Friday, February 20, 2009

The Persistence of Memory (or Lack Thereof)

I seriously think Salvador Dalí was onto something: clocks are scary! When I was a child, I ran into two particularly frightening ones. One was in the living room of some friends of my parents; an enormous grandfather clock that was twice my height, it featured a picture of the West Wind personified, which was freaky enough, and it had a slowly swinging pendulum and a window showing some of the action moving around inside, but worst of all it would now and then emit an incredibly loud series of BONGS. I was about four at the time, and I was terrified of that clock.

A couple of years later I was forced to go on "play dates" with the daughter of my mother's friend, and it was bad enough having to contend with this spoiled rotten psuedo-friend, but in her mother's kitchen was a clock featuring a 7 which was clearly an upside-down 2. I was so terrified of that clock that I would not go into the kitchen, so of course that was where my mother and her friend hung out. I could not bring myself to enter a room with something so obviously against the natural order. I also hated clocks with Roman numerals that had IIII instead of IV for 4. Wrong, wrong, wrong!

As an adult I love analog clocks, and paintings of melting clocks. For some reason it is so much easier to understand time as an arc of a circle ("Hm, I have 38 degrees left before I have to leave for work") than the stark message of a digital clock: 7:03. What does that mean, really? And digital numbers have no personality. These days I would much rather see upside-down 2s and IIIIs than the cold little digital blips that make up 7s and 4s on so many clocks. Guess I've forgotten why things that are unexpected used to seem so scary!

Famous Hat

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