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#a233 :: Hexagonal mirror

October 4, 2008

Every year, about six weeks after Burning Man, the community of Burners gathers in L.A. for the Decompression event – a taste of Black Rock arts and nonsense plunked down in the middle of the city.

This year, they moved it to the lovely L.A. State Historical Park (more photos here). I wore, among other things, a backpack light rig packed with cheap Chinese-made LEDs that sprout from the ends of steel-conduit tentacles, magnified by hexagonal mirrors.

One of the mirrors fell off. This is it.

You can see the rest of my cockamamie outfit after the jump.

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Filed under: Jetsam, Part | Comments (0)

#a232 :: Chromat-o-scope

October 3, 2008

ENLARGEAlmost 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

enlargeThis 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 was the logo for American lust: A cartoon nude with black stockings and opera gloves, dangling a key to the kingdom of wet dreams, her lipsticked sneer a promise of certain delights.

Go on. Stub out your cigarettes on her midriff, was the unsubtle semiotic code. She’s there to be used.

But oh, so tasteful.

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

#a230 :: Tintype

October 1, 2008

ENLARGEBalefully 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 cannot look comfortable: He must stand stock still for up to 20 seconds. He doesn’t really want to be here. His collar is tight. The shoes pinch.

Are you ready? The photographer pulls the dark slide from the holder carrying the prepared sheet of japanned tin.

I guess so. The man steadies himself and exhales deeply, searching for inner calm.

Hold it now.

The photographer pulls off the lens cap and looks at the man. Okay now – just a little while longer.

The man waits. He cannot help blinking at least once, and glancing around the studio: this blurs his eyes on the painfully slow emulsion.

In happier times, before the marriage, and the kids and the mortgage, this fellow might have enjoyed hanging out with these fellows. But not here. No longer. That life is gone.

The photographer vamps: Just a liiittle longer … the man sighs. His shoulders lift and his head moves, imperceptibly fuzzing the edges of his face.

… aaand, okay, sir. Thank you. He caps the lens, and the ordeal is over. The man’s picture is now inside the camera, and the photographer must get it out.

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

#a229 :: Marx mule deer

September 30, 2008

ENLARGEBack 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 DEER

Ranging from the cold mountains of Alaska to the burning deserts of the South west, Mule Deer are exclusively western animals. They are up to 6 feet long and four feet high at the shoulders and weigh up to 350 pounds.

Avoiding Deep forests, they prefer a partly wooded habitat. They eat leaves and wild fruits. The bucks meekly spend the winter in the herd, but as do other deers, the doe hides her fawns during the day and returns to them after feeding. The Mule Deer is the most abundant big-game animal in North America.

Ten years later, according to Wikipedia, the company closed down.

This one bears a price sticker from “California Toys” that says, simply, “15¢.”

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

#a228 :: Candy corn

September 29, 2008

ENLARGEo thou wicked junk
corn syrup all sticky sweet
rot my teeth, you fiends

Filed under: Edible, Facsimile | Comments (0)

#a227 :: Executive Pocket Chum

September 28, 2008

ENLARGEThe 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 more accurate than the vague tolerances considered by this mechanic I once knew, who casually tossed around phrases like “a smidgen,” “a red cunt-hair” and “a skosh” with the abandon of someone who had a demonically exact notion of the size he was describing.

The Pocket Chum turns up in Google, having gone on record as measuring pestilential mushrooms and acetabular fractures in dogs, whatever those are.

You slide the center rule up and down in the frame and measure the inside diameter and outside thickness of anything you like. It’s elegant, crisply made and ultimately not worth much more than $5.99 on eBay – approximately what I paid an antiques dealer for it the other day.

It is a perfect heavy little object.

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

#a226 :: Luke Skywalker Pez dispenser

September 27, 2008

ENLARGEI’d like to say I’ve had dreams of people pulling back my head to eat candy from my neck.

I haven’t. But if I had, I’d choose this Star Wars specimen, one of the finest expressions of the Pez-maker’s art that I have ever seen.

You?

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

#a225 :: House of Commons hip flask

September 26, 2008

ENLARGEJust a nip.

He wondered – as he idly did in these customary moments when he stole a drink just after lunch in the House of Lords dining room, between a trip to the loo and the afternoon session – whether the cameras would see him.

Surely they did. London was positively filthy with CCTV cameras. The flat, disapproving eyes of post-9/11 paranoia swallowed every godawfully boring detail of the city’s yawning, nose-picking existence. Somewhere, legions of poor sods sat before screens watching all of it.

The House of Commons, even more so.

It was getting so he pondered his own every move – whose hands he shook from the other side of the house, whether he recycled his soda bottle, what magazines he read on the toilet. The compound eye of surveillance saw, the great bloody eye of Sauron.

And while he knew these were manned by spotty security trainees under the tutelage of washed-up career thugs for whom this was the very last posting – neither class of which gave a wrinkly-scrotal toss about anything short of the screams of swarthy, sweating wogs with leaky gym bags full of C4 and medical radioactive waste sprinting towards whatever destiny and certain glory they imagined in the arms of the first copper to tackle them – he always grew self-conscious just after lunch. Someone might see.
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Filed under: Fetish, Microfiction, Tool | Comments (0)

#a224 :: Amelia’s USB

September 25, 2008

enlargeA soft, mushy, pungently overripe spot has formed in my brain over the years to accommodate certain industrial finishes.

I sweat and pant for the chrome of bicycle handlebars, the deep metalflake of kustom kars, the wrinkled black baked-enamel of 1950s cameras and the liver-colored hammertone of certain antique audio gear.

So it is with brushed steel. And so it was to my great joy that the quirky art-omnibus magazine I bought in London came with a flash drive packed full of oddball pop – and encased in cheaply-made brushed steel.

The sandblasted rocketship and communications satellite crank the fetish knob up one more excruciating notch, and the red pinhead LED that winks when you plug it in just sends me over the top. I hung it with all the other heavy clobber on my keyring, which is now completely out of hand.

Filed under: Art, Ephemera, Fetish, Tool | Comments (0)

#a223 :: Sawyer View-Master

September 24, 2008

ENLARGEIn 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 the world in your pocket, hours of time-eating enjoyment at your fingertips with the most simple-minded of technologies: (more…)

Filed under: Art, Artifact, Facsimile, Fetish, Tool, Toy | Comments (0)

#a222 :: Worn bicycle brake pads

September 23, 2008

ENLARGESo that’s what that horrible grinding noise was.

Two or three mornings a week, I pump my Cannondale up the fire roads of Griffith Park, do my old-man stretches at the top beneath an ancient live oak, then bomb back down towards home.

Do the math – a 200-coughcough-pound man on a 25-pound mountain bike going down a 7% grade at 30-40mph and coming to rest thanks to exactly four square inches of synthetic brake pad – at some point, something’s gotta give.

Just replaced ’em tonight, and now instead of the teeth-grating sound of metal on metal, I gotta double-fistful of WHOA THERE!

Filed under: Jetsam, Part | Comments (0)

#a221 :: Petrie

September 22, 2008

ENLARGEAt the obvious risk of being (as well as sounding) thoroughly sexist, you never know what nerve you’ll hit with a woman until you hit that nerve dead-on.

At the same time I bought RayD8 to back up my photos, top-secret work projects and random droolings, I bought this little orange Mimobot and gave it to my wife. I think she may have squealed.

“He’s so cute!”

She still squeals – on a regular basis – because he’s still so cute, and his little butt lights up red when you plug him in.

His name is Petrie.

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

#a220 :: Olive grabber

September 21, 2008

enlargeThe Victorian dopiness of this tool belies how perfectly it fits its task: Go on – try to fish an olive out of a full jar with a fork. Now try it with a chromed, plunger-operated triaxial claw that encloses a perfectly olive-shaped sphere. Purpose-built genius.

Filed under: General | Comments (0)

#a219 :: L.A. Opera tickets

September 20, 2008

ENLARGEI was really excited about this production. No, I mean really, exuberantly, irrational-fan-boy excited.

I had failed to get tickets in time, and by the time I went for them they were nosebleed-expensive. Then my dear friend (and client), Yael offered me a pair in exchange for some work that needed doing, saying that we’d probably enjoy it far more than she.

Why, yes we would – snap snap – and suddenly we were off to the opp-uh-rah.

It was a fantastic production, the greatest care taken in all things – the score, the set, the singing, all top-notch. It was perfect – but for one fatal, deal-breaking flaw: composer Howard Shore, one of my fan-boy crushes in the soundtrack realm – had thought it best if the melodies on all the arias, solos, duets, choruses – in fact, the melody of the entire piece – were sung atonally.

Maybe he was mimicking the decay of science gone wrong, or the souring of bad love or, hell, the tortured singing of the fly but … two solid hours of intentionally off-key music pretty much erases all the other pleasures from one’s head.

Certainly not time wasted, just – in light of the dramatic potential of the piece (Hwang’s libretto was quite good), the star power behind it, and the promise held out from the moment I learned this production would happen -I suppose I expected there to be a little actual music in the music.

Filed under: Fetish, Jetsam | Comments (0)

#a218 :: Optical-illusion button

September 19, 2008

enlarge Your mind could fall straight out of the top of your skull, trying to wrap it around this object. In 2-D, it’s a bit drab, but once you turn it beneath the light and watch the 3-D strands of Pearls finding their way across its honeycombed surface, you become persuaded you’ve found Fate’s master plan for us all personified in a little button, one inch across.

Filed under: Adornment, Ephemera | Comments (0)

#a217 :: “Leight Sleepers” brand earplugs

September 18, 2008

ENLARGEI’ve worn a lot of earplugs.

I’m a light sleeper, I have kids and I camp on the playa, which readies you for pretty much any cacophonous grab-bag of a soundscape the world can dish out – while making it impossible to cobble together 3 decent minutes of sleep for the noise of hooting, bumping and explosions.

I’ve worn full cranials to protect my delicate, shell-like ears from jets screaming skyward atop lit afterburners at Southern California Airshows. They were solid.

I’ve worn Class 4 ribbed earplugs that were given out at the brain-fuckingly loud Survival Research Labs show in L.A. a couple years back.

But sometimes you need nothing more than a cheapass thimbleful of foam to keep everyone else out of your night.

Filed under: Adornment, Tool | Comments (1)

#a216 ::

September 17, 2008

ENLARGEAlso from my wife’s collection: hollowed, hand-hammered silver of questionable virtue, yet molded with the heavenly curves of a nimbus cloud.

Filed under: Adornment, Art, Found Object, Objet, symbol | Comments (0)

#a215 :: Bus

September 16, 2008

ENLARGEParallel to the spine of the bus:
LEYLAND
ROYAL TIGER COACH
MADE IN ENGLAND
BY LESNEY

(and then just beneath the engine compartment)

#40

From my wife’s collection.

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

#a214 :: Miniature tempura

September 15, 2008

ENLARGETiny morsels of molded silicon, hand-daubed to an irresistible crunchylookingness. Only 900 yen. The linchpin to a successful front-window display in your 1:8-scale restaurant.

From the same niche of Japanese collectibles culture as this

Filed under: Facsimile, Fetish, Miniature, Model, Objet | Comments (0)

#a213 :: Canon i9900 Bubble-Jet printer cartridges

September 14, 2008

ENLARGEThis is the business end of the food chain that produced this. For $12, you get a little, meticulously machined and vacuformed plastic box half packed with lurid ink, the other with a cubical cotton swab that seems to absorb all the ink – eight flavors of which are required to keep the printer running, any one of which could run out at any time. Because the digital human requires images on nonrecyclable plastic-coated paper. Very, very large images. In large quantities. I may just spend more than $300 a year on this stuff.

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

#a212 :: Hand-carved Indian candlestick

September 13, 2008

ENLARGEThis appeared in the house some time in the past month. I have no idea where it came from, beyond the tiny “India” sticker on its base. Around it, a lion chases an elephant that threatens to trample the elephant that flees the lion. Candlelight sounds nice.

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

#a211 :: Tennis ball

September 12, 2008

ENLARGEPock.
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. They know because they found tennis balls up in the baffles over the windows.

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

#a210 :: Exposed film

September 11, 2008

ENLARGEDigital 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 it at newspapers – that chemical/alchemical skill of turning film into negatives, negatives into prints.

An AP photographer taught me how to pop open film cassettes with bare hands – pry the felt-lined lips of the tin cylinder apart far enough to peel them away from the torus-shaped end-caps – and how then to bend the film down its centerline just deeply enough to reel it onto stainless-steel spools in the pitch dark.

RISD teachers showed me the misery and joy of processing C-41 and E6 film, of making cyanotypes and C prints. The acid ponk of stop bath, the toxic aroma of color fixer the color of curdled blood, the fathomless frustration of CYMK filtration – it’s all fading into memory. As I indulge in the zipless fuck of shooting digital images, plugging them into Photoshop and then tweaking them to my heart’s content, I forget the willing slavery into which darkroom work dragged me.

I don’t know what’s on this roll. And because I know it’s several years old and probably ruined by age, I don’t want to care.

But the mystery persists – what did I shoot?

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

#209 :: Chinese-made locking pliers

September 10, 2008

ENLARGEAs I may have pointed out before once or twice, 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, 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)


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