Time Travel Gadget Fetish

I would like to stand up in front of my 12 step program and announce…”My name is Les, and I have a Time travel gadget fetish”…Below are some very cool electrical…important…uh..things that if they can’t get you back in time, nothing will. My next post will be from 1917…adios!

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(above)  From the ebay subscription:  “….a very old multi-tester for phone company use…The latest patent number I could see  on the meter  at 1901 and a Western Electric Pat of 1917”

this baby has “an old Weston meter, switches, buttons, two adjustable rheostats, four telegraph type keys, a row of rocker switches, all sorts of inputs and an indicator light”.

An indicator light!  isn’t that awesome?  How else would you know you’ve reached 1917?  Well, the indicator light is blinking! Right? And the whole thing is portable.

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(above) WWII Electric current tester. This small (5″ X 8″ X 5″) unit is probably  just good for sending you back a  couple of hours or maybe even a day.

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Or this little hand held TTD (Time Travel Device) where you punch in the date you want and then the gadget does the rest.  Sweet right?

(okay, maybe it’s an 1885 check protector made in Brooklyn, who cares once you’re back in time?)

Insider Art/Accidental Graphic Design

My daughter was recently writing/drawing with chalk on the driveway and I was struck by it’s organic quality. Like some kind of magical incantation she just kept writing within an arm’s reach…all around her, until she was enclosed within a circle of words.

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I wish I had done this on a book jacket. (fyi, after she wrote this she disappeared in a puff of smoke…)

Unheeded, The Last Image You’d Admire

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Every time I’ve noticed this caution on a truck I’ve thought to myself, this is just a perfect marriage of image and type. Red for danger, clear graphic image conveying  a truck’s blind spot, nice type hierarchy.

I wish I had drawn that.

I know there is a flickr album of truck wide turn signs on the web, but this is the baby for me.

Guns Don’t kill People… Pencil Boxes Do.

Conceptual art work? Marketing faux pas? Irresponsibility in the world of stationary? I’m sure it’s all of the above with this item.

In a dollar store in midtown Manhattan, I happen upon a bin of 9mm, semiautomatic, M9 …pencil boxes. actual size, replicas of the pistol adopted as the primary handgun of the U.S. military. And IT”S A KIDS PENCIL BOX! The manufacturer took  time to come up with a fairly detailed copy. Even down to the identifying nomenclature on the top of the barrel. Compare the pencil box to the actual firearm in a Wikipedia entry. Of course it isn’t indistinguishable from the real pistol, this is bright pink (to attract the ladies?) and plays music too.

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Unfortunately I have no idea what tune it plays. The battery has long since died, but one can imagine it’s some music box version of the theme to a Dirty Harry movie. oops, my bad, that would be for the .44 magnum shaped sippy cup. I would love to hear what the “wonder melody” tune is. Perhaps the music feature might be a playing capability? The grip seems to have buttons, maybe musical notes for the shooter…er student to compose his or her own tune as they fire away at their school assignments? The music component can be popped out  a little like a clip but I think that might be me fooling with it more than a planned design element.

disclaimer1To be fair to the manufacturer there is a disclaimer printed on the back stating it’s unsuitability for children under 36 months. Of course, how stupid of me, field stripping a baby like this involves a lot of small parts (recoil spring, guide rod, crayons…) and small ones might choke on something. Well in any case this should be exactly what the back to school consumer is looking for in our post 9-11 world and in the wake of all the hyper sensitivity (justified) about firearms in school. And to think these babies didn’t sell and ended up in a dollar store. Who could have possibly anticipated this marketing error in judgment?

On a corollary to this, a gun shop in Wisconsin offers the option of customizing your gun in shocking pink with a Hello Kitty logo on the stock.  A disturbing prospect to say the least.

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(above) a still from the  CNN.com video broadcast February 19, 2008

Lock and load Sally, Dick and Jane, lock and load.

Cold, Hard Notgeld: “Es dreht sich alles um die Benjamins”

In these trying economic times, when money is harder to come by, a lot of us wish we could simply print our own. I was reminded that I’m not the first to come up with this not too long ago. Walking through a flea market I came across some German paper notes that struck me as not exactly legal tender but more official looking than any “play money” I’ve seen. The vendor selling it didn’t seem to have an idea what they were. They appeared to be from the 1920’s or 30’s. I bought 12 (always a  surreal transaction to buy money with…money) of them.  Eventually I  showed them to Nora Krug, a colleague at Parsons (a talented illustrator) and my connection to all things German. Nora identified it as Notgeld, German inflation money. And passed on some links.

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(Above) Some of the Notgeld I came across at a flea market.

Notgeld was German paper currency issued in small denominations to replace coins due to a metal shortage during and after WWI. It was produced from 1914 -1923. This “Emergency money” was not issued by the federal government , but by local towns, cities or even large private businesses, and was usually only accepted in that particular town. The notes were done in a variety of artistic styles and depicted numerous subject matter. Local legends, anti-semitism, famous people, cartoons about money (collecting taxes) or being poor…

(Below) The Golem, a subject close to my heart has appeared on Notgeld

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I’ll leave the comprehensive lists of genres and subject matter up to the expert sites. Notgeld became collectible almost immediately, thereby furthering their value. At some point the notes were produced based on their collectibility alone and were not intended to be circulated. There are a number of sites with notgeld galleries (www.notgeld.com for one), and they show up for sale on ebay every so often.

lesnotgeld2(Above) My first attempt at creating a Notgeld note. I can’t really say who the gentleman is on the front. An eastern potentate? An earlier version of this note was palmed off on Nora for her birthday.

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ponzitendollarblogIn the spirit of inflationary 20’s Germany, I propose we institute the following emergency notes (see above), the five and ten denomination Ponzi. Charles Ponzi , is of course, the patriarch of modern day financial swindlers (patron saint?). His name is  synonymous with financial pyramid schemes, and I believe he deserves recognition for his continued involvement in our economy. I personally will be purchasing loaves of bread with my ponzis (Pz) as fast as I can print ’em up. Have no fear though, our engraving dept. is hard at work on larger denominations (the Madoff) too for those bigger ticket luxury items . Please rest assured that when you pay for goods or services with a ponzi, that the note is backed by the full weight of our fiduciary institution and is kept stable through worldwide, state of the art electronic monetary/payments, and can be exchanged for a lesser or equal amount of ponzis which are normally freely convertible into pre-set, fixed quantities.

“The Thug”

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An article in the papers recently announced that law enforcement’s time honored firing range target “The Thug” was being retired. ( click here for a link to speculations on the Thug’s true identity) What a great point of view the Thug utilizes, just like James Montgomery Flagg’s  ” I want you” (Uncle Sam) World War I recruiting poster,  the viewer is forced into being an active participant. Ah, another graphic icon bites the dust…

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(above) a rotating target. An aesthetic that  George Nelson would appreciate.

clock2651(above) Designer George Nelson‘s ( (1908–1986)) 1950’s Ball clock.

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(Above) just in time for Valentine’s day…

Nemesis ! My life on the D-list

Comic book publishing is littered with the bodies of D-list heroes, characters who just never caught on. Maybe their powers too closely resembled other more established heroes. Maybe they fell victim to too many clichés of the genre to hold readers attention.

Publishers, for a few years now, have re-discovered the philosophy there are no small characters, only small stories. All those forgotten heroes have been given new life with increasing frequency since DC’s Crisis story arcs had long forgotten D-listers cropping up on alternate earths, and Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons conceived the Watchmen (based upon Charlton Comics second tier heroes).

In 1965, American Comics Group (ACG), a small but steady comics publisher launched a new hero named Nemesis in their Adventures into the Unknown title. Forty years later I found Nemesis’s origin story in the bargain bin of a comic book store for $2.50. His costume seemed as if someone had gone through all the rejected capes, and leotards in a hero’s tailor shop. Hmmm, lessee, what’s left, stripped briefs, light blue buccaneer boots…Hey! did anyone pick an hourglass as a chest emblem ? A hood?

(Above, top left) Adventures Into the Unknown # 154, the first appearance of Nemesis, through issue #159.

(Above, top left) Adventures Into the Unknown # 160-#165.  All images of Adventures Into the Unknown © Roger Broughton

Justice Department detective Steve Flint becomes Nemesis after his death at the hands of mobsters. He then ascends to the great beyond where the Grim Reaper grants him paranormal-super powers.  Nemesis revenges his own death and goes on to fight crime, communists, Satan, dinosaurs…you know the usual suspects. The art is not bad at all. There are only 17 issues of Adventures Into the Unknown that featured Nemesis. He was drawn by Pete Contanza and later Chic Stone. Peter Constanza, a golden age artist who had previously worked at Fawcett (Captain Marvel), and also worked for Classics Illustrated (think Kipling, and James Fenimore Cooper) and eventually would work for DC in 1966 drawing Jimmy Olsen. Pete also drew Magicman for ACG. Chic Stone inked Jack Kirby’s Fantastic Four Pencils as well as the X-men and Thor. He too had previously worked for Fawcett on Captain Marvel.

One of the things that endeared Nemesis to me was reading the letters to the editor section titled : “Let’s Talk it Over”  (p17 in issue 154) one letter bears repeating, here is the gist of it. The complete letter  and reply is just too long to post.

“Dear Editor,

I have been reading your comic book since it’s earliest issues and I hate to say it, but you have been steadily declining. Both artwork and stories get worse every issue. Your Writers are not very good, but neither are any comic book writers today. Changing public taste has made it permissible for a writer to turn out a bad story and still have it acclaimed as good….  Fire your present art and writing staff-to be frank they stink. Get some of the old writers of the early fifties to do your stories! ”

yowch! Nothing hurts worse than articulate criticism, yet the letter  was actually published. Boy that takes guts. The rest of the letters vary , some critical (much more honest then I’ve ever seen in Marvel or DC), most praising. Keep in mind that Adventures into the Unknown was made up of a collection of Twilight Zone-esque stories, so there where at least four separate stories each with a different writer (supposedly). It’s interesting to mention that some readers go on  complimenting on one writer’s superior qualities over another in the book, well from what I understand at this point (1957 and on) in time at the book there was always just one writer using different pseudonyms … Editor Richard Hughes (Born Leo Rosenbaum?). Hughs  wrote as Shane O’Shea, Zev Zimmer, Ace Aquila, or Kurato Osaki among others. Hughes had in the 40’s created a number of D-list heroes : The Black Terror (with Dave Gabrielson),  Fighting Yank (with Jon Blummer) that have since reappeared in present day story arcs. Sooo, the way I figure it Nemesis is next. C’mon, the man is sporting a hoodie for Pete’s sake, it doesn’t get anymore modern than that.