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Friday, October 01, 2004

Mr Controversy Strikes Again!

Well, I went through the other things that I've sent to The Times in recent months, and there really wasn't that much that made sense outside of the time and context in which it origianlly appeared. So, here I am, stuck for wordage and aching to be the kind of controversial loudmouth (each side of the political spectrum has its example) that people really sit up and pay attention to. What to do? What to do?

After much thought, I finally realized what heartfelt statement I could make that would best stir the embers in the ash heap of the reader's soul, and it is this: I prefer writing on a manual typewriter to writing on a computer.

There. You have it. When left to my own devices, I still write using a manual typewriter. Episode Three of "Plant Your Wagon" is being drafted on an Olivetti Lettera 35 that I bought new (that's right; they still make them) about a year-and-a-half ago. I also own a Lettera 25 (also new) that my wife gave me for Christmas a couple of years back. This is a great machine for letters (another discredited artifact that's preferable to its modern equivalent).

Now, you might be asking yourself, "Why on earth would this dimwit want to go back to the Dark Ages? What's he going to be in favor of next? Burning witches? Curing disease with the application of leeches?" However, I would assert that the rush to a digitized life has been frantic, hysterical, and ill-considered.

Let me list a few of the advantages I've found in using a manual typewriter. First, it never has to boot up, and it requires no password. The only thing I have to do to start it up is insert paper. No Windows A-Week-Ago-Thursday® starting up. No Instant Messenger, no indexing, no icons, no wallpaper. No adware or spyware. Just me and the blank page staring each other down in the duel of the ages.

Second, there are no distractions embedded in the machine, such as Freecell or e-mail or Instant Messenger or the friggin' pop-ups that I can't figure out how to stop. If I want to be distracted, I have to actually get out of my chair to do it, thereby at least getting some modest amount of exercise.

Third, since it doesn't have all the cut-and-paste editing options, I actually have to write carefully. I have to think through each sentence before I commit it to posterity. And having looked back over some of my posts here, I wish I could blog with a typewriter. Perhaps then there would have been fewer maze-like sentences and less camouflage for the meaning.

Fourth, if it crashes, that means that it's fallen off the table and on to the floor. Workaround: Pick it up and put it back.

Fifth, the keys move. They absorb some of the energy that I exert by pounding on them. My wrists hurt less.

Sixth, when I rewrite, I have to go from stem-to-stern. I can no longer just fiddle with one word here and one word there. Every part of the manuscript gets re-evaluated, each word, each sentence, the structure of the whole thing. Using a typewriter forces me to think.

Seventh, given a fresh ribbon and a reasonable supply of dryliner, I can produce a manuscript that is very easy to read. Also, I'm never tempted to put it in some strange font, such as Herzo-Govingian Slanty.

Eighth, it does what I want it to. It never repaginates. It never automatically makes corrections that aren't really corrections at all. It never loses my work if the power goes out. It saves my work as I'm typing it.

Ninth, it has the feature I call InstaPrint. One of the problems with word processing programs, one of the reasons why they actually slow down the work process, is that they separate typing and printing. My manuals join typing and printing into one smooth process.

Tenth, I can see the entire page I'm working on at a glance and can easily read every syllable. When I need to go back a few pages as a reference, I can thumb through the pages in a second or two. I'm not dependent on a machine to do my searching for me.

Eleventh, I am the software, goo goo ga joob. And I'm my favorite software package. My default settings suit me perfectly. I'm user friendly. Working with software is like learning an endless number of variations on the minuet with a very obstinate partner, a partner who gets to make all the rules and who rules with an iron fist.

Twelfth, my typewriter never tries to make me feel like a criminal just because I'd rather use "which" than "that" or because I might want to use the passive voice once in a while. I mean, come on! Get off my back!

Well, I guess that twelve is a good number to stop with. Maybe tomorrow I can defend the old fashioned missive or the card catalogue. Until then, to quote The Firesign Theatre, "Forward into the Past"!


Anonymous said...

Easy there fella... I happen to know that those leeches work pretty darn well if you have a nagging bleeder. But enough about my wife (rimshot)! Anyway, despite the fact that I am a big fan of H-G Slanty, I know what mean. I hear you. I also like what you had to say on the 30th. I imagine The Times just has too many hot missives about potholes or something right now.

Mark Trail

Len said...

Actually, my wife went to a lecture given by Gail Collins, the editor of the NYT Op/Ed page, this past week, and I was able to prevail on her (my wife, that is, not Ms Collins) to ask her (Ms Collins, that is, not my wife) what the hell was going through their pea brains. It turns out that they get 1200 submissions a day. Like that's my problem.