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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #225
Tombox and the Typewriter
David Gunn

Normally, introductorial essays on Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar have a quasi-musical theme that links, however flimsily, to show material or to the occasional nonplused guest. Alas, this 225th episode proves the exception to the rule: given a choice, todayís program wouldn't be caught dead in a laundry chute with this particularly enigmatic commentary, because ... well, youíll see.

You see, it all began earlier this week (harp glissando) when I was typing, not keyboarding, on an electric typewriter. It had neither hot key nor page down button. One couldn't press control-alt-delete and expect the machine to recontextualize itself. No numerical keypad sat unused on the right side of the ergonomic finger depressing unit. No F keys one through twelve perched indecipherably above the number row. However, to the right of the question mark there lurked a correction key called WordEraser®. It seemed harmless enough, so I ignored it and began to type, channeling the murky thoughts of the typewriter through me onto the paper. This is what it said:

"The afternoon grew dark and stormy, like a widow grows older. The wind whistled through the fourth floor corridor like jittery antlers in a steambath. The lights dimmed, went out, then came back on, nervously. Somewhere a car horn honked. A flock of geese honked back, awaiting further instruction. None came. The telephone rang. It was not, as I'd feared, Aldeau, but rather Tombox, the gnome. He said nothing, which is how I knew it was Tombox. The phone suddenly went dead. I stayed on the line, awaiting the dial tone postmortem. None came. A goose flew by the window, her antlers gleaming dimly in the afternoon gloom. I reached through the window, turned on the ignition, honked the horn. The lights went out again. Perhaps it was Aldeau, up to his old tricks. I placed the phone face down on the corridor floor and immediately it emitted a nervous whistle. The car stalled, so I answered, saying, "Hello, gnome." "I am not of who you speak," said the caller, sounding as if he were in a steambath, "but rather of whom you would refrain from." I mumbled too softly for anyone to hear, including myself, that I didnít know the chorus, let alone the refrain, and hung up. The goose turned off the ignition, which made the lights come on again, then said "If you will open the window a bit more, then the widow can at last go free." I closed the door instead, trapping the antlers inside. They whistled, and the lights went out again."

That's where it ended on the page, but that isn't where the tale ends. I was several more lines further along when I discovered a minor typo. I backspaced to the errant letter and pressed the WordEraser® key. Slowly the machine backspaced over the letter, erased it and continued resolutely on to the rest of the word, one niggling character at a time. Fine, I thought, I can retype it. But then it spaced back to the previous word and began to erase it. I yelled at it, hoping to anthropomorphize it into acquiescence. It had no effect, and commenced to erase a third word. I turned off the power, but that just seemed to irritate the machine, and it began to backspace and delete letters more quickly. I yanked out the paper. It snatched it back, rewrapped it around the platen, erased an entire paragraph in one giant delete motion. I grabbed the paper from the machine again, ran out of the room, slammed the door. Behind me, I could hear it lumbering across the floor, then scrabbling against the door, trying to turn the knob. And this was an essay? Imagine what might've happened had I been typing doggerel! I raced down to the basement, turned off all the circuit breakers. All the lights went out. The fans shut off. The refrigerator was silent. The ever present sentient house hum ceased. In fact, all I could hear was the clank-clunk of the typewriter creeping down the stairs.

But, luckily, that was then; this is now, now being the moment I pass the virtual thematic baton to a virtually nonplused, steambath-befogged Kalvos.