Posts Tagged ‘blog: reader participation’.

YOU Rewrite the Restoration Hardware Catalog

A few weeks ago I showed you a game you could play with the absurd Restoration Hardware catalog! I also asked you to suggest your own description, in their own absurd style, for the following MYSTERY ITEM (click for bigger):

a pillar of the community

You all had very good suggestions, but…in trying to write parody descriptions of this item, you all accurately described other items from the actual Restoration Hardware catalog.

For my top 10 favorite descriptions, I took the liberty of locating each of the things that you accidentally described. At least I assume it was a series of improbable accidents????

“Fragment of a temple to Apollo looted by Victorian explorers, now reproduced in spillproof cast resin, making it ideal for sacrifices or tea.” — Anne-Marie



“Supported by a fluted plinth fashioned after an original unearthed from a Pompeiian brothel, this resin-cast facsimile of an Etruscan oxcart wheel lies at the perfect height for tea…Yo, beeyotch, you want dis” — milkfish



“Inspired by the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, an artisanally hand-weatherd byakhee blood-perch” — Tim



“Simulacrum of the facade of a 19th century accountant’s office in Ricksmansworth, oppressed by a re-imagined scale model of Lord Palmerston’s tombstone.” — Jorpho
[I love the verb oppressed in this context — Ed.]



“Lovingly imagined wooden reproduction of an Athenian Ionic-era column, reimagined with a sudden cessation of existence at waist height, to give the viewer the impression of having been dramatically murdered midway through seeing it for the first time.” — Cass



“Inspired by the aqueducts of the Cloaca Maxima, this classic table masterfully holds Polynesian stone pineapples or other bullshit.” — Thraeryn



“Repurposed setpiece from failed 1866 production of Julius Ceasar, topped with charming Lazy Susan for giants.” — Drakey



[This must have been a spectacularly failed production of Julius Caesar.]

“Ancient Lemurian sacrificing altar to the Great God Lulu, faithfully reproduced using the high-quality Medieval Florentine stone-welding technique.” — Bird of Prey



“Weathered by red marl and shaped into the fin de siecle style of Classical reproduction plinths, our faux-artichoke stand is a bold reimagining of the rotten stump from our back yard.” — Myles



“Dining table inspired by the columns of Caligula’s nursery, crafted of finely compressed rhinoceros horn shavings.” — WillHickox


STACK 50 TABLE ($2695)

You all did so very well at attempting to describe the item in question — and I recommend you read the whole list for many enlightening moments of a personal nature.



Reproduction of a perfectly proportioned stone column in Ancient Greece, built of solid reclaimed pine timbers from 100-year-old buildings in Great Britain.

Two quick thoughts about this.

1. Commenter ctu interestingly points out that “There are 72 different items [in the catalog] which are described as being made from wood from ‘100-year old buildings in Great Britain’.” To which commenter Charles responds, “Most buildings in Great Britain are pretty old. I’m sure there is no shortage of waste wood.” I love the idea that, like, 100-year-old reclaimed British wood is as common a building material as bricks from the Home Depot.

2. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall in the meeting where someone connected the dots between an Ionian column and reclaimed British wood. The Venn diagram of those two things is the single word “old” and nothing else.

I guess making a column out of wood is as valid as making it out of cast resin; neither is authentic to the original. But this strikes me a bit like putting SkyMall statues of lions in your front lawn: nobody is fooled into thinking your brown grass is Trafalgar Square.

There’s a theory that everything that happened before you were old enough to remember might as well all have happened at once, in terms of how you perceive it — it’s all just “old.” The Ford Model T might as well have been released in the Precambrian Era; it occupies the same slot in our perceptions.

If that’s so, then thank you, Restoration Hardware, for helping us bring a little of the unmatched class of random miscellaneous past before-times into our humble homes, one FOUCAULT’S ORB SMOKE CRYSTAL TABLE LAMP ($1295) at a time.


For more catalog hilarity, commenter Allen suggests the blog, which imagines the lives of the bizarre people whose items are the ones being photographed for catalogs…

…And commenter Sinick recommends the J. Peterman catalog (the real one that Seinfeld parodied), starting off with this entry in particular, a product description for the “Father of All T-Shirts”

In Bilbao, I observed a crew of moving men uncrating a giant piece of highly advanced sculpture. They were built like great sagging old bulls; in this shirt, they looked formidable…

The sleeves have a way of gathering emphatically at the top of a man’s arms, even if he is the sort of man who rarely lifts more than a fountain pen. Imported.

I will take a hundred of those shirts. Amazing.

Let’s Play a Game With the Restoration Hardware Catalog


The Restoration Hardware Cube of Paper

Did your household recently receive a 12-pound block of Restoration Hardware catalogs? Mine sure did!

At first I thought “What a waste!”, but then I realized that if I went on to buy just one $1200 lamp, it would pay for a lifetime of sending me catalogs.

But, since I won’t buy said lamp: It is indeed a waste!

The top catalog pictured, “Interiors”, features staged scenes full of furniture and accessories, artfully arranged into picturesque tableaux from some imprecise notion of “the past”.

In case you’re not familiar with Restoration Hardware, it’s a home furnishings store that specializes in recreating and adapting period items — you could easily decorate a Restoration Hardware kitchen with brass Versailles drawer-pulls, a hanging lamp styled after something from a 1910s button factory, a breakfast table made of reclaimed Russian barnwood, and a stove hood patterned after the innards of a famous Belgian clock.

Sometimes the items they sell are relatively straightforward, such as a steamer trunk coffee table.

Other times, they’re strange, like a floor lamp patterned after Sputnik.

Their catalogs are full of this same dissonance: some artifacts that are handsome, if peculiar, homages to styles of the past; others that are bizarre mass-produced old-and-distressed clutter existing solely for the sake of looking old and distressed.


The catalog descriptions, however, are what I want to point out specifically. They’re mostly compound phrases, like the above:

Reproduction of a found French woodcarving from the early 19th century, ravaged by time and the elements.

Same with this canoe-shaped curtain (the most logical of all shapes for curtains):


Vintage architect’s model, or “maquette”, of a canoe constructed of solid oak slats.

You could mix and match the second half of those sentences and I wouldn’t even blink. My favorite descriptions in the catalog are the ones that read like the two halves were pulled out of two separate hats. See if you can match these first halves:

1) Inspired by the voluptuous form of a vintage hayrack…
2) Replica of an architectural rosette fragment cast in resin…
3) Reproduction of a pair of Baroque architectural brackets from a Parisian theater…

With these latter halves:

A) …with the weathered appearance of stone.
B) …our cast iron table is topped with timeworn, reclaimed oak.
C) …reimagined as a mirror.

(Answers: 1-B; 2-A; 3-C)

Okay Here’s the Game

The Restoration Hardware company went to the trouble of compiling these catalogs and mailing them to me — no mean feat. So the least I can do is put them to use. I call the game Restoration Hogwash.

It follows the rules of the game Balderdash. First, one player looks through the catalog, and chooses an image, placing a sticky note over the description.


Then, all other players take a slip of paper or an index card and write down a made-up description for that item.

Meanwhile, the person who chose the picture transcribes the real description.

Everyone turns in their slips to the first player, who mixes them up and reads them all aloud.

After everyone has heard all the descriptions, players each vote for the description they think is the real one. The object of the game is to fool the other players into picking your made-up description (by making it sound convincing), instead of the real one.

Players score one point for each person who is fooled into picking their fake description, as well as one point if they pick the correct description themselves.

The chaise pictured above? Here’s the real description:


Reproduction of a 100-year-old Hungarian sleigh, crafted of solid elm with a tea-stained burlap cushion.

That is printed right there in the catalog and I’m still not convinced it’s not made-up.

Now, A Challenge For You

Here’s another picture from the catalog, of a table that is also a pillar for some reason:


Leave a comment on this post and write your own one-sentence catalog description for this piece.

This won’t be a contest to get it right — don’t bother figuring out the correct description. Just some fun to see who can write the best made-up version.

I’ll reprint my favorite comments in a future post! And if you play Restoration Hogwash, let me know how it goes!!

Custom shirts for teams and events!


I received a note the other day from reader Christen W., who mentioned that she and her husband and some friends were going to do a mud run, and were interested in calling their team “Ninjas on Unicycles” (after this comic strip about defending one’s thesis).

One thing that I often do, but don’t mention much, is prepare custom batches of shirts for teams, organizations, or events!

In this case, Christen made reference to an older T-shirt I used to offer, which featured an illustration of a ninja riding a unicycle. I whipped up a batch on Safety Orange for their happy mud gang, pictured above!


If you’re interested in a custom batch of shirts, the minimum quantity is 15. I am happy to work in your team or group name and logo, and/or something from a particular comic, and/or an adaptation of one of my existing shirts.

Feel free to email me (dave at wondermark dot com) and I’d be pleased to give you a quote!

A Homemade Calendar Stand


Reader Nancy B. has written to share her homemade “WonderBox”! I love seeing stuff like this. She has constructed a custom holder for her 2014 Roll-A-Sketch Calendar.


Nancy writes,

Dear David,

I am attaching pics of my DIY WonderBox.

I thought you’d like to see how I dressed up my calendar with reused goods:

1 cigar box
4 carpet tacks (perfect size for the holes you punched)
1 pencil to prop open if I go for the slanted on-desk look.

It holds upcoming “pages” and stores past ones, which I plan to reuse by turning them into birthday cards for friends, as I send them “their” date!

Thanks for the Wonder-ful creatures.


Nancy’s model works either on a desk, canted at a jaunty angle, OR it can stand at attention on a shelf.

Thanks for sharing, Nancy! Neat!!



Flickr photo by Kiana Wilson

I want to share an email that I received last week, from Marksman Geoff S., regarding Panel 3 from Comic #978:

Dearest Mr. Malki !,

Oh my, I thought I read the word, “STEMP” and I had this epiphany that that was the real name for a pumpkin stem (or perhaps that of any gourd), all woody and cut to look like a tree stump, and that somehow I had lived over 40 years of my life without knowing that piece of trivia and I was MAD at life for not knowing it sooner because it made SO MUCH FRICKIN SENSE HOW DID I NEVER KNOW THAT A PUMPKIN STEM WAS CALLED A STEMP?

Anyway, then my eyes caught up with the pixels and I saw the question mark.

Thought you’d like to know. Please keep up the terrific work.

Well, Geoff, this is the best email I’ve received in at least a week. I posted it on Twitter and received this reply:

I immediately agreed, and knew at once that I should enlist the aid of my friend Erin McKean at Wordnik, which is a site that tracks definitions, unusual words, neologisms, and the ongoing march of language.

Not an hour later, this existed.

It has no citations or formal definitions yet, because as descriptive linguists know, a word isn’t real until people use it. So go out and “stemp!” (Also: stemp is not a verb.)