Thursday, January 29, 2009

Going (going, gone) postal

I think we're due for another "sign of the times" downer post. Lots of news swirling about the U.S. postal service this week, and none of it very promising for us lunatics who still get unnaturally excited about pens and paper and film in this brave new digital world.
  • First, word that the USPS is considering petitioning to deliver mail only five days per week instead of the currently mandated six, the other no-mail day being determined according to traffic analysis. Bad news if your birthday falls on a Tuesday, as that has been cited as a particularly slow day. No cards for you!

  • Next, delivery routes are being consolidated, too. If this was last summer, you could probably blame fuel prices for the hit, but now it's the good old recession to blame. Don't worry, gas prices will go back up this year, and we'll be able to drag the old scapegoat back out of the pen.

  • Finally, in anticipation of this year's first-class stamp rate increase, word that the classic coin-operated stamp machines are going the way of, well, anything coin-operated really. Citing expense of maintenance and general lack of interest from the public, they're being phased out in favor of the high-tech stamp-and-ship-and-weigh machine that's always out of order. I smell a collecting opportunity here, folks. Who will be the first to rescue one of these old machines and creatively repurpose it? (Olivander, I'm looking in your direction.) I'm thinking it's a short hop from stamp machine to coin-op gum dispenser.
The grand irony, of course, is that I was just reading a Consumer Reports article (in a paper magazine, delivered in the mail) about how the USPS has the best deal going in terms of overnight shipment, better than the commercial carriers by far. Commercial carriers aren't saddled with declining interest in their main service -- door to door mail delivery -- with a revenue stream that's rapidly drying up -- advertising and catalogs.

Have a swell day!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Remember(ing) the Dream

I'm surprisingly wordless today on this most historic of days, I think the worldwide supply of hyperbole has been seriously tapped. I watched some of the ceremonies via streaming AP feed this morning, and I did indeed get a little choked up. As I mentioned on Olivander's blog, 46 years was a long time to get across the National Mall, but it was worth it.

And with that, I'll make a clunky transition back to the spirit of techno-nostalgia. Please take a look at these two pieces by kinetic artist John Douglas Powers.
See also this article about the artist for the story behind the Dream typewriter.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Warming the cockles

Still reeling with secret jealousy over Strikethru's latest retail treasure, I made my usual thrift rounds today at lunch in search of a fish sculpture (don't ask.) A complete bust on the fish, but look what I uncovered instead.

Onionskin


Wrapped for your protection I feel like a wine nut that's just found a bottle of rare Ch√Ęteau Snooty at the local swap meet. It's brand-new, still wrapped in tattered plastic, a band around the sheets of delightfully nubby, super-light paper. It's been years since I held a sheet of this stuff. I promised myself that I would not covet the fine paper collections of my fellow typecasters, that using the backs of cheap office cast-offs would do me just fine. I'm of midwestern stock, I'm supposed to be Practical and Sensible about this sort of thing.

Did I mention that I can't stop sniffing the paper? I hope Southworth didn't treat their papers with anything noxious, or I'll be getting an unintentional contact high, and I'm already a bit giddy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Low-tech in the Magic Kingdom

So, it looks like we're going to Disneyland. The kids are of prime age, and it's been about five years and one child since we were there last. Aside from the featureless drive that is I-5 (or "the 5" in So-Cal parlance) I'm looking forward to it. Sneer at the crass, sanitized commercialism that is the Mouse Empire, but I say that it's a totally different thing with kids in tow. Growing up, I made the trip to Orlando a few times -- most notably for my honeymoon -- but Disneyland has a much cozier vibe to it. Anaheim is still relatively low-key, and the park itself feels more snug and compact, more kid-scaled than the sprawl of D'World. (Those missing the sprawl should spend time at the newer California Adventure park, which lacks that soulful quality of the Magic Kingdom proper.)

Anyhow, I've been known to kill cameras, and I want to document this visit, but not at the cost of my digital camera. Fussing about it all day in a park filled with water rides, jostling, bumping, and smacking doesn't appeal to me. What I need is a Don't Care camera, something I can toss in my bag or the stroller, and not Fret About for the week. Ask, and the thrift gods deliver...

Ansco Vision Compact 35 Panorama

There's usually a selection of cameras at the store, but this one caught my eye because:
  • It is, as claimed, compact, a comfy pocket-size, just a touch thicker than the Lomolitos.
  • Classy, all-plastic construction.
  • The flash might work: hard to tell, since there were two batteries hopelessly encrusted inside (now removed.) Also, the promise of red-eye reduction. We'll see.
  • Oooh, panorama mode! Check out this photo set for some (nice!) examples
  • It was a buck.
That last selling point got to me. Armed with this, and somes rolls of film from the 99-cent store, I can go on a snapping frenzy for less than an in-park sandwich. After all, aren't family vacations made for random snapshots? I might just leave the megapixels at home this time.

Update: after de-crudding, the score is Red-Eye Reduction 1, Flash 0. The capacitor charges up and the red-eye light comes on, but no flash. Flash photography is generally forbidden anyhow, so this will be the outdoor snapshot camera. I'm running a r0ll of expired film through it now.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Hope in a box

Kodak Brownie Flash 20 and batteries After spreading doom and gloom about film's desperate future at another typer/photog-blog (sorry Chris), I spent some time poking around flickr, trying to encourage myself into thinking that we won't be living in a celluloid-free world anytime soon. I'm always on the lookout for new things to add to my "dates of interest" section on the site, and I'd forgotten about the upcoming "Take Your Box Camera to Work Day" in February. Certainly more boss-friendly event than Bring Your Offspring to Work Day (at least for those of us with curious tykes) and a suitable salute to the dying art of film photography. Box camera photography would be the original Lomography, minus the jazzy colored flash and hipster overtones. There's certainly a greater dependence on chance and luck and your ability to estimate a 7.5-8 ft distance between your lens and the subject. Exposure is a matter of chance, too -- just hope you hit that magic combination of light, film speed, and shutter timing (dodgy even when the cameras were new.) I'm thinking about participating this year, respooling some 120 film to fit into the Brownie Flash pictured. I've already tried my hand at using the faux TLR Duaflex IV, but even that camera offers options. The Brownie Flash is literally a point-and-click (and hope) in a box.

I'm also thinking that this might be a good time to dig out the old film developing equipment again. I'm not equipped for color film, which requires a far amount of noxious chemistry and preciseness with temperature. Black and white can be done at the kitchen sink, and allows a certain amount of latitude (i.e., fudging.) Since the local camera shop can provide me with film and chemistry and they're just a quick walk from the office, this seems like as good as a time as any to get back into processing. I hope that I'm wrong about the extinction of film, that it doesn't become such a novelty item that it is priced beyond the range of mortals who just want to drop a roll into a decades-old camera with shaky optics and minimal choices ("wind" "shoot") and see what develops.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Seeing yellow

Lomolitos, yellow A coworker left this little Lomolitos camera as a gift while I was on break. I'm not qure how I feel about the whole lomography "movement" -- it certainly smells faddish, especially passing off the results of super-cheap plastic cameras as arty, and the directions within are expressly defiant of all things Serious Photography (disregard framing, flash and focus distances, etc.) I've been trying to relax about all of this and snap some yellow-tinged photos just to give it a whirl. This camera is closer kin to the all-plastic cameras you'd find at the dollar store than to a true one-use camera. The film and battery can both be replaced in the Lomotios; this is lucky since I needed to do the latter right away to resurrect the flash.

Except for my typical paranoia about taking photos in public places, I'm enoying toting this little thing around. I'll work on finishing up the roll and scanning the results.