Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Twain on the Plane

This is one of those blog titles that seemed really brilliant at the time, somewhere in the Las Vegas airspace (note to Speegles: I waved.) It was inspired by reading a copy of Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi that I've had since I was around eleven. I think this is the first time I've read it all the way through, and I'd forgotten how genuinely funny he was. This is hardly news, but it really has been a long time since I've read him -- too long, obviously -- and now I'm eager to read his autobiography. Based on what I've read, Life on the Mississippi sounds like a warm-up for the main event.

No doubt the perceived cleverness of this post's title was enhanced by the fact that I had been awake for something on the order of twelve hours when I thought it up, with another seven or so ahead before I could fulfill the sweet promise of head-on-my-own-pillow. Somewhere between hours one and nineteen, I'd gone from a freezing sleety sideways rain of the Niagara Falls/Buffalo airport, to the flashing, throbbing, chirping sounds of slot machines in the Las Vegas concourses, to the green rain-soaked hills of the Oakland/San Francisco area. My brain and body are still adjusting to the three-hour time shift, and the thirty-degree temperature shift, and as I'm unpacking my actual luggage, I'll leave you with a little mental luggage unpacking as well, in lieu of a real, well-formed blog post. Here goes:
  • In answer to your first question, no, I did not suffer any of the snowpocalypse that buried the midwest and socked in the east coast. By design or accident, the Buffalo area was only graced with "unseasonably cold" temperatures for this time of year, which meant the thermometer stayed sub-freezing for the duration, but did not get Crazy Cold. We saw some snow, but it was mild, and my kids -- native Californians all -- ate it up. Literally, in some cases. You can always tell the ones not brought up in cold weather: they're the kids running around with bare heads and pulling off their mittens to form snowballs. We have sledding-disaster stories in abundance.
  • I thought that my home area was pretty special for having an operable drive-in movie theater, but from the air over Phoenix, I spotted a lovely four-screen example, with each screen positioned at the corner of a clear square of ground, and the snack stand squat in the middle. I was humbled, and impressed.
  • I was also humbled by the usual range of stuff available in the SkyMall catalog. I had plans to liberate one from the seatback pocket in front of me and do an analysis of the products, breaking them down into categories like "hair restoration gadgets" (several), "weight-loss devices" (also several), and "urine-related technologies" (disturbingly many.) In the end, I think this was too scatological, even for me, and let the idea lie.
  • Speaking of in-flight entertainment, if you travel with small children, I cannot recommend a portable DVD player highly enough. I'm not sure my youngest (age three) made a single peep the entire time we were in the air. It's worth it.
  • Also, I'm pleased that my older ones actually looked forward to playing pencil-and-paper games on the plane, especially hangman. When All Electronic Devices had to be stowed, that pad of paper and pen kept us all entertained.
Looking forward to catching up with you folks in the waning of the year, and limbering up the fingers for a type-filled 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dreaming of a Write Christmas

Time to pack up the blog for the year and take it easy for a bit. The kids are getting excited about the growing present pile under the tree, but I'm starting to get excited about the unmarked box on my bedside table, the one holding my 2010 novel draft. Maybe it's not as awful as it seemed a few weeks ago...

Hope everyone has a good season, with whatever form your celebrations take! I'll see you all again in 2011 or thereabouts.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

2010: A Year in the Sphere

Another year is winding down, so I thought I'd round it out with the lazy blogger's equivalent of the clip show: the year in review (from a slanted perspective.) Though there was nothing to equal the auction of Cormac McCarthy's battered beloved Lettera -- and you have to admit that the idea got us all looking a little more closely at our collections -- there were still some notable high points in the past year, arranged in no particular order:
  • The loss of the typewriter repair man. You'd think that this isn't exactly news, and yet it seems like a story that keeps popping up this year, usually alternating places with stories about how "the younger generation" is embracing the tactile world of the typewriter. Like all of you, I'm rooting for the latter and fearing the former. There have been some rumblings that Progress is happening despite hipsters pecking out streetcorner poetry, and that our supplies of spools and ribbons won't last forever. There is no better time to experiment with ribbon re-inking and laying in carbon paper supplies. The type-pocalypse is coming! The crazy old guy on the corner with the sandwich board said so.
  • Gadget compatibility. It may not be coming all that soon, though, thanks to the creation of the USB Typewriter and the subsequent online coverage, which goes to show that the best way to preserve a dying technology is to give it the full Irony treatment. I don't know about the wisdom of using a typewriter and all its swinging metal hammers as a prop for your $500 web browser, but it's a damn sight more useful than keychopping. I'm still waiting for the clever egg to make an electric typewriter/USB hybrid that also acts as a charging base. Now that I would buy. (Not really.)
  • The growth of the typosphere. Some notable names joined the blogging ranks this year: Richard Polt and the Davis brothers got their blog on this year, as did the Cambridge Typewriter Company. All three sites leave me feeling smarter, and not a little bit envious at the same time. So many shinies. And around the Big Names, there's been plenty of ordinary folk embracing the power of the typer. I'd do a poor job of trying to name you all, so I'll defer as always to the big blogroll on Strikethru for your link-building pleasure.
  • Silent Type II: Electric Boogaloo. What more can be said? It's awesome. You should download a copy now. Heck, download two. And that poem on page 11? Genius.
  • Fame, with a dash of civil unrest. Typer-lovers did make some news this year, beyond the bomb-squad-found-a-typewriter-case-and-didn't-recognize it variety. The ouster of artist/writer Skye Ferrante raised enough ire in our circles to send sternly-worded typewritten letters to The Writers [sic] Room, and wag our ink-stained fingers in Stern Disapproval at their sudden dissolution of their typewriter-friendly policies. And just maybe that was the motivation for the upcoming Type-In in Philadelphia? Local friends of the 'sphere: represent! We need photos from this, and audio recordings, too. (And please note the links at the bottom of that page for some familiar blogs.)
  • Meets and greets. Seems like everyone was off at a regional typewriter meeting this summer, including one literally just up the road from my old hometown (sniff.) Thanks to those who documented them, and posted videos on the Tube of You for us far-flung relations to ooh and aah over.
  • Another month with the lunatics. The NaNoWriMo Typewriter Brigade was loud and proud again this year, with even more members, more winners, and more pointless posts that forced us into a second topic even earlier than in 2009. Big kudos all around! I especially like how the Brigade is self-perpetuating, as winners drift in to the topic near the end of the month and post variations on ZOMG! I totally love typewriters! I'm doing this next year! On the follow-through front, I see that Duffy (founder of the Brigade, for you whippersnappers) is trying to drum up some support for the idea of a virtual writing group. I personally think this is fine idea, since I'm all for having people read my stuff as long as I don't have to, you know, see them do it. Please comment, and congratulate Mr. Moon for taking on this noble task (see how I did that, Duffy? That's called management.) Seriously, though: consider.
  • Lucky finds. Those of us collector/users who acquire machines outside of the major online auction site that-rhymes-with-Flea-Day know that finding a typer locally is mostly hit and miss, with emphasis on the "miss." But every now and then you get lucky: a tell-tale case, stuck on a shelf or in a corner, with a criminally low price stuck on it. And then the days or weeks or months of fruitless looking melt away and this is your New Favorite Place. Unless you're Richard Polt, and live in a place where typewriters appear like mushrooms after rain. I had a couple of "hits" this year, but by far my best find was Morticia, the curbside SM3 from this summer. Even though it's a "double" (I have another SM3), and even though it was hopelessly gunked and frozen up, time and cleaning and vigorous swearing loosened up the works where it now types like a dream. It's surely my best find of the year.
Your turn: post your own recollections and reminisces of the year past. Any high or low points for you this year? What was your lucky find?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reboot, Reset, Recharge

20101202 typecast

Typed on Morticia, the Olympia SM-3
"Morticia", the curbside Olympia SM-3, c. 1956
Mysterious gaps due to me cutting out strikeouts with Gimp before uploading

* The "Out of Town" mail slot is a holdover from my rural upbringing. My hometown's post office had (and likely still has) a slot dedicated solely to local mail, though I was never clear on what that actually meant, as the definition of "town" was pretty fluid. I'm afraid that I don't know the specific reason why this warranted its own drop point and bin, though I suspect once upon a time, residents could supply far simpler addresses and the mail would get there just fine: "Aunt June Doe, Main Street." Only the fancy out-of-town stuff would require high-falutin' zip codes and full street addresses. That's my theory, anyhow.

It's been decades since I lived anywhere that had such a setup, but it's so ingrained that I check every single time I walk in to drop off mail, for fear of dropping it into the wrong opening, and inconveniencing a mail clerk. As if sixty Christmas cards in one dump wasn't an inconvenience on its own.