All posts in Thought

Beloved Mother

When I lived in Washington I’d drive my 2 year old to a day care four towns away in the morning. There was a freeway but usually I took the back roads through semi-rural properties in suburban Douglas Fir greenbelts and being Washington, usually it was wet and gray.

Sometimes I’d stop at Starbucks and get coffee and oatmeal, and give the raisins to my daughter, reaching back while driving to place them in her outstretched hand. On certain days I stopped the forward motion of our routine for no reason and pulled into the roundabout parking lot of a nearby cemetery.

From the road you’d see a few well-placed graves continually refreshed with seasonal mementos, pinwheels, flowers, balloons. The grave closest to the corner was white stone with a handprint and for maybe a year or more I thought it was the grave of a child, until once I went for a walk there and read it up close: Jill Evans, Beloved Mother, Daughter, Wife. In her living years perhaps she did daily laps like mine, transporting children to their social stations, each member of the family going to their separate classroom or workplace by the appointed hours. Each morning my intuition tries to get a word in about this routine, but it’s a tide, and I’m swept in it.

My daughter eats her raisins without comment and looks serenely out the windows as I start the car again, she takes in the graves and the douglas firs matter of factly, her round face is crushing to my heart as I catch sight of it in the mirror while turning onto the road. Today she’ll sing songs and turn pages of some beat-up board books, and walk outside in the play yard wood chips in the misty rain with her fleece sweatshirt while I walk hurriedly from meeting room to meeting room.

On emotional honesty and art supplies

Well, this page used to contain a collage, and the image link broke. Which is a bummer.

Quora.com: A public record of retrotech?


I’ve lately been fooling around with a web site called Quora.com, which is a trendy new social media question and answer portal (probably there are several ways to describe its functionality; that’s as close as I can come). Here is a Time Magazine article about it, and another on Mashable.

Quora is complicated. It incorporates aspects of different social media platforms (voting answers up and down like Digg, followers and following like Twitter, the ability to edit others’ entries like Wikipedia) and currently, in its early adoption phase, seems to favor social media hot shots who’ve brought a lot of acolytes with them onto the service. The nattering nabobs of interweb tech blogging are not sure whether it’s The Next Big Thing or A Terrible Idea, and they’re currently burning up the social media echo chamber with their bloviations on the topic.

As retrotechies, why should we care? Perhaps we shouldn’t. All I know is this: Quora has a ‘typewriter’ category. I’ve populated the five or so questions that have been posted there with my answers, as part of my ongoing attempt to evangelize the typecasting movement. To quote Speculator:

“Like Tom Furrier says, “all it takes is a reminder.” And that’s just it. People see how practical and instantaneous and portably efficient typewriters are- combined with the charm of the mechanisms, and ideas are born- such that more folks go looking for their own typewriters.”color>

I’d like to see all of us take opportunities, where they exist, to provide thorough, thoughtful information about typewriters and retrotech for this reason. The more typewriter users and fans we can create, the more hope there is for typewriter shops, ribbon manufacturing, snail mail, and typewriter social networks and events.

For some time, Wikipedia has had a definition of “typecasting” (I do not know the author, do you?) which is the only example I know of a reference to typecasting outside of the typosphere itself (although, recent stories in local newspapers about type-in events certainly qualify as such, now that I think about it). I’d like to see more. As a technical writer, I have long worked in organizations that think first to evangelize products within their own web sites, but the truth of the matter is, social media platforms are where people hang out. You have to bring the message to the platform if you want the word to get out.

And so, Quora provides one such opportunity to sign up, answer questions, and ask others, thereby building an official and high-quality external record of information about retrotech. I think it’s worth considering as an act of “typostolate,” a term coined by Speculator to describe the act of evangelizing retrotech.

New typecasting blog: Analog Dog

Over the last year I have been in and out of the typosphere, and whenever I wasn’t looking, great new typecasters seemed to pop up. I try to pride myself on having a comprehensive typosphere blogroll in “The Typosphere” section to the left of this blog, but sometimes blogs get missed. Today I just stumbled across Analog Dog in the blogroll of Magic Margin. Analog Dog has it all — typecasts, gorgeous photographs, typewriter ponderings, even videos! (Been meaning to post about the general lack of videos in the ‘sphere – I even bought a flip camera intending to do them myself and still haven’t managed it).

I wonder which other typecast blogs I haven’t found yet? Are there any I’m missing?

You are not a Gadget

A BAROP if you have not met one is a Big-Ass Roll of Paper which allows for endless typewriter rambling without page breaks. I recommend procuring one post-haste. They tend to be found rolling around eBay at reasonable prices.

Since it is Silent Type season, I would be remiss if I did not mention that I gathered up a large parcel of submissions from the PO box today (well, the husband picked them up actually, credit where credit is due) and the spreadsheet should be more or less up to date.

Do you still intend to contribute, but are worried you can’t make the April 1st date? Please let me know. I’ll see what I can work out. I am impressed though that, unlike with issue 1, I have critical mass before the deadline. Nice work, everyone.

PS: This post written with a Lettera 22.

It’s getting better all the time

Although unfortunately not true, I thought perhaps that title would serve the dual purpose of getting a Beatles song stuck in my head, and permitting me to mention that I have been (and continue to be) unwell of late, which is why there have been few to no posts. Hoping for a return to healthier days (and more frequent posts) soon. Incidentally, how is your submission for Silent Type II coming along? See the link at left if you have no idea what I’m talking about.

‘The Manual Typewriter ideal,’ or why Linda Holmes thinks you are a moron

Just read an interesting article in The UK Guardian Observer by Tim Adams about the pitfalls of our general cultural movement toward the “always on” model of personal digital engagement. Some interesting quotes:

Slowly all the aspects of the world that were formerly external to us, out there – friends, shops, newspapers and now books – are being accommodated into this space, so that they can be contained almost entirely on our personalised screens.

We are quickly moving toward an era that will allow each of us to become the editor of our own newspaper and director of our own television schedule; our computers will help us in this process, listen to our histories, define our likes and dislikes and recommend accordingly; they will be our personal shoppers and cultural critics, reinforcing our tastes…This new solipsistic power, however, is unlikely to be without consequences.

Will anyone who is “always on” have the concentration to read the great social novels – those ultimate “interactions” with the world – on a screen? Will anyone be able to see far enough beyond themselves to write one?

If those seem like reasonable points, The Manual Typewriter Ideal, a rebuttal of sorts by Linda Holmes at NPR.com, is likely to annoy (if not solely because of the title, which implies that people who value traditional methods of reading and writing are, well, morons).

Linda Holmes fancifully calls the Guardian article “a distilled version of what people who hate the Internet believe about it,” and goes on distort most of the original’s points to support her curiously strident thesis. When I finished her piece, I remain unconvinced that we read the same article, but then again, I value traditional methods of writing and reading, and therefore, am likely a moron.

What is ‘literary’ in the post-typewriter age?

HomeShoppingSpy declares trendy the motif of the typewriter as an element of design. (Easy, now. I know there is a keychopped ring in there. Let’s set that aside for a moment.) This windy tome, as I recall, discusses typewriters as writerly talismans, accenting jewelry, soundtracks, and book covers to impart the fine mist of literary nostalgia upon the watcher or wearer. It’s becoming a cliche, in fact, this notion of what is “literary:” Lone writer at a desk. Mid-20th century. America, or Europe, perhaps. Typewriter. Cigarette. A certain stylish cut to the clothes. It is something more than words.

Can one be ‘literary’ in sweatpants, writing on a Macbook? Can one be ‘literary’ tapping flash fiction on a T-Mobile Sidekick? I’d argue that the word is rooted in the now-romanticized idea of a writer in a sportscoat at a desk, 1950-something, typing away at a Smith Corona. Whatever we’re doing now with our microblogged soundbites or .docx files or Skyped conversations is not literary, even if the result is literature.

Or is it?

A random nervous breakdown unrelated to retrotech in any way

To this I might add, congratulations to my dearest friend. I’m sure I’ll man up for this occasion. Just had to panic on paper for a bit…

Oh, and here’s a dumb top-40 list of obsolete technology from MSNBC for your enjoyment, complete with yet another of the many endless references to that apocryphal NY Post story about typewriters and the NYPD.

On blogging, and the Kodak Kodaslide tabletop slide viewer

Today I saw a presentation at coughcoughMicrosoftcough by Scott Rosenberg about his book Say Everything: How blogging began, what it’s becoming, and why it matters. On the topic of ever-evolving media forms (e.g., blogs replacing old media, Twitter replacing blogs, etc.), he indicated that no form of media truly extinguishes another. “The new medium redefines the old,” he said, “and helps us see its essence.”

I’d like to think that this is what blogging does for the typewriter. Did typists of the past ever imagine that someday, tactile sensation would be mostly expunged from the act of forming written thoughts? That new disposable technology would create great amounts of toxic refuse, and require expensive investments on a regular upgrade cycle? That typewriters, machines in regular use for 100 years, would quickly become nothing more than jewelry, movie props, and shorthand symbols for technophobia, due to our ready reception of marketing messages that tell us mechanical equals obsolescence?

And, climbing off my soapox, I turn now to the long-neglected topic of the Kodak Kodaslide tabletop slide viewer (bonus points to anyone who can find solid interweb documentation of this device; I could not). This fully functional early 50’s era electric tabletop slide projector has been sitting on my dining room table for a month (at least), waiting for me to do a post about it. Originally, I filmed a videocast demonstrating it in use, but it turned out that *I* appeared in the video, in all my fast-talking camera-unreadiness, and so only this lone frame (and the one below) of the original film has been salvaged. (I might perhaps re-film the demo, provided I can find a suitable spokesmodel. The husband, perhaps?)

It’s quite a convenient alternative to slide projectors and screens and whatall if you have a stack of slides you’d like to view. However, my own parents are hoarding any slides of relevance to me in an Arkansan hallway closet full of 50 year old clothes and bags of expired personal beauty products (dad, you KNOW you need to clean those closets), and thus, I unfortunately have no use for it myself, despite its delightfully retro-futuristic pod-shaped form and distressed vintage case. It was given to me by a friend of my husband’s, who knew it would be just the thing for a Strikethru post.

Could anyone out there make better use of this item than I can? You KNOW that you need a Kodaslide tabletop viewer. You have my permission to brush aside any family members/second thoughts that argue otherwise, if this device will serve your slide-viewing needs.

It even comes with handy slide drawers and a replacement lightbulb: