Damn the Torpedo

Filed under: Machines of Loving Grace, typewriters — olivander May 29, 2009 @ 9:20 am

Oh, the perils of eBay. Not long ago, I fell to the tempation of a rather scarce specimen, a Deutsche Remington. (A little background: the Deutsche Remington is really a Torpedo. Remington partially owned Torpedo Buromaschinenwerke, and so in the European market some Torpedos were marketed as the Deutsche Remington. Remington had a habit of slapping different names on the same machine, possibly to obscure the actual numbers being manufactured. So far as I’m aware, this particular machine is one of the only ones to have turned up in the United States.)

We’ve all heard the tragedies of typewriters being destroyed in the mail. I’ve received postally-damaged typers myself a few times, though nothing too severe. I’ve even had a couple of what I call “miracle typewriters” that somehow arrived in perfect condition despite shockingly irresponsible packaging. Well, this one takes the cake. And oh, yeah, I got burned big-time.

Here is what the machine looked like before the seller shipped it:

(You like the barrel full of crushed Diet Rite cans? Classy, huh?)

And here’s what it looked like when I got it:

It was crammed into an undersized box, upside down, with no packing material. The seller obviously didn’t give a damn whether it arrived undamaged. It arrived with the right end of the carriage sticking out of a hole in the box. In one way, the typer being wedged in so tightly was a blessing because it likely saved the carriage from being ripped from the chassis. The aluminum front frame, however, is mangled. The space bar has been pushed in and shoved to the side. The shift key levers, which rest in guides attached to the frame, are bent.

I can probably reshape the frame into a semblance of its original self, and repair the mechanical damage, but it will never be the same. I’m afraid this may end up being a display-only typer.

That’s the way it is with eBay. Yous takes you chances.

Update: I’ve done the best I can with it for the time being and spiffed it up a bit. A brief writeup is now available on Machines of Loving Grace.

Further update: more prying, bending, degunking, and futzing with it after the Spawn Process went to bed last night resulted in making it mostly functional. The spacebar still doesn’t work quite right–it needs a hard whack to register, and only if it’s on the left side–the right shift key tends to stick in the down position, and the feed roller has an incapacitating flat. I’ve pulled out the platen and feed roller and am going to attempt a DIY recovering using automotive hoses before resorting to professional rerubbering.

Boldly Go

Filed under: Errata — olivander May 21, 2009 @ 2:29 pm

Eternal Image specializes in what I guess one could paradoxically call lifestyle funerary products. If you’re a baseball fan, they have urn and casket designs reflecting the logos and colors of almost every major league team. There are Vatican Library and Precious Moments caskets and urns. And then there is the showstopper shown above: the “photon torpedo” casket that is part of the Star Trek collection. (There is also a fairly nifty United Federation of Planets urn if you chose to have the funeral home set their phasers for “disintegrate”.)

So what inspired this company? I’ll let them tell you in their own words:

[CEO Clint] Mytych challenged himself to find an industry where branding – and licensing – had little or no impact to date. After months of research, Mytych hit upon what may be licensing’s last frontier – the funeral industry. Together with his partners, Nick Popravsky and Donna Shatter, Mytych crafted a business plan to bring top licenses to the funeral business. Then he set out to acquire the rights to key licenses. Almost every company EI approached immediately saw the opportunity.

Their compassion to complete the lives of the dearly departed just brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it?

The more earthly-minded might want to consider a Trappist casket, handcrafted by Iowa monks out of wood harvested from their own 1,200-acre forest. They’re the only source I’m aware of for old-style “shaped” caskets. Their handling of children’s caskets is especially touching.

For the very earthiest is the ultimate in “green” burial: being thrown unembalmed into a grave, sans casket.

I’ve always been partial to my grandfather’s preferred funeral: “Wrap me in a sheet and toss me in the ditch down by the railroad tracks.”

How clueless, photography-challenged people can take good typewriter photos in three easy steps

Filed under: photography, typewriters — olivander May 6, 2009 @ 12:21 pm

In response to a reader’s request, here is a general outline of how I go about photographing my typewriters. By observing a few easy guidelines, I believe that anyone can achieve similar results. I don’t have any fancy equipment; my studio is the top of my basement clothes dryer, and my camera is a Nikon Coolpix point-and-shoot.

First, you need a typewriter. If you do not have a typewriter, I’m sorry, but you have more problems than I can help you with.

1. Make your typewriter look good. I don’t mean just cleaning it, although that should be done as well. Wiping down the machine with a light coat of Pledge or Old English will give it a nice shine. To eliminate background distractions and make your typewriter the focus of attention, place your typewriter on a plain white surface, like posterboard. As it turns out, this is helpful for the last step.

2. Photograph your typewriter under the best possible conditions. You should have good, bright light. I can’t emphasize enough how important good lighting is to good photographs. Either shoot outside on a sunny day or underneath a soft, white indoor light. (I shoot mine underneath daylight-replicating fluorescent lights made for reptile enclosures, available at most pet stores.) A regular, bare light bulb is both too yellow and too harsh. Avoid using camera flash. Use a tripod or some other stable surface combined with a remote release or self-timer to eliminate shake. Close down the aperture as small as it will go for the sharpest detail. Don’t worry about long exposure times; you have a tripod.

3. Adjust your photo’s colors. Ideally, you set your camera’s white balance before you took the photo, but you can rarely avoid having to do some color-correction. I use Photoshop, but most of these adjustments can be done in almost any photo editing software.

Set your white point based on the background posterboard. I prefer to use Curves over Levels because unlike Levels, Curves doesn’t destroy pixel data.

Bring out the machine’s details by lightening the shadows. About 10% works for me most of the time. Too much lightening of shadows or darkening of highlights can make your photo look like one of those crappy HDR jobs, and you don’t want that–unless you like crappy HDR jobs, in which case see my comment about not having a typewriter.

Even lighting with sunlight or using indoor lighting filters will result in a little yellow cast. Go into Color Balance and adjust the sliders until the blacks look closer to true black. Deep black reflects highlights as blue, so I shift the colors closer to the blue spectrum.

Sharpen the picture just a bit.

This isn’t absolutely everything I do in post, but these basic steps ought to be enough for anyone to take great-looking typewriter photos.

Torpedo of Love

Filed under: Typecast, typewriters — olivander May 3, 2009 @ 11:06 am

Torpedo 18

Typecast 3/5/2009

Why yes, yes it is.

Filed under: Quotables — olivander May 1, 2009 @ 7:58 pm

Department of Redundancy Department

Interview on NPR, pertaining to the unsanitary conditions of a nearby corporate hog farm:

“That hog farm is a pig sty.”