29 January 2012

They Be Among Us

The Different Drummers, 
the Outliers, 
the Nerds, 
the Geeks.  
They are out there.
Thank heavens and little fishies.
They are out there. 

They type in closets.
They photograph toy rhinocerosess.
They translate ancient Welsh tales into something new.
They write imaginary letters to imaginary people.
They see colors on ice and use their wit.
They walk their sidewalks and find beauty.
They turn wood and turn a phrase.
They go on desert fasts and bring back the stars.
They call themselves by another name and create whole worlds.

They are the Makers.
They bring joy
and all that is silly and fun.
Thank you!

25 January 2012

A Posting of Positive Posters

Main Reading Room, 
Thomas Jefferson Building, 
Library of Congress. 
Learn more about this and other historic areas 
of the Library of Congress by visiting 
Who knew? The Library of Congress has a Flickr photostream of 25 posters from their Work Projects Administration Poster Collection.  Here are just a few (clicking on any one of them will take you the LoC Flickr posters).

National letter writing week, Oct. 1-7 (LOC)

See America (LOC)

Visit the zoo (LOC)

Be careful near machinery (LOC)

The vacation reading club - join now at your public library (LOC)

FYI: The Library of Congress Flickr account contains 14,744 images to date!  Check it out here.

23 January 2012

Build Your Own -- Little Tiny Library

Early on in the life of this blog, I had a post about portable libraries.  The idea was to bring books to people.  Here's another, highly entertaining and creative way to do it.  A well-written story (and more pics) about Little Free Libraries is here at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online.  What a great idea for home schoolers, perhaps.  I can imagine something like this posted near a community garden or local farmer's market would be pretty fun.

And below is the video that accompanies it.

21 January 2012

Packages for an Imagined Event: Item 9

Our world-building for the Summer Wizarding Event was extensive.  In addition to creating the back story and current set up for our unique school of magic, we invented an entire series of schools throughout the Western Hemisphere.  Their histories were not as detailed; indeed the information changed depending on the world builder!  For our main story, there were three other locations that were mentioned in the pre-event monthy newspaper: Canada, Mexico, and the Pacific Northwest.

In writing the many letters our students received, I created fictional letter writers, several of whom were currently studying or had studied at the Canadian and Mexican schools.  (Our official WandMaster -- the craftsman who created all the students' and teachers' wands on his lathe -- was stationed at the Pacific site.)

 One of the wands he crafted.
(Each wand was made of 2 different woods 
which were affixed to each other with hide glue.)

The fictional sender of Package 9 had the unique privilege of having been a visiting student for one term at our Midwestern institution.  It was obviously a special memory for her since as she wanted to share in the traditional First Years Welcome Letters project!

This package measured about 7x5x4.  Correctly stamped and tied well, the address, however, showed a wizardly disregard for specifics!  But our trusty Pony Express rider had no problems delivering it, being of wizardly bent herself!

The box (found at Goodwill for $1.99) had a lovely, Old World feel to it. (And only in setting up this post did I realize the front side of the box had an image of a globe on it!)  It had a clever clasp and was a little battered, as if well-used.

The interior of the box was flocked with black, making it seem a bit like a "treasure box."  I let that be my guide as I looked for the items it would hold.  The first was a brass tea light holder - fictionally christened as a Fire Lamp.  In the black faux suede bag I put a handful of multicolored glass stones.  The 12-card set came from my box of special past treasures.

Back in the 1990s when I owned and operated a rubber art stamp mail order company -- the first Dante's Wardrobe -- I corresponded with well-known Seattle-based artist Teesha Moore.  

She was the then designer/owner of another rubber stamp company called Ornamentum. The card set was one of two decks she sent me, creations of her own hand.  Unbeknownst to her, the young lady who received this package also received a piece of mail art history! 

The items fit neatly into their box.  All that was needed now was the letter.  Writing the letters always made me nervous at first.  I wanted each letter to be unique.  As the deadline for Event Day loomed, and I worked more quickly on the packages and other props, the pressure to remain focused on the individual child who would open the package became more noticeable.  Fortunately, the image of each child (whom I did not know and, most likely would never meet) and the finished collection of items for each gift acted as a kind of lodestar for each letter.

I broke out one of my typewriters for this letter and one of the faux postage stamps I'd designed for my one-time rubber stamp business.  The stationary was  a leftover sheet of heavy drawing paper.


July, Twenty Eleven

Dear K------,

Every year past N------ students are asked to write letters of welcome to the incoming first year students. Technically, I am not a N------ student.  I am actually a Fifth Year at C--- P------- M------- (in Mexico).  But I spent my third year at N------ as an exchange student.  I thought the Welcome Letters were so cool so I asked if I could participate! Yours was the name I drew this year.

If you get to take Professor E------'s Magical Metals class (Offered in Year 2 I think) you will find the enclosed 2 items of use. The Firelamp and Changing Stones are put [sic - should read part] of the 2nd half of the class.  I've decided to switch into Herbology, so I thought I'd pass these on to you. The cards are just for fun.  We use them to play Whisties here.

Good luck at N-----!
C------- H--------

The letter was trimmed to fit neatly in the box and the whole package wrapped for delivery.  I sat back, relieved, only 10 more to go!

* * * * * * * * * * *

The posts describing these imaginary postal packages can be found grouped here under the tag faux package.  

17 January 2012

Real Delivery of Imaginary Mail

For the last few months I've been reporting on the packages I made this past year for the past summer's Wizarding Event.  Recently, I received some video clips of the kids receiving their mail.  I was able to freeze frame and steal a few images for your entertainment.  The kids' faces are blurred or not shown as per my own policy and my agreement with the event folk to respect the privacy of children. But I can tell you their expressions ran the gamut of shy to puzzled to delighted and amazed. 

The delivery of the mail happened at lunchtime.  The event was only a couple of hours old at the point and the kids were still getting to know each other.  I arrived in my persona as the day's substitute mail carrier: a Pony Express rider from the Western Division of the North American Owl Post.


 I entered via the side door to the basement lunch room.

Our Trolley Lady with the homemade (non-alcoholic) Butterbeer 
created by one of our fantastic crew folk!

The letters I'd created for the "First Year Wizarding Students" were tied up into 19 separate packets. A short while before my entrance, I'd rendezvoused upstairs at the Trolley, surreptitiously received the letters that some of the kids' parents had written to them, and tucked them quickly into the packets. 

I used the red leather bag I carry my laptop 
and sketchbooks in as the Official Owl Post Letter Bag.

I handed out the packets of letters quickly; in part because I didn't want to mess up the schedule of the rest of the actors who where taking a quick break upstairs as they prepared for the next go-round of activities . . .

. . . and, in part, because I knew the better part of the delivery was yet to come: the Perfect Postal Packages!

The packages were a bit of challenge as they were all different sizes and shapes.  I ended up using a recently purchased, canvas duffel bag to carry them in.

I have to say the kids were still a bit puzzled at this point.  One even asked me if it was "okay for them to open their mail."  (It occurred to me later how unusual this must have been for 21st century, text-and-cell phone kids - receiving letters and packages addressed specifically to them!.)

But once a few of them opened their packages, they all got into it; calling out to each other as they discovered their contents.

"Hey, I got a cauldron!"
"Wow, that's so cool - look what I got!"
"Ooh, look at this old lock. Is there a key for it?"
"That's pretty . . .  what is it?"

These 2 young ladies in purple and blue robes 
spoke with British accents the entire day!

These 2 young wizards, below, met only two hours prior 
to opening their packages together and became fast friends immediately!

More packages to open; more letters to read!



Below, the Octyflexor Spellbinder in action. 
(The story behind this package can be found here.)

* * * * * * * *

All in all, this portion of the day was considered a grand success. I was especially happy as I wasn't originally slated to deliver the mail.  How fun it was to see all my postal-project-makings so appreciated.

13 January 2012

New Additions to My Personal Typosphere

Sloganeering for the Typosphere

The end of 2011 bid farewell to two typewriters and welcomed four. The first to leave was a 1940s era Smith Corona Clipper.  

I had christened it The Detective after something I imagined Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler's fictional detective, might use. The Detective was on loan, however, the kind gift of Deek at TypeClack, who sent it for my young nephews.  (I wrote about that memorable afternoon here.)  

As many of us who collect these lovely beasties know, sending a typewriter through the post can be a nerve wracking experience.  Though made of metal (the earlier ones, at least) the machinery within moves and can be broken or entirely ruined by too-rough handling and/or poor packaging.  I was especially keen to return Deek's Clipper back to him in good condition.  Fortunately, I had the box he'd originally used to send a typer to me last year.  I secured the carriage, padded the basket with bubble wrap, and added a little padding around the machine inside its case.  Then I filled the box snugly with packing peanuts.   And then crossed my fingers!

Operating on the assumption that it is always helpful to entertain and compliment Post People of all stripes (U.S. Mail, UPS, DHL, etc.), I made the labels for Deek's package fun and colorful.  My hope is that a happy PostPerson is a careful PostPerson!

[UPDATE:  It arrived safe and sound! WooHoo! Thanks USPS!]

The second machine to leave, was an Xmas gift to my nephew, Driver.  I asked him if he'd be interested in having a 1960s era typer.  He said he thought it would be nice to display in his apartment.  "Display only?" said I, "Then you wouldn't mind one of my broken machines?" He hastily replied "Well, perhaps I might be encouraged to write letters again if I had a working one!"

So off went a Smith Corona Super Sterling - discovered at Goodwill only a few months ago and so new I'd never taken its portrait.  But it looked like the one above.  I included a printout of the SC Portables Manual (kindly posted by Olivander at his gorgeous website, Machines of Loving Grace).

The machines that I acquired were all local.  After a run of no luck at various Goodwill and other second hand shops, I seem to get on roll!  The first machine was a found at an Estate Sale . . . those dangerously, delightful, potentially awesome yet often disappointing events.  (My Beloved Spousal Unit and I will occasionally drive around for the express purpose of locating estate sale signs.  For a cheap date, you can't have much more fun!)

This particular sale was in a ranch house and I thought I'd be unlikely to find anything (I like really old stuff with stories attached, if possible!).  It was the last day of the sale and things were fairly picked over.  And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear . . . over in the corner half hidden by some old newspapers . . . a Smith Corona Silent.

I was a little uncertain about its condition as a number of the keys had a powdery bloom on them. (I have allergies, so I hesitated testing the keys and other mechanicals.)  But I had some Kleenex and covered the powder and tried it out.  Other than that old, smokey attic smell, all seemed in good shape.

It doesn't look too much different from Deek's Clipper, but it has something I've long desired on a machine: Racing Stripes!! Plus it types pica, which I tend to prefer for my letter writing. 

The second machine was $4.99 Goodwill find in almost pristine condition.  And there seemed to be a bit of Typosphere Karma at play:  it was another SC Super Sterling!  This one had a nice dark khaki color.

It hasn't been my plan to acquire a line of Smith Corona typewriters (I prefer Royals), but a machine in good condition for less than $5 is hard to pass by!  Plus this one had those flattish and nicely-sized keys I find so easy to use.

The third machine was one I'd never seen before: an 1970s era Underwood 378.  Another Goodwill find (for $12.99 this time), it wasn't looking too good.  The cover of the case was a shelf over and the ribbon was pulled out and lying all over the machine, which itself was crammed under an old scanner. I duly tested the keys and other mechanisms and found that the cover still attached correctly.

Unlike the very pretty picture at Richard Messenger's OzTypewriter blog (below),

the exterior of my new machine had seen much, much better days.  The case was beat up and scratched and the color, described by some typewriter aficionados as a lovely cornflower blue, was somewhat faded.

The interior, though in need of some cleaning, looked good. 

And the funky, pillow-shaped keys had a nice snappy and quick feel.

This machine goes by another name: Olivetti Lettera 92.  That odd story is relayed (and well illustrated) by Mr. Messenger here.  I hope it to get it up and running in the coming weeks.

My last machine seems to prove a key tenet of the Typosphere: Be nice in the Typosphere, and good things happen! I'd posted to the Portable Typewriters Forum (A Yahoo! group) asking if anyone had suggestions about what typers would be good for some young, rambunctious boys.  Deek sent me a lovely Clipper before I even knew who Deek was!  (We've since become typewriting letter correspondents.)   

So it seems only fitting that my latest acquisition is another Clipper from about the same era.  I had originally helped my sister Cee find it on eBay last year.  I had her over for a test-typing day: set all my then machines out on our dining room table so she could see which one she liked most.  The old Clipper was it - so we went a-hunting.  The eBay seller was a total gentleman and answered our emailed questions carefully and in detail.  He also packaged the machine extremely well.

I offered to buy it back from Cee after sending its predecessor back home.  This one lacks a paper bail - which seems unusual but I don't see anyplace for one to attach, so I guess its normal.  And the typeface is a very wee, but very clear elite with the funny squished question mark that I find so amusing.  

So now a new year begins and I tell myself, no more typewriters.  But then again,  I just saw some very cool pictures of the spiffy-looking and highly compact, 1940s Smith Corona Skywriter. Want!

Ohhhhh, it is a slippery slope we Typospherians navigate.

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