26 February 2011

Mr. Whimsy, or Why I Heart James Gurney

Photos by me

Ok, I don't even know the guy, but James Gurney's Dinotopia books have been a mainstay on my bookshelf for years, ever since they were first published. I have a large print of his "Dinosaur Boulevard" painting from the first book and a puzzle version the same which I pull out and assemble every few years.  And, glory of glories, I even have a Dinotopia-inspired pitcher and two matching cups that I made a decade ago at one of those paint your own pottery places.

More recently, I've been enjoying (and learning a great deal from) Mr. Gurney's two books, Imaginative Realism and Color and Light.

His blog is a wonderful variety of show-n-tell, solid and entertaining art instruction, informative exposition, and on occasion, just plain silliness.  Like the series of videos he did sometime back promoting Imaginative Realism, one of which starred his budgie, Mr. Kooks as the Parakeet Artist.  His deadpan delivery and the smooth and spot on documentary-commercial production make this piece just delightful.

This week Mr. Gurney posted a video that all of us in the frozen Midwest can appreciate.  Talk about catharsis!  Take THAT winter!!  Thanks, Mr. G!  I have to shovel the sidewalk now (again!), but will do so this time with a song in my heart and a chuckle.

Links to Mr. Gurney's various sites:

His artist website
His blog
The Dinotopia website

22 February 2011

Homage to Typewriters, Machine and Human

There is this thing called the typosphere where aficionados of manual typewriters carry on the tradition of making words in old style fashion.  Bloggers of this ilk post typecasts in which their posts are scans of their typewritten texts. They gather in places such as Yahoo!'s Portable Typewriter Forum.  Some are inspired to organize Type-Ins at local bookstores.  And some creative types establish quasi-formal commemorative events such as ITAM (International Typewriter Appreciation Month).

As part of ITAM, a number of folks are posting pics of their typewriter collections.  Here are mine (clicking on the images will let you see them better).

The Detective
A Smith Corona Clipper

So named because it makes me think of something Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler's fictional detective, might use. Actually, The Detective is on loan.  It was the kind gift of Deek at TypeClack, who sent it for my young nephews.  I wrote about that memorable evening here.  The boys are still getting the hang of these machines, though -- tending to smash away despite gentle reminders.  So, for now, I've given them an SC Classic to use, an iron horse of a machine if there ever was.  I look forward to the day when The Detective can be returned. (The inkwell to the left is a "Sengbusch Self-Enclosing Instand" from the early-ish 20th century - made in my own fair city!)

A Corona Four, circa. 1929.

The previous owner of this very smooth, and very clackety typer was a military man and engineer.  He used this machine for school when he got his degree via the GI Bill.  Not surprisingly, he kept it in beautiful condition.

Little Nemo
Labeled "Bradford" on the front and "Brother" on the back.

My first Goodwill find, sea teal in color, with a lovely typing action (and surprisingly heavy for its small size).

Mr. Bond
An Olympia Traveller deLuxe

So named because its case is extremely trim and elegant and reminds me of a well-tailored tuxedo.  Who else would wear such a garment and wear it so well?  The typeface is an elite cursive which I adore.  It came to me by way of the aforementioned, Deek - who really knows how to pack a typewriter well for mailing!

A Smith Corona Super Stirling

A Goodwill find after I swore I would no longer acquire typewriters.  Sigh.  This one is in almost perfect condition, except for the tendency of the 1/! key to hit the metal top when struck.  Its case is one of those tight-fitting zippered models.  My impression was that this was once a student's machine.

A Royal Dart

I am hoping I can figure out the hinky ribbon advance issue for this sweet little machine.  It has a snug, zipper case and types with a clean, quick action. It was my first EBay purchase. (With one exception, all my Ebay buys have gone well.)

The Twins
A Royalite (L) and a Royal Crescent (R)

Both Ebay buys as I searched for the perfect small machine. I rarely use them now. The Twins are up for adoption.  If you are interested in buying or trading for one or both, email me for more specific details about their condition.  (Both have cases, though one case needs some side-stiching.)

The Galileo
An electric Smith Corona SL 470

So named because, when in its sleek-lined, gray plastic case, it reminds me of the shuttle craft of the same name on the original Star Trek series.  It actually belongs to my husband; it was his grandmother's.  I love its smooth action but I get wigged by its speed and the loud sound it makes when in use.

The Iron Duck
An Olivetti Studio 44

I thought I was going to lessen my typewriter load when I gave an old Remington Rand 17 desktop (bought on impulse at an esate sale) to a fellow typewriter person.  We brought it to his office downtown. He loved it, so I felt like I'd done a good deed.  But the karma I'd achieved was instantly returned when he handed me this one in thanks.  He never took a liking to it he said.  The Duck will soon be moving westerly to my brother's house where it will become a working prop in a cool immersion-style theater exeprience for some kids that we are working on for later this summer.

The Boat Anchor
A Smith Corona Galaxie II

Weighs only more than the Iron Duck, above.  It's typeface is small, its action responsive but requiring more force than I am accustomed to.  I love using it but I always get a back spasm when I do.

A Royal Quiet Deluxe

This one had a name at one point, but I use it so rarely that I forgot what it is.  It smells of old nicotine and its innards need a thorough cleaning.  I may spring for a professional rehab for my birthday this Spring!  The item next to it is a 1930s-era Art Deco style Esterbrook 407 inkwell.  It was made for use in post offices, banks, etc. - any public place where people needed to fill out forms.  Sort of the Bic Clic of its time.  A "dip-less" pen was often chained to the well - called dip-less because the nib was designed so that it held more ink.  One can write up to a paragraph before re-dipping.  I have two of them and love using them for my letter writing.

UPDATE - 20 OCT 2011: A new typer has entered the fold! A Smith Corona Silent.  Lovely mocha color with "racing stripes."  Pics soon!

UPDATE - 13 JAN 2012: See this new post for the pics and stories about my latest typewriter acquisitions.

Other Galleries of Typers:

ClickThing (the person who started this wonderfully insane trend!)
Strikethru (in an earlier post I cited her advice on how to buy an old typer - scroll down to notes at the bottom to see the link)
TypeClack (founder of ITAM)
Little Flower Petals (who is also a raging fan of that awesome old tech writing implement, the pencil)
Machines of Loving Grace (a gorgeous reference site - unfortunately so gorgeous that his pics and descriptions are often plagiarized by EBay sellers)

If you've posted your typewriter pics and would like to share them, post the link in the comments section.  Thanks!

20 February 2011

COOL Book: Touchstone

A long time history buff and avid reader; sometimes the two collide most happily.  I like biographies and certain historical eras - in particular Tudor England and anything post World War I set anywhere in the UK. 

Touchstone (2007) by Laurie King is a standalone novel set in England several years after the end of WWI.  An American agent, Harris Stuyvesant, is searching for a man he believes is behind a series of bombings back in the States.

King is brilliant at making her characters solid, credible, and exceedingly vivid.  If I could cast this book, here's who I'd have play the major characters.

Agent Harris Stuyvesant -- Russell Crowe

Captain Bennet Grey - Matthew Goode

Aldous Carstairs - Stephen Fry

Lady Laura Hurleigh:

Carey Mulligan (L)


Emily Blunt (R)

Sarah Grey -- Michelle Williams
Image source 

Sarah Grey -- Samantha Morton
Image source

Richard Bunsen - Christian Bale
Image source

16 February 2011

Even Clowns Have Their Heroes

The anonymous Gentle Author of the deeply creative and soul-embracing blog The Spitalfields Life recently posted on a clown gathering in London: 
"The first Sunday in February is when all the clowns arrive in East London for the annual service to honour Joseph Grimaldi (1778-1837), the greatest British clown – held since 1946 at this time of year, when the clowns traditionally gathered in the capital prior to the start of the Circus touring season."
You can read the rest of the report at this link

"SpitalFields" is a shortened form of Hospital Fields -- [from Wikipedia]: "The name Spitalfields is a contraction of 'hospital fields', in reference to the open land which lay behind and to the east of "The New Hospital of St Mary without Bishopgate" erected on the east side of the Bishopsgate thoroughfare in 1197...."

The Spitalfields Life blog is a compiliation of daily reports about the doings, people, happenings, and history of this small London district.  The writing is splendid; the observations poignant, keen, and appreciative; and the images colorful, exceptionally well-composed, and expressive.

The Gentle Author says "It is my custom to walk everywhere in London and I discover things on my walks, so you will also find stories here from places that are within walking distance of Spitalfields. Like Good Deeds and Everyman in the old play, let us travel together. I promise to keep writing to you every day and it will be an eventful journey we shall have together."

One of the blog's readers posted sometime in 2009 that she found her hope restored reading these entries.  You will too. 


12 February 2011

Postcards Run Amok

I've been invited to participate in an extravagant creative activity - still in the very nascent stages at the moment so there is nothing specific to report and identify.  Suffice it to say it combines several of my favorite activities: making theater-like props, costumes, letter writing, mailboxes, and typewriters!  As things become solidified, I will report here.

One thing I will be doing is creating massive amounts of faux mail: post cards, letters, advertisements, small packages . . . whatever my happy mind can think of.  So it was with great glee that I came across the madly humorous postal artwork of Italian artist Franco Brambilla.  He has taken vintage postcards featuring European settings and enhanced them with images of robots, aliens, and flying saucers.* He titles this collection of postal art Invading the Vintage.

These and many more images can be found at Brambilla's website.

Not postcard-related but definitely along the same humor- and high-technique-related lines is the work of artist John Lytle Wilson.

His acrylic paintings feature deliciously intense colors, the precise lines of old-style cartoon art, and silly, silly, fun topics.  One series he has titled Robots and Monkeys; another Flat Animals; and still another Corrected Paintings. About the last he has this wonderful description: "Occasionally, an artist will paint something, but neglect to include robots and/or monkeys. When I can, I fix that." He fixed my funny bone and art bone at the same time!!

These and more images from Wilson's collections are here at his website.

* Thanks to this Blog rules for the sightings and info.

08 February 2011

Sidewalk Surprise

Last week, on a chilly walk home from the bus stop, I passed a woman who was unloading her car trunk.  She had an armload of papers, magazines, and several bunches of flowers.  As we neared each other, she reached out with one of the bouquets and said "Here, take these!."  I was charmed but puzzled and asked "Why?"  "I was just at an event at my church," she said, "and they handed these out.  I told myself I'd give one of them to the first person I saw."  Since were are about to get smacked by another several-day snowstorm, we are happy to have these bright colors on our mantle.

03 February 2011

Cool Books: Early 20th Century Mysteries

World War I Recruitment Poster

I am working on a book about a book - written by a man born in the late 19th century who died in the early 20th century. There is something about that time period that I find so intriguing. Like now, it was a time of much change: the surge of new, never-seen-before machines, social unrest, intense international drama, new musical styles . . .

I've been reading mysteries set in that time period; all well-written.

The Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear.  The action is set shortly after World War I.  Dobbs was a nurse then - now she is a private detective.  Winspear's style can sometimes be a tad precious, but her sense of place and time is powerful as are her characters.

Touchstone (2007) is a stand-alone novel by Laurie R. King.  King is also the author of another series set in the early 20th century about Sherlock Holmes and Mary Russell (Russell being Holmes' protege and young wife).  Touchstone is the dramatic tale of an American agent in England as he tries to track down an anarchist bomber.  King's sense of character is poignant and well-crafted.

Charles Todd is a mother-son author pair.  Test of Wills is the first in a long series involving Scotland Yard detective Ian Rutledge.  Rutledge suffers shell-shock from his time in the trenches and is haunted by the death of a soldier he had to kill. Rutledge, and Hamish - the man who troubles him - are fully fleshed out characters.  The stories are occasionally over-plotted, but believable nonetheless.

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