Waking Life

Unreal rubs the sleep from our eyes (thanks, Smarthome Sleeptracker Wristwatch!) just in time to read a larceny-laced local blog, chat with a master framer and meet a SoCo man who owns anteater (!) boots

Unreal walks around all day in a semicomatose state, zombielike, unable to summon the strength to maintain our appearance, health or integrity. The reason? When we wake up, we're still tired. So when we got a press release promoting the $150 Smarthome Sleeptracker Wristwatch — an alarm clock that purports to wake you up at just the right moment — we popped a couple of NoDoz and inquired.

Unreal: Does the Smarthome Sleeptracker Wristwatch monitor our dreams, and if so, is it required by law to report us to the federal government?

Jason Root, VP of product marketing for Smarthome: (Laughs meekly) No, what it does is it monitors your sleep cycles. Everyone has four two-hour sleep cycles or so every night, and during that two-hour period you go through four stages and REM. It's during REM that you're more restless and closer to being awake. The watch's goal is to wake you up when you're almost awake anyways, which it does by gauging your restlessness — how much your body is moving.

How will my NyQuil and peyote addictions affect the Sleeptracker?

[The manual] actually does say there's all sorts of things that impact sleep. Medications are included, alcohol is included. They will change your sleep cycle, but they won't change the fact that there is a cycle.

Will a heart attack trigger the Sleeptracker?

No, it wouldn't trigger the watch. With the Sleeptracker you don't set a specific wake time, you set a window. So, if I had to be up at seven o'clock, I might set a window from 6:40 to 7:00 in the morning. What it would do is, once 6:40 starts, it would find a moment when I was restless and wake me up at that time.

So, the Sleeptracker sends a bolt of electricity into your bloodstream when it's time to wake up?

It's a beep. A little chime.

What if you're deaf?

It's probably not the product for you.

Does it come in an anklet?


Well Hung

Shockingly little media coverage accompanied the Professional Picture Framers Association's regional framing competition, held in Hannibal in mid-October. There was no red carpet, no paparazzi. The ceremony wasn't even broadcast on cable television, let alone network. Unreal aims to rectify. After all, without framers, all them pretty pictures would just fall to the ground.

A hearty huzzah! then, to Don Dolan, owner of Soulard Picture Framing, who snagged the Judge's Award for Creativity at the contest, which pitted against one another framers from Missouri, Illinois and Kansas. To level the playing field, each framer worked with the same object: a used artist's paintbrush. "We all framed a brush as though it were a Van Gogh or Monet," recalls Dolan. "As if it were worth a million dollars."

Dolan was faced with a complicated task. The paint-splotched brush was messy, with many disparate hues. How to match the mat color? How to fasten the brush without damaging it? What kind of frame? Then, an idea struck him like a diamond bullet through the forehead. Dolan would go deep: multiple mats, each a different color. "Ten years ago someone asked me if I'd layer five or six mats," Dolan says of his epiphany. Seed planted, he went for more — fifteen mats — perhaps some sort of world record.

The result hangs in his row-house shop about a block south of Soulard Market. It's peppered with prize ribbons and is, indeed, a glory to behold. Fifteen points of the color wheel surround the brush in the middle, each mat a different color. They accordion out from the paintbrush like an inverted rainbow pyramid. The gestalt is held in a thick shadowbox and framed in a maple that precisely matches the brush handle.

Dolan points to the brush. "It's elevated, so it floats there, but you can't really see that," says the master framer. "It just is."

Although another framer won Best of Show, for Unreal's money Dolan snagged the more coveted prize, for it's here that a framer gets to stretch out, to follow his muse. Last year at the Atlanta Art Expo, Dolan recalls, someone had framed a Beatles Yellow Submarine album cover. The frame itself was an aquarium. "He had fish in it, too," the framer notes, still awestruck. "Live fish swimming around in the frame. They have some of these things you just can't believe — makes my humble effort here look like nothing. But fifteen mats. That's something."

Somebody Buy My Crap

Python-skin boots
Condition: Like new
Price: $200
Seller/Age: Mark/46
Location: South county
Phone: 314-892-3168
Issue: November 29

Unreal: Are your boots made from real pythons?

Mark: Yeah, my brother got them down in El Paso. They're custom-made. New they'd sell for more than $600. I collect exotic-skin boots. I probably have 35 pair.

What other types do you have?

Horn-backed lizards, ring-tailed lizards, anteater, sea bass, stingray and ostrich leg. My dog just ate a pair of ostrich-leg loafers. My first pair of boots were made from some type of Mexican tree frog. A lot of these animals are endangered species now.

Do you worry that you've contributed to the near-extinction of these animals?

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