Friday, December 2, 2016

From goat to soap

Every spring, Brenda and I go to Jenness Farm in Nottingham, NH to stock up on soap. The soap is handcrafted from goats’ milk, and we buy a year’s worth at a time, swapping and sniffing the bars (about 90 varieties!) in the showroom until we get the ones we want. We lug the bars home, and Brenda makes them disappear somewhere.
It takes about two months to wear a bar of the soap away. For those two months, I shave and shower with the scent of Bay Rum or Blackberries & Cream, watching the soap vanish into suds and run down the drain.

New soap day is a treat. Not only does it bring a new fragrance into my life, it reminds me of spring at the farm. We time our visits for birthing season so we can watch and feed the baby goats. (We’ve also been known to stalk them on the farm’s Goat Cam.) This year we were also treated to a visit with a young pig named Rosie, destined to be pork chops, but, for the moment, delighting in her plastic wading pool.
The latest bar of soap was labeled “Peppermint Pick-Me-Up.” As might be imagined, it has a fresh peppermint scent that clings to my post-shower skin. I doubt the mint picked me up more than the simple changing of the soap and the memories it brought with.
I’m destined to be pork chops one day, metaphorically, but this morning I delighted and splashed with my new soap.
Simple pleasures are the best.

Monday, November 7, 2016

I am, without doubt, with her

Hillary Clinton has my respect, my support, and, around 6 a.m. tomorrow, she’ll have my vote.
I like Hillary. I met her years ago, and I voted for her in the 2008 Primary. I respect much of what Barack Obama did in office, but I believe Hillary would have done a better job with his first term. She’s scary smart, and, at the time, she had more experience. Obama was not the card-carrying liberal he appeared to be, and Hillary had a better track record on my Lefty issues. When Hillary lost the nomination, I went with the next best choice. I cast my vote for Obama, and it turned out okay. We’re not living in my liberal utopia, yet, but we’ve taken a few, fragile steps in that direction.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Count down the months in #typewriters

I have a butt load of typewriters (butt, in this case, being a cask used to carry ale or the wagon used to carry said cask, not the fleshy mound I sit upon). How many? It depends on who's answering the question.

On a good day, I have 25 or so that work, and maybe a dozen that have good ribbons. By my count, I have two dozen typewriters, but my lovely wife, Brenda Noiseux, insists on counting the machines awaiting repairs and the projects in the wings. So forty typewriters. Maybe fifty. And let's not count the ones I've cleaned up, fixed, and given to students. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

On Writing: Interesting Bit of Research

I was showing my students how to use EBSCO and used “typewriters” (of course) as a search topic. Among other things, EBSCO came up with an article from the Nov. 2016 British Journal of Psychology about a study testing “transcription fluency” (typing speed) against essay-writing skills.  According to the study, “decreased fluency can actually benefit cognitive processing.” The poor typists showed better “lexical sophistication,” sentence complexity, and essay cohesion than the speedy ones. 

It made for an interesting conversation with a few students who insist on typing essays on their phones, with their thumbs, and, as a two- to four-fingered typist, it made me feel somewhat better about myself. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Blues: Too Many Years in Review

Whew! I am managing to post less than (but not much than) two years since the last time. That means something, right? I’m not a total failure as a blogger …
I talk up typewriters at 2016's New Hampshire Writers' Week. 
It has been many a busy month since I sat down to this. I have been thrashing along on projects and ventures. Since last we spoke I’ve … what? … published a piece in the New Republic, which is sort of a dream come true … unloaded an article on novelist Wiley Cash to Page & Spine … did some work for hire for James C. Holder’s Planet Oz project … sold a story to the Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide … ran two installments of the Summer Teen Writers’ Conference ... collected some new typewriters … evangelized about typewriters …  taught a bunch of classes at the high school and college level and watched a lot of students graduate … drafted a couple of books … wrote a play as William Shakespeare …  took a 22-day road trip …  more things …
Zoom out a couple of years and there looks to be a lot of empty space among the “achievements,” but it’s difficult to get a good picture in the throes, when the sweat and severed limbs are flying up in the air, and all you want to do is lie down and sleep.
But I’m back, and a couple of the heavier hats are set to slip off my head in the next couple of months. I expect to be writing more and getting back to the rhythm of those Twenty-First Century Blues.

Monday, February 16, 2015

On Writing: What I learned at Boskone 52

Boskone is a 52-year-old, literary-heavy, science-fiction convention that I’ve been going to for a number of years. It’s a small convention, where you might find Charlie Stross wandering around with a cup of tea or find yourself sharing a bank of urinals with a Hugo winner. The programmers offer a mix of fandom, readings, exploration of themes, comics, hard science, filking, and writing advice. I gravitate to the writing panels, and this is a sampling for what I learned this year.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Typewriters: Life with Typewriters

It does not take long to become known as a “typewriter enthusiast.” A few Tweets, a photo or two, a couple of dozen typewriters in the basement, and you are branded as a technology fetishist
You bring your typewriters into your high-school classroom, and abruptly there is a list of names on the corkboard, each one representing a teen that you’re supposed to be finding a typewriter for. You have placed four this year, with seven to go. Five last year, including one with a Cyrillic keyboard.
Folks try out typers from my collection  at a spring 2014 event at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, N.H.

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Blues: We Need to Make Our Cops Better

The recent controversy over police use of force brings my reporting days to mind. The first police standoff I covered took place in Gardiner, Maine. It was a chilly, Clinton-era day, and the owner of the house police were surrounding had drunk too much and barricaded himself inside with a gun. He said he would kill himself or shoot anyone who came in, whichever made more sense at the moment. I stood behind the line with other media types and concerned citizens and sipped the bad coffee the Red Cross brings in for such events.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Typewriters: The Queen City's First Type-In

I had no expectations when I loaded thirteen typewriters into my car and made the drive to Cafe la Reine in Manchester, NH for that city’s first Type-In. I had organized the event as part of the Granite State’s “Writers’ Week,” a celebration proclaimed by the governor and set in motion by the New Hampshire Writers’ Project.  The Type-In got some good advance publicity, with multiple Tweets and reTweets, Facebook posts, and a story in the alt-weekly The Hippo. Still, in my mind, I was as prepared to be flooded with type-curious folk as I was to sit idle with lonely typewriters crowded ‘round my feet in search of solace.

The event was slated to start at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 4, and I loaded everything in at 5. By 5:15 two happy people were banging away -- one on a Olivetti Lettera 33 with script font, the other on a Royal 10 with a purple ink ribbon. More typers followed.

Friday, December 5, 2014

On Writing: Words to Write By

Ursula K. Le Guin, while accepting her Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, at the 2014 National Book Awards:

"I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom."