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I sent this to the excellent, though not particularly well-followed blog Thrift Store Nightmares, this evening. Still, I knew well that where I really should go to ask this burning question was here...Daily Kos...this blog with its accompaniment of fine, wise, astute, and otherwise impressive people who are most likely to present a proper cohort to try to determine just what the heck this thing is.  

This item was acquired by an acquaintance in Las Cruces. It is made from one solid piece of wood. The jaunty, bulging blue band is not augmented with any substance, it is painted directly on the wood. The external surface below the blue band has been carved decoratively into a pattern with diamonds, and carved smoothly above the band. Scratches in the top part have more blue paint rubbed into them.

It is 9 & 1/2 inches tall, 5 & 3/4" in diameter at the top, and 6 & 1/4" in diameter at the bottom.

Photobucket

It has two delicate necklace accents. One, made of quartz beads, is strikingly highlighted by glue stains, where it has been affixed to the wood. The other, of heishi and turquoise, is not affixed and may not be original to this piece. There is no way to tell.

The entire piece has been drilled vertically through the center. The top half has had the wood hollowed out to about half an inch thick, and has been filled with a plaster mold with angled pencil-sized holes drilled in it, with careful and almost symmetrical precision.

In the middle of the center longitudinal hole, a flanged aluminum ring is inset.

Photobucket

At the bottom of the center hole is loosely inserted a plastic screw such as one finds at the bottom of a toilet tank (only a little smaller). There is no threading at the bottom for the screw, only rough wood lining the center hole, though it fits quite neatly.

The bottom of this piece has a thin protective rubber mat glued onto it, presumably to keep it from scratching any surface it might come into contact with. The mat is cut to accommodate a half-inch semicircular groove that has been cut into the bottom from the outer edge to the center hole.

Photobucket

The rubber mat has many circular indentations pressed into it from an unknown object or objects, about the size you would get if you pressed the empty casing of a pencil eraser against it many times.

This piece is signed. The artist is “JAM34.” “34” may represent a date.

Photobucket

I leave it to you, gentle readers, to conjecture further. I have a few ideas as to the original function of this item, but none of them can get past both the plug and the groove.

Have at it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Combination Flower Vase and Pencil Holder (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Miep

    --I got nothin' .

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:16:51 PM PST

    •  That was my first thought (0+ / 0-)

      then I moved on to "drill bit holder."

      But why the center hole? Why the plug? And even more - why the groove?

      The more I kept looking at those last two, the more I kept thinking "Why does this require a drain?"

  •  Some sort of Tiki torch thingy? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Miep

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White

    by zenbassoon on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:18:50 PM PST

    •  It has no burn stains (0+ / 0-)

      though the plaster smells sweet. Maybe plaster always smells sweet?

      I was thinking maybe it had a lid, since the wood is carved down smoothly on the top...except that there is a bulge, so it probably didn't have a lid.

  •  A pipe? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Miep

    This is a crisis I knew had to come, Destroying the balance I'd kept. Doubting, unsettling and turning around, Wondering what will come next.
    --Ian Curtis

    by jethrock on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:22:32 PM PST

    •  No burn stains (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jethrock

      This thing does scream "Bad Head Shop Decor," but no burn stains.

      I was thinking maybe an incense display, but why the center hole and the plug? To catch dust molting from unsold incense? What kind of head shop owner plans in advance for designing things to catch the sheddings of unsold merchandise?

      And still...why the groove?

      Anyway, if it was a pipe it would have to have some kind of hole in the side for the intake tube, right?

      And who would go to all this effort to make something like this that wasn't at least remotely like a bong? Doesn't make sense.

      •  I didn't say a "used pipe" (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miep

        I'm still trying to figue it out from your photos.

        Rubber?  It must be within the last century. And frankly looks much newer than that to me.

        The wood looks stained...

        The closest thing I can think of is a reproduction of what NW American Natives used to dry fish.

        It's missing the lid.

        This is a crisis I knew had to come, Destroying the balance I'd kept. Doubting, unsettling and turning around, Wondering what will come next.
        --Ian Curtis

        by jethrock on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:37:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks, jethrock (0+ / 0-)

          After many hours of perusal of this piece, it did indeed occur to me to that it was possibly missing a lid. I came to that conclusion after noting that the bottom half of the exterior wood facing was carefully and decoratively carved, but the top half smoothly.

          When one adds in to that, the fact that the heishi necklace was NOT glued to the piece (though the woodwork is slightly recessed at that point), and otherwise is really not all that consistent with the overall decor and style of this piece - the possibility of a missing lid does indeed assert itself.

          However, this piece does have a bulge in the wood at one largish mid-spot, that precludes the likelihood of a pre-existing lid that covered it more than about one inch deep. Which is of course surely possible.

          I also have considered the possibility that the lid also had corresponding holes, and rotated via a spindle that was manipulated via a lever that fitted into the bottom groove (I can't work the plug into this hypothesis easily), and that this object was designed by some evil clown who would lure in children and force them to experience the beheading of small longitudinal animals, such as newts.

          That would explain the plug, since it's a threaded screw. And oh! then it could duplicate as a drain plug.

          I tell you, jethrock; it's evil. I could probably get a lot for this on eBay if I marketed it properly. Fortunately, I'm a Kossack and thus am above engaging in such activities.

          This very week, I threw a Hitler book into the trash! I think it was published by Crown.

          I'll note as a final point that it is very tiresome being ethical and I think someone should approve. Thank you.

          •  You "think" but you apparently don't know (0+ / 0-)

            Next time I come to a book burning I'll look you up.

            I could probably get a lot for this on eBay if I marketed it properly.

            The only thing I pity more than stupid Teabaggers is stupid Liberals.

            This is a crisis I knew had to come, Destroying the balance I'd kept. Doubting, unsettling and turning around, Wondering what will come next.
            --Ian Curtis

            by jethrock on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:15:33 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  p.s. The signature at the bottom (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miep

        makes me think it was made by a late 20th century artist.

        Authentic Native American pieces wouldn't have been signed liked that.

        The question is "who is the artist"

        This is a crisis I knew had to come, Destroying the balance I'd kept. Doubting, unsettling and turning around, Wondering what will come next.
        --Ian Curtis

        by jethrock on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:42:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  kindly peel me off the wall (0+ / 0-)

          just as soon as I stop laughing.

          •  Um. Are you mocking me? (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Miep

            I am the one who is from New Mexico. Not You.

            You are the one asking for help.

            My sister owns a Gallery in Santa Fe.

            I worked at the Seattle Art Museum.

            Free advice: Don't come and ask for free help and then be a dick.

            This is a crisis I knew had to come, Destroying the balance I'd kept. Doubting, unsettling and turning around, Wondering what will come next.
            --Ian Curtis

            by jethrock on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:01:39 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  jethrock, I've lived in New Mexico (0+ / 0-)

              since 1996.

              Thanks for ruining my night with your mean comment. I did not deserve that. What's your problem?

              Mocking you? No. I was playing around with a strange piece I acquired that was sold at a thrift shop.

              What part of "I'm sick of hateful blog bullshit" don't you understand, "jethrock?"

              Go fuck yourself up with a phone pole. I am tired of all of this. Blogging sucks, you all suck, it's too hard to find kind people. Bite me, fuck off and die; I'm tired of all of you. Good Dog.

              Okay, I'll back off now a bit.

              Your comment totally sucks,. Go fuck yourself, jethrock. I did not deserve that. Thank you NOT so much for ruining my evening.

              Bullshit comment. You win; I'm out of this blog for the next week. Now you can go and swagger around and be proud of yourself for having driven Miep out for awhile.

              I thought you were a good blogger. Now I shake my head at you.

              Seriously, I'm out of this blog for a week. I've been having trouble here anyway, but that's not to trash anyone.

              I'll check back in towards the middle of next week. People who care about me know how to get in touch of me.

              Miep

              •   Funny, you were telling everyone a year ago (0+ / 0-)

                that you had just moved from California to NM.

                A New Transplant. To Carlsbad.. You even wrote diaries about having trouble adjusting.

                Now you say you've lived in  NM since 1996. I really I have no idea why you would lie about such a thing.  

                But  you have.

                One thing is clear: Miep lies. Frankly I care less about your ego than you attempting to manipulate innocent people.

                Fuck off.

                This is a crisis I knew had to come, Destroying the balance I'd kept. Doubting, unsettling and turning around, Wondering what will come next.
                --Ian Curtis

                by jethrock on Wed Mar 09, 2011 at 04:53:46 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  could it be a flower holder (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miep

        or plant holder?

        •  I think the lamp base argument (0+ / 0-)

          is more persuasive. But I got you on this; it takes some time to figure this puppy out. Heck, I've been living with it for a long time, and I never saw the lamp base angle. The groove at the bottom kept confusing me..but of course, it's for an electrical cord! Duh.

          Now we're working on the plaster insert at the top with all the angled pencil-sized holes.

  •  hi miep honey. this is fascinating..... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Miep

    you've been in my heart, dear woman. Hugs all over

  •  Lamp ase with a groove for the cord. (5+ / 0-)
    •  I think you nailed it. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Miep

      This is a crisis I knew had to come, Destroying the balance I'd kept. Doubting, unsettling and turning around, Wondering what will come next.
      --Ian Curtis

      by jethrock on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 07:43:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Oh! very, very good (0+ / 0-)

      Wow, thanks! Your astute comment has added so much to this conversation. Very well done.

      We still have a few more things to sort out here, though. You've pretty much explained everything except the the pencil slots in the plaster at the top. Those aren't bottomed out, what was inserted into these?

      Also, why the flanged aluminum ring in the center of the longitudinal vertical hole? When you're running an electrical cord through wood and plaster, why introduce an aluminum ring?

      Your hypothesis does allow for the plastic plug, though; and for that I much admire you. The difference in diameter between the plastic plug and the circumference of the hole in the wood pretty much would allow for firmly but gently clamping a lamp cord in order to get it in order for being directed out via the groove, to the outlet.

      •  the holes made me think of a flower holder (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miep

        or planter drain holes

      •  I like the lamp bit (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BlackSheep1, Miep

        The aluminum piece could be there to avoid wear and tear on the plaster. I'm thinking the light bulb set down inside.  The holes drilled on top were for sticks that held up a cover, a sort of odd lantern type light source. Plaster is pretty low heat, so it wouldn't heat up that much from a light bulb, where wood might burn.
        It looks like its the right size for a desk lamp, where you might not want harsh direct light, but bright reflected light for reading.

        I am much too liberal to be a Democrat.

        by WiseFerret on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 08:19:22 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  At this point, I bow down to y'all (0+ / 0-)

          I gotta say, WiseFerret, it's kind of scary that when I bother to take the time to work up something and ask people here about it, I reliably get a useful broadening of perspective.

          I'm not used to this. I'm a loner.

          I can't be part of a group, way too scary; I don't have anything in common with any of you; you will all just hate me eventually when you realize how different I am, might as well leave now.

          Wrong.

          Sure, I could tag that "Fail."

          But that would be wrong.

      •  Something is supposed to thread (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miep

        into the aluminum ring.

        We have lamps that have a long hollow shaft with screw threads, onto the top of which threads the socket, and the end of it threads into the base. The cord runs through the center of the shaft. It's a common construction, and you can buy the parts at any hardware store. (One way to make a lamp from an object would be to drill a hole into it and install a threaded stud of appropriate size. Hell, I could make make pretty much anything into a lamp this way.)

        I think the artist fucked up the thread sizes, just stuck the plastic plug into the hole and called it done--never finishing the attaching of the lamp bits. Kept it around to store pencils or whatever.

        "'club America salutes you' says the girl on the door/we accept all major lies, we love any kind of fraud"--The Cure, "Club America"

        by Wheever on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 09:29:55 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Badly done fountain? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jethrock, Miep

    The hole in the base and the slot in the rubber cushion could allow electrical power for the pump, plus a water supply.  The way the holes are bored would allow water to spray out in a fan pattern.  The top lip is beveled as if to accept a lid, which would be necessary to develop water pressure.

    Unfortunately the plaster kills my theory unless it's waterproof.

    I like the "bad head shop artifact" theory but it, like my fountain theory, probably doesn't hold water.

    I suppose it could be a really, really strange fondu pot or perhaps an ammo bowl.  If you've never been a G.I. in Korea, the following photo is an ammo bowl.

    Don't ask how I know about ammo bowls.

    "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Ghandi

    by DaveinBremerton on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 08:25:47 PM PST

    •  ROTFLMFAO (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cs

      Very good.

      I was so pleased to be apprised of the electrical cord construct, and now this.

      Y'all rock. I want everybody here to marry me.

      Please, if I go too mad here again, and am threatened with off-putting (not that I ever have been; they have been kind), please remember this...that I offered to marry every one of you.

      That is all.

      •  You've been missed (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miep

        I'm glad you enjoyed the laugh.

        "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Ghandi

        by DaveinBremerton on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 08:36:51 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thank you, but (0+ / 0-)

          I only went away some when I was depressed for some reasons like that I sprained my ankle and it was NOT because I was drunk, though I was drunk at the time.

          It was because I had been inspired by Kossacks to do something besides blogging and drinking and lying in bed all morning in despair, and actually drink some less and work harder and that was great until my weak ankle caved again and now I am reminded that this ankle has always been weak because I have a weird knee that sets me sideways, and I am getting old. old woman with bones, and now I am working into Ace bandages and ankle braces and I will be fine, I hope.

          Get old, wrap up.

          I'm good at springing back, but good Dog I do need to figure out how to live somewhere near Kossacks.

          I'm working on that. Thanks.

      •  But seriously... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Miep

        Is that plaster of paris or something that might be waterproof?

        I gots to know.

        "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win". Mohandas K. Ghandi

        by DaveinBremerton on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 08:37:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It's not waterproof (0+ / 0-)

          It sheds easily. This whole piece has white dust here and there.

          It has a sweet smell. Hold on.

          Okay, I just sucked on a bit of that part at the top, for a few seconds. Same sweet taste, as the smell.

          You want to believe that is waterproof? I'll give you real money odds against.

  •  Wow! Man (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Miep

    Cool.

    Thanks for the laughs Miep! ♥

    "But much to my surprise when I opened my eyes I was the victim of the great compromise." John Prine

    by high uintas on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 08:53:15 PM PST

  •  My first thought when you got to the rubber mat (0+ / 0-)

    was lamp base. The flanged ring might be to hold tubing to raise the socket to a preferred height. The angled holes could hold supports for vanes, shadelets, reflectors, translucent panels, etc., etc.

    That doesn't solve the question, however, because such lamps are often made out of something else which had been repurposed, though they ae often designed as lamps ab initio as well.

    That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

    by enhydra lutris on Wed Mar 09, 2011 at 08:55:10 AM PST

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