Notes

First Drafts, Conversations, Stories in Progress

Mini Object Lessons
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Compiled here are the miniature versions of Object Lessons, a series on the secret lives of ordinary things, edited by​ Atlantic contributing editor Ian Bogost. Read longer Object Lessons and books at objectsobjectsobjects.com.

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Mini Object Lesson: The Football Play

“Put that to music,” intoned NBC analyst Chris Collinsworth, after wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-handed catch for a touchdown last November. Video of the play went viral, and soon fans young and old tried to emulate Beckham’s ballet-like catch in playgrounds and backyards everywhere.

It was a beautiful feat. A dazzling one. Some called it poetic. And although it has been heralded as a one-of-a-kind catch, it joins a list of other one-of-a-kind catches and all-time great plays collected on highlight reels. But besides oohing and aahing over such moments, what more is there to say?

As a literature professor, I find myself watching football in poetic terms.

Fishing shirts are not just for fishing anymore. Or perhaps they never were. They are a modification of the travel shirt, a many-pocketed button-down shirt that looks vaguely like a Oxford-cloth business casual staple, until you get up close—then you see the details: vents, mesh underlayers, patch pockets with accordion folds and pleats, key loops, utility tabs, expandable collars for sun protection … the list goes on.

What do these shirts offer, whence their popularity, beyond the conceit of actual fishing?

Refrigerator magnets are small, cheap, durable, colorful and come in a limitless variety of shapes and sizes. All these qualities make them incredibly easy to horde. Thanks to our incredibly large refrigerators, Americans have ample space to display even the biggest collections.

Art museums drove me into the ranks of refrigerator magnet hoarders. I used to buy postcards of paintings that I liked, but most of them sat in a desk drawer. Because magnets are smaller than postcards I can now fit more art onto the fridge and there’s still room for a magnetic message board!