Thursday, September 28, 2017

Qwerty Waltz: The Boston Typewriter Orchestra

by Katy Rosen
Summer 2017 Intern

I love the sound that typewriters make almost as much as I love satire. These are two elements rarely brought together, so when I started researching the Boston Typewriter Orchestra (BTO), I got unreasonably excited.

Self-described as a group that combines “elements of performance, comedy and satire,” the BTO, a group of five typists, uses typewriter keys to create music. Bedecked in 1950s-style with starchy white shirts and polyester ties, they pound on the keys to self-created rhythms. Their website serves as a place for both updates and pithy inter-office jokes, such as, “There is some leftover Limburger cheese in the company cafeteria. Please take a pound home.”

They have, however, drawn some negative attention for the harsh way they treat their machines. Derrik Albertelli, the “executive typist,” acknowledges that “we whale on them pretty hard and we break a lot of them,” but that the group strives to repurpose the mostly obsolete machines. By transforming an antiquated piece of office technology into a musical instrument, the BTO is keeping the intricate typewriter from rusting away. So, thanks to this group, long lives the typewriter!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Must-See Mini Monuments

by Rachel Matthews
Summer 2017 Intern

Some landmarks are designed to stand out: DC’s Washington Monument, London’s Big Ben, Russia’s the Motherland Calls (a sword-wielding stone woman who reaches nearly 300 feet!). But other marvels are easy to miss if you aren’t looking for them.

In contrast to its towering warrior, Russia houses the smallest public monument in the world. The tiny frog statue, named the Frog Traveler, sits at only 1.7 inches high! It was inspired by the Russian children’s book The Frog Went Travelling, and pays homage to all travelers of the world.

You may have been to the Washington Monument, but did you know that it has a mini-me buried nearby? This 12-foot replica is officially called “Bench Mark A” and serves as a geodetic control point—a point of reference for creating accurate maps. If you want to see it for yourself, you’ll need a park ranger to help you open the manhole cover!

London has an even smaller sight to hunt for. High up on the side of a building on Philpot Lane is the Two Mice Eating Cheese. These mice may be cute, but they have a devious past. Supposedly they commemorate two construction workers who fell to their deaths in a fight after one accused the other of stealing his cheese sandwich. The real thieves got away squeaky clean.

Stockholm is home to the Järnpojke, the Iron Boy (also called the “little boy who looks at the moon”). This monument is less than 6 inches in height and has been sitting in Old Town for 50 years. In the winter, visitors even dress him in warm clothes!

I know on my next vacation, I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for small wonders like these!

Image Credit: Pieter Claerhout

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Fiction’s One-Hit Wonders

By Karla Accorto
Summer 2017 Intern
While authors like Agatha Christie and Stephen King have published dozens of novels, others are known for their publication of a single novel.

Emily Brontë, for example, only published Wuthering Heights, and it wasn’t well received until after her death. Critics either judged it very harshly or were unsure how to react to her dramatic romance. Whether Brontë ever intended to publish another book is unknown—she died of tuberculosis before she had the chance.

Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell may have been discouraged from publishing again after the great media attention her first novel garnered. While initially a willing participant, Mitchell eventually stopped partaking in interviews and signing autographs, citing poor health. Ultimately, World War II broke out, and she turned to volunteering for the Red Cross.

J. D. Salinger also found himself disliking the spotlight after the publication of The Catcher in the Rye. He was always a private person and did not enjoy the attention gained by his novel. Fame and public scrutiny made him a recluse, and though he published some stories and novellas, he never published another novel.

For some authors, the success of one novel appeared to be too much, discouraging them from publishing a second. For others like Brontë, however, we will never know what might have been.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

MASS MoCA: The Mill-Turned-Museum to Visit in MA

by Sarah Terrazano
Summer 2017 Intern

Tucked away in a Berkshire valley, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) is one of the most innovative museums in New England—and one of the most fascinating art museums I’ve ever visited.

MASS MoCA was converted from a nineteenth-century mill into a contemporary art behemoth, making the building an attraction in itself. Consisting of 26 buildings, the sprawling property has extensive courtyards, tunnels and bridges—often displaying the factory’s original red brick.

The museum’s vast space allows for especially large exhibits. One of the most striking that I saw is Sol LeWitt’s A Wall Drawing Retrospective, a display of massive wall drawings occupying an entire three-story building. Each wall in the exhibit captivates visitors with large color blocks, patterns and line drawings. Typical of LeWitt’s exhibitions, which are often commissioned for a long period of time, these wall drawings will be on display until 2033.

Another fascinating exhibit I experienced is James Turrell’s Into the Light. Using light as a sculpture medium, Turrell creates mesmerizing holograms, backlit walls and dark rooms with designs so dimly lit that your eyes take 15 minutes to fully adjust to them.

If you’re nearby and have a day to be amazed by contemporary art in refurbished mill buildings, definitely head to MASS MoCA!

Image Credit: Beyond My Ken

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Waltz This Way: How Dancing Can Slow the Aging of the Brain

By Katy Rosen
Summer 2017 Intern
I did not like the dancing portion of high school theater; every dance was a painful experience for me and anyone nearby. To this day, I cannot confidently do the Charleston, but luckily all that time spent on the dance floor wasn’t wasted. It turns out even poor attempts at dancing can help your brain!

A team led by a Colorado State University researcher conducted a study on the effects that dancing has on the brain. The team also set out to find if changes in the aging brain are inevitable. The study focused specifically on the areas of the brain pertaining to memory: the hippocampus and the fornix.

Of the four groups within the study, those that partook in dancing had the least amount of decline within their brains. Within all groups there was some decline, but the good news is that every group that participated in exercise had less of a decline than those that did not!

The takeaway here is that while we know of nothing (so far) that can completely stop the aging of the brain, there are definitely actions that can slow this process down. So, Charleston connoisseur or not, get out on the dance floor and get your groove on!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

An Intern’s Industry Insight: The Other Meaning of “Signature”

By Rachel Matthews
Summer 2017 Intern
Picture this: you’re nearing the conclusion of a thrilling book, and you can feel three pages left in your fingers. But the ending comes more abruptly than you thought—the last two pages are blank!

I used to wonder how those extra pages ended up in my books. But PSG staff members Alyssa and Don clued me in on an alternative definition of the word signature that is little-known outside of the publishing world.

I had no idea that the book pages I see are not printed individually, but in sets called signatures. Since these signatures tend to be 16, 32 or 64 pages each, a book needs to be planned out accordingly. Any unfilled pages in the last signature will still be included in the final product—which finally explains the mystery at the end of my thrillers!

Now that I know that, I understand why I sometimes see advertisements at the end of my books. And if content can’t be reworked to fill the signature, I can definitely see why the best option is to end with a blank page or two.

I feel better knowing the whole story—and that’s just one of the many industry insights I’ve gotten from PSG!