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Tuesday, 22 January 2013

My Father's Word Processor

     I discovered an interesting bit of technological history, using YouTube and Wikipedia in the past few weeks. For anyone who uses their Microsoft Word or Mac Word or (like me!) Apache Open Office--nothing like a free office suite, whether corporeal or not. Your word processor is actually the result of a very late piece of technology, dating pack to the late 70s and 80s. It was an all electronic machine that combined the latest advancements of the typewriter--namely the daisy wheel and IBM's latest and greatest QWERTY keyboard layout--and added either a screen to the machine or offered a full size (for the time) monitor. Oddly enough, where most machines that fly under a single banner all look essentially the same, the word processor would vary to such degrees that some could be mistaken for a computer. That is, until you peek over the top and notice there is a printer grafted to it.
     Naturally, I am sure that we all know that the personal computer was started in the 70s; the word processor was a way of staving off the demise of the typewriter until the middle of the 90s. That's right, for those of you who cannot recall the middle 90s, there were still typewriter rooms in schools for typing class; offices had more Wheelwriters than they had Mac or PC; the closest thing to a laptop was a square of legal pad; and phones still came out of the wall.
     It's weird recalling this, now, as an adult; I--being part of the millenials, or the tail end of GenX--have forgotten most of what my childhood looked like from a technical standpoint. Perhaps it was because my family didn't make the move to the PC until 2002 or 2003. We had an old Silver-Reed--a gift to my dad when he went to college. It was an awful machine that made everyone mad--it might be the reason for high blood pressure in my family, actually. It wasn't until one day when my oldest sister, getting ready to write her senior seminar paper, turned it on and said, "Dad, your typewriter is broken."
     Said Dad, "No it isn't. You kids just don't know how to use it!"
     But, standing over the machine, he began to smack a key here and there, and---"Huh, I guess it is broken."
     So my family finally transitioned into the digital age of the internet. And then it seemed such a smooth and natural transition. After all, I didn't have to deal with the problems that came from DSL or dial-up internet. We had cable internet from the get-go. And our computer was tailored to our needs, made by a friend of the family. The days of analog just seemed to pass in the same way my childhood did, as I became an adult: seemingly over night. We have six computers in our homes, now: four laptops, two PCs, and I'm not even counting the smart/iphones. 
     It's all very reassuring to remember that all of these super small super fast things we have today are really just amalgams of older tech, combined and (sometimes) refine--not always. (See anything that HP or Gateway makes. Not very impressive.)
     And, yet, here I am romanticizing the past. Oh well, let someone else worry about the why's for now.

From Elliott at the Kitchen Table, with a cup of coffee.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Come on, Meijer!--A Craft Beer Exxxxtravaganza!

     On my way to adulthood, like so many, I ran into a snag with a certain alcoholic beverage. This snag--mostly involving an eighteen year old blacking out in the city of Ann Arbor--combined with stupidity of youth with the mildly alcoholic presence of beer. And not just any beer! It was the most bland, commonplace, and trite beer of them all: Miller Lite. My run in with this run-of-the-miller, tried and true and overdone brewing recipe left me with a gag reflex that, from eighteen to nearly twenty-five, left me dry heaving the moment I could smell an American Lager--light or otherwise.
     However, time does go by; I got over my gagging issue, and I have, in recent days, been introduced to the world of craft brewing. It is just added irony that one of my favorite "craft" brewing companies are owned by the Miller-Coors conglomerate--a company only slightly less evil than the beverage giant In-Bev, who owns everything else essentially. Blue Moon is that one; and Bell's would have to be my current favorite independent. Though, Atwater, and New Holland. However, I--being the Michigander that I am--have a love for so many of "The Craft State" local breweries. 
     Yet, somehow the prominence of Michigan's in-state brewing industry does not translate when I actually go shopping for a brew. A quick run down for anyone who does not go to Meijer or Kroger in the same parts of Southeast Michigan that I do: there is one aisle only partially dedicated to beer. Mixed in is usually Mike's Hard beverages and cocktail mixers. Of the cooler and warm shelves, spanning roughly sixty feet long--I'm guessing--there is, maybe, ten feet of craft beer. That doesn't sound too bad, right? Here's the kicker: most of it is out of season or, worse yet, they never stock the seasonal beers to begin with.
     The beer that got me into beer was a seasonal beer: Blue Moon Pumpkin Ale. I live for seasonal brewing. And all I have to say is: Come on, Meijer! Yeah, I know that area that I live is not the most sophisticated, but why can I not get fall beer in the fall and spring beers in the summer? Oh, sure, I see a summer beer, now. It's freaking December! And where is all of your Sam Adam's? Oh you have the Boston lager out and Sam Light? Great! Where is the Alpine Spring or the Old Fezziwig?
     What are you so mad about? says my Meijer. You can always buy any one of our Budweiser beers. They take up half the aisle!
     No, Meijer, I don't think I will. I don't think that I will.
     Above are links to the company websites and wiki sites. Also, under "Craft State" is a good article with interviews from the Founders Brewing Company's...well, Founders. It's all worth reading and informative, especially if you are out of state and don't have a craft beer culture like Michigan's.

That's all for for now, from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, drinking Bell's Winter White Ale with a cold cut sandwich.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Hipster: Part Two

     Last time I defended myself against the Hipster; now I shall defend the hipster and "ironic" living.
     Every generation has had its placebo in order to drag itself from youth to middle age; in most cases, there was more than one. For instance, my father's generation was that of the Hippie, the Beat Nick, and the Anarchist--all of those not being necessarily exclusive. It was how you cope with the disillusionment of realising that your country is not the moral powerhouse that it was in the forties. When that curtain was dropped--right around the start of the Korean War--the youth of this nation began to turn away from the quaint, Christian moralising that had so well permeated the population for nearly two centuries. 
     Disclaimer: I am not trying to paint over any flaws, idiosyncrasies, or hypocrisies that existed in this nation. I am simply saying that--more than less--this nation was two parts constitution and three parts Bible since 1776, even if our founders and framers may not have been. Not exclusively anyway.
     Back to it--in light of this revelation, the youth of my father's day took to drugs, sex, and rock and roll in a way to break down the social parameters that had been placed on them--making it okay to say, "Make Love Not War" and "Power to the People." It was very much the same way that his father's generation threw off the anachronistic ideals of workers' rights, Unionization, and Anti-Monopoly policy that had made it possible for giants like J.P Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and others to make giant, money raking companies that could generate so much wealth at the expense of the health and safety of those at the bottom.
     For the millennials, the new coping mechanism is irony, and--much like Love and Drugs--we do not fully understand it, or its ramifications on our lives. Luckily, it does not have the long term physical effects of LSD, but irony--or rather constant ironic living--does, like any mask worn too long, have an affect nonetheless. Socially it affects you. I alters your own view into one of apathy, which--like those of the 70s, who tried to drink and drug themselves into cheer--makes for a much bleaker outlook on the world. And--it cannot be denial--so called ironic gifts are the worst sort of White Elephant idea ever! Just don't go to the party or skip out on your own name. You would be doing the world a favour.
     However, I do not dislike ironic living, because--like I said--it is a means of coping with the stresses of this world as this generation makes its transition into adulthood, where we might very well forget all about our hipster past. And that is fine. Look back on these days and laugh, because--of all our coping mechanisms--laughter is still the cure-all that, though it is safe and free, is seldom used.
     My last disclaimer: I do not mean to try and trivialize the strife of the past. Certainly, the long fought war for worker rights was one of such singular importance...Hippies? Sorry. You don't make that cut. But, in our time, the great struggles have increasingly gone to the arena of the mind. We think things out in ways that we could not before. Mostly, this is due to the physical fights being already fought years ago. Honestly, I prefer it that way. We shouldn't have to refight for healthcare just because, "Dammit! My Gran-Pappy did!" We should build on it, and whatever we accomplish should not be devalued because someone was fighting for something in a different way before us. To every generation, there are new challenges. Romanticizing the past only serves to distract. It is subterfuge. Avoid it at all cost.

Saturday, 5 January 2013


     I'm not old. Or, at least, I don't think I am. Yet, when I started hearing the word "hipster" stuck on me about two years ago, I will admit to being confounded. That is until I found out what the word hipster meant.
     Somewhere in my college years, when I had little to no real access to the internet, news, and most other forms of information dissemination, I had accidentally ebayed and dressed myself into a movement. My glasses are 1970's chic, as are most of my clothes. I love old things (you might have noticed when I dedicated two posts to typewriters) and, in fact, see these vintage pieces of tech as superior to the delicate, finicky, and O so willing to be outmoded devices we have today.
     I, however, am not a hipster.
     A hipster--as I have come to learn--needs to go into this gig with an almost ludicrous amount of self-awareness. A hipster says, "Man, the 70's seemed like such a cooler time to be in, therefore I shall replicate it." Hipsters buy typewriters to be noticed--one internet blurb said it all. And hipsters do this knowing full well just how--well, I am hesitant to say--silly? or maybe just preposterous the endeavor is.
     Me? I just fell into it. I found a typewriter at a resale shop, and said, "How cool! I want another." And a collector was born. My clothes were bought for me by others--Christmas gifts, birthdays, etc--and it was them saying, "You would look so good in this." And my glasses? That is the best story of all. They were put on my face by a pregnant woman working at the clinic. "I," she said, "have only sold maybe one pair of these. You have the face for them." Reluctantly, I bought them; you don't say know to pregnant girls. That's just a rule of life.
     "So what?" you say. "You're still a hipster."
     I am not. And I will explain why next time in part two: IRONY.



Thursday, 3 January 2013

Literature of the Highest Quality

     I’ve been on the search the past few days for literary magazines to apply with. As it turns out, there is still a large number of them out there. This makes me very happy; the lit mag seems to be the last stronghold of the short story and novella formats. My one gripe is this: why, when I look under the submissions guideline, do they tell me, “We are looking for works of the highest literary quality”?

     This will never cease to infuriate me; short stories—like all stories—should first and foremost be accessible and entertaining. Would Oliver Twist have been any more important if Dickens decided to forego character development in favor of—what?—format experimentation? sending a message beyond what was an natural occurrence in the plot.

     And what do they mean by quality? Are they looking for perfect syntax, because then Mrs. Dalloway would then be considered a pile of tripe. Is it message? Write off The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

     It seems to me that lit mags are, in many ways, becoming like jazz music: insulate to the point of being unapproachable. And that is not to say that it is bad, but—let’s face it—it isn’t easy listening to modern jazz, which has essentially thrown out its swing and big band roots. It is, likewise, prudent that magazines remember that entertainment should always be number one. Sherlock Holmes was published in a magazine once, and I don’t think that anyone would put him on a pedestal with Heart of Darkness

. Though, Sherlock is certainly more fun.

     That’s all.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Two Words to Never Hear Again

     And another year has gone by, and I feel that I am the only one--in the long lists of resolutions, greatest moments, and most tired phrases--who isn't sick (I mean sick) of hearing Fiscal Cliff.
     Perhaps not everybody puts NPR as their main station to work, from work, and whenever getting gas. That doesn't change the fact that this one-two knockout word combo needs to go down harder than a Stickle Brick built Stallone against the physical manifestation of the USSR's Iron Curtain. Not only is it overused and misleading, it's also an utter lie; as it turns out, there was no fiscal cliff. On January the first--the jump day--our politicians "saved" us from this disaster by signing a bill into law too late to "save" us according to every babbling news head and elected official since Thanksgiving. Sure, you can bet that there will be some convoluted rational for it--some long forgotten law regarding the placement of the moon during the changing of the calendars in the HoR. But the long short is this: We, who have been scaring you into voting for us for the past three years with our financial apocalypse talk, have now decided that our man made meta cliff is as irrelevant as the popular vote.
     So join me. Hate this phrase. I deserves it.
     Happy New Year.