The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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The Five Sides of a Machine

February 26th, 2008 · No Comments


Our first event took place on the season’s first snowfall, surely an omen of some kind.  A few dozen truth-seekers braved the crystals to see what we were up to.  After finding niches for our brood of projectors, Doug stepped into the lights to deliver an informal keynote speechlet (given above).

Anthony followed with a few remarks on the Fortean background of our activities.

Doug returned with a presentation along these lines:

I began by explaining that we organized a survey of “dead media” because of the strong feelings technology stirs nowadays.  I’ve been surprised to learn how many people I know either categorically reject all pre-digital gizmos, or ardently collect obsolete ones.

The Ullage Group is not Luddite; we enjoy both the old and the new.  We do point out that all machines were made in the past: whether that was five minutes or five centuries ago is a piddling detail.  At this spot on the great ring of endless light that is eternity, all past machines are also part of the present.

I revved up a Standard filmstrip projector (once in use in the schools of Kingston, NY) to show a brief filmstrip, explaining the mechanism of the magic lantern; then that formidable device, the Beseler Slide King, for some old lantern slides, mostly patriotic or masonic. 

The audience was invited to admire an array of smaller devices: the Projectol, the Astrascope, and a vintage Viewmaster Theater.

I then proposed that any machine, old or new, has pros and cons in addition to its so-called “currency”; and suggested five criteria for assessing it:

1.  Function: how well does it do its task?

2.  Social: how stigmatized or fashionable is it?

3.  Aesthetic: how beautiful is it, how well designed?

4.  Economic: how expensive is it; how profitable?

5.  Environmental: how harmful is it?

Lisa Hirschfield followed with a demonstration of the Radiopticon, an early opaque projector, and discussed its good and bad points.

Anthony was joined by Greg Dinkins for a program of projected stereoscopic slides, mostly taken with the Stereo Realist camera; Mick Andreano set up another system, which projects stereo picures from the rear onto a small screen, giving the illusion of peering into a diorama.

The audience lingered awhile, sipping (non-Trebbiano) wine and puzzling over the gadgets, then trudged off into the slush.  There were no blown bulbs, short circuits, or other failures; the Radiopticon’s rickety stand and taped wiring did provide some welcome suspense. 

More ullage will follow!

(The above image is a vintage lantern slide; it illustrates the word “snowfall” as only a lantern slide can.)

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: Dead Media · Forteana

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