01.05.12 Clackety-clack





I have been trying to watch “Troll Hunter” for the last four nights. Netflix keeps stalling. Netflix does not want me to watch “Troll Hunter.” Perhaps Netflix believes I should watch something else, but “Troll Hunter” is very good, considering the genre. (Troll hunting.) It’s one of those “whoa, someone mailed us some disturbing footage and we don’t know where it came from” movies. There are so many, and to be honest the genre is pretty good. It makes sense, nowadays; video cameras are everywhere. Everyone has one. Which brings me to this:

The web abounds with stumble-drunks engaged in their timeless struggle with gravity, but this one is unique - and not just for the elasticity of the inebriate’s neck. There’s something else about it that’s disturbing. See if you have the same reaction as I had at :37. Hold on. This video shouldn’t be possible. One scene, yes. Five scenes: something’s wrong.


Cleaned out two shelves of books, to be replaced by . . . objects. Like this:




It’s a Bing #2. I had no idea what that meant until I googled, and learned it was a student typewriter made by a German company. Bing was a toy company, but this was a fully-functional typewriter. I love old typewriters, but can’t imagine collecting them, as some do. So much room and so little utility. The old ones have that 20s-clunk look:

Yes, the Art Deco decade! Things looked like this in the 20s, but changed soon enough: look at this beaut from the 30s. It’s still remarkable how the biggest change in design coincided with the economic collapse; how odd it must have felt to see everything take on the shape of the new industrial future, while the actual world was on its hands and knees with its tongue scraping the ground. It was almost as if they decided to make the world a fantasy set, a place to pretend. Anyway, I like the machines of the 50s as well, and of course things got cheap and ugly in the seventies. I didn’t learn to type until well into my writing career - I paid someone to type up my pieces for submission, which really cut into the royalties. Her name was Molly, and she was one of those fast-and-perfect typists. Hadn’t thought about her in years. I believe she banged it out on a manual, too.

We only manuals at the Minnesota Daily, and that’s what I learned on. Electrics, but you still had to bang. Mistakes were corrected with fluid. It was miserably tedious, and slow: no matter how fast I typed, it was always lagging behind what I wanted to say, because keys stuck, or you didn’t hit them hard enough, or you made a mistake, and had to wite it out. Gah. There was one Selectric in the office, used only by the editorial board, because they needed an elegant, advanced machine to channel their Olympian thoughts. When I got my hands on that thing, and discovered the miracle of correction-without-fluid, well, this was high-tech. See, it had an erase function. You’d hit a button, deploy a special tape, and it would hammer whiteness on the errant letter. I still remember those things - orange spools, not cheap, precious to all. When you were out of that stuff, it was like the Flowers for Algernon version of typewriter advancement. I bought my own Selectric at some point - a Selectric Jr., I think - (no such thing. A Selectric II.) and was prepared for a great bright future as a writer, but this coincided with a stumble into the Trough of Crap that was my mid-20s, when I couldn’t write, couldn’t sell, couldn’t bring back the happy glory days of the newspaper, and was reduced to hanging around the college paper after I’d left.

Man, that felt low.

I kept writing long-hand, and didn’t really get back to typing until my second computer. The first was an IBM jr, useful for nothing; the second was a Leading Edge with amber letters on the screen instead of green, and that’s when it all began. But I recall how people protested the computer - “word processing,” what a sterile term - and praised the percussive joys of the typewriter, the satisfying feel of turning the platen, the satisfying feel of knowing words like “Platen,” the cathartic act of taking the page out and adding it to the stack. Typing on a typewriter was addressing a crowd; computer was just gargling in a canyon. You could write and write and then take out chunks as you pleased, which led to lazy bloated inexact writing where three adjectives would do the work of one. Why, kids of the future will never know the romance of writing all night on a dying ribbon. (They do; the modern equivalent is the laptop battery.)


The virtues of the typewriter were overestimated and the defects of its replacement exaggerated, as is usually the case. There’s always this strange Puritan objection to things that make it easier for other people. But it has to be big shift, no pun intended: no one complained that people were going to be soft-handed and stick-wristed when the electric was introduced.

Now we have computers that carry on the vocabulary of typewriters - the SHIFT key means nothing to anyone under 30, perhaps; the word has been severed from its origin and meaning. But no one knows the difference between CONTROL or OPTION or COMMAND, except that they’re different modifiers, and no one really knows why there’s a CAPS LOCK button at all, especially so prominent. Keyboards have Backspace AND delete. The Return key on my keyboard also says “enter.” It has a special key for this - { - which 99.9% of the people never use. To say nothing of ^.

Anyway. So the books are going out because they will never be read or looked at again, and opening up space to fill it with an object declutters the room. Jammed shelves fight the eye; shelves half-full make you more inclined to examine the contents. The endless fight to declutter. Endless.

Today: some Oswalds, here. Off tomorrow - back Monday with some fun stuff. Have a grand weekend!

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