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#a184 :: Message fan

August 15, 2008

enlargeYou can keep your Adobe Photoshop, cialis 40mg your diffraction foil, your glitter-gel pens.

For my money, mankind’s greatest contribution to democratizing flashy art and entertainment has been the light-emitting diode.

This programmable, Chinese-made fan lets you spell out messages that it miraculously traces in the air by spinning eight tiny LEDs at hundreds of RPMs and flashing them to the mysterious rhythms of an embedded microchip. Insult your friends! Confuse your enemies! Annoy total strangers! This device is so coming to the playa with us.

My son picked it out for my birthday. Or, maybe I picked it out, and he paid for and pocketed it for later gifting.

Filed under: Tool, Toy | Comments (0)

#a183 :: SuperGlue Future Gel

August 14, 2008

enlargeIt took me years of accidentally cementing my fingertips together using the old Super Glue before I discovered two things:

  1. This stuff was originally designed for closing wounds in triage situations; and
  2. Future Gel is much more manageable – it never gooshes in a stream from the tube when you puncture a plug of dried glue to get at the fresh stuff, look more about and it goes only where you put it.

My wife tore a nail this morning. We glued it up fine with this stuff. Highly recommended sticking power in a teensy package.

Filed under: Tool | Comments (0)

#a182 :: Bluetooth headset

August 13, 2008

enlargeSix weeks ago, case California law did not require me to wear this while driving and using my cellphone.

Five years ago, treat this sort of gadget did not exist.

Fifteen years ago, doctor I counted myself lucky to be using a cellphone the size of a brick – one that had been issued by the Philadelphia Inquirer news desk.

Sixteen years ago, I carried extra quarters in case I had to call in from the road.

120 years ago, I, the quarters, the road and the phone lines did not exist. People counted themselves lucky to get a handwritten letter within a month, and especially lucky to receive a telegram hand-clicked and transcribed by people who knew Morse code.

Which should make me feel lucky to own such a thing, but all I can say about the Motorola i375 is that I dislike being yoked to it because the damn thing doesn’t fit my earhole.

Filed under: Adornment, Tool | Comments (0)

#a181 :: Handheld laser projector

August 12, 2008

enlargeA clear memory: I was 9. We were in the Smithsonian. The room was dark. Someone was demonstrating laser beams.

The name, page doctor so ineffably cool. L-A-S-E-R. Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

Sharp, medical bright red patterns on the wall. In the future, approved we’ll all be using lasers. Living rooms and spaceships will look like this all the time. Spirograph spidery special.

Flash forward 29 years. Burning Man. A massive green laser blasts patterns out across the playa as people rave to and fro in the night. I can only love the intense patterns it makes in the dust, hope no one is being blinded, and wish for technology to advance to where I can put it in my pocket.

Jump to last week: We’re in the gift shop of the London Science Museum. As the kids would say, OMFG. Here it is. Kaching. Pocketed, boxed for home, and unwrapped when the big box arrived a few days ago.

Turns out you can get ’em online, too. I’ve been playing with mine pretty much every night since then, before going to sleep.

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

#a180 :: Tiny kaleidoscope

August 11, 2008

enlargeA fingerlength of brass tubing, visit this site three rectangular slivers of mirror, stuff a thimbleful of tiny glass beads, a translucent end cap and a leather thong.

Elegant. Hold it to your eye, face the sun and forget your age.

Found in Covent Garden.

Filed under: Objet, Toy | Comments (0)

#a179 :: Finger rocket

August 10, 2008

enlargeTightly-woven strands of super-stiff nylon thread only look like a Chinese finger trap.

In fact, here if you crush this end-to-end, try it compresses, grows fat with potential kinetic energy that – when you suddenly release your fingers – shoots the thing 10 feet across the room.

The simplest toys are the best.

Filed under: Toy | Comments (0)

#a178 Gerber Harsey Air Ranger

August 9, 2008

enlargeTwo odd things about trying to catch up with a “daily” blog that you’ve sorely neglected while traveling like mad is that: a) you’re essentially lying to your users if you don’t admit that things are being backdated; and b) you can’t remember when anything really happened to you, stomach or which objects occurred to you to blog on which days. I’m actually posting this on 8/20, but can’t say exactly when the events herein happened.

So we come to the story of my beloved, and now lost, pocketknife. This is a terrific tool – I’ll probably never buy a different knife for myself as long as these are made.

The Harsey Air Ranger is sturdy, easy to open and close, and stays sharp all along its traditional and versatile serrated drop-point blade. It’s low-profile, won’t frighten the women and livestock, and the knurled handles give it a sure grip. So, I carry it in my pocket pretty much any day I don’t already know I have to go through a metal detector.

Which explains how I came to lose my main knife, and you’re looking at a photograph of my backup – an older, more chewed up Air Ranger that I had to press into service after this happened
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Filed under: Fetish, Tool, weapon | Comments (3)

#a177 :: Bamboo nose flute

August 8, 2008

ENLARGELike the Jew’s harp, check this elegant little pocket instrument came from Adaptatrap Percussion in Brighton.

You press the curved mask against your nose, erectile shape your lips into an O around the bottom shape and exhale nasally. If you cup your tong right, you get a round, easily dopplered note like that of a slide-whistle. I wish I’d bought more of these at the time for gifts. Such fun.

Filed under: Instrument | Comments (0)

#a176 :: Modeling clay

August 7, 2008

ENLARGEThick cylinders of slick plasticine, information pills pure of color and form.

Someone’s gonna mess them up very shortly.

Filed under: Tool | Comments (0)

#a175 :: Printing blocks

August 6, 2008

ENLARGECarved in Africa or India or perhaps on some island, buy I know not where, approved these found their way to the gift shop of Brighton Pavilion.

They were lumped in mysteriously with all the other gift-shop trappings of chinoiserie, the Chinese-design fantasy that George IV lost himself in while having Sir John Nash design his summer palace.

They have a rough majesty of their own.

Filed under: Adornment, symbol, Tool | Comments (0)

#a174 :: Rubber fusilier duck

August 5, 2008

ENLARGEThis is the sort of thing you pick up in the duty-free shop at Heathrow while trying to blow your pounds on the way out of London.

We’ll add it to the little collection of rubber ducks now bobbing in the hot tub out back. Maybe it will get them into line.

Filed under: General | Comments (0)

#a173 :: Chewable toothbrush

August 4, 2008

ENLARGEBritish ingenuity has concocted a perfect offering for airport vending machines:

For a £1 coin, order you get two of these: It’s a spherical plastic capsule. Split it open, web and there’s a circular sheet of instructions and an oddball chunk of nylon with bristles on one half and a capsule on the other.

Pop the capsule in your mouth, hospital and chew, and the capsule splits open to release chunks of crunchy what-tastes-like candy. The instructions direct you to work the thing around all corners of your mouth, which turns out to be more amusing than prophylactic, but when you’re done, at least your breath smells good.

Filed under: Edible, Tool | Comments (0)

#a172 :: Butterflies

August 3, 2008

sildenafil this ‘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”>Here are some of the posts I had the most fun writing and/or shooting.If you like any of them, maybe you’ll email one to a friend who might enjoy it, too. And if you just discovered this site, any of these is a good place to jump in:
Rubber Ghoul
Drain Valve/Bell
Photo-Theremin
Saab Front Wheel Bearings
Nuclear Bomb Test Souvenir
Monocular
Battle Suit
Daguerrotype
Brownie Hawkeye
Vinyl Frog
Lightcycle
Minnie Ball
Spoke Wrench
Art Deco Reading Lamp
Spiky Silicone Keychain
Fuckin’ Wirenuts
Tiara
Doll Leg
Shalom Bracelet
Gunslinger
Last Resort
Novelty Lighter
3 Red Demons in a Little Rowboat
Fortune Cookie
Wallpaper Print Block

Welcome newcomers: For clarity, I have swapped this post’s halves from its originally posted state. Note also that I’m running around cleaning up some bad internal links – a legacy from when I switched to WordPress at the end of the 2004-2005 run … mr …12/16/08

The old man lived in a small trailer park in one of the Carolinas, by a huge stand of bamboo. He sat beneath the awning of the old Airstream with his second wife. I don’t remember her saying much. But I remember him bouncing me on his knee, asking questions, listening with that sort of benevolent, distant warmth that I came to know ever so briefly as grandfatherly.

We had ridden in Frog Belly, our beaten third-hand two-tone Ford (?) for so many hours to get there. Down from the little Connecticut college where my father taught and would later turn to glorious painting, where my mother wrote like a weaver, with focus and care. That evening, after lemonade and maybe it was fried chicken, I lay in the motel room nearby, all of six or seven years old. Night heat smothered any chance at sleep, which was already elusive, thanks to the rock’n’roll band blaring from a stage beneath bright lights in the field next door. Insects keened outside, the cicadas out in force on their once-every-17-year cycle of birth, sex and death.

The next morning, we went back over to the trailer for breakfast. And my father’s father took us out to the bamboo afterwards, where he cut chunks from a stalk and fashioned it into a little two-piece slide whistle that he gave to me. I wish I had kept it. I can’t even remember what became of it – I must have left it behind because the aching memory puts it only and fully in that place, no other. Just there, blowing the bamboo mouthpiece and sliding it up and down the octaves – and then it was gone.

Joseph Wayne Reed Sr. was my father’s father – a medical corpsman in WWI and a Red Cross medic in the Pacific in WWII, a Linotype operator for the St. Petersburg Times in his later years. Heart disease killed him – I remember, he was overweight and not too athletic – when I was eight.

Four years later, my father gave me his ring – white gold and onyx. I have worn it every single day of my life since then. Dad had the stone flipped over to hide what must have been a lifetime of chips and scars, and new gold added to the bottom where abuse and wear had ground it down to the thickness of a kite string.

Once in 1984, body-surfing high at Misquamicut, Rhode Island, I thought I had lost it to the sea. The empty-handed sensation of realizing this was a head-to-toe shock that overpowered the full-body battery of cold October breakers and left me feeling naked, careless and stupid. At this point in my life, my young journalism career seemed to have fallen apart and I was casting about for some sense of direction. So I bounced on tiptoes in the surf as my mother had taught me there long ago, and tried to absorb the loss of the ring as an omen – a clean break, a fresh start, a way out to new thinking. Weak, I thought. Fuckup. I dragged myself back to the parking lot to towel off in abject depression, which shattered in a paroxysm of joy only when I realized that I had sensibly stashed the ring in the glovebox of Steve’s Celica before jumping into the ocean.

I nearly lost the ring again 20 years later. A brain-crushingly bad week at work sent me home in a funk, and drumming seemed the only way to shake it off. Pounding out amateurish polyrhythms and 2/4 tribal stomps at full volume in the empty house, I pummeled the shit out of my kids’ tubano until my arms tingled. Then I looked down and saw that not only had the circle of white gold cracked, but the stone had disappeared and the empty prongs gaped up at me in blinded reproach. After five solid minutes of knees-and-fingertips searching through the pile of the thick Oriental rug around the drum area, I found the small, black stone, and resumed breathing. Our local jeweler set things right, and my arm is complete again.

My wife says she considers this the ultimate Heavy Little Object – it’s not the sort of archetypal machined steel gizmo upon which I first focused this site. But it is of stone and precious metal, and freighted with meaning and worth beyond the reach of my words. It’s part of me, and a good place to stop – maybe so I can devote a bit more time to my other blog – and think about where I’m headed next.


This site is dedicated to my parents.The contest results are here.

ENLARGEThe British Natural History Museum did something extraordinary on the grounds outside its magnificent building – a diversion from the ossified remains of dinosaurs and sloths and the over-loved “interactive” displays of swimming hippos and oversized scorpions:

They built a hothouse, adiposity filled it with plants, and started cultivating butterflies.

These were just two of the fantastic array of insect ephemera on display in Amazing Butterflies which closes, sadly, on Aug. 17.

If you’re in town, whether you have kids or not, go have a look

Filed under: Life form | Comments (0)

#a171 :: Step-down transformer

August 2, 2008

ENLARGEElectricity surges out of British outlets at a blistering 220 volts – too powerful for western computers.

While I’m blogging this from my Mac G4 laptop – a 6-year-old bulletproof box with a trim little power transformer built right in – my other work laptop (a Dell) requires a separate transformer to tame London voltage down to a palatable 110 volts.

This thick brick does the job, site but at 5 pounds it’s so heavy it falls out of the outlet without me resting it on an updended drink glass on the floor for support. What the hell, it works, and at $25, not too bad a deal.

Plus, you could brain someone with it if need be.

Filed under: Tool, weapon | Comments (0)

#a170 :: Lead “Indian brave”

August 1, 2008

ENLARGEThe micro-war between the races of earth still rages on in English toy shops and adult imaginations – even though most young Londoners have graduated to XBox, what is ed find Flickr and Legomania.

Most warriors wear meticulously handpainted uniforms. In the antiques stalls of Portobello Road they rest, medical weapons at the ready, approved medals ablaze in gold and polychrome, in carefully made beds of styrofoam with ridiculous prices on their heads, since they’re now considered antiques.

All except for this specimen, who lurked at the bottom of the £1 bin, crunched beneath Hussars with chipped uniforms and fusiliers with badly broken muskets.

He creeps across the plains, in U.S. cavalry trousers, the very picture of menace, his shiny hatchet at the ready.

His near-black skin is a dead giveaway that he was finished by some clueless British toy-plant drone who – when he asked about the man’s complexion – was likely told by an equally clueless art director, “Oh, he’s a savage, paint him like an African.”

Filed under: Found Object, Miniature, symbol, Tool | Comments (0)

#a169 :: Happy Hippos

July 31, 2008

ENLARGELike hippos emerging through river foam (?), thumb Kinder brand Happy Hippos are hazelnut-cream cookie pods dipped in thick-grained sugar and given a few squirts of color in each eye just prior to put into individual cellophane wraps and released to a cute-susceptible public.

They’re also yummy.

Filed under: Edible, Facsimile, Miniature | Comments (0)

#a168 :: Rubber coasters

July 30, 2008

ENLARGEPart space station, this part sex device, visit this they come in orange and gray and keep your cold wet glasses from making permanent stains in your … Formica, or whatever.

It occurs to me upon posting fetishy (kitschy?) stuff like this that I’m rarely in the position of being able to point you to where to buy such things. I could point you roughly to the store in Brighton where we found them for £2 a pair, but I have no e-commerce link or even mailing address.

I could make up a story about the groovy Soho bachelor pad where he stood, even now, fixing her a fuzzy navel with a certain louche intent about him, but I can’t quite think of the punchline, nor even of the dramatic arc.

These are, in effect, sui generis – a cipher against which to park any overlay that makes sense to you at the time. They’re mod, nubbly rubber drink coasters, whaddya want.

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

#a167 :: Stonehenge keychain

July 29, 2008

ENLARGEThere is a certain poetry to this tiny portrait of one of man’s oldest surviving places of ceremony:

A matrix of dots, physician etched or blown into a block of clear glass, pharm spells out Stonehenge‘s shape at palm size, giving you a portable tour of the place.

Here, no less than there, the broken circles of pillars and lintels leave you with nothing but awe and questions. How’d they do that?

But there, time really does feel stopped. Here it’s merely captured in a glassy snapshot, fetishized for the tourists. Of whom I am one.

Being at Stonehenge gives one the impression of having become stuck in time – an everlasting moment as you walk around these unmoving

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

#a166 :: Binatone Carrera GPS

July 28, 2008

ENLARGECarved in Africa or India or perhaps on some island, buy I know not where, approved these found their way to the gift shop of Brighton Pavilion.

They were lumped in mysteriously with all the other gift-shop trappings of chinoiserie, the Chinese-design fantasy that George IV lost himself in while having Sir John Nash design his summer palace.

They have a rough majesty of their own.
ENLARGEThis is the yin to yesterday’s yang: If you’re eschewing the tube and driving – for whatever selfish, adiposity non-green, illness yet eminently practical reason – the touchstone surety of a good GPS device pulls you through London’s maze of streets in a dreamlike blur.

Punch in your destination address, symptoms Wait for the satellite’s ping to put your car on a huge, intricately detailed map of the city.

Go straight ahead, then after 800 yards, turn left, she purrs.

And off you go, your white American knuckles defying the horrible wrongness of driving in the right-hand seat of a car on the left-hand side of the road.

After 500 yards, turn left … After 250 yards, turn left … turn left, and then turn right … Follow the course of the road …
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Filed under: General | Comments (0)

#a165 :: Oyster card

July 27, 2008

ENLARGEThis debit card gives you full access to the Tube and bus system. With one in your pocket, page you can go anywhere in London, ampoule never thinking about the fare.

“Touch in” – wave it at the yellow oval pad that reads it and debits cash from it for your ride – and padded turnstiles gates in the Underground snap open with a heavy “thwunk. Slide it over the pad as you board a red double-decker, more about and you’re off across town in the upstairs of the bus.

If you’re lucky, you get seats at the very front, where the world slides past some 12 or 14 feet above the street, like a magic cinema show.

Filed under: symbol, Tool | Comments (0)

#a164 :: Ice cream spoon

July 26, 2008

ENLARGEZorro brings together the hoary old freedom-fighter superhero story with rock-hard flamenco performances, ambulance and it winds up being about four times as solid a piece as it otherwise would. The score, price by the Gipsy Kings is a hoarse, melodic operetta, told in guttural moans of pain and delight, and the thunderous bootheels of dancers pounding out the beat of their emotions.

The vertiginously tall and narrow Garrick Theatre has seen better days – the velvet on the balconies is splitting under the traffic of patrons putting their feet up during shows, and the ghost of old Mister Garrick is said to still roam the halls after every performance. All this adds to the ragged charm of the set, a busy tangle of ladders doors, precipices and caves.

Intermission brought tiny 1/3-cup servings of Haagen-Dazs, in plastic cups with chubby, finger-sized spoons tucked beneath the lids.

Loved the show.

Filed under: Jetsam, Tool | Comments (0)

#a162 :: Baby carrots

July 25, 2008

ENLARGEDid these things even exist 10 years ago? No, salve I think that at some point, approved some wise vegetable salesman decided to start milling his carrots. And an entire bite-sized-snack class of its own was launched. These go down by the pound around here. They taste perfectly clean and wonderful, but spirituallyfeel as if someone’s juggled their genes.

Filed under: Edible, Life form | Comments (1)

#a161 :: Rabbit’s foot

July 24, 2008

ENLARGEThis one was loved. Someone’s constant rubbing and fondling robbed the thing of its fur, viagra dosage pilule put tarnish on the stump-cap and the (shudder) ring. I picture him humped over his bowl, beneath his one gas lamp, drowning his sorrows and yet keeping his heart on the world around him by wishing on this thing.

Whatever luck it may have had is gone with its owner and the children of his era. All that remains is another, slightly more hapless creature’s knuckles, claws and skin.

Portobello Road gave it up.

Filed under: Fetish, Found Object, Life form, Objet, symbol | Comments (0)

#160 :: Battlefield artifact – bullet and cigarette case

July 23, 2008

ENLARGEAt the bottom of the trunk.
In the dark.
For the past 34 years.
Where she had been pushing it ever since he left.
Perhaps.

The card in the Royal Fusiliers Museum says:

Cigarette case belonging to Pte F C Shuter 10th.Bn. Pierced by a German bullet 10th.July1916 – The Somme

Filed under: Artifact, Fetish, weapon | Comments (0)

#a159 :: Stanley “stubby” screwdriver

July 22, 2008

ENLARGEFrom an antiques mall in Brighton. 50p. Don’t laugh. You’ll need one some day. I love the way the aluminum has corroded on the blade.

Filed under: Facsimile, Objet, Tool | Comments (0)


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