Haunted Orthodontic Retainer that Channels Malevolent Spirits

I have a special place in my heart for the additive value of story and the art of the scam . This is why I’m keen on Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn’s Significant Objects project – an experimental literary and anthropological mash-up that demonstrated that “the effect of narrative on any given object’s subjective value can be measured objectively.” 

The project auctioned off thrift-store objects via eBay; for item descriptions, short stories purpose-written by over 200 contributing writers, including Meg CabotWilliam GibsonBen GreenmanSheila HetiNeil LaBute,Jonathan LethemTom McCarthyLydia MilletJenny OffillBruce SterlingScarlett Thomas, and Colson Whitehead, were substituted. The objects, purchased for $1.25 apiece on average, sold for nearly $8,000.00 in total.

Okay, so that’s awesome. Now, let’s see what happens when this knowledge is applied to the dark arts – specifically witchcraft. Yes, witchcraft. A recent episode of the podcast Here Be Monsters featured an interview with “Malibu Ron,” a self-identified scam artist who Vice dubbed an “Etsy witch.” Here’s why:

Malibu makes his living selling trinkets supposedly imbued with spirits: sex demonswerewolvesmermaidsdjinnvampires, etc. They aren’t. Malibu sells his intangible beings and spells online for as little as $5 and as much as $11,000.

You can see where this is going, right? Thusly, I attempted to create my own significant, if haunted, object via the power of story.

The object in question is my brother’s old retainer. He wore it in his mid-teens and left it in a box that remained at my parent’s house when he moved out a few years later. That box traveled between storage units as our empty-nester parents decamped to smaller dwellings over the years. Finally, it became my responsibility and has infused my own private “Smithsonian Box” with a never-ending supply of weirdness since. When reunited with the retainer, my brother refused to take it, so… Now, it’s a Haunted Orthodontic Retainer that Channels Malevolent Spirits on eBay.

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. I had to create an entire business identity to give the seller account some narrative umph. Hence…

Easy-peasy logo design via Squarespace. And, yes, I now own yet another domain name.
Easy-peasy logo design via Squarespace. And, yes, I now own yet another domain name.

I also grabbed some stock art for shop…

Instant paranormal collectibles shop.
Instant paranormal collectibles shop.

Then – the fun part – I wrote a little story for the item’s eBay description, which can be read by clicking through the eBay embed below. Throughout the creative fugue state that precipitated the whole scenario, I began to think of eBay as a largely untapped publishing platform (move over Medium) and am considering integrating the Accursed Curios shop and its paranormal environs into the larger world of my one-man transmedia worldbuilding endeavor. I mean, we all need a little more magic in our lives, right?

018: Designer Sarah Lawrence’s Exposure Bucks Odyssey

Sarah Lawrence

A long time ago in an episode of this podcast far far away (I’m thinking Episode 8, Exposure Bucks SuckDon’t Work for Free), I used an image I found online that summed up the phenomenon succinctly and with style. Illustrated in the manner of a 1950s back-of-the-book magazine advertisement, the copy reads “New Exposure Bucks – pay your landlord, buy your groceries – accepted everywhere!  “No, No, Just Pay me in Exposure”

If you’ve every freelanced as a creative, someone has surely made you this offer.

Sarah Lawrence, the designer who made the image, had obviously tired of such offers. Likewise, people using her work without paying for it. People like me. Now, in my own defense, when I found the image without attribution on Reddit and used it on the site, I did so with the caption “Someone please tell me who did this!” Well, someone did. It was Sarah Lawrence. She found me and this is the chat we had about the image, it’s genesis and what’s happened to it since…

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If You’re Searching for Artistic Relevance, Don’t Start with Google – Start with Fellini

Had an existential crisis today and began worrying about the relevance of my own work. I’m pretty sure there isn’t any. Fortunately, my ego-defense has long been the enormity of my ego, and in an admittedly meta moment, I was able to deflect my crippling self-doubt into an inquiry into the relevance of relevance instead.

Don't bother searching for this.
Don’t bother searching for this.

Got as far Google. Hence, the screenshot of my search result for “relevance.” Naturally, the line “Artists and politicians are always worried about their relevance. If they are no longer relevant, they may not keep their job” only served to elevate my anxiety. Until now, I hadn’t made the direct link between my nagging sense of artistic irrelevance with unemployment – but now… finally two great tastes together at last.

I decided to up the Google ante and searched for “artistic relevance” in the vain hope I might find mine amongst the 9,110,000 results. Nada. But I did dip into a wormhole dubbed the “artistic relevance test.” I steeled myself for what I assumed would be a Buzzfeed quiz that would not only prove my own irrelevance but do so in the snarky “language of the web” (as their style guide recommends). Instead, I learned that the “artistic relevance test” is a legal tool used to gauge the “protections afforded artistic works under the First Amendment.”

This came courtesy of a Law360 post, which detailed the attempt of Ginger Rogers to bring a false endorsement claim against Federico Fellini over his film Ginger and Fred.

“In dismissing Rogers’ claim, the Second Circuit held that the title was artistically relevant to the movie, as the movie told the story of two fictional Italian cabaret dancers who became known as ‘Ginger and Fred’ for their dancing style during World War II, which was similar to the style made famous by Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.”

Wait. WTF is this all about? I consider myself a Fellini fan but I’d never heard of this bizarre confection featuring the respective stars of La Strada and 8 1/2. Soon, I was clicking around the Internet in search of it and, due to an itchy trigger finger, I inadvertently just rented it from Amazon

Now, I gotta watch this weird Fellini flick before it expires like fruit fly. Obviously, this new state of affairs has eclipsed my search for relevance.

Or as Fellini reminds, “Experience is what you get while looking for something else.”