31 July 2013

A Clipper Sails West

Aye, she was a bonny lass and when she set off, sails unfurled and wind-filled, a sigh escaped my lips; I would see her perhaps nevermore.

Which is a fanciful and literary-sounding way of saying, one of my typewriters moved on to another home.  Even better, however, in this transfer, a new Typospherian was born!

Friend and Colleague in all things mad and wonderful, Hoja, visited this weekend.  We call these get-togethers our Art Days. Some days art is made; some days we look at formal art; some days we talk story making and world building; and some days we simply play.  This weekend we did it all! 

A visit to see the 30 Americans exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. It was rich, complex, sobering, and deeply moving. 

 Milwaukee Art Museum, Quadracci Pavilion, 2002. Credit: John Hursley.

(Left) Nick Cave, Soundsuit 
(Right) Iona Rozeal Brown, Sacrifice #2: it has to last
(after Yoshitoshi's 'Drowsy: the appearance of a harlot of the Meiji era')

[from the MAM 30 Americans Exhibition Gallery]

We also drove North to visit the John Michael Kohler Arts Center; located in Sheboygan, WI. There were two large installation pieces that had the both of us laughing, sighing, and looking so very interested that the museum guard kept a very close eye. We signaled that we would not touch by keeping our hands in our pockets or behind our backs (but, ooooh, we so wanted to touch the works!).

One exhibit, titled Emery Blagdon: The Healing Machine, filled a large room. 

 Installation view of Emery Blagdon: The Healing Machine at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.
(All images courtesy John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin)

Emery Blagdon, “The Healing Machine”
(installation view John Michael Kohler Arts Center, 2012) (detail),
(c.1955 – 1986), dimensions variable. John Michael Kohler Arts Center Collection.

[From the exhibition website]

"Emery Oliver Blagdon (1907-1986) grew up on the Sandhills of Nebraska. The intense lightning storms of the Great Plains were a source of wonder for Blagdon, who pondered the immense power of lightning and other natural energies.

In 1955, Blagdon inherited an uncle’s farm and found he had a place to explore his interests as he chose. Having watched both his parents suffer terminal cancer, he hoped he might discover a way to heal pain and illness. Blagdon believed that the earth’s energies might be put to just such a use. He believed they held the inherent power to heal, and he set about making a “machine” to properly channel these powerful forces.

A pastime of bending hay-baling wire into geometric forms grew into a consuming passion for making increasingly complex constructions that incorporated salvaged copper wire, metal foil, magnets, vials of earth, waxed paper, and myriad other substances and materials to collectively charge and heighten the machine’s power. In the early 1960s, Blagdon began installing his fabrications in a barn on the property, later building a workshop with an adjoining shed designed to permanently house the entire machine.

Blagdon ultimately created a complex art environment in which paintings and mixed-media sculptures comingled with mineral elements and electrical conductors. Sufferers of pain or illness were invited in to let the unseen forces work magic. Blagdon called his project The Healing Machine, a work in constant progress wherein he fashioned, arranged, adjusted, and added to the complex installation every day for the next thirty years.

Blagdon’s Healing Machine, comprised of roughly 400 individual elements, is part of the John Michael Kohler Arts Center collection. This exhibition presents individual components as well as an installation evoking the original shed environment."

(John Yau has written an expressive review of the exhibit. You can read it here.)

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The second piece -- Rush to Rest, by New York artists Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen -- was massive and filled the two largest gallery rooms of the museum.  

A near life-long resident of Wisconsin, one of my keenest pleasures has been to see the wintertime ice formations along the Lake Michigan coastline.  Kavanaugh & Nguyen captured not just the vibrancy of the shapes but the deep emotional qualities of frozen movement.  The image above simply cannot capture the grandeur of the work.

[From the exhibition website] Artists Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen (NY) discuss their new work, Rush to Rest, part of the Uncommon Ground exhibition series at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, April 12–September 22, 2013. Video produced by the John Michael Kohler Arts Center.

[From the exhibition website] "Rush to Rest, by New York artists Wade Kavanaugh and Stephen B. Nguyen, is a response to the colossal seasonal ice sheets that take shape on the Sheboygan lakefront in winter. This immersive installation is not a literal rendering of the accumulated ice pack but rather an aggregate of its physical characteristics. Rush to Rest exaggerates the mass and color of the frozen expanse as well as the tangible manifestations of wind and water that generate it."

NOTE: When "Rush to Rest" closes Sept. 23, the exhibit will be dismantled and recycled.

In the evening, back at home, there was talk of typewriters.  Several times over the past few years I have offered a machine to Hoja.  This time she took me up on the offer and asked if she could try out several to get a feeling for their "personalities."  So I laid out several on the dining room table for her to test drive.



The Skyriter (bottom, lower right) was not part of the offer, but I wanted her to try that one as most of my friends who spend most of their time on computer keyboards find it the easiest to type on initially.

In the end, she decided on the Smith Corona Clipper.  I was able to locate a near-era user's manual for it in my typewriterly stash, and also threw in a learn-to-type book and new ribbon.  

As you can see, Hoja was delighted!

 We welcome her to The Typosphere!

24 July 2013

Packages for an Imagined Event: Item 14

One fanciful idea from the 2011 Wizarding Event was the Owl Post.  Borrowing from J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter universe, we knew that 'getting mail' would be a very big deal indeed for our First Year Wizarding Students.  Having no trained owls to hand, we named our post office after the species in general and hand-delivered their letters and packages the old fashioned way, by Pony Express!

In my persona as a (wizardly) Pony Express Rider for the Owl Post, Western Regions Division, I told the students that Athena, my winged horse, was "out back" being treated to a "nice bag of oats" while I came inside to give them their mail.


Each student received a packet of 3 letters and two postcards, all from different letter-writers.  And each student received a Perfect Postal Package containing some magical item and a letter.

In creating each student's package, I created some specific criteria.
  • The items contained had to be things that could be regarded (or imagined) as magical in some way.
  • The gift package had to suit the child's age (our group went from 8-14 years of age).
  • The package had to have comparable coolness as far as all the other (19 total) packages were concerned (so that no child felt somehow slighted).
  • Each package had to be slightly unique compared to the others (similar was okay, but the overall package had to be a one-and-only experience for the child).
  • Each package contained a personally written letter to the child that talked about the items enclosed.
  • The items had to be enclosed in some funky, exotic, or otherwise not quite everyday box of some kind.
  • The package had to be wrapped for the mail in heavy brown packing paper; tied with some kind of cord or fiber; addressed personally but oddly to each child; and decorated with real postage stamps and cancellation marks.

Another conceit was that the mail came from all over the world.  A long-time School tradition, former students (visiting as well as the School's own) would write letters of welcome to the First Years.  Our goal here was sneakily pedagogical: we wanted to create a kind of subliminal ambiance with two notions: that education (even wizardly education) is a global thing and that each student was a valued person within that kind community.

Package 14 hailed from Down Under.  It's recipient, a young lady, was one of the oldest of our First Year's. In so-called real life, she was from a home-schooled family who had traveled a lot. So it seemed fitting that her Perfect Package had traveled a ways to get to her that day.

The outer box was a lucky Goodwill find: sizable, colorful, and sturdy (and only 99 cents!).  It added a festive quality to the gift.

One of the two enclosed items was a Goodwill find as well.  Of the classes students could take on Orientation Day, one was the classic Potter-esque Potions Class.  Our professor in that area is, in this universe, a practicing herbalist with a specialty in mycology (the study of mushrooms).

 More on the Dear Professor W. can be read at this post.

One of the more amusing aspects of creating these Perfect Packages was seeding ideas that might, or might not, make their way into the narrative of the day's event.  For although there was a story for the day, which the actors and crew about in a kind of general way, and a schedule of activities, which were designed, in part, to serve the story, what actually got said and done was entirely improvisational. 

In the case of this package, a now-out-of-style potions mini-cauldron was the primary object.  It looked nothing like the cauldrons described in Rowling's books (or later depicted in the films). It was flat, small, and seemingly well-used. I hoped if that fact would prompt this particular student to ask Professor W about it!  

Actor Hoja is very quick on her toes with improvisation, which I knew when creating the post items. Working several months in advance of the event, I entertained myself with wondering how she'd respond to the various curve balls I was throwing her (and her actor colleagues) via the packages and letters.

Besides the cauldron, the package also contained an elaborate map which, unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten to photograph! My apologies - especially since it was a rather lovely and creative bit of paper folding, embossed stamping, and words.  I'd received it as a piece of mail art some 20 years ago. It was tied closed with a strip of raffia; the closure was a wee bottle filled with seeds and tiny leaves.

I broke out one of my portable typewriters to write the accompanying letter.  (For those of you scoring at home, I believe it was a Smith Corona Galaxie II.)  The paper was a heavy-ish-weight parchment.

Autumn 2011

Hello A--,

Greetings from Down Under from a long-ago N------ grad!  I attended school there from 1992 to 1999.  So I am part of the grand tradition of writing letters of welcome to the incoming class.


I am continuing another tradition of passing on something I used in my studies. It's not required that we send something, but so many of us received little gifts when we were first years, that we like the idea.

My welcome gift to you is actually THE gift I received: a specialized cauldron. Apparently a long-ago potions master required all of his students to have one of these flat models.  They've gone out of style, but there are a few of them still floating around as mementoes [sic].  I have no idea where my welcome letter writer found it as I've never seen one besides this once since!

The map packet is something I made to entertain you.  The places are real, I am told. It was an experiment in magical mapmaking.  I hope you like it.

Best of luck in your studies. Please remember me to professor M-------.  She was my favorite teacher. 

                                                              Yours very truly,
                                                               Morgan LaPlante
                                                               House D----, 1999

The letter was placed in an envelope that matched the bright pink of the box.
And all was wrapped in the heavy brown wrapping paper for mailing.

And although the final land-miles of its journey were via (Flying) Pony Express, I made sure that the item would make it safely over the oceans between Australia and the Midwest by employing one of the many faux postage rubber stamps I have. (In this case, it is one I designed myself for the original Dante's Wardrobe, a mail order purveyor of rubber art stamps!)


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

19 July 2013

First Harvest - Summer 2013

A short post today - kind of like a birth announcement only nothing so momentous.  One tomato on one of our four porch garden plants achieved perfection today!  It's convenient that the 'maters' always seem to ripen one at a time. Tonight it will be part of our dinner menu.

10 July 2013

A Tabletop of Typewriters: What Was What

Back in early June, while preparing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel interview, I posted my pre-event photos of the machines I'd set out for display and asked folks to take a stab at identifying them from the not-so great photos.  

Nick B. pretty much blew us all away with his list! Richard P. had an idea for #10 too.  So here is what they said and what the machines were.  Most of Nick's listings were spot on!

[A few of the machines have an FS notation. Those are for sale. Contact me if you're interested.]

1. Olivetti Studio 44 
A gift machine I unexpectedly received in return when I gave a Remington Rand Seventeen to a local gentleman of the engineering persuasion (he said he loved it and could fix it!). I received a much nicer machine than the one I gave, and much appreciate this unexpected kindness.

 Remington Rand 17 vs Olivetti Studio 44
This RR 17 is not the actual one I gave him; that one had a broken carriage return arm. 
Which makes his gift all the more honorable.

2. Olympia SM3 

This machine has lovely lines and a beautiful cursive font. It was also clean as the proverbial whistle. The doctor who owned it clearly appreciated it and I thank him for that.

3. Smith-Corona Galaxie 10 (Assuming not a 12 since it has a normal carriage) 

Actually this is an SC Galaxie II.  Its 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.

Normal carriage? Okay, I give up and, in doing so, admit that I am not a proper collector even if I am a Typospherian.  I don't check serial numbers as a rule and only get machines that pretty much work.  I use 'em mostly to write letters.  So, what's a normal carriage? (What's an abnormal carriage, for that matter?)

(and extra points for those who know why this image is here)

4. Remington Quiet-Riter Eleven

I have to say Nick B's perspicacity impressed the heck out of me! I had already put all the machines away following the JS interview and was fairly certain I did not own a fourth Remington! But here it was amid cases that looked all Smith Corona-y!


5. Sears Citation
Another Goodwill find and very similar to the other Smith Coronas of that era. I refer to them as my College Collection as they look like the machines so many of us 'of an age' used as undergraduates.


6. Olivetti Underwood 378| FS
Close! When I got it I thought it was another 378, but it has its own number: 319. Robert Messenger of Oz Typewriter has a few nice pics of the 319 in his collection.

And like the 378 (see #10) the case attaches to the machine, making a single carrying unit.

 (L) The 378  (R) The 319

7. Penncrest Caravelle (Smith-Corona)
Penncrest Caravelle! I just love the sound of the name; tres elegante and even Narnian in a way. No doubt the Smith Corona marketing department thought that too. Part of the aforementioned College Collection.

8./12. (I see it down as both!) Royal Quiet De Luxe 

My bad on the numbering! Not sure how I managed that. ;-) Yes, "both" are truly the same machine the Royal QDL! This is the machine preferred by my nephew, Boy1.

9. & 11 Royal Royalite | Royal Royalite | FS
I love that these two were identified as the same machine model. They may as well be.  I call 'em "The Twins." One is indeed a Royal Royalite. The other is a Royal Crescent.  Can't recall now which was which in the JS interview display photo.

10. Nick: (I can't tell :D )| Richard P thought it might be "some sort of Brother" | FS
It was hard to see this machine in the pics, the sunlight from the window above created an overexposure. It is an Underwood 378 (1970s era).  Here's what it looked like when I first got it. (More pics here.)  I haven't had the chance to clean it yet.  You can see what it can look like all shined up at this post of Robert Messenger's (of Oz Typewriter).

12. See #8 above.

13. Smith-Corona Super Sterling

I am not too keen on the Darwinian design progress of the SC Sterlings! See Number 18 below for a model with much more elegant lines.  But that may be just a matter of taste. As an historian, I prefer the older machines.

 14. Remington Quiet-Riter
This one may be a Quiet-Riter, but the only identifying label on it says Remington and nothing more. It has lovely typing action, but is surprisingly heavy for a portable. (Though not as heavy the the Studio 44 above, which I named The Iron Duck for that reason!)


15. One of those really late Olivettis? | FS
This one's label identifies it as a Sperry-Rand -Remington Performer.

It has a cool, zip-around case that reminds me of Mr. Spock's Tricorder

And some very sassy red keys!

16. Royal Quiet De Luxe
This one IS a Royal, but an Arrow rather than the QDL.  I call it The Machine That Waited (back story here).  I love the "tombstone" keys.

17. Smith-Corona Skyriter
This is my favorite go-to machine for en plein air typing, though I often keep it indoors and at the ready in my dining room corner writing desk.  It used to have an older brother. That one (right, below) now resides with fellow Typospherian, Bill M.

18. Smith Corona (speedline... Sterling maybe?)

A Sterling it is, and a lovely one at that! Alan Seaver, on his very grand site Machines of Loving Grace says of his beautiful 1940s-era Sterling "this is one of my favorite typers, both to look at and to use." Mine too! This was a very unexpected surprise at one of our local Goodwill stores.

19. Underwood Universal/Champion

This is my second oldest machine; circa 1930.  Its decals identify it as an Underwood Portable. (Tom Furrier of the Cambridge Typewriter Co. recently posted this 1935 ad - which suggests this is indeed a Champion.)  I found it up in Wausau, WI at an antiques store.  It needs some restoration work but the mechanisms all work fine and the key action is clean and snappy.


20. Corona 4

Date: 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.

21. Remington Quiet-Riter | FS
This was actually a Remington Travel-Riter.  Here is a better pic. The case it came in was rather hip, too, thanks to the stickers applied by the previous owner! Sadly, the feed rollers seem to have flattened out. It types beautifully though.

22. Facit TP1

The "Prince of Typewriters" Robert Messenger of Oz Typewriter named this machine.  I gave this "Prince" an entire post here.

23. Smith-Corona Silent 
Almost, it is an SC Clipper. And virtually identical to the SC Silent (Number 26) but without the "rabbit ears" paper holder-upper. (Okay, what's the official name for those?)

24. Royal Dart
This one reminds me a lot of my Skyriter in its neat, compact lines. Unfortunately, the ribbon jumps ahead when the keys are struck; so I don't use it as I would like.
The fact that all 3 of the smaller Royals have ribbon issues makes me think I may be putting the ribbons in wrong. (I have a kind of visual dyslexia which makes it difficult for me to translate the image from the user's manual to actual practice. Once I sewed a pigeon-toed stuffed dinosaur toy!)

25. Olympia Traveller/Traveller De Luxe | FS
This one was hard to see in all the images, so kudos to Nick for his sharp eyes.  Here's a better pic of the machine I posted some time back. It has a rather stiff typing action. I can't tell if that is the machine or the fact that I don't use it very often so it gets that way.

26.  This one was overlooked in the excitement!
It's a Smith Corona Silent, a virtual twin to Number 23, the SC Clipper. This one has cool racing stripes and for that alone I like it the better of the two!

Thanks for playing along!
Reminded me of the Card Bingo games I played as a kid!

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