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#336 :: Brass Bells

December 31, 2004

Chiseled, hammered brass, given a round volume and a ringing edge, stamped or engraved with religious symbols. Three for a dollar, here, labeled “Xmas bells” – and nothing farther from the truth. Banged out they were in India, sweated over for more than a few seconds each and tossed into a basket, upmarketed, shipped, distributed […]

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#325 :: “Buzzing” magnets

December 30, 2004

In your mind, banish all tension. Sign a binding, planetwide truce to end war. Master genetics and cure all disease. Solve poverty and end hunger and illiteracy. Eliminate pollution and extinction. You’re omnipotent. Go ahead. The planet is safe and happy in your care. Now that you’ve given everyone on earth everything they need, you’re […]

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# 325 :: Keyring

December 29, 2004

We scurry on with our materialist lives. We return Christmas presents that were the wrong size, we drift into post-holiday sales and buy things on a whim. We ignore horrors that do not affect us. It’s a peculiarly American behavior. Heads appropriately buried in “our” culture we can ignore the active stupidity of our leaders, […]

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#324 :: Weeping Buddha

December 28, 2004

He weeps for the sins of the world. And the world sins with his tears. We are a manufacturing society, and objects of devotion and symbolism are among the things most easily manufactured and sold. I plucked him from a bucketful of his kind, where they tumbled in silent mass grief in a San Francisco […]

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#323 :: Glow Sticks

December 27, 2004

A nylon tube filled with one chemical inside which floats a glass tube filled with another chemical. Snap them, and a chemiluminescent reaction takes place – cold light – for a few hours of crisis visibility, emergency lighting or party fun. They look fuzzy here, as they are on the web, which offers up a […]

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#322 :: Army Guy

December 26, 2004

The vast majority of us have no sense of war. We have never served. We absorb media – most of it fictitious, some tiny part of it news – that lets us put our acceptance of the real thing in our world view into a neat box: It’s hell. It’s necessary to protect our national […]

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#321 :: Crystal-growing Stocking Stuffer

December 26, 2004

(front) CHOU TALook! Magic Tree (R) FLOWERS GROW FROM PAPER The flower begin to grow from the tree after 1-2 hours and will grow to marvellous flowers in 6 hours. (front) Color Buds appear in 1-2 hours. The fun is watching its growing. You will have more fun when you grow the flowers by yourself. […]

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#320 :: Candy Mold

December 24, 2004

Finding the perfect gift for someone quirky. It’s an elusive goal at Christmastime, particularly when you have about two dozen such nebulous missions to add to an agenda of stocking-filling, tree-buying, menu-planning, house-cleaning, wreath-weaving and the otherwise headlong rush of your already insane life. You have secrets for efficiency. The oddball hardware store with everything. […]

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#319 :: Stocking Hook Anchor

December 23, 2004

To wait for a thing, to truly be patient and allow it to come at its own pace, is an inhuman act of will. We yearn – for new jobs, hot concerts, latest games, fast cars, slow weekends, a first kiss, a second chance, freedom, food, rest, love. Childhood trains us to await Christmas with […]

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#318 :: Clic-Clac Tins

December 22, 2004

Yin to the raygun’s yang, the Clic-Clac is useful, modest and crisp – an elegant tribute to simple industrial design. Press the center of the puckered lid and the edge-tabs around the rim flip open. Squeeze the rim, and the puckered lid springs up again with a pop, clamping the tabs firmly into place once […]

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#317 :: Noisy Raygun Keychain

December 21, 2004

The rock begat the hammer, the hammer begat the axe, the axe begat the spear, and the spear begat the arrow. The wheel evolved into the cart, which became the train and now we sit in vast, paralyzed fleets of wheeled, vinyl-padded coffins with the AC cranked, depleting the ozone at two miles an hour […]

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#316 :: Czechoslovakian Chicken

December 20, 2004

A very simple toy: The plaster chicken sits in a cardboard-tube nest. From its bottom hangs a string, through the bottom of the nest, which is a taut paper diaphragm. Pull the string taut, rub it with a resin-coated chunk of cardboard, and the chicken squawks. Men hawking these stand on the street corners of […]

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#315 :: Lunch Tickets

December 19, 2004

On this planet, 852 million of your fellow souls cannot afford food. They get sick, they die, and are replaced by more hungry people who are pushed out of the bottom of the human ecosystem by war, poverty, greed and human exploitation beyond my deepest fears. Of the 6.9 billion people on Earth, 1.2 billion […]

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#314 :: The Thing

December 18, 2004

Benjamin J. Grimm: World War II veteran. Test pilot. Hard-radiation victim. 500-pound, trans-human mutant rock creature. Of all of Marvel’s 1960s anti-hero creations, the Thing somehow resonated with me the most. He’s a sensitive lug wrapped in the igneous shell of a brute – all pissed off, clobberin’-time rage and hurt. Unlike the Hulk, he’s […]

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#313 :: U.S. Navy Drafting Kit

December 17, 2004

Ca. 1926, drafting kit of Lt. John R. Craig, U.S.S. Grampus. My grandfather. This was sent home with his effects when his submarine went missing, presumed sunk by the Japanese Navy. Here’s a guest entry by his daughter, my mother, who informs me that since Naval Academy mechanical engineering class was called “steam” this was […]

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#312 :: Time-o-Lite Darkroom Timer

December 16, 2004

Chemicals vaporize slowly from open trays In a dull orange gloom. Liquid sounds, a slow stench and crisp slices of tuned light snapped off one by one to catalyze it all to life. For more than 100 years, the darkroom was the artificial primeval swamp, a fecund, foreign place from which sprang the idiocy of […]

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#311 :: Reporter’s Handbook on Media Law

December 15, 2004

Newspaper reporters carry a certain moral rectitude in the pit of their stomachs. Brilliant ones carry it in their hearts. Bad ones in their asses, which they seek to cover only because they must – failure to do so means career suicide. But it drives them all – the piss and vinegar of of H.L. […]

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#310 :: Glass Heart

December 14, 2004

Function is a mystery. The point of this thing must lie somewhere between symbol and tool, in that most mystical of all bands in the kitsch spectrum occupied by nudie poker decks and Humunga Tongue dog toys. It may have been cast as a paperweight, a keepsake or just a token of affection. The week […]

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#309 :: Kohner VariVue “Color TV”

December 13, 2004

Early 1960s, I’m guessing; A simple doodad made by Kohner Toys to show off VariVue” – the lenticular technology that made static billboards, toys and flickering Jesus postcards come to life. The near-encyclopedic VariVue.com says far more than I ever could: In the late 1930’s, the first multiple image lenticular image was formed and this […]

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#308 :: Vegetable Peeler

December 12, 2004

Dirt, roots, husks, peels – all fall away to the sharpened blade-slot of this thing. Raw utility is one of the most alluring qualities of a simple tool, and there is nothing so elegant as a design from antiquity that survives even in modern versions of an ancient tool for the simple reason that the […]

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#307 :: Circuit Board Coasters

December 11, 2004

Beached here on your sofa, your eyes go glassy imagining this: A hard-wired planet, paved with printed circuits. The change renders all communication routes – ad slogans, song lyrics, quarrels, rumors, shouts – as green fiberglass boards overlaid with zigzagging copper strips. Humans solidify as nodes in the structure, communication routes between them hardening to […]

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#306 :: Cocktail Shaker

December 10, 2004

Booze drenches and lubricates human endeavor. We like a good drink with friends. We think about drinking. We try not to drink alone – more to avoid stigma than to protect ourselves. We do huge, epically stupid things and memorialize our stupidity. We kill each other. We die. We

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#305 :: 4-Pound Sledge

December 9, 2004

Physics is a bitch. Some things won’t move. Rust, gravity, torque, inertia. Constants and inevitables. A screw’s tension in its threads mean the difference between finding a screwdriver and shredding your fingernails. Loose head bolts will cripple a car’s engine in a cloud of vapor-filled exhaust – water in the oil sump and the bugger […]

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#304 :: Corn Fork

December 8, 2004

Divans. Bobby sox. Fondue dishes. Poodle skirts. Cocktail shakers. Gingham tablecloths. Highball glasses. Swizzle sticks. Meerschaum pipes. Waffle irons. Ice crushers. Condiment squeeze bottles. Tiki mugs. Doo-wop 45s. Tupperware. Demitasses. Poker chips. Bridge mix. Tulips. Ambrosia. Corn forks.

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#303 :: Ulexite – “TV Rock”

December 7, 2004

Science fiction writer Bob Shaw in 1968 imagined “slow glass” – a substance that took a long time to transmit light. Manufacturers would set black, lightless panes of it up somewhere gorgeous for a few years to soak up the view, then sell it to someone who wanted a “scenedow” that showed that view. (Read […]

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