Friday, June 24, 2016

Index to the E. L. Moore files excerpts

Over the last 8 or so months I’ve been reading and scanning a stack of E. L. Moore’s manuscripts and letters that were generously loaned to me by a collector. There were 1,189 pages, and as the lead photo of my reading copy shows, the scans more-or-less fill 3, 3” binders. This material covers the years,

June 1961 to December 1963
February 1964 to January 1968
June 1968 to July 1976
January 1977 to July 1978

As you can see there are gaps in the record, and material prior to mid-1961 and after mid-1978 is missing. Given that Mr. Moore died in August 1979, there might not be much material for the post July '78 period, but there could be extensive material missing for the pre-1961 era given that his first published article was in 1955. As well, there could be missing items from the time periods shown in the list, but frankly, it's amazing that anything has survived all these years, and I'm very glad to have been able to see it.

From my reading of the surviving collection, I suspect there could be up to an equal amount of manuscripts and correspondence in addition to this material. It might be still out there somewhere; it might be lost; I have no idea. However, I've been alerted that there is a small collection of E. L. Moore original photographs in existence, and if all goes well I hope to see them before the end of the summer. I'm keeping my fingers crossed :-) My plan is to assemble all the E. L. Moore material I can find and put together some sort of book or digital collection. 

Anyway, since I’ve come to the end of the collection I thought I’d create an index of the excerpt posts I’ve made along the way,

I do plan to post further excerpts as I go back, re-read stuff and make connections I didn't see on the first reading.

A little more Ottawandering

Through some online wandering I came across this trailer for Ottawander. It gives a 60 second look at the show's visual style. Over at SoundCloud you'll find a number of sets from Ottawander by the Orienteers. Here's one simply called wandering,

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

E. L. Moore on getting older

[E. L. Moore's North Conway Station]

My goddamned legs are going to remain numb but I can get around pretty well . . .  worse is my numb finger tips . . .  I gotta watch the keys pretty close and still make mistakes . . . but I manage.

Why the hell do I have to spend all the time I do on those cussed drawings (except in the interests of accuracy) when you have them done over anyway. Still it ain’t really work, just tedious, since I can sit in my easy chair and do them. But damit I gotta move around a lot to photograph the stuff and printing the pictures is a helluva strain on the gut. I type a couple of pages then go lie down a while, then type a couple more but they eventually all get typed. It’s much more fun writing in longhand in bed. But hell, I got no complaints, much, I eat well, got plenty of leisure, lots of books and don’t get up until I get damned good and ready . . .  except to feed my cats. When they get hungry they won’t let me sleep.
E. L. Moore, age 79, in the cover letter to Kelley’s Folly, to Tony Koester, then editor of Railroad Model Craftsman, dated 26 May 1977.

Legs never going to get any better but I get around pretty well -- numbness in finger tips is more bothersome, causing me to watch my keys : ... no more touch typewriting. But I got no real complaints -- old age would [sic] be so bad if one didn’t keep on getting older. Lots of oldsters complain of poverty, loneliness and being bored . . . .  I ain’t got none of those bothering me . . .  and I’ve got good and constant company and bedmates -- my cats. So what the hell!
E. L. Moore, in a letter to then editor of Model Railroader, Russ Larson, dated 29 May 1977.

Just a brief note, E. L., to let you know that some cantankerous old buzzard is sending me nasty notes under your name. After all these years of hard work I’ve finally become editor and I still don’t get no respect.

By the way, I’d like to buy both articles: “The Village Store” and “Butz Milling and Feed Co.” The snow scene of the village store would be a nice addition to one of our winter issues.

Keep in touch. Your postcards help brighten our day.
Extract from a letter Russ Larson wrote to E. L. Moore dated 30 August 1977. It looks like E. L. Moore was sending Russ Larson letters with some harsh words intermingled with the usual Moore-isms. I haven’t seen the whole exchange, just some surviving pieces so I don’t know what caused this or when it started. I suspect it might have been the usual annoyances and frustrations a writer encounters magnified by ill health. Russ Larson handled it with charm and professionalism, and things cranked back a few notches as time went on. And Mr. Larson kept buying submissions from E. L. Moore.

Me, I been feeling right pert until I read of that Greek bastard, 98 years old, who, it was reported, ran 42 miles in less than eight hours. Hell’s bells, I’d do well to walk eight miles in 42 hours. Says he gave up sex at 85 . . .  I assume he ran out of women. Just to read of him congeals my blood and makes me want to bury my head in the sand to my toes. Only thing is I’ve always wanted to go back to the land but I don’t want it writ on my tombstone “When I said I wanted to go back to the land I didn’t mean this deep.”
Extracted from a E. L. Moore wrote to Russ Larson dated 1 September 1977.

This is not -- and I repeat -- is not something an inexperienced modeler should tackle. It is, in fact, the largest and most complicated structure I’ve ever built, and except that was done as a favor for a friend, one Fred Kelley, a no good Irishman, I would never have attempted it at all. Yet it turned out to be fun, and a challenge, and hard work all rolled into one.
The opening paragraph to E. L. Moore’s unpublished manuscript for The North Conway Depot submitted to Model Railroader on 6 January 1978. Russ Larson accepted it. It’s interesting that during a period when he admittedly wasn’t at his best healthwise, he still produced what he thought was his largest and most complex model building.

And now the doc says I gotta cut my sex life in half. “Which half?” I asks, “thinking or talking about it.”
Extracted from a letter E. L. Moore wrote to Russ Larson dated 12 January 1978.

One of these could be me -- two old codgers sitting on a park bench -- one says: “E. L. remember in years past how we useta set on this very bench and watch all them gals goin’ by in their fancy dresses?”
“Yep, I remember.”
“You remember how we useta look at their purty round bottoms as they went by?”
“Yup -- I recollect. What I can’t remember is why?”
Another extract from that 12 January 1978 letter.

E. L. Moore died on 12 August 1979.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Go ahead, soak up the sun, I dare you :-)

A few days ago I was wandering through the grocery store looking for oatmeal, Muzak lulling me into a stupor. Then Sheryl Crow’s Soak Up the Sun came on. Now, I like to think of myself as a sophisticated music snob, no fluffy pop for me thank you very much, but I stopped dead in my tracks when I heard her. I mindlessly stared at some gluten-free cardboard thing masquerading as food while my brain went into automatic and shot life affirming goodness all throughout my neocortex. I was instantly happy. Snob or not, I can’t argue with that.

So, I buy my stupid oatmeal, go home and go straight to youTube. Ah. 
Then I look it up on Wikipedia and find this,

The lyrics describe first the singer's experience of exclusion from revolutionary leftist organizing, then the alienation she experiences as a laborer in a capitalist, consumer culture. The singer then cynically suggests mental illness may be responsible for humanity's continued participation in these dysfunctional systems.

Good grief. Here I am thinking it’s merely some naive, new agey, hippy, surfy*, feel good song about trying to be happy in the moment with what you’ve got, but it’s actually trying to subvert our entire capitalist culture ;-) But, forget about Groucho Marx for a minute, here’s all I need to know,

I don't have digital
I'm gonna soak up the sun
Got my 45 on
So I can rock on

And where can you get those 45s? Stella’s Used Records and Starlight Yoga Studio of course. It’s been in a forlorn, unusable, unloved, neglected condition for years (!) now. While I’m fixing stuff up, I figured I should fix it up too. Maybe by the end of the summer it'll be in business.
Ok, I’m a sluggard, but I went ahead and built the most important part of any record store: the record bins and cash desk. They need some more work, but at least the basics are done.

Excuse me comrade while I look for my sunscreen.


*Let me say that surfers do know one thing that has model railroading potential: build surfboards. 

Go to Google and search on: how to build a wooden surfboard. You’ll see something like these images.
Maybe there is something there for the layout builder to learn from.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

E. L. Moore on the trials and tribulations of kits and kitbashing

[A 'kit-visioning' of the Model Power Speedy Andrew's kit, which is itself based on the Model Power Ma's Place kit, which is based on  E. L. Moore's Ma's Place build]

That kit-bashed chair company thing was good, too. I know one shouldn’t knock anything one hasn’t tried, but it has always seemed to me kit-bashing was more work and more expensive than to build from scratch. Fact is, I hate like poison to put a kit together. Seems I have a helluva time following instructions.
From a letter dated 6 September 1977 E. L. Moore wrote to Russ Larson, then editor of Model Railroader, thanking him for mailing a free copy of the October 1977 issue of the magazine.

That chair company kitbash E. L. Moore was complementing was David Petty’s N-scale The Shakey Chair Co.. Although that kitbash might seem un-notable in today’s world of plenty, in ’77 kitbashes in N-scale, especially quality ones like that in the article, were still quite novel. 

The article kicks off with a Moorian-style story about the origins and fate of the Shakey Chair Co. - shades of E.L. Moore’s own spin on the subject, The Cract & Dentit Manufacturing Co., that appeared in the December ’72 issue of Model Railroader under the title The chair and desk factory? Even if you didn’t build the project, the article has some timeless advice about buildings and placement. Mr. Petty argues that it’s important to tailor a building to its setting and have it make sense in its context, not just plunk something down anywhere no matter how well built or detailed it is.

-- fact is I hate like hell to put a kit together. Friend Crosby sent me four -- I finally put the Haunted House together for him but sent him back the others -- to hell with them -- too much like work to suit me. But does you good in that you try to make your own directions more logical and plain.
Extract from a letter E. L. Moore wrote to Hal Carstens on 3 July 1967. Seems like he thought the only benefit from trying to assemble a kit was learning the goods and bads of instruction writing.

And to wrap up, here’s an interesting, but purely coincidental, E. L. Moore - David Petty connection. In the August ’80 issue of Model Railroader, Art Curren, in an introduction to an article on the basics of kitbashing, mentions an earlier kitbash he did of the plastic kit version of E. L. Moore’s Ma’s Place called Petty’s Garage & Grocery, named after David Petty.

Friday, June 17, 2016


Yesterday afternoon Debra told me about a movie she read about at the CBC website: Ottawander. There was a special, one-time screening at the Mayfair at 9:30, and why wasn't I going? If you're a longtime reader here at 30Squares, you know I'm partial to staging urban night photos on my layout, so it was right up my alley. I went.

Actually, Ottawander is a new local tv series available on Bell Fibe - I have Rogers, so the Mayfair screening was all I was going to see unless I switch - whose episodes are 40 minute nighttime wanders through various Ottawa streets with an ultra- high-res digital camera taking in all the sights. So far, only the first episode has been shot, and that's what the Mayfair was screening. 

The Ottawander crew's initial outing was a low-speed ramble along the hard luck Sparks Street pedestrian mall at around 9pm on an evening in late April. The photography is gorgeous. Pop-ups and superimposed old photos are inserted at various points along the way to explain facts and events that happened in the locations being shot. At this showing the band providing the soundtrack, the space-folk group the Orienteers, performed live. You might think of this a 21st century silent movie experience: ultra-high-res digital movie, dialog-less with integrated text, and an excellent live band providing music, all staged in a 1930s era movie house. 

At the post-screening Q&A it was noted that Ottawander was meant for ambient viewing at home or a party, but it does holdup for viewing in one sitting. I would have liked to have seen more regularly inserted pop-ups to provide a little more information about what I was seeing and to help keep the movie flowing. Although from the ones provided I did learn where Pierre Trudeau watched The Godfather in '72, where D'Arcy McGee was assassinated, and where Britain stashed all their gold reserves during World War II. This was a most enjoyable episode and I'm looking forward to seeing more in the Ottawander series.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Garner's Sin Sniper is not crummy

“I see,” said the inspector, his voice modulating once again. “What’s your trade, Dightwood?”

“I’m a folk singer.”

“Before that?”

“I was a CNR brakeman in Moncton.”

“How’d you lose that job?”

“I quit when my marriage broke up. I decided to come up this way.”

“Was your hair down to your shoulders when you were riding a CNR crummy?”

Dightwood smiled at the inspector’s use of the word “crummy” for caboose. “No, Sir. The long hair is just part of my act.”

Contrary to that exchange between Inspector McDumont and a long-haired, hippy folk singer suspect, The Sin Sniper has nothing to do with trains and such, although the gritty realism of the novel no doubt has some roots in the author’s years hoboing across Canada and the US during The Depression. It’s the story of an investigation by the Toronto Police into the shooting of five women in downtown’s Moss Park area over a week in late March of 1965. It’s a tough tale and not for the fainthearted.

Lurid cover aside, the novel is a straight ahead police procedural, but what makes it unique is its strength of characterization of Moss Park, its inhabitants, the police, and mid-60's Toronto in general. And the Toronto characterization is quite good: the further I read, the more it sent a traceroute to all those deep memories I have of that long ago city I thought were purged from my mind. I guess one couldn’t expect anything less from a literary heavy hitter like Hugh Garner.
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