Archive for November, 2007

Dark Matter

November 29, 2007

So all this time, the Hubble Space Telescope’s been pointed the wrong way.

All that money wasted searching the stars. Go figure.

See, if it had been pointed toward Earth instead of off into the heavens, aimed particularly at Baltimore and a funky little neighborhood called Hampden, then it probably would have picked up a black hole right in our own solar system. It was the one that Mary was staring through Shop Boy. And all because I told her she was perfect. Sheesh. What’s a guy gotta do?

As it turns out, a guy’s gotta be able to detect printing flaws so small that the units of measure that would describe them have not yet been named. Smidgen? Way too big. Skosh? Not even close. Sliver of a skosh? Nope. In honor of Mary, the only one who can see them, Shop Boy has made the executive decision to name these bedeviling levels of misalignment, these infinitesimally small blemishes himself: micro-Mashburns, or mMs.

The time element the micro-Mashburn represents is a much larger unit, say two hours per mM. And, of course, there’s a financial measurement that must be factored in. What the heck? Let’s say $100 an hour. Shop Boy’s buying.

Now say, for instance, you’ve got a holiday card that is designed to be folded, accordion style, into four panels. Proof after proof shows Shop Boy that the wording on the long card is perfectly, undeniably, dead-on straight. Mary, however, has detected a 3 mM swing from one end to the other. She’s absolutely, unswayably sure it’s there.

Well, for purposes of this blog, time will be represented by a “T” and financial implications by a “$.” The simple equation, then, looks something like this: mM x T = $.

You follow me? Good.

So, Shop Boy does the math and the answer is clear. It’s unnecessary — OK, I said “crazy,” sue me — to hold up production on something that we’ve nailed so thoroughly, unquestionably, perfectly and exactly.

Well, you know Shop Boy’s odds of winning this argument, right? Slim and mM.

Sure enough, we were still tinkering late into the evening. You can’t say that we at Typecast Press won’t kill ourselves to get the job done right.

Mary: “See? It looks much better now.”

Shop Boy: “I can’t see a difference. Maybe it’s because we’ve been standing over this thing for hours and hours trying to correct a problem that’s not there — what is this, Horton Hears a Who? — and my eyes are tired from counting all the money we’re throwing away while we’re fixing something that was already perfect in the first place.”

You should have seen the look she gave me.

Man, some folks just don’t appreciate good scientific logic.

Letterpress List No. 12: Jingle-Jangled

November 27, 2007

It is NOT the most wonderful time of the year to be part of Mary’s central nervous system. Oh, sure, it’s busy around the printshop. What’s new there? And there’s a holiday studio party to plan for Typecast Press and Chris Hartlove, our photographer suitemate. And Mary’s parents, sister and brother-in-law arrive for Christmas, bringing all sorts of, um, personal readjustment issues. (OK, on Shop Boy’s end, too.) Then there are gifts to arrange for clients and friends, mall madness, parties to attend …

And Shop Boy’s holiday iPod list!

Call me mawkish. Call me tacky. Call me strange. Just don’t call me when I’ve got the halls loudly decked with boughs of holly jolly. I can’t hear your negativity right now. I’m in my own winter wonderland. Baby, it’s cold outside, but not where Shop Boy’s standing.

Mary: “I don’t get it, Shop Boy.”

Shop Boy: “What’s to get? Can’t you hear what I hear?”

Mary: “Yes, I can. So can everyone within a 10-block radius. Turn it down.”

Shop Boy: “Jeez, what’s eating you? Grandma get run over by a reindeer or something?”

See, if you ask me, Mary just needs a little Christmas, like, right this very minute. So here goes …

Letterpress List No. 12

At Mary’s request (ouch, a lump of coal just hit me in the head), Shop Boy presents more than an hour’s worth of holiday music. Surrender to it — might just be the best stretch of your day.

Ready, Rudolph?

Ready, Santa!

Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerGene Autry (Feels so right.)
Frosty the Snowman
Los Straitjackets (Beyond words.)
Let It Snow
Dean Martin (But don’t drive in it after popcorn and a couple of cocktails.)
Father Christmas
the Kinks (Visions of sugarplums and brass knuckles.)
A Holly Jolly Christmas
Burl Ives (Have a cup of cheer? Yes, I believe I will.)
It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Andy Williams (Right, Mary? Sorry, she just ran screaming out of the room.)
Santa Baby
Eartha Kitt (All I want is my two front teeth? Forget that. She wants bling.)
Only 364 More Shopping Days ‘Til Christmas
Cletus T. Judd (How much time Santa’s gonna need to fill Ms. Kitt’s list.)
Little Saint Nick
Beach Boys (Santa’s sweet ride.)
Christmas Wrapping
the Waitresses (They know what Shop Boys like.)
Please Come Home for Christmas
the Eagles (Crying guitar cinches it.)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
Nat King Cole (Believe, hon. That’s a Baltimorism. So’s this.)
Blue Christmas
Elvis Presley (I’ll be so ba-loo just thinking a-ba-ba-bout you.)
Feliz Navidad Jose Feliciano (First Spanish words Shop Boy ever heard. A college roommate, from Puerto Rico, filled in the blankety-blanks.)
2000 Milesthe Pretenders (Great version on the link.)
Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
Brenda Lee (Its success brought both good and bad to the holiday music scene. See Setzer, Brian.)
Same Old Lang Syne
Dan Fogelberg (Wistfully yours this holiday season.)
Santa Claus Is Coming to Town
Bruce Springsteen (No pouting, Shop Boy.)
Peace on Earth
Mahalia Jackson (Shh. Just listen.)
I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas
Bing Crosby (Ah, global warming.)
You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
Thurl Ravenscroft (Grrrrreeeat song! He’s the dude who did Tony the Tiger.)

Shop Boy Makin With the Freak Freak

November 21, 2007

There’s a gap along the boardwalk in Coney Island, a hollowed-out space between the buildings that house souvenir shops and greasy food stands. It is here where that most all-American of games is played. Shop Boy’s talking, of course, about “Shoot the Freak.”

Swear to god: In Brooklyn, N.Y., where guns are as much of a problem as they are in most areas, a live human being makes his living by running an obstacle course as he dodges projectiles fired by you.

Ah, make-believe murder by the sea. It’s so wrong there’s no way it could feel right. Still … bet you can’t look away.

Well, starting today, you sickos have a chance to play a very similar game. We’ll call it “Make Shop Boy Freak.” Start here: Just purchase a set of the very cool and hand-crafted Global Action for Children holiday cards. Zolo designed them and Crane’s supplied the paper that we at Typecast Press are cutting, printing, die-cutting and scoring. Mary and Shop Boy printed just enough sets to hopefully/maybe/possibly/but not very likely-ly last through the holiday season. In other words, once the current supply is gone, Shop Boy will need to run around Mary’s Baltimore letterpress shop like a nut as he dodges new orders. We do like a challenge around here, apparently.

The rules? Oh, Mary never tells me them until later.

Shop Boy’s game, are you?

It’s for a good cause. And, hey, it’s a living.

Letterpress List No. 11: Undo Hardship

November 19, 2007

It was sad. Shop Boy had tears streaming down his face, anyway.

There stood Mary, watching the ink wheel spin, each pass of the rollers another nail in the coffin. Her brain, the Pantone color-mixing book and common sense each had told her that adding a little dab of black ink to the wheel would, as the rollers worked it in, slowly darken the red we were using and create the perfect shade. They lied.

“No, no, no!” Mary exclaimed, running for the Pantone book and frantically thumbing through it again for clues to what had gone so wrong. Whatever color she’d mixed, it was not of this Earth. She stared at the thermometer. Temperature has an effect on ink density, but we were cool there. The rollers? They were just doing their job. It was — simply, undeniably, irreparably — the dreaded “operator error.” Or maybe just fate helping us with another hard lesson.

Finally, Mary threw up her hands and pleaded, “Undo! Undo!”

And Shop Boy cracked up.

Now, you youngsters might not remember it, but there was a time before the “Control Z” function on your computer, “Undo” to us Mac folks. It was a time when “undo” meant “clean up the mess you’ve made, de-ink the press and the rollers, re-mix the ink, throw away all of the paper you’ve wasted and maybe even get fired.”

Well, at Typecast Press, we’re bringing those days back!

“What are you laughing at, Shop Boy?” Mary threw me a rag and stormed away to wash her hands. “You’ve got a press to clean.”

***

Letterpress List No. 11
Shop Boy kept the blog a bit shorter this time to save you readers from eye strain — man, I do go on and on sometimes — and to leave more room for music. So, here we go: an hour-plus of music to mop up to. Most songs should be available at iTunes and Napster. One of these days I’ll link directly to all the songs instead of just an easy video or two from YouTube. Not today. Gotta get some purple kind of mess off these rollers here.

Little Drop of Poison — Tom Waits (Black ink kills. Shop Boy should note here that Pantone color books are easier for offset printers to use than letterpress printers, since that method adds water to the mix. Mary’s lived, Mary’s learned.)
Working for a Living
Huey Lewis and the News (Hand-to-mouth to football stadium anthem.)
Gonna Make You SweatC&C Music Factory (OK, so the video’s a fraud. That hot lady ain’t the one singing. Things that make you go, hmmm.)
Love Removal Machinethe Cult (No love from the C&P today.)
Blood and Rosesthe Smithereens (Sort of the ink shade Mary was trying for.)
BusinessEminem (Hell yeah.)
Maggie’s Farm — Rage Against the Machine (Take this job and shove it.)
Welcome to the Working Week — Elvis Costello (I know it don’t thrill you, I hope it don’t kill you.)
Money for Nothing — Dire Straits (Look at them yo-yos.)
Instant Mash — Joe Jackson (Grab can, lift arm, stack can, turn around.)
Mixed BusinessBeck (Making all the B-Boys scream.)
Bang the Drum All DayTodd Rundgren (Hey, why not?)
Working in a Coal MineDevo (Too tired for having fun.)
Thing ThingEl Pus (Whatever you do, do your thing thing.)
Lazy Boy DashJimmie’s Chicken Shack (Son, you better get up while you can.)
Alpha Beta Parking Lot Cake (Left standing when it doesn’t work out.)
North Sea Oil Jethro Tull (Riggers rig and diggers dig their shallow graves. Of course, Mary would prefer that Ian Anderson dig his grave with that stinking flute.)
Allentown Billy Joel (The too-familiar story of a town’s demise.)
My Hometown Bruce Springsteen (Ditto. We’re getting a bit dark here.)
Too Much Time on My Hands Styx (Unemployed, but at a peppy beat.)
Vacation the Go-Go’s (Ah, now that’s better.)

Under the Knife, Under the Wire

November 16, 2007

As the ambulance pulled away, Mary let her mind drift to the worst-case scenario.

Our 12×18 C&P was a goner, and we’d have to find a new way to print just the type of job we’d acquired the machine to handle, a large, solid block of color. Like, pronto.

The patients in the back of the rescue vehicle — OK, it was a truck, but work with me here — were the C&P’s main shaft and attached cam and gear. The C&P had gone through a few cycles with such force and noise, we knew we had a problem. We’d trouble-shot as much as we could. Externally, the machine looked OK aside from a few large welds that suggested previous abuse. The problem had to be within the main shaft, but there was no way mere mortals — thank you, but Shop Boy is mere flesh and blood just like you — could get at it.

Shop Boy wrote a post on this turn of events a while back, but I realize that I never mentioned how one machine’s life was saved and by whom. I was still a bit shaken at the time. Typecast Press was facing nothing short of catastrophe: leaving a favorite client in the lurch.

We did what we always do in this situation. We called in a ringer … I mean rigger. Namely, one Bruce Baggan. Bruce owns North American Millwright Services Inc., a company that moves massive equipment from here to there. No mess, no fuss. It was here, now it’s there. Mary can’t watch sometimes, but she’s missing quite a show.

We first met Bruce at his warehouse. I think he wanted to chat with us because he wondered if we could possibly be serious: “You want to move what? What the heck do you want that for? I’ve been scrapping those for years.”

Presses. He was scrapping old presses. He clearly had not seen what some of these babies were going for on eBay. At one point, Mary asked whether he’d come across any available Miehle Verticals … 3-ton presses.

“I’ve got one out in the dumpster,” Bruce said. “You can have it if you like.”

It was upside-down and in pieces, alas. Not that Mary wasn’t tempted.

Bruce, an old letterpress guy himself — and by “old” I mean that he ran a press in high school and as a college job, not to suggest in any way that he couldn’t still inflict pain upon anyone who’d suggest he ain’t 25 anymore — has become Typecast Press’ indispensable scout and friend. He’s still amazed that folks want this outmoded stuff. But he’s also really pleased. He’s always hated dumping the dinosaurs but had no clue there was a letterpress subculture out there. Bruce handled the heavy lifting in moving the 12×18 C&P into our shop, taking a break from surgery/rehab for a torn bicep!!! Mary calls him Santa Claus.

Who else would we call now?

He’d run these machines. He knew guys who’d run these machines. Did Bruce know anyone who could take one apart and, we prayed, fix it?

Natch.

Enter Al, one of Bruce’s key guys at North American Millwrights. He came, he saw, he puzzled. He was up for it. Hadn’t seen one of these in a while. But Al’s been inside the guts of so many distressed machines that he’s apparently one of those people who can simply listen and it tells him what ails it. Yes, the machine was fighting itself. The main shaft and cam gear needed to come off. In essence, the machine needed to be stripped. Is that all? Bruce’s son Chris showed up to dead lift the heaviest pieces out, and off they went.

After they had gone, we looked over the skeleton of the C&P. The flywheel and gear shaft had hidden another huge weld on the cast-iron frame. Truly, this thing had to have been dropped out a window at some point. Jeez. We also looked at the calendar, talking over scenarios. We had no choice but to wait.

And sweat.

Until one day, Mary called Shop Boy at work in D.C.

“You won’t believe it. It works,” she said. “Not only did it get operated on at the hospital, but now it’s getting its teeth flossed!”

OK, she was giddy. But Al and Eugene, a machinist from North American who had performed some of the surgery on the C&P’s bits, were indeed “flossing” the gear teeth. Oh, the new shaft sparkled. And when Mary mentioned that the C&P throw-off lever — which controls which mode the machine is in — was nearly impossible to move, Al unstuck it.

Well, to make a long story just a little bit longer, Typecast Press made the deadline, the client was pleased, and Shop Boy slept easier that night.

Mary? She stayed up late trying to craft a proper thank-you for the new toy that Santa Claus had brought.

Letterpress List No. 10: States of Unease

November 13, 2007

You should hear Mary talk about New England — “the Big Blob,” she calls it, as its six states were a single jagged piece in her childhood puzzle map of America rather than a perfect square like, say, Colorado. You could barely make out tiny Rhode Island, Shop Boy land. More exactly, you should hear her talk about how little we talk, us Yankees: “Meagerspeak.” She says our reserve feels like rudeness to her.

I try to explain a couple of things:

  • Yankees are exceedingly eloquent. We can say in three words, or a single hand gesture, what others can’t say in 1,000.
  • We’re not unfriendly. We just don’t like you.
  • It gets so cold sometimes that if you open your mouth to speak, your gums will freeze, your gold teeth will fall out, and the Mob will grab them.
  • This is my space. That’s yours. Don’t touch me, I won’t get in your face.
  • We don’t need to talk. We’re the stinking World Champions.

But Mary won’t listen to reason. She was trained by a Southern mother who believes that every lull in conversation is way too long. It must be filled by whatever means necessary. Embrace enemies as if they were your close friends — your true close friends will know the difference. Just be charmin’ and darlin’ at all times. Hugs and kisses and elbow grabs and chucks on the shoulder, oh my.

Well, for a long time, my sisters thought Mary was flat crazy. They’re not so sure about me these days, either. See, like it or not, Shop Boy is a representative of Typecast Press now. It’s not all about me anymore. (Wait, did I approve this?) Studio tour? Meet-and-greet? Delivery? Shop Boy’s on, no excuses.

Please don’t get me wrong. Shop Boy truly believes in Mary and what she’s doing here with letterpress in Baltimore. Get Shop Boy going and that Yankee-ness falls away. He’ll talk your ear off about Typecast Press, or just about anything else you make the mistake of bringing up. (You know by now that Shop Boy has many words within him yet to share. I’m not shy at the keyboard.)

It’s just that, um, well, er … oh, let me just spit it out: Shop Boy is no social butterfly. Total cocoon by nature. Died a caterpillar. Know what I’m saying?

Mary’s been working on Shop Boy for years. She pokes me in the ribs when I’m not “Southern enough” in a social situation and scolds me for my dread of parties. And we laugh about Shop Boy’s uncanny ability to draw a crowd in a supermarket simply by trying to stand out of the way. (Sale on rutabagas! Right behind Mr. Uncomfortable over there!) It ain’t looks, folks.

True story: Before Mary and Shop Boy’s engagement party in Colorado, I made Mary, her dad, mom and sister promise that at all times, at least one of them would be at my side to ease the mingling with guests, about 150 of whom I’d never met. You guessed it: a mob scene, and Shop Boy never saw Mary or her family again until the last of the guests had departed.

“Well,” Mary said, “I guess you passed the test.”

A test? More like attempted murder. If there were any justice, she’d have gone to the slammer for that. Oooh. I still get the willies.

Know what, though? I’ve been a changed man since that day. I cheerfully meet potential clients all the time. Space issues? Fugheddaboutit. Shop Boy is a guy’s guy now: a pat on the back for a colleague, a fist bump for a dude’s funny line, man hugs. With women, charming conversation, actually listening — Shop Boy isn’t alone on the learning curve here. And in public, Shop Boy tries to take what he’s learned to make the world a better place. Say I’m about to collide with someone walking toward me in a train station. I put my hand gently on the individual’s shoulder to alert him and deflect fuller contact, walking on after a heartfelt, “Sorry, my fault,” or the like.

What a charming gentleman. My mom would have been shocked … then proud, I think.

Anyway, just a week or two ago, Mary and Shop Boy were returning from a party for a client, Global Action for Children, on K Street in Washington, D.C. Open house. I knew two people. Mary would be 45 minutes late. (“You go ahead of me, Shop Boy.”) Ugh, isn’t the testing thing over yet? Well, no sweat for the new me. Fun party. Drinks afterward. On a roll! We were hustling for a train home, Mary a few steps ahead, when a 70-ish fellow came around a column, right into my path. Flush with success, I gently touched his shoulder and said, “Excuse me, friend” — as any Southerner worth his salt would do — changed course and began to walk on.

WHACK!

“Get your F hands of me, MF!”

He caned me. A two-hander right on the knuckle of my index finger. I was so stunned I didn’t even respond, didn’t look back, didn’t really feel pain, just ran to catch up to Mary. I didn’t show her my swollen hand until later, when I confessed that Shop Boy had been beaten up by a handicapped, old dude.

“Oh my God, are you OK? He hit you? On purpose? How dare he? What did you do? Why didn’t you tell me? I would have gotten right in his face!”

Which would have been pretty Yankee of her, don’t you think?

***

Letterpress List No. 10

Time for more music, about an hour’s worth to work — or ice a sore hand — by. Soothing, charmin’ and darlin’ tunes, most of them suitable for any cocktail party. (“Hey, anybody seen Mary?”) Look for them at iTunes and Napster, among other places, if you haven’t put them on you MP3 player already. Bet you have.

Southern CrossCrosby, Stills & Nash (Iffy on the band — blasphemy, I know — but this is so pretty.)
No More DramaMary J. Blige (Soap sampling and drama aplenty.)
What a Fool BelievesDoobie Brothers (Shop Boy could once hit the falsetto notes here. Yes, I know I should not necessarily be proud of that.)
Livin’ on a PrayerBon Jovi (JBJ can fly! Must be the hair product.)
Rainbow in the DarkRonnie James Dio (The devil made him do it. They were simpler times.)
RoosterAlice in Chains (A son’s tribute to dad.)
Jesus Don’t Want Me for a SunbeamNirvana (Heaven’s loss.)
BabeStyx (Mary’ll laugh at me for this. Shop Boy is such a sap.)
Sweet Child O’ MineGuns N’ Roses (Before Axel slapped his sweet child around, then got punched out by a supermodel.)
Silent All These YearsTori Amos (No more drama … for her, anyway.)
BethKiss (It wasn’t Kiss without Criss. Just saying.)
SanctifiedNine Inch Nails (“Heaven’s just a rumor she’ll dispel” and other incurably painful stories … next on Trent TV.)
BluebirdKasey Chambers (One of Mary’s favorites.)
Good Old World WaltzTom Waits (This was the song that made me love Tom Waits … in a man hug kind of way, of course.)
Dust in the Wind Kansas (Drink too much wine, listen to this and cry. Nice release.)
How You Gonna See Me NowAlice Cooper (Set free … and playing some real fine golf.)

Letterpress List No. 9: Getting Ink Done

November 6, 2007

Shop Boy should have it tattooed on his forehead: Think Before You Ink!

There we were again late last night, trying to clear black ink off the big C&P. Mary and Shop Boy. A two-person bucket brigade. Be glad you weren’t there. Shop Boy sure wished he wasn’t.

Typecast Press was doing a run of menus for a new Baltimore restaurant, Woodberry Kitchen. The chef/owner, Spike Gjerde, is doing the whole sustainable-resources thing … local veggies and meats produced in an environmentally responsible manner. WK’s in this great area, Clipper Mill, that literally rose from the ashes. The restaurant’s filled with great old details — machine parts and the like — and has a cool bar and a balcony for more private (or illicit … just saying) dining. With Spike, the food’s always great. We’ve torn through the rockfish, the pork, shrimp. And we may never go to another movie without stopping by for the buttered/sea salted popcorn. (Shop Boy’s not above begging for a to-go bag.)

OK, Shop Boy’s channeling Mary’s mom, who once got so carried away over the food that she yelled to the waiters at a French-only cafe in Quebec: “Tell the chef … Yummy! Yummy! Yummy!

So back to our regularly scheduled program. (Spike’s paying us for the menus, not a plug. Besides, this is about Shop Boy.)

Anyhow, Mary designed the Woodberry Kitchen logo with large wood type, then we scanned it and had polymer plates made so we can change the logo’s size. Spike insisted on using a song lyric from the late Joe Strummer (of the Clash and the Mescaleros fame) on the menu: “If you’re after getting the honey/ Then you don’t go killing all the bees.”

Nice.

We were using soy ink, which is said to be better for the environment but is funky under the best conditions. It’s absolute poison in Shop Boy’s hands.

“Really, Mary, it was so little ink.”

She was unconvinced.

“Look, Shop Boy, we’ve been through this. If you see that it’s printing too heavy, don’t just hope it corrects itself. Do something.”

See, here’s where Mary and Shop Boy differ: She’s such a perfectionist that she looks for reasons to stop the press and tweak. Shop Boy looks for reasons to keep it churning. Simple denial will do in a pinch. “This one might be garbage, but the next impression will be the magic. I just know it.” You can run through a lot of paper in the printshop this way. Or in Las Vegas, come to think of it.

So there were Joe Strummer’s words … somewhere under all the black goop. And there we were stripping ink off the press. Now, Shop Boy can laugh at his goof-ups later, but it’s really embarrassing to have to ask Mary to bail me out when I’m up to my knees in black soy ink — enough to kill all the bees in Maryland — after she’d just told me I should be subtle when reapplying it. And saying, “Well, you shouldn’t have left the room,” doesn’t really cut it at that point.

Sigh. Shop Boy stewed as he ran off an extra 350 or so fresh menus.

“That’s enough, Shop Boy,” Mary said finally.

“You mean stop printing them?” Shop Boy asked glumly.

“No, I mean knock it off.”

Sniff … she always knows just what to say.

****

OK, time for about an hour of shop-approved music. But first, about two minutes of preaching:

Maryland and the Washington, D.C., metro area have a tremendous problem with aggressive driving, dangerous antisocial behavior. People die. Your metro area likely has the same woe. So police, in cars and helicopters, using satellite imaging and radar, have begun to crack down, they say, on the reckless weaving, dodging and speeding that many folks favor on their commutes.

Dr. P.M. Forni of the Johns Hopkins Civility Project here in Baltimore found that Americans consider aggressive driving the second-rudest thing someone can do. Discrimination was the only thing more rude. Yikes.

But now hear this from a TV ad: In the new class of Mercedes Benz, the handling stiffens automatically to help stabilize the vehicle during aggressive driving. Oh, and it’s fast enough for the Autobahn. “Why? Because we promised you a Mercedes Benz.”

Holy cow. Maybe the cops should attack aggressive driving at its source. First bust is a Benzie exec.

End of sermon.

****
Letterpress List No. 9: Songs to “Drive Gently” By

If you slow down a bit, you’ll get to hear more of these songs on your way to work. Not all of them promote safe driving, so follow close to your heart, not the bumper of the car in front of you. (“OK, knock it off, Shop Boy.”) If you don’t own these songs, why not? Check for them on iTunes and Napster.

Dirt Track DateSouthern Culture on the Skids (Got a designated driver?)
Money Ain’t a ThangJermaine Dupri/Jay-Z (Great song, bad driving.)
Car Wheels on a Gravel RoadLucinda Williams (Painting a picture you can feel.)
Long Walk Back to San AntoneJunior Brown (Taken for a ride.)
Tonight Is the Night I Fell Asleep at the WheelBarenaked Ladies (The last thing on his mind or the furthest thing from his mind? Hmm.)
Uneasy Rider — Charlie Daniels Band (Hippie. Mississippi. Flat tire. Bad news.)
Runnin’ Down a Dream — Tom Petty (This’ll blow back your hair with the windows closed.)
Little Deuce CoupeBeach Boys (Not being from California, Shop Boy once thought the “pink slip” gave him more time to drive his favorite car because he was fired from work. It’s the deed! Duh.)
Heading Out to the HighwayJudas Priest (Nothing to lose.)
One Headlightthe Wallflowers (An order of melancholy. Put wheels on it.)
PanamaVan Halen (Pistons poppin’, ain’t no stopping nnnnnnnnoooooooowwwwwwwwww!)
Rollin’Limp Bizkit (Back up!)
Drive Away
Halfcocked (Fuzzy dice sway to the time you’re making.)
Satan Is My MotorCake (Maybe that’s the problem.)
MaybellineChuck Berry (Honk if you love rock and roll.)

And just to wish Spike and Amy Gjerde and Nelson Carey a smooth stretch of highway as they begin their new venture:
Johnny AppleseedJoe Strummer

400-Pound Toaster

November 1, 2007

Oh, it’s a beauty. Chrome for days. Shop Boy can check his hair in the reflection. All sorts of neat drawer trays and dials. Just a great set of wheels. It rolls smoothly anywhere you want it to go. And it’s perfect for gathering dust and storing empty boxes on top of.

Meet our Jet platemaker, the next hairpin in the Typecast Press series of learning curves. Once operational, it will allow us to make our own polymer dies: plastic forms that adhere to a specially cut metal base to make them type high. When the job’s finished, the forms pull right off for easy, flat storage. Currently, we send out for the polymer dies, which gets pricey if you’re working on tight deadlines and constantly have to pay for “rush” shipping. And if you happen to notice a typo on an arriving plate (which has happened, through no fault of Mary’s), the fix is a couple of business days away. Magnesium- and copper-on-wood dies are much more cool to look at, of course, but they can be less precise, their production is more harmful to the environment and they take up a lot of storage space.

Here, basically, is how the Jet will work: Mary creates a design on the computer and e-mails the file to a company that will output it as film, or a negative of her work. The negative is set atop a polymer plate, which is then exposed to light. Simple tap water and scrub brushes dissolve anything not touched by light. It bakes a while, and there’s your form, ready to print with.

Anyhow, we bought the Jet second-hand from a guy in Denver, Rob Barnes, who’d upgraded. Rob’s shop is like a Hollywood set. In fact, his brother does set designs in another part of the building — both mammoth and intricate — for upscale parties. The place has a martini bar. Ghosts, too. Rob’s seen them. Soldier-type dudes, full uniform and such. His place sits on the grounds of an old West fort. They’re restless … or maybe just thirsty.

So, the Jet landed on Typecast Press‘ doorstep aboard a pallet, mummified in plastic wrap, and needed to go up one story and down the hall to the printshop. Now, Shop Boy is no rocket scientist, but he knows enough about physics to realize that Mary and he had no shot of accomplishing this. Down at the building’s main loading dock, we noticed a guy working a forklift. It couldn’t hurt to ask. He agreed to help, though we’d have to figure out how to get the steel-wheeled forklift over a curb and up a rutted gravel incline to our loading dock.

Well, sooner than you can say, “Don’t ask Shop Boy how best to do this,” the forklift was hung up on the curb, having collapsed the two-by-fours Shop Boy had set up as a ramp. Yes, in retrospect he maybe should have foreseen several tons of forklift and platemaker crushing pine board to splinters. But hindsight’s 20/20 and it’s rude of you to bring it up.

At this point, we got lucky. Despite the fact that he’d listened to me, it turned out our forklift guy was smart, and he was eventually able to wiggle the machine free, so our landlord would not have to hire a crane to fix the new tenants’ mess.

Still, we were no closer to getting this puppy inside. By now the forklift guy had bought into the project and was stubbornly insisting that we could muscle the Jet up the stairs. He got a burly volunteer and the three of us — Mary couldn’t watch — boosted the unit step by step up the 13 stairs. These guys were unreal. Shop Boy pretty much just steered from above. Boom, zoom, it was inside the printshop.

The operating instructions were not. Ghosts!

And so there it has sat. Shop Boy will bore you sometime with the details of how, exactly, it took 16 months to procure the instructions. For now, know that we’ve got them, and any day, week, month or year now, we’ll find time to fire it up.

In the meantime, everybody compliments us on its shine.