28 September 2012

Twin Typers a Decade (or so) Apart

"Twin Sons of Different Mothers is the fifth album by American singer/songwriter Dan Fogelberg, released in 1978. The album was the first of Fogelberg's two collaborations with jazz flautist Tim Weisberg, [the second was]. . . No Resemblance Whatsoever." [from Wikipedia article]

I thought of these gentlemen when, in the span of only a few weeks, I acquired two Smith Corona Skyriters.

The first (on the right) I found at a fairly run down antiques shop down in Milwaukee's Third Ward. I've been there twice and both times was disappointed at the quality of the wares, the haphazard displays, and the often ridiculous prices.  But I'd been wanting a Skyriter muchly and didn't want to go the online route.  

I found this one tucked under the bulbous cases of a rather dirty 1950s-era Royal Quiet DeLuxe and a swinging 1960s turquoise SC Classic 12.  The Skyriter had taken quite a beating it was plain to see.  But despite the wear and tear, it typed cleanly.  The proprietress wanted $50 for it.  I talked her down to $45 with an old wooden croquet ball and a some other knick-knack thrown in as lagniappes. 

The second one I found via Goodwill's online store.  I was looking for "a friend" don't ya know! (So much for my promise not to look online. . . ) The photos on Goodwill are often blurry and the descriptions none too detailed, but this one had great pics and a description that suggested the owner had taken good care of it.  I put in my bid and crossed myself fingers - and was delighted when no one else wanted it. 

It arrived very well packed. (I Tweeted my thanks to the folks at the Oregon shop and emailed the main Goodwill HQ with a compliment as well.)   

Here are some closer views of the wee beasties. (I haven't dated them precisely, but I believe the older one is from the 1940s and its kin from the 1950s.) 

The case for the older one looks as though it went through some hard times.

The younger machine (probably my age, though, now that I think about it), to my great delight, was in extremely good condition with only a single ding on one side.  It types with a nice snap to the action.

The case for the newer machine is very similar to those of my Royal Crescent and Royalite typewriters - a zip-around closure with a double handle.  The Skyriter's case is much better made however, and has a fabric sleeve in the upper cover (which contained a brush to clean the type slugs and a small product card.) 

I'm thinking that I'll eventually sell the older one, but for now it is fun to see them sitting together.  

24 September 2012

VIDEOS: Because Music Matters

The flashmob phenomenon is a wonderful thing - bringing music into unexpected places.  For the performers it is a much practiced-for event; for the audience a spontaneous moment of joy.  I have as much fun people-watching when I see these videos as I do watching the performers.

20 September 2012

"Creativity is Not a Talent," He Said.

A few days after @MarsCuriosity landed at Gale Crater, my beloved Spousal Unit and I caught the freshly-made Martian Mega Rover documentary on the National Geographic Channel.  What looked so fine and perfect on Aug 6th, it turns out, almost didn't happen for so many reasons including tearing parachutes, motor gears grinding against themselves, failing crane cables.  As it was, the launch was delayed by 2+ years so the engineers could invent new machinery to solve all the problems.

 Rose on Artist's grave in 2008.

My late sister, whom I refer to in this blog as Artist, was immensely gifted.  She could paint, design and construct the most elaborate costumes, build miniatures, draw with an amazing eye and most delicate sensibility of line, knit without a pattern, do calligraphy, and could have been an architect for her fantastic sense of space and order.  She spent time and money on her craftsmanship and abilities both at college and at art school seminars.  She was also a very playful person; kids loved her ability to invent and entertain.

In short, she had ability but she worked damn hard at bringing it to a level of expertise that made what was always hard work look easy.  That ease was based on years of practice and work.  (Once, she said, when she was painting a portrait, she was asked what she charged for such commissions.  When told, the person retorted, "Why should it cost so much when it is so easy for you to do?"  What that person didn't get is that what looked easy to him/her was the result of hours, weeks, and years of work.)

Miniature painting of a portrait artist with easel  

Artist was talented, but she could have done nothing with that talent.  Instead she looked for ways to creatively express it.  In one sense she was massively successful; she left an apartment and large storage unit stuffed full of everything she'd ever made in her life.  She made and never stopped making.  But in another sense, she did not succeed.  Except for a small group of people, no one ever saw her work.  Like many artists, she wasn't much of a business person.  My point is not that she failed -- she didn't -- but that having talent, or ability, or intelligence isn't enough.  One has to work one's self creatively to raise one's abilities to the level that connects with others; whether that connection is getting one's paintings in a gallery, or succeeding at getting a room full of children to master fractions, or landing a car-sized piece of machinery on another planet.

This link leads to a blog post about snowboarding 
that says pretty much what I am saying here!

Note, being talented does not = being creative.  Second, being creative does not only mean being artistic.  And being creative does not always equate with intelligence or success. But, as actor and educator LeVar Burton liked to say on his award winning children's show Reading Rainbow, "you don't have to take my word for it."  

16 September 2012

VIDEO: Icelandic Beauty

I'm middle-aged, 6' 4" tall, and have a gimpy knee -- my childhood dream of making it to another planet just ain't happening. (I couldn't fit in a space ship, even if there were such things, and they probably wouldn't have me anyway.)  Still I pretend - by imagining that my laptop screen is actually a window looking out to and at other worlds (real as well as fictional). My favorite wallpaper images, which I change out every few weeks, are typically landscapes.

This one, of a Welsh seascape, I re-imagine as the Rolny Peninsula of Anarres as described by Ursula K. Le Guin in her legendary work The Dispossessed.

Image source/credit*

I took this shot of the Lake Michigan shore when my Beloved Spousal Unit and I went for a walk at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center.  Not sure what planet it might be.  Come winter, though, I'll use it to remind me that Wisconsin does indeed have summers!

Every so often my inner child demands a more fun world view 


At the moment, though, I am totally geeking out 
with this image of the Tarantula Nebula taken by the Hubble Telescope.

@BadAstronomer Phil Plait posted this.
Click here to get that story and the link to the ginormous version of the image.

So very many thanks to Joe Hanson (@jtotheizzoe), author of the science blog It's OKay to Be Smart for bringing this video of Iceland to my attention.  I found myself wanting to book a trip to Iceland as well as imagining I was watching some future NASA rover's video from another world.

For total excellence, view it in full screen mode.

Note to WLIW New York and the Visions Of  video-making folks:  If you would redo some of your wonderfully beautiful videos without the lame narration, with only landscapes (not cities), and just with decent music, I would pay many American dollars for their purchase!

* I found this image online some 7 years ago . . . at a site featuring photographs of the Welsh country- and sea sides.  The site no longer exists and, unfortunately, I did not note the name of the photographer.

12 September 2012

A Wee Herbiary

I've always been quite fond of the Cadfael Chronicles, a mystery series by Ellis Peters (pen name of linguist and scholar, Edith Pargeter)Her writing is especially well-crafted.  Her ability to evoke place, time, and a very solid reality brings this reader inside the stories in a very powerful way.  

One key location throughout the books is Brother Cadfael's herb garden and work shed (located within the grounds of the fictionalized version of the historically real Shrewsbury Abbey).  Peters describes the workmanlike setting Cadfael has built for himself.  Visitors to his little haven are always struck by the redolent scents of the drying herbs and medicinal concoctions Cadfael creates.

Shrewsbury Quest Garden

Whilst I hope to someday visit Wales and tour the Shrewsbury Abbey grounds, this summer I've created my own little version of Cadfael's herbiary. The waves of very high heat during this summer's growing season prevented my  porch garden from growing very tall.  But the harvest was a good one.  Thanks to my Beloved Spousal Unit, who came up with the idea for how I might hang the herbs to dry, our living room now smells wonderfully of thyme and mints.

08 September 2012

The Awesome Board Game - Part 2

Last month I posted about the creation of The Awesome Board Game by my two ace nephews and myself.  This past weekend they rolled it out at a family picnic.  (Two weeks earlier we had given it a test run at their house.  It had rained and the yard was still rather damp so we laid out half the playing squares in the living room and dining room.)

The plan was for the boys to be the Gamemasters.  I told them I'd make them Official Gamemaster Hats.  A quick visit to a local party supplies shop turned up two plastic bowlers for a mere $2.99 each.  A follow up trip to a nearby Dollar Store provided the rest.  Add one glue gun and . . .  voila!

The hats were officially bestowed at the start of the event.

They didn't stay with the nephews for long, though.  During the course of the game several of the kids asked to wear them!

Our picnic area was fairly large and the complete game board took up a lot of space (though perhaps too much, we thought later).

Teams were formed, usually with an adult or 2 and a handful of kids. One group of 3 young ladies was pretty high energy! (As the game progressed the teams morphed a bit as kids moved from group to group.)

One of the features of the game were the Silly Cards - cards players picked when they landed on a square marked with a big letter C.  The boys and I had spent a fun lunch time several weeks ago coming up with silly ideas for the cards.  I took our list home and did up some jazzy versions using Microsoft Word.  Here are a few of them.  

Player Teams used either foam dice (found at the ever amazing American Science & Surplus store) or the larger cardboard dice the boys made. Frisbees (found at Goodwill) served as the place markers.

The game got underway.  Much silliness ensued.

For the most part, the Awesome Board Game project was a success.  But when we do it again, we'll need to consider a few of the hitches we ran into.
  • The game went faster than it had during the in-house test run.  Laying out the squares in such a way that players get moved around more might have helped that.  
  • We hadn't taken into account that it would be hard to hear what was going on when in a larger, outdoor space.  Rather than setting up the game off to the side, it might have worked better to have had it in the center of our family area.
  • More Silly Cards!  Actually, we had enough cards, but not enough of the Silly Card Squares to land on.  As a result, we didn't have as much of the goofy stuff as we did just moving from square to square.

p.s  In the Part 1 post about this game, I mentioned the dreaded Vortex Squares and the fact that we didn't quite know what made them so dreaded!  The boys decided that landing on a Vortex (there were two of them) acted as a kind of wormhole.  Landing on one meant you got sucked through and back to the other one.  
 ~ ~ ~

The boys are back in school now and I have several big projects of my own in the works.  It was a great summer of fun for all though.  It will be interesting to see what we come up with next!

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