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#312 :: Time-o-Lite Darkroom Timer

December 16, 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.

illness ‘popup’, see ‘width=500,height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0’); return false”>Function is a mystery. The point of this thing must lie somewhere between symbol and tool, in that most mystical of all bands in the kitsch spectrum occupied by nudie poker decks and Humunga Tongue dog toys.

It may have been cast as a paperweight, a keepsake or just a token of affection.

The week my daughter was born a bit more than 3 years ago, my wife and I found this in the gutter. It cleaned up beautifully, and rests in your hand with a warm, solid weight. You’d have to drop it from a good height onto a cement floor to damage it, but it can be broken. My daughter is a pistol with boundless joy and love, a quick temper, and a small but ferocious sensitive streak. For us, this was a good, true omen.
troche ‘popup’, more about ‘width=500, find height=500,scrollbars=no,resizable=no,toolbar=no,directories=no,location=no,menubar=no,status=no,left=0,top=0′); return false”>Newspaper reporters carry a certain moral rectitude in the pit of their stomachs. Brilliant ones carry it in their hearts. Bad ones in their asses, which they seek to cover only because they must – failure to do so means career suicide. But it drives them all – the piss and vinegar of of H.L. Mencken and Mark Twain, the crusading momentum of Jimmy Breslin and Edna Buchanan – this nameless burden of knowing that you’re responsible for covering every angle and distilling them all into a 10-column-inch nugget of what must pass your editor’s test for “truth.” Of course, this grand mission is being carried out by a human being, so the message too often winds up alloyed with personal bias, tainted by the spat you had with your editor that morning, poisoned by the stomach-churning lunch you wolfed in 3½ minutes and otherwise warped by lying sources, looming deadlines, exhaustion and boredom. You carry a code of conduct in your head, rules to report by, dos and don’ts, musts and must-nevers – because a single written law governs the bulk of your work life. It’s extremely short. But because shit happens, you carry a few more as weapons, for the world is complex, people lie and the systems you navigate are shifty and capricious.

I carried this slim volume (or one just like it) for my seven years at the L.A. Times – a volume of near-magic spells meant to fight sealed courtrooms, records, investigations, reports and government meetings. Here’s one of my favorite incantations. I uttered it several times, in that tense split second between the judge declaring a hearing closed and the bailiff kicking me out of the courtroom:

Criminal or Civil Proceedings:
Your honor, my name is ____________ and I represent _______________. I respectfully protest the proposed closure of this proceeding. In recent years the United States Supreme Court has laid down specific and substantive procedural requirements for excluding the public from all or part of any criminal proceeding. I ask that Your Honor ensure that this closure comports with the standards and mandates of Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia 488 U.S.555(Trials); Press-Enterprise vs. Superior Court, 464 U.S. 501 (Jury Selection) and Press-Enterprise v. Superior Court, 106 S. Ct. 2735 (preliminary hearings).

Civil Proceedings
(Supplement the statement above with the following)

Although this proceeding is not criminal in nature, we believe that under the cited authorities the same procedural and substantive rules apply, as held in Publicker Industries v. Cohen, 733 F.2d 1059 (hearing on motion for preliminary injunction).

Stay Request
(where appropriate)

I ask for a brief pause in this proceeding to permit counsel for my employer to appear and be heard in our behalf.”

It never worked. The judge always “took it under consideration” then held the closed hearing anyway. But goddamn it, my stomach felt right as I sat in the hallway outside. And waited.
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”>Chemicals vaporize slowly from open trays In a dull orange gloom. Liquid sounds, a slow stench and crisp slices of tuned light snapped off one by one to catalyze it all to life. For more than 100 years, the darkroom was the artificial primeval swamp, a fecund, foreign place from which sprang the idiocy of art-school experimentation, the urgent drama of AP news shooters, the brilliant visions of (my favorites) Edward Weston, John Pfahl, Weegee and Margaret Bourke-White. Printing was alchemy. Science and art blended into magic – the breathless seconds when you would stare into the tray, sloshing developer rhythmically across a blank sheet of exposed Agfa Portriga or Kodabrome, waiting for science and art to blend, for your own vision to materialize.

Womb/room. Hour after hour on nights, weekends, through college and on into my 30s, I would spend hours moving paper from safe to enlarger for a brief flood of filtered light, then developer, stop, fixer – and the moment when I could hit the overhead and see whether I had made art or shit or both. I loved printing – black and white, color, cyanotype, sepiatone.

Then everything went digital.

And with the magic vanished the chores: None of the fuss of dodging and burning, of rolling my own film or making a room light-tight or setting up fresh chemicals. Color was the worst, now eradicated by high-res pixelization: No heartbreaking, back-burning eight-hour sessions trying to produce six good color prints. No polluting my developer with an invisible smear of fixer picked up on my fingertips like germs from a toilet – and having to toss everything out, scrub down the entire work area and get fresh chemicals poured and up to temp. No 2:30 a.m. cleanup session with the sponge and the print squeegee and the clothespins. So much easier. Snap, stick the card in the computer, fiddle with Photoshop to color-correct, click “PRINT.”


I’ll probably never run C-prints again – mastering the subtleties of good color is so much simpler with a few filters and actions. But I’ll never get rid of my gear either. I hope to show my kids how to conjure, how to pull off this arcane sorcerer’s trick of conjuring images from raw light.

The Time-o-Lite is a burly old thing, all hammertoned steel and precision clockwork run by a fat metal toggle burdened with what feels like 20 pounds of spring-loaded resistance. It glows, reliable and strong, and spins off the seconds with a whirrrrrr-*click.* God knows what good photo paper will cost 10 years from now – whether it will even be available – but I will print again. Some day.

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