Monday, September 24, 2012

Writing Materials Circa 1912 in Montgomery Wards Catalog

The Kansas City warehouse was the gateway to the West.  For typewriters from this catalog and additional back story, visit

Just think how much ink one one of the glass pens would hold.

I like the fact that some of these brands are still around today.  "Blue Black" is still common nomenclature as well.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

An Ode to Fire and Leftover Vacation Smores

This is the last of the typecast entries I wrote during our family vacation.  Originally scheduled to post on June 29th, it has been radically delayed given the massive damage that unplanned fire had been causing in Colorado Springs.  Posting this in the midst of all of that misery just seemed a bit insensitive.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the residents of the mountain west that had a really tough time this summer.

As we just passed the autumnal equinox, the evenings here are getting crisp and we are adjusting to mid-60s instead of the mid-100s of just a month ago.  I've been cutting down dead shrubs and planting new grass in the spots turned to compacted dust in our drought.  Thank goodness for the remnants of hurricane Issaic!  We'll try to think of fire for its warmth and light during the coming cold, dark months.

Now on to the post written on June 29th...

The adult members of the House Full of Nerds are only a little bit into campfires.  We did enough backpacking in the pre-nerdling era to appreciate the joys of cook stoves and little, itty bitty fires that won't attract the Nazgul.  But we needed 'smores.  Given a proper fire ring, I am prone to building really hot pyres.  Yeah, fire...

If you look closely at this photo, you might see a fire Genie and a demon cow-thing.
Yep, having problems with that whole "I" before "E" thing there, Chief.

There was a light breeze.  At one point the flames underneath an old hunk of 2"x8" pine wer close to white hot.  The thing in the foreground is an optimal marshmallow so well done that the molten core is turning freely on the stick.  Put that together with Hershey's Dark and generic grahams and you have a little slice of Heaven.  Yum!
The Vacation Postscript (Do you have the time to listen to me whine?)

I'll finish this entry with a few post summer vacation thoughts.  First, I am pathetically behind in my blog and keeping up with other blogs, recreational reading and correspondence.  My resorting to resurrection of a draft entry is evidence.  School started right before Labor Day and the Nerdess and our adorable spawn are back in school.  This leads me to thought the second:  I humbly apologize to any parents of teens who I thought were horrible at keeping in touch.  Now I get it - you didn't have lives other than in cars, fund-raising meetings, work and school related events!

We have a new definition of busy in our house.  Freed from the tyranny of the pace of middle school and with access to all honors and pre-AP classes, Hannah is over-achieving like a bandit!  She is second chair in Chamber Orchestra and first section violin in Olathe Youth Symphony.  Not bad for a freshman.  Add church youth group, Girl Scouts, training to be a counselor with their equestrian program and Shakespeare Conservatory classes and she is one busy girl.  Claire is the president of her middle school Kansas Association for Youth club and first chair flute.  They have great public school teachers and private music teachers and are asking for and taking every opportunity put before them.

It's all good, but I'll ask for a little slack when I fall behind.  As always, thanks for reading!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Buggies in the Night - KC First Fridays

I've blogged many times on the joys of First Fridays in the Kansas City Crossroads art district.  September was a particularly good month.  Every gallery I walked into had strong exhibits, the weather was nice and there was plenty of good people watching.  To top it all off, I was treated to an impromptu car show!

Imagine this:  you've just watched a graffiti wall going up on a gallery front and it is 10:30 at night.  As you begin the trek to the parked car (a boring but efficient Prius), you hear the characteristic roar of a hyped up VW engine and see a dune buggy popping a wheelie at an intersection.

Welcome, my friends, to Dwayne's fantasy world!

This was a club run for KC Buggies taking advantage of the nice weather for a cruise.  They stopped at the Kansas City Star parking lot to regroup and help fix mechanical issues with one of the modified VW bugs.  Of course I had to take photos and had a nice chat with the current leader of the pack.  She had one of the buggies that's all roll cage and engine.

The buggy below is a wheelie specialist.  Minus passengers, the front end can be lifted with one hand.

The light show is a nice addition.  If you are going to cruise the city in an open machine, you might as well do it in style!

The original bugs look really choice stripped to their bare essentials and then pimped to within an inch of their lives.

For car and street shooter geek me, this was a great end to an awesome evening of wandering around.  I started in the West Bottoms hunting cool junk and ended with colorful buggies.  It's all good!

In case you are wondering, all photos were taken with a Canon 60d with a Canon EF 50mm f1.4 lens at ISO 1600.  There is no Instagram trickery.  The Star parking lot is surrounded by a brick wall with intentional gaps.  I framed some of the vehicles through the gaps to get the Polaroid look without resorting to digital effects.

Bonus shots:  here is the aforementioned graffiti mural in progress.  I can't wait to see the result.

Not only is this a legal mural, but at least one of the artists was actually wearing a respirator.

About the pesky thing known as Copyright:  I, Dwayne F., own these bits of digital intellectual and creative properties.  These photos may not be used, altered or posted without attribution.  The photos may not be used for commercial purposes of any manner without my express written permission.  Yeah, copyright is so last century.  I suppose you could buy your own equipment and wander the streets for hours looking for interesting things to shoot.  Just sayin".

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Robot in Red - Olympia SM-9 Redecorated!

This partially redecorated Olympia SM-9 features the Senatorial typeface, more commonly known as the Robot font.  The workbench is a serious mess.  I just noticed the eraser that came with a newly arrived compact typewriter in the background.  That and the shroud from a partly torn down Barr that needs attention.  I need a time turner.
Can you tell it has been over a week since I typed anything?  My regrets for subjecting you to many typos.

As the SM-9 so lovingly stated in robot (Senatorial) font, Claire is the artist of the family.  I can't draw, so I take photos.  Here is her latest repurposed work in progress.  For scale, look in the background of the first photo.  Yes, in certain ways, she is very much my child.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Art from the Black Velvet Abyss

WARNING:  Really hideous "art" ahead!  Please vote for your favorites in the comments section (if you get that far without clawing your eyes out).
The rodeo clown, after the show.
It's no secret that I frequent places that harbor typewriters, bits of old technology, interesting books and other cultural breccia.  Bad black velvet art fits the latter category.  As strange as it may seem, my heart goes "pitter-pat" when I find a particularly grotesque piece in an antique mall or thrift store.  These are few from the last year or so.

I'll start with one of the classic themes: the Bullfighter.  Once upon a time in America, people had Mediterranean inspired furniture and art in their living and family rooms - kind of like a really old Mexican restaurant.

The Bullfight is by far the most common black velvet theme I run across.  Some of it is quite expressive.  I just can't quite imagine it on a modern living room wall except as an intentional bit of irony.

The majesty, I tell you.

Sadly, at some point the bull must be dispatched.  I'll move on to other sporting events.  Horses-in-motion is another recurring theme.  This one also happens to be the ever popular Romanticized Native American genre.

 The Romans really knew how to throw a party!

Ripping off famous cartoon characters is also good sport.  Some prefer track and field events.

For some strange reason, I've run across three slight variations of Snoopy playing baseball.  Those eyes... they haunt me.

Elvis is the most famous black velvet portrait cliche.  I've only seen a few, but for now I'll share a kinda scary rendition of The Duke as Rooster Cogburn.

Yeah, I think black velvet portraits will need their own post.  That would be good for mid-winter when cabin fever is setting in.

If you made it this far, count me as very impressed!  You have amazing intestinal fortitude and impressive intelligence as evidenced by the fact that you can still read after losing many IQ points.  Maybe you should relax and have a drink.  Just so you know, even black velvet creatures get tired and need a rest!

Really, someone actually painted that bunny creature and someone presumably hung it on a wall. Come to think of it, he kind of reminds me of Senator Kevin, the Lost Bunny of the Apocalypse, from the comic strip "Prickly City".  Maybe he spent an evening with Hunter S. Thompson.

I wish I could say something profound about the redemptive and emotionally powerful nature of velvet art.  But the world doesn't always work that way.  Sometime bad art needs to be enjoyed for the kitsch relic that it is.  Rest assured, I cannot avert my gaze from the velveteen beauties and will share more in the future.  Thanks for reading.  I look forward to your snarky comments.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong: Farewell to a Hero 08/25/2012

Footprints on the Moon.  What a legacy!  From National Geographic; December, 1969
My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Armstrong's family and friends.

Neil Armstrong photographing his shadow on the Moon.  From National Geographic; December, 1969
Life is full of ironies large and small.  Here is a tiny, little irony.  I fondly recall this issue of the National Geographic.  As a kid, I played the flexible record inside until it fell apart.  Yesterday, on my way to grab some lunch, I stopped by an estate sale.  It had every National Geographic from 1964 through 1998.  This is the first issue I looked for. 

Yes, the images in this post are freshly scanned from a magazine I bought for $0.25 just the day before Neil Armstrong's passing..  In the scope of the Universe and geologic time, this coincidence is beyond trivial.  To a space and technology nerd such as myself, it is priceless. peace for all mankind.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Voyager 2: Thirty-Five Years in Space

Honestly, after all of the excitement surrounding the arrival of Curiosity on Mars I had not intended to write another space related blog entry for awhile.  But Voyager 2 is pretty amazing and I need to recognize this day.

Thirty-five years ago, NASA launched the second of two deep space probes.  As of August 6, Voyager 2 was located on the fringes of the Heliosphere over 99 Astronomical Units (AU) from Earth.  An AU is the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun.  Yeah, pretty much meaningless.  Let's put that in miles since that is a distance we can grasp.

9,222,142,686 Miles from Home
Space is a lonely place for a little probe.
 To put this in perspective, it would take roughly 15,000 years for this 1977 classic to drive to the edge of our solar system at an optimistic 70 MPH average speed.

This one might get there a little bit faster.

I am a totally unapologetic fanboy for the amazing Opportunity Mars rover because of its extreme durability.  But Opportunity is just a toddler compared to Voyager 2.  This probe is still transmitting useful data today from the inky, black vacuum of space where it is nearly impossible to tell a particle ejected from our Sun from background material. 

To add even more perspective, let's consider what 1977 looked like.  I was in eighth grade.  Had I lived in New York City, I might have seen these bands...

And the technology... it was amazing!  This what the state of the art in office computing looked like this...

And the diehard home hobbyist might have owned one of these...

Um, you might have had an Apple II, not the guy who co-founded Apple.
1977 was also the year that an iconic space opera came to the big screen...

Voyager 2 has seen some amazing things and sent back some stunning photos.

Up until this image came back, we had no idea that anyplace in our solar system could have liquid oceans under ice.
Once again, thanks to NASA for being an extraordinarily competent government agency.  According to NASA's mission timeline, the nuclear power source is good to around 2025 with sequential powering down of various instruments.  Sometime in 2015, Voyager 2 will cross the theoretical heliopause, a point at which the solar wind can no longer push back steller winds from other stars.  More good science is yet to come from our deep traveler.

Nerd moment coming on... Maybe someone will find the golden record and bring it back to Earth!

Total Nerd moment:  Spock mind melding with V Ger.  Yes, this was a totally forgettable movie, but it's Star Trek and may eventually be forgiven.