This Underwood Universal was a gift to me when i was about 19 in 1989 living in my VW camper bus. Already well-used, this is/was the typewriter which guided me to love the analog touch and immediacy of a solid metal machine. And its made in Canada like me.
What follows are a few annotation about this machine and the creative works produced with its lovely keys.
While i had always had typewriters around (like me, my Mom and Grandpa were always making newsletters and other projects), they were usually the new electronic models of the day with “ball” type interfaces or the “wheel” kind. Of course, both required electricity which wasn’t an option for me in the van (most of the time anyhow). As such, me and this charming machine spent hours alone as i banged out postcards, missives and manifestos. No evidence handy from that era.
In hospital with sedated Grandpa, Dave reads complete “Letters from Russia” epistolary literature project with frequent interruptions from visitors, nurses and medical apparatus. The letters address issues of class, revolutions, monarchy, war, trade, and love in the context of Napoleon’s foray into Russia in 1812 through letters from a cobbler to his fiancé in Paris. Then finishes with Walt Whitman heading on the open road (which ole Gramps was so fond of doing himself).
Featured music: Mark Olson (music, guitar, vocals) and Dave Olson (lyrics, drums) “Little Flame” – recorded to 4 track cassette, circa 1996.
My work of fictional epistolary literature project “Letters from Russia” is serialized in the writing & essays section in Exode.ca — a new online magazine whose mission described thusly: By showcasing and diffusing creative work on the web, we seek to give artists the exposure and recognition that their work merits.
Letters from Russia is a mixed media work including hand-written letters, paintings, sketches, and book crafts. The version in Exode contains just the text narrative done up in charming design.
As of this writing Letter One and Letter Two are posted — with another dozen letters to follow weekly.
The gist: Letters From Russia offers hilosophical discourse on war and love written as letters from a cobbler with Napoleon’s army in Russia, to his fiance in Paris. The letters chronicle the logistics of the protagonists’ journey plus observations about all manner of conundrums related to international trade, diplomacy, physiology of war, and individual liberty versus requirements of society.
Plenty of more background including prezo videos, downloadable .pdfs and interviews are scattered amidst this journal for your perusal, including:
Amongst my recent trips, interviews and publications came a very special treat – a pull-out insert and stream of consciousness interview in RainZine. As a lover of deliberate, tactile arts and crafts and compelling content, RainZine – produced by Carla Bergman and Anita Olson – is an ideal manifestation with photos artfully placed in with black corners, paper matched with content like wine and cheese, even hand-pasted-in CDs for bonus bits which the atoms can’t carry.
In The Resistance Issue! Number 4, I worked with Carla and Anita to create a pullout insert called Flying High – a boardgame-inspired personal art history i glued up from stacks of source materials – each square has a story. They photographed and distributed as a pull out piece along with the interview by Ms. Olson pasted below. The finished piece feels like an old-timey broadsheet which poets, folk singers and activists would share throughout the countryside in olden days – i feel part of that lineage.
The tome, alas, has switched to permanent hiatus mode after 4 splendid issues but no worries, these passionate creators are up to all sorts of other endeavours. In particular, Carla ringleads (is this the correct word?) The Purple Thistle – a program and facility for young artists which needs a spiel of its own to recount the perfect afternoon i enjoyed teaching a group of remarkable youths about podcasting (audio and video to come at some distant point on the horizon).
We quickly realized all share a love of scissors, glue, tea and laughter as key ingredients to making art. I proudly wear my Rain pin on my coat and am often blamed for heralding precipitation but rather i am an advocate for radical art in nature.
So in tribute and thanks to RainZine, here’s the interview with Anita which i’ll always remember at Arbutus Coffee shop (after forgetting where i’d really booked the meeting), afterwork on a blustery autumn night with warm beverages and a cassette recorder – truly thanks Carla and Anita for bringing the Rain down on me.
Last fall I had the pleasure of chatting with this Dave O guy and was reminded of a sociology paper I wrote about how the Internet fosters multiple selves (not to be confused with multiple personalities, of course). The basic idea is that the self is not a singular but rather made up of a compilation. Sherry Turkle, a big smarty pants at MIT, wrote a book called Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet, discussing how “the Internet has become a significant social laboratory for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of self that characterize postmodern life. In its virtual reality, we self-fashion and self-create.”[place number 1 here for footnote] In other words, the computer helps us see the multiple selves we posses and can help foster their development. Sitting with Dave O was like sitting with a Turkle case study.
Dave O is an artist, writer, poet, painter, drawer, collager, podcaster, speaker, hockey fan, tree hugger, pot advocate, hiker, documentarian, blogger, storyteller, office worker, daddy, husband, activist, teacher, do-gooder, and sauna sitter but I reckon that there is probably more in him that I missed. Many know him as the infamous Uncle Weed or simply as Dave O…and of course there’s Dave Olson.
Using the Internet, Dave has created different personas each capturing a certain audience. Whether it’s talking bud with Uncle Weed, rattling hockey stats as Dave O, or reading literary essays by Dave Olson, he has a lot of virtual ground covered. But having an audience is only half the tale; Dave would like “a paycheck to go with it.”
In the two or three hours spent with Dave so many stories flowed that I can only fit a tiny fraction of what was shared that evening. I hope to have highlighted Dave as the artist he truly is. Who better but to have Dave’s own words to describe his artistic process, a new project and how he perceives himself as an artist. The following is an excerpt from an autumn chat between RAIN and Dave O.
What he’s recently been up to…
[I’ve been working on] some recordings I made in 2006 while visiting the Clayquot Sound area. I was at the blockades in 1993 near Tofino. I was a young 20 something year-old and I stood on the blockade lines and watched everyone get arrested…and out there on the blockade lines I learnt a lot of pivotal lessons, and it’s really what got me into hemp and alternative fibers and peaceful activities and bringing people together rather than squabbling. I realized out on the blockade lines, the environmental advocates and the loggers both wanted the same thing. They both wanted the trees, they just wanted them for different reasons. These guys wanted them for jobs so they could buy TVs and RVs and those guys wanted them so they could feel good about breathing air. But we need to find a solution so we can all just get along.
So, over the intervening years I hear all this news that it had been turned into a UNESCO world heritage site and I was like, “we won and we changed the world”. So I pack up the family (in ’06) and it’s going to be great, it’s going to be like eco heaven. But when we got out there it was industrial tourism. Fucking RVs, provocatively named resorts, swimming pools and Jacuzzis everywhere. While we were there, the city of Tofino ran out of water and they packed up and stopped commercial usage. All the hotels had to pack up all the people and send them home. And I just happened to be there. And because I’m the kind of guy that takes a bag full of books with me on vacation and paints, I just used this as a sort of a catalyst to make a huge amount of paintings and my little recordings. The water outage and my whole tension about the area gave a spark to the whole thing. I brought all these files home and I totally stressed myself out on this vacation because I wanted to document all this injustice of the world and then I misplaced the files. [They were] missing for quite some time….on another computer on another thing…anyway I finally found the files and thought, this is what I gotta do; I gotta find how to make these into something.
So over the last month I’ve made them into a nine-part podcast series called “Rain Forest Dispatches.” It’s a combination of me reading essays, me kind of running on spiels, my own personal frustrations with things, then flashing back to the blockades, and then visiting the friends of Clayquot Sound Organization and having some interviewee conversations. I was wondering what to do with them…it’s hard editing your own audio. For one, you sound like a chipmunk and two, it’s like, “shut up, we get it dude”. I needed something to break it up and stretch it out and the stories were all told out of sequence too. It was totally non-linear but then I started to put together a few bits and pieces of music. A young lady named Becks from Vancouver Island made a song called “Lonesome Traveler” and it was…perfect. I made a little introduction with seaplanes and sounds of waves lapping against the shore. And then I found this guy William Whitmore Elliot. It sounds like he’s an old 75 year old man from the delta but he’s this nice young college boy from Iowa, sings these great blues songs. And our pal Geoff Berner in “Light enough to Travel” where he sings about smashing the windows of logging companies just to get a little release and these pieces just came together. Labour Day weekend I locked myself in my studio and just edited audio and I started releasing them. I’ve got five of them out now.
How he describes himself and what he does…
I make mixed media story packs…I’m a story maker rather than a storyteller. To describe what I do, it’s not really performance art and its not really spoken word and it’s certainly not slam poetry. It’s more like I sit around a campfire with a very focused conversation about things because everything I do is very, very deliberate…and my presentations, in order to make it look like I’m making it all up, take a tremendous amount of work.
I’ve made a deliberate point of knowing how to write in every style. Everything from press releases, expository and free prose, and that is what keeps me employed.
I’m a private man and separate my family and day job from the Internet. I only share bits of myself that other people may find compelling in one way or another.
I like sharing stuff…I just don’t like organizing it to share it.
But Dave’s work is organized in the virtual world. He has a wicked website, www.uncleweed.net where there are links to numerous podcasts, blogs, poetry, essays, pictures, films, paintings, a resume and more…a virtual adventure well worth diving into!
*On the front of this lovely little insert is a bit of a timeline Dave whipped up for RAIN titled “Flying High.” It displays his eclectic style and the thoughtful intention he pours in all of his work. Sharing parts of himself, from a scrawny kid, where he’s lived and traveled, paintings, writings and up to what he’s currently been doing covers this aesthetically pleasing and informative piece.
1 Life on the Screen. Simon & Schuster. New York: 1995
Dave Olson talks about the sources of inspiration, the creative process and publishing your work in this lively mixed-media presentation. Watch this and you’ll understand why Dave has been dubbed a “local cultural artifact”. From Northern Voice 2009. Note: Contains adult language.
Uncle Weed is in fine form as he illuminates the creative process behind Letters from Russia. From #northernvoice09
He and others – including my buddy Dale – made sure to mic up the presenters and set up a good angle for the shots. As the guy on the other end of the lens, i truly appreciate their work to provide a cool artifact from the preso (although i must admit my shock at seeing my decreasing hair follicles!) – my Mom will likely enjoy it as well ;-).
Blurb: Whether blog article, photo, video, podcast – social media should tell a story. The best stories are retold and shared with others, and the very best stories create conversations which might live on for generations.
How does a content creator elevate their work from craft to art? The same creative parameters apply whether the delivery method is digital or analog or both. When applied with vigour, the work elevates to something beyond an ephemeral musing.
Using a mixed-media project called “Letters from Russia” as an example, Dave discusses practical tactics for harnessing inspiration, plotting the big picture, grinding out the “real work”, and finally creating a satisfying tangible artifact.
Including the role of blogs, podcasts, reader interaction, RSS, and self-publishing with chapbooks and/or on-demand web services as efficient methods of sharing and distributing the project to an audience.