Monday, August 22, 2016

Love Me Forever: Phoenix Type-In Ephemera Surrealist Poem

Hermes 3000 Nekkid-Riter
Today I was delighted to see Ted Munk's posting of typewritten ephemera from the 2016 gathering of the Typeratti in Phoenix, Arizona. This stuff is great because there's an element of randomness to it, as some people just type whatever comes to mind, along with typographical errors; and some more purpose-felt compositions. But there's also an element of surrealist poetry to the idea of collecting an assortment of semi-random writing, from a disparate swath of humanity, and finding some subconscious connection as it is assembled together.

Today I went through my man-bag, after having returned from the Type-In, and found that I had also collected a small sampling of such ephemera, which I am presenting herein. Since my Blogger template limits images to 650 pixels wide, I normally limit my images to that width; but I've decided to break the template in this case. Enjoy.

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Saturday, August 20, 2016

Behold, The Insurgency

Phoenix Type-in
Behold, The Insurgency
Post-Script: I recorded numerous short video clips, which I will make into an upcoming episode of the Typewriter Video Series.

Another observation from the gathering is the variety of favored machines, how every person seems to have their own tastes; yet some machines seemed to be popular with everyone. Certainly the mid-20th century Smith-Corona seems to be consistently liked. I was also pleased that many took opportunity to try their hand with my Hermes 3000 Nekkid-Riter, which drew favorable comments. I was surprised not to see another one there.

Typecast via Hermes Rocket, also well received.

Smuggling Typewriters to Phoenix

Good Times
Smuggling Typewriters to Phoenix

Post-Script: This posting serves as a kind of experiment for mobile blogging, in that both the lead photo and typecast were taken with this iPod Touch camera, the photo using Hipstamatic and the typecast cropped and tweaked in the camera's edit feature.

Once the images were emailed to my Flickr stream, grabbing the links was challenging, as you need to use the desktop version of Safari (a hidden feature accessed by pressing the retry button), then highlight the entire URL, a kludge of an operation that seems to eventually work if you hold your mouth just a certain way, and the phase of the moon is correct. Or maybe my fingers are too stubby and I need to learn the iOS touch gestures better.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Beater Typers

Kerouac Writing Technology

OKAY. I recently came to the realization that for the serious, or semi-serious, or sometimes-serious writer of prose, who chooses to compose first-drafts via the medium of mechanical typewriter, there are some things worth taking care with, while other things don’t matter so much.

One of those things not worth worrying about is the quality of imprint. These are to be typings that no one else in the entire universe, save for one’s estate trustee or poor offspring stuck with the duty of disposing of your life’s detritus, will ever see; unless you’re one of those few whose writings are of a caliber worth the attention of some university institution.

SO! Quality of imprint doesn't matter. What does matter are other things.

ONE! Legibility. The letters so printed need merely to be readable, so as to facilitate later transcription into one’s word processor for that lengthy, middle-period of revision. But they needn’t be printer- perfect.

TWO! The mechanics of the typewriter need only be sufficient for the job of putting down legible words on paper, to later be transcribed. Nothing camera-ready here. Nothing fit to be published or shared with others, just inked words on paper, that you alone will read.

THREE! Haptics need to suit the writer. All important, this issue of feel, for how the two individuals, the one machine and the one writer, meld into a more perfect cybernetic union, which is that all-important physical sensation of pleasure for the writer, doing the Lord's work of creating literature out of thin air, powered by nothing more than cheese burgers and beer, has everything to do with the success of the endeavor. Even if the machine has some serious issues (like this one, for example), if the feel of the thing - the haptics - are good (like this one, for example), then the fit is right for it to be that all-important first-draft writing machine.

NOW! I will make a pronouncement. That the best, prettiest, sleekest machine in one’s typewriter stable might not be the best suited candidate for the job of workhorse typewriter. Like that stable of fine cars in Jay Leno’s garage, you wouldn't want to use that rare, exotic sports car for one’s daily commute. Doesn't make sense. You leave the pretty stable queens to primp and preen and so be ready for Friday nights out on the Strip; meanwhile that worker’s machine does the daily grind of making a living.

FOUR! The dichotomy should be striking, that one could be found to be creating some dang fine piece of literature using that most humble of writing instrument; that what mattered wasn’t the punter’s concern of fancy paint and shiny nickel trim or brand name, but that this old, ugly junker was a humble tool; that the work of writing is what happens between one’s ears, then to be worked out in fits and starts upon some cantankerous, curmudgeonly clunker of a tin-plated typer. It’s the dichotomy between the humble status of the beater typer and the finery of the resulting work. BEATER TYPER: that’s something to be proud of, that one went out of their way to find and use the most beat of the beater typers as one’s daily workhorse, that’ll take you from point A to point B reliably, though perhaps not in style or fashion.

FIVE! Elite font size. You want to not only be using that nearly endless roll of teletype paper, but to fit the most letters on each line of type before the inevitable interruption of the carriage return.

Beater Typer

SIX: TRUNK TYPER! You won’t always be chained to your nearly endless roll of paper, that Jack Kerouac-inspired technology, but might want to be out and about on short notice, for one never knows when inspiration might strike. It’s like lightning in that respect. So the Trunk Typer is the one you keep in your car at all times, year-round, come hell or high water. And it needn’t be that ultraportable, svelte runway model of a typewriter, regardless of how much you want to show her off. More apt would be a chunkier, middle-weight job, a serious working typer, a bit of a beater in appearance and performance but one that’ll get the job done. It’s not like you’re going to carry it very far ... it’s in your car, after all.

SO! Here’s what the serious typewriter-using writer should consider. That one’s writing station, during that all-important creative first-draft phase of writing, should be the typewriter chained to the nearly endless roll of paper. For me, it’s a wooden folding tray table, paper roll mounted underneath to a dowel rod between the table’s legs. It’s portable enough to easily move around various parts of my home, since I don’t always write in one spot, but like to break up the monotony.

Your needs might be different, I don’t know; but for getting yours gears well-oiled and spinning with endlessly imaginative outpourings of creativity, nothing beats a good beater typewriter well-suited to your person, where you don’t have to worry about every nagging issue (maybe it skips spaces or the letters aren’t even - but so what?), but it works well enough to easily put words down on paper that you alone will read. A beater typer is your true friend, your best friend, as a writer, because you have no higher expectation than it perform to that minimal requirement. It's imperfections are what makes it charming. After all, you’d be afraid to crank out a 50,000 word novel on your museum-grade cabinet queen, afraid you’d wear it out; but not so the beater typer, it has nothing left in life but to serve you, it's one true Master.

Typecast via beater Smith-Corona Silent-Super.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

First Draft Writing

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Post-Script: I'm reminded that there are a number of writing applications that purport to make the writing process via laptop computer less distractive. Yet at the same time I can't help but think that it's not a problem with Microsoft Word, but rather with the computing platform itself, wirelessly and incessantly connected to the World Wide Web.

Alternatively, since I'm not a working writer, perhaps I don't know what I'm talking about. But the times I've been the most creative have been those times when I've purposed myself to sit down and write. It's a specific decision a person makes, despite the risk of so-called writer's block. To sit down and put words on paper. Yes, on paper. I do think the paper helps to make the thoughts tangible, though that might be a mere psychological trick. But whatever works.

I've included as the second photo my old Underwood Olivetti 21 and the L.A.R.O.P. - Little Ass Roll Of Paper, the junior-sized version of the Jack Kerouac-inspired endless scroll. I had to find this narrower (6" wide) white paper at Napa Auto Parts, used for masking cars prior to being painted. It's white, but isn't letter-writing perfect for taking typewriter ink; but for first-draft writing it's sufficient, if you need the narrower size; and the first-draft writing process with the endless roll of paper is remarkable. Set your machine to double line spacing, set the margins about one character in from either edge, and start typing. And don't stop. Just keep putting words on paper and slinging the carriage back and forth, and before you know it, there's a long tail of paper hanging off the back of the machine, piling up on the floor, and you find yourself with a sizable amount of words written to paper. When you're done, either accordion-fold the scroll into page-sized pieces or cut it up and bind it together; whatever works for you. The double spacing means you can immediately begin proof-reading and revising what you've typed, via pen or pencil. I've found this to be the most efficient way to get words down on paper using a manual typewriter; and the narrower size makes it easier for the scroll to slide back and forth sideways with the carriage motion, compared to a full-width scroll of paper.

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Sunday, July 31, 2016

VCRs and the Test of Time

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Post-Script: There was a time when I was engaged in video editing strictly using analog video equipment, editing Hi8 video footage onto S-VHS. It was a fun process because one had to learn to time the back-roll of the recording deck, in order to get an accurate edit. The audio production was a bit more challenging, since only the low-quality linear audio tracks could be dubbed. I learned to compensate by using a Tascam 4-track cassette-based mixer for the sound production, edited ahead of time and rolled into the production as the video edit was progressing.

These days, the simple method I employ of iMovie on the iPad is so much easier; but I do look back upon those former days with fondness, as we learned to work around the limitations of our equipment.

I made a number of experimental videos throughout the '90s and into the aughts. And made a short movie with a buddy, "Bosque Abduction," wherein I star as the bad guy. Lots of fun.

Regarding the two movies mentioned in this piece, here's a link to Citizens Band (also known as Handle with Care), and The Last Broadcast.

In the early days of VHS and Betamax, before copy guard technology, it was possible to get a good copy of a laser disc movie onto video tape. Also, many films released to laser disc were unavailable on tape, and so copying was commonplace. Not that I would ever think about doing such a dastardly deed, but in our contemporary setting of digital audio protected by the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), the lawyers would be running around in circles at the thought of someone copying audio via analog means, which is pretty much impossible to protect against.

I still see piles of VHS movie tapes in thrift stores, but rarely if ever consider purchasing any. Mostly it's because the titles available are of little interest to me; but also because playing someone's used tape is kind of like unprotected sex; you don't know if the tape was badly mangled at some point, which could clog or even destroy your deck's video heads; or if grease or other debris is on the tape, again presenting a danger to your equipment. This is especially important these days when you consider the gear is irreplaceable and unrepairable.

Oh, and in case you were wondering: yes, Betamax was superior to VHS. So there.

Photos via Fujifilm X10. Typecast via Corona Standard.

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Archiving Digital to Paper

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Post-Script: I was surprised the software worked as well as it did, glitch-free and with such ease, finding my scanner and printer with no fuss, converting the file to and from paper with no hassle. Obviously well-engineered by someone who knows how to code. One sheet I used for the printout had one corner previously marked up by pencil (I obviously made no conscious attempt at providing archival-quality paper); during the scan, I could see that corner showed a bit of yellow and orange in the data map provided. Yet the error correction coding worked well enough to reconstitute the file in its entirety.

Yes, it sounds like a crazy idea, but it works! Which brings to mind the thought of what is it in my personal affects that's important enough to warrant this kind of backup? If all it does is serve to raise these kinds of questions, then it's a valuable tool.

Here's a link to the PaperBack website. And here's a link to an article about it.

Typecast via Corona Standard.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Weird Typing

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Post-Script: I think this weird typing discovery came out of some intensive typing sessions this last week, during which I was purposefully touch-typing a lot on my newly acquired Corona Standard, whose ergonomics are wonderful and exhibit none of the issues the Hermes 3K showed. Wanting also to rapidly type on the Nekkid-Riter led to my discovering these subtle problems needing fixing, which in turn led to the fact that, at least for mechanical typewriters, I'm now weird typing. Interestingly enough, when I try this same weird typing technique on my PC keyboard I get none of the good effects. It's certainly a mechanical issue between my hands and the machine; something I've come to term "cybernetic," since manual typewriters are one of those few devices that truly operate as an intimately connected system of body and machine.

Regarding the last blog article, about Type-Texting, I haven't yet taken the time to practice, as I've been consumed in my spare time with YouTube videos and some film photography. But I've finished the book "Track Changes," an authoritative history of the word processor, and I garnered lots of thoughts along the way about typewriters and their place in the modern writer's work-flow; which I might write about in the coming weeks. Some of those touch-typing session, alluded to earlier, involved brainstorming some of my thoughts on this subject.

Inspired by the book on word processors, I dug out an old MSI Wind netbook computer that's been sitting in a cabinet for the last five or six years. Its WiFi is essentially nonfunctional, but it does have installed a version of Open Office, so it's essentially a non-Internet connected word processor. I did a bit of writing with it too, fleshing out some of those manually-typed pieces done on the Corona, and so I've used this as an opportunity to experiment with combining typescript into an otherwise all-digital writing process.

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