The children are all leaving school today.

Johnny Smith picked this up in Amherstburg today for twenty bucks.

As far as we can surmise it was probably made in 1929. This was before they started making manual typewriters with plastic keys and plastic-other-things to save on parts and labour. The space bar doesn’t work and it won’t type at the moment (while the keys all strike the ribbon, something seems to be off mechanically so no letters appear on the page), but it’s in remarkably fine cosmetic condition given its age. And really, for twenty bucks, how can you resist an old typewriter that looks this cool?

There’s something about old manual typewriters I find inspiring. The noise…the smell…the way the keys feel beneath your fingers. The ding of the bell when you’ve reached the end of a line. And, of course, the magic of basket shift. I think it would be fun to send people typewritten letters with CDs. If nothing else, it would be easier on the wrist than writing a letter for every person I send a CD to. I used to do that, but I can type much faster than I can write, and I’m not sure how many people can read my oddball handwriting anyway. So I think the typewriter may be a better way to go this time. Who knows…maybe I’ll write the great American novel on this old Remington once it’s up and running. Never mind that I’m not American and don’t really write long form fiction anymore.

On a completely unrelated note, I pulled out one of Professor Grandpapa’s old records today and gave it a spin. It’s a live Mingus album recorded in 1970, with the audience sound completely removed, and it doesn’t appear to be available on CD in any form. There isn’t much information about it on the internet or anywhere else.

I think The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady will always remain my favourite Mingus album (and not just because it was my introduction to his music), but this just slid right up there along with it. The version of “Pithecanthropus Erectus” found here — spelled with a Y in place of the first E for some reason — is more than sixteen minutes long and takes up the entire first side of the record. It makes the original version sound kind of restrained by comparison. It’s insane, in the best possible way. The two songs on the flip side are shorter and not quite as wild, but I think “Love Is a Dangerous Necessity” is one of the best song titles I’ve ever heard, and the whole thing ends on a surprising note. Anyone who thinks Mingus mellowed and lost some of his creative fire in the ’70s needs to listen to this and both of the Changes albums for irrefutable proof that he was still on top of his game as a musician, a composer, and a band-leader.

It’s interesting to me how the eldest Johnny West and I came to like a lot of the same jazz completely independently. I didn’t discover this until recently, when I inherited his record collection. There’s some crazy stuff in there, including some albums I’d been meaning to get myself, and some things that are insanely obscure. He didn’t take very good care of his records, and it took me something like three hours to put all of them in their proper cases and dust them off as well as I could. Fortunately, while some of them are kind of filthy, only a few of the records have much in the way of scratches, and the bulk of them seem to play well, without too much surface noise. It would have been nice if we could have shared our mutual love for jazz on more than a tertiary level. But maybe in some ways it’s better that we didn’t and I instead got into this music on my own steam. It’s a long story.

On another unrelated note, I had an idea come to me out of nowhere for some sort of comic series. The protagonist, if you can call him that, is the youngest working focus-puller of all time, who also happens to be an absurdly cynical nihilist. Kind of like me on the days when I’m bitter and profane, only taken much farther. And with wilder hair. It’ll be very crude, with the characters looking like slightly evolved stick people, but I think it could be fun, at least for me. I’ve already got half a dozen or so potential little stories floating around in my head. I’m not sure if they’ll make it past the brainstorming stage, but I think there’s a good chance. So don’t be too surprised if a very poorly drawn and potentially offensive comic strip thing called Cormac the Focus-Puller starts showing up here someday.

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