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The Idle American
"Remembering Typewriters..."
Wednesday, August 22, 2012 • Posted August 22, 2012

As the final days of my 40-year career in higher education wore down to a nub, a freshman came alongside with a question he’d pondered for a while. Had I ever seen a “real typewriter up close?”

I framed my thoughts carefully, but before they were verbalized, he added, “I wouldn’t know how to plug one in.”

Squaring my shoulders and locking in a penetrating stare, I answered—with volume and clarity: “I learned to type on a wood-burning typewriter.”…


This vignette came to mind upon reading Bob Ryan’s final column as a full-timer at the Boston Globe. The veteran sportswriter never worked for any other newspaper—and never wanted to—during his 44-year career.

His farewell piece on August 12 ran almost 1,500 words, more than twice the usual length. He recalled much, tracing his pilgrimage that began with stories filed at Western Union through today’s electronic transmissions triggered by “send” buttons. Avoiding references to “retirement,” he’s entering “Transition to Phase II.” Ryan will still churn out columns most Sundays.

Aiming to gain personal life flexibility and elimination of obligations, he “wants to do what he wants to do and not do what he doesn’t want to do.” Elaine, his wife of 43 years, is “the perfect companion with whom to do or not do whatever it is we’re going to do or not do.” I’m guessing he’s seen a real typewriter up close….


Baylor faithful are looking forward to their new football palace on the banks of the Brazos in 2014. Robert Griffin III, star quarterback and now a rookie starter for the Washington Redskins, is singularly most responsible for the Bears’ “football revival.”

No doubt, he’ll complete a pledge card to help with the project. BU has the school colors right—it’s going to a take a lot of green and a lot of gold to cover the anticipated $250-million cost. (Waco is kicking in $35 million; Baptist bastions sniff that there’s nothing in the rules about separation of church and city.)

TCU, sporting its remodeled stadium with costs ballooning far above the projected $105 million figure, whacked off the west side upper deck. The deck was added in the 1950’s, when All-American running back Jim Swink stirred Horned Frog football enthusiasm. Alas, attendance cooled after he graduated, and for the next five decades, the upper deck was rarely needed….


Dallas Cowboys’ stadium continues to pique interest far and wide. Otherwise, Michigan and Alabama wouldn’t wander this far off course to play at the $1.2 billion Arlington ball yard.

Groupon offered a $79 “package” to the event. It includes a hot dog, chips, soft drink and a “standing room only” spot.

Concession prices being what they are, I guess game admission actually is free….


One fast-food place in California “takes ‘em any way it can gets ‘em.”

That’s the message on the door, anyway. It’s a “come one, come all” kind of place.

The sign reads, “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem.”…


What will sports enthusiasts do now that almost three weeks of Olympic competition is over? There is whimpering and hand-wringing at the thought of TV devoid of Olympic coverage for four years.

Maybe “competitive presidenting” is an acceptable substitute.

Like the Olympics, the presidential race will be covered from every angle. Many of the reports will be filed by media people who’ve never seen real typewriters up close….


There’s bound to be an upswing in DVD movie rentals by folks choosing to escape real world issues. One that’s bound to be hot is Bernie, based on the story of a Carthage, TX, undertaker who murders the town’s despised rich widow.

It wasn’t around too long in theaters, but with Shirley MacLaine, Matt McConaughey and Jack Black as stars, it is an absolute winner. Yep, it’s about as hilarious as a “tragicomedy” can be and it’s due out this month. (I hesitate to say “drop dead funny.”)

In one memorable scene, an East Texan claims that his fellow citizens don’t fret about which wines go with which meats. “We don’t care if you drink hot beer with fried mud cat,” a local wheezed, reaching for his Royal portable typewriter. Hey, this quote is worth typin’ down, or, uh, typin’ up?…


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Twitter: @donnewbury. Web site:

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