The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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Entries Tagged as 'Technology'

Athanasius Kircher’s Parastatic Microscope

June 9th, 2010 · 2 Comments

I recently obtained a copy of Joscelyn Godwin’s book Athanasius Kircher’s Theatre of the World (Inner Traditions, 2009).  I mention it here so that I can plug it: it’s a wonderful overview of the 17th century savant, studded with 400 examples of his charts, maps, inventions, and other illustrations.  There’s been somewhat of a Kircher […]

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Tags: Diversions · Literature · Technology

The Pianocktail

January 26th, 2010 · 2 Comments

[As a postscript to “Pandora’s Music Box,” let me add this lovely imaginary instrument from Boris Vian.  It appears in his novel L’écume des jours (The Scum of the Days).  A number of artists have built plausible models of the Pianocktail; documentation can be found, here and there, on YouTube.  But let me translate the […]

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Tags: 'pataphysics · Literature · Music · Technology

Medi-Vaudeville: The Report

April 27th, 2009 · No Comments

About forty fine citizens assembled at Jalopy for our fourth event, eager to see how the Ullage Group would screw up this time. I performed the ceremonial ullage-uncorking, and poured out a shot of chianti for our host, Geoff Wiley; and invoked the Italian proverb “Chi beve it vino prima la minestra, saluta il medico […]

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Tags: Bulletins · Education · Technology

Ben Hecht on American Men

April 10th, 2009 · No Comments

Ben Hecht was the first “Fortean”: he coined the word, and staked his claim.  Like the other founders of the first Fortean Society, back in 1931, he had no particular interest in scientific anomalies; he just enjoyed the exuberant and provocative books Charles Fort wove from them. I plan to paste in snippets from those […]

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Tags: Forteana · Literature · Technology

The Digital Backlash (5)

April 7th, 2009 · 1 Comment

On a recent bus trip from upstate NY, back to the forlorn isle of Manhattan, a woman somewhere behind me indulged in a long cell phone chat.  For a full, voluble half-hour, she kept her yakmate abreast on where the bus was: every freeway exit, toll booth, and road sign we met on our perilous journey was described in […]

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Tags: Belief Systems · Technology

The New TV-B-Gone SHP

March 2nd, 2009 · 4 Comments

We have heard reports that the Ullage Group is fixated on the past and that ullage means old things and concepts. To some extent this is true. There are many ullage topics of interest frozen in the glacier of the past. So let’s have a hot post about something new. The TV-B-Gone is a key […]

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Tags: Belief Systems · Technology

The Digital Backlash (4)

February 1st, 2009 · 2 Comments

Our last digital update set me to wondering: why haven’t our hi-tek overlords marketed electronic tampons?  The consumer-congregants have already been trained to crave phones that take photos.  Surely there must be some way to sell them tampons rigged with needless gizmos.  Perhaps sound chips could play soothing melodies, motivational slogans, or Bible verses, to ease the […]

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Tags: Suggestions · Technology

The Digital Backlash (3)

January 30th, 2009 · 1 Comment

Somewhere in my stash of percussion instruments and noisemakers is an old novelty item: a battery-operated phone bell.  The idea was to hide it in your jacket, so people would think you had a phone in your pocket.  The surprise and merriment that followed would make you less unpopular. Today, of course, everyone has a cell phone […]

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Tags: Technology

The Digital Backlash (2)

January 23rd, 2009 · No Comments

Digital know-how has spawned crackerjack gizmos, oh boy; but we must note growing disenchantment.  The scaffolding we’ve erected is getting rickety. The center, for example, often no longer holds, and mere chaos is loosed upon the post office.  When I stopped by the other day, all the credit and debit card gizmos were down, so all transactions […]

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Tags: Technology

Bill Nye on the Future of Punditry

October 30th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Edgar Wilson “Bill” Nye (1850-1896) was, in his time, a popular humorist, both as journalist and lecturer.  He’s not much read now, but I suggest that he’s still worth a look.  Here, for example, is a slice from an essay on the future.  Edison, by the way, was indeed working on a thought-recording machine. “In fact, Mr. […]

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Tags: Belief Systems · Education · Literature · Technology