[From 1978 edition of How It Works volume 2.]

Originally the word ballista referred to a large stand-supported crossbow used to fire darts, but over the years it has come to mean any early machine for throwing spears or stones. The first Europeans to experiment with ballistae were the Greeks, especially those working in the Museum (a research establishment) at Alexandria in Egypt in the two centuries before the birth of Christ.

The Polaroid:
ONE FINE DAY AT THE BEACH IN PARALION ASTROS...

Father: Honey, you have to hold the camera straight. Yes, that’s better. Now click on the button and take a picture of Daddy in his swim trunks.
[...Later...]
Child: Mommy, Mommy!
Mother: Yes, what is it, dear?
Child: Look!
Mother: Oh no, it looks like it’s going to rain.

“I can’t remember if the small child is a boy or a girl. Probably it doesn’t matter. At a time when the Middle East is in danger of a catastrophe of biblical proportions an image like this may be condemned as a distraction from the desperately urgent defense of civilization against modern barbarism. Rainbirds or the Battle Of The Ballista And The Beach Toys, BOTBATBT for short, is not about evil dictators sporting a suspect mustache, even though it could be. You know who I mean.”
“What should the viewer conclude?”
The artist replied evasively, “I would expect the viewer to ask the next person he or she meets...”
“Well?”
Evasively, “Well, the plot thickens. My computer screen flashes, ‘This message will self-destruct in five seconds.’ And I say, ‘Shut up, computers can’t talk.’”
“I have a confession to make.”
“Confess, you traitor!”
“I am no lover of ones and zeros.”
“And I am no lover of trigonometry. Appearing to refute those earlier claims by Columbus that the world is round like an apple and not flat like a map. Let me show you this globe, human. There!”
“The Aegean Sea?”
“Little more than a primitive soup with some itsy-bitsy anaerobic microorganisms as denizens.”
“I hear there’s some pretty big sharks prowling around out there too.”
“What could be more stereotypical than a horizontal horizon?”
“I give up.”
“Tilting the camera. Tilting the camera will, to some extent, rehabilitate C. and his followers. They can discover America. I’m annoyed with two of the margins. I think I’ll crop the image in Photoshop.”
“Which margins?”
“I changed my mind. It’s more desirable to preserve the unexpurgated artwork. To distract myself I will put up a Sold sign.”
“What’s that?” pointing.
“The red Jolly Roger.”
“Cute.”
“It symbolizes poison, death and international lawlessness.”
“Terrorism.”
“An objective correlative.”
“What does it evoke?”
“Sold!”