You are getting sleepy

One of these days I’m going to publish a coffee-table book about the incredibly strange industry of “corporate desk gewgaws” — i.e. the weird little tchotchkes that people buy for their fathers (or mothers) to put on their desks at work. Back when I was a kid, we bought my dad everything ranging from those ubiquitous golf-tee games to cheap wooden plaques with vaguely alcoholic “witticisms” on them. Wander into any corporate office and you’ll find hundreds more of these things: Miniature brass golf sets, pencil sharpeners in pornographic shapes, magic-eight-ball decision-makers, personally monogrammed poker chips, ashtrays in the shape of toilets. None have any actual function, other than to gather dust and serve as a Jungian symbology of the corporate soul.

Which is why I was so tickled to see the work of Kaden Harris, a Canadian artist who builds “Dangerous Things” — minature, desk-sized replicas of guillotines, trebuchets, and ballistas. These are, of course, the devices that medieval warlords, in an attempt to terrify their foes into surrendering, would use to lob the severed heads of vanquished soldiers into a besieged city, all of which makes them singularly resonant in the cubicle culture of the modern firm.

But my personal favorite of Harris’ inventions is the HypnoDisk — a note-perfect evocation of the spinning spirals that evil villians have long used to subdue heroes. As Harris’ web site describes it:

Guaranteed to intimidate the living daylights out of visiting salespeople, and sure to figure prominently in your newly fasttracked career path, the Eccentric Genius Hypnodisk brings a new level of subtlety to office politics.

Each Eccentric Genius Hypnodisk is assembled from re-utilized brass componentry of uncertain provenance, with precision bearing movements, silent motors, and your choice of battery, AC adaptor or USB power supply.

Can I convince myself to cough up $350 for one of these things?

(Thanks to Boing Boing and Sensory Impact for this one!)

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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