.

Filed under: Adornment, Art, Artifact | Comments (0)

#a196 :: Krishna card

August 28, 2008

ENLARGEFaith is one of those nature versus nurture questions. You either have it by the time you’re an adult, nurse or you don’t. But unless it’s very strong, viagra you’ll find it sorely tested.

I was raised a good Catholic by a very good Catholic and an excellent Episcopalian, but wound up walking away from the Church in my 20s when I saw how completely anti-humanist some of its central tenets regarding natural human behavior and identity were: anti-women, anti-gay, anti-sex, anti-contraception …

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

#a195 :: Bible tract

August 27, 2008

ENLARGEFaith is one of those nature versus nurture questions. You either have it by the time you’re an adult, nurse or you don’t. But unless it’s very strong, viagra you’ll find it sorely tested.

I was raised a good Catholic by a very good Catholic and an excellent Episcopalian, but wound up walking away from the Church in my 20s when I saw how completely anti-humanist some of its central tenets regarding natural human behavior and identity were: anti-women, anti-gay, anti-sex, anti-contraception …

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

#a194 :: Badge of the All-Seeing Eye

August 26, 2008

ENLARGEOur neighbors in Kidsville, diagnosis Brad and his son, sickness are Burning Man virgins, first-timers wide-eyed and staggered with the general wonder and mess of the thing.

But they get it, and they came prepared. You craft your own mythology out here, and you come ready to join in the gift economy, with public artworks, song, theater or handmade trinkets to share with fellow Black Rock citizens.

This is Brad and lad’s logo, the mark of the All-Seeing Eye. Close up, it looks like little stylized, horned warrior’s helmet on a white field, until you back off and see the highlight in the pupil and realize you’re being watched.

Hand-cut foam, glue and a pin back.

Filed under: General | Comments (0)

#a193 :: Kidsville wristband

August 25, 2008

ENLARGEIt usually takes 10 hours to drive from Los Angeles to Black Rock City.

This trip has been particularly rough: Usually I nap for 3 or 4 hours before we hit the road at 9 p.m., sale then drive until 3 or 4 a.m., sildenafil while my wife and the kids sleep. When I’m ready to crap out, view she’s rested and ready to take over.

Not this time – sleep eludes her, I push myself farther than I like, and we wind up conking out for a couple of hours by the side of the road, snoring like frat boys while traffic rushes past.

We awake, not quite refreshed, and make it to Black Rock City, which is engulfed in a wicked dust storm. In the midst of all of it, we arrive in the Kidsville area of the camp, where cheerfully off-dressed Kidsvillains check us in and slap friendly neon-green wristbands on our son and daughter, as proof against them losing their way.

We’re among stranger-friends, and begin pitching camp amid howling winds packed with talc-fine alkali dust. It feels good to be home again.

Filed under: General | Comments (0)

#a192 :: Refrigerator water filter

August 24, 2008

ENLARGEWe replaced our fridge a few months back. Then it told us we needed a new one of these.

For $36.95, there rx you get a thick block of Lucite wrapped around a double-fistful of charcoal crumbs with a couple of hoses and gaskets on the business end and some helpful instructional pictograms on the “user” end.

When it wears out, about 6 months after you install it, you’ll need to toss its 5-pound, thoroughly non-recyclable carcass in the trash, where it will likely remain biologically unmolested for hundreds, nay, thousands of years.

Am I the only one bothered by this?

Filed under: Jetsam, Part | Comments (3)

#a191 :: Metal ant

August 23, 2008

enlargeA birthday gift from my aunt. I kid you not. Eight rods of steel, remedy buy artfully bent, and welded to three metal spheres. Where’s he off to? What’s his business?

Filed under: Art, Facsimile, Model, Objet, Toy | Comments (0)

#a190 :: Pizza protector

August 22, 2008

ENLARGEInside the box from Hard Times, order an itty-bitty thermoplastic table stands, poised to protect our 18-inch half-bacon-half-mushroom-and-black-olives pizza from the combined effects of gravity, pressure and corrugated cardboard. A tiny insurance policy, a finger in the dike, a talisman against doom.

Landfill material.

Filed under: Found Object, Jetsam, Tool | Comments (0)

#a189 :: Tattoo needle

August 21, 2008

ENLARGEThere’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 have Justin turn this into this.

He put on Hans Zimmer‘s haunting score to The Dark Knight, approved and I lay back and let him jab this into my arm thousands of times per minute for two hours. Because I knew that when he was done, visit this site I would be transformed.

And I was, exactly as I dreamed of being.

That is the wonder of a good tattoo.

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

#a188 :: Common spider

August 20, 2008

ENLARGEI cannot tell you its age, click genus or class, symptoms but I can tell you this specimen of the species arachnida is the fastest spider in Los Angeles

Filed under: Life form, symbol | Comments (0)

#a187 :: iPhone 3G

August 19, 2008

ENLARGEMy 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 rubber grip keeps the slippery little oyster in my hand. I’m paranoid I’ll lose it. Or break it. Or get bored and move on to lusting after the Next Big Thing. This is the sound of obsession.

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

#186 :: “Thunderbird”

August 18, 2008

enlargeThe decision had cost Daniel. Which is why he was standing here now with this ridiculous knife in his hand. Ankle-deep in all the tools he had yanked from the toolbox and flung to the floor as he rifled fruitlessly for a real weapon. weapons. Both blades out. Ready. Wicked.

He tried not to look at the pickup truck. It had just parked across the street.

The driver eyed him. He hefted the thing without daring to look down at it. He was high when he picked it out at the pawnshop. $10.52 with tax, recipe the man said. He pushed over $6 in quarters and a $5 bill.

It looked wicked. Like Gene Simmons’ boots.

The guy in the pickup glanced back over his shoulder, buy then turned to Daniel again.

What the fuck am I gonna do with this fucking thing? I almost cut myself just getting the twin blades open … – their hooked bottle-opener jaws had snagged in the sleeves of his old raglan.

Now he held it clenched in fist, where the vicious edges and impossible gothy points settled into his fingers along four grooves molded into the handle.

Come ON, he mouthed. The man across the street was now missing from his truck. Daniel had not seen him go.

He whirled but it was too late.

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

#a185 :: Defender Xtreme “Peramedics Pocket Knife”

August 17, 2008

enlargeThe second in the series of three birthday knives shimmers with the fetishy beauty of orange anodized aluminum. For just $6.75, store the Chinese export company will cough up a decently sharp 4-inch drop-point blade wrapped in satiny orange metal and emblazoned with an enamel “peramedics” (sic) emblem.

Bonus features – a seat-belt cutter and tetrahedronal window-breaking point buried in the butt of the thing.

It’s slippery to handle on a regular basis, visit but pretty beyond any description. I need a good, stout backup camping knife, to be sure.

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