Sunday, January 31, 2010

Origin of the Power On Button

We all know the symbol of a circle with a vertical line through it as the ubiquitous power-on button; used on virtually every electronic device on the planet. So what's the origin of this strange symbol?
Originally, machines were powered by a switch or lever, each side marked with the words "on" and "off." As switches became smaller and more global, the two words were replaced with a 1 and 0, which refer to closed circuit/open circuit, respectively. Then the switch was gradually replaced by the push-button, and the 1 and 0 were combined into the symbol we have today. The symbol, although having been around earlier, was made the official activation/deactivation symbol by the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) standard in 1973. I don't know if this is intentional or not, but I also think the symbol resembles a person's finger pressing a button.

Nobody knows who actually created the symbol or where it was first used. I find this ambiguity of origin fascinating!

A word about Urs

Just went to the New Museum to see the Urs Fischer exhibit. I've only been to the New Museum on the Bowery a couple times before and this was the first exhibit of theirs that I really enjoyed. Fischer has taken over the whole museum with his largest US solo show to date, filling the 3 main exhibit floors; his work is definitely room-dependent. One floor is filled with a series of mirrored boxes with highly-detailed photoshopped images adhered to each visible face. Another floor mainly consists of 3 very large organically shaped aluminum sculptures which take over the whole room. The last floor is wallpapered in full scale photographs, depicting the room itself with all its objects placed slightly oblique to the real thing. Besides that the room is virtually empty sans a large deflated grand piano in the center. One of the most amusing pieces in the show is a life-like tongue that sticks out at you through a hole in the wall as you approach it. Absurd and suggestive.

Urs Fischer hails from Zurich and now lives and works in Red Hook, in a large studio by the water. He seems to be doing quite well for himself: The galleries support his fantastic and not always well-planned out ideas and his works sell upwards of half-a-million dollars! I'm not going to attempt to write about the concepts or craftsmenship of his work here, but I was impressed with the show. Lunch with my friend Matt at Freemans Alley afterwards was pleasant as well.

Earlier works by the artist...

No to white coats

I heard from a friend recently that the white lab coats doctors wear actually contribute to the spread of infection. I couldn't believe my ears (I'm a skeptic) and did some research. Well, as I suspected he's partially right. It's true that the American Medical Association voted last year on a resolution that would recommend hospitals to ban doctor's iconic white lab coats for good. Studies show that bacteria thrives on these coats, especially around the sleeve area. This helps spread infection within the hospital (according to the CDC, 100,000 US patients die each year from infections contracted in hospitals). But this has less to do with the fact that it's white or a coat, and more due to doctor's wearing their coats multiple times without washing. At the end of the day, the typical doctor might hang up his or her coat and go home. Then come back, washed up and sterilized, and put on the same coat from the day before.

Before the early 20th century, doctors wore their regular street c
lothes to work. But doctors eventually adopted the scientific looking lab coats as a way to legitimize themselves in the eyes of their patients. The color white also helps convey purity of life. It is also a way to visually differentiate the doctor from his nurses or students.

This new law to ban white lab coats might not make much of a difference anyway. Doctors in smaller hospitals or practices don't usually don the white lab coat anyway. Recent studies show only 1 in 8 actually sport a white coat to work.

So an interesting topic to bring up at the dinner table. But not as dramatic as it initially sounds. Sometime soon the doctor's white lab coat will be a thing of the past and we'll have new things to gripe to our friends about in the hospital. Or we can talk about more pressing agendas like the state of US health care in general!!!

What's up with Brendan Fraser?

Brendan Fras
er has always struck me as the sweet good-natured, all-american boy next door. Good looking, but in a generic, non-descript kind of way. A hero, but humbly so and with good humor. His characters don't sleep around with the hottest vixens, rather he always portrays a loving husband or dedicated father (or both). Couldn't meet a nicer guy on the silver screen really. Definitely the type of action hero you'd want to bring home to meet your family.

I first saw him in Encino M
an with Pauly Shore in the early 90's. His unfrozen cro-magnon talent pretty much summarizes his character in all his movies...hunky, naive, misunderstood, kind, magnetic and a caveman. Can't go wrong with that. His best selling movies, The Mummy series, has him successfully re-invent the Indiana Jones franchise for the next generation of idol worshipers. Makes sense that his latest movie pairs him up with the cranky man himself, Harrison Ford. By the end of the movie Brendan Fraser wins all by not only saving his children from certain doom, but turns the cantankerous Ford into a soft-hearted puppy dog.

I did some poking around online to find out more about this affable fellow and despite what many people assume he is NOT from Canada (his parents were). He was born in Indiana and, much like myself, moved around his whole life. He'
s also an amateur photographer, with a particular affinity towards classic, instant-cameras (Polaroids and Holgas). In 2004, Brendan's work was on display at the Leica Gallery on Broadway that featured over 80 of his black+white prints.

Since I never see Brendan in any of the sleezy celeb rags at the supermarket, I figured he must be of similar character in real life. Well, yes and no. Although he was married to the same woman for many of his salad days, having 3 kids to boot, they divorced at about the same time as Mummy III was released (married about 10 years, which in Hollywood-time is closer to 22 or so). There are also rumors that, like Matthew McConaughey (who, unlike our man Fraser, seems like a first-class jerk), Brendan was losing his hair and got plugs. Not sure if this is even true and it doesn't really matter anyway. At any rate, I was sorely disappointed to hear of his divorce, since that tarnishes the image a bit, but oh well. Nobody's perfect.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year

The first thing I did in 2010 was clean my bathroom. Scrubbing the tiles, getting in the grout, warm water and soap. Thinking of lovers past. Changing the shower curtain. Throwing out the bathing salts for that second bath that never happened. Knots of black hair in the corners, twisting into rorschach-like shapes. It's strangely theraputic. I see symbolism in almost everything I do these days. What to do next? Call sister to wish her a happy new year.