Main Contents

#a8 :: Rubber germ

February 21, 2008

rubbergerm.jpgWork at the SETI lab – and every other acronymed institution from DARPA to the headquarters of the NRA – had run at a breakneck clip since first contact.

Nothing galvanizes an entire race like a blanket signal transmitted to every single computer, television and data-display display device on the planet, carrying images of an alien commander, mil-specs for an inbound armada and a declaration of war … (more…)

Filed under: Microfiction, Objet, symbol, Toy | Comments (2)

#a7 :: Carrier pigeon message capsule (part 2)

February 20, 2008

capsule2.jpgI open the capsule. Inside, the tightly-rolled message lies in wait, a fragile knot of mystery.

I pull it out with tweezers as carefully as I can (cotton gloves probably would have been far less intrusive, but I’m a geek, not an archivist) and unfold it.

Attempts to spread it flat are not quite futile, but close – it’s been opened and re-folded many times before, perhaps by antique dealers, perhaps by the son’s sons of the military man who received the original message and stuffed the capsule into a pocket after reading it in the previous century.

Filed under: Artifact, Tool | Comments (0)

#a6 :: Carrier pigeon message capsule (part 1)

February 19, 2008

capsule.jpgFeatherlight. Tiny. Packed tight like a bomb.

Barely half an inch long and weighing but a few grams, this stamped-aluminum capsule came (from an Escondido antique store) fully loaded. A rolled-up pellet of tissue taunts me with veiled possibility.

What’s it say? So many possible roads it could take:

Vital vintage intel? A message intercepted? A cheerful howdy between pigeon enthusiasts? A kill order from central HQ? (more…)

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

#a5 :: Child’s water bottle

February 18, 2008

amoebic_nalgene.jpgFor the past, let’s see, six months, my 8-year-old son has been bandying this … phrase … about.

For a while, he didn’t know what it meant, and cared even less, but he would utter this phrase every chance he got, snickering and cackling like a fiend.

It is the funniest thing he’s ever heard. And for the first two or three times I heard him say it and cackle, it was the funniest thing I’d heard in a couple of hours, at least.

Now, hold that thought. (more…)

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

#a4 :: Chinese laser/LED combo

February 17, 2008

ENLARGEOn a side trip to dusty Guangzho province during our honeymoon nearly 14 years ago, it all came clear to me:

Town after town shared the same burly energy: raw labor in copious supply. Assembly lines, construction sites, and industrial workshops pungent with the gritty tang of toxins being applied with deft haste – everywhere, teams of people made, grew and built things with their hands.

In one community, gangs of men were tearing down a small mountain with picks, and shoveling it into an endless parade of dumptrucks bound for the site of the new Hong Kong airport, where it was unceremoniously poured into Hong Kong harbor. By hand, they were changing the mountain into a new runway some 20 miles away … (more…)

Filed under: General | Comments (0)

#a3 :: Flickering lion

February 16, 2008

flickeringlion.jpgMass production fills my hands daily with cheap marvels.

Lenticular-screen images serve up false-3D images and crude animations via devilishly simple technology: A backing card imprinted with two images side-by-side, half-blended, is overlaid with triangular-grooved plastic. Your left and right eyes see different images simultaneously (3D) or one image shifting to the next. As you move the image your brain shoehorns the visual noise into whatever spatial orientation makes the most sense.

This lion is, oddly, one of two in my house. Click to see his roar – which sounds oddly like what I was listening to at the time.

Filed under: Art, Objet, Toy | Comments (0)

#a2 :: Faux long-stemmed chocolate rose

February 15, 2008

rose.jpgIt was the perfect metaphor, really. His hair plugs, his teeth caps, his botox, his Bavarian penile-compensation vehicle.

And now, she sighed, biting her lip, this.

She sniffled a bit more and peeled back the red foil. The “blossom” popped out of its green-plastic receptacle and tumbled under the futon.

I will not lose it. I will not.

On her knees, she reached under, crushing it slightly in her fist and fished it out. It wore a fuzz of dust bunnies. Brushing them off, she sagged to the floor. Cheap, waxy chocolate melted across her teeth as she teetered over whether to bite into it.

She caved.

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

#a1 :: Bodywork dolly

February 15, 2008

dolly2.jpgI’ve missed this blog. Hello, old friend.

This black lump of cast iron could be any number of things: A chunk of railroad tie fashioned into a doorstop, (or so claimed the antique store owner in Cutchogue, Long Island who sold it to me for 9 bucks over Christmas). An anchor for wayward blueprints on windswept building sites, perhaps. An “equalizer” stuffed into the boxing glove of an outmatched pug.

Instead it’s a simple tool: Hold it behind the car-body panel you’re undenting. Smack the panel’s outside with a hammer. Hammer, meet anvil – rock the dolly back and forth a bit as you taptaptaptap the steel – and eventually the dent is shallow enough that you can cover the rest of the blemish with Bondo. That’s what I did with Steve’s car.

The backstory on all this? (more…)

Filed under: General, Tool | Comments Off on #a1 :: Bodywork dolly

#365 :: Ring

February 14, 2005

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
Saab Front Wheel Bearings
Nuclear Bomb Test Souvenir
Battle Suit
Brownie Hawkeye
Vinyl Frog
Minnie Ball
Spoke Wrench
Art Deco Reading Lamp
Spiky Silicone Keychain
Fuckin’ Wirenuts
Doll Leg
Shalom Bracelet
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.

Filed under: Adornment, Artifact, Objet, Part, symbol | Comments (4)

#364 :: Shaman

February 13, 2005

Friends and web-cruisers: This phase of HEAVY LITTLE OBJECTS is drawing to a close. I’ll announce the winner of the Luchador Libre contest in two days – (it’s not too late to enter!)

I can’t say what this site will become, but with tomorrow’s entry – the last of a near-solid year’s worth of daily posts (give or take a hiccup or three) – I’m sad and relieved to be ending a dizzying journey that I began last February when I said:

I collect heavy little things.Tools, parts, toys, instruments, tchotchkes – the weight of some new thing in my hand, often small, metallic and well machined, compels me to add it to my life.

It’s instinct by now. I can’t say why these things are important, or why I haven’t bothered cataloguing them until this day – they almost litter my office, my pockets, my car, my home. But this is as good a place to start as any.

This Dia de los Muertos figure is almost as good a place as any to stop for a while.

When I first set up HEAVY LITTLE OBJECTS, all I wanted was to make a place where I could write and shoot something just for myself every single day. I hadn’t dreamed of gaining an audience, but so many thousands of you have checked in (and a few have even written to me) that I must say I’m glad I chose the Web rather than a little black journal on my bedside table.

I’d like to think that I launched HLO with the spiritual preparation represented by the Deer Dance shaman seen here – I’ll explain him in a minute – but I really began with a “what the fuck, I’ll try this for a while” attitude. It’s been, by turns, fun, grueling, revealing, frustrating and – yep – spiritually rewarding. When next I pick it up – some months (or maybe only weeks or days) after finishing entry #365, it’ll be a new phase of experimentation.

Thanks so much to my friends for encouragement, my folks for muse-like support, my wife and children for inspiration, marvelous objects and fathomless tolerance, and (plug, plug) the Apple company for making a peerless axe.

This has been a raw, giddy adventure – one that’s given me nourishment and fortitude for the next. And so, here’s the penultimate data point – from a Mexican travel site:

The Deer Dance: This dance is central to the pantomimes performed by the Yaquis on all occasions, religious or secular. Originally intended to guarantee success in hunting, it is danced by a close-knit society of men who have spent most of their lives learning their roles.
The “deer,” especially, is portrayed with incredible sensitivity and fidelity. Wearing only an animal headdress, a kilt made of a rebozo and strings of ankle rattles, he moves to the music of flute, drum and rasp. His dramatic death is usually brought about by the “hunters” but he sometimes falls victim to other enemies like the coyote or the jaguar.

Filed under: General | Comments (2)

#363 :: Leatherman Squirt

February 12, 2005

I am homo sapiens, a tool user.


I feel naked without a blade. Ill-equipped for the day without my pocket knife and PDA. Impotent when faced with a Torx screw that needs budging and a toolbox full of flatheads and Phillipses. I’ve gone through quite a few pocket multitools: the Swiss-Tech Micro-Tech was nice, but the heads were a tad large and it kept unfolding and falling off my keyring. The Swiss-Tech Micro-Plus was better – two sizes of driver heads and a folding design that kept it from opening quite so easily – but I resented the hard profile it held in my pocket since it’s designed to pinch my keyring at a hard right angle and it always managed to dig directly into my hipbone when I was rolling around the family room floor with the kids. Then came the Gerber Multi-Tool which hung around for a good year and a half – a terrific little collection of tools that proved only as good as the fastening mechanism: The pliers-grip grew loose and the thing floated off my keyring somewhere and vanished. I then bought a multitool-and-flashlight set for my son’s birthday and – forbidden to give the “that’s-dangerous-he’ll-hurt-himself!” tool to a 5-year-old boy, I kept it. The Coast Micro-Pliers hung obediently from a jump ring, but they were bulky, balky, crummy-feeling. They had scissors (something I never understood the need for in a tool that already has a knife blade). And they were stiff, almost impossible to open.

There’s no pleasure on earth like the feel of doing a task with a good tool in your hands. The Squirt is a damned good tool, trim, crisp and handsome in anodized blue. I’ve mounted it on a swivel clip so it moves in and out of my pocket easily. The plier handles fold and open on smooth leaf springs, the pliers themselves are spring-loaded and easy to operate. There are two sizes of flathead driver and the Phillips head is actually a modified flathead with a triangular tip rather than the usual thick cross-head. The blade is sharp, there’s a double-sided file, wire cutters, an awl … I am a happy ape.

Filed under: Tool | Comments (1)

#362 :: Cuban Cigars

February 11, 2005

They arrive like smuggled slugs of radioactive metal, encased in sheets of cedar and sheathed in little tubes of machined aluminum. A relative (I shan’t say which) snuck them off a cruise ship and back in through Customs. The tobacco tastes no more extraordinary than the average Dominican blend – woody, rich in the back of the throat. But the frisson of illegality – a mesh of spiteful Cold War trade embargoes slapped on an English-branded product of Cuba – adds layers of flavor and meaning to the experience. I have maybe one cigar every month or two. There is the ritual – moisten the end, slice off the tip, light a match to light the cedar sheet, use it to heat the end of the cigar for precisely 45 seconds (holding it slightly away from your body appraisingly, at approximately the level of your navel) – then you light. A few quick, deep puffs while rotating the cigar end through the flame. Stoked with a puff every minute or two, it will last about an hour. A cigar is a welcome break from painting, a post-dinner respite around a campfire, a warming influence on a cold boat. As the man says, a good cigar is a smoke.

Filed under: General | Comments (0)

#361 :: Gel caps

February 10, 2005

Problems. Solve my problems with a thing. My problems are in my head, they’re in my life, I can’t touch them or put a dent in them or even make sense of them or time for them. But my problems run my head. And my head runs my time and my time runs my life. So I have a thing, a thing I can use to make them stop. Stop them with a thing. It’s a miracle. Father’s little helper. See how? I put this thing in my mouth and in a little while, my problems aren’t problems any more. A dull roar, nothing more. I have more things now. One for each problem. But sometimes they can’t stop them. And I can’t think.

I’ve never been one to use this kind of drug. My back acts up or a toothache starts murdering me and I’ll pop aspirin to sleep, maybe a really big painkiller for a day or so post-surgery. But it’s a cycle. Like all artificial chemicals (and half the real ones) sooner or later, the cure goes away, and the hurt returns, twice as bad.

I’m in a peaceful space now, having just come through a hard time in my professional life. I’ve found some clarity: I’m able to look back, see what happened, see where I am, and realize that everything’s going to be all right. So, in this playful head suddenly there’s room for the bogus lyric above, and the real ones below. And this little pile of gel caps – left over from a futile, months-long attempt to cure my daughter’s horrible eczema with nightly doses of weird naturopathic chemicals after modern medicine seemed to have failed (we’ve since found the real allergen and gotten a grip on it) – put two lyrics into my suddenly copascetic mind:

From David Byrne and Brian Eno’s glittering “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts,” (scroll down there for soundclips) a snippet of found-radio preaching by a raving clergyman:It’s no BIG thing, it’s a SMALL THING …What … people … THINK …

He’s so HIGH, you can’t get over him!
He’s so LOW you can’t get under him!
He’s so WIDE you can’t get around him!
If you MAKE your bed in HEAVEN, He’s there
If you MAKE your bed in HELL, He’s there,


HELP me somebody…

HELP me somebody …

Iiiii IKNOW!

From Courtney Love’s glorious, elegiac mess, “Sunset Strip“:

They’re for real life
They tried to steal my soul
I’ve got pills when Famous
I got pills when you’re old
I’ve got pills cause I’m bored
I’ve got pills cause you’re dead
I’ve got cause I am the worst and best dressed
I’ve got pills cause I feel more than twentyone
Got pills cause I know, baby, you’re not the one
I’ve got pills for my coochie
Cause baby, I’m sore
I’ve got pills cause you’re mad
I’ve got pills cause I’m bored
Cruising down the Sunset Strip
And there is nothing that’s not,
That’s not within my grip
Oh tonight, I got it right
Just one time

Filed under: Jetsam | Comments (0)

#360 :: Fortune Cookie

February 9, 2005

A brain tremor emerges from childhood, a submerged snag in the deep, slow-flowing river of memory: I was probably three or four when I put my forefinger and thumb together, tight, pinching nothing and imagining a whale in there, its full tonnage trapped between my fingerprints. It was a huge concept for a kid – tiny density, microscopic mass – and to this day I don’t know where it came from, but I would revisit it every now and then with a sort of breathy little “whoa.”

As I grew, the sensation recurred in odd places: On the job as a reporter: A treeful of egrets, looking delicate as tapers in a cathedral candelabra, perched in the path of a 400,000-gallon oil spill on the Delaware River that was headed their way from the breached hull of a tanker run aground upstream. In pop culture: Frank Miller’s Miho, the tiny, ruthlessly lethal street-waif/assassin who fends off the entire Mafia on tiptoe and sword-point. In nature: swollen, phallic stalactites hanging impossibly in the gaping maw of Carlsbad Caverns, tapering to a point the width of a molecule that grows with near-infinite slowness, a single drop of mineral-laden water at a time – and the huge colony of bats that swarm up out of the cave at night like a seething, black tornado from which they peel off at the top – single file – to hunt for food at sunset.

So it is with this thing. The fortune cookie is a confection of frothy whimsy and deep portent, of crunchiness and clairvoyance. It’s jsut a snack, a crisp trifle. It’s also your fate. You know it’s mass-produced, you can never tell whether you’re going to get a real future-predicting fortune or some worthless aphorism like “It is better to be wise than to be rich.” But it’s your fortune, a tiny oracle to be heeded with some reverence or at least a snicker, as you munch the vessel in which it arrived to stop ever so briefly your headlong rush through life and make you think: Is this true?

Filed under: Edible, symbol | Comments (0)

#359 :: Clockwork Tin Bus

February 8, 2005

Wind the key, and it goes – a self-locomoting toy, the culmination of myriad simple technologies in a complex, palm-sized plaything: Wheels – once just logs used to move other logs, now advanced to trim wheel/hub/axle design. Tin lithography – the semblance of color, depth and detail printed in Benday dots on machine-cut, rust-prone sheet metal that’s folded and slotted together, tab A to slot B and so on, until it takes shape as a bus. Clockwork – spring-driven cogs and gears store energy pumped in by a few revolutions of the key, then convert it to be pumped out as hundreds of revolutions of the axles. It makes a clicking sound when being wound, a ratcheting sizzle when released to glide across the kitchen floor, invisible passengers hidden behind painted windows – tiny avatars to your rapid transit fantasies. The “Blue Giant” is made in China.

Filed under: General | Comments (0)

#358 :: Bow

February 7, 2005

This is the cultural equivalent of a successful GoogleWhack: A purpose-built frippery with one and only one use. The peach-satin confection came flat in a glassine envelope, a little stack of ribbon rectangles. To set it up, you pull a little thread at its center, which bunches the strips into loops forming a perfect, gift-ready visual confection. It is an emotional virus, designed to carry a “message” of “festivity” and “affection” to the recipient, and then to be simply torn off and discarded. If you put together the production chain, from designer to industrial loom operator to dye-maker to cutter and packager, you wind up with a micro-economy of specialized laborers whose only professional purpose is to construct the physical manifestation of a hoary old meme in visual semiotics. You could work yourself cross-eyed deconstructing the symbolism, or just trying to understand the way the flat thing becomes a rounded, resilient and brilliant bow. But then you’d have given it way too much thought.

Filed under: Adornment, symbol | Comments (0)

#357 :: Chajchas

February 6, 2005

I look down at my hands resting at the keyboard, fingers curved across asdfghjkl;, waiting to speak. I wind up staring at them for nearly a minute. Soft traces of LCD light brush my knuckles above my fingertips, which rest on little beveled metallic-look plastic keys. Blood pulses thinly through veins across the backs of my wrists. This is how I relate to my world – a creature of “information” connected via a mechanical-digital device to a mesh of ideas and information that simply does not exist in tangible reality. Information passes through our lips to each others’ ears, from printed page to optic nerves or trickling byte by byte into the mighty planetary dub that Gibson described, pixels and bits in the colloidal swamp of Internet culture. I create it. I feed off of it. But I cannot touch it. How do I know it is real?

Pick up a chajchas. Strap it to your wrist. Give it a few shakes (Quicktime).

Touch it in the way of the Peruvians who first created it. Feel its hard, hollow seed-pods, the soft strap of bright woven cotton. Hear it the way you should hear dark trees stroking themselves in the wind and birds and wild cats howling behind the dense forest curtain. The dry, sonorous rattle is a visceral sound like the slap of bare feet on hard ground, the smack of a leaping fish. You are an animal of flesh and pumping blood with this in your hands, a creature alive to the dangers and opportunities of the world all around – the threat of beasts and enemies, the promise of food and sex and sleep. You could be stomping around a fire beneath a half-moon, celebrating a kill, a marriage, a myth, a death amid the noise and sweat of your family and your comrades. You’re here, shaking this noisy thing.


Instead, you’re typing ideas off the top of your overtired head into your computer to pour the finished information into the great fertile delta of words and thoughts, stringing together adjectives and nouns and images like so many beads, hoping that the sequence and rhythm and dangling glitter of this non-existent sound you’re making will resonate for someone else out there in the billion-island archipelago.

It’s dark. You’re completely alone. And you feel nothing but the clatter of keys under fingertips and the vastness of night.

This instrument is traditionally made of goat hooves, but can also be made of seashells, stones, beads, seeds or scraps of hardwood. You can buy them online.

Filed under: Instrument | Comments (0)

#356 :: Scurvy Knave

February 5, 2005

One of two things will happen: He’ll eat your heart off a pike, or he’ll have your guts for garters. You have a choice: You can fight him with a cutlass, or you can walk the plank. Choose: The devil or the deep blue sea.

These little avatars, these plastic warriors are a safe outlet for our genetic legacy of bloodthirst. We as a race teach children the ways of men. But we as a family allow no gun games in the house, show no videos with shooting. So why is my son already designing killer robots from K’Nex – this is the laser, that’s the missile launcher, here’s the thing that sucks blood from its enemies? He’s five.

It’s just play. Isn’t it?

Filed under: symbol, Toy | Comments (0)

#355 :: Seltzer Bottle

February 4, 2005

He wakes up after an hour or so, his face pressed to the wet bar, his brain still well-pickled on the shots of rye he’d been tossing back before (and after) he insulted that lady (well, she wasn’t, really) and she slapped him hard. He doesn’t bother raising his head. It’s comfy here. A warm pad of numb flesh covers his cheek, nerves deadened to sleep by the constant pressure of his sweating head against pocked mahogany. If he gets up, he’ll just feel cold, the breeze from the open bar door chilling the spilled booze on his face. So he lies there and considers: Beer taps hunching, cobra-like, overhead. Change puddling near his nose – before passing out, he kept dredging up pennies from his pocket for every shot the bartender slid his way that didn’t arrive with it a disapproving sneer. Olives lurking in a murky jar of oil. The incandescent hush of warm lights beneath the liquor racks float up through colored bottles – rye, whiskey, bourbon, gin, vermouth, absinthe, coca syrup, malt, seltzer, grenadine – a woozy hallucination of polychrome gems. This one bottle is … so pretty – a delicate turqoise lozenge of serenity, its maker’s name mock-etched into the glass. The barkeep shoots himself a seltzer/rocks, and returns to mopping the other end of the bar. Be here long, the drunk thinks. He’ll work his way down here and I’ll just have to move, finally go home to Virginia and the kids. And the dog. And the house, the newly electrified townhouse with a gas tap in every room, the huge mortgage he took out a month ago, before his boss let him go on Tuesday. I’ll have to steel my resolve and face it all. He turns his head a bit – well, turns it on the bar as if moving a huge, soggy block of soap – twisting it free so that the suction of his face on the wet, varnished wood is broken slightly, and sensation tingles back into his cheek. God. This’ll kill Virginia, he thinks. And slowly, he picks himself up.

Back in the first or second decade of the 20th century (future shock, anyone?) this was a state-of-the-art delivery system for bubbly water. It was refillable: Once you used up the liter or so of seltzer, you’d toss it back into its crate for collection by the seltzer man, who would return the whole thing to a delivery plantto be cleaned out and refilled. At about five pounds and nearly 12 inches high, it’s just under the bulk limit for HLOs, but it’s so gorgeous I had to squeeze it in.

The identity contest for El Luchador Libre is drawing to an end – as is the first (and perhaps only) year of HEAVY LITTLE OBJECTS. There have been some excellent entries so far, but I know there are great ones out there still unwritten. If you’d like to win the multi-masked Mexican grappler and at least one other relentlessly nifty HLO of your very own, drop by the contest and bang out a few paragraphs. I’ll announce the winner (and there will be fine runner-up prizes) in Entry #366. Jump in. Have fun.

Filed under: Artifact, Microfiction, Tool | Comments (0)

#354 :: Carnation

February 3, 2005

A sweet, dimheaded, new smell in my 16th year, the smell of the white carnation my mom pinned to the lapel of my prom jacket. Something suffused with promise and age, almost as if a mantle were bestowed upon me, a threshold placed before me and a sword and shield thrust into my hands. “You look great,” she said. Everyone else had rented colored tuxes – peach, amber, cream, even some pastel green ones, but my folks had insisted I’d look best in my father’s straight black tux, and I’d dutifully thrown it on, cranking my pre-party psych music on the little stereo in my room while I did. (“Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”) I looked in the mirror. Not bad. Not too bad. And I stepped into the night.

I go back there, every single time I see one of these. Every. Single. Time.

Filed under: General | Comments (0)

#353 :: Stereo Realist viewer

February 2, 2005

In its heyday, the Stereo Realist 3-D camera was the most popular 3-D camera around – used by Harold LLoyd, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Edgar Bergen (and one would assume, Charlie McCarthy to capture the world in stunning 3-D. I was introduced to my fetish in art school, when I went to an exhibit of stereo photos – they had dozens of 35mm pairs in little viewers tacked to lightboxes, cards set up on a huge drum that let you spin each one past an old Victorian wood viewer and – most impressive – a slideshow: We donned polarized glasses and I was instantly hooked when the curator began hand-feeding freakishly inventive 3-D slides through a Stereo Realist projector. Gadget hound that I am, I immediately coveted the device, until I learned they’re so rare they were going for $3,000 (this was back in the 80s). Now, you can’t even find ’em on eBay. This is a much more realistic (sorry) alternative: The bakelite viewer holds a couple of D-cells and some pretty slick glass optics. I think I found it for about 7 bucks at a garage sale.

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#352 :: Miniature Sieve

February 1, 2005

So many projects so little time it’s like running my gray matter through this dwarf kitchen tool facsimile just to put two thoughts together that make sense first I’m running around flogging my resume next I’m killing myself with a headful of MySQL code that I don’t understand just to cope with a hosting switch forced by a growing audience for my other blog that my previous hosting company was unwilling and unequipped to handle but dear god I hope my new host can handle because if I don’t my medulla oblongata will begin drooling out my ears and down my hunched shoulders and then I’m trying to raise my children without raising my voice which is distinctly raising my blood pressure in between my attempts to get two more secret late-night projects moved forward and it’s all starting to get to be tooooo much so I have this tiny little metal sieve hecho en Mexico for Lord knows what purpose maybe to give dolls something to cook with as a metaphor for my overtaxed brain at the moment and I really am looking forward to a spring break camping trip here in a few weeks because surely the sight of desert blossoms and sunlight smashing yon forbidding peaks will be balm for my shredded synapses here’s a bit of advice folks, don’t try to run two daily blogs jobhunt hold down a fulltime job raise two kids and have a life at the same time it’ll just wind up hurting and making you think you should take up drinking if only you could get past the fact that you don’t like to drink because at least then you could use this little tool to fish the ice out of your drink so that it would stay strong enough to make you feel better or at least not feel so frazzled so much of the time. Golf. They tell me golf is relaxing.

Or maybe cooking.

All of which reminds me of Dean Motter’s visionary 1980s funnybook series Mister X, about an insomniac anti-hero trapped in a life without sleep, whose motto was “So little time. So much to DO.”

I need to figure out how to cut down on this timewasting sleep addiction I seem to have had since birth. 6 hours is too damn much time to be spending mostly immobile.

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#351 :: 1977 Hot Wheels Funny Car

January 31, 2005


That radio ad was just burned into my head in high school, by which time I had (mostly) graduated from an inexplicable addiction to poring over dogeared issues of Hot Rod and Top Fuel. It sounded like my 4th-grade dragstrip fantasies come to life, some INSANELY COOL guy bellowing at the top of his lungs through a chromed steel larynx against a backdrop of revving supercharged V-8s. But it was never the kind of event I could get my folks to take us to, so – timid lad that I was – I never really asked.

This little gem – a 1977 vintage Hot Wheels Camaro (Don “the Snake” Prudhomme, perhaps?) – came into the house from some garage sale or other, just another soldier in my son’s army of Hot Wheels. The hinged body and detailed chassis/engine/cage assembly is something you just don’t see any more. Nifty.

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January 30, 2005


HLO will be down for the next day or so as I switch servers. If I were an expert DBA, I’d have it done in 60 minutes, but the fact is I’m just this guy who knows a little HTML, so I’m slogging through all the command-line jungles without much of a machete.

The site will likely DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY for a wee bit. Have faith. I’ll be back as soon as I can. And thanks for watching.


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#350 :: Dymo Label-Maker

January 25, 2005

Just 20 years ago, this was the state of the art in signifyin’ machinery. Clicking the grip feeds embossable tape in: Select a letter by turning the alphabet wheel. Squeeze to print the letter – your grip sandwiches a bit of the colored tape between a positive-negative pair of dies, stamping the shape of the letter into stressed white plastic. Release. Repeat. Done spelling? Spin to the scissors logo and squeeze once more to cut. There’s something almost miraculous and elegant about old, completely obsolete machinery that still works. The Dymo labelmaker was a simple device designed to do but one thing, flawlessly. Now, the company builds exotic gizmos that print changeable fonts with heat, turn a computerized mailing list into a stack of labels and generally remove the labelmaking technology from something a 3-year-old child can understand to the distance of Arthur C. Clarke’s old axiom: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

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