Archive for November, 2009

A Monkey’s Uncle

November 19, 2009

Animal poaching is cruel business.

Take cocktail monkeys, for instance.

Oh, you laugh. But this is serious business. I mean, $56 for 250
plastic cocktail monkeys serious. And that’s from a supplier in
Australia. Shipping fees, anyone?

See, Typecast Press needs these monkeys. We wear monkeys on our shop smocks, monkeys on our shop aprons, Mary’s more likely than not to have a monkey on her T-shirt, we even have the book All About Monkeys on our shop reading shelf — our tiki drinks are going to wear monkeys too, by gum.

And yet they are suddenly an endangered species. Try it. Find a batch on the Internet. Mary did, but not without a serious hunt. Oh, you’ll see listings for them. But they’re all out of stock.

Someone or some nefarious force has swept in and disrupted the market for cocktail  monkeys. Swear to god. Mary and Shop Boy spent the better part of two  hours seeking them … when there were much more pressing issues at hand, I assure you. And once we did find this rarest of plastic beasts, we did what anyone in our situation would do: hoard.

Wait. Doesn’t that makes us just as bad?

Hey, I said it was a cruel business. And now Typecast Press, at least
as far as what’s left of the vanishing cocktail monkeys is concerned, has cornered the market.

So the next time you absolutely must have a pink, blue, green or
orange monkey hanging by its plastic prehensile tail from the rim of
your tropical cocktail, let’s talk.

We’re cruel but fair.

The Old School Try

November 17, 2009

A photographer friend jokes about an “old school” button on modern digital cameras … OK, there are seemingly hundreds of buttons and dials and touchscreens on these suckers, but stay with the class. See, this button lets you take photos utilizing only, like, seven f-stops.

I mean, why bother taking a photo with that little choice?

All right, so Shop Boy’s a little geeky. Selectively, of course. But most of you are probably at least sort of familiar with the concept of aperture, right? No? This is the width of the camera’s shutter opening, which controls how much light gets through to the film — or digital recording device nowadays. It determines “depth of field.” You know, you can set it wide open to make the subject clear and everything in front and back of it out of focus, or you can close it up to capture your subject as well as everything for miles in front and back. The higher the number, the smaller the lens opening — and the more light you need to get the shot right.

On Shop Boy’s old .35mm camera, the settings are 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16 and 22.

Well, for these twitchy kids today, with their 37-button, quadruple-toggle video game controllers and text messagers that look like something out of NASA, only seven options is, like, WTF?

Ahem. Not to sound like a cranky old dude … but back in my day, seven buttons was plenty. If you weren’t good enough to work with only seven buttons, well, practice up!

All of which is to say that as much trouble as teens have narrowing their focus down, some of us now have expanding our focus out.

Our brains are stuck at f2.8 while these kids are at f90 or whatever.

Oh, yeah? Let’s see them shoot a basketball game in a dimly lit gymnasium with tall and fast players flying all over the place. Um, that’s right … they play video games while doing homework, taking photos, eating pizza and texting friends.

Shop Boy? Ask Maureen Hogan.

So here I am with this new Typecast Press digital camera, and the choices for shooting modes is mind-boggling. But I promised Mary I’d learn it in exchange for her letting me buy it, so Shop Boy’s doing something he promised himself he’d never do: read the instruction manual.

And there’s like, all kinds of information in there. Who knew?

Did I mention a deadline? See, Shop Boy has for too long — to some people’s way of thinking — been puppet dictator of a rebel province. Meaning this blog. Many of you who do read these stories don’t necessarily make the trip back to Mother Typecast Press, in whose service Shop Boy toils (not always as Mary might prefer to have it). OK, maybe that’s a weird analogy. But again, keep up!

And the folks who visit Typecast Press don’t necessarily find the eternal wonderment that is Shop Boy’s blog. I think I speak for all of us when I say that is a darn shame.

Sometime in December, all that will change … I mean, except for the “not always as Mary might prefer to have it” part.  ;-)

Shop Boy is going home to Typecast, thanks to the work of a very talented and patient web designer named Mike McNeive. We’ve loved our site —, built by a previous designer — but haven’t really been comfortable enough technologically to update sample photos and the like. In typical fashion, I was afraid we’d break it. And since this blog started as a joke — shhh! — Shop Boy just used the easiest blog maker around,, and started blabbing.

Anyway, Mike is streamlining our site to ease navigation and let even us be able to post more recent photos and show you what, ahem, Shop Boy has been complaining about and, OK, celebrating all this time. And we’ll be better able to make a mental note of who’s stopped by. (Yes, we will be taking attendance, class.)

Not sure we’ll be bringing Shop Boy’s other blogs along for the ride. Can you imagine? More of all this Shop Boy magic that you’ve never experienced, at least by the looks of the visitor stats over there.

I’ll give you a heads up when the move’s going down. Meanwhile, back to the directions …

Hey! Did you know there’s something called a “smile detector” on here? If one subject’s smiling and the other’s not, the camera automatically senses it and speaks up.

Like, WTF?

Wonder if it can pick up unseen basketball players barreling toward you while you fumblingly shift from f2.8 to f22.

Could have used that back at Shop Boy’s old school.

No Blood, No Foul

November 3, 2009

Respect is not a four-letter word.

No, those come when you forget to respect a machine you’ve gotten a bit too comfortable with.

Take the other day, Shop Boy at the big C&P, Mary at the paper cutter.

“Can you stop for a second and get me a bandage?” Mary asked.

“Sure,” I said. “What happened?”

“I don’t know, but I’m bleeding.”

OK. So Shop Boy quickly ran through in his mind the possible medical, biblical, even science fictional reasons for spontaneous bleeding from the extremities. But I kept coming back to one theory:

“Do you think you might have, um, touched the blade?”

Not that she could remember.

And that’s the thing. That bugger is so sharp that your first inkling that you’ve been cut is blood on the paper.

Then it stings. A lot. And you swear.

We doused Mary’s hand with hydrogen peroxide, did the backwards counting to the last tetanus shot she’d had, applied a nice pink bandage to the sliced digit — it’s her shop, all right? — and she set right back to work, with a mostly harmless little reminder that these machines will kill you as soon as look at you.

It’s the lesson we preach to Mary’s visiting Maryland Institute College of Art classes, especially when they show signs of impatience at how slowly we’re running the powered clamshell presses or the Heidelberg windmill.

First of all, most have never used a clamshell press before.  It’s pretty exclusively Vandercook proof presses at MICA right now. Hurt yourself on one  of those and you’re just not paying attention.

Or you’re paying too close attention — Mary and her class this semester have already shared a lesson in removing long strands of hair from the rollers. Honest. Word is that the young woman didn’t even scream. You gotta be tough in letterpress, baby!

True story: Shop Boy’s dad built a neat red shed in the driveway. A teeny thing, but just tall enough, if you used your imagination, to hold a basketball rim. We could all dunk there, even though we were, like, 12 years old. It set our basketball skills back at least a decade since we all suddenly thought we were 8 feet tall or something. (Shop Boy was 5-foot-9 and the tallest kid in our circle after a growth spurt that very soon afterward stopped spurting.) And we had some rough basketball games in that driveway. How rough? No whiny foul calls. If the bone wasn’t showing through the skin, it wasn’t a foul. Get up and play, weenie! We were all fans of the Boston Celtics back then — football players in short-shorts, they were. And so would we be.

Fast forward to New Jersey, circa 1985. There was a basketball court built for young kids at a local school — rims only 8 feet above the asphalt. As soon as Shop Boy saw it, he knew: “I will dunk a basketball again in my lifetime.”

So it seemed like destiny the day I awoke, grabbed my brand-new, undribbled basketball, laced up my high-top sneakers and drove over to the courts to find them empty and … freshly surfaced. A light fog enshrouded the court as I dribbled onto it, staring with evil intent at the basketball rim at the south end. Summoning my 12-year-old self, I dribbled toward the basket, tentatively at first and then accelerating, leaping up, up, up (OK, up-ish) toward glory.

Whereupon I clumsily clanked the basketball off the back of the rim and, watching it bounce away, didn’t pay attention to the landing gear. My sneaker gripped the new asphalt and didn’t budge even as my knee buckled and I was suddenly down in a groaning heap, the basketball rolling slowly toward the corner of the courts.

Today, there’d have been a camera just waiting to capture young adult Shop Boy’s epic failure at the kiddie court. Back then, it was just me, my forehead resting against the asphalt, which still felt warm, afraid for a moment to look down at my leg. Luckily, there was no bone sticking through — no blood, no foul — meaning I could drag myself back to my car before witnesses showed up. (If it had been a compound fracture, I’d likely have gnawed the leg off for sure rather than be found like this.)

Anyway, I hope the kids who found it later got some good use out of that basketball.

See? It’s about respect, whether for gravity or for a machine with the power to, um, foul you.

One more quick sports thingy: Comedian Richard Pryor used to joke about what a tough guy football player/actor Jim Brown was. Supposedly, a tackler once stuck his fingers inside Brown’s facemask, and suffered serious bite wounds.

Brown’s explanation to Pryor:

“Anything outside the mask belongs to him. Anything inside belongs to me.”

That, friends, is the very attitude shared by printing presses, paper cutters and a lot of other heavy machinery.

It’s simple. As Shop Boy learned that day in New Jersey and continues to learn every day in the printshop:

Stay grounded.