Things No One Will Ever Do Again: Set Type (7) Goodbye, Farewell, Amen

Incredibly, I have run out of things to say on the topic. I notice that I claimed these would be Paul stories, but mostly  they involved  me showing off how much I remember from 50 years ago, and how I still use this arcane (soon to be archaic) knowledge today. Not the IBM MT/ST or the Compugraphic so much as the font stuff.

Now we come to The Tech. My MIT degree says management, but based on the amount of time spent, it should be The Tech  and management… or maybe just The Tech. It was my Alpha and Omega (well, WTBS, and Student House, and Sherry and Beth, and Mike, and Harry/Harrison, and John Taylor rank in there somewhere too. Maybe I’ll unpack this some day)

I was a columnist, news editor and editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Foolishly, I also learned to do typesetting for our twice-weekly editions. Also, we did nearly all the typesetting for MIT. As a result, out typesetting income was usually greater than our advertising income. Plus, prodshop workers were paid for outside jobs, albeit not for newspaper work, which they were expected to do on a volunteer basis. I needed the money as a scholarship student with a lousy all-loan scholarship that left me $10,000 in debt on graduation day, despite setting type and fixing phones.

No production shop/no newspaper. So, I spent the second half of my term as editor managing the production shop, a job I was stuck with for 18 months. Someone had to do it. I left when I got my job with the Associated Press. But that’s another story, hopefully shorter than this one.

The whole series: Things No One Will Ever Do Again: Set Type.


Middle Names 1/Scary

The things that scare us change as we age. I doubt any adult in a relationship felt their heart leap with joy when their partner said, “We need to talk.”

As a boy, the words were “Paul Eugene Schindler, Jr.” My mother never called me that way to give me an ice cream cone. I find myself doing the same thing with my grandson. Apparently formality implies brewing trouble.

Never happened to my wife, who has no middle name. In 1946, at her societal level, the assumption was your maiden name would become your middle name when you were married. Hah! There are some systems that are frustrated by her NMI (no middle initial), but such systems can sit on it and twirl.

It wasn’t only well-off Angeleno women who were deprived of middle names. A half-century earlier my grandfather was simply Paul Schindler. To distinguish him on family trees, he is Paul NMI Schindler.

I am not the first to note that assassins appear to all have middle names. It is never Lee Oswald or John Booth. John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald are inviolate. I defy you to find a reference to Lee Oswald or John Booth; if you made such a reference, no one would know who you were talking about.

Part 2 next week: Politicians

Right Column Redux: All Things Must End

This recurring feature has run its course for two reasons: practical and philosophical.

From a practical standpoint, Right Column Redux just isn’t that popular/interesting. While I think everything I have ever done or said is endlessly fascinating, even you, my scores of regular readers, haven’t found these links interesting enough to click them.

Back in the days of paper, it was impossible to know which features resonated with readers and which didn’t. Sports, funnies, columns, recipes: who knew what drew readers? If you didn’t know, just keeping throwing things against the wall until circulation went up. Now we know, in some detail, what clicks (as it were) with readers.

In the early Internet days, when this column was hand-crafted in HTML, I didn’t know either. But thanks to the miracle of the 21st century Internet, I have a fair idea of what’s popular and what isn’t. This feature isn’t. Besides, I have been through the whole right column (or the bottom, if you’re reading on a phone) twice now.

Then we come to the philosophical reason. Doing something because it’s been done for a long time is not a good reason to continue doing it. As I am becoming increasingly aware, everything has a sell-by date; it’s just that some dates are only available in our minds. It’s up to us to make a graceful exit. And a timely one.

Right Column Redux: Paul on the Top 5 List

The column to the right on this blog contains permanent content, most of which has appeared at one time or another in the main body. I’ve decided to include a reminder.

The Long And The Short Of It

One of the shibboleths of the journalism racket, back in my day, back in the day of dead-tree media, was that “Every story you are interested in is too short. Every story you are not interested in is too long.”

The promise of the Internet was to end that dilemma. Physical media no longer imposed length limits. And Hyperlinks (as we used to call links) meant that, instead of a capsule review of prior events in each new story, you could simply point at the prior stories. Who knew TL;DR would become a thing.

Hard as it may seem to believe, I try to limit my article length in this column. When I finish an essay, if it’s over 250 words, I try to cut it or trim it. Lately (as with AI this week) I find myself helplessly writing long, then determinedly splitting up the results.

Maybe it’s like the cliffhanger in a serial: tune in next week to find out what happens.

Hip Hoping/ICD For Me

Round and round she goes, where she stops, nobody knows...

Either Third Time’s The Charm, or I curse my chance for a hip operation when I mention it in this column (see Hip Op Music, and One Hip Dude).

I’m headed to the hospital Friday for two reasons: to get the battery changed on my pacemaker/defibrillator (ICD) and move towards a June hip replacement, after my MIT 50th reunion. Here’s hoping.

Public Speaking 2 / What A Junior Sees A Senior As

I often find myself wishing that this or that piece of paper had not slipped through my fingers. Twenty years ago, when my mother finally made me clear out my childhood bedroom, I ran across the script for What A Junior Sees A Senior As. I then lost it.

While I still had it, it seemed to me as funny as the day I delivered it a quarter century earlier during an entertainment assembly at Benson High in Portland. There were, however, members of the audience who were not amused. And some backstage.

In my mind it was innocuous juvenile humor. But the stage crew, the Benson Auditorium Technical Staff (BATS) was mostly seniors, and took offense.

So, in front of 1,000 of my fellow students, the BATS dispatched Art McDonald (a friend/enemy of mine) to wrestle me off the stage. The audience roared, thinking it was a setup. I resisted because I wasn’t done yet, and resented the interruption. Mr. Tripplett, the speech teacher who anointed student announcers, was baffled and miffed. I was finally dragged from the stage, and never spoke to Art again.

I have since gone on to three decades of announcing band concerts, a gig that those of you who have been paying attention will realize just ended. I wouldn’t mind another round of public announcing. Two-thirds of Americans say their greatest fear is public speaking. Not a problem I’ve ever had.

Funny Half-Century Old Picture / Epochal Moment

(length warning)

Shelly Lowenthal ’74 was a shooter (photographer) for The Tech. Like most photographers, he saved every negative he ever shot (an option available to all of us now, thanks to digital photography and Google Photos).

While preparing a slide show for the 50th reunion of the class of 1974, he ran across this photo, taken on March 5, 1971. Third from left was MIT’s new president, Jerry Weisner. On the far right, there is a boy radio reporter who apparently had never heard of a microphone stand.

Photo by Sheldon Lowenthal

I wasn’t sure it was me, but Google photo said it was my face. Then, like on any bad police procedural from decades ago, I just said “zoom in” and discovered that at the end of this guy’s perfectly shot cuff


was a familiar cufflink; 54 years later, I still have that cuff link. Some people save their negatives, some their high school cufflinks.


The five-shot above is not a picture of an epochal moment in my life, but it is epochal adjacent. Had Shelly stayed after the news conference, then walked into the next room, he would have seen this epochal moment (as described in a contemporaneous journal entry):

I asked Alex Makowski  and Lee Giguere (The Tech news editors), to stay.

We talked for about 45 minutes, and finally, I asked Alex: “Would you want me on The Tech? Would you let me keep doing my column?”

“I haven’t read it much. Let me look at it. My first reaction is, sure we want you. You work hard.”

I called Alex a week later and he invited me over to The Tech’s luxurious corner office. “We’ll be happy to have you and your column too, although you’ll have to write it more carefully.” The die was cast: I asked for a month to clear up my affairs at Ergo. But from then on, I was a Techman for good.

(See a luridly detailed description of the day I recruited myself to The Tech)

In 21 months I was editor-in-chief.

Public Speaking 1: In The Beginning

My career as a public speaker began in high school. One of my gigs was reciting the Gettysburg Address at Memorial Day Services. I also won a trophy for a patriotic speech I wrote and delivered to the Veterans Of Foreign Wars.  It was during the Vietnam War. I think I won as much for my short hair and lack of beard as for my speech.

But I most enjoyed announcing at Benson Polytechnic, my high school. I announced the annual talent show (wearing my first-ever rented tuxedo) for two years with my friend Harrison West, until a better announcer came along. We still did a joint reading of Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales at the Christmas assembly until we graduated.

I also delivered a half-dozen humorous monologues at “entertainment” assemblies. There’s something you’ll never see again: an entertainment assembly. George Carlin and Steve Martin had nothing to worry about.