Scenes from another Evanston type-in

Putting on a type-in last year was a lot of fun, so I was happy to be asked by the Evanston Literary Festival to host one again. This year it was at my favorite secondhand bookstore in Evanston: Squeezebox Books & Music. Rather than setting the typewriters at a table together for a shared typing experience like a traditional type-in, I scattered them throughout the store. This fit the space better and gave people some privacy, while also encouraging them to browse the whole place.

Overall it was much more low-key and intimate than last year’s. (The pouring rain probably didn’t help the attendance.) But my main goal for any PDT (Public Display of Typewriters) is to make it fun and educational for novices. On that account it was a success. I got to show several kids and young people the basics, which I hope radicalized them into the Revolution.

My Smith-Corona Electra 12 set the tone near the entrance, impressing people with its style and snappiness:

With its futuristic curves and spaceship smoothness, my Hermes 3000 felt right at home among the outer space books:

My Olympia SM7 (of surprise acquisition fame) took advantage of the store’s typing table:

And my beloved Skyriter was kept company in the art books corner:

I also brought one to sell, another Skyriter my sister spotted online for $10:

It worked fine despite some scuffs and scratches, so I listed it for $80 hoping to get lucky. Squeezebox was kind enough to display it on their checkout counter. Towards the end of the type-in a young couple arrived toting a quirky, sticker-pummeled Sears portable and Remington Travel-Riter, not realizing the event wasn’t of the BYOTypewriter variety. But I was glad to talk shop with them, and even gladder when they bought the Skyriter. He uses typewriters for ASCII art and she’s an ESL instructor who likes to use them for class material, so it’ll be put to good use.

Finally, some snapshots from the day’s typings:

A lot of them were done by a pair of tween sisters who rotated through all the typing stations (hence the “weird dad” reference—perhaps they are Judge John Hodgman fans?):

The Electra 12: “It’s Electric!”

Media of the moment

An ongoing series on books, movies, and music I’ve encountered recently.

Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion. Their Mozart Meets Cuba and Classical Meets Cuba mashups are great for people who want to get into either classical or Latin/jazz.

What is the Bible? by Rob Bell. I much prefer Bell in audiobook form, where his engaging and grounded storytelling chops can really shine. This revisionist history is good for skeptics but better for entrenched believers.

Knock Down the House. The Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez origin story I didn’t know we needed.

Avengers: Endgame. Will need a rewatch to decide if it’s better than Infinity War, but my first instinct is that it isn’t.

All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire by Jonathan Abrams. Amazon Prime has the whole series on streaming, so I decided to watch the first episode again just for kicks. Cut to just now wrapping up season 4… This shiiiiiiiiiiiiiii is good.

Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World by Cal Newport. Good combination of cultural analysis and practical takeaways.

Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Finally knocked this off my AFI 100 list. I’m pretty sure it was, shockingly, my first Elizabeth Taylor film. Mike Nichols directs it into something more artful than its “married couple argues the whole time” conceit.

Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara. The long-lost story of the female artist who designed the Creature in Creature from the Black Lagoon, alongside reflections on being a woman in Hollywood.

Recent Views

More photography here and on my Instagram.

My primary view lately:

More chubby baby:

My library shares a parking lot with a church (pictured with its wacky window placements), and the lot regularly floods due to crappy drainage. It’s annoying for parking but good for cool shots:

I liked the colors on the sign here matched with the sky:

Emo rain shot out my window:

Advice for parents

Generally I take a liberal stance towards unsolicited advice. You never know when you’ll get something worthwhile, and you can always just ignore the bad stuff.

We’ll see if that stance changes once people start chiming in about particular parenting choices. So far I haven’t had a problem.

In the meantime, Lifehacker’s Offspring parenting blog asked people for The Best Parenting Advice You’ve Ever Received. As I’m just 3 months into this parenting thing my capacity for advice giving is quite limited, but I appreciated hearing from more seasoned parents with maxims like:

  • “Survive and advance.”
  • “Your child isn’t giving you a hard time. They’re having a hard time.” (I’ve heard this in relation to the elderly or people with special needs, but certainly just as applicable with babies.)
  • “Pause.”
  • “Kids are just little people.”

More here.

This is his song

One day I was trying to soothe my fussy baby with some bouncing and singing. I faced him toward me and then out of nowhere started singing a melody that popped into my head. The combination of the song and how I swayed and bounced him calmed him right away, and even elicited a smile.

At first I couldn’t place the melody. But then I remembered: it was the “This Is My Song” ditty from the 1958 movie musical Tom Thumb, officially titled “Tom Thumb’s Tune”:

Here’s the film version, featuring the dance stylings of West Side Story and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers actor Russ Tamblyn. I remember loving that movie as a kid, but it’s been so long since I’ve seen it that perhaps it’s time for a rewatch.

The song-and-bounce routine has now become something of a family joke given how effective it is at soothing, if only temporarily. Funny how things can emerge from your brain at just the right time.

This is my jacket

Part of the This Is My series.

If you have met me in the last 15 years, there’s a decent chance you have seen me in this orange jacket:

I acquired it in 2004 on a trip from Madison to Kansas City with a few people from my youth group to attend a conference. We stopped at a Salvation Army somewhere along the way, which is where I spotted it. Don’t remember how much it cost, but since I’ve worn it for darn near half the year every year since, I’d say it was a sound investment regardless.

It had the same appeal then as it does now: a bold orange color, accessible pockets, and the perfect thickness for use as a spring and autumn jacket—not too thick and not too thin.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s time to find another light jacket. It’s starting to fray now, having served me and previous owners well for who knows how long. Something more waterproof or muted might be a better look and practical move.

But by Jove, I’m sticking with it, because I stick with useful things to their bitter end. It’s my only play against planned obsolescence and conspicuous consumerism. Until I accidentally lose it or it disintegrates beyond repair, it’s staying on my coat rack. That’s the only way to honor such a reliable companion.

Renewing your library card is an act of hope

All the time people come to the info desk asking how they can renew their library card.

Maybe they got a reminder call or noticed the expiration sticker on the card or were blocked from checking out an ebook. Either way, I point them to the circulation department and off they go. They show their card to the clerk, confirm their contact info, maybe pay some fines, and then go on their way.

It’s routine. An afterthought. Most people aren’t thinking about how such a simple act has the potential to transform their life.

Because renewing your library card is an act of hope.

It’s a demonstration of faith in the future.

It’s a declaration of principles, of the value of civic pride.

It’s a personal affirmation of the freedom to read and take classes and learn a language and join a discussion group and discover ideas you never could have imagined.

It’s a chance to start fresh, even if you regularly use it. Just imagine what it will allow you to read, watch, hear, do, and learn about.

If your library card has gone dormant or missing, renew it and begin again.

A list of movies

A friend tagged me in one of those Facebook chain-letter things, which I usually ignore but this one was about movies so why not. (Posting here to avoid giving Facebook free content to exploit.)

Movie I hate: Slumdog Millionaire

Movie I love: October Sky

Movie I think is overrated: The Shape of Water

Movie I think is underrated: Return to Me

Movie I could watch on repeat: Hell or High Water

Movie that made me fall in love with movies: Back to the Future

Movie that changed my life: High Fidelity

Guilty pleasure*: National Treasure

Movie I should have seen by now but haven’t: The Shining (but really, most acclaimed horror films)

* I don’t believe in this term, but whatever.

Black hole stun from backwater bipeds

In case you haven’t been following the news (and who can blame you?), that’s the first-ever image of a black hole:

There’s plenty of writing out there on what it means, much of it going over my head, but here’s some grounding perspective from Scientific American:

It is also worth noting that in the two hours after the press conference, at least six scientific papers on the observation have appeared online. They almost certainly contain clues and new questions that will take more time to process than a 24/7 news cycle can tolerate. For now, though, it is worth pausing for a moment to consider the strangeness of nature, and the remarkable fact that these sentient, tool-using bipeds on a small world in a backwater solar system somehow managed to turn their planet into a telescope and take a picture of an exit chute from the universe.

Babies are wizards

Here’s a recent text exchange with a friend of mine that I started:

I keep thinking about the part in How to Change Your Mind about how babies are basically tripping all the time because of their undeveloped brains. Even mundane stuff can blow [my infant’s] mind.

Right?! He’s probably still seeing the cosmic consciousness!

But keeping its secrets to himself of course. All this pooping and spitting up is just a smokescreen to hide the fact that babies are actually wizards.

And language is the protective barrier. He probably even knows what stars his atoms came from once upon a time. He’s got them all mapped out.

And the squeaks and babbles are him actually telling me about it straight up, but I’m just not evolved enough to understand.

Are you sleep deprived enough? Maybe if you pushed yourself a little farther…

I’ve been all proud of myself for being able to get 4-5 hours of sleep each night, but maybe that has shown him I’m not ready.

I have great friends and a great baby.