Wednesday, May 21

Postcards for Humanity

Postcards, my friends of the pen. What are postcards? It's a small rectangle of cardboard with a short note and address on one side and a picture or even more note on the other side. They've taken many forms: you could write on a clean slice of cardstock and slip it into an envelope, and that was a postcard. In the late 1800s, in the U.S., it was not uncommon at all to bring your family to a portrait studio, have a photograph taken of your ensemble, and receive prints of your images in the form of postcards to distribute to family and friends.

Postcards were printed up for hotels, to distribute as mementos of your overseas vacation; postcards are the stock souvenir merchandise in every major metropolis, city, museum and gas station wherever you go. You can even make your own, if you want; find an interesting picture (or a lot, for a collage) and paste it to a stout piece of paper, writing all the usual stuff on the back. Make sure the destination address is lower than any other address on the card, if you're sharing your new address with friends, for example, and leave enough room at the bottom for the processing label.


Saturday, May 10

Moving Day and Blank Vintage Postcards

Once again I'm moving from apartment to apartment. It seems I can't stay anywhere longer than two years. But here are a few things that have come out of my semimigratory condition.

I now have a full list of everywhere I've lived since 1996, when I moved from St. Cloud State Unversity campus to Minneapolis. This is important because occasionally some stupid insurance form or credit card or whatever else needs an excruciatingly complete background of all the places I've lived. In the course of moving I tend to discover heaps of paper that have not been touched in years, and these may include junk mail or official mail that it turns out I don't need to save. On these, of course, are all my old addresses, so in the last three or four pages of my Moleskine address book I have recorded all of my past addresses in chronological order, for my own reference. This has proven to be handy on several occasions.

As well, among the long-neglected property I'm turning up are boxes and envelopes of antique documentation and photos. These are material my mother asked if I would scan and preserve digitally, as once upon a time I attempted to break into genealogy and that's who she thinks I am now (which is cool, because now I have a lot of military certificates from the Civil War). Also, I salvaged a box of old photos my wife's family was going to throw away, when we moved her parents out of their Wisconsin home and emptied the house for resale. In this lot I'm finding amazing old photographs of Russian and Polish immigrants, mounted on dense cardboard or particle board squares. I can't understand how her family would be so cavalier about these treasures!

This latter thing has turned into a small project, into which I've plunged all my energy as a time-killer and a distraction from packing. I'm terrible, but at the same time, observe: blank postcard backs. Through the miracle of Picasa I've digitally removed any writing and produced an empty postcard, upon which anyone who cares to may write over through their own graphics program, for purposes of novelty over social media. I'm not explaining myself very well, so here: when you upload an image of writing to Twitter, you can use way more than 140 characters:


 Alton Brown turned to this format when fans criticized his typos, and he instead hand-wrote notes on Post-Its®.

So if you'd like, here are five blank postcard backs from vintage postcards, from (as far as I can tell) three different nations. Fun, eh? I hope so.






Sunday, May 26

Those Riddlesome Moleskine Stickers

If you're like me, you collect those little stickers that come with each Moleskine book. They're labeled "Quality Control" and they combine two aspects: color and design. I haven't kept track of which sticker comes with which type of book, but I have an awful lot of the little gridded ones, in green, orange and yellow. I have one or two of the other designs.

Stickers are fun. Who would throw them away? But the thing is, I don't know what they're for. I held onto them in a little ceramic teacup until I could decide on their function.

The first instinct was to simply lay them out on a piece of paper, organized by design, to have a large one-page collection of them, but I felt they should have a better purpose. My second idea was to use them to seal the backs of envelopes, and that would be sufficient but I still felt there was a reason for them I didn't perceive. In the back of my mind, something nagged that they should go on the books themselves.

Saturday, March 16

Submersed/Immerged In My Studies

I need to post something in here, and I've been wrestling with words a lot, so I think I'll double-back to that tack, if no one minds.

By which I mean, I'm nearing one full year as a hired employee of a local health and medical marketing agency, for which I fulfill the capacity of QA specialist, proofreader and copy editor. I could not be more pleased: on top of friendly and interesting staff, more than a spacious creative office, and beyond the stunning view of St. Anthony Falls and the Stone Arch Bridge—I am a valued member of a dynamic and cohesive team, and my function is to clear up the language we speak. I could not be more pleased.

Essential reading for this work are John McWhorter's The Power of Babel and Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, by which the nascent editor will learn to take some power away from grammarians and lend it to linguists. No longer do you defend the idiosyncrasies of the American English dialect as "that's just how it is" (per those horrible Victorians, who just pulled stuff out of their butts and declared it Scripture); you can step up and say "this is where it came from and why we still use it". Isn't that exciting?

Saturday, September 8

Vintage Postcards for Creative Correspondence

One thing I've noticed lately on Tumblr is that a lot of youth are getting interested in "old-fashioned" correspondence. One user I follow regularly posts ads from girls aged 16-24 looking for pen pals. They're so anxious to reach out and connect, exploring postcards and hand-written letters as the vehicle.

I think this is marvelous and would do anything to encourage this. Obviously it's inappropriate for so many reasons for me to offer to write with them, but what can I do to foster this? If anything, I need to embody this practice by actually writing to the people I'm supposed to be writing to. I have excuses, but I would rather sit down and make time to cultivate these postal relationships.

But at least there is room to let people know where to go for resources. If you have someone to write to (or several someones, hopefully), you can pick up good pens at an art store, and maybe Barnes & Noble or Paper Source will have interesting letter sets. This is only a step up from the most rudimentary and basic form: using whatever pen/pencil you have lying around the house and filling up a couple pages of notebook paper. You can get as fancy or as minimalist as you like.

For people who are looking for something more interesting than a dozen souvenir postcards had from any gas station or gift shop, think about this: antique stores. If you're not too precious about marring a token of history, think about it as fulfilling an old postcard's Zen purpose. Seriously, many antique shops will have a selection of vintage cards somehow unused for the past several decades! Most of the time you'll find them neat and orderly, grouped by theme or geography, but today at Hunt & Gather (in my new neighborhood) I found, in the corner of the sprawling basement space, a disheveled bin of vintage postcards, marked down from what you can usually expect to pay for these things. It was a dream! If I didn't already have a small mountain of postcard books and vintage cards salvaged from cleaning out my wife's former childhood home, I would've just stuck two fists in and hauled my catch up, sight unseen, to the cash register.

So think about that. Find a nice pen, hit up the post office for interesting stamps, and haunt your local antique stores for amazing postcards. Every one loves receiving personal mail, and there are so many little ways to heighten the experience.

Friday, July 6

Creating Words and Worlds

Many people may not know this about me, but I love to play with word roots, like Greek and Latin pre/suffices. To borrow the vulgar argot: "It's just the funnest thing." I'd always been curious about this as a game, you know, creating new words (or discovering obscure ones, as with circumversion—thought I made it up, but it totally existed) out of these components. It's a useful exercise, not just for learning and memorizing these roots but as a creative tool: a new word can evoke images, suggest a culture or a new world.

I've been making my own lists of word components, but here are a couple resources for Greek and Latin medical beginnings and endings:
And now, a selection of made-up words that I may do something with later.
tocometer
a tool to analyze and measure one's children (Ex.: Either my tocometrics are way off, or you're eating too much sugar, young man.)

necrophore
one who transports corpses/carcasses (Ex.: Consarn it anyway! Whar's that blasted necrofer at? This here body needs ta git throwed into Potter's Field 'fore it 'splodes in this heat!)

demolatry
adoration of the common people (Ex.: No one with that much money can claim to be a demolatrix, I assure you.)

Thursday, July 5

Geographical Philatelists Are Vicious

My original post on some stamps I found, from the Republic of South Moluccas, has received some negative press! (If one snotty know-it-all and one offensive L2 learner over the course of three years is "negative press.")

You can read about the drama here, on my other blog, Sweven Volant. Why'd I update this story there and not here? Well, I wrote the original post in 2009 so updating that entry would guarantee no one would ever see it. This way, I can share the love between that blog and this one (and I haven't had anything really startling to post in that other blog).

It's not necessary to read either of these posts to fully enjoy one's life experience. This is just a funny thing that happened. Not uproariously funny, but... funny enough.

Monday, June 18

Bic Round Stic: a Brief Declaration


I tell you, the most notable trait about the Bic Round Stic ballpoint pen is its singular ability to never retain its cap. I have five of these pens at my desk—they seem to migrate to me, as though (mistakenly) believing that I among all others in the office have a capacity to love them—and they write well enough but there is not a single pen cap between them. Therefore they may never be transported, unless you don't care what the pocket of your trousers looks like. They simply amass like an invasive species, washed up on my shore.