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Where I work

Phone and iPad: airplane mode. Computer: off. Alexa: playing Miles Davis. This is where I work and how I work. It’s not so much that I want to disconnect, but that I want to connect. In this highly disorganized world, this highly distracted world, seeing the printed word upon the page is a balm.

On my desk are a 1930s Remington Streamliner and a 1970s Olivetti Lexikon 82. The Streamliner needs servicing, but functions well enough to pound out a few ideas. The Lexikon is a fast, zippy machine,though the motor is a bit loud; otherwise, the action is rapturous.

Lately, I’ve taken to compiling a typewritten “to do” list each evening, having read that this activity before bedtime can help one relax. States Dr. Sharon Bergquist, commenting on a Baylor University study: “The idea is that if you can just take ideas that are just ruminating in your head, put them on paper, it lets your mind go to rest. You can put it aside, pick it up the next day” (link).

In the past, I’ve tried to keep a “to do” list on my smartphone, employing all sorts of apps, but never succeeding in maintaining a “to do” list usefully. The typewritten copy is different altogether. First, it’s printed on a piece of paper: handwritten notes can be added as necessary; second, it resides in my pocket for easy reference and modification.

Fundamentally, the typewritten list is organic. I can write out ideas, draw a picture, craft a poem. In short, the list becomes an opportunity, not an obligation.

© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Portrait by an artist

I acquired this photo on eBay some time ago, which was taken by an “artist” from Stokes Studio in Campbellsville, (Kentucky?), sometime in the early 1900s. A number of photo studios bearing this studio’s name prospered around the country, especially around the 1920s. The enclosure for the photo reads generically “Portrait by an Artist.” I don’t know who the gentleman in the photos is, but he apparently worked in a telegraph office. The typewriter is perhaps an Underwood? (If you know, please comment.)

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© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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To walk alone

“Sudden gray phantoms seemed to manifest upon inner room walls where a curtain was still undrawn against the night, or there were whisperings and murmurs where a window in a tomblike building was still open.”

A city is silent when its occupants are sequestered, souls staring at televisions blazing in blue tones. In Ray Bradbury’s 1951 tale “The Pedestrian” only one man wanders the streets, a man “alone in this world of A.D. 2053.”

The story Bradbury tells strikingly observes that technology causes us to draw into ourselves into isolation from friends and family and the outside world.

The protagonist of the story is a creator of things — he is, by admission, an author, though the authorities regard him as “unemployed.” The rest of humanity are consumers — consumers of television (or future media) and consumers of goods and services, heaping up material possessions until the outside world is entirely subdued.

Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” may not be the best written story, but it is especially prescient. (The story, in in PDF form, can be found here.) The person who hazards into the corners of the city is regarded with suspicion, such activities are denigrated.

I recall once wandering the streets when I was stopped by a police officer for “suspicious” behavior. I was carrying a mag light (it was dark) and there had been some “reports” of car break-ins. The officer was kind enough, explained his purpose, and accepted my statement — “Just out for a walk.” What struck me as tragic was that such activities are automatically regarded with suspicion. No one thinks first: oh, he pondering, traversing this path deep in though. No one asks, “What are you thinking?” but “What are you doing?”

© 2018, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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