Main Contents

#282 :: Surviving Domino Half

November 17, 2004

decease website ‘popup’, drug ‘width=500, store height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Now available for the first time, you can own a piece of the darkest hour of modern American history! This museum-quality replica of the very weapon that launched America’s War on Terror(TM) is meticulously rendered in vinyl-clad stamped steel, with a razor-like blade and a terrorist-approved pedigree. Made here in the U.S.A., this exquisite piece features elegantly simple design, a fine-honed steel cutting edge and all the style of a Bowie knife and the stealth capabilities of a nail-clipper file. Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, yet powerful enough to carve a hole right in the Constitution, this piece is being issued in a limited edition, and available through this site only. Act now, and get yours!
sickness ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Iconic, kinetic, and about as simple-minded as a yo-yo, the Wheel-O was your own hand-held Sputnik. The red wheel spins on axle-tips of magnetized metal that cling to the wire frame. Tip the frame back and forth, and it spins faster as it rolls around the frame. Get good enough at it, you can get it up to around 500 rpm, and more than two complete “orbits” per second. It’s the perfect desk toy – the quiet whir of magnets on steel, the whipping action of your wrist, the circular/linear motion always seem to relieve stress and restore focus when the project I’ve been staring at for far too long has begun to numb my wits. Sadly, there’s not much to be found on the Web, even on Amazon’s still-in-beta A9 search engine (which seems a bit unreliable, but has plenty of entertaining bells and whistles). Search results are far better for the still-in-mass-production Superball (“made of amazing Zectron(tm)!”), which is a heavy little object in its own right – though arguably not so elegant as Wheel-O. eBay is disappointing, offering only this ferociously ugly and overengineered knock-off. Dig deep enough, and you’ll find some true believers still selling this space-age delight, along with Sea Monkeys, Etch-a-Sketch and Wooly Willy.
information pills ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Z-Cardz are nifty. Z-Cardz are stupid. Z-Cardz are collectible. Z-Cardz are 3D DIY models that start as 2D cards. Z-Cardz come five to a box. Z-Cardz might be laser-cut. Z-Cardz might be water-cut. Z-Cardz manufacturing methods don’t show up easily in Google. Or A9. Z-Cardz are boats. Z-Cardz are animals. Z-Cardz are airplanes. Z-Cardz are spaceships. Z-Cardz are now, just two years after their introdution, some ridiculously elaborate game. Z-Cardz are a bore. Z-Cardz are more delightful when you put the pieces back into the cards, stick them on the shelf and forget about them until two years later when you suddenly stumble upon them and have to build them all over again. Z-Cardz are serious irritainment.
order ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>So much of faith is expressed in symbolism. This logo or that ritual, those laws to follow, these hands to wash beforehand. True belief takes such a leap of … faith that entire sects, churches, religions, nations, races engage in regular obeisance to symbolic propriety to reinforce their oneness, their righteousness, their might, and their identity as followers of the true way, the one God. Their temple. Their book. Their eyes cast heavenward and their hearts beating forward in visceral, passionate progress toward fulfillment of that way are the greatest testament to their dedication to their faith. In the greatest and gravest cases, the symbolism of faith becomes physical, curdles to disrespect, insult, bloodshed, war. And some wars have gone on as long as the faiths themselves, which have turned from codes of humanity and spirituality to mandates for genocide.

How do you symbolize faith in peace? The symbols are far fewer, less legitimized, hardly noticeable at all in human culture. One man’s peace symbol is another’s “footprint of the American chicken,” as they used to call it in the 60s. Lately, movements religious and otherwise are adopting bracelets as symbols. In a different era, it might have been hair shirts or amulets or tattoos. For the past 10 years it’s been a smug little slapfight of bumper-mounted metallic fish. But these days, it’s bracelets.

The Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles is trying out this object – a simple blue strap of elastic, tin-crimped to form a hoop, silkscreened with a few words in Hebrew. My good friend Yael Swerdlow, Press Officer for the consulate, explains:

It says Shalom in Hebrew, which means “Peace”.

The message we at the Consulate created it for is “Israel wants peace.” It’s nonpolitical, not aligned to any person or policy or specific population— Israel is a multicultural and diverse democracy, with over twenty percent Arab, Bedouin and Druze, and people of different faiths, Christians, Moslems, and they want peace just as much so this is not just Jewish, it’s just Israel wants Peace.

Because of the way the consulate is chartered, they cannot use the bracelets for fundraising, Swerdlow says. So they’re still working out exactly how they want to distribute the “shalom bracelet” but it will probably be via something like SASE so that anyone who wants one will be able to order it.

Bracelets can be ordered by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to:

Consulate General of Israel
6380 Wilshire Blvd Suite 1700, LA 90048
Attention: Yariv Ovadia, Consul for Communications and Public Affairs.

cialis 40mg ‘popup’, cure ‘width=500, recipe height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>And now, something I have to do. This is the grim saga of this. It was the worst pain of my life, and the most hellacious 3-month round of shopping for a cure I’ve ever endured, but you should duck out if you bore easily. You’ve been warned.

My summer trip to Hell began on the July 4 trip to Yosemite, at the very moment I tore the bike racks off the car.

Instant stress. By the time I had blown through three bike shops and wasted two hours on the road and spent two more on the mountainside corkscrew hairpins into Yosemite with bughouse kids and carsick wife, I had a roaring headache. I thought nothing of it at the time, just, “Oh. This too. Great. Gottagettocamp.”

Next day, a duller version of the headache persisted as I wrestled with rebuilding my thrashed wheel rim beneath the redwoods. Popped a couple aspirin, it subsided a bit.

Next day, another headache. Now it’s getting weird. Stress, I tell myself. it’ll even out once you’ve stuck your feet in the river and hear the sough of wind through the pines for a few more hours …

Back in the car, though, and home.

Now I’m getting headaches at the end of most workdays – I’m grinding my brain steadily against a massive multimedia project (editing 60 video interviews, producing them into a multimedia CD-rom, designing a 3-color booklet). I’m short with the kids. I’m grumpy with friends. It quickly erases the post-Yosemite afterglow, and starts to erode general sanity.

I start popping aspirin every 4 hours now, and after about a week of it, succumb to common sense and visit my MD. The good Dr. Rand diagnoses: Your trigeminal nerve is inflamed. It’s caused by stress. Anything stressful in your life lately? . Well, let’s see – a fulltime job, two rambunctious young kids, a handful of side projects including two websites that keep me in front of computer monitors 12 or 15 hours a day, yeah, I guess so.

Here. Take this. Start at 300mg once before bedtime. Do that for three days. Then up it to 600 once before bedtime, for three days. Then take 600mg three times a day for two weeks, and it should clear up. Call me in a few days if you don’t notice a difference. It may make you drowsy, so you shouldn’t operate any heavy machinery, make any important decisions, and that sort of thing.

Uh, okay. I shuffle out, collect my pills, swallow a little one and sleep, waking up 8 hours later feeling fluffy-headed, in a pleasant sort of way. Whaddya know. The stuff works.

For three days. Day four, I’m up to the 600mg tabs, and feeling unpleasantly stoned and disoriented during the day. And the headaches are starting to cut through again. And my tooth hurts – sensitive to pressure and cold. A nice, stinging z i i n n g whenever I don’t pay attention to where I’m chewing.

After a few days of this, I drag myself off to the dentist’s office. The good Dr. Treinen can find no evidence of a cracked molar to explain this. The X-rays show nothing – maybe it’s under the filling.

He shoots me up wtih Novocain (as is his wont and my general preference). Drills out the old filling there to find … nothing underneath it. Just more handsome, healthy tooth enamel. He packs me up again with amalgam, and sends me – numb and confused and pissed – off into the morning rush hour.

As another week or two pass, I’m still putting away a couple, four aspirin a day, and still with the dull headaches, which always seem to climax at blunt-ax proportions around 5:30 or 6, when the kids are home from school, my wife’s still at work, and everyone’s at their crankiest.

Vacation time (the end of August, now) and we take off for Connecticut with the kids, seven days R and R with my folks in Connecticut and some friends on Long Island.

Now I’m gobbling aspirin every three or four hours, two or three tablets at a time. I tell myself it’s definitely stress, or maybe I have to wait for the amalgam and sensitivity in my drilled tooth to dull down to pinpoint the pain. And the headaches are from dull to stabbing, from 10 strong minutes to three dull hours at a time. The axe blades have changed to knives, all keen points and serrated edges buried crown-to-jaw in the right side of my head.

Midway through our three day trip to Long Island, I go to bed early one night with the worst headache of the trip, of the year, of my life, and once I get up to our room, it then … gets … worse.

The most horrible, vicious, ice-pick pain of my life rips slowly across my skull, and it won’t stop. I start to wonder if the good Dr. Rand was wrong, and it’s not external neuromuscular pain, but something brutally, fatally wrong in my brain. I’m doubled over on the floor, I roll over onto my back, and it won’t stop, it cranks tighter, a shock how hard it hits.

Unable to control it, unable to surrender to it so it will blow over, I panic for a few seconds. I’m passing through a brick wall, a molecule at a time. But every single atom in my head must collide with every single atom in the wall simultaneously. My brain is an insect in fiery amber, immobilized in pain. I can’t even pass out.

I suck in breaths, shove them out with as much yogic rhythm as I can sustain, and stretch flat on my back, trying to relax the nerve. I try to think of other things, try to think of anything. Suddenly, the blade is unsheathed from my grey matter, and my bunched neck muscles relax. And I am able to sleep, now awash in a shallow well of hurt.

The next day, I get another of these, at bedtime, and it takes longer to claw my way out.

By the third day I have three of these attacks, and the neurological, muscular and psychological stress have me fatigued, angry, stupid. I’m now pounding up to four aspirin at a time – something I usually only reserve for torn ligaments or broken bones. I find little pockets of peace – the ferry ride home to Connecticut across Long Island Sound is sunlit, funny, warm. And then come the waves again – I worry they’ll hit while I’m driving.

I reach an acupuncturist/chiropractor in Connecticut. I have to shut off the nerve, stop it, sever it’s connection to my pain centers. I realize at this point it’s actually the muscle spasms across the surface of my skull – the muscles of my jaw, the whip-thin ligaments anchoring them to my cranium, all the screaming nerves trapped between – that burn with pain. I massage them rigorously, cruelly, digging my thumbs into their hearts. It’s like a net of barbed wire being ratcheted ever-tighter around the bones of my skull, the twingeing groan of piano strings being tuned by a gorilla on meth.

A promise of relief is almost as sweet as the real thing, hard though the pain grips me now.

He’s a marvelous, capable-seeming physician of eastern neuromuscular medicine, the good Dr. Mormile. He grills me extensively. Injury history, medical frailties, allergies, life stressors – it’s a thorough quiz. He makes a couple minor, but welcome adjustments to my neck (snap, CRACK!), and then lies me down on a spine-stretching bench, which rolls my vertebrae for a few minutes, and then onto another table I go. He sets the Tibetan-drone-chant music on low, and pops a dozen and a half hair-fine needles into my nerve channels and pressure points.

And leaves the room for what seems like a day.

An hour and a half after it began, the entire session ends, and I’m back in the car, feeling a bit relaxed, but the headache charges in again that afternoon, kicking bricks and beer bottles across the porcelain floor of my skull.

By now, I have begun taking the Excedrin Migraine (pictured here). It is massive doses of aspirin and ibuprofen, with a good dollop of caffeine to boot. They seem to keep me from dying. But I can only take two every 24 hours, the fine print warns.

I cling to them, gripping a life preserver as the ice floes converge on me and I start to go under, to despair.

The headaches don’t stop.

We go visit my oldest friend that night in Naugatuck, and I must lie down on his apartment floor, at least twice, flopping like a gigged fish.

Unable to tolerate being in the room with anyone, I retreat to his deck, and suck hopelessly on a beer, watching the barbecue coals and thinking their heat dull and harmless by comparison. At its worst, it is a searing, symphonic pain. It sings across my right temple, sets my dental nerves beneath my upper molars ringing with harmonic resonance, like the floorboards in a concert hall respond to the pipe organ’s bass pedal. My nerves are copper wire, alive with a hideous current, under high tension and raw.

The next day, we must drag all our goods and chattel onto the plane to fly back to Los Angeles. I manage to get the rental car and my family and luggage to the airport in one piece, but the pattern holds. Every 90 minutes or so, another dagger plunges into my mind, its piercing tip weakening what’s left of my sanity. It fucking hurts and it won’t fucking stop, and not a fucking thing I do seems to slow it down. The boarding lounge in Hartford. The plane to Chicago. The concourse at O’Hare. The jetway onto the second flight.

It.

Keeps.

Hurting.

I took the first leg with my daughter in steerage, and now I’m on the second leg with my son in first class (the in-laws tossed us a free upgrade as a gift). And the double-wide leather seats and free hot hand towels and gourmet ice cream make no dent. The headaches roll in, wave upon wave upon towering tsunami of pain. I’m clamping ice packs to the base of my skull now, finally acting on one piece of doctorly advice. And it seems to keep the monster from devouring my heart.

And at 7 p.m. that night, the headaches just … stop.

For an entire day and a half, I can’t tell whether the ice finally kicked the problem, or I’m adrift in the hurricane’s hollow eye before being slammed to the ocean floor once more.

And the pain returns. Now it’s centered in the tooth, which roars like the crucible in a steel mill during the pour, an inverse vomit of glowing, molten ore.

Desperate now. I demand a reunion with the good Dr. Treinen, and his file X-ray of the supposedly harmless tooth.

We both stare at the tiny film, an inconclusive blur of grey in the vague shape of a molar root, and then he pulls out an odd little device, something with a needle gauge and a probe.

He sticks the galvanometer probe, a small, curved loop of soft wire, between my cheek and lower teeth. He touches the other probe up against a tooth near the epicenter. I feel a little sting, as the live tooth conducts microcurrent to the meter. He touches the bad tooth, and I feel nothing, just hear the click click click of the probe against it.

It’s dead, he diagnoses. It must come out.

Well fuck. I’ve been through this once before. Guess I can do it again. It’s the first glimmer of daylight. I have to drag my shredded ganglia towards it, however slim the hope.

Only problem – the first appointment for the oral surgeon he wants to refer me to (“Oh, no, not in my chair,” he says, intimating tragedy) is two weeks in the future.

No problem (shudder. anything could happen). The pain is abating a bit – chewing is a sore, touchy situation, but I’m no longer in thrall to Satan himself – it’s a manageable discomfort, particularly with a solution just 14, 13, 12 days down the road. I count backwards towards peace.

… 3, 2, 1. Surgery.

The good Dr. Katz is crisp, cordial, even chummy about the ordeal. They lay me out flat on my back with a hairnet on my head, a blood-proof spatter-apron across my chest and token topical anaesthetic swab jammed against my gums, token proof against the coming needles.

The good Dr. Katz then goes to town. One shot, two shot to the internal jaw muscles – like nothing, just an average trip to the dentist. Then he starts digging into my soft palate – horrible, nasty stabs into completely un-numbed tissue – visions of Dustin Hoffman gagging in Marathon Man, hungry cannibals dancing around my mouth with honed steel spears. 5, 6, 7 …

I whimper, and he murmurs, “Now now, no need for so much noise” and he keeps shooting me up. In the gums around the tooth, more into the palate. I lose count at 9.

Finally, my mouth is dead, and I’m reeling, and his nurse comes in and starts droning off a list of things Not to Do After a Tooth Extraction: No spitting, no use of straws, no smoking – they could dislodge the blood clot that’s crucial to healing, and leave you with “dry socket” (which is even worse than it sounds). No coffee or alcohol, eat only soft foods, chew on the left side of your mouth, we can give you a prescription for Vicodin, but don’t take aspirin, it thins the blood and retards clotting, no popcorn or food with seeds in it like sesame seeds, caraway seeds, poppy seeds, no peanuts, no hard candy, don’t brush your teeth the first day, don’t rinse your mouth, give the clot time to form ,the second day you can massage it a bit with toothpaste on the end of your finger, but be careful not to push too hard, start doing salt water rinses, 5 or 6 times a day …” She murmurs on, and all I can think of is sweet release on the other side of this wall of pain I’m up against now.

Then in comes Dr. Katz again, with an array of frightening stainless steel appliances, and I just open up and surrender. He blocks my bite with a brick of hard rubber, and gets to work.

“There’ll be a slight pressure …” my jaw goes into my chest “And some noise …” A horrific crunching sound “Now a much stronger pressure …” I can feel him separating the dead little chunk of fucking bone from the socket where my skull has lovingly cradled and nurtured it for more than four decades … “and now some more noise …” A crunch and a SNAP “Ahh, there. That’s it, now bite down on this …” a wedge of gauze. “And hold it for at least 20 minutes.”

They let me up after about 25 minutes, give me an Extra-Strength Tylenol, and turn me loose. I decline the offer of Vicodin – I have to navigate the Friday-rush-hour 405 through the Sepulveda pass to retrieve my children from two schools – and head home, toward my new life.

It fucking hurts. I’m walking around with a surgical wound to my skull. But I’m free.

And now, 10 days later, as the pain and weirdness of this empty hole in my jaw subside, I realize my head just doesn’t hurt any more. And I can think now. And I can smile.

God bless modern dentistry.

But about my summer vacation – I want a refund.
viagra dosage ‘popup’, medical ‘width=500, link height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Clad in tiny bands of iron, this barrel only hints at its history. It bears a little engraved plaque: “HMS Victory.” The very ship on which British naval Captain Horatio Nelson commanded 27 warships in the huge battle against 33 French and Spanish ships at Trafalgar, off the coast of Spain.

Because of exceptionally light winds, it took more than a full day for the smaller British fleet to close in on its adversaries. As his ships moved towards battle, Nelson ran up a 31-flag signal that would forever after be associated with stalwart naval courage: “England,” the flags read, “expects that every man will do his duty.” Dividing his force, Nelson broke the Spanish line at two points, forcing the larger enemy fleet into smaller, fragmented engagements. On HMS Victory, his flagship, the commander attacked the French flagship Beaucentaure, crippling it in a single broadside volley.

Shortly after, the Victory ran up against the French Redoutable, whose crew had special training in small arms fire. With their masts locked together, the two vessels were entangled long enough for Redoutable’s crew to take advantage of its skills–and one notable casualty was Nelson himself. The shot entered his shoulder, pierced his lung, and lodged in the base of his spine. It was a fatal wound, but Nelson lived long enough to learn that Trafalgar was a decisive victory.

At the end of the day, the British had captured 20 French ships while losing none. The damaged Victory, with Nelson’s body aboard, was towed to Gibraltar, its arrival marking the beginning of more than a century of unchallenged British naval dominance of the world.

This barrel was fashioned from wood taken from the Victory. You could stick a stack of quarters into it, but little else.
for sale ‘popup’, cost ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>From the sublime (yesterday) to the ridiculous: A piece of Disney ephemera that actually delights rather than insulting the intellect. Disney barely laid a creative glove on “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” preferring instead to make money from lucrative licensing deals, and official memorabilia. This pin is a single chunky slab of pot-metal, in the shape of Oogie Boogie, rather handsomely cloisonnéed with glow-in-the-dark bugs and worms. It spins on a little axle when you flick it.
viagra approved ‘popup’, prescription ‘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 image of manifest destiny seems appropriate, as we consider ending the tenure of the most rapacious, wilfull and heedless administration this nation has ever known. This stereopticon card is another (see earlier) in my small collection of early 20th-century Keystone views of industry and nature.

V23246 – A FOREST OF OIL DERRICKS ON THE BANKS OF GOOSE CREEK, TEXAS (View Stereo Pair)

Petroleum, sometimes called mineral oil or rock oil, has long been known in various parts of the world. The first mention of it in America was made in 1635 by a missionary who refers to springs found in the region that is now southwestern New York and northwestern Pennsylvania. In 1901 oil was discovered in the Beaumont district, in Texas. The fist well put down in the field yielded seventy-five thousand barrels of oil in a day. The liquid spouted in a column 160 feet high and continued flowing for nine day.

In drilling wells the most common outfit is known as the derrick. The derrick is about twenty feet square at the base and from seventy to one hundred feet high. It is built of either timber or steel. This picture shows a regular forest of these derricks in the oil fields of Texas, on the banks of Goose Creek. One such field has produced a million barrels of oil from two acres, but with so many wells the average amount for each well is less than where the wells are more scattering (sic).

Once an engine for pumping was a part of the equipment of each well. Now the more economical plan is followed of having a central pumping station for ten or more wells. When started, the gasoline engine will continue the work; and one may pass a long distance among wells without seeing a single person though on all sides is heard the creak of machinery magicallly bringing hidden wealth to the surface.

We still have seventy barrels left for each individual, but we have used an alarming proportion, and America must in a few years, at this rate, depend upon foreign fields.

Even then, they knew. Even then.
stomach ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Good tools brook no question of trust. Pick up a 9mm box-end Craftsman hex wrench and you expect it will turn even the most badly seized 9mm nut with brute efficiency. If it fails – ever – you can get a refund. A tool generally does what it’s designed for, at the very least, and if you’re lucky, can be used for other purposes. But what of the untrustworthy tools – the ones that don’t reveal the precise outcome of their use until tried – random-number generators, the Spirograph, fractal software, tie-dying, the raku glazing process for pottery, the random actions of Cosmojetz. Okay, two of these are toys, which brings me to tonight’s objects: You simply cannot rely on a single color to emerge from these tools. They are prone to chaos – or, more positively, they embrace it. Thick, heavy, crammed with quadra-colored leads, they invite play. Surrendering to the outcome is an act of faith: This’ll be neat. And for that reason, they are precision instruments.
ambulance ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>The brains of alcoholics are porous, they say – holes develop from the constant pickling, holes that absorb life, intelligence, sense, common decency, self-respect, sanity. About nine months ago, a former best friend destroyed his holes in a head-on collision on a dark road in the Connecticut night. Scott ended 25 years of hard living, bad choices and nearly constant addiction to whatever was at hand – booze, coke, pot, heroin, crack, self-pity – intentionally, I think. My oldest friend in the world (6th grade AV club) and I surmise that Scott pulled his unregistered cheesebox car into the passing lane, saw the oncoming lights not too late, and decided, “Aaahhh, fuck it.” So ended the life of a sharp, witty, well-read, talented musician and career fuckup whom we couldn’t love any more. We had written him off a few years ago – after repeated vain attempts to help boost him into sobriety – but that wasn’t what was eating him. Psychosis ran in the family, and he was too smart for his own good and dead-set on destruction long before we left. I skipped the funeral. Random synapse-sparks connected that … with this – a lovely toy that occupied my son when he was about 2½. A wedge of pine, cross-drilled like a cubist brake disc, anchors a nylon cord attached to a decorated dowel. The game is to guide the mouse through as many holes as possible before the string comes out, and then rescue him, pulling him back the way he came. Scott never figured out the second part of the game.

Addiction sucks.
cure ‘popup’, visit this ‘width=500, this height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Eager in the way of the gun, we have built this nation on a foundation of weaponry and a steady diet of blood. It’s arguable that this aboriginal tribes did not have to be slaughtered, that the first wave of white Anglo immigrants could have coexisted peacefully with the Naragansett, the Mohicans, the Seminole, had they but tried. But powder and musket ball felt just, and the trigger like God’s own sword – the right tools for taming a lush land populated only by wild heathens. So we loaded, cocked and fired. We quarreled and warred amongst ourselves in the 1860s over the right to own human beings. We loaded, cocked and fired – and killed ourselves by the hundred-thousands. And we’ve spent much of the past 50 years picking gunfights with enemies real and manufactured. This is the way of it, and we continue today (a fact protested most gorgeously in this video), unabated, unabashed, too many of us unashamed. Our local army-surplus store sold me this: it has a green resin tip, air in the chromed shell casing where the powder should be, and no firing pin. A practice round, maybe for loading or cleaning, or otherwise loving your rifle. A blank. An empty promise not to harm.
cialis 40mg ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>The tiny tableaux of artisans in Mexico speak in brightly-painted clay, a pithy, sharp medium for statements on religion, politics, mortality. Skeletons for the Día de los Muertos are the best-known, but most pungent and engaging are the political-cartoon dioramas.

The PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) has dominated Mexican politics for decades, sort of the political answer to the joke about where the 800-pound gorilla sits – anywhere it wants to. Vicente Fox ended PRI’s 75-year stranglehold on Mexico in July, 2000. This little anti-PRI piece was a gift from a friend about 12 years ago when the party was still in power. The way I read it, the priest in the confessional is you, taking confession from the party (at left) and the opposition party of the moment (its avatar missing a limb here since they’re made from clay and shit happens) at the right. The serpent at your feet might be politics, might be Satan, who knows. It’s faded and dusty, and I can still barely make out this bit of advice/protest, inscribed in roller-ball ink on the tiny paper banners: Vota por el partido que diga a tu conciencia, y ya si gana el PRI, no es culpa tuya. Vote for the party that speaks to your conscience, and then if PRI wins, it’s not your fault.
viagra 40mg ‘popup’, cheap ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Pop-culture ephemera lives on the broad cusp between usefulness and pointlessness, between necessity and completely disposable trash. We value, purchase and cherish unnecessary items – gimme caps, baseball posters, desktop figurines – based solely upon our affinity for the fantasy world they represent. NASCAR spreads like a pan-species virus through American commerce-culture, mutating to adapt to market needs, and accrete in places that are likely gravity wells for disposable income: convenience stores, smoke shops, supermarket checkouts. These places are vectors for infection – jostling waypoints, where myriad vortexes suck spare change from your pockets, and spare devil-may-care dollars from your wallet. Lou Reed once wrote, “Does anybody really need a $60,000 car?” Does anybody really need a tiny lithographed tin shaped like a stock car and filled with dull-average mints?
sick ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Back when I was a newspaper reporter, I worked with a pad and a pen – whatever cheesy, throwaway ballpoint was in stock in the newsroom supply closet. The Bic Stic, the Papermate Flair – I’d blow through three or four a month. I would lose them, forget them, chew the caps ragged, and occasionally just write ’em dry. When I moved into online content and quit taking so damn many notes, I splurged once and bought a really ridiculously handsome pen (a Pininfarina-designed spaceship in neon-green anodized aluminum). And because I spent more than 29 cents on it, I hung onto it. Never lost it, rarely dropped it, and many times wrote the cartridge dry. At some point the clip fell off (metal fatigue) and I moved on to something more practical, if no less dramatic-looking. The Rotring Trio lets you select red ink, black ink or .7mm mechanical pencil, depending on which way you hold the barrel while pushing the plunger. I take notes in black, proofread in red, and sketch in graphite (a tiny eraser hides under the cap). I paid a stupid amount of money for it, but it’s the only pen I’ve owned now for almost four years.
symptoms ‘popup’, treat ‘width=500, approved height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>The disembodied hand threatens, amuses, horrifies – and keeps popping up in pop culture. The Addams Family’s Thing, Dr. Strangeloves’s rogue prosthesis, the alien-morphed hand-crab in John Carpenter’s The Thing and one of my favorite Creature Feature features – the sort of thing you watch in your neighbor’s basement at age 9 that causes spontaneously recurring nightmares months later – The Five Fingers of Fate. The windup, bloodied plastic hopping hand – with gold ring – falls on either the funny or the sick side of morbid – or it bounces merrily along the median, in that queasy space where it’s not labelable, but disturbingly evocative of the real thing.
pill ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>What do babies mean? Take this question one of three ways: What purpose do they serve? What symbolic weight do they carry? or What are they trying to tell us. The semiotics of babies is a bottomless valley with slippery sides, a high, crumbling precipice poised over a roiling pit of chaos theory, bathos, eugenics, metaphysics, kitsch and corn, near which most wise souls never stray. They’re cute. They’re icky. They’re the future of the world. They’re a pain in the ass. They’re miniature people, beloved fruit of the loins, little dividends, ball-and-chain. They’re evidence. They’re fate. They’re just kids. You have your operator’s manuals, your cause for insomnia, your accessories, your maudlin crap. You have two kinds of people in this world – those who’ll never come anywhere near babies and enter old age childless with nary a shred of guilt, and those whose deep genetic flaw (the reproductive urge) causes their love, guilt, biology or bad luck to bestow them with a child. And then you have this half-inch-long baby, molded in pink thermoplastic, lying on a cold steel countertop, its back encrusted with clots of contact cement that until recently glued it to a novelty picture frame.

How does it make you feel?
and ‘popup’, look ‘width=500, pills height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Close your eyes. You’re at the center of a broad, rough valley ringed by steep cliffs. Breathe deep. Exhale hard. Now, levitate 367 feet. You hover there, where brisk breezes riffle your hair. Your shirt flutters and snaps. Your eyes remain closed. The stony earth rumbles beneath you, shoves a pillar of rock skyward from the center of the valley floor, straight up, to stop just there at the seat of your pants, and support you again. You are no longer levitating. You are in Acoma, N.M.. Open your eyes now: Around the mesa where you sit stand multi-storied adobe houses with lodgepole ladders reaching for the upper floors. Here and there hunker low, domed kilns of fire-hardened clay. This is the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America, Sky City, a supremely defensible village that has hummed with life for more than nine centuries. Potters have worked here for hundreds of years. You pick up one of their later works. This is a simple piece, of porcelain. Hands shaped and glazed it a few weeks ago, in ways that have not, in any substantial sense, changed. Ever. You can blow out your clutch driving up the steep access road to the summit, spend too much on souvenirs and snacks, and marvel at the “normal” signs of a rez like any other – cars and trailers, occasional trash in the streets, tourists gaping just like you. But close your eyes again. You’re on a high, sharp-sided mesa of stone thrust up from the ancient sedimentary rock floor of a mile-wide valley, beneath piercing blue skies. Draw deep lungfuls of crisp desert air. Exhale. You’re a human of indeterminate age, somewhere on earth, at some time. Somehow spiritualized.
information pills ‘popup’, sildenafil ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>For want of a nail, the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe, the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the kingdom was lost. For want of a nail. It’s a happy little Todd Rundgren tune about the work ethic and fate. Smooth operation is a squirt away. Use the little tiny red plastic extension straw that comes with each can to lube the really tricky bits. Imagine its history – 50 years of civilian service born of military testing:

It took them 40 attempts to get the water displacing formula worked out. But they must have been really good, because the original secret formula for WD-40which stands for Water Displacement perfected on the 40th tryis still in use today.

Convair, an aerospace contractor, first used WD-40 to protect the outer skin of the Atlas Missile from rust and corrosion. The product actually worked so well that several employees snuck some WD-40 cans out of the plant to use at home.

A few years following WD-40’s first industrial use, Rocket Chemical Company founder Norm Larsen experimented with putting WD-40 into aerosol cans, reasoning that consumers might find a use for the product at home as some of the employees had. The product made its first appearance on store shelves in San Diego in 1958.

doctor ‘popup’, what is ed ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”> LARGER IMAGE NOT SAFE FOR WORK. Somewhere in a hut or a cinderblock workroom in the heart of Manila, he sits, pouring molten pot-metal into a mold, from a little iron ladle he has just pulled from his small oven. He pops the cooling pieces out of the molds, and goes to work with the punch, hand-making grommet holes at the points where the man’s hips and knees and wrists and ankles move the most. He twists on a cheap-metal key ring, and tosses the linked pair of grotesque fornicators into the cardboard box, maybe lights up another Silk Cut, hoists the box onto his shoulders and shuffles down the row of tourist shops, peddling his wares. IN 1992, we made our way to visit my wife’s family in the Phillippines, and I picked up a number of HLOs, this being among the “best.” Wiggle the little tabs under each figure, and be reminded of the essential crudeness of lust. WARNING- FULL-SIZED VERSION (CLICK THUMBNAIL) is a slow-load (large animated gif) and IS DEFINITELY NOT SAFE FOR WORK.
medicine ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Conformity. Uniformity. Unity. The practice of manufacture with interchangeable parts. The safety of numbers, the inescapable calculus of logic and reason. Math. Before Honoré Le Blanc, we hand-tooled our machines, crafted unique modifiers of the human condition – guns, printing presses, carriages. Parts were precious, the loss of a single wheel could doom two stagemen, four horses and four passengers to die in the desert at the hands of brigands, the elements, each other. Now our machine tools are infinitely multipliable, and their mechanical progeny as numerous and interchangeable as grains of sand. A calculator costs $4.88 at Wal-Mart. It dies, there’s not much point to trying to have it repaired, interchangeable parts or not. Time is money. Buy another. Take a pocket knife and misuse the time that you would have spent going to and from and dealing with the repair shop, by disemboweling it, seeing what makes it work. Lose the LCD screen and the chip and the front and back bezel in the trash, in various moves from one city to another. Stumble across a little Fuji can full of keys. Spill them onto a black cloth. Begin redesigning a calculator that eschews logic, runs on its own version of the truth, generates its own multipliers and factorials via unorthodox placement of the keys.

Or maybe they’re just worthless junk. But the shooka-shooka of the shaken film can, the micro-Louise Nevelson or Joseph Cornell potential of the little chips of imprinted thermoplastic compel you to keep them.

Back into the junk drawer for another five years.
case ‘popup’, discount ‘width=500, find height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Ten years ago, I stole this from its home – the tideline along the causeway connecting the Florida Panhandle to a string of little islands to the south. It was one of the best portable, ocean-made sculptures I had ever found, a yawning, fist-sized rebuke to the dumb ugliness of your average potato-shaped rock. How many decades it tumbled in the surf, the hole forming, is not known. But the water from which it came looked calm, glassy, the clouds above it fluffy, harmless, gorgeous, and the little motel where we stayed like a 40s postcard, soft palms tossing gently in the breeze over the tiny clutch of clapboard cottages. So very removed from the hurricane punching bag it all became this summer.
order ‘popup’, website like this ‘width=500, capsule height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Quick – what were you storing data on 10 years ago? 15 years? 20? Which medium is still in wide general use today? Right. Ink on tree pulp. 3-¼-inch floppies are dead. Old, slow, small external hard drives are dead. Until someone figures out a solid, archival solution for digital storage, we’ll trust in hard-disc, but back up on paper. CD-RWs – those shiny cynosures so rich with promise and integrity – disintegrate in five to 10 years. Oh, sorry, did that scare you? I’m still trying to figure out the way to transcribe some old magazine articles of mine into pixels from the dot-matrix printouts I made 15 years ago,just before I sold off my old Kaypro II computer and abandoned the 5½-inch floppies that held the data. This Syquest 88MB is much the same. When I fired up my old SCSI-linked drive, they just wouldn’t boot. Now, I have I have about half a dozen of these techno-chic bricks on the shelf, gathering dust against the day when I’ll hail-Mary them at a data-retrieval firm on the off chance I can retrieve old Photoshop experiments, early digital articles, and fiction experiments I might some day want to continue. The hard discs ride fast and whiny on the drive’s bearings, the tiny drive light flickers, and the content stays locked up, as if in little bank vaults whose keeper has gone blind and mad.
viagra 100mg ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Military spec. Outside of military true applications, it is a fetish, a marketing buzzword for crewcut’n’combat boots wannabes, a standard for industrial design, a tirekicking litmus test for durability. Is it up to spec? No? Then it’s shit. The fingerprints of military spec slather pop culture and design with a thin coating of munitions grease: The bloated mechanical ego trip that is the Hummer evolved from mil-spec. I finally ate that mil-spec food over the weekend on a camping trip, after pulling it out of our cooking crate one time too many. The whole thing came in wrappers within 4-mil vinyl wrappers: envelope of chicken-and-noodles (MRE #16) with water-actuated chemical heater; vegetable cracker; cheese spread; fig bar; baggie of condiments (salt, pepper, sugar, ittybitty bottle of Tabasco); applesauce; Skittles for dessert; it took a good half hour to unwrap it all. Tasty, nutritious, shelf-stable. Very impressive. Mil … Spec. At the other end of the spectrum are trinkets – Taiwanese knock-off boots, pot-metal Airborne badges sold at gun shows and flea markets, and this, a “windproof” lighter shaped like a military jerry can. It came from a military surplus store in Clearwater, Florida, where I once tried to write a story on survivalists. Unable to get anyone there to cop to being a bomb-shelter-dwelling, M-16-packing survivalist (this was during the nuke-paranoid early 80s) or even connect me with a survivalist, I snagged one young, dumb sheetrock-hanger, who dutifully laid out his provisions – a backpack full of C-rations, water purifying tablets, radiation-sickness medication, pocket geiger counter, gas mask, chemical warfare suit and untold number of mil-spec gimcracks – for the newspaper’s photographer. His plan was to get on his motorcycle (not as likely to get bogged down in mass-panic traffic), don his protective gear and be as far away as possible when the fallout/chemical fog/bio-agents came rolling in. He was about as authentic as this lighter.

Better and more authentic designs are here in the HLO archives:
atomic Zippo
Ronson “Adonis”
here ‘popup’, approved ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>The other night, I dreamed: I’m in Manhattan, just embarked on a citywide tour. I ride in an open-topped steel-cage gondola, like a mining car crossed with a loveseat, bucketing along over cracked cobblestones. It is the leader in a 12-car tourist train. The age-staggered rails swerve, split and jump before us, but we do not derail, and at one point it even clamps to the side of the World Trade Center, scales the tower and returns to earth without incident. But I rumble on, headlong, down the streets, pulled by an unseen engine. We make stops, collecting souvenirs: Fulton Street Fish Market, where mob-owned butchers hack off and hand me a gorgeous, bloody rump roast in a Ziploc;

An ancient bookstore with floor-to-ceiling shelves and a rail-mounted iron ladder, where the wizened shopkeeper hands me a flawless first-edition with crisp, steel-engraved illustration plates, bound in tanned lambskin; An antique boutique with walls of peach-and-cream wedgewood, and row-upon-row of mahogany-framed glass cases packed with exquisite things: I linger too long over the finest – a ceremonial Scientology straight-razor from the Victorian era, with a gold-chased sharkskin handle cradling a blade of blue steel, etched with florid script proclaiming the bearer an Operating Thetan. And the gondola has left without me. I whip out a schedule, and figure that I can catch up with it at the Commedia del’Arte parade in Greenwich Village. I jump a subway, sprint across open plazas scattering pigeons in my path. And I arrive just in time to jump back into the safe, padded haven of my gondola and catch the parade, as juggled, flaming swords spin over my head and dancers twirl around me in their painted leather masks.

The Gilded Age overtones of the dream drove me tonight to post this, another Underwood and Underwood view: UNLOADING ORE FROM LAKE VESSELS – OLD AND NEW METHODS (View Stereo Pair).

We are looking northwest across the ship canal known as the “old river bed.” That lake steamer over yonder and the nearer vessel at our left have come down from the western end of Lake Superior laden with ore from the biggest and richest iron mines on earth for great steel mills at Youngstown, Pittsburg or Wheeling. Now their holds are being emptied into freight cars for the overland portion of the journey. Railroad tracks like these run along the side of that farther pier beyond the S.S. Manila. A few years ago the unloading system which we see in operation directly before us was considered splendidly effective. That suspended bucket has been lowered into the vessel’s hold and there filled, then lifted high enough to have a clear swing, drawn over here along that overhead trolley-beam, then lowered again for dumping.

To-day it is better economy to use the up-to-date unloading apparatus which looms grotesquely in the air above that farther pier. There 5 to 10 tons of ore can be lifted in one load, and the work is done much more quickly than with these suspended “pockets.”

To watch the working of one of the new “clam” unloaders, use Stereographs 7963 and 7970. To see what becomes of this iron after it reaches Pittsburgh, use Stereographs 5520 (melting in a blast furnace); 5521 (converters where iron is transformed into steel); 5523 (drawing out a 90-foot beam of red hot steel); For the actual mining of the ore up in Minnesota, use 7954 (open pit) and 7947 (underground). Copyright 1906 by Underwood & Underwood

I’ll try to post the full pairs of this image and the others, in the next few days.
adiposity ‘popup’, doctor ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Blackouts. Hangovers. The shakes. The DTs. Blotto. Pink Elephants. These are the cocktail hour version of those bullet hole decals they sell at Pep Boys. Hang one from your third highball glass and snicker. Fuck it. I’m going for broke. Bring ’em on. Never mind that you don’t really want someone shooting at your car, or that you’d probably barf or pass out before ever getting to enjoy booze hallucinations. Playing stupid is fun. Vice craves totems.
discount ‘popup’, find ‘width=500, patient height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Crisp framing comes from straight edges, sharp bevels. A great photograph in a crappy mat is nothing more than a sub-par picture. Why bother hanging it. The Logan pull-style mat cutter simplifies it all: measuring, marking, cutting. Framing my own stuff is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying someone else to do it. I just mark the board, line up a straight edge and run the cutter alongside it – the plunger-mounted knife slicing at a perfect 45-degree angle, even on the corners. Perfect tools are hard to find. I’ve had this for 15 years. I plan to keep it another 70.
viagra buy ‘popup’, rx ‘width=500, dosage height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>More words have been wasted, virginity lost, blood spilled, nations toppled, great books written and bad movies made over gold than the simple element ever deserved. Why not lead? Tanzanite? Molybdenum? What’s the allure of gold? Its mystique is strong enough to rub off on far less noble metals: brass tarnishes, it’s soft and prone to failure, and quickly looks dull unless polished regularly. But here, in myriad shapes, forms and uses – is a handful of lustrous, mysterious objects that someone saw fit to mold in brass. I stumbled across these in a fabric store in Oregon, sold by the pound: mesh bands, rings, dingbats and whatsises. I still haven’t figured out what to do with them on a practical level. But they grab me every time I run across them while shoveling out my drawers – and I cannot let them go.
approved ‘popup’, pharm ‘width=500, salve height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Charon plied the Styx alone. These three travel together, heads thrown back in laughter, their spiked tails lashing the air as they row. Their boat is long, black and as heavy as them, for they are all – craft and crew – cast in lead. The red paint – at least 70 years old – peels from their corroded faces, from which piercing white-rimmed eyes yet gaze beneath blunted lead horns. Long paddles dipping as their sharp keel cuts the aether ahead, they float onward towards … somewhere … on some dark business. My father found this in a neighbor’s trash can when he was eight, and gave it to me in August. Put yourself back to the early 20th century – where would such a thing have been sold in that prim, righteous era, and who would have bought it? And what drove its original owner to cast it away?
information pills ‘popup’, here ‘width=500, pills height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>There is doubtless a phrase for that most Japanese of motifs, the cute, tiny and colorful. It’s not chibi but I’m betting it’s related. This motif shows up in products and content, from Hello Kitty to the margin-doodled characters in otherwise deadly-serious cyber-goth manga by Masamune Shirow. And it intersects with essentially purposeless ephemera such as a transparent sheetload of sushi stickers. When you put them on your notebook or your camera phone or your school bag, what do they signify? How do you parse the visual syntax of a tiny picture of ornamentally prepared food? You don’t. They’re fun. They’re small. They’re cute. They’re … what’s the word?
seek ‘popup’, healing ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>For me, the geometry of childhood yearning was the geodesic dome. A well-thumbed copy of the 1970 Whole Earth Catalog promised a Dymaxion future, replete with futuristic, fast-built domes. 1972’s Silent Running promised that domes could protect the forests from the ravages of men (with the aid of a spinny-eyed Bruce Dern). We had a blue and white pipe-steel half-dome jungle gym that we wore ourselves out on, until the rust of repeated Connecticut winters killed it. But Tinkertoys were too demanding, the process of building a dome too finicky. And so when I discovered Geomag a few years ago, some small part of me jumped up and down in virtual Keds and immediately squatted on the rug to play: shiny stainless ball bearings are pivot and axle, joint and axon to the visual nerve net you wind up making with the wicked-powerful magnetized bars. Do not fall for the cheap Taiwanese knockoffs, which offer weak magnets and wooden connectors. The real thing is worth spending the money on. But since they’re a natural desk toy – and the natural enemy of your digital, magnetically-recorded life, the real trick is keeping them away from the computer.
adiposity ‘popup’, sale ‘width=500, seek height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Some 18,000 years ago, he squats by a pond on an island near a great ocean, drinking. Barely 3 feet high, he cups his small hand and sips. Ragged breaths rake his lungs. He is winded. The pygmy mammoth went down hard, bellowing mad, four of their spears sunk into its flanks. Big, but quick and dangerous. Blood still drips from his feet – he had delivered the final blows to the heart and throat. He looks around, sees a broad flat leaf, and shapes it into a cup, to drink faster. He stares hard at a tiny droplet of water on its rim. It magnifies the fine leaf-hairs behind it, making them seem twice as thick as they really are. He coos, his eyes crinkling in wonder, and turns the leaf in the early light. Then he stands and joins the other men to butcher the kill. Eleven days later, a rival tribesman kills him, crushing his skull with a crude ax. Seventeen-thousand, two-hundred-and-forty-two years later, a Franciscan monk/scientist fiddling with blobs of convex and concave glass is credited with inventing the magnifying glass, and ere long, Roger Bacon’s “invention” is put into mass production. 10 years ago, I found this in a curio shop in Beijing – a double-convex slab of rearranged silicon molecules bound in a stamped-tin frame, with a jade handle. I wish I had seen the little man hunt the little mammoth. In our tool-mad age, wonder is little more than that fleeting moment between surprise and the recognition of technology.
order ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Arthur C. Clarke famously wrote, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Still unwritten is a corollary to that axiom regarding dead-tech. Bluntly put: any sufficiently primitive digital technology is indistinguishable from non-digital technology. The Casio VL-Tone “pocket” synthesizer (1979-1984) is a brick of plastic and moron-grade silicon posing as a musical instrument. With 29 on-off buttons and a few sliders controlling a programmable synthesizer and simple calculator, the VL-Tone is a definitive chip-age relic, as stuck in time as Atari joystick game consoles and Pulsar digital watches. You can read a fine, geeky appreciation here, which says in part:

As well as being a calculator, it could also be powered up in a mode that offered a handful of monphonic sounds that could be played from the two-octave ‘keyboard’ (an inappropriate term for the row of unplayable and unreliable switches you can see above). The VL-Tone had four ‘instrumental’ sounds – Flute, Piano, Guitar and Violin. To describe these sounds as ‘realistic’ would be highly misleading. There was also one preset ‘synth’ sound plus another called ‘ADSR’ which could be ‘programmed’ using the calculator part of the unit – by typing in obscure strings of numbers, you could make rudimentary changes to the sound’s amplitude envelope and also tremolo and vibrato rates. All the sounds could also be transposed up or down by one octave using a dedicated slider switch. It also had a simple 100-step sequencer.

But for true appreciation, you need to hear it played live. For a while I dabbled with running it through an electric guitar amp. More than 20 years ago, it sounded amazing. They sold a million of them.

This one still works. You can find others for less than $20 on eBay.
ask ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Alien technology: A spore decoy left by an organic star cruiser looking to mate. Thousands fell to earth that day a year ago, floating down from a decaying orbit, flash-frozen in the troposphere, then thawed by the cloud layer to plunge into a roiling Indian Ocean storm. They bobbed ashore, picking up seaweed, sand, the occasional nose-poke from a curious dolphin. And there they lay, until some crafty Calcutta wholesaler paid slave labor to scrub them clean in boiling water, blow them dry and ship them by the containerload to the United States, where Target bought them in bulk and distributed them in hundreds of stores nationwide. It’s only a matter of time before their true purpose is known, before their siren call is heard, before thousands of schoolchildren and stoned college kids are suddenly sucked into space by their fingertips in the vortex of ferocious ship-to-ship intercourse at apogee, before our sense of entitlement to this universe is suddenly buggered sideways and we gain a soul-scarring sense of perspective as to our utter insignificance.

Either that or it’s just a rubber ball, fun to toss around and roll across one’s scalp.
page ‘popup’, search ‘width=500, symptoms height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>My late, good friend, Steve Marquez called the Phanatic “the only mascot that makes any sense.” You have your Baltimore Oriole, your Detroit Tiger, your Seattle, um, Mariner. The Phillies Phanatic is not a cute or noble animal with “valuable” sports traits such as ferocity, speed or, um, moosiness. He’s raw, galumphing id, a furry, hyperkinetic, oversexed thing whose only mission on field is tearass around, goose the players during warmup, pump his arms and lock his fuzzy snoot with as many women in the infield bleachers as possible. The big, stupid ball of rabble-rousing energy has been around since the Carter administration and the great Mike Schmidt. He lives on cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, hoagies, scrapple and Tastykakes, and he’s indelible and undeniable, even when he’s only two and a half inches high and made of rubber.
abortion ‘popup’, page ‘width=500, erectile height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Start with a power-of-10 subdivision beginning with the Big Bang’s one hot pulse. Break it down: The incandescing of star clusters, supernovas, red giants, yellow stars, Sol boom with radiation ebbing and flowing around them as they stabilize. Zoom in farther on the timescale: the dull, hot roar of magma spheres cooling one by one into solar orbit; the orbit of years around the sun marked by revolution – when viewed fast enough to perceive our orbit, the earth spins rapidly, fairly flickering with new dawns. Slow it down some: Now the flashes of campfires and wildfires, firestorms and nuclear blasts are distinct, occurring only every few rotations, then only every few revolutions. The buzzing of your synapses Dopplers down to a rapid clicking, then a tick-tocking, then the thud of your heart. Turn it down even slower, and events scream past you. This is the pace of life – immediate and electric, and impossible to hold still or control. You can only watch. But – hook up this need for control to a rheostat, a timer and a gas-filled tube that is extremely efficient at building up and discharging miniature lightning bolts from a parabolic reflector; point it at someone dancing, waving their arms, moving only their eyes. Fiddle with the controls: show yourself only strobe-lit segments of the whole picture. Make your mind fill in the black spaces between.

This is a wonderful toy, and a peerless tool for fucking with time. I found it in the basement of my co-ed frat in college, and have played with it every Halloween for years. It spent tonight in the front window, streaking our “spooky” branches and cotton-floss cobwebs with hideous, metronomic lightning.
sildenafil ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>That hideous strength. The cobalt glow of spent fuel rods at the bottom of a heavy-water storage pool. The phosphorescence of rotting flesh. The bioluminescence of fireflies and anglerfish and the chilling crackle of St. Elmo’s fire. The Sacred Heart. Light from within strikes fear, awe and curiosity. Nail polish speaks of danger. The semiotics of Halloween prostheses devolves to queasy, tingling-gut humor, too gross to gross you out, too nauseating not to laugh in delight. These simple, cheap silicone dainties are fitted to a child’s hand, and give a good hard glow when charged up under a light.
cialis 40mg ‘popup’, case ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>I must let down the veil a bit here. I don’t always post the HLO on precisely the day it’s dated. Some days, I’m too busy or whipped or uninspired to do it up right, which is why I’m posting this on the 4th and backdating it. Tuesday the 2nd was one of those days, when events barged into this serenely regular contemplation of physical trivia and kicked the shit out of me and, I’m guessing, more than a few of you. I sweated. My legs jittered. I sought cameraderie and clarity on my other blog. As the evening lengthened, and the other shoe hovered tantalizingly in midair, I panicked. I spaced. I prayed. I surfed madly, and I waited for the time-warp nightmare to quit chewing us up and finally spit us out either into the sunshine or a foul, reeking replay of 2000, fraud, lawsuits, ugly bullshit and all. I feel like I did when Reagan was elected in the height of the hostage crisis and the Cold War – wracked by fear that an unprincipled goon had taken the throne, someone whose world view ended at the horizon, beyond which lay only savages, monsters and a bottomless cliff off of which the ocean poured unchecked. Reagan was merely the messiah to the current herd of sheep willing to follow anyone who greenlit their global bigotry and wrote a blank check for their personal greed. Bush II, and his puppeteers are far more horrifying – people who not only believe their own wilfully ignorant vision of their place as sovereign rulers of the planet, but consider a slim margin of victory a “mandate” and use pathological mass deception to shove that vision down the throats of anyone who disagrees. More on November 3rd tomorrow. But for now, a special talisman, bought upon learning the election results. Its elegance of function appealed to me. The little slab of stainless steel includes a knife, file, bottle-and-can opener, saw, wire stripper, hex wrenches, screwdriver and inch-measure. It’s also magnetized to act as a compass: Hang it by a thread, and you can trust that it will always point north.
treat ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Nature’s tenacity and Southern California’s voracious appetite for water created this thing. 66 years ago, men of vision and will bade the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to dam the Kern River, with a mind to bring more water to Bakersfield at the southern end of California’s fertile crop growing region, the Central Valley. Slowly, the water rose. Huge, old California liveoaks sank beneath it, their deep roots still clutching the dirt their kind had owned for thousands of years. It crept up on an abandoned village and drowned it. Eventually it made a reservoir, a source of hydro power, a pretty recreational lake for vacationers and fisherfolk and hophead jerks on Jetskis. And people forgot about the history that lay beneath it, and the living things it had killed. As Southern California grew, so grew its thirst, to unslakeable proportions. The water began to shrink from the land again a few years ago, driven back by drought and a million washed cars and irrigated lawns, and the appetites of hundreds of dairy and produce farms. And one by one, the trees began to emerge – twisted and dead, but undeniably strong, their roots well intact.

This is one of them.

Before long, this blog will return to its little mission; to do otherwise would be to let the jingoistic evangelical forces trying to subvert the core values of the constitution – that all men are created equal and are entitled to certain unalienable rights – win.

We need art more than ever before, and if there’s a bright side to the election of Bush for a second term, it’s that this sanctioning of American warmongering and greed will spark an era of raw, visceral and eloquent creativity across the globe, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Renaissance.

We’ll survive this presidency. We’ll survive the “good things” they claim they’re doing for the country, no matter how many of us they send off to feed their illicit, profiteering disaster of a war, no matter how many of us are crushed for being the wrong gender, the wrong sexual orientation, the wrong color or the wrong socioeconomic class. We’ll get through it with fierce, vigilant, unswerving minority leaders, with grace and soul, and with as much hard-edged art as we can muster. In the end, it’s still our country. And I’ll be damned before I give up on it and “move to Europe” like so many of my weaker-minded friends are threatening to do, before I give up on the poor moderate victims of GOP propaganda who were misled into betraying us all in this bitter cultural battle.

I’ve had an ongoing correspondence this week with someone who’s contemplating departing the U.S. because he believes it to be irretrievably broken, and he cannot bear the shame of being American.

I’m proud to be part of the “other” half of America. We still believe it stands for something better than what the beasts in the Beltway are creating. We believe the majority will come to realize how badly they’ve been played and that we can restore a sense of reason to our national voice. Nobody ever died of shame; what really sent millions to an early grave is far more insidious: it’s apathy.

I’m tough. I’m busy. And I’m plenty pissed off. How about you?
prostate ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Something about jailhouse workmanship that makes you sit up straight and clear-eyed. It’s honest, bone-straight, complete. You can tell it’s been made by someone with nothing much to live for. A 25-year-plus trustee or a senior veteranoYou find this patch – one of half a dozen tossed into a cardboard box half along with other paramilitary patches. The other five Tennessee Department of Correction arm patches there are throwaways – errors, you realize, that were fobbed off on this military surplus store because the inmate running the sewing machine botched them on the line. Five fuckups – bad stitching, misspelled mottos abandoned mid-phrase, bungled logos (plough and wheat sheaf, barge and river bleeding into each other in a ruined fuzz of canary-yellow thread) – and one perfect patch. I grabbed this one, and later wonder why I didn’t take one of the mistakes, which would have proved more interesting.

I got into it today over a radical-right religious demagogue, who was spouting off at the L.A. Times about the need to erase the “evils” of liberal ideology. I wish I’d been a bit more articulate, less rushed in my thoughts. But a hot needle of anger still goads me to jump up and charge around with my chin out, and there’s no telling when that impulse will subside.

This has made me even angrier: There is potential evidence of massive voter fraud in the states where electronic voting was used. Paper-ballot states saw their tallies match exit poll results pretty closely. E-voting results were skewed away from exit poll results in favor of Bush. It’s a pretty simple equation, if you just sit there staring at these graphs of the data.

Of course, I read it on the internets, so it must be true.

Healthy dose of skepticism aside, we’ll soon know more, once the brave Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org and those journalists courageous enough to follow her, get done reviewing results from the massive civil records subpoena she made Nov. 2 in the form of a Freedom of Information Act request.

Even if they prove only minor errors that count for nothing in the Big Tally, they’re very timely. We have been trusting fools to turn over our voting process to a handful of comptuter-balloting companies that offer no paper record. It’s about time to find out how badly we might have placed that mistrust.

Stay bookmarked Sean Bonner)
medicine ‘popup’, cure ‘width=500, viagra 60mg height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>The news media have been flinging around a facile, misleading and dangerous metaphor this week, as if it were a sort of truth: “red states” and “blue states.”

In truth, the majority of the states tagged that way were more purple than red or blue – with people of vastly differing political positions living alongside each other in, but for some exceptions, harmony. But now a buzzphrase has polarized us all artificially, carved up the map into a cartoon war plan that brooks no interpretation, and bears no real truth. It’s a quick visual shorthand for lazy editors who got bored with the more accurate phrases “conservative” or “liberal” – each of which has a thousand variations that don’t translate easily to 48-point type or NTSC subtitles or HTML.

This red-vs-blue myth’s daily repetition in every medium makes it easier for Texas to hate California, Oregon to scorn Florida, New Hampshire to loathe Louisiana when – in fact – we’re still a single nation of powerfully opinionated individuals spread across the map, some of whom disagree strongly with each other, but most of whom still love this country and the ideals of freedom, tolerance, and diversity that give us strength.

We wrestle now, armed with this false image that empowers us to draw battle lines, declare our position in cultural-political warfare based on media-manufactured color boundaries that just do not exist.

You can get on U.S. Interstate 10 in Los Angeles, and cruise eastward for miles across America’s southern half. The land changes colors from the Painted Desert through the Texas panhandle and the lush green deep south, and the people from black, white and brown to brown, black and white with a million variations in between. But there’s no red or blue. You’ll perceive no sharp change in the political atmosphere at any known point.

You can get off the road and get into a friendly bull session or an ugly bar fight with anyone you care to, depending on how you discuss politics. But you’re not enemies, you’re just fellow Americans who’ve made up their mind to either hate and attack the other guy for his position, or simply agree to disagree.

Listen: this country does not have to barge headlong into open, agressive, state-by-state cultural warfare. I don’t care which side you’re on, we’re all too noble and smart to let the news media push us into it for the sake of easy categorization. Don’t buy it. As polarized as we’ve become, we all still believe in the Constitution, and in the country and the rights of all Americans.

I hate politics. I despise the science of lies and divisiveness and persuasion by misinformation and intimidation that people engage in to acquire power. I’m angry that it’s got me arguing (see the “root” post) with people who have been longtime visitors, and even friendly fans, but suddenly turned on me because I posted something provocative with which they disagreed.

I’m gonna try to get back (in this blog, though not my other, to the gentle pursuit with which it began – after this post, and god knows how many more answers to political comments that demand answers. But I don’t like what I’ve let happen here. I started this with a simple sense of delight. I aim to continue that way tomorrow.

Last notes, now: I found this thing at a school rummage sale this morning, and it spoke to the thoughts above: You rev up the gyro in the ball’s center by rotating your wrist until the thing spins at thousands of RPMs, bucking and twisting in your hand with ferocious torque, as if the red and blue halves are battling for control of its momentum. At high speed, it whines as though it could fly apart at any second, but something about its design, the integration of its halves, the power whirring at its heart, holds it together, binding it into one dynamic, human-driven machine.

And using it makes you stronger.
information pills ‘popup’, cialis 40mg ‘width=500, pharm height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>I had the great privilege to devour The Incredibles today, a ginormous Superball of thrills, the most gorgeous, exciting, laugh-your-lungs-inside-out-funny and honest superhero movie ever made. Watched it this afternoon with the family, my jaw dangling in my overgreased popcorn bucket the whole time. We would have walked right back in again for the next show if we hadn’t made plans afterwards. Better reviewers out there than I can give you the blow-by-blow and plenty of Kaelian film-school thumbsucking, but they won’t tell you about any of the clever ephemera and merchandising tie-ins that have already begun popping up. This is one of eight Happy Meal Toys being given out right now at McDonald’s – a destroyer robot driven by the villain Syndrome. Wind him up and he skitters across the desktop, his tiny white-gloved fists shaking in impotent, rattling rage. After the week’s events, this would seem like a pointless trifle of an HLO, but I need to gear back down to the fun and pointless. Besides, I don’t mind shilling for one of the finest animated movies ever made – and the toys are are a hoot, too. Skip the junk food, like we did, and you can buy just the cheerful li’l knicknacks for $1.83 apiece.
rx ‘popup’, view ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Dead tech challenges your understanding of the world. Heft a little 2-pound slab of 1940 equipment for capturing moving images, and close your eyes. Wind its still-smooth clockwork motor with a few pumps of the stiff, fat chrome key on its side. Feel its weight – You’re standing in a place where the internet and spy satellites cannot reach, where no pager or cellphone can splinter this moment. Your leather shoes have smooth soles, wingtip designs that peek out from beneath cuffed gabardine slacks. Chanel No. 5 wafts up from the woman on the blanket beside you, mingled with the smoke from her Camel and the tang of the picnic lunch you’ve brought to this hillside overlooking the orange groves and cattle ranches of the San Fernando Valley. Rocketdyne has not begun pouring carcinogens into the groundwater or filling the air with radiation because it does not exist. The atomic bomb does not exist, nor does the P-51 Mustang warplane. It’s quiet, but for the ticking of your Chrysler Airflow‘s cooling motor. Aim the camera at her. You already set the aperture at f5.6 after dialing the enameled chrome exposure guide to “Average Subjects – Winter – Hazy – 10-to-12 a.m. / 12-to-2 p.m.” Put your finger on the little brass shutter release stud, flip it to hear the 8mm film whirring through the gate, then stop with a solid “clunk”. Now: open your eyes.

It’s no bigger than most camcorders. It’s made entirely of dense, rough-enameled metal and chrome, though. It is heavy.
information pills ‘popup’, check ‘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 is hard to write. An Apostles’ Creed, one Our Father, three Hail Marys, one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one Our Father, ten Hail Marys, one hour farther. Around and around, fingering the totems of devotion you go, praying your way toward grace, the ephemeral currency for which all good Catholics strive. I was raised Catholic by a very good Catholic and an exemplary Episcopalian. I’ve since walked away from the megalithic Church in the face of its insupportable policies on women in the priesthood and its inhumane and pointless edicts on human sexuality. But I still believe firmly in God, I sometimes pray, and the core values of Chistianity remain, indelibly branded upon my heart. And I still have tokens like this anchoring me spiritually in this wicked world. The rosary lives at the bottom of a drawer. Every now and then it comes out to remind me, just as a crumbly daub of ash on my forehead once said, “remember, man, that thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return.” The way I see it, we can’t help this world while dead. Better to strive to live a good life for the benefit of the living, for each other, to help make the burden of humanity more bearable and sane, than for the selfish motive of saving one’s own soul for a murky, ill-defined vision of the “saved” afterlife. If I happen to stumble into Heaven by following this mishmash of faith, no doubt I’ll be grateful. But I know I’ll have gotten there through deeds, not prayers.
salve ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Not too long ago, before flimsy magnetic cards replaced it, this was the only key to another planet. For a single token, you could depart the world of concrete towers and bright skies for safe transit through screeching, Stygian tunnels that bled electricity and fear, for the invigorating thrill of high-speed travel through caverns of iron in hard, fast trains painted like exotic reptiles. We grew up in Connecticut, two hours from the city, and about every four to six weeks we’d go there to visit my aunt or family friends, and later in college and my early 20s, and there was always occasion to ride the subway. I loved every second of it, even the stupid-late hours I spent ghosting through the 42nd Street station, always sure I’d be mugged. This model of token, with a magnetic slug at its heart, is not as dear to me as the old y-shaped slot design which seems, sadly, to have been reduced to a fetish. But its weight in my hand triggers a jolt of deep, organic memory. The New York subway system is 100 years and two weeks old today. New York, New York, it’s a hell of a town, the Bronx is up and the Battery’s down, the people ride in a hole in the ground …
erectile ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>You probably think yourself old. “I’m ancient,” you moan, pulling at wrinkles to flatten them, running fingers through your thinning hair. “I’m *so* OLD.” There are parrots older than you. Hell, there are cameras and cigarette lighters older than many of you. Seconds of your lives tick by – “I’m wasting time!” you shriek, and scurry off to get lost in addictions and duties and obsessions and distractions, lest you waste any more. Relax. Even the gorgeous, preposterous Clock of the Long Now cannot entirely fathom the vast scale of time upon which the ground beneath your feet was created, the billions of years this planet spent as a superheated blob of spinning metallic elements and vapor, before it began to cool to the point where it could sustain life. Earth is still cooling, as it so often seems to enjoy reminding us. In 1991, a previously dormant volcano on the western end of Luzon in the Philippine Islands, exploded, hurling tons of ash and sulfur dioxide 21 miles into the air. The gas readjusted the world’s climate:

The cloud over the earth reduced global temperatures. In 1992 and 1993, the average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere was reduced 0.5 to 0.6°ńC and the entire planet was cooled 0.4 to 0.5°ńC. The maximum reduction in global temperature occurred in August 1992 with a reduction of 0.73°ńC. The eruption is believed to have influenced such events as 1993 floods along the Mississippi river and the drought in the Sahel region of Africa. The United States experienced its third coldest and third wettest summer in 77 years during 1992.

and the ash poured down on nearby hillside villages, mixing with torrentional seasonal rainstorms to form deadly lahars or ash-flows that swept homes and families to oblivion. We visited my wife’s relatives there the following year – rains had washed the ash away from Manila, but people still kept jars of Mt. Pinatubo ash around with a typically Filipino mingling of respect and dark humor. It’s abrasive, colorless, with a metallic tang to it. Hold a magnet near the stuff, and out of it leap dark, magnetic particles of iron, finer than grains of sand.
page ‘popup’, find ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>You’ve been here before: your back to the bricks, outnumbered, outgunned, the truck with your name on it barrelling out of the blackness a split-second from impact, insert your clich&eacute here: A low growl rumbles from the bush. You scrabble in the dark tent for your pants, a flashlight, and one more thing – a weapon. A hard object. A big stick. Anything that will keep the growl at arm’s length long enough for you to figure out a way to survive. A tool. Because God and/or Darwin gave you no claws nor fangs, you can’t leap for shit and your pallid looks and half-shaven face wouldn’t scare anything that eats its prey on a daily basis. You lack quill or poison, or camouflage or even speed and agility. You understand tools. That’s all you get.

In desperate times, a solid tool’s as good as a third arm. You could excavate a deadfall trap with the stout, hard spoon. Beech-log canoes have been dug out with poorer tools than the fork. And the knife would find multiple lives as a skinning knife, wood saw, can opener, carving implement and defensive weapon. Locked together at the factory with a split key-ring (something I’ll yank just as soon as I figure out a better system) they live in a ballistic nylon pouch – the whole thing cost less than 6 bucks at the Army/Navy surplus store. Can’t get more poetic or utilitarian than that: clean, tough, cheap.
pharmacy ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>My sick affinity for pop culture trivia takes up a frightening amount of already very-limited brain power. The fact that Eddie Deezen plays the geeky kid with a deer rifle holed up at the top of a ferris wheel on guard duty against Japanese invasion in 1941 has completely crowded out more useful information like – the kids have dentist’s appointment this week, or I’d better fill up the gas tank now. I could be writing the great American novel, or teaching my daughter Spanish, but instead I can sing Exene’s entire harmony line from “The World’s a Mess It’s In My Kiss.” And the space for trivia is shrinking, taken up by questions about trivia that I used to possess. What were the Oscar nominees last spring, anyhow? Damn it. So much useless beauty. I once read a card in the little glass case where this cross was displayed with others when I bought it more than 10 years ago. The card was hand-lettered by the two young hippies who ran the bead-import store where the casse sat. Their business and marriage began probably with a first flush of love, and blossomed into a shared love of travel, of wild, free explorations of Istanbul and Kathmandu and the inspired spark to start a business importing cheap exotica at high markups for bored stateside yuppies. But last time we were in the store, they seemed to be going through the motions of a relationship, and running a business – he sulking in the back over cold tofu after a few sharp words with her – from which she emerged grimly to return to the sales floor and handhold some flighty rich girl at the counter who just couldn’t decide which three $5 handmade Afghani silver beads to buy to go with the little string of lapis … Trivia. Factoids. Bits of information – pretty things, but with no purpose and little role beyond amusement and diversion. This cross was hand-hammered of coin silver somewhere – I think – in Africa. I’ll be damned if I can remember for sure – or where. I’m too busy thinking warplane silhouettes from the WWII Commemorative Spotter Cards I got last year on a trip to the Smithsonian.
about it ‘popup’, find ‘width=500, tadalafil height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>I’ve owned only a few cars in my life. First was the ’75 Vega, already rotten at the rocker panels and sucking a quart of oil per tankful by the time I made it mine in ’80. It had three on the floor, and weighed about 900 pounds, which made it great for high-speed spinouts on slick surfaces -intentional and unintentional. I remember bringing my sister home one day, the two of us apple-cheeked and grinning until she sauntered into the kitchen and announced to mom, “Mackie took me over to the parking lot and we were doing donuts on the ice! It was cool! It was an excretious powder-orange color, but I loved it with the deep irrationality of a college junior. The next car – the curse – was the once-proud owner of this B-20 grille badge: A 1970 Volvo 142 that carried not a B20, but the anemic B18 engine. Had I known at the time what a soul-sucking, wallet-emptying piece of shit it would become – that it would rob me of $6,000 and, periodically, my sanity, I would never have bought it. Here are some thoughts I posted a while back at the WELL.

’70 Volvo 142 with what turned out to be a several-times-rebuilt ’68 B18 engine (the smallest made, and thus horrifically underpowered).

I poured about $1,500 of body, head and upholstery work into it. It looked great. Ran okay.

The fiberglass timing gears (!) dropped a tooth in Fayetteville, NC, en route to Florida, throwing the timing out so that a valve was opening on the upstroke and the cylinder was whacking it out of true. It quit in Ocala, about 300 miles short of my destination. Had it fixed.

While in Florida, it:
– overheated and seized. Bottom-end bearings needed replacing.
– blew a head gasket. Replaced it.
– suffered an electrical system meltdown. Replaced everything, from battery and coil to alternator and a buncha expensive little black boxes.

About 40k miles later (by now, a glutton for punishment, but convinced I would have a tremendously solid ride if I just fixed this *one more thing*) I rebuilt the entire engine, planning to install a salvaged electric-overdrive gearbox.

Sewed it all up, and it barely turned over. Once I got it running, the bearings chewed themselves to pieces because the input shaft was rusty, and it wouldn’t mate closely enough with the engine, it shoved the entire crank forward by about 3/1000ths of an inch – enough to ruin the bearings.

To top it off, the mechanic who effected the gearbox swap and was lending me shop space put my old rattletrap of a gearbox into my parents’ 144, where it promptly failed, and then he refused to make ood on any kind of warranty, saying that since I had provided it, they should eat it. Oh, wait, insult to injury: The electric overdrive fucking leaked, which meant it smelled weird and constantly dropped out of OD at high speed.

Rebuilt the engine again.

Wrestled constantly with calibrating not one, but TWO of the dreaded SU carburetors, which were yoked together on the single four-banger head (what genius thought *that* up?)

More electrical trouble. Countless popstarts and jumper-cable burns.

After about 150,000 miles of this abuse (I was a newspaper reporter and drove a *lot*) it finally died in Phildadelphia, where I got $300 from some guy who needed parts.

And that was the *un-tragic* and *un-funny* version of the story, which unspooled in my early 20s like a bad soap opera.

$6,000 later, the epitaph for that POS was already on the car when it left – something I’d stuck on the dash with Dymo labels in a particularly sardonic moment – the words Hazel Motes utters in “Wise Blood” outside the used-car lot where his car’s ass has just fallen off –
“A MAN WITH A GOOD CAR DON’T *NEED* NO JUSTIFICATION.”

God, I hated that fucking thing …

But it was a ballsy little *demon* in the snow. Point and go.

sickness ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Fossil from an ancient era, the 20th century, when mass production gave birth to millions of mechanical devices for capturing light. This might as well be the marvelously preserved ocular bone process of a roving sextuped from a clockwork planet – so foreign is it to the modern world of CCD camera sensors, USB ports and digital red-eye reduction. It’s also a relic of a simpler time in my life, when I tore apart broken machinery as a kid, to see what made it work. My favorite part of any camera lens was always the leaf-iris – a lever-actuated blossoming rose of sharp, fragile metal that permitted light and life to enter and forbade it to leave. In another life, I’d have time to scavenge garage sales and flea markets for cast off Argoses and Kodaks, field-strip them with knife and screwdrivers and construct the alien watch-beast of my dreams. In another life, I built countless plastic car and airplane models, and later, rebuilt car engines. The process of reading hundreds of diagrams – cut-this-glue-this-pin-to-this-socket-insert-assembly-and-glue – left a subroutine looping in my hindbrain. The sight of any old-fashioned machine explodes in my mind’s eye, rendered into a cloud of ordered parts that hovers in space, numbers incandescing on little red indicator tags, ready for assembly.
approved ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>I choose this object today not because the holiday season looms like a cinnamon-scented thug, ready to bash us all into shambling, paranoid shopping-mad drones. I choose it in near-ignorance of its purpose. I choose it because inserting anyone’s name into my family’s cover version of the happy dreidel-spinning song is instant milk/nose/snort time: Daddy Daddy Daddy, I made him out of clay, Daddy Daddy Daddy, I wish he’d go away. I choose it because it is cast in bright yellow plastic, covered with (to me) cryptic markings and endowed with all the spin dynamics of a brick. I choose it because it is ugly and bright, and fun to twirl and quick to fall with a little clatter to show its one-character message – whether you can read Hebrew or not. Unlike any other religious or cultural artifact – with the possible exception of the yo-yo – it is a unique and whole thing.
decease ‘popup’,’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 nut cheats death. Hard, bitterly hard, it blunts teeth, turns a blade, endures boring by insect and bird. Wild it grows, among the manzanita and chaparral, in a land regularly scoured by wildfire. It is a survival pod for its species, a wild walnut tree that dots Southern California’s scrublands. Like the coconut it takes its form from the abuse of nature. Wild animals and civilized humans can strip off the papery black husk that develops after heavy rains pit and rot its skin. But only the human can break the rocky shell with a rock or split it with a good knife, to reveal the heart-shaped nut meat within. Of all the natural tortures it endures, only fire has a lasting effect. The seed pod is designed to split open in the roaring flames, and germinate in the inevitable rainy-season mudslides of ash-fertilized soil that follow. It takes root, and its genetic line stretches on, unmolested.
more about ‘popup’, approved ‘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 has a story to tell. Maybe 20. Data points from a hidden history pop through the scars – the cement park table where the old men slapped it down every Saturday morning, thousands of times. The years it spent in a gravel parking lot, which saw it split in two, soaked in piss, gouged, marred. Ruined and made more interesting, at once. Maybe, rather, it was broken in rage, in frustration, in curiosity at the hands of a bored cholo. Maybe a car shattered it, leaving for dead the deep sockets of its six paint-dotted eyes. Its brother-half gone – smashed to bits of green Bakelite resin amid the busted safety glass and cigarette butts – it briefly held a 9-year-old’s rapt attention, then lost it to Saturday morning cartoons and Sunday afternoon X-Box spasms. Flung outside. Onward. Someone else found it. Someone gave it a new story to tell: It sits on a stainless steel desktop, on a black cloth, under a hot light. It reflects light into a camera, and its light is splintered into pixels, focused, framed, reassembled into a ghost on a server somewhere for as long as the server fees are paid. It demands to be picked up and understood. It demands someone write.

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