"Vat do you zink of all my toops?" Page 2

Maybe this is what Dieter meant about ambivalenz. On the one hand, tubes represent a kinder, gentler technology. Looking so fragile and delicate, they're the technological emblem of better, simpler days: Norman Rockwell paintings, evenings spent around the old radio. In fact, not too far from Navy Pier, this very idea was at work in the display case of Chicago's Hammacher Schlemmer store on Michigan Avenue. They were selling a transistor radio inside a nice wooden case with analog dials and a row of faux tubes on top—just like Grandma and Grandpa's!

Tubes are relatively brain-friendly. Anyone can peer inside and see a miniature world where lost electrons try to find their way home (despite GridMan, the local bully)—so simple, yet so effective. "Gee whiz," you could have said in 1940; "If we can hear Jack Benny from hundreds of miles away, we'll be able to live on the moon, cure diseases, and end poverty! All we need are the right gizmos with those little glowing bottles in them."

So what's to be "ambivalent" about? I'm no technophobe, but you can't deny that modern technologies have brought us a lot of things we'd do better without: nuclear weapons, toxic waste, recordings by Styx. From this angle, Dieter's sculptures suddenly looked sinister and dangerous. Lassie could be transmitting your movements back to Big Brother. And Brady Bunch Mountain could be a warm, twinkly holiday tree over at the Strangeloves' house. "Come on in! There's some eggnog in the laboratory—just grab yourself a beaker!"

Now I think I understand what Dieter was after. His pieces combined attractions and dangers: Here was modern technology in its youth, when it was wonderful and amazing—kind of like a tiger cub starting to get hungry, or a really sexy praying mantis.

Well, if I'm right about Dieter's message, he's still playing catchup with the world of audio. If you really want to capture the potential terrors of modern technology, and if audio equipment is your chosen medium, you've got to get into solid-state. What, for instance, would be more frightening than a pile of early-'70s receivers, the kind that scan for victims from behind their dark blackout dials?

"There's one—9 o'clock. Audiophile. Yup, I smell aluminum-dome tweeters. Oooh, those babies are gonna sizzle."

Or, as we descend into the inferno, how about a couple of soundstage equalizers complete with scratchy slider pots? Or that curse of every garage sale (usually just behind the hot-air popcorn popper), the 8-track/AM-FM/turntable combi system with the smoked- plastic dustcover? One of these could just sit on a pedestal and incite terror in the hearts of all innocent passersby. Damien Hirst, move over.

I admit that ordinary people, those lost souls who haven't yet discovered high-end audio, might not be too impressed with my sculptures. I can hear them already: "At least that other guy made little animals out of his electronic equipment."

Yeah, well, everybody's a critic. But this misunderstood conceptual artist won't be misunderstood for long. Just wait till they see The Krell! I had no idea how scary these amps were until I bought one a few weeks ago (Thanks, Larry). Owning a KSA-250 makes life inside Brady Bunch Mountain look like a minor inconvenience—at least those folks aren't bleeding. That's right; you can end up bruised and bloody after dealing with an amp like this. First, you've got to have someone help you bring it into your place. And you must move slowly and carefully—thanks to Newtonian momentum, this 140-lb chunk of metal can easily crunch fingers, hands, walls, floors, and toes.

But those are just the physical dangers. Ideally, your helper should have some psychiatric training (Thanks, Cameron). Then you can start confronting the insanity of wrestling a monster like this into your home just so you can...

See? I still don't understand it. Oh yes, I remember—so you can play a few records and CDs. Yeah, that's it.

Now the '250 sits in the middle of my living-room like a bulldog. It's in control: "Nope, you're not going to rearrange the furniture ever again. Nope, you'll never vacuum the rug under me. Nope, you're not going to buy anything else. You're looking at your money, pal."

Even Godzilla's met his match. Often, after I turn the amp on, the ever-curious cat investigates what I've been doing with that big gray box. But when the relays snap a few seconds later and the amp finally powers itself up, he jumps a foot in the air and loses one of his lives. Fortunately, we're all aging a bit slower anyway, thanks to Einstein's general relativity and the increased gravitational field in my apartment.