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#110 :: Strobe-Yo

May 30, 2004

nurse capsule ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>This all began as a way of codifying one of my most organic impulses. To hold a thing that is small, has some weight and purpose in the world is to own it, whether it takes up space in my drawer or just in my mind. I have acquired these 100 (so far) objects as a way of fulfilling that need quickly – in the mercurial snatch-it-now breath of the moment I first picked them up – and tried to make sense of them as sort of a test. I don’t know if I have succeeded. I did it to see if I could do it, to see if it would amount to anything. It’s become popular, thanks to Mark at BoingBoing. It has invigorated my drive to write and shoot again, though I’m not sure if it has any deeper meaning. At the very least, I have completed the traditional Japanese artist’s exercise of creating 100 demons in tribute to the Buddhist challenge of defeating 100 demons in a lifetime. If you have followed HLO at all, you have my humblest thanks, and if you want to introduce a friend to it, this entry is as good a place as any to start. In gratitude, I can only offer you this chunk of chain, which I’ve fiddled with for years at my desk. It is considered a deadly weapon, yet the strength, weight, intricacy and integrity of its 6-piece links and the unholy pressure used to force them together as one are taken for granted. You can twirl it like a watchman’s keychain, whip it through the air like a bullroarer, or crush ice in a dishcloth with it when your highball gets low. Put it around your neck and go punk. Dip it in paint and make prints. Hook it up to any number of drive systems and it will work flawlessly, without maintenance, for thousands of hours without a failure. There are few archetypally perfect machines left to invent in the world. This was one of them.
pharm ‘popup’, physician ‘width=500, order height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Fossil tech, the earbone of a giant. Fifty years ago, thousands of operators huddled at thousands of switchboards, plugging and unplugging calls from millions of jacks at the Bell Telephone Company nearest you. The nationwide American Telephone and Telegraph conglomerate was as close as anyone had come to building a nationwide monopoly without inviting antitrust litigation. It wasn’t until the mid-80s that lawsuits from a put-upon public finally brought down mighty Ma Bell and splintered her like an enormous, brittle tree, her branches taking wild, chaotic root in the hundreds of telcos that have sprung up since. Chances are, if you called information back then, the operator was talking on one of these. Like everything else Bell made, it is extremely durable and thanks to the (now missing) wire headstrap, reasonably comfortable. My first six years as a newspaper reporter, I was on this stupid macho head trip, convinced that only obit writers and women wore headsets for interviews, real reporters crunched the phone ‘twixt shoulder and ear while typing and drawling from the side of their mouths, “Uh-huh. Yeah. Yeah. Is that riiiight.” After a lovely bout of crippling neck spasms and trips to the chiropractor, I relented, and began using one of these while at the Philadelphia Inquirer. According to a web site maintained by an antique phone phanatic, this is a telephone supervisor’s headset, model 52BW. It’s fitted with an HC3 receiver, an N1 transmitter, an L4AH cord with a 289B plug, and 29A connecting block. I used it for years, cutting the huge brass double-pronged cord off and splicing in a standard 4-pole modular phone plug so I could use it on the LA Times’ Rolm PBX system (if memory serves) but eventually they phased it out and began using phones with digital jacks that took only shitty Plantronics headsets made of plastic, with staticky, short-prone plugs. I can’t tell you how many interviews I conducted through this thing. But I did stack up every single clipping I ever wrote, and the stack of tiny shreds of newsprint is close to a foot thick.
remedy ‘popup’, find ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Squirt guns were forbidden in 6th grade. It didn’t stop me from collecting them. I had two favorites – the “secret” gun shaped like brass knuckles cast in plastic that was army-man green (you could make it all the more secret by snapping off the knuckleguard so that the only thing visible was the nozzle peeking up out of your fist); and the “sneaky” model, whcih had a little pivot wheel on the business end that you turned at a 90-degree angle so you could look like you were innocently aiming the gun away from someone until you soaked them point-blank. This month is birthday season among our kid friends, which means an endless parade of goodie-bags into the house, bearing trinkets, gadgets and crap. This one has teeth.
search ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”> Chrome-plating came into vogue as a protective measure, rust-blocker, bulwark against time. Before long, it was appropriated as street armor, fetishized as erotic surface and totemic protection, codified as evil and good and dubbed bling. It is also extremely toxic. Some of the best HLOs are all of the above. This chromed mirror’s head pivots on a double-ball joint and telescopes to 36 inches to extend your view beneath the engine block where you just dropped that vital hexbolt for the fifth time on your fourth attempt to insert it through the goddamned water pump into the motherfucking block just beyond the very edge of your (*SHIT!!!!*) fingertip reach. It also collapses to fit into a coveralls pocket by means of its handy clip.
medical ‘popup’, case ‘width=500, for sale height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Utter destruction and evil in the palm of your hand. What sets this apart from the vast majority of Star Wars toys are its weight and construction. Instead of injection-molded plastic, Kenner cast this thing in hemispheres of pot-metal. The halves are connected through the polar axis via an axle fitted with internal cogs to a fluorescent green disc behind the business end (ray projector, hellmouth, whatever you care to call it). When you turn the hemispheres, the disc spins and flickers, as if it is powering up to wreak tiny havoc on any baseballs or oranges that might be hovering in the cosmic vicinity. It is quite heavy.
viagra ‘popup’, view ‘width=500, health height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>McDonald’s gave these out with Happy Meals. The monsters were unremarkable – nicely built and faithful representations of the Monsters, Inc. characters. The doors, however, carry significant symbolic weight. You could stare into one of them for hours over your espresso and clove cigarettes, contemplating negative space, alternate universes, the depths of the human soul, and the crushing potential of every future second of your life. The second you’re wasting reading this. The one that follows your decision to shut off the computer and go outside. The next second after that. And the next.
medications ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>This is made of the very thing it represents. This represents the very thing of which it is made. Symbolic cannibalism, the Ourobouros myth made wood. Just as pop will eat itself so too does meaning applied to something rob it of the potential for meaning something greater. Perhaps someone at the wooden trainset factory cut this by hand from a sheet of half-inch pine with a coping saw, sanded it smooth, hand-stained it and painted it with three coats of clear lacquer. Maybe it was die-stamped and triple-dipped by machine. No matter. It’s just a tree. And it’s just a “tree.” And it’s “just a tree.”
try ‘popup’, this web ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>I was a theater geek in college. Too generally shy (and probably untalented) to translate my run of lead performances in high school productions of “Sound of Music” and “Anything Goes” into acid-tinged audition-winning roles in “Tooth of Crime” and “Romeo and Juliet” against the Machiavellian conniving of pre-professional college-age actors, I contented myself with building sets and rigging lights. My favorite place was the grid – the steel grated rigging floor some 40 feet above the stage, where you used a crescent wrench to bolt bulky, high-wattage arc-lit instruments to pipes, and plug in their fat connectors to the 220-volt control circuits. Powerful, heavy, they vomited light so blindingly hot that you had to tame it with colored gels, barn doors, rheostats and soft focus. I always thought it would be fun to own a few, kept on low power to read by, but they’re too huge and costly. A few months ago, I stumbled across this miniaturized marvel at Ikea – a tiny Lekos projector – a powerful halogen lamp with a pair of rails screwed into its snout. It comes with four dichroic glass filters, a set of punched-aluminum gobos (patterns for projecting silhouettes), a few chunks of frosted glass for texture, and a lovely little convex lens – so that you can shoot a blue moose, red windows or an absinthe-green op-art pattern 10 feet high onto your back wall at night – for less than 40 bucks. I almost bought two.
hospital ‘popup’, price ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Yin to the rubber ghoul‘s yang, ego to the ghoul’s id, this little fellow is inscrutable. Perched on his kidney-shaped patch of street, he gestures in raptorous (no, not the like the upcoming Big Christian Faith Jump, but predatory and mantis-like) anticipation, raving like a tent preacher, sleeves cuffed to his biceps and imparting the Lord’s perennial Exhortations to Heal. It’s impossible to tell what world he came from, but he takes on a tremendous amount of weight and might when paired with the rubber ghoul. Their postures are eerily identical.
order ‘popup’, buy ‘width=500, page height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”> The first time I saw a floppy disk, it was a 5-½-inch model, with the massive hole in the center and a capacity of something like 256 kilobytes. My Kaypro II required two of them, one in the left-hand drive to carry the CP/M operating system and Wordstar, one in the right-hand drive to carry freelance articles I would occasionally print through my dot-matrix printer, the model of which escapes me. The Kaypro II was the classic Heavy Big Object – a metal-cased “portable” computer weighing a good 30 pounds. The keyboard clamped onto the face to protect the drive bays (remember the little “eject” levers that swiveled across the slot to block further insertion and engage the write head?) It had a massive spring-mounted strap handle and slotted vents cut into the steel case. It retailed for the then-obscene price of $1,595. They called it “Darth Vader’s lunchbox.” When the industry graduated to these little marvels (1.3 megabytes on the high-density double-sided models!) it felt like someone had finally brought us flying cars. The little spring-loaded tin shutter, the stamped-metal drive hub embedded in the media disc, the closed face through which you couldn’t see, so reminiscent of the first time I saw a BMW motorcycle with that trick one-sided rear axle. I moved on to Syquests, Zip drives, CD-R/RW, memory sticks and onboard cerebral implants. I don’t know about you, but I have boxes and boxes of old applications, photos and documents on these things, and I can’t bear to throw them out as long as I have a drive in the housse that can read them. Do wish I’d hung onto the Kaypro, the casualty of a yard sale. I think it sold for about $25.
doctor ‘popup’,’width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>An oscillating object moved past the eye will appear in multiple, optical clones strobing across your field of view like the doppler howl of a speeding Ducati receding in the distance. Tiny button-cell batteries feed power through an oscillation circuit to a single old-school red LED on either side of the Yomega Strobe-Yo. Switch them on by brushing your fingertip across two sensitive pairs of electrodes, and fling it to the bottom of its string, where it sleeps like a flatlined cat, its circuitry’s cosmic red staccato throwing untranslatable Spirograph semaphores in the darkness to a unfathomable and as-yet undiscovered alien audience. Then again, it is just a toy.

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