Monday, November 28, 2016

Rituals of Re-Enactment

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Post-Script: I'm a newbie to this whole organizing an event thing, so I've lots of learning in store. But there are some good resources available, such as Ted Munk's excellent Type-In page.

Albuquerque's a funny town. It's hard to predict the response to a Type-In event. News of popular fads and new customs seems to travel here slower than one might expect, inland from the west coast to the high desert. We're usually a few years behind everyone else when it comes to popular culture; although the Internet-based media has helped to reduce the delay.

In my rounds today I stopped in to Field and Frame for a roll of black gaffers tape and talked to Alan Fulford about my ABQ Type-In fliers. He was interested, and permitted me to leave a few for his customers. He also mentioned he had several manual typewriters in the back room. I took a look at one, an Olivetti Lettera 35, that has dirty type slugs and needs a new ribbon. I'm going to bring one by on my next visit, with perhaps a little kit to service his machine. He also has (are you ready for this?) an Olympia SG-1! OMG! It turns out that Alan tweets typewritten poems to his friends. Who woulda thunk?

Typecast via Facit 1620.

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Monday, November 21, 2016

Another Tabletop Tripod

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Post-Script: Bonus Image:

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Now that I've altered the design with discrete tension wires between each leg, this new design is more stable atop a table. I think for the full-sized tripods, intended to be used outdoors on potentially uneven terrain, having the continuous loop system works better to help level the tripod head. Here's a video describing how they work.

Here's the video about my first tabletop tripod design:



And here's the video on this latest version:



Typecast via Facit 1620. Pronounced like "faucet" (I think).

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Monday, November 14, 2016

Facit 1620

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Post-Script: Finding this machine was a pleasant surprise. Finding it for $8 was even better. And finding out that, after being serviced, it types remarkably smooth and clear was an added bonus. This initial round of typing impressed me even more, especially the smoothness of the carriage return, as it uses a peculiar design of tubular bearing housing with radial ball bearings mounted inside a large diameter tube.

Be sure to check out Episode 42 of the Typewriter Video Series for details on how I serviced this machine back to life.

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Sunday, November 13, 2016

Journey to the Center of the Donut

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Post-Script: Bonus Image:
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This city park was once the location of an historic steam locomotive from the days of the Santa Fe Railroad, when Albuquerque was the site of a major locomotive repair facility. That engine, once viewable by the public for free in the park, is in the process of being restored and resides elsewhere.

Typecast via Olivetti Underwood 21.

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Monday, November 07, 2016

Thoughts on 'A Place of Truth'

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Post-Script: I enjoyed this documentary more than I expected; not only because typewriters play a central role, but also Ms. Mott's story is compelling, as is the life of the for-hire street poet. As I hinted at in my typecast, to blog via typewriters is one thing (tantamount to an amateur snapshot shooter wielding a camera); but to type for a living on the streets, that's the real deal.

But there's more involved than the machines themselves; poets like Mott are true writers, despite the venue within which they work. They love the written word and see themselves as carrying on in the tradition of mainstream literature, despite their working setting seeming far removed from academia.

I'm not certain professional street typists have gained the recognition they deserve as an important part of the typewriter renaissance; Abby Mott's blog deserves more recognition, be sure to visit.

Be sure to visit the film's website, and make an effort if you can to watch it.

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

To Stay on the Straight and Narrow

Poised to Write

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Post-Script: Do you remember, just a month or two ago, all the time I spent cleaning, adjusting, typing and typecasting with my more recently acquired Smith-Corona Silent Super? Well, this is its older stablemate, the venerable non-Super Silent, the one with the fixed tabs, and a bit more drab color scheme but in better mechanical condition. In terms of "haptics," this one feels every bit as good as the best mechanical typewriter, but is more compact in size than the larger Galaxy 12s or Hermes 3000s. And, being of elite-sized (smaller, 12 characters per inch), it just works better for me as a first-draft typer, especially with the seemingly endless roll of teletype paper threaded up. It is because of machines like this, situated in my patio room upon the tray table, ready to type up a storm, that I can, at a moment's notice, be creating words upon paper. An imminently practical, pleasurable writing instrument.

I've been taking a liking to this teletype paper. No, it's not a fine quality foolscap of rich vellum, it's instead more like rough, leathery, thicker newsprint. But I like the look it gives to printed words. They're meaty and physical. You can more easily see the ink impressed upon the paper's fibers. The paper's off-white tone looks like it's already aged half a century, like these freshly typed words could have been from a previous era; some sort of typewriter time machine at work, words from the present appearing as if they've come from the past.

The best part of using the roll of teletype paper is not having to thread up a fresh sheet of paper after an all-too-brief session of typing. No interruptions, just pure, nonstop writing pleasure.

The top photo shows a Bic Cristal medium-point in blue ink, one of my all-time favorite writing instruments. If it weren't for fountain pens, this is what I'd be writing with. I've taken to liking these pens so much that I go out of my way to stay stocked up on them; the larger 1.6mm tip versions are also very nice writers. Oddly, they're rather hard to find at my local big-box retail stores. Luckily there's Amazon to the rescue.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Thoughts on Penmanship

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I was reading the New Yorker's website today and came across an interesting story about the teaching of cursive in schools. As anyone knows who has paid any attention to or interest in the subject, or has children in school, it will come as little surprise to know that fewer school systems are teaching cursive writing skills. Much of this has to do with the way that "written" communication is now conducted, via the intermediary of email and texting, instead of ink on paper.

The author of the New Yorker piece was describing his personal experience with his child at summer camp, how he was the only parent who sent postal letters, written longhand, instead of email, to his child.

For many of us who grew up with longhand, ceding those hard-earned skills to technological innovation seems instinctive, yet is a futile battle not worth fighting. Certainly we can do our own part in finding ways to keep those cursive skills in personal use. But resisting the tide of change that has swept over education seems out of our reach, a bridge too far. Who are we to fight the Board of Education?

The part of the New Yorker article I found most striking was the author recounting how, after sending numerous letters to his kid's summer camp, he suddenly wondered if she had been able to read them at all. It turns out that she had to enlist the aid of her camp counsellor in order to get through them. This is the part of the story that is most sobering, the idea that cursive can seem an entirely foreign language to those not adept at its interpretation.

Like most kids raised in the 1960s, I was taught the classic Palmer method of cursive in grade school, sticking with it until, in high school, my habit of rapid note-taking reduced my cursive skills to a haphazard printed scrawl, which it remains to this day. Any attempt to produce textbook-quality cursive for me now is akin to performing calligraphy, a purposeful, slow process of consciously forming each letter; not the flowing ease of writing the technique originally intended.

Perhaps this is one reason why I enjoy the use of manual typewriters so much, the ability to produce legible printing at a rapid pace while enjoying the mechanical interaction. Then there is the observation that, although I enjoy owning and using fountain pens with my coarse scrawl, they are best employed with a cursive hand, to facilitate the continuous flow of ink such a pen demands.

I have some close friends whose kids, now grown, were home schooled, and taught an elegant, printed hand instead of cursive. Their letters are wonderfully legible, even more so than cursive which, though somewhat readable retains some of the more complex flourishes of earlier techniques. So while I can lament the demise of cursive, it's not so much about that particular style of handwriting as it is about handwriting in general being displaced by keyboarding.

I've noticed this phenomenon about pens, especially ballpoints, how they seem to be treated by many people as equivalent to toilet paper, in the sense of not seeming to possess much intrinsic worth or value. These days, if you permit someone, even an intimate family member, to "borrow" a pen, you know with almost absolute certainty that you will never see that writing instrument again, regardless of its actual value. I suspect this has something to do with the value that our culture places upon handwriting as a form of communication, which can seem to many as redundant.

Of course, to us office supply geeks, pens, any pen - even the lowly Bic Cristal - are objects of reverence and honor.

It is perhaps ironic that I was, just this morning, scribbling in my composition book with a fountain pen, in my almost illegible scrawl that is far from the ideal of the Palmer method, prior to happening upon that New Yorker article. And it is with even more irony that this article is being keyboarded instead of handwritten; though I've done few if any pen-casts in my blog over the years, mainly because I respect my readers too much to demand that they attempt to decipher my chicken scratchings.

It is for these reasons that I see my handwriting as best suited for note-taking, brain-storming or first-draft, early-stage writing, an entirely personal activity, intended for private consumption only.

One of the things I find so satisfying about handwriting, whether cursive or otherwise, is that it employs one of those primary physiological attributes that defines us as human, that being the dexterity of our hands. Little wonder that writing is one of the "humanities," and penmanship such an essential historical antecedent to today's writing technology.

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