Category Archives: 37 Minutes

Channel 37’s roundtable talk show. Commentary, discussion, interviews, in-depth features, and humor (of course) related to all things science fiction.

Blogging With Typewriters? Sure!

37 MinutesIn steampunk, what’s old is new — and cool — again. But that’s not the only means by which retro-tech is finding new life these days. Case in point: bloggers who call themselves “typecasters,” who use manual typewriters as their blogging platform of choice.

There have been typewriter collectors and traders for a long time, but more recently people who like to actually use so-called obsolete writing technologies such as pens and typewriters have begun to come together in what they call the Typosphere. Its hub, Welcome to the Typosphere, is run by Michael Clemens, a long-time typecaster. One of the regular contributors is Richard Polt, a professor of philosophy at Xavier University who not only types the type — he wrote a scholarly treatise on the phenomenology of early typewriters — but also walks the walk. In addition to writing on WTTT, he collects typewriters and maintains the essential reference website The Classic Typewriter Page, which is your one-stop shop for finding, restoring, identifying, and loving your typewriter. Plus, the site has lots of great typewriter pr0n photos and essays too.

Many typospherians blog with their typewriters by banging out entries on a sheet of paper, then scanning and uploading the image. While this method definitely doesn’t aid keyword searchability, depending on the content that can be a good thing! They also get together at cafes and other places for type-ins, where they recreate the sound of offices and newsrooms past. (All you need is for someone to occasionally yell “Copy!”) Some of the daring ones even participate in NaNoWriMo as the Typewriter Brigade. I’d imagine that nothing makes you feel more like a word athlete than trying to pound out 50,000 words on a typewriter in a month.

Remington typewriter closeupAbout six years ago, when I was looking for new and funky ways to play around with forms of written expression on my blog Sotto Voce, I experimented with posts written with a fountain pen and then on my old Royal typewriter, which just for fun I called “typecasting.” I had no idea whether anyone else was doing the same thing. Turns out, there were a bunch of others who all hit on the same idea on their own too, and gradually we all began to find each other and the term “typecasting” became the term of choice for what we were doing. (Holy cow, I just found out that it’s even made it to Wikipedia!) I don’t do much typecasting anymore, but it sure is fun to see how it has continued to grow and expand.

Not only that, but the typosphere performs a vital public service by helping to keep more typewriters out of the hands of people who chop off the keys to make jewelry. (*shudder*)

When they first came out around the turn of the last century, typewriters were lamented by many as the herald of an impersonal mass-produced form of communication because their identical machine-made type faces erased the writer’s personality from the page. Fast forward a century and you’ll hear people decrying social media for many of the same reasons. Funny how we have come to feel that typewriters reveal the quirks and personality of the writer after all! So I guess, by extension, that there’s hope for social media too.

So if you’re looking for the next old thing, consider pulling that old Remington out of the attic or picking up that Royal in the corner of the antique store, dusting it off, threading a fresh ribbon, ratcheting in a sheet of white paper, and joining the retro-future.

And remember: if you know QWERTY, thank a typewriter.

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Retro – The New Steampunk

37 MinutesI saw a great ad for a new series at the Harry Potter movie on Wednesday night. It seems that Channel 37 is riding the very edge of a new “genre” wave hitting movie houses, publishers and now television. But first the movie:

I am not a Harry Potter fan; I am a J K Rowling fan. For someone to sell the same plot in seven different ways, I’m all for it! Here is a quick breakdown of the series:

Books/Movies 1 – 6:

Voldemort tries to kills Harry, fails, regroups.

Book/ Movie 7 [SPOILER ALERT]:

Voldemort tries to kill Harry, succeeds, but ultimately fails and is finally dispatched.

Now back to the point:

One of the previews at the aforementioned movie was a new television series called Pan Am. It takes place in the early 60’s as jets are being introduced to commercial aviation. The story apparently revolves around the lives of four of the “Stewardesses” (no, not “Flight Attendants”, but “Stewardesses”).

This is interesting in several ways.

1) The following of young women on commercial air could be interesting no matter what time period is chosen.

2) The point seems to be about being more of a “period” piece rather than actual art.

3) The time period chosen is becoming hot right now.

To us at Channel 37, choosing the early 60s is what we’ve been all about. The 50s and 60s are perhaps one of the most idealistic times in this country. After World War II, the US was very self-assured, perhaps with a little swagger. The 60’s allowed one war hero to hand over the Presidency to another war hero.

The US was arrogant enough to take on the moon and, of course (conspiracy theorists excepted), win. The country had few worries: what silver to put out, what stores brides should register in, and nuclear annihilation at any second. The good ole days!

To the loyal fans that have supported Channel 37 since the early days, you can be proud. You are single-handedly ushering a new “Retro Revivalist” era.

Here is the link to the new ABC series Pan Am:

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Technobabble’s Founding Document?

37 MinutesWhether it’s the third Doctor reversing the polarity of the neutron flow, or Geordi LaForge recalibrating the thermal interferometery scanner, or even Jules Verne’s amazing Bunsen Battery, fans of science fiction have grown accustomed to reading and hearing characters lob complex strings of semi-plausible Latinate terminology to explain how things work.

Technobabble is so common in sf that most of the time we don’t even really notice it anymore — or if we do, we end up judging it on its artistic merits; we know it’s fake, but do the characters act like they believe it? That’s good enough for us. If it serves the story-telling purpose without breaking our willing suspension of disbelief, then it’s done it job.

It’s not just sf writers who love technobabble, either. Every scientific and technological discipline has its jargon, and every so often a member of the tribe will poke fun at it. What was perhaps the seminal example of engineering technobabble was written in the dark days of August, 1942 by an unknown wag at the Arthur D. Little Company. Written in the form of a memorandum, it begins thus:

24 August 1942

SUBJECT: Technical Description of the Turbo-Encabulator

TO: Engineers Concerned


For a number of years now work has been proceeding in order to
bring perfection to the crudely conceived idea of a machine
that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in
unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of
automatically synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such a machine
is the "Turbo-Encabulator". Basically the only new principle
involved is that instead of power being generated by the relative
motion of conductors and fluxes, it is produced by the modial
interaction of magneto reluctance and capacitive directance.


The original machine had a base-plate of prefabulated amulite,
surmounted by a malleable logarithmic casing in such a way that
the two spurving bearings were in direct line with the pentametric
fan. The latter consisted simply of six hydrocoptic marzelvanes,
so fitted to the ambifacient lunar waneshaft that side fumbling was
effectively prevented. The main winding was of the normal lotus-o-delta
type placed in panendermic semi boloid slots in the stator, every
seventh conductor being connected by a non reversible tremie pipe to
the differential girdlespring on the "up" end of the grammeters. . . . 

(you can read the full text of the original here)

This little masterpiece, which goes on to offer semi-plausible sounding mathematical formulas, chemical names, and more mechanical terminology, was copied and distributed throughout the rest of World War II, eventually ending up catching the notice of a writer who wrote a brief tongue-in-cheek news item about it for Time magazine in 1946 — thus introducing it to the world at large, where its popularity has never ceased to grow with each passing generation. In 1962, GE engineers even created an authentic-looking data sheet for the Turbo-Encabulator that was actually included in the GE Handbook.

Eventually, as legend has it, around 1977 the actor Bud Haggart, who specialized in playing serious-sounding engineer types in industrial training films, persuaded a director and crew to stay late one night in order to render the Turbo-Encabulator story on film — as far as is known, the first time it had ever been recorded for posterity. His version has become a legend, copied from 16mm film to VHS and eventually, as all things must, to YouTube:

(Thanks to Bad Astronomy for the link).

One can’t help wondering if perhaps, one day, a young Geordie LaForge will watch this video and decide, “Hey, I want to be an engineer too when I grow up!”

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The Top Ten Channel 37 Science Fiction and Fantasy Music

37 MinutesTop ten Science fiction/ Fantasy Songs

What better combination than music and science fiction and fantasy. We did a quick listing of our favorite science fiction songs. Admittedly, some of the ones here are pretty obscure. Here is our order, please feel free to offer your choices!

10. “These Dreams” by Heart

9. “The Battle of Evermore” by Led Zeppelin

8. “Rapture” by Blondie

7. “Space Oddity” by David Bowie

6. “Fashion Zombies” by The Aquabats

5.”Rocketman” by Elton John

4. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by the Beatles (the Elton John very is good, too)

3. “After the Goldrush” by Neil Young

2. “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath

1. “Come Sail Away” by Styx

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Santo vs. the Martian Invasion

37 MinutesOne of my friend Anne’s specialties is finding great postcards to send to people based on their interests. Given our mutual interest in the history of flight, many of my favorites feature scenes and posters from the Golden Age of Aviation (ca. 1925-55, depending on who you ask). When I introduced Anne to Channel 37, it wasn’t long before she began sending postcards with classic science fiction and space opera imagery. And since Anne is a college professor, she doesn’t pick the simple or obvious ones; she picks the ones that make you go “huh?” and hit the books (or the Web) to find out more about where they came from.

Case in point: her latest postcard featured a poster for a movie that I had never heard of: Santo vs. la Invasion de los Marcianos (Santo vs. the Martian Invasion). It stars Mexico’s most famous pro wrestler, Santo (the Saint), whose silver mask has become iconic. Now, prior to receiving Anne’s postcard, pretty much the only thing I knew about Mexican pro wrestling is that the wrestlers, along with Strong Bad, wear masks. But it turns out that there’s a whole genre of action films from the 1950s through the 1970s — which of course dovetails nicely with Channel 37’s favorite era — in which Santo and other masked wrestlers fought zombies, mummies, vampires, Frankenstein’s daughter, an evil brain, a motorcycle gang of lepers, and karate masters; went in search of Montezuma’s treasure and the secret of the Bermuda Triangle; and thwarted nefarious plots by assorted crime kingpins, spies, and assassins. Great stuff! Where have I been?

Poster for "Santo vs. the Martian Invasion"Santo vs. la Invasion de los Marcianos was made in 1966 and was filmed in black-and-white (he made one more black-and-white film, Santo Contra los Villanos del Ring, or Santo vs. the Villains of the Ring, also from 1966, before making his first color film later in the same year — his busiest movie year). Altogether, Santo made 52 lucha (wrestling) movies between 1958 and 1982. But only a handful have ever been dubbed into English. This trailer for Santo vs. las Mujeres Vampiro (Santo vs. the Vampire Women, 1962) will give you some idea of what we’ve been missing:

Santo’s wrestling career spanned 48 years, during which he became a folk hero and one of Mexico’s greatest sports legends. Shortly after his retirement in 1982, at the age of 65, he appeared on a TV interview show and briefly removed his mask, the first time he had ever done so publicly in nearly 5 decades. Perhaps appropriately, Santo — aka Rodolfo Guzmán Huerta — passed away shortly after, his work done but chronicled forever in movies, comic books, two animated series, and in legend and lore.

Thanks, Anne, for introducing me to a whole new treasure trove of films to explore! I can’t wait to see what gems you uncover next. Whatever they are, I’m sure I’ll have some more fun discoveries ahead . . .

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Science Fiction Cover Art Collection at Auction!

37 MinutesScience Fiction Cover Art On Sale
Here’s something to check out while waiting out the Irene!

Occasionally, there is an event that captures the imagination of the staff at Channel 37. Coming in September, the Heritage Auction people will be auctioning a huge collection of science fiction art owned by the late Jerry Weist.

The catalog is easily accessible by visiting the Heritage Auction website (, it takes about ten minutes to download the pdf version. It’s been on my computer for about a week, and I have only scratched the surface.

The collection contains original oil paintings used on Edgar Rice Burroughs covers, Virgil Finlay, and one of my personal favorites Frank Frazetta from a Bradbury cover (starting bid $28,000!)

Most of these covers were from the Golden Age of Science Fiction, the years that we at Channel 37 hold most dear. So we urge that you visit the site, download the catalog for your personal reference, and if you fell inclined, place a bid or two.

Alas, as poor struggling writers, even the lowliest of these fine covers are well beyond our humble means.

By the way, Heritage Auctions is not paying us to write this article.
Heritage Auction website

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Remembering “The Invaders”

37 MinutesAt the end of this year’s Balticon, I scored a copy of a novelization of The Invaders, the short-lived UFO-invasion TV series from the late 1960s.

Ah, fond memories! Growing up in Santa Fe in the late 1980s, I used to watch reruns of The Invaders on the local station along with The Man from UNCLE, The Avengers, and other classics. But for me, the show always stuck out because of its earnestness. Where other sf and adventure shows would occasionally (or, in the case of UNCLE, terminally) slip into camp, The Invaders never did. It took itself seriously — and required viewers to do the same.

The InvadersFans of a certain era recall the brooding voice that launched (seemingly) a thousand series with the words “A Quinn Martin Production.” (The owner of that iconic voice was Hank Simms, BTW.) Well, that label was the mark of quality. Before there was Stephen J. Cannell or Don Bellisario or Glen Larson, there was Quinn Martin — creator of hardboiled classics like Barnaby Jones, The FBI, The Streets of San Francisco, and The Fugitive, which The Invaders most closely resembles.

Every week, the same voice that accompanied Richard Kimble on his quest to find the one-armed man who killed his wife would intone for us the story of architect David Vincent, played by Roy Thinnes:

The Invaders – Alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: the Earth. Their purpose: to make it their world.

David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a short-cut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy.

Now, David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun.

It’s a simple premise, and it works. From the first episode, I was hooked. The writing was terrific, the SFX were top-notch, and the conceits — because the aliens had only four fingers, you could always spot a human disguise because they couldn’t bend their pinkies, and when you shot them they burst into flame and evaporated — were simple and not overbearing. Like all QM Productions, The Invaders was first a show about characters, conflict, and drama. The UFO angle was just a way to cash in on a hot topic in the late 1960s. But the show takes the subject matter seriously enough so that no one seems to be self-conscious (“a show about flying saucers? I need a new agent!”).

The show featured many familiar names and faces from the corral of hardworking regular TV actors of the era, including Suzanne Pleshette, Jack Lord, Jack Warden, Norman Fell, Ed Begley, Ralph Bellamy, and Star Trek icons such as Barbara (“Mirror Mirror”) Luna, Susan (“The Cage”) Oliver, and Alfred (“The Man Trap”) Ryder as “Mr. Nexus.” It ran for two seasons — 43 episodes total — before it was cancelled. Apparently, in 1995, there was a miniseries revival of the show starring Scott (Quantum Leap, Enterprise) Bakula as the poor hapless fellow who stumbles on the secret, with Roy Thinnes reprising his role. I’d never even heard of it until I was researching this article. It doesn’t look like it’s available for rental. The episodes aren’t on Hulu, and there’s not much on YouTube. But there is a DVD set of the complete series out there, with lots of extras and commentaries. Guess what’s on my Christmas list?

Before there was The X Files, V, or even They Live, there was The Invaders. And for my money, the one that came first is still the best.

Check out the opening credits:

And here’s the beginning of episode one:

Get hooked on The Invaders now, thank me later!

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Top Ten Lessons From Star Trek

37 MinutesIn honor of Star Trek’s forty-fifth anniversary, here are a few pointers that can be learned from watching the series, including all permutations:

10. Getting injections still hurts.

9. Green girls are a little freaky.

8. Russians are good at aiming photon torpedoes.

7. The further away the ship is from a station, the faster it can communicate with one.

6. Computerized women are just as scary as real ones.

5. S**t Happens.

4. Give a woman command of a starship, she’ll get lost.

3. Time travel is only possible when necessary for the plot.

2. Transporters work fine unless you need them to.

1. Never, EVER wear a red shirt.

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Top Five Remixed Sci-Fi Opening Credits

37 Minutes. . . and One Wish List Item

Some things were just made to be mixed: gin and vermouth, peanut butter and jelly, blazers and jeans — and science fiction and cult TV opening credits.

After hours* of painstaking research scouring YouTube for videos produced by some of the most fiendishly clever minds and talented hands we have encountered in our travels, Channel 37 picks its favorite mash-ups of iconic science fiction properties done in the styles of classic TV shows from our youth (or, if you’re young, from retro cable channels). We’ve included links to the creators’ YouTube pages, where you’ll find hours of mashuppy goodness.

* = hours may not be actual hours

The finalists are:

5. (tie) Star Trek: the Next Generation in the style of The Love Boat by huckbone and Dallas in the style of Space: 1999 by zehnkatzen

4. Doctor Who in the style of Hawaii Five-O by pearvert

3. Han Solo, P.I. by TheCBVee

2. Star Trek: The Tholian Web in the style of Mission: Impossible by Kelvington

And our Number One favorite remixed opening credits:

1. Star Wars in the style of Airwolf by kalleanka71

Congratulations to all!

And now, The Wish List:

1. The Prisoner in the style of Burn Notice

Think about it: “My name is John Drake. I used to be a spy. Until . . .” Isn’t that just begging for a mashup?

Want to nominate your favorites? Share them in the comments below!

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Happy Autumnal Equinox

37 MinutesHappy Autumnal Equinox!

We tried to post this exactly at the time of the equinox 9:04 am EST.

As summer comes to a close, please be especially watchful for falling satellites.

And those of you who survive, please visit the Channel 37 crew on Saturday at the Baltimore Book Festival. We can be found at the Maryland Writers Booth near the Washington Monument from 12-4!

Hope to see you there.

Info for the Festival:

Other things to do for the Equinox:

Have fun!

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