Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 22, 2007
The December 24 issue of The New Yorker has an interesting review by probably my favorite author, John Updike, of the book The Art of the American Snapshot: 1888 - 1978. Unfortunately it doesn't appear to be on the New Yorker Web site, but if you happen across a print copy, I recommend it:
Among the homely staples of twentieth century life that have been unceremoniously retired by the microchip revolution - the typewriter, the pressed-wax record, the card catalogue- the camera loaded with film has met a swift and stealthy end. Digital cameras look much like their analog predecessors, but the viewfinder is different - a tiny TV screen, held at arms' length- and we don't have to wait for the mistakes to come back from the drugstore before discarding them. We didn't, in fact, often discard silver-based snapshots, but kept them, with their negatives, in boxes and drawers to await a definitive culling that never came.
I've recently exhumed such boxes and drawers in my own house; we all have them. These days it is more likely hard disk space filling up with indiscriminate volumes of digital snapshots. Time is running out to sift through boxes of print pictures that still have any identifiable, remembered link to our own past. In his essay, Updike points out that "a little halo of photographic illumination accompanies us in our traversal of the decades," meaning that it is only our own remembered experiences that link photographs to "a felt connection to one's own mortal course," or, in other words, to give them any subjective meaning at all.
It's hard to think of all those captured memories growing faint, and brittle and anonymous as we gradually grow older and pass out of the world, but that is, I guess, the way of things.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
This poor kid is more or less gated off from the living room, where things like typewriters on baby-accessible shelves, pointy-cornered tables and Christmas trees with glass ornaments lurk. Yesterday she made a run for freedom and ran straight for the Olympia, removing its cover and handing it to me politely: "M'ank you," as she often says when handing us something she doesn't want (repeating our sarcastic "oh, *thanks.*") She then set to work writing, stopping only to say "Typer! Typey!" until all the keys jammed up.
I am pretty sure she might be the only kid out there currently under the age of two who does much typing, on a manual, I mean.
Monday, December 17, 2007
On the matter of the apocalypse, I found an old copy of J. G. Ballard's "The Drowned World" while poking around in a used bookstore today. You have to marvel at those fantastic old sci-fi paperback book covers. They don't make 'em like they used to. Click the image for a close up.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
It's late, and I have spared you, the strikethru audience, an incoherent, typewritten meditation on the post apocalyptic fiction genre and its relation to technology, inspired after seeing the terrible, terrible Will Smith version of "I Am Legend" at the movies this weekend.
It's damned hard to make any sense, late at night, with a typewritten first-and-final draft dissertation. How did we manage this in college back in the dark ages, exactly?
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I have a major Etsy problem. Handmade items fascinate me, and this site offers some new and very innovative ways to window shop.
I am beginning to notice a trend of reused old printed materials in items for sale; library catalog cards, vintage maps, vintage books, these are by no means the only examples.
It is interesting to me how the everyday articles of printed 20th century life are finding themselves increasingly viewed as art objects. What does it say to wear a typewriter key or a piece of a dismantled vintage map? That one is old enough to remember this thing in its intended context? That the past is rendered stylish by virtue of its irrelevance? I'm sure some semiotician in a liberal arts graduate program could explain it for me in 1,000 words or more.
None of my commentary should suggest I don't find artistry in the repurposing of these symbols. Nature does it herself; I have several artifacts to prove it resting in a little wooden box at home.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
The *totally* scientific and statistically valid (um..) results of the first Strikethru poll are in, and they indicate that the majority of you out there are holding firm at 2-4 typewriters, which is a wholly reasonable number to maintain. My goal was to see how many of you were sick enough to have hit the five typer mark or beyond. It would seem that 26% of the reading audience is heading toward double digit waters, and might want to do some serious thinking about how to house their burgeoning collection going forward.
Stay tuned for another poll and thank you for participating.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Yesterday an old friend from junior high sent me an envelope of notes I'd written her during class in the mid 1980's. Now, I am not here to vouch for the profundity of their content; in fact, they call into painfully high relief the sort of desperate, anxiety-riddled kid I was (and in many ways, remain). But they got me to thinking that perhaps this thing of passing notes in class no longer exists.
Could it be that the current crop of texting tweens has, in the span of half a generation, entirely eliminated the handwritten note?
Now I myself am not acquainted with any of today's tween-aged thumb typers and so I couldn't take an informal poll, but I'm willing to bet that few of them have any occasion to fold a note into a triangle and shove it under the metal rods beneath their desk, so that their friend in the next period who sits in the very same desk could furtively retrieve it. Hell, they can just fire off some millennial pidgin text abbreviations into their RAZR, and what's more, send it via mosquito ring tone out of the hearing range of authority figures over the age of 25.
What kids today don't realize is that, with today's technology, it is still difficult to create a diagram, using callouts, of your hair's current conformity to modern fashion trends. And further, there will be no future reason to sink into a depression about your own lack of deep thinking at age 14 because every gigabyte of your misspelled whims and non-sequitur personal observations from junior high will be trapped in the amber of some outdated, inaccessible data format.
Maybe these kids are on to something.
Monday, December 3, 2007
Hi there, if you are reading this I have to assume you like typewriters. I know my blog is theoretically about all kinds of retro content formats, but you and I both know it has rat-holed on typewriters for a good several months now.
I bring this up because I was browsing in a rather cavernous, dimly-lit and jumbled antiques store yesterday (aren't they all this way?) and asked the owner if she happened to have any typewriters I missed. "Oh," she said casually. "Not right at the moment. I usually sell them all to this gal who cuts them up, you know, to make earrings and that kind of thing."
I was suddenly stricken with the desire to drive to every antiques store in a 30 mile radius and rescue any and all glass-key typewriters I could find buried under yellowing 60's table linens and scratched Star Wars theme drink cups from Burger King.
Which brings me to this: you, typewriterophile, are now given a task. Make haste to a local antique shop and hunt until you find a glass-key machine in reasonable condition. Buy it. Clean it. Type on it. Put a cover on it. Do not turn it into jewelry! Beause 10 years from now, there will be a lot fewer of them around to admire.
(Note: pictured is my own Royal Quiet De Luxe, safe from the key cutting hoards!)