Documentary: The Typewriter in the 21st Century


The Typewriter (In the 21st Century)
Directed by: Christopher Lockett
Produced by: Gary Nicholson
Coming Fall 2012

Please tell me I\’m not the last person to know about this. Look at all the familiar faces and names in this trailer. The typosphere is on fire, I tell you! Keep up with the movie\’s progress on Twitter (@LAtypewriter).

Late to the Dance: Megan Chapman\’s Typewriter Art

Megan Chapman at Art Maven

Having recently risen from a two year paper-grading-induced coma, I started poking around in my feedreader to see what I had missed. Quite a bit, it turns out.

Megan Chapman, one of my favorite Arkansas artists, created a series of paintings last year that floors me. It\’s a mixed media series using typed texts and vintage papers called Sometimes I Love You and other stories, and as luck would have it some of the pieces are for sale on Megan\’s Etsy site Art Maven.

Typing and aged papers and poetry – oh my! I adore everything about this series and am feverishly figuring out which piece needs to live at my house. Visit Megan at her blog as well – tell her Monda sent you and begs forever pardon for strolling in so late.  

She\’s Back


So I guess it\’s been a while. Because the reasons are neither dramatic nor interesting, let\’s put that aside for a bit and focus instead on my new gadget.

It\’s not a typewriter. It\’s not even cutting edge, since I\’m certainly the last reader on the planet to finally get a Kindle. The fascination is simply this:

My daughter understands her mama\’s odd techno-dichotomy enough to gift me with a Kindle wrapped elegantly in a Verso embossed typewriter cover. How delightful is that?

It may take me a while to learn to read without a pen in my hand to scribble margin notes, but I\’m thoroughly enjoying the clickety-click of zooming between books. No more going room to room to find one of the three I\’m reading at the same time. Ah, progress.

All You Do Is Blink

No Telling

Nothing makes you feel older and younger like standing in front of teenagers all day. I teach in the very high school I graduated from thirty years ago, and while the physical building has changed very little, I am reminded every minute that everything else has changed a great deal.

It seems like just weeks ago I was stomping the halls of this high school in platform shoes and bell bottoms, peasant blouse flapping.

At the same time, the wild-eyed possibility of these teenagers is catching. Makes me feel like the world is round again, that the orbits are infinite and the end is not near. That’s a lovely bonus.

The mad pace is eating into my writing time right now, although I can see a time soon when I’ll be caught up and – with luck – trot a little ahead. Just not in wooden platform shoes.

Mechanical Brides: Women and Machines from Home to Office

at Amazon for a song

It\’s like someone was reading my retrotech mind. Washing machines and dictaphones and typewriters, oh my! Never mind that this little ditty was published about seventeen years ago by The Cooper-Hewitt National Museum of Design, I never saw it so it\’s new to me.

Mechanical Brides covers all the gadgetry of cleaning, cooking,  and rote office work. What I found most interesting is the chapter on office machines (of course) and the feminization of this technology. Turning a male clerk into a female secretary involved separating the act of writing into two distinct jobs:  composition and typing. While male clerks had done both, female typists were relegated to writing as assembly line production. Interesting now is that we\’ve come full-techno-circle, because everyone with a laptop both composes and produces \”typed\” text.

Business invented a middle-woman and then obsoleted her. Not that it was a bad thing, really, but that\’s a rant for another post.

This book is as much about feminine identity as it is about the machines that defined it. Full of stunning/appalling advertising copy and art, it\’s a steal if you can find one either on Amazon or Ebay. In fact, I\’d like to have a copy just to cut up and frame.

A Last Minute Change of Plans

No Telling

Today I finished packing up book boxes and moved out of my university office. With four more days until the students flood in, I’m going back to public school teaching. Yes I am.

I left high school teaching five years ago for this academic adventure, and now it’s time to go back. I miss the students who aren’t there because they want to be. I miss the feeling that every day I might say or do the very thing that sets a young person on course. I miss gut-wrenching teen angst poetry. I even miss the frustration of staying up late at night to find one more way to make the magic happen for students who don’t believe it matters.

So last Monday when I discovered a last minute opening/chance to go back, I applied and was hired in a day. That was that. My Ivory Tower career didn’t turn out to be a career anyway, just a job. There are important things I’ll miss there as well. My heart hurts when I think about the literary magazine staff I’m leaving behind. These students are grown-ups, though, seniors in college standing at the edge of the jumping-off place, capable and in control. I’m going to miss their triumphs.

To be honest, there wasn’t a day during those five university years that I didn’t look around and wonder which students weren’t there. The students who didn’t make it to the show always haunted me.

Because I know I made the right decision, it was surprising to find I was more than a little jangled as I loaded the last box in my car this afternoon. Resignation and keys turned in, I let the front door of Thompson Hall close behind me and the world spun a bit. Maybe all this moving was too fast, maybe it was simply too damn hot out to be lugging heavy boxes across fiery asphalt.

Maybe it was that I’d spent most of my life on that campus, sneaking cigarettes and listening in on medieval lit night classes when I was supposed to be in the library. My mom was a dorm mother and my daddy coached football there on that campus. It was my home and the school where I later earned two degrees. I remember the odd vacancy of the whole campus leaving for Christmas or summer break, the ghost-town silence the  university left behind at such times. It was like someone had sucked all of air out of my walking-around world and left me dangling there alone. Can you hear me Major Tom?

It felt like that again today. A Sunday afternoon between terms, empty parking lots and still buildings. Maybe it was that this time, I left too. That’s a lot of history to walk away from.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be in workshops and dragging furniture around my classroom. On Thursday, the halls will be filled with nervous and swaggering teenagers. It makes me smile to imagine them, all possibility and emotion, filing into rooms unaware that these rooms are too small to hold them long.

I can’t wait to begin.

photo, George Eastman House via Flickr Commons

Be Careful What You Wish For

No Telling

It’s been the hottest summer I can remember. Day after day with a heat index of 110+ and the whole world feeling like it’s on fire. Not a drop of rain in weeks, no matter who’s doing the rain dance or how fancy. Those liars on the Weather Channel had promised rain for days. Yes, Jim, even you. Still nothing.

This afternoon the lie became the truth and in less than half an hour Em was outside sweeping water furiously away from the back door.

We needed sandbags, but sandbags are an emergency purchase that seems all-important when you can’t drive through flooded streets to buy them. To make matters worse, the place selling bags doesn’t have sand, and vice-versa. Somehow, I always put those on the to-do list after a hard rain and then forget about them entirely. It might be time to break that cycle.

Better yet, we might want to put in a french drain so we’ll need neither sandbags nor spare flood brooms. There’s an idea.

I’m So Vain

No Telling
The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.
(Clairee from Steel Magnolias)

Well, this should be interesting. I had a little surgery (nothing serious) to smooth out my lumpy head. Fifty stitches later, my head has been slap-dash shaved and I look like a cur dog with the mange. That’s nothing. When Tina sees this, I’m pretty sure she’ll go after the surgeon with a pair of clippers set on zero.

I’m hiding out for now wearing various loud scrub caps, but in a couple of weeks I’ll be back in the classroom looking like this. It’s time for some creative solutions. Unless anyone out there has another alternative, it looks like I’m sentenced to hats or fake hair for at least four months. Lindsay Lohan will be back on the street and re-incarcerated before I can use a teasing comb again.

I know this is whiny, but hair is a Big Deal here in the South. This is mysterious and (for some reason) irritating to Those Who Aren’t From Around Here, especially the academics I share the halls with. It’s as if big hair and intelligence were an either/or proposition. Well-educated Southern women find this amusing, because we’ve always known that real power down here requires both. Just ask Blanche Lincoln whose local senatorial approval ratings rise and fall with the flick of a teasing comb.

For now, I’m in loose caps. While I’ve always enjoyed a nice hat, wearing anything on my head in 110+ degree weather makes me want to burst into tears. Besides, they don’t make hats like they used to. I’ll compromise, of course, and find a nice cotton or linen something-or-other. Accessorizing is next to Godliness and all that. Any suggestions are welcome.

Em found a little something at the local beauty supply, but it may be a few weeks before I can test drive it. Maybe by then my vanity can overcome the idea of wearing Paris Hilton fake-hair-on-a-headband. I don’t know.

I’ll think about that tomorrow.

Relax! You can’t screw up her hair. Just tease it and make it look like a brown football helmet. (Shelby, from Steel Magnolias)

Gathering Audience: Blackbird Academy’s Coffeehouse Reading

No Telling

In the beginning is the word, and we write for ourselves. Secret notebooks stashed in backpacks, odd scribbles on napkins or the back of a shopping list. Sometimes a string of words so bright we repeat and repeat them hoping the glamor of it won’t fly off before we can net the wild thing on paper. That’s how it begins.

Then we gather large stories in small rooms, tentatively sharing what we’ve written. That’s the next step, and the one that binds us to each other as writers. We grow into our voices and become fearless on the page.

Finally, we go out into the world. This time, family and friends in a familiar place so all this bravery has elbow-room and a soft place to land. There’s a certain alchemy in hearing your voice read aloud the words you’ve written, and to see an audience rapt. For you.

Next time, we’ll fling poems and stories even wider, because we can.

Top, left to right: Jennie Strange – Blackbird Academy executive director, Amy Ness – art instructor. Middle, left to right: Laura Craig, Hannah Laws, Mary Margaret Hambuchen. Bottom, left to right: Amy Ness, Tara Walls – dance instructor, Jennie Strange, Pam James.

Special thanks to Something Brewing for welcoming us and for having iced coffee on such a hot evening.