Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker have collected a group of writers to tell stories about political objects they own.
Batches of POLITICAL OBJECTS stories will appear on HILOBROW before, on, and just after the inauguration, and will continue to roll out through the end of March. The objects include overtly political artifacts both charismatic and absurd, and items whose stealthily political nature will surprise you; the stories range from the uplifting to the poignant to the unexpectedly illuminating. It’s a terrific collection.
Stephen Duncombe wrote about a God Bless Hysteria protest sign and Ben Greenman wrote about a Matchbox car.
Soon enough, I found what I didn’t know I was looking for — a Corvette. This was early May of 2016. Prince had just died. I had just started writing a book about him. I knew that I needed a little red Corvette, somehow, as a talisman. The only problem was that the one from the bin was black. I bought it. I took it home. I went into the closet and found the model paints that my sons no longer use. I painted it red.
Rob Walker asked some tech writers what their most outdated gadget was. Alexis Madrigal pretty much answers for me:
I think it’s the sound system in our car 2003 Volkswagen Golf TDI,” Madrigal says. “We have one of those magical devices that lets you play an iPod through the tape deck (how do those work?) — but it makes a horrible screeching noise when it gets hot.” That leaves the CD player and terrestrial radio: “We seem to rotate between the same three CDs we burned or borrowed some time ago, and the local NPR affiliate.”
Madrigal hastens to add that what he really wants is a stereo with “an aux-in so that I can play Rdio throughout the vehicle.” The problem? “I am scared of car audio guys,” he says. “I knew a lot of them in high school. They are a kind of gadgethead that just kind of freaks me out. I loathe the idea of going in there and having to explain why we have this old-ass tape deck, and then — because I don’t know any better — getting ripped off on a new stereo.
It’s either that or our cable box/DVR…that thing records about 20 minutes of HD programming and is 20 years old now. Really should trade it in for something made since Clinton left office. See also Robin Sloan’s dumbphone.
Really interesting interview with artist/designer Tobias Wong by Rob Walker.
That question hits an important point in my work (and pet peeve), because many people are always interested in how I get work out there, financially. And it’s quite simple. If there’s something I really believe in, I just find a way to make it happen. No daily Starbucks (US$4) or cigs ($8) or dining out ($20), and before you know it you’ve got the money to do something.
Rob Walker on Guitar Hero:
Guitar Hero offers a connection to all this, but departs from it in an obvious way: You’re not actually playing the guitar. No matter how good you may get at Guitar Hero, if you decide to take up the real instrument at some point, you’ll be starting from scratch.
I don’t know what it’s like to be a rock star and there’s no way I can pick up a guitar right now and play it, but the pretend version of the whole rock n’ roll thing that Guitar Hero provides is pretty powerful, at least for this impressionable newbie. Playing Guitar Hero and believing you’re a rock star might be like eating apple pie on the internet, but if you don’t know the difference in the first place, does it matter?
Scott Nelson produces a “tribute brand” called MIKE that’s an homage to Michael Jordan, Nike branding, and shoes. After looking at his products (photos and interviews here and here), I’m amazed Nike hasn’t sued him back to the Stone Age. Nelson’s site is mike23.com.
An interview with Rob Walker, who writes about design and consumer behavior for the NY Times Magazine. “The consumer is making a decision as to whether the product succeeds or fails, and what I do is to come in afterwards and try to articulate what the consumer saw or didn’t see that makes something succeed or fail.”