A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Wham-O Window

Richard Knerr died yesterday. He was the founder, with partner and best boyhood friend Arthur Melin, of Wham-O, the coolest toy company ever. Knerr and Melin were responsible for the Hula Hoop, the Frisbee, the Hacky Sack, the Superball, the Slip 'N Slide, and Silly String. And for my favorite Wham-O product of all, the Magic Window.

According to the packaging, the Magic Window “CREATES MOVING, CHANGING PICTURES! with fascinating 'VOLCANIC ACTION." It's made of "MILLIONS OF MICRODIUM CRYSTALS." You're invited to "TURN IT OVER" AND "WATCH THE MAGIC ACTION!"

This toy consisted of two plastic "windows" sandwiched together with the multi-colored "microdium" crystals inside. The different colors of crystals didn't want to mix together, so shaking or twirling the window produced swirling patterns. The toy came in two color combinations that I recall, blue and white or pink and white.

Magic Windows were licensed in 1973, but eventually discontinued. It was the perfect seventies toy...endlessly fascinating for curious kids, and undoubtedly even more psychedelically, funkadelically, radically cool for stoners. It was, like, far out, man.

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Blogger Christopher said...

Wham-O's Superball, BTW, appears to have inspired the use of the term "Superbowl" for a certain annual atheletic ritual.

This is from wikipedia, that most anarchistic of authoritative sources (and I mean that, of course, as a good thing):

One of the conditions of the AFL-NFL Merger was that the winners of each league's championship game would meet in a contest to determine the "world champion of football". According to NFL Films President Steve Sabol, then NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle wanted to call the game "The Big One". During the discussions to iron out the details, AFL founder and Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt had jokingly referred to the proposed interleague championship as the "Super Bowl". Hunt thought of the name after seeing his kids playing with a toy called a Super Ball. The ball is now on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. The name was consistent with postseason college football games which had long been known as "bowl games". The "bowl" term originated from the Rose Bowl Game, which was in turn named for the bowl-shaped stadium in which it is played. Hunt only meant his suggested name to be a stopgap until a better one could be found..

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a Magic Window as a kid, and played with it for a lot of years. I was treating it as a meditational focus, without realizing it, at the time. Kinda wish I had one, now! Definitely a trippy kinda toy.

My impression of the materials in the Magic Window was that the colored "crystals" were probably a natural mineral substance. The white material, which had a lesser density, would not mix with the colored sand. It appeared to be a polymer of some sort. This was confirmed by a report in Popular Science at the time, that "microdium" consisted of the tiny plastic target pellets, originally developed for use in nuclear fusion research at Lawrence Livermore Labs. The tiny hollow pellets were filled with deuterium and attempts were made to bring them up to fusion temp using massive, multistage lasers.

The pellets used in the Magic Window were just hollow, so their low density made them "float" on top of the sand.

8:40 PM  

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