Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Nightstand & Time

On the nightstand beside my bed, sits my SKY SCAN... a small atomic clock.

Whenever I reach for it and press the slim bar at the top, it lights up a lovely luminous shade of blue... displaying the time and day, abbreviated in two letters. A colon (:) flashes between the digital numbers of the hour and minutes, letting me know the clock is working, which is my understanding, not necessarily its intended purpose.

I like this clock. What it lacks in aesthetics, it makes up for in function and fits nicely in the palm of my hand. It's metallic in color, but totally plastic and keeps precise time by automatically syncing itself each day to NIST, National Institute of Standards, the official US atomic clock located in Boulder, Colorado. Atomic! The name alone sounds impressive and terribly dangerous, as in... "Wake up to my alarm now or be blown to bits." Kaboom!

Thankfully, I've managed to survive the Mayan Prophecy for the end of the world on December 21, 2012 and the previously predicted disaster for May 5, 2000, when the earth's polar ice caps were expected to melt and send our planet spinning off its axis.

While I do appreciate my hardworking, reliable little timekeeper, I would definitely consider trading it in for a model that's more attractive, creative, and less dangerous, like one of these...

Designed by Sebastian Wrong, The Font Clock is based on a flip-type mechanism that uses twelve different type faces with precision provided by Grayson Time Management, the company that provides accurate time for institutions like the London Stock Exchange.

The 'QLOCKTWO' by Biegert & Funk is available as a wall unit, desk model or watch. Instead of numbers, this clock spells out the time with words. The face of the 'QLOCKTWO TOUCH' is made of acrylic glass, which can be quickly exchanged for another color to suit your mood, or another language. With colors like Black Ice Tea (black), Vanilla Sugar  (white), Cherry Coke (red), Frozen Blackberry (violet), Lime Juice (green), Blue Candy (blue), and Dark Chocolate (brown), it would be hard to choose just one, though black is always classic.

As a child, I don't recall having an alarm clock. I don't remember anyone in our house having an alarm clock, but that's just my memory or lack of it. In fact, I have no recollection of a morning routine, if there was one, where everyone got up at the same time and got ready for work or school.

I do recall our kitchen clock.

It was a Kit-Cat Clock, black, with big eyes that moved from side to side and a pendulum tail that swayed to the beat of time. I loved that cat. It was a gift from my grandmother who also bought the same clock for herself, in pink. Pink would have been my choice. Choosing to buy these clocks seemed quite out of character for my grandmother who was very loving, generous, and dear to me, but lacked what I'd call a 'kooky' sense of humor.

I've since learned that these clocks, designed by Earl Arnault, during the Great Depression, were made in hopes of bringing levity to difficult times. For the past 50 years, these popular clocks have sold at the rate of one every three minutes! I'm sure you can see why... they're adorable.

The models from the 1930's through 50's had two paws while the newer models have four paws and a bow tie! Today's clocks run on batteries whereas our model had an electric cord that had to be plugged into an outlet.

Which may explain why, whenever the power went out, someone always reached for the phone and dialed ME 7-1212. I can't believe that number still floats inside my head. Long gone is the 'Time Lady' and her voice on the other end of the line saying, "At the tone the time will be"... filling in the correct time as in... "Five o'clock and five minutes" (long pause)... "Five o'clock and six minutes" (another long pause)... continuing until all our clocks, watches, and other timely devices were recalibrated.

I find the whole concept of time intriguing.

Several years back, Michael and I saw a fascinating exhibition in Florida at the Miami Art Museum titled, 'Marking Time: Moving Images'. 10 artists were represented with 16 installations all dealing with the passage of time. The piece that totally captured my senses was a video... three projections of spinning tops, called 'A Morir', (Till Death), by Miguel Angel Rios... running time approximately 5 minutes.

The subject matter was based on 'trompos', a Mexican neighborhood street game played with spinning tops, where as many thirty people of different ages played at the same time. Shown in a black room, the video, void of any people, concentrated on the tremendous force of spinning tops, colliding into one another, scraping and bouncing across a white grid on the pavement and the boisterous sounds they produced.

The other show, at The Delaware Center of Contemporary Art, was titled: 'Obsessive Drawing', and included 18 artists and 39 works, both abstract and figurative. Artist William Anastasi, a friend of John Cage, did these quirky pieces based on chance, called 'Subway Drawings', done while riding a subway train. With paper on his lap, a pen or pencil in each hand, eyes closed or focused on the floor, Anastasi would let the movement of the train create the marks for his drawing, which became finished once he reached his destination. The time, name of person he was meeting, or the location, was then recorded on the bottom of the drawing.

This morning my clock read 8:31 TU (Tuesday).

I expected to sleep longer having stayed up late to watch: the ball drop on Times Square, fireworks in Philadelphia, and folks skating, at the RiverRink at Penn's landing... watched not through means of time travel, but on my television screen with hubby beside me.

Time to get up and begin this first day of the new year. 

I'm curious... Do you have your own story to tell about time? Or perhaps you own an object you appreciate, but would consider trading for another.

In the meantime, here are a few links you might find interesting:

Watch a few seconds of Yugo Nakamura's 'Industrious 2001' Clock here.

20 Things You Didn't Know About Time here.

Why if you're staying in a New York hotel you shouldn't stay in a room numbered 1212 here.

An odd thread from a dream forum that had me chuckling here.

Although some of this recording is in Dutch, watch Miguel Angel Rios and one of his spinning top videos here.

Watch William Anastasi drawing on a train here.

Here's wishing you a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous
New Year!
XOX... Dyan


  1. The last image before closing my eyes on most evenings is that of my "REALISTIC Chronomatic-230". It is a clock radio which was given to me as an Xmas gift in 1981. When I first received it I knew that it certainly wasn't "top of the line". In fact it was probably purchased from a store in a local neighborhood, the type where the sales people are hanging around outside and there is a synthetic hair-braids-poofs parlor, right next door.
    There are times I wish this time keeper would leave. Desist. Break-down. Have its time to go! Heaven knows I could not throw it away since it shows a sense of loyalty and longevity, two virtues encoded in the collective DNA/consciousness of most Italian folks.
    Now it was a big improvement over its predecessor, a "Baby Ben" wind up clock. ( Even though my parents had a "Big Ben", it wasn't related to my more humble model). The alarm sound was that of bells ringing. My Chronomatic-230 clock-radio has an electronic frequency sound which doesn't awaken you into conscousness. Ironically, it sort of electrocutes you into life.
    Perhaps some day I will purchase a newer, "state of the arts" time keeper.
    In the mean time, I'll be waiting for my
    nightstand artifact to go the route of the old Bell Telephone number (TIME-123), which you were able to dial and get the accurate time moment, any time of the day.

    1. Welcome Back!

      I've missed your funny tales. Today's comment had me chuckling at... "synthetic hair-braids-poofs parlor, right next door." I 'googled' your two clocks 'Baby Ben' and Realistic Chronomatic 230 (so Sci-fi sounding). Your Baby Ben just sold on ebay. Guess it's a bit of a collector's item now. Maybe it's time to put RC 230 at curbside with a sign "Free To A Loving Home". I'm sure one of Philly's 'Dumpster Divers' would snatch it up in an instant. You just might see it again as part of a new art piece in a gallery in an exhibition titled: 'The Land That Time Forgot'.

  2. My best clock story is about my mother. She got a free travel alarm clock from B. Altman's and loved that clock. You could not touch it. Then I know a man who bought a watch for $32,000. He does not wear it because it could get stolen. He wears a cheap imitation. All of the clocks in our house are the same. They are little Braun alarm clocks in black. Type: 4700/AB 30 sl, Made in Germany.
    Time to go.

    1. Your clock/watch story reminds me of 'living' room sofas covered in plastic that no one was ever allowed to sit on. Oh, the things we value and never get to use.