Friday, March 13, 2015

Blank as a page, lined with care.

The last few months have not been spent idly. True, it’s been a lot of toting barges and lifting bales, but there have also been a few moments of creativity.  For instance, a couple of weeks ago, Little Flower Petals posted about her new Renaissance Art notebook cover, also commenting on the odd proportions of the nominally passport-sized pages. It was a good opportunity for me to reach out, lend a hand, and try something new.

Or, perhaps, not so new. Long-time readers may recall that, back in May of 2010, I had started doing a bit of bookbinding. The blank notebooks I initially posted about proved somewhat popular. Within the following year, I produced half a dozen, and got a reasonable price for my effort.

The story does not end, there, however. There has been a lot of experimentation with line weights and line spacing. My department director has recently taken up fountain pens (his wife suggests that I may have been something of a bad influence), and he seems to like the way I set up pages for writing. So, when I seized the opportunity to try out a passport-sized format (3.5" wide by 5" tall), I applied my proprietary lining style. In spite of some aesthetic issues with the first try, I was able to mail out some 48-page refills.

This was the first attempt at a passport-size notebook. The front and back
covers were scarred in the glue-up stage, requiring a decorative add-on,
but the results still didn't meet my quality-control expectations.

The background is what the pages look like, out of the printer.
Little Flower Petals also voiced an interest in learning to bind books. It’s really not hard to do, considering how long it was done without the benefit of modern tools.  However, there are a lot of steps and a certain amount of practiced technique. It’s an arcane skill.  There is no app for it, trust me.

Notebooks are relatively easy, because they are just blank, or nearly blank, sheets. There is no consideration of keeping the pages in any particular order.  Putting together a literary book, one with words and stuff, is more complicated.

If anyone is interested, I am thinking about a series of posts, explaining my process.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

And No, No NaNoWriMo

In the midst of all my literary inactivity, the only intentional dereliction has been to avoid NaNoWriMo for another year. The local support group has lost its most active members, judging by the absence of email updates. (I’m still on their mailing list, in spite of my past non-participation.) But, most of all, I haven’t had the time, energy, resources, or whatever else it takes to crank out the word count.

I was not totally without ambition, however.  Back in October, I considered the impossible amount of dedication required to produce a novelette. Impossible for me, of course; other people can sleep-walk their way through composing a few hundred pages.  A more modest goal might be to write a short story.  A complete tale, word count be damned.

And, yet again, life happened while I was daydreaming about making plans. Stuff always needs to be done. Barges to tote. Bales to lift. Not enough time (or money) to get drunk and to land in jail.  (Shoot, I doubt if I could even get away long enough to take a road trip to see the Old Man River!) There are mornings when that song goes through my head, reminding me that the way I feel is nothing new to human experience.  Other people have had enough free time to set their sentiments to music, though.

A recurring phrase in my journal has become “I don’t have fun; I have responsibilities.”  Even my counselor has pointed out that I need a vacation. But, I have learned a lesson from past time away: for every day I take off, two days worth of work will await my return. Weekends are dangerous enough. Extended holidays are reason for fear.

Never the less, I have no choice, this week.  The college is closing down, starting Wednesday.  Regardless of what paperwork that might befall on the following Monday, the Thanksgiving break consists of a 5-day weekend.  If I was doing NaNoWriMo, and had fallen behind, there might be hope of catching up without the distraction of having to leave the safety of home.

However, since I had not committed to that marathon event, I may still be able to do a little 50-yard dash, if only to prove to myself that I can be more than a literary spectator.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Neglected Show-and-Tell

Had it really been a year since I was able to post anything? Yes, and it’s even worse than that. What I posted about, in early November 2013, was something that happened in late September.  I’ve never been one to do an UJTU post, but that procrastination makes me feel sheepish.

It feels kind of meta to keep writing apologies for why I’ve not been writing. As previously intimated, it’s not been a year without blog-worthy topics. I’ve just either been too distracted to compose or too troubled about sharing my despair with the world.

It has not all been bad, though.  One of my coworkers was putting together a display of “books written on a typewriter” and so my Underwood #3 spent more than a month in a glass case with the likes of Kerouac’s On the Road.  The appropriateness of that was wasted on most people, I suppose.  It’s amusing to watch the reactions of modern students, with all their connectivity addictions, when they encounter pre-internet technology.

Yes, Virginia, there really was a time before computers ruled the world.

Oh, and lest I forget, there was one more proof of my eccentricity, which should have been fodder for a follow-up to the belated post in November of last year.  When I went to Marian Call’s concert, in September, I could have done the obsessive fan-boy thing and had her autograph on of her own albums.  It seemed more outre to reference something else with which she had been involved.

The copy we had bought for the Library has already been stolen, by the way.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

I am Thankful for Something

Indeed, more than a year has past since my last post. Over the last few months, I have debated the good sense of shutting this travesty down and never setting pen to paper, again. The same, constant interruptions which preclude updating have also kept me from taking an extreme measure. Another thing to stay my hand has been that the Typosphere is the only place where the use of proper spelling, syntax, and grammar is nothing of which to be ashamed. 

I work in an institution of higher learning, and daily I am dismayed by the helpless illiteracy of too many of our students. The perceived futility of trying to educate these monkeys feeds my chronic depression, but writing has proven a therapeutic catharsis. Hemingway famously spoke of bleeding on the page, but it is not blood that I spill, but rather vitriol and invective. And, that helps.  It helps a lot.  Many are the blog updates I have composed which, on reflection, would be most inappropriate to post.

Imagine, if you will, a year of overflowing creativity, only to have to stifle it for the sake of social self-preservation. Some of you may recall that I made a remark on the Portable Typewriter Forum which was grossly misinterpreted, resulting in my expulsion from that group. Apologies were made, all around, but I learned a lesson about speaking too freely or using sarcasm during an ongoing flame war.

I have not been offline for a year, though. Some of you have received the benefit of my often-sardonic wit in comments to your own blog posts.  The world has continued to spiral without me, and other bloggers have been able to express themselves without the anxiety attacks to which I feel susceptible.  Even so, I have noticed some falling away of the faithful. More of the informal membership is like me, posting rarely or randomly, rather than the handful who post frequently. To those who do carry on, in spite of modern life’s demands, I extend my gratitude.

Thank You, all of you active Typospherians who keep the rest of us informed, entertained, and reminded that there are still a few people in this post-moral wasteland who have not thrown aside their intelligence and self-respect.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Ugh, I need to do this more often

Blah, blah, blah, the usual regrets about not having updated in such a long time. More of the same about how life is too hectic for me to participate in NaNoWriMo, again, this year.  It’s all true and it’s all too tedious to moan about at great length.

Last time, I was looking forward to seeing Marian Call in Kansas City, if only a concert venue could be found.  Someone stepped up and made arrangements to occupy the coffee bar in a Barnes & Noble, and a good time was had by the relative few who showed up.  And, rather than do the obvious fanboy thing, and have her autograph an album or something, I got “The Musician” to sign my copy of The Typewriter (in the 21st Century).  That seemed to impress her.

This year, I saw NaNoWriMo coming, months ahead, and knew that I wouldn’t be able to do anything with it.  For a number of reasons, I decided to satisfy my professional development requirements by taking a college course. So, instead of committing myself to a daily quota of words, I merely have to write a research paper... about mythology... and Sherlock Holmes.

It should be fun, if I ever get around to starting.  Hey, maybe it’s like NaNoWriMo, after all.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Meet up for music?

I had been trying to figure out how to contact Dwayne Fuhlhage (Vintage Technology Obsessions), and then I considered just broadcasting the conversational points I wanted to make.  He had just made a post on Google+ about a Remington typewriter on eBay, being sold for parts as its keys had been chopped.  What are the moral and ethical considerations about liberating a brutalized machine from a keychopper, if one has a typewriter in need of parts?  Would this be an act of redemption for the machine, or would it rationalize the act of keychopping? I was going to reference a quote from Eddie Vedder about making shark fin soup...

And, speaking of “The Typewriter (In the 21st Century),” I also wanted to convey to Dwayne that Marian Call (referred to as “the musician” in the documentary) was going to be in Kansas City on Saturday, September 20th, and that I might be able to be able to get there.  I might even pack a typewriter in the trunk, since I will not be on my motorcycle, this time.

Long-time readers might recall that I had an “Adventure Weekend” back in June of 2010 that started with a concert by Marian.  She told me, later, that I was the only person who showed up specifically to see her perform.  She was less well known, back then, and the Typosphere had not gotten as crazy-big as it has become.  Now, dare I wonder how many Typospherians might get together to support one of our honorary members?  Anybody who is interested can find the RSVP e-mail address on her website. There are other concerts listed, too, for those of you far away from Kansas City.

I wouldn’t even be surprised if she performed her “Shark Week” song, with plenty of audience participation.  That pretty much brings my blog update full circle, now.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The End of my Steampunk Pirate Story

I have been struggling for a few days with a potential blog post. What I want to say and do has been clear enough, in my mind. However, in view of two postings ago, I’m aware of the line between being dramatic and being melodramatic.  I am fighting valiantly against forces of intellectual emptiness.  My mental health may remain fragile, but giving in to the evils of the secular-materialist world has never been an option.

We want to believe that carving a chunk of time out for writing should be therapeutic. We tell ourselves that selecting a neglected manuscript, shutting out the chaos of daily life, and concentrating on some composition would do us some good.  But what happens when the manuscript becomes part of the problem?  What if its lingering incompleteness starts to mock you? The very fact that it has been sitting there, and you can’t recall the last time you looked at it, only serves as a reminder that the chaos of daily life has destroyed all your hopes and dreams.  That stack of yellowing pages becomes a thing of hateful self-loathing.

So it has become for my NaNoWriMo project.  I had started transcribing the typewritten pages. It had been so long since I could think about the narrative that I needed some way to reacquaint myself with my own work. One particular scene had been revised three times to prod the plotline along. My characters had decided that sitting in a darkened room was more to their liking than facing the challenges, outside. I have to agree with them. It’s a dangerous world, out there.

The story I envisioned with such hope, two Novembers ago, has gone beyond suffering from writer’s block. I have had to accept that, although I still have an abundance of ideas, I can not force myself to care.  Fighting to go on with the project was doing as much damage as any self-destructive behavior could.  The thought of destroying two years of work is painful. The thought of trying to continue it is agonizing, and I must do something desperate to end this suffering.

It is too bad I could not put this posting together, yesterday. It would have felt appropriate to set fire to a manuscript while other people were burning up their income on fireworks. Either way, it’s just a paper representation of a part of our lives we can never reclaim. And, in a bizarre way, perhaps I am declaring my independence from what has become an oppressive, frustrating overlord.

It’s not like this was a living thing, Or, if it ever was, it has not been for a very, very long time.  As the embers begin cool into gray ash, I release those ill-conceived creative thoughts back into the nothingness from whence they came. I've got more significant things on my mind.