Tuesday, July 10, 2018

2018 Phoenix Type-In Gleanings

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The 2018 Phoenix Type-In was the highlight of my year (so far). Meeting faces both new and familiar, interviewing Typosphere notables, trying out a wide assortment of machines - these are the things that make for fond memories. And also solidifying past relationships, made deeper with more intimate fellowship.

Besides coming away from the event with that combination excited/cozy feeling (and a Smith-Corona Skyriter), I also had a sheaf of typings, gleaned from the plethora of words left upon papers scattered across the tables. I thought little about them until, weeks later, I took the opportunity to study them, only to realize that here were some gems in the raw.

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What follows are snippets gleaned from the detritus of the event. I've taken the luxury of permitting these images to be 800 pixels wide, busting the template for the sake of readability.

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Post-Script: Some of these snippets are rather obvious - commentary on how the particular typewriter looks, operates and feels. This is normal; all too normal. I've attended enough of these events to become a bit jaded when all I glean are commentaries on how people like certain machines and not others. I suppose there is value in this, reinforcement of one's biases. In all fairness, it is interesting to happen across a comment that disagrees with one's own feelings about a particular machine. Like, how could a person not like a Hermes 3000, even if the carriage return lever is a bit high? Each to their own.

But then there are other typings that are wonderfully evocative of notable 20th century literature. Like the little quote from the beginning of Kerouac's On the Road.

And then there are the more cryptic, mysterious typings. Perhaps foreign to me through my lack of exposure to a depth of literature unfamiliar to me. Or truly original and bazaar. These are what I love, the mysterious notes that makes one wonder...

I culled these clippings from pages filled with the likes of "the quick brown fox." And now they remain as little snippets torn and frayed, yet invaluable. I supposed I'll put them in a folder and stash them away. Maybe I should consider putting out a book, of Type-In gleanings, interspersed with typewriter erotica, gleaming black lacquered paint and shiny round keys. Have Mr. Hanks write the forward. Perhaps. Until then, enjoy.

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Monday, July 09, 2018

Pinhole Grid-Camera Fiddlin'

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Post-Script: Here's the YouTube video of this project.

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Monday, July 02, 2018

Typewriter Poet Ashley Naftule

“Adobe Rose” the Royal Quiet De Luxe
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Post-Script: I admire talented people like Ashley. I've wanted to try my hand at public typewriter poetry, but have been smart enough to know that it takes more than owning a typewriter. You actually have to be a poet, with a prolific enough imagination to compose on the spot. Not sure I could do that. Perhaps what I need is a training regimen, like give myself a random assignment and half an hour. Do that several times a week, build up my poetry-writing chops. In the meantime, we have real poets like Ashley to keep us satisfied.

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Sunday, July 01, 2018

Skyriting at The Standard Diner

Skyriting at The Standard Diner
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Post-Script: I carried the Skyriter in my green shoulder bag that normally holds the blue Webster XL-747; I can easily tell the Skyriter is lighter than either the Webster or my other shoulder bag typer, the Olympia SF. While the wide cloth strap is okay when motor-scootering, I'd prefer the padded computer bag strap I use for the Nekkid Hermes 3000 carrying box. It was a warm day, so wearing a summer shirt and shorts felt pretty good on the scooter.

I've liked eating at the Range Cafe for years, so it's nice to know that The Standard Diner is owned and operated by the same family. While my favorite breakfast at the Range has been their huevos rancheros, made with blue corn tortilla and featuring pinto beans, white cheese and fried/baked potatoes (and ordered with red & green Chile - what we call "Christmas"), The Standard Diner's version has a white corn tortilla, black beans and hash browns. I really loved it, especially mixing both chile sauces into the hash browns and breaking the eggs over it. Yes; you can blame me for your sudden appetite.

Sitting in the high-backed, padded booth, I didn't find the Skyriter's noise especially bad; although I think I grasped a bit of conversation across the room involving the word "typewriter," so perhaps they were talking about me? Hmm...

Regarding this issue of narrow-width typecasting, so as to make the words more prominent on-screen, Ted has mentioned the use of 3-1/8" wide thermal paper as a good medium. I'd like to try it, but will wait until I can find some cheap rolls at the thrift stores; otherwise I'd have to spend lots more money on a 6-pack of rolls, enough paper to probably last me a lifetime. For elite-sized font machines, this range of 3-4 inches seems almost ideal for the purpose.

I also remember reading on their menu that The Standard Diner has an old typewriter back by the restrooms, though I didn't take an opportunity to check it out. Which gives me reason to return once again, perhaps with better video equipment than the little iPod Touch. Even so, perhaps that makes this venue a bit more typewriter-friendly.

Now, regarding motor-scootering. Yes, riding two-wheeled vehicles is intrinsically riskier than being enclosed in a metal cage, especially in today's world of phone-distracted drivers. What would be a fender-bender crash in a car can easily become a trip to the hospital, or morgue, on a motorcycle. Even so, there's a particular enjoyment to riding. Always wearing a helmet is an essential habit, even in hot weather; though I find the helmet keeps the sun off the fair skin of my ears and face; while in the winter it keeps my head and neck warm.

There are also some good defensive driving habits to invoke when riding, that you normally wouldn't consider if in a car. Visibility is a primary issue, especially when passing cars or going through intersections. Staying out of blind spots is something I'm always conscious of, which involves momentary speed changes to put myself in a more visible position relative to neighboring vehicles. Watching a neighboring vehicle's lane position and speed can give you clues as to their intent to suddenly change lanes. Even on such a diminutive vehicle like my Honda PCX-150 scooter, my head height relative to the road is easily as high as a medium-sized SUV. Regardless, when being followed by a vehicle I try to stay in the left side of the lane, so I'm directly in front of them, in their central zone of vision. When passing through intersections where there's a left-turning vehicle in the opposite turn lane, I will adjust my lane position to the right side so they can see me as early as possible. And watching for cars jumping out from side streets is easier if you watch the spoked rims of their front wheels, where you can more easily detect slight rotational motion indicating they're beginning to roll forward. All these are tactics I've learned that help me stay safe.

If I ever feel especially nervous about riding in traffic (which I usually don't, since I learned to ride on scooters in city traffic), I have the advantage, in northeast ABQ, of taking side streets to almost anywhere else in this part of town, like I would if on a bicycle. That is the essential advantage of living in a grid-like city, the network of side streets between major roadways.

Here's the Ted Munk interview video. Stay tuned on my YouTube channel for the upcoming interviews with Ryan Adney and Bill Wahl.



*About downtown Albuquerque. My grandparents' old house in on Edith near Central, just two blocks up from The Standard Diner.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Smuggling Typewriters to Phoenix

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Post-Script: Yes, we had fun. Do you blame us? No. But you should be jealous. The thing to do is organize your own Type-In, build your local typewriter community. After my first visit to the Phoenix Type-In several years ago I was inspired to start similar events here locally. Because no one else was going to do it, and I want to see a vibrant community closer to home.

I posted an overview of this event, the embedded link is below. I'll also be posting follow-on interview videos, stay tuned for that.

What do you talk about when you're driving cross-country with a fellow typewriter nerd? Typewriters, obviously. Sometimes the conversation goes far afield. Like when Kevin was driving and I was daydreaming, and came up with the idea that perhaps I could figure out how to build a prototype typewriter out of mainly wooden parts, something a crafty person could do at home with basic tools. Wood, some metal bits, strings or wires. What would be the point, you ask? Why, to start a DIY typewriter movement, of course. People more skilled than I would 3D print the parts, but I see it essentially as a piano-like mechanism. Start simple: upper case only, perhaps carbon paper at first to negate the need for a ribbon system. An all-mechanical device, bigger than a real typewriter at first. Maybe sell kits that people could assemble. Would I actually do this? Hard to tell. I'm a dreamer, always coming up with hair-brained ideas. Maybe you can take this idea and run with it.

I spent a bit of time this morning, between editing video, working on the Skyriter. It took a lot of degreasing and cleaning to get it running right, plus I had to fix the line advance problem. It's pretty good now, except a few letters are not perfectly aligned. But for an elite (12 CPI) machine it has a pretty decent imprint, so I probably won't mess with it further.

Here's that video I mentioned:

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Friday, June 22, 2018

Phoenix Type-In Preparation

Adobe Rose, Howling Coyote, thermal fax paper and holder

Well, it's almost that time. Time to hit the road and make the drive, over the Continental Divide, into Arizona, to attend the 2018 Phoenix Type-In. I've attended this event once before, several years ago, and was inspired enough that it prompted me to start organizing Type-In events here in ABQ.

This time I'll be accompanied by fellow typewriter nerd Kevin K., who will also be bringing a small assortment of typewriters from his collection.

Last week I began the preparation work for attending this event. Not only did I have to decide on which machines to bring, but also on my agenda is doing video interviews of some of the more notable members of the Phoenix contingent of the Typosphere. So I had to assemble a video kit capable of doing 2-person interviews, including those what-if items like spare batteries, memory cards, etc. Because Murphy is alive and well, especially when on the road.

It's expected to be rather warm in Phoenix (understatements being my forte) and this being the off-season, we booked a nice hotel room for a good price. Still, I hope we don't have heat-related issues. There are common-sense steps to take, like don't leave sensitive items in the car when parked outside. And bring plenty of water for the trip.

Kevin and I had discussed making a thrift store tour of small towns on the way to Phoenix, just in case we find some hidden gem of a typewriter waiting to be snapped up. A quick perusal online reveals a handful of thrift stores in Flagstaff. We might still do that, though stopping in every small town on the way is not my first priority. Still, it might be fun to do a bit of thrifting, just in case.

Along with the typewriters and video gear, I'm bringing some typing paper rolls and associated paper roll holders, for people to try out. I've also made a new holder just this week, for using 2-1/4" adding machine paper. Trying it on my Royal QDL, that has an elite-sized typeface, it will permit 22 character-wide lines, sufficient for things like short poems. I'll also be taking the 1/32" thick rubber sheet, which can be threaded into a typewriter behind a sheet of paper and used for dampening the sound of a hardened platen roller. I'd like to get peoples' feedback on how it works in their various machines.

It will be fun meeting once again those typewriter nerds I otherwise only see online. See you there.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Albuqwerty Type Writer Society Meeting

Albuqwerty Type Writer Society Notes

You can't call these meeting minutes. More like rambling, random typings. Scraps salvaged from the aether, as Kevin and I, the two founding (and thus far only) members of the Albuqwerty Type Writer Society have spent a recent evening together on the front porch of his Neo-Victorian mansion, nestled in the north Rio Grande valley of Albuquerque; typewriters, scotch and cigars at hand as we discuss typewriters and whatever else comes to mind.

We have an interesting relationship. Both our wives have the same first name. We both like antique mechanical objects, especially typewriters; although Kevin also has considerable experience with British motor cars. We like geeking-out on these things, while at the same time we seem to avoid controversial topics such as politics, sports and religion. Perhaps typewriters are our religion? Well, I think we both have enough experience with friendships to know there's a certain line you don't want to cross, for the sake of the friendship.

We've met like this on a number of occasions, and it usually follows a similar pattern. We chit-chat, we break out a typewriter or three, we discuss issues we're having, or acquiring new ribbons, or restoring platens - or a plethora of related topics. Then the drink and cigars follow, with more of the same, into the wee hours of the morning. We'll both be in conversation, typewriters at the ready. One of us will be talking intently, the other listening, when suddenly the listener will attack the keyboard and bash out some crucial thought worthy of preservation. It's usually something random, but deemed important enough at the time to document. All the while listening to the other talk. And then the roles will reverse.

We will, over time, swap machines, trying out this one then that one, giving our opinion as to its feel and action. Our typed comments will become a mixture of both our thoughts, an amalgam.

One of these recent evenings we starting talking about forming a local organization dedicated to typewriters. We eventually came up with this name, and Kevin's working on a logo. It's not a formal organization, with Robert's Rule of Order and all that falderal. Just a name to put upon a local community of adepts. Well, I use the term "community" loosely, since thus far there's only us two. But perhaps we will formalize the thing and publicize it, seeking more members. But thus far it's a club of two. Revolutions have been started with less.

The typing shown above is but one example from our most recent meeting. I'd been talking to Kevin about the old grocery store in our neighborhood we call "Creepy Albertsons" (to distinguish it from the newer Albertsons) and the entertainment I derive from late-night visits. He was skilled enough to capture some of the details of the conversation.

Kevin had been playing 78s on his Zenith phonograph when he played Dinah Shore then Doris Day records back-to-back. It was hard to distinguish their voices after all these years.

Then we talked about what key typewriter bells might be tuned to; and if one should use a digital guitar tuner to determine each one's key.

These are the kinds of things that result from our meetings. Nothing earth-shattering. No solutions for world hunger or the ecology. Just good times spent together bonding over common interests.

In the subsequent video I made about our gathering (embedded link below) I discussed the importance of community to our passion with typewriters. Iron sharpens iron, so goes the old saw. Each person brings something new to the discussion, a unique perspective or skill. We all learn from each other. And it's wonderful to fellowship with like-minded individuals.

I'd encourage you, if you're a typewriter aficionado, to seek out others in your local area. Create a club or loose-knit community. Organize Type-Ins. Make you voices (and type bars) heard.

Here's the video mentioned above:

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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Manuals, Electrics and Creativity

Adobe Rose, Howling Coyote, thermal fax paper and holder

See that lovely creature above? No, not the fake coyote, the Royal. Her name's Adobe Rose. I sat down at her this morning and typed out some extensive notes, in preparation for a video, on the subject of creative writing with manual and electric typewriters. I used the roll of thermal fax paper and liked the results. Very dark imprint, which she seems to do easily; better than many other machines in my collection. And a rather clear imprint for being elite-sized typeface.

But these thoughts didn't start today. They were the result of a late-night typing and socializing session I spent last night with fellow typewriter nerd Kevin.

In keeping with my renewed promise to blog more often ("Captain's blog, star date 60618.2"), I'm taking these raw video production notes and throwing them out to the typosphere - warts, typos and all. You can provide your own spell checking.

Being as how the piece was from one continuous roll, I've taken the liberty to divide it into three parts. Afterwards, you'll find a link (malicious advertising) to the resulting video. Enjoy.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Do You Need to Type?

Cigar Store Rooy Typing
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Post-Script: More musings on the art and technique of blogging, written on the little Rooy portable at my local cigar store lounge.

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Monday, June 04, 2018

There's Hope Yet

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Post-Script: On the subject of the AlphaSmart, there's been some discussion recently on the Flickr AlphaSmart forum about alternative devices that offer a similar non-distractive work flow with a great keyboard and battery life. So far, you can't beat a used Neo on eBay (or wherever).

I'm wanting to start making more impromptu blog entries, spur of the moment, off the top (or side, or wherever) of my head. This motivation was prompted by a recent blog entry by Ted Munk, who spoke of the apparent decline of typewriter blogs, from their heyday in the mid- to late-aughts. Part of this is that blogging in general is in decline; but also our attention is being redirected to social media. I wonder also if mobile platforms are just more cumbersome for both consuming and creating blog content.

Whatever the reason, I've decided to get my act together. I know with my focussed concentration on YouTube these last few years, my blog now plays second fiddle. Whereas it once was the primary medium into which my creative thinking was expressed, it's often been used to just advertise a new video over on YouTube; there's rarely new content expressed herein.

There are often little thoughts that break the surface of my consciousness, not big enough to warrant a full-blown (or even half-blown) video production, but something worth tossing into the pond of public discourse in the Typosphere. Little thoughts that might prompt further discussion about things. Or just little observations that might, for no other purpose, serve as entertainment for a few brief moments. These often have been discarded or abandoned. But perhaps they deserve to be preserved here in. The life of the blog doesn't have to be just big articles. There's also little snippets and observations. It is a log, right? A web log.

My older blogging methods were rather meticulous about using a flatbed scanner for type-casts, to eek out the last bit of quality in those images; I've always wanted those images to look like ink on paper, where you see not just black letters floating against a nondescript white background, but you also see the texture, wrinkles and folds of the paper itself. But having to fire up the scanner is often a chore, and chains me to the office computer.

Lately, I've been trying to photograph these pieces, either with the camera in my iOS device, or using a dedicated digital camera. The challenge is always the light, especially evenness of illumination. Even the least bit of shading, from one side to the other, is exaggerated once the levels are tweaked in post-processing. Like today's example; I had flood lamps on either side of the sheet, with a white reflector card helping to even out the exposure. Even so, you can detect that left-to-right shading.

I've decided, on this matter of photographing type-casts, that perfect is the enemy of good enough. It needs to be legible, for certain. Good contrast between the background paper and the ink. It needs to be sharp, both in focus and lack of motion blur. But a bit of geometric distortion (key-stoning, from shooting off-axis; or pincushion) is okay I think. We're not archiving documents for the Library of Congress.

I like more and more the way Ted Munk makes his type-casts, with narrow typed columns and hence large letters on screen. Very legible and readable.

I keep threatening to make a dedicated copy stand for these pieces; perhaps that's the way to go, so I can guarantee even lighting. But would that end up being just as involved as firing up the flatbed scanner? I'd still have to import the images into my computer from the camera and do some post-processing, like levels, rotation and cropping. Well, by using a camera to digitize them, I have the option of not only importing them to my computer but also to my iOS device where I could do the post-process and upload to Flickr, as an alternative method. The only place where the copy stand would be impractical would be blogging while on the road.

Okay, enough about the minutia of the process. What's important is to make the process streamlined, efficient and effortless enough that one (this one) can focus on doing it as often as possible. With results that are "good enough." You might not always like what you read, but hopefully you'll come back more often and visit, to see what I've been up to.

Typecast via Remington Quiet-Riter.

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