31 December 2009

[liff] Happy New Year … Except For This Lady

2283Craigslist is forever the placer deposit of awesome, and this ad (via Twitterer @portortraffic) will once again prove.

Just a hint: maybe New Year's isn't the best time to break up with your honey:

The text of the ad, which is at this writing still available at http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/zip/1532400449.html, runs, verbatim, as follows
I have a 1997 Honda Accord with a clear title. I just bought it for my wife but she is on meth AGAIN and I caught her cheating AGAIN. I cant do it anymore.So I am leaving and the car is going too.It is completely in my name so I can do whatever I want with it. I dont drive nothing but my truck and I want her to feel the pain. So first come first serve. I can not hold the car and I want it gone tonight even if I have to meet you half way.I am not going to wait until 2010 to better myself I am going to do it while 2009 is here!!! Please do not call if you cannot pick up tonight. I will as soon give it to a tow service or junkyard. The car drives enginge good 119647 miles the tranny was replaced 2 yrs ago by previous owner have reciepts.Only thing is it really needs to be cleaned it stinks to high heaven. The first night she got the car she and her friends smoked a ton of meth in there. So you will have to shampoo the entire car. I will be pulling it on my car hauler I cant stand the smell. Serious callers only. NO TWEEKERS.253.XXX.XXXX And despite what you might here in the background the car is going she has no say so. I have already verified with the police. She is just mad because she is leaving too. I can give you VIN number to check out with highway patrol when you call.
The phone number has been redacted to prevent crank calls, but moreover, if the offer is fo'reals, it's probably already gone by now. Free running cars being hard to come by and all that. Although the meth smell would be pretty offputting. Get out your bunny suit.

I flagged it Best of Craigslist. Because it's just that awesome.

Update at 19:20: It's gone now, deleted by author. C'est la guerre, mon cher.

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24 December 2009

[design] Another Thing Crowdsourcing Design Work Kills ...

2282. … actual creativity, as in at least trying to come up with something original.

As detailed by SpecWatch here, an icon from a site called Vecteezy was used in not only a "contest" on Crowdspring, but also on 99designs. The icon, a round design with graphic elements meant to suggest a tree and leaves, was entered on 99designs to be the idenfitying mark for a charter school. At least this one was worked on a bit; traces of the brush-strokes around the margin were eliminated for a cleaner appearance. It was used without change as the winning submission on Crowdspring for an energy company called Woodlands Solutions.

In the disclosure on Crowdspring, the designer … affirmed in their 'disclosure' that they had " created everything in [their] entry and [they] didn't copy anyone else's concept".

Did the designer fib a little? Read the evidence at SpecWatch and decide for yourself. Even if you think this doesn't cheapen the quality of design work in general, you've got to admit that submitting the same design that won for an energy company as a logo for a charter school is more than a bit of a disservice to the charter school – and could open them up for a lawsuit from the energy company, if they were ever interested in such.

Or … one could spend the extra money on hiring an actual designer who will strive to come up with an idea that isn't merely copied-and-pasted from somewhere else. A real designer will at least take some time to listen to your story, talk to you, get to know you, and try to tell your story as an effective logo.

Paying for pros, in the end, doesn't cost – it pays off with a truly original design that wasn't lifted from a vector icon download site, and a designer who actually gives a care about the work they do for you.

Or, put another way, you get what you pay for.

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[type] Found Tutorials: 22 Ways To Make Your Type Come Alive

2281.(h/t http://twitter.com/mayhemstudios) Run out of inspiration? Need to make your type jump up and bark for you? Via aggregator Slodive.com here are 22 things you can do about that … including …

… one hot babe.

Oh, yes, the link:


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22 December 2009

[logo] 10 Best and 10 Worst Identity Redesigns of 2009

2280.From Brand New, the 10 Best (and 10 Worst) ID Redesigns of 2009. They take in a wide swath. This'll have spoilers, but you'll definitely want to surf to the article to read the comments, especially considering the Best of the Best of.

The worst have principled objections. They include the Yale Press redesign which wasn't bad but laments the departure of yet one more Paul Rand logo from the commercial landscape: The Hilton redesign, which rethinks the H but opens up a travel-size can of authentic Photoshop-style bevel'n'emboss, giving it an unexpected design school touch, and the biggest of the worst, the not-very-much-lauded Bing logo, which has caused much mockery from both design geeks and typogrphy geeks alike.

The best? The AOL redesign. While Brand New tries to see the appeal to the zeitgeist that the AOL logo tries to reach for, the commenters seem to want to know what the blogger was on when he rated that one high, lamenting the departure from actual logo "design" that seems inherent in such a "nail-jelly-to-the-wall" approach.

Like I said, it's an adventure. Read all about it:


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[bloggage] An Award?

2279.Not (despite my best efforts) being one of the most highly-trafficked blogs out there means that when someone give me a pat on the back, it means quite a lot, even if it's kind of an unexpected one.

About two days ago, I received a nod from a web resource I'd never heard of before, called Home Office Furniture Depot, http://homefurnituredepot.net, bestowing a generic "Blog Award" for, apparently, being interesting.

See, I told you all! I'm interesting!

Anyway, they apparently stumbled on my blog on the way to somewheres else, and I like it when anyone says that my stuff is worth a little wastage of time.  So, thanks, Home Office Furniture Depot. Much obliged.

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18 December 2009

[maps] Get Ready To Dial 10, Downstaters!

2278.At first it was just us in PDX and Salem. Then they made the rest of the northwest corner of Oregon dial 10.

The fact that I still live in the 503 is something of a consolation, of course.

The three-quarters of the state of Oregon in the 541 have gotten away without having to dial 10 – digits, that is – until now. They've come for you, Eugene, Medford, The Dalles, Ontario, Pendleton, Burns, KFalls, Keno, Suntex, Juntura, Sisters, Culver, Mitchell …

It's your turn now. As of 10 January, here's the way it's gonna be:

You'll have to start dialing 541+ the number for all your calls now, like we have in the 503 since about the year 2000, because you've got enough phones now you'll get what's called an overlay area code for cells and newer lines, 458.

I rib, but I remember the good old days, barely 10 years ago, when we were all united under the proud 503. It's the A/C of my birth, the A/C of Oregon, dammit!

The old days … they aren't so long ago. But they seem an eternity, yes?

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16 December 2009

[maps] The Bus-Train Map Design Connection

2277.The various designs of city transit railmaps that can be found in the USA and globally are beguiling works of abstract art, the designs of which seem driven in the main by the famous design of the London Underground, with its simplified and straightened ways and absolute horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines.

Simplification is good, and it renders a map which can be used. But not always does it render a map that communicates reality. The most useful versions of these connect the abstraction of the rail routes to the reality of the bus network it is supposed to work with. But, as Michael Perkins of Greater Greater Washington correctly laments, this is not always the case:

Out where those spur lines diverge, it's often faster to take a bus between the lines rather than ride into downtown and out again. It's more efficient for the network too, since those trips route people through the congested core unnecessarily. Boston's highlights the major crosstown routes and routes reaching important destinations not served by the rail system.

Could Metro do something similar?

His post (http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post.cgi?id=4289) points out the example of Boston's MTA rail map, which actually shows key transit routes that will get you between rail lines, and does it clearly:

The style of the lines is very well done too.

He gives Portland credit for doing the same sort of thing, though the execution is somewhat different – just the route numbers, not the routes themselves, though the omission of actual routes preserves the communicative clarity given the graphic approach:

The small numbers ranged along the stations tell you exactly which other schedules you should be referring to. The crossings are not given for the city center area in the main; that presumably, with the welter of lines coming together in those areas, is a bit impractical. But in the outer areas it's immensely useful, and helps you get an idea of which route you're going to need before you get there.

It's a simple thing, but a good thing.

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[type] Consider H&J's

2276."H&J's" are layout-speak for "hyphenation and justification", and they are the bedrock to successful text-flow in your layout application, be they QuarkXPress, InDesign, Scribus, or whatever.

Modern type and more advanced layout programs seem to take care of most of this for you, but as the article on CreativePro.com at http://www.creativepro.com/article/abcs-hj argues, knowing about your H&J adjustments and how to tweak them can kick your layout game to the next level.

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12 December 2009

[lit] Your Spoiler-Filled Overview of Stephen King's "Under The Dome"

2275.Finally got through Stephen King's latest event, the brobdingnagian Under The Dome.

I'm not a Stephen King fan, really. At least I don't consider myself one. I have huge respect for his talent, and I'd say I'm a fan of certain stories of his: The Dark Tower I'm absolutely smitten with, I adore The Stand, and regardless of what anyone thinks of him, American man-of-letters or purveyor of prole lit, he is a master of the novel and if he can't hook you, then you're probably without a pulse.

Ask your doctor about Stephen King.

I mean, he's probably read one or more of his books.

When the buzz about Under The Dome started to circulate, the idea of a small burg cut off from the world and left to stew in its own juices got immediately under my skin. Still, I can't put into words why that is. Certainly I thought that King would tell the story in a way nobody else could, especially since he set it in Maine, his home state, in that curious Faulkneresque part of Maine that only exists in his books. He has a certain angle on the dark side of America and Americans which has such a unique voice, and it seemed as though he was probably going to look at that through this.

So, what happens when a cute, rural New England town that welcomes visitors with legendary Yankee hospitality is forced to turn in on itself? Here's what I found, with blatant, bald spoliers.

If you've not read Under The Dome yet and you don't want to find out what happens, then go no further. I'm giving it all away here, and I'm as serious as Big Jim Rennies arrhythmia here.

Spoilers Follow. Read No Further if you don't want to know how it all turns out. In the following, I've colored certain phrases to blend in with the background. To find out what they say, highlight them with your cursor, as though you were copying-and-pasting, or use your browser to View Source.

1. Chester's Mill is Rotten To The Core.

The town of Chester's Mill, Maine, is run like a traditional New England Town. Town meetings, where everyone in the community goes to decide, are headed by elected officials called selectmen. In The Mill, Andy Sanders is the First Selectmen, and thus the senior elected official, Jim Rennie, the local big businessman, is the Second, and Angela Grinnell is the Third. The real power behind the throne is Rennie, who lets Sanders stay out front as the figurehead and sees to it that Grinnell maintains her OxyContin addiction, thus making the Board of Selectmen essentially a rubber stamp for pretty much anything Rennie wants, enabling him to finance a major meth lab, distribution all over the East Coast, and funnelling off of public funds into his own private schemes. The people of Chester's Mill seem largely blissfully unaware of that their town government is corrupt to the core.

2. The People of Chester's Mill Are Not Admirable

Very few of the actual apparent popluation of the town figure into the narrative – out of a stated population of over 2,000, only thirty to forty people are ever mentioned, even if only indirectly. When the population is mentioned, in the Town Meeting toward the last third of the book, they are wearing blue armbands – showing solidarity with the current administration, being gulled into the "with us or against us" terror being instigated by Rennie and his crew.

3. Almost Everybody Dies

The climax of the book comes not, as you'd expect, when the Dome finally goes away, but when Big Jim's super meth-lab, near the town's radio station, goes up in an enormous explosion, caused by the the character they called The Chef, who had been driven beyond functional insanity.  The area under the Dome, which is as near enough Hermetically-sealed off from the surrounding environment as makes little difference, has almost all of the breathable air consumed in the resulting firestorm. The few survivors – numbering less than thirty by the novel's end – survive by breathing outside air forced through the barrier (which is just permeable) by gigantic fans.

4. The "Dome" Isn't Really A Dome.

It develops that the dome is really a column that goes up about 40,000 feet, and whose shape follows the town line exactly. The word dome is used early on by the characters and sticks. The precision of the dimensions of the "dome" is an early "tell" that the barrier is an artifact, not a natural occurrence. This is confirmed in the middle of the book, when some of the local kids find the object that's generating the barrier.

5. Comeuppance Is Messy – And Somewhat Random

The villains in the piece are not difficult to spot, and they are so irredeemably evil that, despite what few sympathies you might have for them – there is ample indication that Junior Rennie's psychopatic behavior is as much due to a medical condition as it is due to having a father who's a cynical hypocritcal sociopathic bully – you're happy that they get done it. The only thing you might regret is that King doesn't allow his victims to deliver the justice they so richly deserve – but each demise, and espcially Big Jim Rennie's, is typically fitting, because in the end, their own sins come back to eat them alive – and those who allied themselves with them are fittingly casualties.

But the rain falls on the just and the unjust – because "stuff" happens. King really understands this.

6. Even The Good Guys Die Unfairly

See 5. above. When Caro and Thurston and one of the "Dorphans" die, I hated King for a few minutes, and then respected him. Because he understands that life is not only unfair, it's downright inscrutable.

7. The Dome Is Not Of This World. Maybe Not of This Dimension

By interacting with the object generating the Dome, characters figure out that the Dome was put there by, essentially, extraterrestrial children who are playing a game and regard us as we might regard ants we kill with sunlight from a magnifying glass. This metaphor on humanity toward those we regard as "lower" is expressed just that way, and expanded upon, with the extraterrestrials – who one of the characters manage to beg mercy from by somehow communicating with them via the box, resolving the crisis – having to be convinced that the people they are killing are actually real beings.

The beings responsible for the Dome are, it's implied, children of a race with abilities far beyond ours, playing with a toy … in a playroom – literally, child's play.

8. The Dome Is A Classic McGuffin

In the end, the Dome's nature and operation are not actually explained, and the origin only hinted at. Why the Dome is there isn't the point, but what happens to the people there – at least from the story's point of view. Indeed, from the point of view of the Dome's owners, the stories of the people trapped there are less than insignficant until Julia communicates to one of the ETs. The story begins just as the Dome comes down, and ends just as the Dome goes away – a period of only about two weeks at the most. In that time, Chester's Mill goes from being a well-mannered, neighborly New England town to all but a fascist hell-on-earth, with a villain who sees nothing beyond the chance to consolidate his hold on the town, dimly confident, in the back of his mind somehow, that he will figure out a way to explain away the carnage if – and when – the Dome ever goes.

The civil face of this small town was just a facade, which ripped away within three days of the Dome's arrival

There's a lot of current cultural touchpoints, a lot of message-sending, both intimated and blatant. Take them as you will.

And read the book – it's a corker of a story.

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[pdx_liff] That's Why We Call Them Weather Forecasts, Not Weather Guarantees

2274.MSNBC: We're going to be hit by a storm – unless we don't, of course:
Snow accumulation in metro Portland was doubtful on Saturday, according to KGW First Alert Storm Team, though "a chance of weather" remained, with freezing rain still in the forecast.
When it gets down to it, I'll settle for a chance at some weather. Yes, sir.

Though at this time it looks like we dodged the bullet, and considering the way it was last year, that suits us just fine.

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08 December 2009

[design] The Cherriots Transit Map

2273.The graphic look for Salem-Keizer's public transportation system - the Cherriots – have changed, and they're looking more slick and together.

The website itself, http://www.cherriots.org, has gotten a major makeover. The old site didn't have major problems with usage, but it looked very dated when compared to sites like that of LTD and TriMet. I'm not necessarily a fan of change for change's sake in web design – one credo I stick to is, if it works, it doesn't need fixing – but it was well past time for a site refresh. The new design fills that bill magnificently.

Navigation is vastly improved, with the long list on the left replaced my a much shorter list, with animated flyout lists. Other services are quickly indentified in the icon-driven lineup on the upper right: the big What's New! in the middle is right where you're going to see it and go right to it.

In the past, I thought the Cherriots route map needed a great deal of improvement. The new design brings the improvment, though it may take a few minutes for you to figure out what it's trying to say to you:

You can get a pdf copy of this directly from Cherriots here
, and the routes and schedules page is at the end of this link. I'll hit what I see are the high points.

The good:
  1. The map is clear and simple despite including more information (the local streets are in a light gray).
  2. Using multiple colors for routes can actually bring confusion. They well-chosen colors here are skillfully chosen, and contribute to understanding.
  3. The three new levels of service (Frequent Service, "Peak-Hour" Service, and Standard Service) are noted two ways: with lines of varying weights (the ones for Frequent routes stand out because they're much thicker), and different route-number symbols (a diamond for Frequent, a square for "Peak-Hour", and a circle for Standard). Together you get a quick visual reference as where you'll need to go where you're more likely to get a bus more quickly (well, in Salem terms, anyway)
  4. The services that actually go out of town – the 1X commuter route to Wilsonville and the 2X route to Grand Ronde – are included as part of the information. In the past, Cherriots kind of floated in space, connecting to nothing in the maps.
The bad:
  1. Too much Eras Bold. Eras Bold forms the names on the route list and also supplies the text for the line key. Eras Bold is a beautiful font, but here I would have gotten something a bit less pretty – say, Myriad works very well in these situations, or even Helvetica Neue.
  2. The route-frequency symbolism, while it works, I find awkward. Most significantly, the three shapes of the route-number icons just seem busy. I think the same thing could have been accomplished by keeping the same shape for all route number symbols, but making, say, the Standard service routes reversed – filled with white instead of filled with color, with the shape and the number carrying the color. It communicates very well for TriMet for the purpose of peak-hour commuter routes.
  3. The term "Peak-Hour" service for the second frequency level is a bit awkward as well. Cherriots "Peak-Hour" service is defined as 30 or 60 minute frequency between 6 am and 9 pm. That's not just peak-hour – that's the whole day.
In whole, though, the redesign of the map is useful, informative, and long-overdue. It looks good and communicates well, so in all, I'd term it a success, and call it well-done.

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[design] A Particularly Yummy Photoshop Contest

2272.I've opined on design contests before, but there have been times when the object of a design contest is quite a worthy one.

From various inputs I've received word that Portland's singular purveyor of carbohydrates, Voodoo Doughuts, is having a Photoshop contest. Details are here at Oregonlive.com (you'll have to register in order to upload your creation).

Essentially what you're gonna do is create a Photoshopped masterpiece using at least one of the six illustrated donutty products (the Bacon Maple Bar, the Marshall Mathers, the Voodoo Doughnut, the McMinnville Creme, and/or the Texass), and upload it to Oregonlive.com before the 7th of January 2010.

The winner gets a free Voodoo Dozen each month for a year.

Hey, you could do worse.

For your reference, the URL is:


So, lock'n'load your insulin pumps, and good luck.

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04 December 2009

[logo] Seattle's Capitol Hill: A Splash Of Something Green, Or Something

2271.Not very long ago on Twitter, @Vonster tweeted thus:
RT @megankirby: Capitol hill logo causing a flurry. http://bit.ly/80NZpm "Dynamism?" That is unadulterated graphic poopiness.
That was too good not to chase down. Here's what I found at the end:

Now, there is a Capitol Hill neigborhood here in PDX, but this happens to be the one in Seattle, Chamber of Commerce office was apparently looking for a bit of a brand refresh.

The structure of the logo should be simple to see even for the beginner: the words "capitol hill", in green, copied many times and turned into a green "cloud" upon which a white-stroked copy of same is positioned in front of it all, knocking out the green color and performing the reveal. The logo talk, as per the Chamber's press release, have this to say about the new look, developed by Bellevue ad firm Kite:

The brand strategy and visual design convey key themes that came up in the research and are part of the overall brand including: inclusivity, energy, diversity and dynamism. The idea behind the design is to visually represent the spirit of the socially inclusive and multi-faceted community by creating a solid background with the name "Capitol Hill" repeated many times.

Not really bad. Kind of hip and looks modern and artsy. But is the message coming through? The comments on the article that broke the change at The Slog, the online blog component of Seattle's The Stranger, suggest that – at best, the commenter (many of whom assert that they are design-trained) are a fun read anyway:
  • This makes me feel like I've had a couple of quadruple venti Americanos.
  • This makes me less regretful that I moved to Ballard in the '90s.
  • epileptic
  • Makes me feel like someone put a roofie in my drink.
But wait! It's not 100% haters, yo:
  • I haven't read through all the comments, cause I wanted to add my first impression without other input. But I quite like it. With the layering of the words it reminds me of the varying levels of the hill topography. The feel of the logo evokes Urban to me. It actually kind of feels like a t.v. show logo, something that would feature hipsters in a soap opera like dynamic. Because of the nature of the hill, I would of course add in some anarchists, urban ag people, and the gays to add flavor.
  • At least they spelled it right
So, you can't please 100% of the peoples 100% of the time. That's life, I suppose.

My review?

Well … it's a logo. And it's green. Green FTW!

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[liff] Twilight: New Moon, The LOLCats Review

02 December 2009

[type] You Can Be My Neutra Face (Even If You're Bold Italic)

2269.If, after you watch this video, you tell me that typographers aren't cool, ya just a hater.

Neutra Face : An Ode On A Typeface (A Bearded Poker Face Parody)

Me just love typeographer teh_funnay, yes, me do.

(h/t to Extensis)

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[art] A Master's Tools, Mystical Powers Imbued?

2268.While I was reading the New York Times article that inspired (and was linked to) by the last post, I remembered a bit I read in another book, and the similarities in the human attitudes in the two related bits struck me with maybe a not-too-odd congruence, given that Human peoples love to relate to the cosmos on a spiritual level as they do (I say with a mixture of odd delight and weariness).

In it, the rare-book dealer describes the emotion that came over him when seeing the humble Olivetti Lettra 32:

Glenn Horowitz, a rare-book dealer who is handling the auction for Mr. McCarthy, said: “When I grasped that some of the most complex, almost otherworldly fiction of the postwar era was composed on such a simple, functional, frail-looking machine, it conferred a sort of talismanic quality to Cormac’s typewriter. It’s as if Mount Rushmore was carved with a Swiss Army knife.”

While the metaphoric image of the Four Presidence carved by MacGyver will now forever stick, the real point is the mere knowledge that a master's tools had some sort of creative essence transferred into it seems to be something many, both aspiring artists and those who never aspire to any art, seem to share. In his excellent how-to-draw book, Drawing From Within, former MAD Magazine editor Nick Meglin relates the following:

…When my instructions in class were still met with moans and groans, I would introduce the work of Frank Frazetta, a popular artist and close friend. Frank, Angelo Torres and I were part of a small group of young men who played ball and hung around together in Brooklyn. We shared drawing interests and occasionally attended life drawing sketch classes at the Brooklyn Museum and the Art Students League.

Frazetta had little formal art education, but he was a "natural" from the very start. Invariably, someone in our classroom would approach Frank during the break, and ask about his drawing materials. Some of them actually attempted to buy his "miraculous media" with which he had captured the living form so beautifully and effortlessly. Frazetta never understood why anyone would want to buy his chewed-up pencil stubs!

"They don't even have erasers!" he said incredulously.

How absurd it was to think that it was the drawing instrument and not the artist's hand behind it that was responsible for his remarkable drawings.
It may or may not be stronger within the actual community of artists, such as they are, than the general public at large. As the rare-book dealer found an almost-supernatual respect for Cormac McCarthy's typewriter, the stories about this tendency that really seem to stick with me are when an artist – say, a printmaker or engraver – get to work with authentic tools that a well-known master. They treat them with a reverence and respect usually I see in situations like that of a Catholic Mass, when the pastor is handling the regalia. Utmost humility.

Art comes from the heart, the mind, and whatever you consider a soul; if you believe in a Creator, you are creating kind of in his/her/its image; maybe its naturally human to invoke a sort of animism in the tools the artist uses.

I've heard we humans are "wired" that way.

We humans is funny peoples.

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01 December 2009

[lit] Cormac McCarthy's Auctioning Off His Manual Typewriter.

2267.Yes, really. According to the New York Times:

Cormac McCarthy has written more than a dozen novels, several screenplays, two plays, two short stories, countless drafts, letters and more — and nearly every one of them was tapped out on a portable Olivetti manual typewriter he bought in a Knoxville, Tenn., pawnshop around 1963 for $50.

Over five million works and a place in American literature, over a period of five decades, and two hugely-selling big-screen movies – out of this:

Photo: The New York Times. Linked.

He won't nod typescriptless though, no worries – he has a replacement:

“He found another one just like this,” a portable Olivetti that looks practically brand new, Mr. McCarthy said from his home in New Mexico. “I think he paid $11, and the shipping was about $19.95.”

Now, that's someone who knows the difference between price and value.

If you're wondering how much it'll go for at auction, it's in the if-you-have-to-ask-you-can't-afford-it category, so I'll just tell you here: Christie's thinks' they'll get $15,000 to $20,000 for it.

I've had typewriters like this. Some of the basic models don't have margin or tab stops. You use the unshifted-L for the numeral 1. It used something called … ahh, what was it? Oh, yes … paper.

They used to have stacks of used typewriters at Goodwill.


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