Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Rain Box

On my way to Paul's Food Center after work I swung by the Good Cause Thrift Store, one of my favorite haunts. It was seven minutes to closing time. I wanted to look at a book I'd seen in the window. I never would have noticed the Rain Box except that after I had found a pair of brand new black cotton shorts for $6 and looked at the book, which I decided I didn't want, the sweet ladies at the counter were busy tallying a mount of children's clothes for a family. So I wandered a bit more.

Then I saw it. An odd wooden box with a handmade paper sign that said "Rain Box, $25." One of the sisters (Good Cause is run by nuns) told me how to use it. You tip it over and some of the tiny ball bearings stick to the top and gradually ran down onto the small cymbals inside. I was stricken with a fierce wonder. I needed this. More than anything. Twenty-five dollars was a bit steep for me, but with three minutes to closing I made an impulsive decision and bought the thing. I brought it home. I love it. It's like windchimes, only better. After you turn it, the small metal balls keep occasionally pinging. They make a sweet, musical noise that is silvery and beautiful. I've never seen anything quite like this. It was a find.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The World Through View-Master

Aside from my fluctuating collection of clothes and books from thrift stores and yard sales, I collect View-Master 3-D stereoscopic reels. I own two original black Bakelite View-Master viewers and have collected many reels over the years at flea markets. They don't turn up very often, but recently Tristan, at the Fun Box Monster Emporium, had an influx of reels. Needless to say I expanded my collection. Wanting to share some of my favorite images, I discovered I could take pictures of them with my digital camera by holding the zoomed lens up to one of the eye-holes and holding the viewer and camera very still while aimed at the light.

The View-Master was invented by organist and photographer William Gruber, who lived in Portland, Oregon, and was introduced to the world at the 1939 New York World's Fair. It was a huge hit and billions of reels were produced. Over time, the reels devolved into mostly kid's cartoons. Some of the ones using real stages and puppets are interesting, but I favor the original ones, mostly produced throughout the 1940s and 1950s, devoted to capturing scenes around the globe.

There are a spew of sites devoted to the View-Master, and Stereo Cameras (so you can make your own reels!) There is even a site that will make custom stereoscopic reels from your won digital images. The View-Master is very retro these days, with only a handful of reels now being produced by Fisher-Price. But 3-D technology remains popular. There are even a few artists such as Roger Ferragallo and Jack Bice who use stereoscopic imagery as their medium.

Here are some favorite images from my collection, taken with my Canon Powershot of the original images.

Yellowstone National Park

This is what happens when the camera settings are screwy.


A Swedish Girl from the Sweden Packet

Another Great One From the Sweden Packet





Laplander with Reindeer

Silver Springs, Florida

Silver Springs, Florida

Rainier National Park

Quebec City Aerial

Another Quebec Aerial

Quebec City Shot

Performing Chimpanzees

People of Other Lands: India

People of Other Lands: The Alps

People of Other Lands: Venice

Parrot Jungle

Parrot Jungle

Parrot Jungle

Paris: The City of Romance
(This is one of my favorite reels. This shot of winos is pretty strange.)

Paris: City of Romance

Paris: City of Romance

Paris: City of Splendor

Palm Springs

The Painted Desert, Arizona

The Painted Desert, Arizona

Indian Tribal Ceremonies

Paris, City of Romance, Notre Dame


New York: The Lower East Side

Maine, Log Jam

New York World's Fair '89, The British Pavilion

Acadia, Maine: The Thunderhole

Acadia Lake