JB dragged me to a garage sale this morning. Newport is a fine venue for a garage sale, as it has such a long and colourful history, and is populated by an army of characters and collectors. Despite this, I tend to avoid such sales like the plague; I have had a bad habit of collecting junk myself, and largely try to avoid any added temptations.
Today, however, and of course I find something worth the trip. I found a Kalliroscope “Pocket Viewer” for a dollar. In the original box, with the original paperwork, but sadly missing the small rotating ball-bearing base. This was a neat find for me; I’d had never before seen one in person, or even in colour, but had long wanted to encounter one.
It all started years ago. My mother passed to me a copy of The Last Whole Earth Catalog, the actual “Last” one from 1971, #1160. Like a paper version of a Google search, the Whole Earth Catalog was an incredible inch-thick 11″x14″ tome, primitive, direct, and optimistic, championing “access to tools” within its pages.
In that particular issue, some articles and items were singled out for special mention. This was signified on the page by an image of a Kalliroscope next to the piece in question. The Catalog itself offered two Kalliroscopes for sale; the small hand-held globe version, and the thinner rectangular “Pocket Viewer” that I found today.
It’s hard to describe what a Kalliroscope really looks like, what it does, or how it does it. I’ve tried to find videos on-line, but haven’t found any good ones. Likewise, the website of the original inventor/manufacturer isn’t particularly helpful. Technically, the Kalliroscope is rheoscopic fluid suspension of microscopic crystalline platelets sandwiched between glass sheets. Practically, it’s a ridiculous little gizmo that you just hold and stare at while it does all this swirly cosmic stuff.
The memory of that Catalog and the inspiration I gained from it while I lived in the bus stay with me. It’s a happy little throwback to a time when sentimentality was forefront in my life. Now that I’ve lived through bitter cynicism and am now entering a strongly pragmatic period, it’s probably healthy to hold on to a few of these positive reminders of previous ages.