Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase

•March 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I’m sending my friend Jon Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase in the mail, but I’m not going to post this entry until after the briefcase has arrived. Here’s how I made did it.

bc 1

Buy an ordinary briefcase at a second hand store.

bc 2

Gut the lid.


Line the lid with 6 layers of gold cellophane. Lolarusa suggests omitting the cellophane, but I think it adds reflected color. It’s a toss up on whether this part is effective.

bc 4

Battery pack w/eight AA batteries, some wire, 4 super bright LED bulbs, and 4 miniature sockets. When wiring, please note that the positive contact on a bulb and the positive contact on a socket is at the bottom, the negative contact for a bulb and socket is at the sides where the threads/grooves are.  Oh, and buy a refrigerator switch, not pictured. The switch that turns the light bulb on when you open the fridge door. Costs around 5 USD.

bc 5

Attach sockets to some sort of base. I used skewers & twist ties.

bc 6

Lay out the contents of Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase. Secure the battery pack with velcro. Secure the base with tape.

bc 7

Cut 3 lengths of red and 3 lengths of black wire, longer than you need them. Coil the wire around a pencil. The coil will produce tension, making electrical tape & solder unnecessary.

bc 8

Connect all bulbs, positive to positive, negative to negative.

bc 9

Make 4 gold cellophane socks to cover the bulbs. This adds the right color and stops you from blinding the recipient.


Connect to battery pack to test.

bc 11 switch detail

Connect the refrigerator switch in this manner (thank you wikihow). Red from positive socket to one post on the switch (doesn’t matter which one), other post on switch to positive power post, and finally negative power post to negative socket. Follow this illustration exactly to avoid a short circuit.

bc 12

Here is my fridge switch, tucked into the upper right corner of the briefcase, using velcro as adhesive. When the lid drops the plunger is depressed and the circuit is broken (the lights go off). I added the shims below the switch to make the lights turn on just as the lid is opened. Good electrical timing makes this prop work.

bc 10

Set the combination. To open the lock in the image above you’d push the latch to the right. While in the open position push the latch to the left and hold. Turn the wheels to any number you like & let go. That’s your new combination.

bc 14

Open Marcellus Wallace’s briefcase at your own risk.


more Curiosities

The Only Road Roller Endorsed by Doris Day

•February 17, 2014 • 2 Comments


Doubt: Gossip

•February 4, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman.

To My Old Brown Earth, by Pete Seeger

•January 28, 2014 • 2 Comments



by Pete Seeger

To my old brown earth
And to my old blue sky
I’ll now give these last few molecules of “I.”

And you who sing,
And you who stand nearby,
I do charge you not to cry.

Guard well our human chain,
Watch well you keep it strong,
As long as sun will shine.

And this our home,
Keep pure and sweet and green,
For now I’m yours
And you are also mine.


In memory of Pete 1919-2014.

More Pete Seeger posts.

The Princess and the Goblin

•January 15, 2014 • 1 Comment

I’ve been listening to the Librivox audiobook of a strange and wonderful fantasy novel, The Princess and the Goblin, by George MacDonald, published in 1872.


I really like volunteer reader Lizzie Driver‘s voice and the way she creates the voices for the various characters. Here’s the first section:

You can download or stream audio of the whole book here, or read the text here.

“There was once a little princess whose father was king over a great country full of mountains and valleys. His palace was built upon one of the mountains, and was very grand and beautiful. The princess, whose name was Irene, was born there, but she was sent soon after her birth, because her mother was not very strong, to be brought up by country people in a large house, half castle, half farmhouse, on the side of another mountain, about half-way between its base and its peak.

The princess was a sweet little creature, and at the time my story begins was about eight years old, I think, but she got older very fast. Her face was fair and pretty, with eyes like two bits of night sky, each with a star dissolved in the blue. Those eyes you would have thought must have known they came from there, so often were they turned up in that direction. The ceiling of her nursery was blue, with stars in it, as like the sky as they could make it. But I doubt if ever she saw the real sky with the stars in it, for a reason which I had better mention at once.

These mountains were full of hollow places underneath; huge caverns, and winding ways, some with water running through them, and some shining with all colours of the rainbow when a light was taken in. There would not have been much known about them, had there not been mines there, great deep pits, with long galleries and passages running off from them, which had been dug to get at the ore of which the mountains were full. In the course of digging, the miners came upon many of these natural caverns. A few of them had far-off openings out on the side of a mountain, or into a ravine.

Now in these subterranean caverns lived a strange race of beings, called by some gnomes, by some kobolds, by some goblins…”

Time After Time, by Adam Fitzgerald

•January 7, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Adam Fitzgerald

Time After Time

by Adam Fitzgerald

After Cyndi Lauper

I’m in the barricade hearing the clock thickening you.
Autumn encircles a confusion that’s nothing new.
Flash back to warring eyes almost letting me drown.

Out of which, a picture of me walking in a foreign head.
I can’t hear what you said. Then you say: Cold room,
the second that life unwinds. A tinctured vase returns

to grass. Secrets doled out deep inside a drum beat out
of time. Whatever you said was ghostly slow like
a second hand unwinding by match light. Lying back

to the wheel, I shirked confusion. You already knew.
Suitcases surround me. You picture me too far ahead.
Yet I can’t hear what you’ve said. You say: Doldrums,

some secondhand wine. Love, you knew my precincts.
The stone house turned out black, the scenic tunics
were deep inside. Who said home? Oh, I fall behind.

That very secret height blinds. Lying like a diamond,
the cock-thickening of you: hunchbacked arms, eyes
left behind. You’ll picture me walking far, far ahead.

I hear what you’ve done. You said: Go slow. I feebly
bleed out. Matthew’s sermon turned out to be glass.
I wander in windows soft as Sour Patch. No rewind.

But something is out of touch and you, you’re Sinbad.
That second date totally mine. Lying in a vacuum,
the thickening plot thinks of you. The future’s not new.

touchdown. Lights. All those celebrity behinds.
A suitcase full of weeds. You picture me coming to.
You: too close to me to hear what you’ve already said.

Then you say: The second wind unwinds. Doves whistle,
halving their dovely backs, watching out windows to see
if I’m okay. See it, the dulcet moment? I’m like thicket

tinkering for you. Fusion nothing you knew. Flash back
to seagull-beguiled eyes. Sometimes talking to a barren
lad. Such music so unbearably droll. The hand is mine.

Random picture frames off the darkness. A Turing machine?
Scotch-taping through windows, stolen from deep inside
rum-beaded thyme. You say also: Behind sequins & hinds . . .

And I’m in the barricade hearing the clock thickening you.
Clematis enclosures, walking with news, pollinated by a
secondary grief, while something reminds you of our love.

Source: Poetry (January 2014).

Audio (from the Poetry magazine January podcast):

This poem was written using mondegreens, or homophonic English-to-English translation. He purposely misheard the lyrics to Cindy Lauper’s song, that is. You can listen to the discussion of the poem and the poet’s technique on the Poetry podcast. (The discussion of this poem comes about 17 and a half minutes in, but the whole podcast is worth hearing, including another poem by Adam Fitzgerald.)

More on homophonic translation.

These scissors are sinister

•January 3, 2014 • 3 Comments

I’m left-handed. It’s been a source of pride since early childhood, and I tell you now that I love being left-handed and consider it to be superior to being right-handed. Not equal. Superior. Why? I’m not allowed to say; it’s a left-handed thing.

Leftys are singled out around first grade when we’re issued scissors. Your first teacher says, “I see you are left-handed,” and then hands you special scissors.  If you didn’t know you were left-handed, by first grade you did.

lefty scissors

I personally thought left-handed scissors were bogus, because the only difference seemed to be the word “lefty” stamped on them, and I had a hard time using scissors whether they were left-handed or right-handed. Perhaps my technique was wrong. It’s hard to know for sure because it was years ago, but as an adult I assume that left-handed scissors were simply bolted together in a manner opposite to right-handed scissors, and both kinds sucked.

Now I am a grown man, college educated, aware of both engineering and ergonomics, and I have strong opinions about scissors. Consider these two similar models, both from Fiskars:

scissors, sinister and dexter

Look closely at the fit of the lefty:

left handed scissors

as opposed to the regular:

right handed scissors 1

What, some may ask, is the big deal? Let me show you the results of a few short minutes of cutting using right-handed scissors (parents, please send your children to another room):

right handed scissors 2

They say men can never know the pain of child birth (barring kidney stones), but I say you don’t know pain until you’re left-handed and are forced to use right-handed scissors.

The Spotnicks: Rocket Man

•January 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The future is now, my friends. Happy New Year!

Vintage Knits: Raised Pattern Pullover from 1964

•December 27, 2013 • 1 Comment

I really like the raised pattern on this pullover from McCall’s Needlework Treasury, published in 1964.

Raised Diamond pullover

Now that it’s too late to make any Christmas presents, no matter how small they are, it might be a nice time to take on something a little bigger. I wonder how this would look in mohair.

Here’s the pattern:

Raised Diamond pullover pattern

More knitting

Nat King Cole: The Christmas Song

•December 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

More Christmas

Happy Solstice!

•December 21, 2013 • Leave a Comment

A Wintry Walk, by L. Birge Harrison

A Wintry Walk, by Lowell Birge Harrison

For us northerners it just gets brighter and brighter from here.

Charpentier: Noëls & Christmas Motets

•December 13, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Here is an exquisite half hour of Charpentier noels and motets for chorus and solo voice. There’s no real video here – it’s just for listening.

Christmassy, isn’t it?

British Press for The Rabbit Back Literature Society

•December 2, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The British press has begun to take notice of Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen’s marvelous first novel, The Rabbit Back Literature Society, just published in English, in a translation by yours truly.

“The Rabbit Back Literature Society is a lobster-pot of a book. It lures you in with an irresistibly quirky, witty opening and a huge Big Idea… It pays off, mostly due to an exquisite balance of suspense, precision-engineered structure and darkly playful humour… a unique vein of fantasy-realism unlike anything else you’ve ever read.” SFX Magazine

“This wonderfully knotty novel… is a peculiar metafiction, a very grown-up fantasy masquerading as quirky fable. Unexpected, thrilling and absurd, it is primarily an irreverent exploration of the art of writing itself” – Daily Telegraph

“It’s hard to convey the peculiar atmosphere of this novel – absurd but believable, sinister but enjoyable, beautiful but disquieting. This is Jaaskerlainen’s first novel to be published in English (and hats off to Lola Rogers for an elegant, literary and readable translation). Let’s hope there are more to come” – The Independent

UK paper and ebooks and US ebooks are out now, US paper books will be released in May. Available for order and pre-order from all major vendors or your local bookstore.

Happy Thanksgiving

•November 27, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want

More information on Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms series here.

Sarah Swett’s Needlework Literature

•November 25, 2013 • 1 Comment

Sarah Swett uses textiles to make what she calls “slow literature”.

Her amazing work includes facsimiles:


(click and zoom for a closer look)

as well as entire books in tapestry:

Casting Off 3

Casting Off 4

Casting Off 5

Visit her website for lots more pieces, most of it posted in huge image files that let you pore over every detail.

More crafts


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