A Type Down Memory Lane

Recently, I hit the local flea market with my girlfriend looking for fun trinkets with a crisp $20 in my pocket. And we were lucky that day, since we both came away with something we had been looking for. In my girlfriend’s case, it was a snazzy new pair of jeans. And in my case, even though I was looking primarily for old video games, I ended up coming home with this:

Asin’t she a beaut?

A 1975 Sears Manual 1 portable typewriter. In all its mass-produced glory. For a piddly three bucks. It has an ancient ribbon, and it’s missing a key, but it does still work, and is technically a “portable” model (I say “portable” in quotations because it’s probably close to 15lb, and buying it early in the day caused both of my shoulders to hurt by the time we reached the car). All I need is a flannel shirt and enough fair for a man-bun to be “that guy” at Starbucks writing that earth-shattering screenplay.

To be honest, I know very little about my typewriter model. Looking it up hasn’t so far come to many conclusions or interesting information, other than that it was actually made by the company Brother and not Sears as the label states. This isn’t even surprising, knowing the video game history I do; the Atari VCS/2600 was sold at Sears as the Sears Video Arcade with games as “Sears Telegames, so why wouldn’t they do the same with other electronics and productivity devices?

But why would I buy such a model, released into the world the same year the Vietnam War came to an end and “Squeaky” Fromme tried to shoot President Ford, in 2018? Why would I bring this heavy and intricately-assembled metal beast into my home-bedroom?

Nostalgia. Pure and simple.

But not just ANY nostalgia. See, I’m in my mid-30s now, and there have been some noteworthy changes between the things I grew up learning and experiencing that kids of that age won’t be seeing today. And in this case, that would include typing classes. Because I didn’t learn to type on a computer – even though there were computers in my home going as far back as I can remember – but instead on a manual, just-like-my-$3-purchase typewriter.

Back 20 some-odd years ago, computer labs weren’t common in my hometown’s schools. There was a new one in the high school, but in lower grades, you’d be lucky to find a collecting-dust Apple II in the corner with a busted floppy drive. (Fun Fact: That actually happened, and it didn’t work until my mom took it home, cracked it open, removed the debris from the drive and sent it back to the school for use. Oregon Trail by any means necessary, yo.)

Because of that, my middle school had a room filled with around 30 typewriters. Just row after row of bored 14-year-olds thwacking the keys and complaining that they pressed too many keys too quickly and jammed the thing up. That was a real problem… to this day I know that, in theory, people could type over 60 words per minute on a manual typewriter, but I have no actual concept in my brain as to how. I might’ve reached 20 or 30 then, but that was through sheer determination.

The only other thing I remember about that class was a teacher telling me they could program their own website. Remember, this was 1998, so HTML was still some hot stuff, yo. (I could program my own site too, and it probably looked just as solid as any Geocities abomination he’d made, the egotistical jackass.) I didn’t learn how to touch type until I started through college in the early 2000s thanks to hunt-and-peck techniques and manual typewriter classes.

Now, I look over that class and my “new” machine as a timeline connection point. Even in that class, bored as I was – I was 14, every 14-year-old is bored, it’s in the rulebook – I still loved seeing those typewriters. Even back then I loved telling stories, which helped me to eventually become the aspiring story writer and poet I become in my early high school years, and the thwack of a manual typewriter just pumps me up to getting my thoughts onto paper. It’s probably not going to be one page at a time while worrying about replacing ribbons or jamming the hammers all up, I do love modern word processors something fierce, but I could see myself testing out some poetry on my mechanical wonder should the spark threaten a fire. And either way, even if it’s never used again, for three measly dollars it’s a token of a time long since passed. Even if it wasn’t “my” machine, it still takes me back to “my” era, and connects me in some small way to the writers that came before me like my fountain pens have done.

Which reminds me… I think I’ll start practicing my cursive a little too. That takes me back even further.

Stand Tall and Type Well, friends. May your stories be lovely and your ribbons be plentiful.

Renewal

Yoda and Star Wars are copyright Disney. Don’t know who exactly to give the credit to for this gem, but it ain’t mine.


Two things happened to me today that spurred me to finally write a new post. I’d been meaning to for months, but these two things finally coalesced and brought me to the writing prompt:

  • My playlist played one of my favorite pump-up songs, “Prayer of the Refugee” by Rise Against;
  • There’s a Lamy store on Market Street.

Sometimes what you find you need is right in front of you, and when something else can merge into the moment with it, that’s what I would call “inspiration”.

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Laid Off

It’s been too long since I wrote something in here last, but I’ve had a bit of a trying few months – both good, in that tomorrow is my one-year anniversary with a lovely young woman I adore, some more personal issues, actively working hard to have stories worth publishing or requesting representation for, and good old-fashioned procrastination. But never fear, today I’m posting something I wrote in the aftermath of a fateful Monday morning, when I received bad news in public.

That’s always a good time, ain’t it?

You’ve probably guessed what it is from the title of this post, but I wanted to put some thoughts together after it occurred – crystalize what’s going on in my head, how I’m feeling about it, what I’ll be working to do going forward. This one isn’t a “good” post, but it is a reflective post, and one the likes of which I’ve (sadly) written of before.

Should you choose to, thanks for reading, friends.

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#28DaysOfBlackCosplay

Cosplay is more than simply dressing up as a preferred character; it’s a form of self-expression, identifying with a (usually fictional) character on a level beyond simple admiration or appreciation. It takes time and effort to dress up like a favorite superhero or video game fighter or animated antagonist, and that time is hard to invest when the character means either nothing or next-to-nothing to the cosplayer. And the results are usually incredible – I’ve seen wonderful depictions of Chun-Li from Street Fighter, Green Arrow, Patty Mayonnaise, various colors and generations of Power Rangers, there’s not enough time to break down how solid they are and how they’re portrayed.

That said, it should also be noted that many of the most popular characters in many mediums popular in the United States – video games, film, comics, other mediums, and including the characters I listed above – are predominantly white. Especially the biggest names, like Batman or Wolverine or Wonder Woman or Ms. Marvel, have historically been caucasian. And many superheroes are more than only white, they’re men. They may be diverse in their power set, or their personality profiles, or their backstories, the biggest and generally most popular (and profitable) have been white men.

Because of this, most noteworthy cosplayers are dressing up like them. But during Black History Month, there’s the hashtag #28DaysOfBlackCosplay, displaying some of the great displays of my melanin-rich friends taking over the cape and/or cowl of their favorite characters, making them their own. And more than the few characters of color like Storm or Black Panther, cosplayers are taking on traditionally white characters like Captain America and Superman.

And this is AWESOME.

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Veteran’s Day

On Veteran’s Day, since I work from home and Starbucks on a regular basis, I have taken to one tradition: I leave about six dollars and a large cup on the counter for the next veteran to come in. It’s a small gesture – I can’t be too big anyway, I’ve been financially strapped enough over the past few years – as a “thank you” to those who have served our country and its military conflicts. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do to give thanks as a grateful person who respects those who have given their all for my right to speak and think and live as I wish.

So at my local Starbucks here in the California Bay Area, that cup is waiting. I wrote “Thank You” on it so you know it’s for you. Hopefully I won’t be the only one doing this.

Here’s to a sober and reflective Veteran’s Day, everyone.

President-Elect Trump And My Middle Finger

First, and most importantly: How are you? Are you alright?

Secondly: How did it get to this point?

I’ve never felt this disenfranchised in my life as a result of an election. And this will get a bit ranty, but I need to say something. So, here’s my two cents. Take them or don’t.

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Back To Square One

I haven’t posted here for a while. Not for any particular reason, just haven’t been inspired enough (and had enough time to write something I would want to share). The past six months or so of my life have been really good, kinda sad, and sometimes quite disappointing to think about, so I’ve just kept most of them to myself.

But hell, to get myself writing in this little corner of the Internet again, I’ll open up just a little. It’s been busy.

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Lemmy and Ziggy

When I was a teenager, like lots of other teens of my time (I was a teen from 1997-2004) I listened to a lot of hard rock and alternative stuff. My sister was a rock lover and metalhead, and she exposed me to plenty of new bands I wouldn’t have heard around my parents or even many of my friends – Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Metallica, The Cramps, AC/DC, and plenty of others I’m sure I’m forgetting. She may have been the one to cause my first exposure to the ass-kickers that are/were Motorhead.

And the man that led Motorhead through its history in the 1970s until his death last month was Lemmy Kilmister. An odd-looking warted man with funny facial hair and a voice the consistency of a rockslide-affected road, the man known as Lemmy fronted and gave voice to some of the coolest rock tracks of all time… the most notable of them all was “Ace of Spades”, a fast and loud song about living life to the full and worrying only about not having a good time. It’s one of my favorite songs of all time, both for its message and its simplicity, and his voice sounded like the most mature person that could give the message to a teenage me.

Some of those songs have bounced around my mind over the past few weeks, including a one-off track called “Shake Your Blood” that he performed with Dave Grohl (another of the best musicians writing and performing today). The more I listen to the stories of people who knew him, the more I view of his own words and speaking for himself, the more I admired just how nice a man he seemed. He was pretty soft-spoken, he would perform with everything he had (even after the brain cancer hampered his ability to speak he was still managing to get through concerts… somehow), and off-stage he just wanted a cigarette and a drink. And to read; turns out he was a voracious reader, and a history buff/historian. A smart, quiet fella, at home in the quiet corner of the bar as well as the stage. Maybe he preferred the corner to the stage.

After multiple interviews, this is what I’ve learned about David Bowie. The not-heterochromia-ed Bowie (he had a permanently-dilated left eye which gave him his distinct look, but both his eyes were otherwise blue) was, quite possibly, the most naturally handsome man in rock; a fashion icon and trend-setter; re-inventor extraordinaire; and yet, he was also very private with his personal life. He lived about as “normal” as he could, given that he was, indeed, David-fuckin’-Bowie. He would create a character, let them run to their highest point, then coldly and quickly cut them off and begin again.

Bowie was someone who didn’t simply make music, but simply made. He created music, played many instruments in his career, and generated characters that even I as an extremely casual fan recognized – the biggest two being, of course, Ziggy Stardust and… himself. Acting, writing, singing, performing, he was one of the few true renaissance artists of the 20th and early-21st century. He married a supermodel, genuinely one of the most gorgeous women in the world, he had children, effortlessly and publicly broke with the status quo more often possibly any other person in his industry or otherwise, and yet – somehow – still appeared down-to-earth (which, as Ziggy, completely broke character).

Oh, and I never heard an actually-negative thing about him. He was always just there, creating something new, asking his audience to come with him wherever he went. Always inviting, always daring, and yet never intimidating. And I respect the hell out of that.

These two men were very, very different, with very different ways of reaching their potential; both were, in multiple ways, geniuses that nobody really saw coming. They lived their lives on their own terms, yet stayed very kind in their journeys there. From what I can tell, they really only had about four things in common:

  1. They were rock icons (Bowie for flexibility in presentation, Lemmy for steadfastness in rocking out).
  2. They earned the respect of ALL of their peers, contemporaries, and the generation that followed them.
  3. They ended their careers – and their lives – with new albums and performances until they were absolutely no longer able.
  4. They both died from cancer.

Lemmy dressed in all black, Bowie in every color he could. Bowie with flexible vocals, Lemmy with a trademark gutteral growl. Bowie hitting every genre well, Lemmy driving hard rock harder than anyone else. Lemmy quiet in the corner playing his video game of choice and sharing a drink with fans, Bowie introvertedly developing new characters and creations for everyone to experience at home.

Is this an obituary for two great icons of music? Not really. I don’t like writing obituaries, though I’ve written a few. I much prefer writing a tribute and tipping my proverbial hat (and lifting my non-proverbial drink) to those who I can appreciate both as people and creators. And with both Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and David Bowie, we’ve lost two heroes in an incredibly short period of time. It’s easy to say “fuck cancer”, especially when two of our greatest just fell from its ravages, but the best way I know to react instead is to put on some face paint, make a Lemmy (Coke and Jack Daniel’s, in case you weren’t aware) and crack up the stereo to show appreciation.

If you don’t have any JD in the house – or you don’t drink – and you’re averse to wearing make-up, cranking up their tunes works just as well.

Lemmy had a bigger influence on me personally than Bowie, but the level of respect for both men is there. Both had long and powerful careers, ending with a crescendo for their respective audiences. They gave their all until the end, and they lived with both open and quiet dignity. And that’s what I celebrate tonight, and have celebrated in creating my own material improved by their influence. I looked up to them both not because they were famous, but because they kicked ass on their own terms. And, more importantly, as decent human beings.

Rest in rock, Lemmy.

Fly the heavens, Ziggy.

Stand tall and rock on, my friends.

Origin of an Aspiring Novelist

Dang, as often as I’m not writing here I’m writing somewhere else. So far this month I’ve written six pieces for Game Revolution (three reviews, two previews, and a news piece), worked on the manuscript, done a few press events, read through a few books (the goal for the month was two, so far I’ve gone through this one and this one and this one), and with a regular work schedule that’s just enough to monopolize my time the past few weeks. Definitely distracted, but plenty of points in the Points System notebook.

But we’re starting to approach something close to my heart, something to which I owe a lot of my drive in writing… anything. Anything and everything. Because it was nearly eleven years ago that I started a yearly tradition, and I may be re-directing some of my efforts toward something else this year, but still in the spirit of the challenge.

I am, of course, talking about NaNoWriMo: National Novel Writing Month. (Yeah, don’t care too much about Halloween, the candy does more damage to me as an adult than it used to in my youth.)

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