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#309 :: Kohner VariVue “Color TV”

December 13, 2004

approved medical ‘popup’, ampoule ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Science fiction writer Bob Shaw in 1968 imagined “slow glass” – a substance that took a long time to transmit light. Manufacturers would set black, lightless panes of it up somewhere gorgeous for a few years to soak up the view, then sell it to someone who wanted a “scenedow” that showed that view. (Read the haunting Light of Days)

This is nature’s version, a transparent rock – hydrated sodium calcium borate, or ulexite. Its silky crystals line up in perfect parallel, piping light straight through like fiber optics. You can find it in the arid playas of the American Southwest. Or you can pluck it from the bins of any good mineral shop, where it usually lies in dull anonymity beside pyrite, bauxite, copper and other baubles sold to schoolchildren for a dollar. If you’re religious, it is proof of the divine touch. If you’re agnostic, it is proof of the earth’s sense of humor.
visit this site ‘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”>Divans. Bobby sox. Fondue dishes. Poodle skirts. Cocktail shakers. Gingham tablecloths. Highball glasses. Swizzle sticks. Meerschaum pipes. Waffle irons. Ice crushers. Condiment squeeze bottles. Tiki mugs. Doo-wop 45s. Tupperware. Demitasses. Poker chips. Bridge mix. Tulips. Ambrosia. Corn forks.
ampoule ‘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”>Physics is a bitch. Some things won’t move. Rust, gravity, torque, inertia. Constants and inevitables. A screw’s tension in its threads mean the difference between finding a screwdriver and shredding your fingernails. Loose head bolts will cripple a car’s engine in a cloud of vapor-filled exhaust – water in the oil sump and the bugger just quits. Without the lever and pulley we’d all still be working in single-story mud huts. Wheels power the planet. It’s a human thing, this reliance on tools. The need, this task: that stretch of unwanted concrete, those rocks, this massive stake that needs burying. Your nerves fire and your muscles shift as you pick it up, and something primal switches on in your hindbrain: This is it. This ought to do the job. You raise it a foot or so, take a few test blows: Pure, unfettered transference of kinetic energy, your power magnified through the impact, not a microjoule wasted and the target undeniably shifted. A faint smile creeps into your mouth. Your jaw tightens. You raise it back over your shoulder, behind your ear this time.
cheap ‘popup’, advice ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Booze drenches and lubricates human endeavor. We like a good drink with friends. We think about drinking. We try not to drink alone – more to avoid stigma than to protect ourselves. We do huge, epically stupid things and memorialize our stupidity. We kill each other. We die. We conduct elaborate rituals around it. And we fetishize it, for what relgion would be complete without tools and talismans of belief?

Mass-produced of thick glass, stamped aluminum and silkscreened red and white paint in the 40s and 50s, this is a codex of devotion to the church of alcohol. Wield it with confidence, strong in your faith that these commandments shall rightly deliver you and your fellow acolytes unto a state of grace. Or whatever it is you’re chasing with drinks.

1 part Bacardi
1 part lemon juice
add one dash grenadine to each serving
1 part Dubonnet
1 part dry gin
Add one dash bitters to each serving
1 part dry gin
1 part creme cocoa
2 part cream
Less cream may be used to suit taste
1 part dry gin
1 part dry vermouth
1 part orange juice
For sweet cocktail substitute Italian vermouth
4 parts dry gin
1 part dry italian vermouth
Add two dashes orange bitters to each serving
1 part rye
1 part Italian vermouth
Two dashes orange
One dash Angostura bitters

look ‘popup’, sickness ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Beached here on your sofa, your eyes go glassy imagining this: A hard-wired planet, paved with printed circuits. The change renders all communication routes – ad slogans, song lyrics, quarrels, rumors, shouts – as green fiberglass boards overlaid with zigzagging copper strips. Humans solidify as nodes in the structure, communication routes between them hardening to electronic channels as signal and noise vanish beneath a carapace of circuits to the level of speeding electrons, invisible and alive. All is green and shiny brown, emitting a fractal, roaring crackle like the sound of a skater’s weight on a just-frozen lake, as the world crystallizes and hardens, made a perfect network of conduits for information. The world made flesh as data-driven hive. True solid state. It throws off a hummm and a hideous heat.

The human race is not yet drowning in circuit boards, but with the 9-month obsolescence cycle of the printed circuit, the ready supply of worthelss computer boards is clogging our landfills and inspiring artists, entrepreneurs and waste-management worriers alike.

A handful of clinical study of ways to dispose of dead circuit boards.

Clever companies like CompuNote capitalized on the boards’ essential worthlessness and rigidity, and came up with remanufacutred itemse like clipboards and purses and money clips.

And more poetic souls have slapped them onto art cars, while the rest of us just sort of heave box after putty-colored box into the dumpster, figuring the city will take care of it.

These drink coasters are yet another idea … or an artifact from a bedazzled fantasy.
viagra buy ‘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”>Dirt, roots, husks, peels – all fall away to the sharpened blade-slot of this thing. Raw utility is one of the most alluring qualities of a simple tool, and there is nothing so elegant as a design from antiquity that survives even in modern versions of an ancient tool for the simple reason that the design was – and remains – the most efficient expression of a simple machine. The age of this thing is not known, but it was well-crafted sometime in the middle of the last century, of solidly chromed steel cut, punched and wrapped around a torpedo handle of lustrous, swirled red bakelite.

Glorious stuff, bakelite. I’m drawn like a magpie to singular things made from it, as I’ve pointed out on a few occasions,
abortion ‘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”>Early 1960s, I’m guessing; A simple doodad made by Kohner Toys to show off VariVue” – the lenticular technology that made static billboards, toys and flickering Jesus postcards come to life. The near-encyclopedic says far more than I ever could:

In the late 1930’s, the first multiple image lenticular image was formed and this was the seed that started the VariVue company. During this time, VariVue coined the name “lenticular”, to describe their linier lenses, “Winkies” to describe our ever popular blinking eyes and “Magic-Motion” to describe any lenticular image containing motion. By the late 1940’s, VariVue had become a ousehold name by producing millions of animated and stereographic lenticular images which were available everywhere. These images included everything from wall hangings, to record album covers, CrackerJack prizes, greeting cards, post cards, political buttons and so much more. By the 1950’s, VariVue’s lenticular images had become a craze and many, if not most famous personalities of the time, wanted to be featured in VariVue advertisements. At the same time, VariVue buttons were used in every political campaign throughout the country and were available everywhere. By the mid-1950’s, VariVue images were available everywhere on earth, including eastern Europe. In the mid 1960’s, VariVue started to license its lenticular imaging technology to key major printing companies around the world. Licenses were granted to companies in Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Italy, Japan, Indonesia, Singapore and elsewhere.

Filed under: Objet | Comments (2)


  1. Jimi June 14, 2005 @ 5:11 am

    These Vari Vue “Color TV”s by Kohner were produced in the late fifties until perhaps the early
    seventies. Simpler designs were used for the earliest models, many with only two “frames” The
    later models included up to six motion frames by my count. I have only seen one example of how
    these were presented in retail stores – in a cardboard frame that held approximately a dozen or
    so “Color TV”s on a countertop. The earlier models were designed with generic characters,
    examples including a Boat/Truck flicker (two stage), up to the later models which had Hanna
    Barbera characters (ie Yogi Bear fishing, Huckleberry Hound). The model shown in the photo
    is probably mid sixties (the TV with the lion). The colors of the TV’s themselves included
    yellow, green, red, and blue plastic frames. They appear to have mostly been in random patterns
    concerning the combination of the back plastic box and the (normally other colored) front frame.
    I have one example where the frame in front is the same as the back plastic box. There are no

  2. Teresa April 29, 2006 @ 8:07 am

    These Kohner TV’s are great – pure nostalgia.

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