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#72 :: Navajo Silver Lizard

April 18, 2004

A Navajo silversmith cast this in sterling silver. The Dine (DIN-eh) as they prefer to call themselves, make a living doing business with each other, ranching, running stores and schools and businesses – and with tourists crossing tribal lands, by selling crafts like this from roadside stands in and around Monument Valley and the Four […]

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#71 :: B9 “Robot”

April 17, 2004

There was no archetype before this one. Not Rossum’s Usuform Robots, not Die Valse Maria in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, nor Robby nor Gort. Brave, smart, wary, endowed with brittle humor and tinged with sarcasm, he rolled on treads, but off-camera could apparently climb the steps to the Jupiter 2 though it was never explained how. […]

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#70 :: Pulls

April 16, 2004

Too meek for bones through my septum, too square for even tattoos at that point, I was a square, square newspaperman, covering murder trials, city council meetings, disasters and defense contractor fraud for the L.A. Times. Magpie hunter-gatherer at the core, though. My inner automobile was probably a clapped-out maroon Checker cab cruising SoHo on […]

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#69 :: Monocular

April 15, 2004

The aesthetic of brushed aluminum and blackout metal is as distinct a flavor of modern physical culture as gingham and daisies, bakelite and chintz, mahogany and stained leather. A wave ripples through me as I write this, and I flash on alternate molecular realities – strawberry roan gelding motorcycles; rocket gantries of hardwood and stucco, […]

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#68 :: Vinyl Frog

April 14, 2004

Somebody in a factory somewhere peeled two cast-vinyl frog halves out of a still-hot mold. The air reeked of curing toxins, raw polymers. She glued them together with adhesive or heat, and took up a spraycan or an airbrush to dust the top of the thing (along with all of its brothers, maybe laid out […]

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#67 :: Rubber bullets

April 13, 2004

Back in college one night, we saw a wall of smoke coming around the corner on Halloween. Being a wannabe photojournalist at the time, and thinking, “fire” I grabbed my camera and ran – straight into a cloud of tear gas. Needles in the eyes, claws in the lungs, I doubled over, immediately capacitated along […]

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#66 :: Balloon Anchor

April 12, 2004

Half a dozen of these lined a throw-rug dance floor at our 2-year-old neighbor’s birthday party last weekend. Three balloons were tethered to each, at just-above-head level, so that when you moved among them you had the sensation of being a blimp coming to berth among its brothers in an open-air hangar. It was festive, […]

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#65 :: Sea glass

April 11, 2004

The kharmic simplicity of sea glass is staggering, if you think about it for too long in a stoned-sort-of “… Whoa … ” manner. Made from – essentially – melted sand, glass is poured, blown, molded and fused into bottles that we use to carry beers to the beach which, when enough of them are […]

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#64 :: Fangs

April 10, 2004

Maybe it’s teething memory, or the id-transforming monster-fantasy value, or maybe it’s just having played hockey with a clear rubber mouthpiece in place against the blows for a couple of adolescent years, but I connect with something very deep when I put in a set of these. They were plain white (but secretly day-glo) polyvinyl […]

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#63 :: Wedding Ring

April 9, 2004

Words and a picture won’t do this justice. So, bare facts: On April 9, 1994, an extraordinary woman said yes to me and put this on my finger.

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#62 :: Folding Loupe

April 8, 2004

The Akihabara, in Tokyo, teems with geeks. More electronics shops, game boutiques, appliance megamalls and circuitboard salvage yards are crammed into a few square kilometres there that probably anywhere on the planet. You can build a mainframe from components, buy top-of-the-line synthesizers costing millions of yen, feed your fetish for porno video games or indulge […]

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#61 :: 3-D Glasses

April 7, 2004

I’m a stereophotography junkie. I’ve shot nighttime 3-D Kodachromes painted with filtered flash, and manufactured my own stereopticon slides with a Stereo Realist camera ever since seeing a transcendent show of stereo photos at Rhode Island School of Design when I was 20. I’ve used these headache-inducing anaglyph glasses (and others like them) to decode […]

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#60 :: Daguerrotype – Mother and Child

April 6, 2004

She might have been a stern widow, a pinched matron, a god-fearing churchgoer who distrusted photographers and was sitting only because her husband demanded a keepsake of her and his young son. More likely, she froze her face to meet the demands of modern daguerrotyping, which required subjects to sit still for a minute or […]

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#59 :: Torpedo level

April 5, 2004

Most torpedo levels are crafted from wood or plastic – I have a fluorescent orange plastic one in my toolbox – but this one is an odd variant on the classic carpenter’s conscience. Crafted from a forged block of aluminum, a steel plate, a pair of screws and a oil-filled capsule, it seems stolen from […]

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#58 :: Tree Pod

April 4, 2004

These trees grow all up and down the block – similar in leaf to the pepper tree, though I’m not sure of their family or type. Every spring, they shed green seedpods about 10 inches long, each one filled with 15 or 20 coffee-brown seeds. The birds usually get to them before the kids do. […]

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#57 :: Thumb Piano

April 3, 2004

Fashioned from a gourd, a hardwood plank and some scraps of metal, this elegant little instrument is called mbira in central, western and eastern Africa, where it originated. It was a Christmas gift from my parents many years ago, I’ve played it with my kids on my lap when they were just a few months […]

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#56 :: Prescription sunglasses

April 2, 2004

The world is full of mediocre, overpriced, cheap knockoff sunglasses that break the second a 2-year-old grabs them or they fall 5 feet to the floor. Since I’m sadly addicted to UV-blocking lenses, I have burned through two or three pairs of sunglasses a year for most of the past 20 years. I resolved a […]

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#55 :: Boot charm

April 1, 2004

The cult of miniatures has been with us for millennia, since someone first pinched clay to form the head of an animal. We carry small objects on our keychains – tools, keepsakes, souvenirs, symbols, tangible avatars that project the same insouciance we believe is innate to us, or that emulate the spirit or attitude of […]

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#54 :: Road hazard

March 31, 2004

The guys at the tire store were amazed. They pulled this out of my wife’s radial one day when she came in with a flat. It is solid brass, about 5 inches long and 3/8ths of an inch thick, nicked and chiseled from being rolled, crushed and battered by countless passing cars until it found […]

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#53 :: Tooth cap

March 30, 2004

I spent the morning in the dental chair, paying for a lifetime of chewing hard candy with my incisors instead of my molars. (Two or three packs of Pep-o-Mint Life Savers a day during about a year and a half’s worth of court trials while at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Los Angeles Times accounted for […]

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#52 :: Coil spring fasteners

March 29, 2004

When I was a kid, I’d build countless cars from plastic model kits, working from exploded-diagram instruction sheets printed in stark black ink. As I grew older and began to work on my own engines and brakes, I would buy parts from the Volvo and Toyota dealerships, confirming that I had the right item by […]

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#51 :: Flight helmet

March 28, 2004

Something about society needs to republish its artifacts of war in miniature, 3-D facsimile format. Not content with model planes, we make model pilots for our children to play with, and model pilots require tiny helmets with teensy glare shields and ittybitty microphones. The constant surf of children’s toys into our house washes up objects […]

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#50 :: Pencil sharpener

March 27, 2004

Feisty. Steadfast. Small. Kitschy. Voracious. Cast in brown-toned potmetal, a dimestore pencil sharpener embedded in his belly, this triceratops is one of those elegantly simple tools that delights in efficiency and feel. Shove a pencil in his mouth, spin it, pull it out – it’s sharper. He continues his silent roar whether I leave him […]

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#49 :: Medal for the Elizabethan Club

March 26, 2004

Joe Reed crafted this, to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of Yale University‘s Elizabethan Club. It began life as a series of sketches, likely done in heavy graphite pencil, then inked for clarity of line. He then fashioned plaster-of-paris maquettes about 10 inches in diameter, carving them with Exacto blades and surplus dentist’s tools. The maquettes […]

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#48 :: Pon-tiki

March 25, 2004

If I may be allowed a generalization, every serious collector is slightly mentally ill. People stuff their entire apartments with Beanie Babies, their warehouses with exotic $1-million sportscars, their desktops with frogs of every shape, size, material and expression. The collector is someone who is compelled to gather like objects together, to prove their collective […]

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