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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Freelance: Part V

Another in a series of articles done for the Observer & Eccentric website and newspapers. This is my coverage of the Big Reveal, on the 20th of November, and a feature for Thursday's Christmas Open House.


That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, wrapping up his holiday shopping with the joy that he didn't have to go out on Black Friday.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Stringers Attached

It's an instant conversation killer, saying that you're a freelance writer. Usually I get a noncommittal--nonetheless nice--smile. Other times I get nothing. After all, that can't possibly be a career. No one makes money writing little "stories" right?
The Journalist's weapon of choice circa 1949

Well, not enough, I have to clarify. I do this other things, too. A job that is more of a "job" in said person's mind, and their attitude changes from one of incredulity to one of general approval.

In truth, I would probably feel the same way had I not met the nicest freelance writer in the world when I was at Wayne State University. He took a writing class with me. His writing was solid, though he confessed a fear of writing from imagination, which complicated things since it was a fiction writing class.

Afterward, when we had gone our separate ways, I ran into him in the library. I was researching medieval castles for a novel I had been working on for two years, and am yet to finish! He was looking up possible jobs.

"You seriously find work this way?"

"Yep. This is how I have always been paid."

It seemed incredulous then, too. Then I never entertained the idea of being a journalist. I was yet to read "Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72" or "In Cold Blood" or "Travels with Charlie" or Hemingway's work with the Toronto Star.

That was years ago. Now there is the karmic simplicity of having to explain myself to those who don't understand, who do not see my job as a real job.

And I revel in knowing that I can now find myself on Google. Then feel sad, thinking that I hold that as some kind of standard of existing.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, getting ready to bust out the Cranberry and Goat Cheese. Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

The Comeback Kid

My father and I had this debate: Would anyone be interested in a period film version of Batman and the Justice League? I stood (and stand still) firmly on the side that says. 

My reasons for why are: the rise in fascination (and the price in resale) of typewriters, rotary phones, vintage glasses and vintage anything; Kickstarters like the qwerkywriter; the popularity of Mad Men, Gangster Squad, Public Enemies, Boardwalk Empire, and Gotham--all of which borrow an analog aesthetic; hipsters; and now the Hemingwrite.
render_low
from hemingwrite.com
According to its press kit, the Hemingwrite will be everything that I had ever wanted in a word processor. As a prototype, the Hemingwrite sports a Macish aluminium body, cloud connectivity, mechanical keyboard switches, and a 1 million page memory. Also, it kind looks like a typewriter, which is perfectly fitting for it. It's named after one of the most famous typewriter promoters of all time. All it needs is a place to put in the paper and laser print the text as I type, and it will truly be a machine out of my dreams.

And it's about time.

It's been too long since the dedicated word processor was sold to potential writers and not to public schools. For Christmas last year, my fiance bought an Alphasmart NEO for me from an elementary school. For those that don't know, the Alphasmarts were marketed for students with special needs to aid in their education. They are as simple as they come: instant "on," automatic save, no internet, and universal computer connectivity.

Neo Direct, the maker of Alphsmart, stopped making the Neo and Neo2 (the last incarnations of the Alphasmart) in 2013, as their sales were in decline as laptops became cheaper and more powerful. Yet there remains a fierce loyalty to the dedicated word processor. A new version of the Neo is in the works from writerlearning.com called the Forte/Fusion. There are journalists and novelists that adore the Alphasmart models still out there - even if they are ugly as sin.

Will there be some kind of renaissance for the word processor, launching it back into the lime light with a hip, new design that strikes the right chord with the nostalgic millennial generation? Who knows. But I hope it does. There was once a time when everyone thought that the tablet was a bad idea. Costs as much as a computer but no keyboard. Now the world practically runs on the silly things. Perhaps one day, seeing a college student on what looks like a steam punk keyboard will be as natural as swiping on the iPhone.
from hemingwrite.com

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, getting ready for NanoWriMo.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Did you ever know that you're my hero?

Everyone likes to talk about the writers that influence them. That being said, no one likes to be told that they write like one of their influences. The key is in burning down the ladder that took you to the top, and, once there, pretend as though you had been there the entire time. Kind of like Clark Kent in every episode of Superman...ever.

Me? I like to think that my ladder is still very much in tact, that my life's work will always be a work in progress. After all, masterpieces are for latter years. Youth is for experimentation.

And without further adieu: My ladder...


JOHN IRVING

This is the man that made me want to write. I wrote a bit about him on medium.com a few months ago. You can find that article here.

Though his work is mostly in a serious vein, it is John that taught me how to laugh with literature. I spent most of my nights in college laughing as I read and reread The Cider House Rules--one of the best titles of all time. That book was also the first since Harry Potter to make me cry at the ending.


WOODY ALLEN

Everybody who's anybody wants to be a somebody, and that isn't necessarily the somebody that they are in the present. They want to be an icon. That's Woody.

I came late to the Woody Allen game. He was already well into his winter years, and I was still yet to see Annie Hall or Manhattan or even The Scoop, which came out when I was a teenager...and idolizing Hugh Jackman, so how could I miss that, right?

But what came from my exposure to Allen was the work ethic that it takes to be an icon. It doesn't just happen overnight. Image is cultivated to practice and hard work. In many ways becoming an icon is like writing yourself as a novel. Your body is the text, main and supporting characters. And it is exhausting.


TRUMAN CAPOTE

There are good writers. There are great writers. There is Truman Capote.

If only you glance at his short stories, you will feel that you are in the presence of a writing genius. Capote's prose are the cleanest, most precise, and most labored of all the 20th Century writers. And that's saying a lot considering all the greats in the 20th Century. But when asked why I think Capote is so good, I need only give you three words: Breakfast. At. Tiffany's.

or: In. Cold. Blood.

or four words: Other. Rooms. Other. Voices.


ERNEST HEMINGWAY

I love short fiction. I especially love Hemingway's. (I also love beards and fancy hats, of which Hemingway has in spades.) I also love his work with the Toronto Star. If ever you wish to see how a news article should be written, you need only look to Papa for an example. He serves as the standard of what 100% useful words represents. Even when his prose run on the flat side, Hemingway's work is still a wonder to behold.


THE HONORABLE MENTIONS

Neil Gaiman--enchanting prose, enchanting fantasy
J.K. Rowling--moved me in ways I never could have imagined
Patrick Rothfuss--only time and his next two books will prove if he is truly a thing of legend
J.D. Salinger--great writer, though I still haven't gotten through "Catcher in the Rye"

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Freelance Part IV

I continue my relationship with the South Lyon Herald in this weeks online edition. My article on the local hop gardener, Nick Mascero, can be found here.

South Lyon is a wondrous, historic community with surprises and treasures at every turn. The South Lyon Herald is equally amazing. Please read and pass this on.

This is also the link: http://www.hometownlife.com/story/life/home-garden/2014/10/16/growing-hops-home/17233255/

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, feeling like a big shot.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Postmaster, Letter Writer

Looking back at myself over the past two years, and I wonder where I became so infatuated with the method in which words met a page. In days gone by, it did not much matter. If you typed it, or your secretary--the words were there and that was all. And here I am, pouring over my computer, wishing it was my Olivetti or one of my fountain pens.

Then it hits me: email.

The great, unintended footprint of our great writers--your beatnicks, lost generation, gonzo reporters--are their letters. It may not have been important to them back in the day, because EVERYONE had stacks of the damn things floating around the office waiting for the filing cabinet or the paper shredder. We don't get that joy today. There isn't the same kind of footprint.

I delight in letter writing. I write my sister away at school. I write my fiance, even though we speak on the phone every day. Sometimes I write Barack and Michelle Obama. My congressman has gotten a letter or two from me. And I have written many perspective editors, bosses, and a few writers, hoping to elicit a response. But the fact is that letter writing is a mostly dead art. Like making hats, learning Latin, or playing the sitar, no one writes letters anymore because it is easier to talk on the phone, text, or send an email. They are fast. They are instant. They are instantly disposable.

So I lament in that there will be no collection of letters when I die. (Lest you forget, every writer imagines that he or she will be one of the greats.) No one will want to wade through the mindless emails that I have sent. They do not yield much; they are for utility only. Letters in the mail are art.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, telling you to watch hometownlife.com this week for my latest article from South Lyon.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Greatest, or just another Generation?

I grew up knowing that all of my grandfathers and great uncles had done their part to win the war. They were the generation of heroes. Grandpa, on my mother's side, road supply lines for the allies. On my father's side, grandpa was discharged due to physical disabilities. During his discharge exam the doctor told him, "I don't know how you faked it through the first examination!"

Today, our involvement in Iraq, Syria, and whatever else in the Middle East next becomes a ISIS stronghold threatens to become WWIII of our history. If my son is lucky, it will be in the history books by the time he gets to high school, where they'll watch movies about brave Americans trekking the desert in motley crews, battling the evil ISIS troops shouting, "Death to America!" as they fire their weapons. But what will he think of us--the GenX and Millenials--that will be fighting the coming war? 

Will we be the heroes? Will we be the stuff of legend? Or are we going to another in a long line of power seekers, oppressors, thugs. The same way we, in America, view the British of the Revolution, the Japanese of WWII, Saddam Hussein, Stalin, Putin, Hitler, George W Bush and Dick Cheney. 

What will we say of our choice to go back to a land we couldn't liberate the first OR second time?

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Quietly Happening, or Shouts Over the Waves


With joy I greeted a message from a good friend. He lives in South Lyon, where I had an article slated for publication. It finally came out in this week's South Lyon Herald, though it has been online at Observer & Eccentric's hometownlife.com

This of course is good news to me and the man I wrote about, Chuck Theile. I passed along the news in the morning, and quietly went about my day: mundane shopping at Meijer and jotting notes on a legal pad--the exciting life of freelance.

Like a gradual wave, the news began to pour in from Chuck and online. Searching for my article, I found it three separate times, cataloged under different cities and their respective publications. I found this odd, but thought little of it. Then Chuck sent me a reply. He knew that the article had come out...and it had come out in several papers.

I was overjoyed. That explained the multiple entries on Observer and Eccentric's website.

Then this came in:

"FRONT PAGE OF WAYNE-WESTLAND'S PAPER."

All the while, I wondered whether or not to put a cereal bar in my son's lunch this coming Monday, and dated photos with my fiance from the past four months for our photo-albums. 

News, it seems, comes in waves, and life never stops being strange and funny all at once.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, ready for a road trip to see these newspapers with my own eyes.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Freelanced Part III

I am proud to say that I have been published by the illustrious Observer & Eccentric of Oakland County. The story I wrote for them can be found on their page:

www.hometownlife.com

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, glad that the flood waters have receded.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

On Model Manliness

I saw a construction crew, contracted for the company for which I work. They were the kind of people one would stereotype as construction worker material. Rough and rowdy, one of them was wearing the misnamed Ten-Gallon Hat, while the others used obscene language, shouted at the top of their lungs. It was like watching a jungle, as wannabe alphas fought for dominance over anyone who happened to wander into their concrete shattered domain.

And that is the proper world for a man, so many have told and recommended to me. That is real man's work.

***

Working with the mentally and physically ill, we are not always the most civil and proper. We work under stress, end our days feeling that we largely accomplished nothing, and as a means of relief often turn to gallows humor. As it often goes, if you can't laugh in the face of death, whose, then, can you laugh in?

Though it is not the most physically demanding (and what job is nowadays?) it is still taxing and tiring.

Yet, as the perception goes, my work (for men, anyway) is less admirable than others. Construction is where I should be, or in the auto industry, because if I'm not doing something with my hands, or breaking my back (with a hammer in hand, not a weak man that needs to set in his bed) than I am not living up to my manly potential.

This, I think, is another of those North and South, water and dry-land, divides that seem to be at the core of Michiganders and their perception of work and place and life in general.

In the south, a man isn't a man unless he's out breaking his back to bring home the bacon. That is a real man, and a real man is more worthy, more trustworthy, and somehow all around better than those phonies that answer phones or work in law. Smarts breeds distrust. Smart people are also lazy if you're from the southern end. 

When you travel north, a real man is someone who worked his way out of the back breaking, and is now riding the waves of his "well deserved" success. A teacher need not apply, for a man who is a teacher is not ambitious enough. Lawyers get the pass, especially if they hold a fancy public office, or know how to dodge small business taxes. Business men and auto industry white-collar are gold.

***

I think that we are still caught linking Man with Muscle and Money, no matter how much we don't want to admit it. But the facts are facts. A guy with a shovel is no more or less a man than the guy wheeling a poor old man into a hospital. Base pay does not make a man. Neither does bicep size.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, learning how to stand and write at the same time.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Papa Returns

It was announced that there is going to be another movie next year starring ole Papa--Ernest Hemingway. Not another magical bout into the past a la Midnight in Paris or an adaptation of one of his books, which has always been very close to memoir rather than outright fiction, Papa is a tale of a time in Hemingway's life when he had befriended a young journalist in Cuba. The entire movie is being shot in Cuba, which is a fact that seems to have eclipsed the very basics of the movie itself.

I remain ambivalent about movies about writers. Capote was an excellent look at the man during some of the most interesting years of his career as a novelist and reporter.  On the other hand, The Rum Diary was a messy (at times indulgent) farce, hiding Hunter S. Thompson and his beliefs behind a supposed work of "fiction" and said little or nothing by the time the credits rolled.

My problem is that sometimes the writers tend to not be nearly as interesting as their personas lead us to believe. In the case of Truman Capote, he was an icon, whose social candor was second to none, and whose life was as interesting as he wrote it to be. In Thompson's case--and I am a big fan of his work--he was by-in-large an overly exposed drug addict, and his work suffered for it. His landmark book, Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72, chronicled his drug addiction as much as it followed Nixon and Humphrey. And as great as it was to read the insights he had on the candidates of '72, it was equally sad to see his work fall apart because of his numerous addictions. His life, unlike Capote's, can be largely summed up as a man who wrote well for a while but was very inconsistent.


Whether Papa Hemingway is interesting enough to warrant a movie dedicated, not to his life, but to a specific moment closer to the end than the beginning remains to be seen. I suppose that 2015 is just around the corner now anyway.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, getting ready to "pen" the next great American novel--then maybe a bar fight.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

People in a Strange Place

Apartments are mostly the same. No matter how many you have been to, the creeping sensation of corporate sameness is never far away. The walls will always be white--or off-white, but who can really tell the difference? The carpet is nice but not too nice. And the layout will vary little. With two bedrooms and the obligatory kitchen, the only great surprise will be whether or not there is a hallway.

Yet, like a Woody Allen protagonist, when in another's apartment for a prolonged period of time--even if I had been there repeatedly on other, shorter occasions--I grow uneasy and neurotic. I take to pacing, or following Melissa from room to room, like a lost puppy or a shadow. In every corner I think of how my stuff would fit in the space; where might my "work" area (e.g. my typewriters and pens and pencils) be?

"Will you stop following me?" Melissa asks, as she moved about the kitchen barely large enough to warrant steps between the sink and stove, even when cooking.

"I can't! I don't know what to do." I look around the apartment. 
"I don't know what to do in here."

"Don't do anything. Just relax."

"I can't! I need my stuff. I've got nothing here."

I have people, though, of a very precious nature. There is Melissa my fiance and Zander my son. He is off in the other room cuddling with a stuffed toy. But we are still people in a strange place, when we long to be in a home.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Populaire: a Reflection

This weekend was awash in movies for Melissa and I. Thanks to a quiet Saturday night, and Sunday afternoon, we were able to watch Populaire and half of Wolf of Wallstreet. The following podcast in about Populaire, because--well--I am me, and I love movies with typewriters in them, am I right? Also, a great many thanks to the Antique Typewriter Collectors club on facebook, whose power over the miasma that is the internet was able to point out that Netflix was finally streaming Populaire.


That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, licking my speed-typing wounds this week.

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Sound of Silence

I drove a man home the other day. He lives on the outskirts of Ypsilanti Township. It's pretty much Milan. The edge of the world.

He's a nice man--friendly, though very quiet, which is unusual for most of the men that I move around. Once we reached his home, and I helped him out of the van (he's in a wheelchair and needs a great deal of help getting around) I became anxious.

I had no idea why. There was nothing around us. Nothing was stirring in the nearby woods, and the neighbors were out for the day. But the anxiety grew in spite of me telling it that there is nothing to worry about.
Nothing
That's when it hit me: my day is a crowded room of somethings. My body is constantly moving. Even when sitting, I am shaken by the vibration of the van's engine. My ears are busy with the voices of others, the radio, the road noise, noise, noise.

This man lives in the woods. Neighbors are scattered far, and there isn't a freeway for five to ten miles depending on which direction you take. In that silence and stillness, my ears were straining for something. The idleness of gently blowing leaves, and the whistle of wind through the trees were too subtle for ears accustom the metallic cacophony of the city proper. I needed to make a concerted effort to appreciate this moment of solitude. 

But he went into the house, and it was time for me to go. The moment was left behind; my day felt worse off for it. Back in the car and the chaos, my mind searched for that moment again, screaming to know the sound of silence.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table with a little help from Simon and Garfunkel.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The Universal Church of Twitter and a Linkedin Myspace

When choosing a deity to worship, one might as well choose the church of Social Media. Like a religion, it has the potential to be anything you wish it to be, so long as you have a voice to overpower the rest; like religious institutions, social media can ruin lives, setup impromptu charities, destroy careers, raise troglodyte racists to celebrity status, and make a pantheon of gods out of dust. And like gods, when you shout your pleas and prayers and thank you's into the ether, feeling that (if only for a brief moment) you are the center of the universe, the chances are good that no one cares.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, just learning how to sharpen a pencil with nothing but my wits and knife and the idea that I can do anything!

Monday, 16 June 2014

When Freeways Go Still...Michigan Life

When in the car, I listen to NPR or PRI--whatever public radio entity happens to be running on my Detroit radio. There was an essay about turning off the TV. This writer, Andrei Codrescudecided to give it up cold-turkey. What he found was just how hard it was to lead a life in America without TV or phone or internet. He posited the question: "Can I handle my life without something to distract me from my life?"

At the same time I was caught in traffic. The freeway that connects Detroit and Chicago, I-94, was shut down. Thousands of drivers were forced to take a single, tiny exit on the well named and often forgot Wayne Road. While waiting, I looked around, trying to find another soul, another contact. But we were so busy.

A girl to my right, driving a minivan, was busying texting while her van idled. The Cadillac with tinted windows, and the Chrysler 200 behind it, were talking on the phone.

"This is why there will never be revolution in America," the writer concluded.

As I fought for my turn to escape the madness of a four lane amalgam into one, I agreed; we are a sea of individuals, the stars of our personal drama, and we never think to look left or right, and find the truth of ourselves in the eyes of another.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, safely home.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Class Water-War

In Michigan there is a clear, geographic divide between the classes. It isn't like Manhattan or Chicago, where you need to wait for a street sign to tell you that this is the point of no return. 

In the low lying lands of Southeastern Michigan, you have the blue-collar communities. The once marshy land has been developed into a dry, concrete jungle. Here people live mostly hand to mouth; the few that grasp at the cusp of white-collar are usually pretenders. They got their mansions during the building of the housing bubble and scam, and owe twice the amount they paid for it, or their jobs pay nearly enough for two who do not have kids. That frees up an easy thousand dollars a year that would have been burned on school jerseys and ballet lessons.

In this world, water is a rare thing, contained in a clear pool or else on the tap. The only life inside it is viral--something the chlorine cannot kill. Any water outside of that--your Detroit river and Lake Erie--are dangerous places. People die in them. Pollution is rampant. Both have caught fire in the past.

Up North--or just Northish by Michigan standards--you have the richer, wetter lands of the wealthy. Out there the inland lakes are numerous. The houses built up around them are newer, better. The schools are bigger; the programs funded to excess. Out there, the trickle down politics of Rick Snyder are gospel. A world balanced and paid for by the sacrifice of the working poor is a perfect world.

Going out there is the only time where I feel that there is real tangible evidence of the Aquatic Ape Theory. At my Uncle's home, which is on a lake, I watch as the neighborhood kids hop casually into the boats, and set off into the depths. A lake where, not sixteen months ago, a man died, and it took a full day to recover his body. Yet these kids jumped into paddle boats and kayaks and canoes and take to the water like experts, unaware or simply unafraid of the dangers of open water.

I stood on the dock, my son dangling his feet over the edge and playing with my fiance, and I felt terror. Any moment could mean doom. The water has that power. It is death if it wants to be.

As that wretched emotion begins to take its hold, constricting my lungs and pumping adrenaline into my blood, I do the only sensible thing: I turn away. I walk off the dock and back to the hard, dry land--my natural state.

The state of my social class.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Movies with Typewriters in Them. Everything with Typewriters in Them.

You know when you have reached an unhealthy infatuation when, while at a funeral, you notice a door cracked at the funeral home, and decide to stop the conversation to say, "Look! That's a Wheelwriter!"

The room looks at you like you're mad.  Thankfully, my fiance finds my child like obsessions endearing.  As I wrote in a previous essay, she was the one that bought my first Olivetti.
My First Olivetti

She also doesn't mind when I point out a typewriter at a funeral.  Or--more common's the case--during a movie or TV show.  Yes, I call out the difference between the Selectric I and II in the Mad Men shows, and how Don Draper uses a Woody Allen style SM-3 at his home with Betty.  He later takes it to his apartment when he and Betty separate.  And Peggy has a Royal Safari.  Look it up.

Also on Selectrics--Seth Rogan uses one in The Forty Year Old Virgin.
From fanpop.com
It's therefore a thorn in my side when I cannot watch a movie that is specifically about typewriters:  Populaire.

It has been all over the typosphere, yet when I attempt to find it, whether to stream or buy, I find that the world is still starkly divided.  By DVD players.  Their disks won't work on my player, and so I must live without and trust when everyone on the web says that it is a really good film.

I guess that is a first world problem too.  But it's mostly a typospherian problem.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

First World Problems

We went up to Lansing, the Michigan capitol, to visit my little sister on Easter. She lives on the outskirts of the MSU college campus, on a road called Jolly, where Okemos and Lansing somehow begin and end.

Her apartment is nicer than mine ever was. She and her roommate took pains to make the place homely and lived in. My walls were always barren and the furniture was sparse.

My son likes to use her bedroom as a playroom. He's suddenly become shy about everything, and likes to close the door on people. Without asking he jumps onto her bed, grabbing her stuffed animals and using them in whatever game he had been playing with the toys he brought from home.

"Be careful," my little sister tells him. "I don't want you breaking my tablet."

I notice the book sized case sitting under her pillow.

"You bought a tablet."

"I bought a Samsung. It's the latest model."

"Why? You have a laptop."


"But I don't want to take my laptop to Europe, and I still want something to read while on the plane. So I bought this. Now I can read books and watch movies on the way over...You know, First World problems."

Freedom sometimes means the freedom to buy as many unnecessary electronics as your heart desires.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, transferring files from my Alpha Smart Neo to my laptop. First World Computation.




Friday, 25 April 2014

Freelance, redeux

Just in case you missed it last month, I was published on Medium.com, writing on the used book store, Magina. You can find the link below. I'm proud of my work with The Magazine, and this piece especially.


That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, refilling a Mark Twain fountain pen.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Royals: From Hemingway to Hemingway to...whatever this is.

It has occurred to me that, though I am at heart an Olivetti fanatic, I also have had a fair share of Royal typewriters come my way. Many of them I liked, too! If there was a company I would rate right next to Olivetti as far as the second most fashionable and accessible machines, it would be Royal.

So Here We Go!


'49 Royal Quiet Deluxe


Probably the least loved of all Royal typewriters, even if it is one of the best. Inside it is a classic QDL, just like Hemingway's. Hemingway used this one--or so Mr. Typewriter says--before he died. It was designed by Henry Dreyfuss. Read a great article about him here. This was also a favorite of Ian Flemming, the man who created James Bond. His, however, was gold plated--a sign of how much it pays to invent James Bond.

Mine came from a girl, who got it from her neighbor, who didn't want to keep it. Their loss. I had Chuck Theile from CCS Business Machines take a whack at it, and now this QDL is on my desk nonstop.

This was the last of the "classic" Royal typewriters, and as far as I am concerned, they don't get any better.


'50 Quiet Deluxe

Bigger shell and fiberglass keys, it isn't quite the classic, and it certainly isn't as iconic. It's quality speaks for itself, though. This is still a great Royal.











'60 Safari

A Bob Dylan favorite. It looks like the sixties. Bubbly and just as likely to rocket off into space as it is to pound out your next term paper. I don't know about these. They have the Royal name, and they certainly aren't bad machines, but they don't FEEL like a Royal.

This one I saved from a washer and dryer store. All it took was a little TLC and a couple hours to get it moving again. The rubber was fantastic. The guy at the front desk told me that they only used it for receipts, so you can imagine that it was used regularly, but only enough that it didn't rot.

After a year with me, I sold this one. I hope it's new owner is enjoying it.


Litton Royal Tab O Matic


Here we go. The history of Royal as a subsidiary, as an American company, and as an independent firm is a long and confusing and sometimes unknown history.

But this Royal is from the end of that history, when Royal was halting all its American production. Instead of making quality machines, Royal was rebranding Japanese typewriters from Nakajima. It was all the rage in the 70's. They were cheaper to make, were made in a way that made their shells easy to redesign, and the market was aiming toward the ultra light "Baby Rocket" style anyway.

Sounds great, right?

It wasn't. Not for Royal, anyway, who would waste away through the 70's and 80's. All that's left of them now is a small firm that still sells Nakajima knock off electronic typewriters.

It's not like it's a bad typewriter, per say. It works, and is all metal. That's saying a lot during a decade that pretty much worshiped cheap plastics. But it's based on the Hermes Rocket, which was innovative about forty years before. Better slim line designs came after--for example, the Lettera 32. What really made the Rocket so great was high--stupidly high--quality. This one didn't have that, and so it too was sold off.

'70 Apollo 10


Another of the Nakajima Royals, this one was actually designed in Holland. It was first made around the same time that Royal was selling European ultra slim portables based on Holland typewriters--your Parade, El Dorado, Dart, and of course the Apollo. Later on, when Royal was focused exclusively on Japanese rebranding, they gave the name and shell design to Nakajima, which fit one of their manual models into it and added a motor for kicks. Using it, it feels just like the above Tab O Matic. It has the same carriage shift and slant to the keys.

'50 Royal Aristocrat

A lot of people might have trouble telling the difference between Royal typewriters. Then you get your hands on a couple and realize that it's all in the materials. As its name suggests, the Aristocrat is the royalty of Royal. It has the best action, the coolest paint jobs, the quietest carriage return, the fastest maximum type speed. It feels like a full size in a portable body.

Even mine, which came to me in very rough shape, is still one of the best typewriters I have ever used. I am thankful that, though Royal fell from grace in the decades that followed this machine, they never thought to sully its good name on a knock off Nakajima or brother clone.

Those are the Royals so far. That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, getting used to Elite typeface.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Here Comes the Spring

The snow is gone now, save for a few piles of gas soaked sludge hiding out in the Kroger parking lot. The sun is out again, and its rays can finally be felt instead of only seen. On a day like this, when it is all but certain that winter is gone, I like to think of what I heard a fellow coworker say during the throws of the first Polar Vortex:

"I don't want to hear any complaining come July, when its 90 degrees out. If you want to say something, think of what you were doing January 9th, when it was -40 degrees."

I was wrapped in all the winter clothing I could find, feeling the beard on my face freeze over from the water in my breath. My legs ached, as did the foundation of the house. Both groaned in the night, when the winds were at their worst.

It was extreme. It was also amazing.
From NPR.org
There are not many years where you can say it was so cold you could see water crystals floating in the air, nor that you survived weather that would--and did--kill citizens from warmer states.

So when you look back, don't think on the misery of the season, but rather in the beauty of the extreme. Like a tidal wave rushing into the shore, or a hurricane swirling on the radar, the terror and danger also yield beauty like none other. A crystallized wasteland--we may never see it again in our lifetime. Think on that awhile.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, drinking down his custom six pack from Kroger.


Sunday, 16 March 2014

That Time Again...

Dionysus
That's right. It is that time again, folks. Spring is in the air. Birds are chirping. Squirrels are...squirreling? The histamines are blocking, and 50% of America lines itself up and pretends that our Easter celebration is totally NOT based on Pagan traditions drawn from everyone from Ancient Greece and Rome, to the Vikings and Goths.

The churches are packed, because--let's face it--liking god is OK for most of the year. Come Easter, you better fucking mean it, and I mean mean it with prayers, taking up a seat, and giving extra in the donation basket, because god only know when you're going to be here again.

If there is one thing that I cannot stand about the Easter holiday it is the refusal of so many mainstream Christians to admit that their holiday is--not just built on--but a patent rip-off of the celebration of rebirth that permeates so many ancient cultures. The use of rabbits to symbolize fertility, which is also the symbol of Eostre, . The hanging of a god on a tree, which was done by Odin and Krishna before Jesus. Both also rose from the dead, as well. And we cannot forget the lunar calendar in which Easter's date is decided.

Horus the Son of God and Isis
Odin
I wrote on the nonchalance of religion in the modern era before, and I still stand behind that. Despite the youth of this country growing less interested in three thousand year old stories and traditions, there is still a faction--mostly of the aged--that still contends to these traditions, and uses them as a means of waging cultural war of the silliest variety. Every year Fox claims that there is a war being waged against Christmas. In churches all across America there are preachers telling us that kids shouldn't be focusing on the chocolate bunnies or the fun of Easter--even though they DID come first--and instead we need to kick those things to the side and focus on JESUS.

Krishna, also the Son of God
But they WERE there first, and are no less important. Religion is, if nothing else, a combination of silly things that help us get through the day. Some people smoke. Others pray. Others still smoke AND pray. Why must the prayers be for destroying five thousand years of human tradition? If there is one resilient things in our world, it is the old traditions of the so called Pagan gods. At least they knew that they were ridiculous, and bought into it whole sale.





Jesus, another son of God


So happy Spring everyone.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, looking forward to coloring eggs in the name of Dionysus, bringer of the Spring, who saved his mother from the clutches of Hades, raising her to Mount Olympus and placing her among the stars.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Hipster Manifesto: Two

I spent a month waiting for an email. Just one.

In that time I received several thousand, and on multiple devices and accounts. There is my personal and business emails. Both can be viewed on my phone or laptop. Let us not forget the piles of junk mail I also received in the physical world--I'm inclined to at least open that, if only for security purposes.

It only just dawned on me that, "I'm a hipster, damn it!"

I shouldn't be sitting by the phone waiting for an electronic letter. I should be sitting at the typewriter, or penning out the next great novel. Or at least playing some vintage video games and drinking craft beer.

Let Manifesto: Two be shorter than the first, in that I have one simple wish...

Hipsters should be able to turn off the chrome, the firefox, the gmail. There is no appreciating things that once were if we are constantly living in the "what is going to be."

Shut down that cell phone and spend some time with yourself, or the family, or your favorite goldfish. Just turn it off.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, getting himself a Boston Lager and playing some Mega Man X

Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Un-PC or Political Correctness

Opinion comes with ownership. And rightfully so. Everyone should have to stand by what they say and believe. Otherwise everyone of us would end up sounding like Mitt Romney during a high gear backtrack of his 2012 Campaign.

Then there comes the Qualifier--that person who needs to preface what they say with "I'm not a..." 

"I'm not a racist, but..."

"I'm not sexist, but..."

"I've got nothing against 'The Gays' but..."

Most people are not bad. Their heads are simply full of bad ideas without the means to edit and erase them from the decision making of their day.

In the living room with your kids, or in a backroom with some close friends, this might be fine. But it doesn't fly in the 21st Century Public Eye. You can't bury your beliefs by reassuring the world that you don't hate an entire block of people, despite what you're about to say. This is the age where everyone is a linguist. Everyone does deep readings of your syntax; there isn't a person left who has not heard of Freud, Barthes, or Nietzsche.

Instead of hiding your feelings behind an inadequate shield of grammar, take this moment to be introspective. In the words of Mr. Miyagi: 
Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later [makes squish gesture]  

Walking the middle of the road gets nothing but trouble. Taking a side, being honest is the only way to grow. And who knows, if you're honest with yourself, maybe you'll find that your views cannot even pass the judgement of your harshest critic: You.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

On Watching Salinger

There was a recently released documentary on J.D. Salinger, chronicling his life and career in a tangential way. It's probably the most direct way of dealing with the author who pretty much invented the word "aloof."

Indirectly.

It's hard to imagine being Salinger. Reading his work, seeing the reactions that people had to him, I cannot grasp being viewed as a deity--having my words be read with the same kind of exuberance that is usually reserved for extreme right wing readers of the St. James Bible. It's obvious that there was something in water all our mid-20th century writers were drinking. Between Hemingway, Salinger, Capote, Williams, Vonnegut and the rest, I don't think that you'll find a better group of writers. There are no better prose; no cleaner syntax.

Yet these were also men obsessed with creating their own image. Capote was a drama queen to the enth degree. Hemingway went on adventures, and intentionally put himself out there so as to maintain his bad-ass manly man image. And then there was Salinger, who was as an obsessive control freak over his words. He was renown for hating anyone who tampered with his stories. He threw fits and ended friendships.

And he was obsessed with remaining out of the spotlight. That, it seems to me, only exacerbated the public's desire to know what he was up to.

As a writer and father, I tend to believe the John Irving and Stephen King model of writing: that writing is a support system for life, not life a support system for writing; that writing should never come before family. John Irving has said in interviews that he never closes the office door, because he never wants his kids to think that they cannot come in.

Do they write as well as Salinger did? Well, the answer is a solid no. They have their great works, and have written some gooder-than-hell books, but Salinger is on a freak level. And to get there he destroyed everything that is supposed to make life beautiful: family, friendship, love.

I love to write. I love to read. And I hope that one day something of mine changes a life for the better. I hope to be a writer that attracts a fan base. But never at the price of having a life.

That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, waiting with bated breath for a '49 Quiet Deluxe to come back from the shop.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Freelanced

To celebrate my second piece of freelance work, I'm posting a link to it here.

http://www.thenewsherald.com/articles/2014/01/02/life/doc52c1bf2e0c290840788382.txt

It was a labor of love, as all writing is.

There is more to come from Elliott at the Kitchen Table

Saturday, 4 January 2014

Gore is Vidal!

It depresses me when I think of all the writers I am yet to read. Just when you think that you are catching up, along comes another great voice in our literary heritage that has the nerve to be completely unknown to you! Not only that but he is also a massive Olivetti fan! That's enough for me.

I am talking, of course, about Gore Vidal.

The first time I heard of him was an episode of Family Guy, to my eternal chagrin. But the show didn't tell anything about him, other than he didn't want to be on Brain's talk show. Stewie shot a hot dog in his mouth and that was the end of Gore's spot on the show. Once the credits rolled, I forgot all about him.

There are so many great voice to read and watch:  Kerouac, Updike, Woody Allen, Coppola. Vidal fell beneath the radar. It wasn't until I came across a photo of Vidal on an Australian blog that I started to pay attention.

The photo was up an aging Gore Vidal. He was at his desk with none other than an Olivetti Lettera 35l by his side. It was the first refurbished typewriter I bought, and my first Olivetti. The search that I was performing was for modern writers that used typewriters. Vidal was just one of the many, and that gave me heart, being the only person I know who is a journalist and still uses a typewriter instead of a computer.
Note the rounded steel body. That's a 35 without a doubt.
I still haven't read anything or seen anything by Gore Vidal. My backlog is just so massive that it wouldn't be possible with my current work schedule. Nonetheless there it is--an Olivetti at the hands of one of the greats. What more could I ask for in my little 35?