If only Mad Magazine was still around….
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Today, January 23rd, 2021 is Django Reinhardt’s 111th birthday. On Bilbo Baggins’s 111th birthday he threw a big party and vanished. Having just finished editing my latest novel, which involves a fair amount of analysis, letters and discussion of The Lord of the Rings, I couldn’t help but wonder about the coincidence of these two Eleventy-first birthdays. LOTR is a book about magic in some sense, as is the book I just wrote, A Year in the Life of a Poet, a sequel to its predecessor The Magic Typer.
Django Reinhardt was magic too, if you appreciate anything about the guitar. Where this magic came from is impossible to explain, but to accept that there are things we cannot understand.
I leave you with a paragraph excerpted from my latest novel – a few words from the renowned philosopher AF Schlitzenberger, author of The Wisdom of Gandalf:
It happened to me, so I’m telling you – there are things we do not know and powers we cannot understand at work here, right now, on this planet. If they are good or bad I cannot say, but I am sure they exist. And as sure as I am of that, I am also sure that The Lord of the Rings must have been influenced at the very least by some power that is trying to communicate with us.
there once was a man from New York
who always had steak on his fork
he said with a scowl
while shaking his jowl
the wages of sin are for dorks!
they called him a two time loser
seditious constitutional abuser
he said you’re all fired
I should be rehired
comprendo? to be more abstruser
I’ll boycott inauguration
there’s been miscommunication
I cannot conceive
of a reason to leave
while President of this nation
New York shut his business down
they said get out of our town
the voters have spoken
and no we’re not jokin’
we really don’t want you around!
so where’s the poor boy going to go?
unemployed without any dough
the people got tired
the Donald was fired
back to his old TV show! (did I hear you say Mexico?)
When I was at my aunt’s funeral, about 50 years ago, my Dad whispered to me that there was a guy in the hall who was a bookmaker. It turned out he was my Dad’s step brother, and he had been a millionaire and broke again more than once. I am a book maker too, but of a different sort…
Nanowrimo is over and I have printed my book. I started typing on October 30th with several pages, then began in earnest on November 1st and wrote all the way until December 4th, with but one day off. I wrote over 80,000 words and got a serious back spasm along the way. All the writing was done on manual typewriters, mostly a small group that I prefer; the Hermes 3000 & Smith Corona 5 for desktop portables, and the Hermes Baby, Olympia SF/Traveller, Olivetti Tropical (Hermes Baby clone) & Olivetti Lettera 22 for smaller ones that I use on my lap.
Instead of sending my book off to a POD house for printing, I decided to make my own book for the first copy anyhow. I checked out some videos on book binding and researched how to set up a printer to print signatures. I wish I’d known this earlier! It’s not difficult and very enjoyable. I printed the book at half letter size, 5.5 x 8.5 inches precisely, so the signatures are printed 4 pages to a letter size sheet. The PDF print driver allows this to be done and all you have to do is set the number of pages in each signature. I set mine to 5 pages, and then printed 20 pages at a time to fill the five sheets on two sides. You could go ahead and print the whole thing at once however, but then you’d have to sort the signatures afterwards. You need a laser printer that will duplex, I should add.
Rather than hand stitch, which was taking too long, I decided to sew the signatures on a sewing machine, which went through 5 sheets of paper with ease. My book has 230 pages, which means I should have made 12 signatures of 20 pages each to end up with an even number of sheets. The last signature had fewer sheets, so I added another signature at the end to make up a few blank pages for the cover, and for any correction notes, etc. These next pictures are an example using scraps to show the process.
With the signatures together in order I clamped them and glued the spine with a sheet of paper wrapped down the front and back an inch, using white PVA glue. Then I glued on a heavy card cover to the front and back sheets, but not the spine, and clamped it to dry between two boards. So far it is holding up and looks like a real book!
A better job can be done if you wish to make a fine book, complete with cloth cover. The proper way is to sew the signatures together, but I didn’t bother since I just wanted a copy to read and edit, and didn’t wish to make a work of art for my purpose. If you research bookbinding you will discover there are many more steps that can be done to make a fine book, but for just a sketch or note book this method here will do well enough.
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.
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.
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.