When I first began this annual torture test, it would have been inconceivable to imagine that I would go on to do it 10 times, and now, if I succeed, which I will – damn it, do it for the eleventh time. I have already started, after having come up with the sole viable concept my poor old brain could conceive of under the circumstances. I could not wait for November first, as I feared that to do so might have left me bereft of all thought, in a sort of paralysis of the mind, sitting on the couch with my typewriter in a bewildered daze. The typewriter of the day is a Hermes 3000, which has the distinct advantage of being light enough to use on the lap, and being the best typewriter ever made in history, blah blah blah etc etc, as if anyone gives a rat’s ass about that. Suffice to say it works splendidly, an UZI for words, rapid firing, accurate, largely infallible, small, light, comfortable – a word spewing tool as effective as the Papal Swiss Guard, who only rarely failed in their duty… (historians may fact check this assertion). So it begins, 30 days of living the novelist’s dream; the goal – 50,000 words, every last one of them painstakingly constructed by pressing on plastic buttons connected to a series of wires and levers that slam inked impressions onto pre-punched Hilroy notepaper from Walmart. I exaggerate – it’s not so bad really – in fact I enjoy it. It gives me a chance to put at least one of my typewriters to good use (or bad use), and what good do they do just sitting there collecting dust for 11 months, if I never use them? Why do I have all of these obsolete devices anyhow? Nanowrimo provides the perfect answer – to write the next _____ novel, or perhaps the _____ book ever. Fill in the blanks and win a lollipop!
This giant size Seidel & Naumann IDEAL Model DZ33 standard typewriter was made around 1939 or 1940. I acquired it by chance while out on an errand with my son when we decided to visit a nearby antique mall. The place is closing and everything is going cheap, so they said!
After looking around at the last of the remaining junk, I saw this hulk of a typewriter, with a sign that said Fabulous German Typewriter, $399. Fabulous indeed! Impulsively, I negotiated the price down and became the new owner. We, my son that is, carried it out to the van, and deposited it on the floor.
Despite being 80 years old, it works perfectly. I squirted the segment with a little lighter fluid, and solved the one sticking key. Considering how heavy the carriage is, the shift force isn’t bad. The carriage runs smoothly over two round rods on ball bearing wheels, like a miniature train. The bell has a lovely tone. If only it was a proportional spacing Fraktur model!
On the back there is a plate indicating the machine belonged to the accounting department of something, and with a warning: wer mich maust oder verborgt, wird bestraft. which translates to this: whoever pinches this will be punished.
This was the only typewriter, but there was a fascinating old Leitz microscope with built in camera.
“Two hundred and fifty,” said the owner, “think what fun you could have!”
The week of smoke goes on. We now have the worst air quality we’ve ever had, almost like a good day in Delhi. Despite the smoke from the fires in Washington, life goes on. The good news is now everyone owns a filter mask! I have a whole collection of them, mostly blue surgical types, but just the other day I scored a real N95 in white (China), that fits great. So stylin’ too. Now I can parade the town with my mask on and not appear to be afraid of that little virus thing. It does make smoking difficult however. Just joking!
With my trusty filter mask I went out on my rounds yesterday, Saturday, and attended a birthday party for a friend, then later hit some thrift shops. I intended to buy an nice enlarger I’d seen, but the lens was gone. I did see a nifty painting of the Last Supper, however, which I was tempted to buy but didn’t when I realized it was not Leonardo’s, just a copy. My son and his wife are waiting for the baby to arrive at any moment, too. On the way home I saw a neighbour whom we had supposed had vanished. All this and more was later immortalized in a round of haiku typed on the Olympia Traveller, while M used her new favourite toy, the Oliver.
What is my philosophy? Do I have one? I must. I just have not thought about it enough to be able to describe it. What indeed is a philosophy book? I’ve never read one, and barely comprehend anything about philosophy, or philosophers. Knowing what I have learned in life, would I be able to go back and change anything that happened to me, or do things differently? That indeed is the essential question here. I can look back at my life and see some mistakes, but were they really mistakes? Perhaps they were the only thing to do, the right thing to do, under the particular circumstances at the time. Perhaps it was my fate to make mistakes and then have to deal with it. Would I change my past mistakes, assuming they were mistakes, knowing that it would change my life and that I would now be in some other circumstances? Could my exploration of my philosophy conclude that my philosophy was wrong, or perhaps the correct one? Can one have the right philosophy and yet end up in the wrong place entirely? Can I espouse one philosophy and live by another? Can a philosopher be a hypocrite and yet have a valid point to make? When is truth invalid? Can a lie be valid under the right circumstances? That I believe is certain. Sometimes the whole truth is harmful, and must be hidden or forgotten in order to avoid harm to someone else. Motivation must be examined in that case. Motivation can be more authentic than ugly facts without context. Can there be contextual truth? What role does time play in any given philosophy? If life had a fixed length, how would that affect the decisions we make? How then does each of us think about our choices given our own personal conception of time? Do all people experience time at the same rate, or does the idea of time mean different things from one to the next? How does our understanding of time even develop? How does technological change affect our concept of time? In the absence of clocks and calendars, what would time mean? What if there was no mathematics or arithmetic? No counting. No writing, and only oral means of transferring information? What would the philosophy of cavemen be? It is almost beyond imagining. Without philosophical concepts of morality, can there be sin, right or wrong? Why were the Romans so immune to feeling the suffering of gladiators, and wild animals that died for their amusement? Did they have the feelings and emotions as I have? Could I have been a spectator at a battle between gladiators and not felt horrified? Had I been a Roman, what difference might there have been from who I am at this moment?
And now for a few photos of fire hydrants (film cameras only, caffenol development):
Yesterday I blogged about a Baldix 6×6 folding camera c.1950 that I found in a thrift shop, with an old roll of film inside. The film was Kodak Ektacolor 160, which has not been made since the late 1990’s, from what I can gather.
The film had been wound up to frame 3. After I figured out how to wind the film on, which requires winding forwards until it stops, then winding backwards until it stops, and then winding forwards to the next frame number, I wound it on to frame #4. The accessory on top is another odd bit I found at the same shop; a Voigtlander Kontur viewfinder. While not made for this camera, it fit onto the accessory shoe nevertheless. At first I had no clue what it was for. I then discovered how it works: you use both eyes!
This is what you see:
I went for a walk around the lake with the camera, my exposure meter, and wife. I rated the film speed at 100, to give it a bit more light, since it was so old. Last night I developed the film in caffenol, using this recipe:
600ml water at 20 degrees C/ 38 gms Arm & Hammer washing soda (monohydrate)/ 10 gms vitamin C powder/ 24 gms Maxwell House instant coffee/ 8 gms table salt.
I presoaked the film for 10 minutes and poured out the bluish water, then in went the caffenol. One minute of agitation, then 20 more minutes in the tank, agitating at one minute intervals. 21 minutes is longer than normal, but I wanted to overdevelop, again to compensate for the age of the film, assuming it had lost some vitality. Rinse, fix, wash. I was pleasantly surprised to see 9 images. The edges were fogged, but there was enough detail and contrast to get halfway decent results from the scanner (Epson V600) using a little backlight correction to brighten the images and compensate for the density of the colour film base. Ektacolor is a C41 film, with a slight brown tinged base stock.
I have another old expired roll of colour film in a 35mm camera, waiting to be processed. Time to get more coffee however, as my jar of Maxwell House is empty.
Oliver and Olympia are the names of the twins in my book The Magic Typer, so when I found a very unusual little Oliver typewriter for sale this week, I was delighted. The Oliver #4, as my research on the TWDB attested to, is mighty uncommon. This one dates from 1953, and is in such perfect condition that I assume it has been very carefully looked after for 67 years.
It works like a charm, but is a trifle loud. The design floors me; the round key-tops, gracefully curved top, colour matched spools, and the kicker – the punched thru logos on the top and feed table. They both have a red insert, but the feed table insert is transparent, and will glow under the right lighting. It will also cast its image onto the table!
This is one for the permanent collection, right up there with the Hermes Rocket and the Olympia Splendid. It reminds me very much of those two, more Olympia than Hermes, but having the same essence of quality in the design and build. I also picked up a fine old folding camera at the same time, a Baldix 6×6, along with a strange little viewfinder that was not with the camera. The viewfinder is a Voigtlander Kontur, a clip on device that was made for some Voigtlander 35mm camera, naturally, but which works with any camera that has an accessory shoe on the top. I had no idea what this was until I looked it up and discovered how it works. It has no view as such, but a black frame within which are some lines that let light in and create a bright frame. Keeping both eyes open, you will see the bright frame lines superimposed on the view from your other eye. Once I got the hang of it, the thing works like magic.
The camera dates from the early 50’s, like the Oliver, so they seemed like a perfect set. There was an old roll of Ektacolor Gold film in the camera, with only 3 frames exposed, so I shot the rest of it and will attempt to develop it in caffenol, which works on C41 film, albeit not particularly well, but it does develop. Ektacolor? That film was never sold here, and any I could find on line expired 23 years ago. Typewriters never expire however.
While I was filing my latest negatives I chanced to take a look at the first page of my files. I decided to scan that film, which I shot in 1970 in Montreal. There among other things were pictures of two different domes, built 120 years apart. The first was the Bonsecours Market, c. 1847, a building that was not only a market but briefly the Parliament of Canada.
Fortunately this building was saved from demolition in the 1960’s. Countless other treasure like it were demolished to make room for atrocious apartment buildings, etc. Another world class marvel was this:
The 1967 Montreal World’s Fair was the greatest fair ever held, if you count the attendance; over 50,000,000 visitors! I was there, lucky for me, and visited almost everything, including this building, the American pavilion. It was designed by Bucky Fuller, and is the largest and most spectacular dome of its kind ever built, and is still in existence – minus the acrylic skin, which burned off. The structure survived. They were planning to dismantle this one too, but somehow it was saved. I recall the fact that if they were to raise the temperature several degrees inside, the whole thing would have easily floated away like a hot air balloon.
Film: Kodak Tri-X 400, developed by me in unknown developer, probably Kodak D76 powder.
Camera: Minolta SRT 101, Rokkor PF 55/1.7
Here are some recent BW scans from several rolls of Kentmere film I shot in the past 2 weeks, using a Minolta SRT 101 and a Nikon EL. For those who care about lenses, I used a Rokkor 50/1.7, a Nikon 55/3.5 micro (reported to be the sharpest of all Nikon lenses @ $5), and a no name 28mm Japanese lens good enough that I can’t see any difference between that and the others.
The purpose of shooting film and developing it at home is to become frustrated, screw it up, and carry on until you finally get something decent, which describes how it seems to go every time. But the results can be fun, and interesting.
If you just want a good picture, find a Canon A510 or something like that for $10 in a thrift shop.
But if you want some excitement, combined with a way to waste some time using old and simple do it yourself methods, then Caffenol developing is the thing.
I just added another old Eaton’s phonograph to the collection, the Eaton’s “Roamer’ (model 50-26), made by Dominion Electrohome Industries, the company that I assume later became simply Electrohome. A previous post covered the Eaton’s 703. Presumably you could roam about with this neat little unit in hand, taking it over to a friend’s apartment to listen to the latest music:
It’s hard to determine the date it was made, but my guess is the 1940’s, before the advent of the LP, since this machine is made to play 78’s. It was on the shelf with the electronics at the thrift shop, where I spotted it immediately from the old style box and handle. The power cord was cut off so there was no way to test it, but for twenty bucks I decided it was worth a gamble. I saw from peeking into the underside that there were two vacuum tubes, so I figure that if it didn’t work I could convert it into a 5 watt guitar amp. However, after I soldered on a new power cord it did indeed work. The tubes began to glow and a loud hum was heard from the speaker. I put some silicone lube on the platter spindle and the platter began to turn very fast.
Looking at the pickup I noted an offset stylus with some sort of dark point, that I assumed to be the sapphire, or some such thing. The pickup itself was made by Shure. With it humming and the platter spinning around quickly I reached for the nearest 78 album, and grabbed the first disc in the set – Xavier Cugat’s Waldorf-Astoria Orchestra playing Begin the Beguine.
How appropriate – my parents spent their honeymoon at the Waldorf Astoria in 1947. Maybe they even danced in the ballroom while Cugat’s orchestra played this song. Compared to my much older windup 78 phonograph, this one is high fidelity. It certainly does explain how those recording engineers managed to get decent quality edits from old recordings that exist only on 78’s from that era. They manufactured these discs with the highest technology of the time, as explained here:
Now here is – Begin the Beguine.
Just finished this one. Hiking season in the Alps should be open now, but with Covid 19 still about, I wonder how the refuges will be affected? This is on the climb from Tre-le-Champ up to the trail called Le Grand Balcon on the opposite side of the Chamonix Valley from Mont Blanc, that big white hulk in the centre background. Most hikers end the Tour de Mont Blanc with this hike, which on a good day affords the best possible view of the great mountain, from a trail that is. This was the last day of our 11 day trek, and I finally convinced Terry to wear the camo boonie hat I had given him.
To get the whole story, you can buy my book A Walk Around Mont Blanc.