Reinventing the Wheel — or the Roller, Anyway

I’m a lousy typist. Given that I spent six years of my life as a journalist, and that I’ve done a fair amount of writing (fiction, the diss, the blog, freelance stuff in grad school, and so on) since that time, I really should be better at it than I am, but I’m not. As I’ve often said, it’s rather like being a cowboy who can’t ride a horse.

Part of it, I think, is that I’m a big guy — my friends joke that I don’t text quickly because my fingers take up too much space on the phone’s touchscreen (“Hulk tweet at puny humans!”). But really, as much as anything I think it just goes to my general clumsiness; people who know me still can’t understand how I can play drums, given my astonishing klutziness in other aspects of my life.

I say all this by way of expressing how thankful I am to live in an era of word processing. Had I been forced to use a standard typewriter for my entire career, I’d probably still be working on my dissertation. I did use a typewriter early in my grad school and fiction writing career — my folks had bought me a used Smith-Corona portable electric, and while I managed to operate it through main strength and awkwardness, I was saved by the arrival of commercial word processing software, such as Displaywrite 3 and WordStar. At the magazine, I used Xywrite until I finally got an upgrade to Word in my later years. (One downside to all this is that a fair amount of my early writing — including 180 pages of an unfinished novel — was written in formats that are now pretty much inaccessible, or would be even if I could find the now-obsolete media on which they were stored. Actually, that may not be so bad after all…)

And in the pre-Internet days, when personal computing basically meant word processing and gaming, that worked well for me. In the Wifi era, however, it’s far too easy to get distracted by Facebook or any number of other online diversions. What to do, what to do…

Well, some entrepreneurial folks have decided the solution is essentially to reinvent the typewriter. Their product is called the Hemingwrite, and according to the company, it is:

a minimalist digital typewriter for distraction free writing composition. It combines the simplicity of a typewriter with modern technology like an electronic paper screen and cloud backups to create the best possible writing experience. It is designed to do one thing only but do it exceptionally well. Since there is no email, Facebook, browser, or menus, you are able to stay in your creative groove and finally get your writing done!

The product includes a mechanical keyboard for fans of that typewriter/80s keyboard “clicky” feel. (I used to have to pay extra for a clicky feel, but now I’m married.) The onboard software allows for backspace/deletions, but not copy/paste activity. This is a machine for quick-and-dirty drafting, I guess, with revision to take place at a regular computer later. The company claims it is both durable, and at four pounds, portable. It also looks pretty cool, especially if, like me, you’re a fan of the retro look.

hemingsmall

Still, at $350 (rising to $450 on “official” release), it seems like a lot to spend on self-discipline. However, it’s nice to see people trying to do cool stuff, and I suspect the risk of liquid paper inhalation is probably much lower than it was with my Smith-Corona. Hey, I told you I was clumsy.

A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to Bob Gusky, via Facebook.

Posted in Culture, Pixel-stained Wretchery | Leave a comment

Adieu, Mr. Nimoy.

I heard about the death of Leonard Nimoy this morning at lunch when the obit showed up in my e-mail. As a third-generation SF fan (and an occasional writer of the stuff), I owe Mr. Nimoy a debt of gratitude for his signature role as Spock, as do many of us.

I had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Nimoy give a talk at the U of Kentucky when I was an undergrad at a nearby school. Honestly, I don’t remember that much about it, other than the fact that he seemed genuinely pleasant, and the fact that as he would tell stories about working on Trek, every time he would throw a Vulcan salute, the audience would explode with flashbulbs. He read a few of his poems at the end, but I honestly don’t remember anything about them (and no, he didn’t perform “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.”)

So of course, he was as defined by his role as much as Anthony Perkins was, but he continued to do other work as well, notably a very nice performance in the 1978 remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the occasional foray into directing, including this music video (in which he appears as well):

Rest in peace, Mr. Nimoy. Thanks for the work.

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Well, That De-Escalated Quickly

The latest installment of DEATHSTORM 2015 fizzled out for Mondoville. The ladies of the house are still abed, beneficiaries of a precautionary two-hour delay that was declared last night. I, meanwhile, remain on a regular schedule. Good thing I love what I do.

On other matters, I’ve mentioned that I was something of  a metalhead in my undergrad and M.A. days, an era that shaped my book, among other things. One of the constants of my listening back then — and one of the few bands from that era that stays in heavy rotation to this day — was UFO. (As a matter of fact, it’s UFO playing in the background during a rather critical sequence in chapter ten.) While I suppose they had a second-division career in terms of commercial success, they had a strong sense of songcraft, and the added bonus of archetypal guitar hero Michael Schenker, which set them apart from the Foghats of hard-rock history.

At Deadspin (which, a la Grantland, seems to be expanding from a sports site to a more general pop culture review), Joel Reese looks at the band’s history, including the creation of one of rock’s great live albums, and the internal and external factors that kept them in that second division I mentioned a few sentences back. It’s worth your time.

So as a song for the day, here’s a favorite UFO song of mine, the soundtrack to a heartbreak in my early twenties. Things got way better, but I didn’t know they would back then, and this felt right in 1988. Stay warm!

A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to FUDD, via Facebook.

Posted in Broken Glass Waltzes, Family, Music | Leave a comment

Impending Snow in Mondoville

The Winter Storm Warning for Mondoville County commences in about twenty minutes, and will run for about fourteen hours. We expect up to three inches of snow, which we call “Easter” in my old Kentucky stomping grounds, but is a much bigger deal here, where the local snow removal plan is a hair dryer. We’re adequately provisioned here at the Mid-Century Mondohaus, and even if it does snow, we should be in decent shape by Friday, so I’m ready for our road company version of Snowpocalypse.

In honor of the occasion, here’s one of my favorite songs by Devo, a deep cut from their most popular album. Stay warm, everyone!

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It Was Destiny, I Guess…

My mother’s favorite song was Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” She wanted it played at her funeral, a request that my guitarist cousin Jack fulfilled.

Now as it happens, a running joke in my family was a Smothers Brothers-style “You’re the favorite” or “You’re the good son” bit between my brother and me. Some years ago, I was looking through a list of Billboard charts when I discovered that “Bridge” had been the number one song in the country when Mike was born. I called her, and in my finest tone of mock outrage, I delivered this info to my mom, and declared this was proof, dammit, that Mike was the favorite.

She laughed, of course, but then thought a minute. She said that she had fallen in love with the song because it had been a hit during my brother’s early months when his survival was rather dubious. She said, “I’d sit in the hospital and wonder if he was going to make it, but when I’d hear that song, I’d think things were going to be OK.”

Then she asked, “What was #1 when you were born, Smitty.”

I sighed, and told her.

I guess it explains why I play garage rock, though.

Posted in Family, Music, Why I Do What I Do | Leave a comment

Has This Been Cleared with the IRB?

I expect quite the turnout…

Participants NeededA tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to Sid Winek,  via Facebook.

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A Day on Ice and Potpourri

All things considered, Mondoville has barely been brushed by the various storms dominating the local news. I heard a bit of sleet last night on the patio as I read. We got an ice storm warning around ten last night. That put the college and local public schools on a two-hour delay. The resulting freeze (which has brought some power outages and “debris in de roadway”) wound up closing the public schools altogether today, so the girls got to sleep in. As it happens, my classes take place during the first two hours of each day, so I got what amounts to a snow day as well. I’ve spent it downstairs in my den, getting caught up on grading papers, fiddling with my online gradebook, and listening to music.

The current temperature is hovering just above freezing, but the trees, butterfly bushes, and such continue to look like lacework, and I think I hear a chainsaw in the distance.

So what else has been going on? Well, Valentine’s went nicely. Mrs. M received a gift certificate for a one-hour massage from a local therapist. The three of us then went to Real City, where the Spawn and I watched the new Spongebob movie. (We both enjoyed it quite a bit — the Spawn loved the different styles of animation, while I appreciated the fact that in one scene, the background music is Morricone’s “Ecstasy of Gold” from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. As it played, I wondered if I was the only person in the theater who got the joke. Meanwhile, the tune has been popping up in the strangest places lately — including commercials for Nike and AT&T). Afterwards, it was off to the used bookstore, where I grabbed one of the books in Gordon Dickson’s “Dragon Knight” series, a collection of short fiction by James Ellroy, and a biography of Peter Roget. A good day. (Meanwhile, I’m also waiting for the arrival of the new Matthew Shardlake novel by C.J. Sansom and the latest Back from the Grave garage collection.)

Yesterday afternoon was occupied by one of Mondoville College’s periodic professional development/assessment days. This one was less nettlesome than usual, and involved a survey intended to allow me to identify my teaching style from a set of four archetypes. I discovered… well, I didn’t discover a great deal, actually. But the survey confirmed that I maintain a balance between viewing the class as a group and as individuals, while I lean toward a planned/structured/old-fashioned teaching style. That balances me between “Coach” and “Governor” (“Advisor” and “Shepherd” were the other archetypes.) Personally, I was hoping for something like “Warden” or “Coroner”, but those weren’t on the menu, alas.

I’m also trying to figure out the ins and outs of a new project I’ve been handed at work. While it’s not entirely unfamiliar to me, it’s something I’ve not done from the ground up in the past, so I’m doing some pondering.

The Berries continue apace as well — we have another show in about three weeks, so we’re rehearsing for that. Our show last week went well, and the venue has invited us back. We’re also starting to put some new material together, and there’s even talk of a return to the studio later this summer — if only for the Middle Eastern cuisine. Of course, one can still buy our first album here (in physical format) or here (in downloadable form).

And with all that said, here’s a bit of music, a favorite of the Spawn’s. The Chymes were a girl group from the L.A. burbs who were already a bit behind the times in 1966. However, they happened to catch the attention of Howard Kaylan of the Turtles, who got the group to back the girls for a single. Said single essentially disappeared without a trace, but was rediscovered a few years ago on Rhino’s L.A.-focused Where the Action Is box set. Here’s the A-side.

Stay warm!

Posted in Culture, Education, Family, Literature, Music | Leave a comment