2018-08-12 21:38 writing typewriter blog Benjamin Brood

On Typewriters

Computers are everything-machines. Of course they can be typewriters. But for better or worse, they also do everything else: they're books, they're movies, they're newspapers, they're TV, they can be a town hall, they can be and often are dictators or the proxies of dictators. We've summoned these little, vicious machines inside our magic circle — and as is usually the case in summonings, we've accidentally broken that circle. Computers now seek the compensation of a contract, a price will be paid, one way or another, the sand that we've drawn around ourselves for protection in some atavistic ritual has predictably been brushed aside.

I collect and repair typewriters. The typewriters I'm interested in, manual typewriters, were designed to write words. Your own words perhaps. On paper. They are machines that require no electricity — they require the food of paper and your interest, but they fundamentally make few other demands. Of course you could just use a pen or pencil, you don't need a machine at all. If you subscribe to absolute Luddism then they're similar to the overlord everything-machines, symbols of bureaucratic slavery. But then you could say the same thing about paper or the pen itself — let us reject paper entirely and retreat to the clay tablet, let us reject the tablet and paint on the cave walls. And so on.

Why a resurgence of interest in typewriters? Part of it is old fashioned collecting instinct, that weird little pebble somewhere in the jelly of the human brain that needs to amass types of things together, a form of irrational ownership. Typewriters are important artifacts of the first modern age, now irrevocably gone. For this, they're worthy of interest and preservation, but I also believe they're still useful for creative writers. They're a deterrent to the invasion by the everything-machines on fertile territory.

The machine itself, the design of the machine, as we know of it from the pinnacle of examples in the middle of the 20th century, is the epitome of a perfect tool. They are not everything-machines. They are examples of sparseness and limitation. They are made of small bits of metal, springs, hammers with blocks in the form of letters. The mechanisms of the really good manual typewriters, well kept, will last longer than you. Cormac McCarthy's Lettera 32 was bought in 1963 and lasted his entire career. They are repairable and maintainable. Many are portable — the Groma Kolibri for instance, which is about eight pounds, and stunningly thin. Similarly portable, the typewriter associated with William Burroughs, the Antares Parva. Others are monsters, like the Underwood business machines, tanks lumbering onto desktops to output endless invoices and memos.

We tend to remember what we want, the routine of the daily typewriter was hardly glorious novel-writing. But typewriters influenced the tone of 20th century writing, the patter, the click-clack. As Truman Capote lamented about Kerouac "That's Not Writing; That's Just Typing", the typewriter facilitated modernism and experimentation, it altered writing. It's one level of abstraction away from pen on paper. Writing on a computer is several levels isolated beyond that. Comparatively, writing consistently, voluminously on a typewriter is a physical action. It is a particularly aggressive action — you are hitting the paper with hammers, pressing ink into paper. It is unforgiving. If you want perfection you will need additional tools like whiteout.

But if you're writing creatively you'll be, more often than not, ready to strike or annotate with the pencil from behind your ear, or you'll take drafts and cut them up with scissors, gluing the passages back together into the desired order. It's radically different than writing on a computer. The effort needed to do this leads to an economy of words — although not without parentheticals, since text isn't as instantly malleable as it is on a computer. On a typewriter you adjust as you go forward, without the ability to redraft in place like on a computer. You always move forward, you leave the rewriting to another draft. The series of compromises is different, the physicality is different, the resulting text, naturally, is different. I'd argue better because the act of putting words together feels closer, the mistakes are human, the text is tangible.

2018-08-01 18:58 culture blog

panGenerator » apparatum

Analog sound generators, based on magnetic tape and optical components controlled via graphic score composed with digital interface.

The APPARATUM has been inspired by the heritage of the Polish Radio Experimental Studio – one of the first studios in the world producing electroacoustic music.

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2018-08-01 00:00 blog

In Spite Of Everything

I know, one is supposed to wake, cheery, yawning, stretching arms out, in silk pajamas as the sun beams into the room through French doors.

Not a morning goes by now that I'm not immediately thinking about how long we've got--as a species, as some meat-based infection on the planet. I'd be less grim and misanthropic if the situation wasn't so obviously dire. Evidentially dire. Measurably dire. Tangibly dire. Reading yesterday about the 'QAnon' people, it seems clear that we as a species have gone completely and irreparably insane. Reading about the area that is burning to the ground, again, in California, where people still refuse to acknowledge climate change is real--well, it's just incremental fodder for this morning malaise. The most dangerous time we've ever known is right now, right this second, and it's not getting any better and it won't get better with all these crazy, willfully stupid people--we, us, our fellow humans, literally our neighbors.

It's tempting to just let go--slide off into the deep end of the pool and fight crazy with crazy. Maybe the UFOs will come and save us. Maybe the orbiting satellites will relay meaningful eschatological instructions via pink laser beams. It's a fun game, but the stakes are too high now to really believe it.

In spite of everything I'll keep writing fiction, knowing that fiction cannot compete with the nightmares being generated by the crowd, the mental condition of a culture that adores and supports extremes. Writing fiction is a strategy of mental survival. It's a way to silo the crazy. Instead of actually believing Ronald Reagan rode a dinosaur into battle against the forces of Karl Marx, you exorcise it by writing it down, getting it out of your head. But if you're evil, you'll claim it's true. If you're not evil you'll call it what it is--lies and daydreams, idiotic children's stories and diversions. To separate fiction from reality, it's crucial to understand how fiction works.

And blogging, that noble, ancient art, is meta information around this endeavor of bedtime stories. It's marginalia. It's a quiet scream in an absolutely dark room with no walls, full of other people. At least you think they're people, I'm not sure we can yet say for sure. So that's what this is, a quiet scream, a screaming marginalia.

2018-07-29 22:19 history blog

Marshall Islands: Concrete dome holding nuclear waste could leak

“When the dome was constructed, the US DoD (Department of Defense) almost contemptuously reassured the RMI (Republic of Marshall Islands) government that it would last for the next 200,000 years. This is of course nonsense, and it’s now breaking apart.”

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2018-06-28 17:53 books blog

Harlan Ellison dies at 84; acclaimed science fiction writer was known for combative style

“He’s one of the most dynamic speakers I’ve ever seen, and he tends to speak out of a sense of outrage,” said Latham. “He was always fighting for a cause. That was something that was clear from his writing and from his persona. He was a battler.”

Ellison even stood up to a belligerent Frank Sinatra in a verbal exchange over the boots Ellison was wearing in the pool room of the Daisy discotheque in Beverly Hills—an incident captured in Gay Talese’s famous 1966 Esquire magazine story “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold.”

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2018-06-25 07:32 books blog

The Strange Case of the Missing Joyce Scholar - The New York Times

Already, the work is nearly twice as plump as Joyce’s “Ulysses.” Kidd was particularly excited to show me his key apparatus — the homemade thesaurus where he keeps a running crosscheck on the entirety of the English language. So far, it runs to some 3,000 pages.

“As much as humanly possible, the 19th-century dictionary of English is in here,” he told me. His translation is titled “Isaura Unbound,” and he wanted me to understand its ambition: When the book is finished, it will be a complete reordering of one entire English dictionary into a single work of art. Take that, void.

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2018-06-01 11:17 mind blog

David Lynch Made a Disturbing Web Sitcom Called “Rabbits”: It’s Now Used by Psychologists to Induce a Sense of Existential Crisi

Part of the director's signature atmosphere arises, of course, from the menacingly presented 1950s domesticity and the bizarre appearance of human actors wearing expressionless rabbit heads. But just as much has to do with sound: along with an ominous score by frequent Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti we hear that constant deluge of rain, with occasional sonic punctuation from an inexplicably timed laugh track. You can binge-watch Rabbits' episodes on YouTube, an experience which will give you a fuller sense of why University of British Columbia psychologists used it to induce a sense of existential crisis in research subjects.

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2018-05-16 19:32 books blog

Bret Easton Ellis and the future of fiction – TheTLS

And it’s a terrible way to live as an artist. You see it affecting the arts on a vague, vague but vast scale – where is the taboo? Where is the Other? So what if it’s offensive? Good! Where is this bizarre idea of art created by committee, by a democracy, coming from? Art isn’t created by a democracy! And there seems to be this thing, especially on social media, of group-approved art, that’s chilling.

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2018-04-26 19:36 music blog

See the First “Drum Machine,” the Rhythmicon from 1931, and the Modern Drum Machines That Followed Decades Later | Open Culture

The machine came into being in 1931 when American composer Henry Cowell---in search of a means of translating his increasingly complicated rhythmic pieces---contracted Leon Theremin, inventor of the musical device that bears his name. Theremin came up with the Rhythmicon, “a quirky, clunky, keyboard-based machine that was able to play complex polyrhythms in precise loops,” writes Peter Holslin at the Red Bull Music Academy Daily.

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2018-04-20 21:22 culture blog

What Does The Amazon Echo Look Mean For Personal Style? - Racked

We find ourselves in a cultural uncanny valley, unable to differentiate between things created by humans and those generated by a human-trained equation run amok. In other words, what is the product of genuine taste and what is not.

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2018-04-17 16:48 oddities blog

This Japanese village is inhabited by more scarecrows than people - The Washington Post

Tsukimi Ayano, 65, has made 350 of the dolls over the past decade. The project began simply enough 13 years ago -- she planted seeds but they didn't grow. So she made a scarecrow resembling her father to fend off the birds, she told Reuters.

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2018-04-10 09:06 blog

17th Century Sketches Comparing Human And Animal Faces | Amusing Planet

Le Brun's physiognomic drawings were published in 1806 making them accessible to the general public. It sparked a particular interest in facial and racial characteristics, and the connections between humans and animals.

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2018-04-05 08:49 culture blog

The Art & Illustration of Nick Sheehy / Showchicken

The Grapple, Nick Sheehy

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2018-04-05 08:48 mythology culture blog

Mahlimae - Lost souls of the Erlking - Debut solo show | Beinart Gallery

For some, the Erkling is an omen of death; to others, he mirrors a source of confinement and impending depredation.

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2018-04-04 18:17 blog

Fallen Angels: Birds of Paradise in Early Modern Europe – The Public Domain Review

Illustration of various birds of paradise skins from Jan Jonston’s Historiae Naturalis De Avibus Libri VI. (1650)

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