stuff


I don’t really consider this to have happened that long ago, nor was it one of my first shows, nor was it one of the best shows I’ve been to. In fact I hadn’t really considered it anything special at all, however one human year is equal to about 17 music years, which makes this Bauhaus reunion show I went to in 1998 ancient history, and considering the last person I debated the merits of various musical acts with WASN’T EVEN BORN when I went to this show I found it difficult to even find a basis of comparison on which to form my arguments.

It’s not that I think all new music is crap, I definitely don’t. I listen to (and buy) lots of new music. It’s also not the case that the person I was arguing with hadn’t been exposed to music of the 90s and before, he most certainly had. What it came down to was that what I considered the classic musicians of my day, musicians who continue to have profound influence on new artists I listen to now, to him were simply “oldies“. They were the albums in his parents’ collection. To him they sounded dated and unappealing, and to the degree that I lamented the fact that he would never have the opportunity to see a band like Bauhaus live, he equally couldn’t care. He was much more interested in explaining to me why 50 Cent was a master of rap and how much of a lasting impact he is already having on the genre.

Once the reality of this contextual divide became apparent, I switched the gears of my debate and struggled to find the common ground wherein both of our interests met. The argument eventually ended on amicable terms when we both conceded that “Ice Cube was ok.”

What the… where did this come from? The Apple Catalog? Summer 1993? That implies I have somehow carried this though something like 8 moves and never knew I had it! Seriously, I wasn’t exactly “saving” this one until NOW. Wow, this is a gem!

At 9×11 and 56 pages, this monster catalog displays Apple in one of its finest years. The cover shows the Macintosh PowerBook Duo 210 and DuoDock, one of the featured products that summer. It was a laptop. It had a trackball, yes, a trackball, and TWO mouse buttons. Screen resolution was a whopping 640×400, and it came with 4 MB of RAM! This was the smaller of the PowerBooks available at the time, the better one being the 165c. Can you wrap your head around the awesome speed of a 33 Mhz processor? How about the virtually realistic imaging that comes with a 256 color display? For an extra $300 you could even get a build in 14.4 modem.

But wait! There’s more…
There are so many things in this catalog I would love to share, but I simply do not have time to scan the entire catalog. Instead I will just touch on a few of my favorites. First, the ImageWriter II printer, AKA the printer that wouldn’t die. In case you don’t remember, this is THE dot matrix printer that defined a decade, and as evidenced, was still selling strong in 1993 at $439. It was sold from 1985 through 1996, despite the introduction of inkjet and laser printer alternatives, and became Apple’s longest running product ever. I still have one.

Next, the Apple Ethernet NB Card. Why NB? Why NBot! An Ethernet card was not standard on computers in those days. In fact it was a $349 upgrade. “This card lets you connect any Macintosh II computer to IEEE 802.3 Ethernet networks. You have the choice of using AppleTalk (Phase 2), TCP/IP, or DECnet”… DECnet? Really? There was even a 1MB memory expansion available for the card for $159. Of course, you also had to buy the software TCP/IP Connections for Macintosh for $59 (single user license) and TCP/IP Administration, $199. Let’s pause here for a second and understand what we’re getting into. This is 1993. There was no World Wide Web. There was no www.apple.com. How many of you were on the internet in 1993? How many of you had a computer with networking in 1993?? These were things academic people needed. It cost $766 extra dollars for a professor to be able to send email to other professors from his Mac. Apple even sold a router back then (so you could connect the whole lab). That was $499. Unfortunately none of these items are actually pictured in the catalog except the NB card. By the way, NB stands for NuBus.

Also, I have to give props to the wide range of products Apple offered for people with disabilities. As you read through these, keep your iPhone in mind, and realize that a lot of the technology you think is cool has actually been available from Apple for almost 20 years. Co:Writer “the intelligent word prediction program, is a useful tool for anyone who struggles with writing due to learning disabilities, language deficiencies, or physical limitations” or because they are driving! “it employs artificial intelligence to help predict and complete the words a writer wants to write – and adapts to a user’s style as he or she writes.” End quote. Not bad for 1993. Or how about TouchWindow? “Especially helpful for users with limited motor abilities and cognitive disabilities, TouchWindow mounts easily over your existing display, enabling your Macintosh to respond directly to touch instead of mouse commands.” ScreenDoors, “When using a conventional keyboard is out of the question, ScreenDoors software puts a keyboard on the screen … A built-in word predictor learns your vocabulary as you type.” Virtual Telephone “Virtual Telephone gives you 200-number speed dialing, an on-screen directory, and more – all activated by any point-and-click device, or by voice recognition. Includes a wireless headset that lets you place calls by voice command from within 400 feet of your computer.” And lastly, Canyon Converter which lets you “use your wheelchair battery to power your PowerBook”. Makes me wonder, what kind of cool next-gen software is being marketed to people with disabilities today? Maybe I should pay more attention.

There are also several pages of Applewear and the like. Clothing of all kinds, mugs, a pretty nifty watch, a director’s chair, umbrella even LUGGAGE all sporting the the old rainbow Apple logo, but if I had to choose one thing to order out of the entire catalog I think it would be this:

Back in the day radio stations played a lot of syndicated shows, and these shows were delivered on the only medium, besides vinyl, that radio stations could support. The only reusable medium of the day in fact, reel-to-reel tape. When I first started working in radio we had seven reel-to-reel machines spread across our four studios, not counting the tape editing area, where production staff literally spliced scraps of tape together using a razor and scotch tape before handing them over to be aired.

I don’t know how or when it happened, but at some point I acquired a copy of two episodes of The Goon Show on a 2-track reel. Without diverging too far off topic, The Goon Show was a 1950′s BBC radio programme that defined what would come to known as british comedy for the next several decades, even into today. It starred Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers.

By the time I left radio (at least on a regular basis) reel-to-reel had become an arcane and forgotten format, replaced by the CD, mp3 and the digital revolution. Analog tape decks were thrown out to make room for new power house computers and digital effects units. Archives of reels soon followed, many containing radio gold in the form of interviews, live shows and other records that did not exist anywhere else and were not converted to any new media before being tossed. This reel is a testament to those times. Luckily I was able to dump the contents of this reel onto a cassette before I lost that chance. The irony now of course being that cassettes have become as arcane as the reel. I can play neither.

Be it known that liquid crystal has many uses beyond smart glass and your computer’s monitor. Liquid crystal has also been used for many other important technological achievements. One of these important technological achievements which I have been making use of since the mid 80s, and would now like to call your attention to, are these liquid crystal filled stickers commonly referred to by their brand name Oilies.

Oilies behave just like normal stickers except they are filled with liquid crystal so that when you rub your finger back and forth across them they give off a swirl of rainbow sheen, just like oil. A second innovative property of these stickers is that with extended use they begin to leak this oily substance all over the pages of your sticker book. This substance looks and feels not unlike Mutagen and it a pain to clean up. Shown above are the sole survivors of the Great Sticker War of 1988. I keep them, and the book that contains them, in a chamber 4000 feet below the surface, behind a reinforced steel door, in an air tight container baring the warning “Don’t Even Look At It”.

In 1991 The Topps Company, Inc. (or simply Topps to most) celebrated 40 Years of Baseball, to mark it’s 40th anniversary into the business of baseball trading cards. The celebration was marked by a sweepstakes and instant win game where old classic cards were randomly inserted into packs of the 1991 cards. Odds of winning this way were 1 in yeah right! Each pack also contained a sweepstakes entry card which could be an instant win card (very unlikely) or you could fill out the entry form and mail it in for a chance one of 41 fabulous prizes! The grand prize was of course all 40 sets Topps ever produced. 40 other prizes were each of the 40 sets individually.

I opened hundreds of packs that year. I did not open anything but cards from 1991 in my packs, I did not win instantly, and I certainly did NOT fill out any of the sweepstakes entry forms included in each and every pack I opened. I DID however save all of them. I discovered them recently in a box full of other advertisement insert cards, puzzle pieces and stickers from various sports cards packs I’d opened during the early 90s.

There they were packed neatly in a row, all perfectly preserved and in mint condition, as if to say “shouldn’t we be prize enough?”. Yes, yes you should.

EuroDisney Brochure

This is an Entertainment Program from the earliest days of that woefully insufficient resort Euro Disneyland, or as it is commonly referred to “Euro Disney”, just outside Paris. I actually went did go there myself, and this was in fact my very first Disney experience of any kind. Having just opened the previous April, there were still plenty of kinks to work out no the least of which included a large number of their workforce resigning and ongoing protest by local farmers who blocked the inroads. I remember taking the bus in from Germany and having to pull over and wait in a parking lot for several hours while we waited for a second bus to arrive so we could switch routes and go a different way. This was just one of many protests and controversies surrounding this park.

The park itself was pretty small (you could do everything in a day), and very expensive, but on the whole not as bad as I had heard. The weather was nice and I had fun. However just take a look at the basic one page program that highlights ALL the happening that week at the park, and you can get an idea of how lackluster the whole things was. (PDF link provided below)

Despite all the drama and financial troubles, Euro Disney continues to exist (though it is now called “Disneyland Paris”), but so do a lot of other things.

Euro Disneyland July 19-25, 1992 Entertainment Program (pdf)

Thai Mysterious

I don’t remember exactly how I acquired this tape, so instead I’ll tell you about another tape I found once while walking down the street in Burlington, Vermont. It had just rained, the ground was wet. I was walking down the sidewalk when there next to me, under a luscious, green hedge, beckoning me from the soft bed of damp mulch, was a cassette of Sade’s “Diamond Life”, sans case. I looked around, possibly to ensure someone hadn’t recently dropped it, or possible so as not to be seen, and then quickly snatched it up. There were droplets of water that had condensed within the tiny enclosed space between the two reels and the area of tape that had been exposed to the elements was warped. I doubted whether it would actually play, but I took it home and set it on the table to try for three full days. On the third day, with my gut twinging with anticipation, I once again picked up the tape and without hesitation inserted it into my boom box and hit play. The first second passed, the tape became taut and started to turn. The second second passed, I adjusted the volume. Third second, and suddenly there was sound… I hated it.

Thankfully this post is not about Sade’s “Diamond Life”, it’s about the mysterious cassette in the picture above. I know nothing at all about this tape other than it was made in Thailand. I listened to part of it once. It sounded like any of a thousand unsigned pop bands of the 80s, singing in a language I don’t understand. Nevertheless, it has remained a part of my music collection for at least the last ten years, if not more, as if to say “I need this, I just don’t know why yet”. I don’t know what happened to that Sade tape.

The Solution

Wedged tightly between my old NES Game Atlas and a small book entitled ‘How To Win at Pac-Man’, in the dark, forgotten lower catacombs of my bookshelf, was this fully illustrated, step-by-step guide on how to solve a Rubik’s Cube, aptly called ‘The Solution’. Published by Ideal, the (now defunct) toy company that originally manufactured the Rubik’s Cube, it is possibly the only “official” guide ever published.

It starts with a lot of words (which you can skip) and then tells you to get the four blue corners in place around the blue center piece. Apparently from that point there is only one possible path to completion, and this guild will hold your hand as you walk down it. It provided illustrations and fancy arrows showing you exactly what to turn where. A dozen or so pages later and you will be able to feign genius and impress your friends with your newly discovered secret talent.

Surprisingly, most people I show this book to never knew it existed. Today however, it serves little practical purpose since several video guides are readily available on YouTube.

Brick Kicks #1

Everybody owns or has owned Legos at some point in their life. Everybody knows what they are and how they work. For some of us, they were more an integral part of our childhood than others. For those of us who graduated from Lego builder to Lego “modeler” (or aspired to the later), there was the Lego Builders Club. I somehow got my self on the initial mailing list for this club, which started sometime around 1987. (It may have been because I once wrote them a letter asking about Legoland in Denmark, which they responded to by mailing me a booklet with lots of photos of the park. I’ll save that for a future entry). Among the first things they sent me for being a members of this club was this Premier Issue of Brick Kicks magazine. It’s only eight pages long, but a lot of great pictures of giant Lego models and a brief history of Legos. It also came with a sheet of lego graph paper (with each grid space the size of a standard 1×2 brick). To my surpise the Lego magazine STILL EXISTS, although it is now called BrickMaster. Kudos also to the folks at Lego for putting all these old Brick Kicks (and Lego Mania) magazines on their website in digital form, including this one.

Heavy Metal Posters Cover

1985. When the hardest thing a hard group of guys could do to look hard was raid their mom’s cosmetic drawer. Add to that sixty odd pages and ten giant, color fold outs of bare chested guys in torn up clothes, pressing their sweaty bodies against one another and you have an issue of Heavy Metal Posters Magazine. Judging by the date of this issue, it was back in September of 1985 during a trip to the local grocery store that I went momentarily insane, grabbed this monument to metal of the shelf, and bought it. Turns out it actually wasn’t a bad deal. Even in 80s bucks, three dollars for ten posters wasn’t bad, despite the one catch that they were actually five double sided posters, so you were forced to choose which metal god you like better if you ever planned to hang them up, which I didn’t. In addition to all that, there was also a whole magazine to read which included interviews and the like with all the big mainstream metal icons of the day.

Heavy Metal Posters, page 1

From the pictures you might imagine that I perused the pages of this magazine several times, totally enthralled with tales told from the mouths of my favorite musical icons, wonder what it might be like to even go to one of their show, let alone meet them in person, or perhaps hang out with them on the tour bus, or behind the school (this was the 80s, behind the school was still a viable hangout). You would be wrong. In fact, it took me several years to even look through the “words” part of this periodical and realize the goldmine of content I had been sitting on. Similarly, the posters were never hung (although I did take them out and look at them a lot). I still have all the included posters, and they are in much better condition than the magazine itself.

This was apparently a very popular publication in its day, this being Volume 30, No. 4, but I have never seen any other issue in my life.

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