Subscribe to receive boxes of items that I've curated

Quarterly is a company that sells subscriptions to boxes filled with items selected by guest curators (including our friends Veronica Belmont, Joshua Foer, and Alexis Madrigal). They've also invited me to be a curator. My first package of objects is called "Fantastic Plastic," and I'm excited about it!

Here is my statement about my package:

I love small plastic gadgets that do something surprising. You can carry them around in your pocket and use them to delight other people when you see them. Who can forget the scene in Play it Again, Sam when Woody Allen gives Dianne Keaton a plastic skunk for her birthday and she is touched to the point of tears? Or the time Jerry Seinfeld gave Elaine a Tweety Bird Pez Dispenser in the middle of a piano recital and it gave her a case of the giggles? Plastic items are excellent gifts —- precisely because they have little intrinsic value, the love and thoughtfulness of the giver stands out.

Fantastic Plastic


  1. And I’m searching all the windows for a last minute present

    to prove to you that what I said was real,

    for something small and frail and plastic, baby,

    ’cause cheap is how I feel
    Cowboy Junkies

    1. Oh wow, Cowboy Junkies! I haven’t listened to them actively since the mid-90’s. Now I have to go back and see…

  2. THIS needs the total Hammacher Schlemmer treatment:

    Enjoy a bevy of unique and surprising hand-gathered curios shipped to you each month! Each fair trade shipment contains an assortment of lovingly matched items which directly support the threatened Hipster-Tonka watershed by giving work to underemployed bloggers, neckbeards, and baristas. These startling artifacts are sure-fire conversation starters, and may even be crafted from high-tech military-grade titanium alloys– it’s tough enough for NASA. In our rigorous tests, we determined that your package can even arrive UPSIDE DOWN! Order while supplies last.

  3. No insult meant, but let me know when Maggie starts sending out science  packages. “Oh look, a proton accelerator, just what I wanted!” Then I think I can find the money in my budget.

    1.  I will always be a hater about this one thing:  I hate it when people write “ya’ll”.  I can deal with it when I hear it spoken, heck, sometimes its even cute.  But the written “ya’ll, or yall, or ya’ll, just drives me up the wall (ya’ll).  It sounds ignerint. 

      1.  I’m a yankee, so I could be mistaken, but I believe “y’all” is singular. The plural is “all y’all.”

      2. I’m kind of a hater about language prudes who can’t deal with a little regional variation. Usage, not elitist grammatical prescription, is the god of linguistics. 

        IMO, denigrating a common usage like this as “ignorant” just makes people sound rather classist. It’s perfectly valid dialect. If y’all don’t think English has room for a second-person plural pronoun, y’all can kiss my degree.

        1. Can we all agree that flagrant apostrophe abuse is never OK? There’s at least a case to be made for “y’all”, but “ya’ll” just makes you look stupid. Apostrophes mean things.

      3. I hate it when people write “don’t.” And “I’m” and “we’re” and “it’s.”

         I can deal with it when I hear it spoken, but the written abbreviations just drive me up the wall. It sounds like you are writing the way you would talk. Ugh!

  4. I wish they would give you more info on boxes, or would have some criteria for boxes, like the contents are equal to a certain monetary value, must include a minimum number of items, or fill a box of a certain size. If I buy this, how can I know I am not paying $25 for an handful of dollar store plastic toys (I am using Mark’s package as an example [although I would think his picks would be good] but the same could be said about other packages. Are the food subscriptions going to only send you a few tea packets? How can you know?)? My concern, with not having a lot of disposable income, is getting my money’s worth out of these boxes. They are fun, sure, but $25 worth of it?

    1. If you don’t have a lot of disposable income, don’t order this.  It is intended for people who have more money than they can think of reasonable uses for.

    2. One would think part of the job of the “Curator” is to make the experience of receiving the contents of the Box worth $25. Proper interpretation and insight could make the right handful of dollar store stuff have value as an experience.

      But I agree with ZikZak if $25 conflicts with your disposable income, look elsewhere. 

    3. Have  a look at one of the others like :
      Assuming the pics are what’s in the boxes, then some of it might almost be worth the $25 now. And some of it will be worth a lot more in 50-100 years time, assuming people will be into “antiques” in the same way as we are now.
      (“antiques” in quotes because I don’t really think it’s old enough to be antique but I can’t think of a better word for it. The sort of crap that some people (not just hipsters) think is cool.)

      1. Antique in the sense of, “this Pez dispenser was curated by Mark Frauenfelder himself!  Really!”

        Or antique in the sense that plastic is made from oil?

  5. I want to subscribe to a zen box that would arrive each month totally empty, and would make me reflect on our society’s relationship with material goods. This empty box could be “curated” by different people each month, like by Leonard Cohen and Phillip Glass.

  6. Do I get one Pez Dispenser for $25 with a letter about how rad it is or will there be a bunch of awesome shit in there or what?

      1. I’d like to request a quality set of wind-up chattering teeth. Also, that very difficult Snapper hook-the-rubber-band trick you challenged me with in Detroit.

        1. And now that I’m thinking about it, please avoid those plastic dinosaurs that my “artsy” 1987 ex-girlfriend would hot-glue to a lunchbox that she’d carry as a purse.

  7. I’d love a little personally curated box of goodies from you Mark, but to be honest I have enough plastic tat lying around the house, already forming a testament to a waste of the worlds resources.

    So although I appreciate the intention (which is cute), I’d much rather have a few of your favorite comics and perhaps a couple of maker bits – something to that effect.

    Not that the world revolves around my wants and needs, but just a little feedback in case others feel the same and this is a regular thing.

    1. This is why I’d fail as an entrepreneur, because I could never believe that enough people would pay for something that I don’t want, from Pet Rocks to Makie dolls, the western world’s desires are beyond me.

      1. In the average entrepreneurs defence the best approach to starting a business is doing what you know. Improving a product/service you use; quite often the business side of it can be a consequence of solving the problem.

        Pet rocks and Makie dolls are a little different… I’ll give you that.

  8. Seriously? You pay $25 a quarter to “subscribe” and then they send you a “curated gift”? I think they are unclear on the concept of “gift”. Also “curated”. 

  9. Simply sign up and receive one box each month. If you decide that you don’t want what’s in the box, fill in this card two weeks before you get what you don’t want, put a postage stamp on it, and send it to us. If we receive it at least three weeks before we send out the box, we won’t send the box! But remember: the postmark on the card must say “Sunday” or our staff will not be able to process your request.

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