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#80 :: Industrial Stereopticon View

April 30, 2004

There was a time when men worked in close proximity with huge, steam-driven, iron-boned machines, doing raw, majestic physical labor. I collect these cards for their historical lessons as much as the visceral eye-sucking grandeur of the images. “(75) 7965 – Unloading iron ore from lake vessels – old and new methods – Cleveland, O. […]

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#79 :: Swashbuckler

April 29, 2004

Errol Flynn, Tyrone Power, Basil Rathbone, Chow-Yun Fat – all those Hollywood swordsmen lacked the visceral threat you’d feel from the sight of a man standing there, blade in hand, eager to have your guts for garters. In ages ruled by steel, sword wounds could range from nasty duelling scars and fast, deadly heart-strikes to […]

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#78 :: Wisdom Tooth

April 28, 2004

At one point about five years ago, the pain in my head grew so extreme that I paid a man to put a pair of extremely strong pliers into my mouth and rip this out of my skull. I don’t recall how he braced my head. I don’t remember what I said beforehand, or afterward. […]

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#77 :: Bobble-head – Brian Jordan

April 26, 2004

I don’t follow the Dodgers. I don’t even follow pro sports. But somewhere in that vast terra incognita is a cult of collectors who fixate on bobble-head dolls, and one of them found its way into our house. No longer the purview of rear decks and lovers of boxer dogs, the bobble-head has become big […]

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#74 :: Cocktail umbrella

April 20, 2004

Why does the drink need shade? Are the ice cubes kept cooler and the booze more potent from their not melting? Are we supposed to feel exotic, or more relaxed when drinking an umbrella drink? More Asian, perhaps? It may or may not have originated at that temple of Tiki culture, Trader Vic’s. It is […]

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#73 :: Wooden Index File

April 19, 2004

This is an artifact from my time as an old-school newspaper reporter. It held index cards on which I had written the names, numbers, titles and affiliations of hundreds of sources, contacts, friends and chance acquaintances. The deck of 3×5 cards was blackened with thumb-dirt and furry-soft at the edges from constant consultation – how […]

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#72 :: Navajo Silver Lizard

April 18, 2004

A Navajo silversmith cast this in sterling silver. The Dine (DIN-eh) as they prefer to call themselves, make a living doing business with each other, ranching, running stores and schools and businesses – and with tourists crossing tribal lands, by selling crafts like this from roadside stands in and around Monument Valley and the Four […]

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#71 :: B9 “Robot”

April 17, 2004

There was no archetype before this one. Not Rossum’s Usuform Robots, not Die Valse Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, nor Robby nor Gort. Brave, smart, wary, endowed with brittle humor and tinged with sarcasm, he rolled on treads, but off-camera could apparently climb the steps to the Jupiter 2 though it was never explained how. […]

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#70 :: Pulls

April 16, 2004

Too meek for bones through my septum, too square for even tattoos at that point, I was a square, square newspaperman, covering murder trials, city council meetings, disasters and defense contractor fraud for the L.A. Times. Magpie hunter-gatherer at the core, though. My inner automobile was probably a clapped-out maroon Checker cab cruising SoHo on […]

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#69 :: Monocular

April 15, 2004

The aesthetic of brushed aluminum and blackout metal is as distinct a flavor of modern physical culture as gingham and daisies, bakelite and chintz, mahogany and stained leather. A wave ripples through me as I write this, and I flash on alternate molecular realities – strawberry roan gelding motorcycles; rocket gantries of hardwood and stucco, […]

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#68 :: Vinyl Frog

April 14, 2004

Somebody in a factory somewhere peeled two cast-vinyl frog halves out of a still-hot mold. The air reeked of curing toxins, raw polymers. She glued them together with adhesive or heat, and took up a spraycan or an airbrush to dust the top of the thing (along with all of its brothers, maybe laid out […]

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#67 :: Rubber bullets

April 13, 2004

Back in college one night, we saw a wall of smoke coming around the corner on Halloween. Being a wannabe photojournalist at the time, and thinking, “fire” I grabbed my camera and ran – straight into a cloud of tear gas. Needles in the eyes, claws in the lungs, I doubled over, immediately capacitated along […]

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#66 :: Balloon Anchor

April 12, 2004

Half a dozen of these lined a throw-rug dance floor at our 2-year-old neighbor’s birthday party last weekend. Three balloons were tethered to each, at just-above-head level, so that when you moved among them you had the sensation of being a blimp coming to berth among its brothers in an open-air hangar. It was festive, […]

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#65 :: Sea glass

April 11, 2004

The kharmic simplicity of sea glass is staggering, if you think about it for too long in a stoned-sort-of “… Whoa … ” manner. Made from – essentially – melted sand, glass is poured, blown, molded and fused into bottles that we use to carry beers to the beach which, when enough of them are […]

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#64 :: Fangs

April 10, 2004

Maybe it’s teething memory, or the id-transforming monster-fantasy value, or maybe it’s just having played hockey with a clear rubber mouthpiece in place against the blows for a couple of adolescent years, but I connect with something very deep when I put in a set of these. They were plain white (but secretly day-glo) polyvinyl […]

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#63 :: Wedding Ring

April 9, 2004

Words and a picture won’t do this justice. So, bare facts: On April 9, 1994, an extraordinary woman said yes to me and put this on my finger.

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#62 :: Folding Loupe

April 8, 2004

The Akihabara, in Tokyo, teems with geeks. More electronics shops, game boutiques, appliance megamalls and circuitboard salvage yards are crammed into a few square kilometres there that probably anywhere on the planet. You can build a mainframe from components, buy top-of-the-line synthesizers costing millions of yen, feed your fetish for porno video games or indulge […]

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#61 :: 3-D Glasses

April 7, 2004

I’m a stereophotography junkie. I’ve shot nighttime 3-D Kodachromes painted with filtered flash, and manufactured my own stereopticon slides with a Stereo Realist camera ever since seeing a transcendent show of stereo photos at Rhode Island School of Design when I was 20. I’ve used these headache-inducing anaglyph glasses (and others like them) to decode […]

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#60 :: Daguerrotype – Mother and Child

April 6, 2004

She might have been a stern widow, a pinched matron, a god-fearing churchgoer who distrusted photographers and was sitting only because her husband demanded a keepsake of her and his young son. More likely, she froze her face to meet the demands of modern daguerrotyping, which required subjects to sit still for a minute or […]

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#59 :: Torpedo level

April 5, 2004

Most torpedo levels are crafted from wood or plastic – I have a fluorescent orange plastic one in my toolbox – but this one is an odd variant on the classic carpenter’s conscience. Crafted from a forged block of aluminum, a steel plate, a pair of screws and a oil-filled capsule, it seems stolen from […]

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#58 :: Tree Pod

April 4, 2004

These trees grow all up and down the block – similar in leaf to the pepper tree, though I’m not sure of their family or type. Every spring, they shed green seedpods about 10 inches long, each one filled with 15 or 20 coffee-brown seeds. The birds usually get to them before the kids do. […]

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#57 :: Thumb Piano

April 3, 2004

Fashioned from a gourd, a hardwood plank and some scraps of metal, this elegant little instrument is called mbira in central, western and eastern Africa, where it originated. It was a Christmas gift from my parents many years ago, I’ve played it with my kids on my lap when they were just a few months […]

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#56 :: Prescription sunglasses

April 2, 2004

The world is full of mediocre, overpriced, cheap knockoff sunglasses that break the second a 2-year-old grabs them or they fall 5 feet to the floor. Since I’m sadly addicted to UV-blocking lenses, I have burned through two or three pairs of sunglasses a year for most of the past 20 years. I resolved a […]

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#55 :: Boot charm

April 1, 2004

The cult of miniatures has been with us for millennia, since someone first pinched clay to form the head of an animal. We carry small objects on our keychains – tools, keepsakes, souvenirs, symbols, tangible avatars that project the same insouciance we believe is innate to us, or that emulate the spirit or attitude of […]

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