Thursday, 30 August 2012

Quick post about the FuNkamatic

Only a few hours to go, and The FuNKaMatiC ebay auction comes to it's conclusion. This has been a classic moment of genius by Rob, and it looks like he's actually going to make some money from it!

I'm excited...... Are you?

Here's the link to the auction - for those not in the know...

I'm still laughing at this whole thing. Sorry Rob, but that machine is truly ugly, and I'm soooooo hoping it peaks over $100.

Richard monopoly money bets that it will hit $245.74.
Scott (me) $101.50
Anyone else got any last minute guesses? Who can get the closest! Get your monopoly money out.

Edit 2:

And the excitement comes to a close...... at a measly $70.
I guess being 'funky' only goes so far.....

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Hermes of the outback.

Howard Steer - Saved By The Flying Doctor. 

I'm going to steal Rob Messenger's thunder a bit here. While in Charleville I found an interesting Hermes Featherlight, that had formerly been in service to a rather significant Australian. Significant enough that he features on the back of the Australian Twenty Dollar note.

I speak of course, of Reverend John Flynn. Flynn wasn't just the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service - which I also visited while in Charleville, but was fundamental in the four pronged approach to establishing the Australian Inland Mission (AIM) and their health & education service in the Australian outback. His decisions and actions have saved thousands of lives, and improved the lives of thousands more. 

Crammed and uncleaned I found this Hemes machine stuffed into a corner of an ageing wood and glass cabinet at the Charleville Museum. It was neither located with the rest of the Royal Flying Doctor artefacts, or anywhere near the three other clusters of typewriters and office machines that I had found around the museum. It sat alone, with only a hand written card - dropped almost carelessly in front of it describing what it in fact was.

I was almost tempted to ask the gentleman manning the front counter if I could get my hands on it and clean it up. However the cabinet looked like it weighed about 200Kg, and was pressed against the wall so that the access doors were inaccessible. 

"Flynn of the Inland" is quite the outback hero. The card attached to his typewriter rather downplays his significance in Australian history.

Let me tell tell you a tale...

European settlement of Australia commenced in 1788. Back then, the continent was split into three regions, with no defined national borders. New South Wales had been claimed by the British, while the western 2 thirds of the continent, the coastline of which had been briefly explored by the Dutch 200 years earlier, remained under the name of 'New Holland'. To the cold south, a piece of land was called 'Van Diemen's land', and was originally thought to be a large peninsula - but turned out to be a large island. 

New South Wales and Van Diemen's land originally had been established as penal colonies by the british, who for nearly a hundred years transported convicts to their shores to be put to work developing  colonies and infrastructure. 

Suffice to say, very few of these people wanted to be here. And this included the soldiers, governors and clergymen that were sent here. Many of them were rough men either looking for adventure, or to escape precarious social circumstances that they may have found themselves in. 

While the governors were often brutal and corrupt, the clergymen that had been sent to Australia to protect and establish their 'flock' were often just as brutal. The clergymen often held other roles in early colonial society, and performed as magistrates, governors and judges themselves. While churches were being built to accommodate for the colonial christian flock, they were often built at the expense of the lives of the convicts building them.

These convicts were kept in line by severe corporate and capital punishments that were often ordered at the hands of the magistrate clergymen. As such both the new settlers, and often the indigenous population living near by often suffered severely from the wrath of these often brutal men. The hypocrisy of clergymen would define Australia's miss-trust for religion for centuries. 

Often when convicts had served their penal terms they fled out into the the outback and snatched up large and remote tracts of land that they used to grow cattle and sheep. The few roads and established tracks made it easy for them to distance themselves from the trauma and hurt provided by the colonies, while still allowing them an income to live out their lives alone.

*  *  * 

The colonies were still something of a backwater when the larger organised religions seemed to suddenly find an interest in attempting to establish themselves in - what was inevitably going to be a new nation. Still smarting from the slight they had copped from being essentially locked out of the American Constitution, early Australia became something of a theosophical battleground for churches as they attempted to gain influence in the newly establishing communities. Various organisations sent missionaries to the colonies, but quickly found hostility from the locals. The Australian rebellious spirit was forming, and the locals had no intention of being ruled over by bunch of men and women that had never had to live the hard lives that the former convict community had.

This began to turn around slowly due to two things: The irish potato famine, and the Gold rush. 

Catholics from Ireland flooded into Australia to escape the oppression in Ireland, not long before people from all over the world rushed into Australia to try their luck at finding gold. All of these groups brought their religions and customs with them, changing the attitudes of the colonies to culture and religion. 

*   *   *

The subsequent cultural upheaval saw several religious groups begin to take a more serious look at what kind of role they could play in Australia. The societal push-back at these organised religions had a lot of these groups on the back foot - making it hard to dictate dogma as readily as they had in most other countries in the world. People didn't fear the hand of god in the way they had elsewhere. 

Churches as such stated to become much less malign organisations, and focused heavily on improving social services. Missionaries became teachers and physicians. They slowly built up trust in colonial society by being far more socially progressive than the colonial government at the time was. A lot of these missionary groups also attempted to reach out to the aboriginals. But this had limited success, as the missionaries often saw themselves as superior people helping 'unfortunate' savages. And issue that came to a head with the controversy around what is now called 'The Stolen Generation'. 

The colonial governments at the time considered aboriginals to be 'part of the fauna'. Aboriginals were governed in Australia under the "Fauna and Flora act of New South Wales" until 1967.  

Flynn of the outback/inland.

Born outside of Melbourne, and educated in various locations around the city, Flynn took on work as a teacher before becoming a presbyterian minister. In 1911 he volunteered for as a missionary in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Here, he discovered how difficult it was to minister to people that lived on huge tracts of land that had been allocated for use by cattle and sheep farmers. The massive cattle stations meant that a lot of people out in the outback lived further apart from each other by distances that were often larger than most countries in Europe. He often wrote to his superiors about the difficulties, and eventually he became the superintendent of the Australian Inland Mission. 

For years Flynn looked at ways of dealing with the problems that were faced by people out in these areas, and looked at the technological advances of the day. 

Powered flight soon gave hope to Flynn, and he started to investigate ways of using aircraft to access remote populations. But it wasn't until Alfred Traeger built a pedal powered radio that Flynn's vision really started to take shape. 

Education over the airwaves was now possible. But not only that, with the assistance of powered flight, Flynn was able to establish a means to get medical assistance to remote areas. He utilised all the technology he could, and began to construct hospitals and hostels in key locations in order to accommodate the growing needs of the region. As such, he was able to establishe the 'Aerial Medical Service'.

While it was often routine to teach aboriginal children, Flynn did something quite revolutionary at the time - he offered the same education and medical assistance services to aboriginals that he had offered the rural settlers of the region. 

It has, however been suggested that Flynn was personally indifferent to aboriginals, and that it wasn't uncommon for aboriginals to be turned away from AIM hostels. However there is no written evidence to suggest this, and the AIMs policies - written by Flynn, has suggested otherwise. 

Flynn was very hands on with the establishment of all aspects of the AIM. He would routinely meet with architects and builders himself - and explored most of the areas where infrastructure had been built. 

Eventually the school of the air, and the Aerial Medical Service would be handed over to the now established Australian federal government - which had federated in 1901 to form the nation of Australia. 

School of the air still operates today, while the AMS is now known as the 'Royal Flying Doctor Service'. 

Many of the hostels and hospitals still operate, and the Presbyterian mission has established strong communities throughout much of regional Australia. 

Australia is still in the top 10 important mission districts of most church organisations. 

*   *   *

Hermes Featherlight. 

I can't say that this machine is the prettiest of the Hermes lightweight designs, but it certainly has a solid and utilitarian look about it. 

Doesn't mean I wouldn't love to own one! 

At a guess, this machine was chosen because it would be so easy to transport, while being so light that it didn't add extra weight in cars or on planes, or on horses. Horseback transport was still largely common during Flynn's era. In fact, horses are still in frequent use in rural Australia to this day.

I can only imagine the correspondence that was done with this machine. Not just builders and legislators, ministers and politicians... but also the people that were most loved and cared for by Flynn. The kinds of people that almost never get mentioned in the short biographies of people that have done amazing and great things.  

And I would so love to have been all the places this typewriter has been - depending on how often it travelled with Flynn. There's much that is left to the imagination with this typewriter, and have to say that I feel that it needed more than just a dodgy display card. 

The typewriter would have been made in the 1930's, meaning that it would have missed the earlier pioneering days of the AIM. But I'm sure that it still probably would have one heck of a story to tell... 

... if only it could write it's own story. 

Thanks for reading this rather lengthy blog entry. 

Coming up next... a couple of promised photos. 

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Typing in the museum. Let them free!

Walking into the Charleville museum I was confronted by what I thought was an odd collection of typewriters. There was almost no information on each item, and they seemed to be just thrown into place as though they were set up for some ad-hoc type-in for really, really thin people that didn't need elbow room. 

However the ribbons were all dry, and the machines were in such an awful state that I almost felt compelled to grab my tool kit out of the back of Ruby, and start getting these machines back into some kind of working condition. Although, I also wished I could free them from their slumber, and get them back into use. 

The museum itself was a miasma of disorganisation. The displays seemed to be organised, no, mostly thrown together with similar birds of a feather - as though it were more of an antique shop that was being run by some shuffling - half blind retiree. 

But it's not a shop. It's a museum run by a shuffling - half blind retiree, along with a group of community volunteers.

One of those volunteers was present at the time, and he seemed to be just walking around in his high-vis shirt keeping an eye on me while I poked and prodded my way through the unprotected displays that were defended by the occasional 'do not touch' sign. He had a shifter-wrench in his hand, and looked very serious. 

Some items were kept safely in cabinets, but for a large part most of the pieces were just strewn about on tables or thrown into deteriorating cupboards. 

Yeah.... Don't let the lawn-mowers get in the way of your telephones.... 

So.... By now you're thinking - 4 crappy broken down typewriters and a computery-typerwritery thing? Is that all? Well.... no! Read on my friends, read on. 

I didn't dare peel back the delicate priceless foam, while a guy holding a shifter stood near by. 

Grammar correcting typewriter you say? THAT'S what I need!

Yes, everything was piled onto everything else, and it was difficult to see some of the most interesting items. I eventually went and asked the guy that was running the place if he minded if I moved bits and pieces here and there so I could have a look at some items. 

He mostly obliged, but asked me not to touch certain things. One of the odd things were the 'Delicate wax cylinders' (old recordings). 

When I informed him that I actually had some of my own and I was unlikely to touch them anyway, he just looked at me nervously. However he offered to play one for me if I'd so like. 

I declined, and continued to sticky-beak my way through the dozen rooms - including a bedroom with some amazing 1920's women's fashion on a few mannequins, and a period piece bed. The dining room (this building was the original bank, and held the council chambers) was crammed but spectacular, while the stables (filled with old carts) and garage were fascinating. Especially the rail - ambulance. 

(I.O.U. 1 Rail Ambulance photo
When I find where I put it)

 I persevered with digging through the displays, and I have to say it was very rewarding. In the process of doing so I found a couple of very significant typewriters - in some unexpected corners of the museum.

Firstly, I have to refer to the Typosphere on what this is:

Exhibit A: Honestly, I have no idea.... But it looks cool! 

At this point it may be courteous for me to tell you all about the second typewriter I found buried in an odd corner, but I'm sorry to break it to you, you'll have to wait for my next post. While the machine itself isn't really that unusual, it is the original user that makes the machine so interesting. It's the sort of thing that would be right up Rob Messenger's ally. 

So I continued to fossick and dig through most of the rooms, finding all kinds of wonderful and weird items. I thought I had explored through almost every room, when I discovered yet another room of disorganised artefacts. I had previously avoided this room, because from the doorway it appeared to be just filled with old saws and degraded farm material. 

Boy, was I wrong.... 

Crammed into the furthest corner of the main building, was a collection of old typers that had been crammed onto a desk, and shoved into a tiny booth that was surrounded by walls made from wool bale mesh.... Because that's how this museum rolls. 

This arehad a pretty specific 'do not touch' sign, with the 'DO NOT' written in red. So, while I was in the room that was too far for the shuffling blind man to walk to, and mr Spanner-fixer in the high-vis shirt had disappeared, I naturally felt that this was an appropriate time to stick my fingers onto as many keys and levers as I could. 

After all, you don't find a linotype setup every day.... 

And can I just say... it is the first upstrike typewriter I have ever typed on. 

So... Well yes... I'll just shut up for a moment and shove some more photos onto this page. 

I want one.... 

Meh... My remington 16 looks cooler.

...... You get the picture. 

OH! Here's the rail Ambulance. 

Anyway, I've got quite a lot of photos from this museum. However I'm not going to turn this blog into 'Uncle Arthur's Slideshow night'. I'm saving a few for the next post naturally, but for now I think I've bored you enough for the time being - with the photos that were taking from my iPhone. And if Adowa  swings by, I even have a shot of some interesting antique sewing machines. 

So I hope you enjoyed this typewriter lover's casual trip around the Charleville museum... 

Oh, and here's a quick snap of was the museum looked like from outside. 

Coming up: The typewriter of the outback..... 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

For the beauty of the stars

While I was out west at Charleville, I had originally planned to do some night photography. I love photographing at night, as it feels so peaceful and requires patience. A 15 minute exposure seems like a lifetime while you're waiting for it, but I guess in a lot of ways, it is everything that people that love fishing love - a whole lot of doing nothing, in the hope you will get a great end result.

Anyway, after I arrived in Charleville on the first night and I had attempted to bash out a typecast, I still had that 'very awake - very tired' feeling going on. My brain was mush, but it didn't stop me from  foolishly grabbing my camera to head out and find a spot away from the town to try and do some photos with ambient/natural light.

I only got one shot off before my mushed brain turned against me!

The settings were all wrong. The image came out overly bright in the sky and noisy. It was a poor attempt.

But that wasn't the only thing that went wrong. The loving peacefulness during the taking of shots like these was interrupted by my frantically misfiring brain that was still buzzing away with the trauma of my 2+ hour game of 'dodge the Roo'. A few minutes in the calm and quiet, I started to have a little waking nightmare. I started to think about ghostly bushmen coming out from between the trees. I felt my heart start to race, and then I thought about my camera.

I was certain. absolutely certain that the photo would come out with a ghostly apparition walking down the road towards the camera. I started to think about how I would absolutely flip out when it happened, and that I could never sleep again having captured such a ghostly image.

The shutter clicked. It was only an 8 minute exposure. I pulled the legs of the tripod together and then quickly placed the camera and tripod as one unit into the passenger side footwell of my car. Within seconds I had spun around and bolted down the road back towards my hotel room.

With long exposures, my camera has a processing phase that takes about the same time as it took to expose the shot. As such, I left the camera doing its thing while resting against the passenger seat next to me. I was in fear that any second now the processed image would pop up, and I would look down and be scared out of my wits.

I pulled into the hotel car park just as the camera's back screen lit up with the final image. I didn't even look. I just parked my car and grabbed my camera and went inside.

I turned all the lights on and sat on the bed. I clicked my DSLR into review mode and looked at the photo.

No ghost. Just a bucket load of noise, and an over exposed sky. The 'end roadwork' sign was partially lit by the headlights of a car that had briefly been on the road over a Kilometre back, which gave the sign a slightly ghostly appearance of its own.

Click the image above to have a better look.

*  *  *

As much as the first night was a disaster, I attempted doing some night photography again on another night. I really wanted to do the town, but the redneck mine workers seemed to be trawling the streets in their utes looking for an open bottleshop or pub - or maybe just something to do. So I didn't feel safe enough to do it till really early in the morning - which eventually just didn't happen. 

So I headed out of the town again to give the stars another try. 

Once again the first shot was a bit of a disaster. 

The view here was amazing. The stars were so bright and plentiful that I found myself staring at them in wonder, the same way as I did as a kid. 

But I tried to line up a shot of the milky way, only to find myself having to move the camera when a Roo came out of nowhere and nearly knocked it over. For future reference, put your camera in the middle of a clear area so both you and the roo can see what's coming/there first. 

I've kept this shot, because even in the finer details... (click to enlarge again) you can see how many stars were so easily visible. This was an attempt at framing the milky away against some trees, but it all ended up a bit of a blur because of the sudden need to snatch the camera while it was still exposing. 

I lined up the camera along the road, and tried again....

When I saw the road light up in this shot, despite the fact that I couldn't see a thing of it in the dark, I got excited. This image was very sharp and eire in it's own right. The number of stars visible made the sky almost a blur of grey, to the point that looked like it was overcast and filled with shooting stars. But it just was a black sky that was so thick with pinpoints of stars, that it exposed very brightly. It had never occurred to me to adjust the aperture to possibly fade some out, and just take longer shots. 

I changed lenses to capture a more intimate shot of a dying tree. The leaves continued to blow in the wind while the dead branches remained still. On my 24" 1:1 monitor - at full screen this shot looks spectacular.

I tried a couple of other experiments before packing it up for the night. Most of those aren't worth showing here, and I started to get a little cold (it was 2 degrees C : 34.5F) and I needed a good sleep. 

The one big disappointment, was that I had taken my Medium format (film) camera with me for the specific purpose of capturing these kinds of shots. It is far superior at night photography, and I had intended to run the two cameras at the same time but unfortunately couldn't. There was a problem with the rotating bracket on my RB67, and it wouldn't allow me to activate the shutter. I attempted some hotel room repair, but I unfortunately had left my spare back in Brisbane. I've never had an issue with this part before, and I was kinda taken by surprise. I expected to have bigger issues with the film back, and initially thought that part was the fault. 

For those who have never used a medium format camera, the 'film back' is a canister that you can load your film into, and it clips tightly onto the back of the camera. This allows you to change film half way through a shoot, without compromising the reel - allowing you to use things like polaroid backs to check your composition, or other films for other effects. A lot of these cameras are still in use because you can get digital camera backs to put onto them. 

I've always loved looking at the stars. The the longer I look, the more I am humbled at how I am just a tiny speck of dust in the grand scheme of the universe. But, paradoxically being able to reason this with myself, makes me so very significant in the universe.

Coming up: Charleville Museum, and that typewriter discovery.

Monday, 6 August 2012

A space to write my own....

Yeah... a break from the Charleville trip for a bit.

I was happy to see the Strikethru blog suddenly (briefly) power up again and get the typosphere buzzing. I have to say, that blog was one of the blogs that inspired me to start my own typewriter/writer blog.

Last week when they challenged everyone to talk about what their ultimate writing shed/shack would be like, I found my imagination wandering again.

Here's the two Strikethru blogs about the subject - for those who haven't seen it. They're short, so feel free to brush up on them, but come back!

Typewriter shed
Typewriter shack envisioned

So what did I come up with?

Well, I started working more from the inside out, so I'll just put my sketches up on here for everyone to have a bit of a sticky at.

 I found recently that a shorter semi-lounge armchair, and a 'just right' height side table felt almost perfect for me to write at comfortably. Probably not great for my back long term, but casual writing seems to flow on this kind of set up. Hence the setup with the chair and the typewriter.

But I need a desk for the long slog. I've positioned a couple of lamps on either side of the desk, and a piano sconce on the wall behind it to give me that nice candle lit glow I sometimes just want.

To the right, a couple of pin-boards to corkboard organize up projects. And naturally, an indoor plant - at least one, along with a nice chunk of inspirational reading on a bookshelf. (which might also hold a couple of typewriters - so I can write on what I feel like on the day.

Oh yeah... and a sun-light through the ceiling above the desk. Possibly able to be popped open to let hot air out of the room.

Small lounge at the back corner and a second window off to my right. French doors naturally.

Actually, these doors hold a secondary purpose. They allow me to turn both the chair and the side table around, and point them out the door. If it is a nice day and I'd rather be facing into the breeze, sticking the table outside the door and sitting inside still in the shade, would be perfect.

The back left hand corner will probably need to accommodate a fan from time to time.

Yep... That was a laptop on the desk back up there. My workflow often requires me to need a tool like that, even if I usually just use my iPad these days. But a solar panel on the roof, and some strategic low-power LED lighting will make this the perfect little spot to sink a few coldies after the sun goes down.

Letting a couple of plants creep up the sides - maybe grape vines - would probably take a good chunck of the heat from the Australian summer sun from the building.

So that's it folks. I hope you enjoyed my ideas. They're only the beginning, and if I ever get the chance to make myself a shack, I'm sure I'll come up with something even more elaborate. But these represent a few key things that I'd like to have.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The RFDS & the Morse Typewriter

While in Charleville, I went and visited the RFDS (Royal Flying Doctor Service) base. The base is on the edge of town, and not that far from the airport. Its primary function is to provide a radio and telephone contact point that people living in the remotest regions of Australia could contact when they needed medical assistance.

The service began in 1928, but really only became an official organisation in 1932.

It was formed as part of Reverend John Flynn's 'Australian Inland Mission' - a presbyterian mission that set about establishing hospitals across remote and central Australia.

As always, click any of the images to enlarge them. 
I didn't have my DSLR with me at the time, so I used my iPhone to take the photos below.

 Contemporary medical chest - 3 layers

1950's Medical chest - also 3 layers

These chests were left with people living 80+ kilometres from regional centres where they may have access to medical help. Contained in these chests are a standard allocation of supplies that are designed to allow a doctor to be able to talk a patient or carer, over radio, through how to treat a variety of issues.

The keys were tough to move, and some previous 'users' have actually warped some of them. 

I found some more interesting pieces belonging to RFDS history over at the Charleville Historical Society Museum. But more on that later. 

Coming up soon... The stars of Charleville.