30 March 2013

Typospheriana - The Big Reveal (and Then Some)

Kudos to Ted for his sharp eye. (And to Bill M. for his chuckle-inducing comment on this "Free $23.95 value"!)  The sticker is indeed found on the front of this box containing a a "10-Day Touch Typing Course."

My Beloved Spousal Unit found it for me at one of our local Goodwill shops.  It is in very good condition all around.  I don't have a turntable-to-USB set up, but my brother Architect does.  I hope to ask him to make a digital recording for me - parts of which I will share here later.


And here are a few more Typosphere-related items that came my way recently.

This lovely case for my Kindle.

This textbook for a College Typewriting course.

Including the schedule of classes being taken by its owner.


An informational book on typewriters.

And an insert found in the case of a Brother-Bradford identifying regional Typewriter Repair Shops. No doubt these are long gone.


28 March 2013

Typospheriana Teaser

It's been a crazy few weeks here at 'The Wardrobe' but I am putting a little something together for later this week.  Here is a sneak preview!

22 March 2013

Tales Only Dreamed Of

My brother, The Captain, had mixed feelings about St. Patrick's Day.  By day he was second in command for large-ish university's Department of Public Safety.  He knew that on March 17th, and the week in which it fell, he'd be a busy man - watching out for, caring for, helping, and, when necessary, saving the undergrad and grad students from the own over-imbibings.  "The Immortals" he called them; the young people who never thought anything could happen to them.

But The Captain had another side to him, a very whimsical and good humored side.  Every August he served on the stage crew of the Aer Lingus music stage at Milwaukee's Irish Fest. Although one of ten children of the same two parents, he claimed "all the Irish" had descended to him alone. He loved Celtic music and befriended many of the performers through the years.

He also loved reading Science Fiction, loved making up stories, and entertained himself and the world with his fictional postcards.  And he would have loved, and been hugely amused, by the work of Bradley W. Schenck, a.k.a. author of the Thrilling Tales website and fantastic artist of all-things SciFi and retro.  And a damn savvy marketer of his work.

"You, too, can create a customized pulp magazine cover with the astonishing PULP-O-MIZER, right here in Cornelius Zappencackler's Derange-O-Lab!"

Mr. Schenck has created the Pulp-o-Mizer, a web-based designer of retro SciFi magazine covers.  One can create and download without charge.  But he hopes you will appreciate his work and his generosity with a donation.  I certainly plan to.  Anyone who gives this much joy with such absolute brilliance, technical mastery, and unmitigated wit deserves patronage.  Thank you sir!

11 March 2013

When Authors Grow Weary (Or I of Them)

Every few years I go on a Brother Cadfael reading jag.  (Reading, not viewing.  I did not like the BBC/PBS series at all.*)  Ellis Peters was a remarkable author.  She died not long after what turned out to be the last of the series was published.  The novels are rich with a kind of sensuous ambiance of color, scents, and personalities.  No bad guy is truly bad, and most of the good folks have layers to them.  There is always a pair of young, often star-crossed, lovers, a storyline that occasionally weakens the larger tale. The male friendships and bonding are powerful, giving the series some real (if sometimes credibility-challenging) heft.

Not all the books were good. A couple were almost perfunctory in their plot and telling. Cadfael himself never seems to suffer for it, but I wondered if Ms. Peters was finding her creation a tiring one after a time.  But then came that final volume, Brother Cadfael's Penance, and one could see that all the young love was done with now.  Nary a cooing dovelet pair in sight.  She ended with a deep and resonant knell for men and their sons.**

I am always a sucker for stories set in the early 20th century.  The Inspector Rutledge series by mother & son writing team "Charles Todd" had a powerful start and then stuttered and stumbled.***  The shell-shocked Inspector (we'd call it post traumatic stress disorder now) is much damaged emotionally -- having had to order the execution of one of his men during WWI -- but intellectually on fire; a man seeking to right grievous wrongs.  

The internalized persona of the man he had killed provides the much of the series' literal meta-conversation. The ongoing conversation between Ian Rutledge and his conscience/tormentor Hamish McLeod lets the reader see the inside of the Inspector's agonized soul, a writerly technique that becomes, in time and in parts, obsessive, obligatory, and occasionally incredible.  I found I had ceased to care for Rutledge, and when an author loses that kind of affection in his/her reader, there is no recovery for it. 

Sadly, the Team Todd's second series about WWI nurse Bess Crawford, and which to my mind too conveniently parallels the successful WWI nurse Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, is running into the same problem of loss of affection.  The last one I read (A Bitter Truth) will be the last for me, I'm afraid.  Even granting it grace from my dislike of overly-dialogued books, the rushed ending with an orphaned child being handed round like some fought-over sweetmeat and the lead character unable to say no to a single soul saw me skimming the last 25 pages not in excitement but the desire to have it be over, please god.

Image source/credit (left)                    Image source/credit (right)

More recently I am back into my other favorite reading site: Tudor/Stuart England.  I read about this era -- almost feverishly -- with the same fascination I hold for works of paleontology. What captures me about these two disparate histories is the notion of The Other: times, people, creatures, events, and places that happened on this very planet and yet may as well have been fiction or science fiction.  Such is their distance from our now.

The Tudor stuff, though, is as much fun for its dueling authors as it is for its Otherworldliness.  I am reading the above two biographies of Mary Stuart, the famed "Queen of Scots" who lost her throne and head in her attempt to dethrone Elizabeth I.  Both authors, Antonia Fraser and John Guy, claim to have used primary source material previously unreviewed. Both claim to have uncovered the "real" Mary.  And as it happens, both also write rather well.  So it's like watching the literary version of an operatic duet. Highly entertaining.

                                                        Image source/credit

Ditto for the dueling Shakespeare biographies by England's Ken Burns Michael Wood; and Britain's American, Bill Bryson. Wood's breezy and delightful report was published a few years before Bryson's equally delightful and even whimsical bio. Wood makes much hay of the evidence and suggests we know a good deal about The Bard. Bryson, who appears to have looked at or around much of the same documentation, says we can know almost nothing. Between the two of them one gets an especially vivid image of what it was like to live and die in Elizabethan and Stuart England. 

And the best part about reading about Shakespeare is that one then wants to see his plays performed.  So my Beloved Spousal Unit and I are enjoying the largesse of our nearby public library.  We watch a play (Burton and Taylor's Taming of the Shrew was the most recent), and then for several days after our language and the gusto with which we speak it is delightfully charged.

Only now, in writing this post, do I see I am lost in English History these many days. Ah well, there are certainly worse places to spend the mind's free time.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

* The production quality (settings, costumes, and lighting) seemed hurried and cheap.  And although I've enjoyed Derek Jacobi in other earlier works -- he's become a bit of a self parody more recently -- I felt his portrayal of Cadfael was too aristocratic and otherworldly.  If anything, the good herbalist was a man of the earth.

** She ended because she died. Would she, could she have gone further, one wonders. I recall reading somewhere that a 21st Cadfael manuscript was found in her papers.  

** In the eyes of this reader, of course. And this reader admits to being an often impatient one.  I don't like writerly tricks; I don't like seeing the cracks in the scenery; I don't like anachronistic speech; I don't like endless dialogue (my apologies to Jane Austen and my thanks to Emma Thompson for making her accessible to me!).  

 Image source/credit (left)                     Image source/credit (right)

I am a demanding reader because I spend my entire working day analyzing the content of professional and scholarly writing, looking for structure, content, and information.  I am very good at it but it has destroyed my ability to simply kick back with any old novel.

01 March 2013

The Typewriter That Once Was a Fish

Back in early January, inspired by author Mary Robinette Kowal's "Month of Letters" creative letter-writing notion, I set myself the challenge of re-engaging with my Correspondence Life.

It worked out fairly well.  Her idea was that one would write a letter on every day in February on which one typically received one's post - about 23 letters, when one subtracted out Sundays and President's Day.  

To make it even more fun, I splurged and ordered fancy Forever stamps from the USPS

 And really indulged with a sheet of the new International Forever stamps!

And entertained myself at one point creating this envelope for a pen friend, a fellow Friend of Oz.

(This is a screen grab from Word, where I made it.  I don't usually photograph my personal outgoing letters.)

Somedays I wrote one letter, somedays two, or only two pages of a longer letter. It didn't seem like I was writing as often as I wanted to.  But by the end of the month the little Post-It on which I kept count showed I had sent out a total of 24 letters - one over Ms. Robinette Kowal's happy challenge number!

 My messy but surprisingly productive letter-writing corner.
(The pink fabric is my ersatz typewriter cover.)

But perhaps the most fun thing I mailed out in the February Month of Letters was something to make letters.  I sent off one of my typewriters!  It  happened some months ago that one of my pen friends and I were talking about typewriters and she mentioned that she hoped to someday find a small teal portable.  So it seemed rather apt during this adventurous month that a machine of that very description went from my house to hers.

I had named it Little Nemo for its lovely ocean color. It was a Bradford Brother - made in Japan. In one of his wonderful histories,  Robert Messenger of Oz Typewriter wrote about The Brother Typewriter (and I was so pleased that he included an image of Little Nemo in his write up). It was one of the first machines I found "in the wild" - hidden away in the locked glass case of a local Goodwill. And until I bought a Skyriter this past year (see image above), it was my go-to machine when I wanted to type plein air.

Having amassed a range of machines over the past two years I have recently been taking a look at my collection with a fresh eye.  Most important, it seems, is that they get used!  This one, though I much liked its sweet little form and snappy key action, wasn't getting the attention it deserved.  

And the best fun of all was that she didn't know to expect it!  

I'd deliberately implied the package was a "small" one and was there an address I could send it to that would not find it left out in the cold.  She writes her letters to me in fountain pen, so she took that to mean it might be a bottle of ink that ought not freeze.  I did not disabuse her!  And to my delight she told me that it is very like the machine she typed on as a girl and had long missed. 

She tells me she has named it Miss Blue.  And now no longer a fish and no longer not being used.  Thus as it should be in the Typosphere.

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