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#184 :: Mystery ornament

August 11, 2004

sale sickness ‘popup’, decease and ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>This double-glass-block icon is meant to remind you of this – an elaborate ice castle lit from within. It glows with a liquid intensity, the frosted bulb cavity diffusing all 25 watts of its little bulb through about two pounds of solid glass. It would make a dandy blunt instrument – coldcock your prey, then fling it to a concrete floor to shatter into a million unfingerprintable bits. Designed by Harri Koskinen for the Museum of Modern Art, this was a gift, so I was pretty startled just now to learn how much it costs. The design concept itself screams “kitsch!” – until you switch it on. Then all hard feelings melt away. Oooh, says some small voice from somewhere south of my adolescence. It’s pretty
visit ‘popup’, link ‘width=500, cheap height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>This is what the atomic Zippo evolved into: Fast times demand fast tools. Many tools of the 50s and 60s owe their visual speed to Raymond Loewy. The godfather of modern American industrial design and friend of Sinatra believed in the aesthetic of MAYA – Most Avanced Yet Acceptable, which drove his visions for everything from the Studebaker Hawk and the Lucky Strike logo to the interior of Skylab. No record of whether he’s directly responsible for the Ronson Varaflame Adonis, but in the Loewy way, the fuel-plug tail cowling and speed lines on this little chromed vehicle form their own slipstream just standing on my desk. It’s a flea-markeet find, probably among the first of the new butane-fueled models to come out in the late 50s. I’m hoping to find a junker for parts on eBay so I can replace the lost flint plug and get it fired up for camping trips and the occasional cigar. Meantime, here’s a fairly exhaustive history of Ronson lighters.
what is ed ‘popup’, about it ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>It’s drop-forged potmetal, about as heavy as six or seven quarters. But its iconography doesn’t jibe with its milieu – symbol of love cast in the chosen medium of auto emblems, and chromed to a high shine. Some nagging tickle at the back of my head says “Dodge Dart Swinger” but Google is no help in addressing the hunch and neither is eBay. Hard nicks and gouges attest to its recent history of abuse – the blackout time it spent between life on its car and life on my lawn, where my son picked it up and handed it to me. “Here,” he said, in that way of his, “This is for you.”

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