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#274 :: New York City Subway Token

November 9, 2004

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 […]

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#273 :: Rosary

November 8, 2004

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 […]

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#272 :: Bell & Howell “Filmo” Double-Run Eight

November 7, 2004

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 […]

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#271 :: “Incredibles” Happy Meal toy

November 6, 2004

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 […]

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#270 :: Gyro Exerciser

November 5, 2004

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 […]

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#269 :: Tennessee Prison Patch

November 4, 2004

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 […]

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#268 :: Root

November 3, 2004

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, […]

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#267 :: Survival tool

November 2, 2004

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, […]

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#266 :: Glow claws

November 1, 2004

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 […]

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#265 :: Strobe

October 31, 2004

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 […]

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#264 :: Phillie Phanatic

October 31, 2004

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, […]

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#263 :: Spiky Ball

October 31, 2004

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 […]

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#262 :: Casio VL-Tone

October 31, 2004

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 […]

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#261 :: Chinese Magnifier

October 27, 2004

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 […]

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#260 :: Geomag

October 26, 2004

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 […]

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#259 :: Tiny Sushi Stickers

October 25, 2004

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 […]

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#258 :: 3 Red Demons in a Little Rowboat

October 24, 2004

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 – […]

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#257 :: Brass Findings

October 23, 2004

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 […]

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#257 :: Mat Cutter

October 22, 2004

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. […]

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#256 :: Pink Elephants

October 21, 2004

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, […]

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#255 :: Stereopticon card: Unloading ore

October 20, 2004

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 […]

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#254 :: Novelty lighter

October 19, 2004

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: […]

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#253 :: Syquest disk

October 18, 2004

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, […]

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#252 :: Hydroformed Rock

October 17, 2004

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 […]

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#251 :: Calculator keys

October 16, 2004

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, […]

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