Category Archives: 2–Albeit Overview

Section two of my “Story of Albeit” series.

Type Club

“Type Club”:

Albeit’s Most Common Secret Society

9/14/2008

Kenneth Burchfiel

 

 

 

In the summer of 1987, a group of five college students got together with a primitive computer and a beat-up keyboard. Behind closed doors, they gave themselves a name—”Type Club—” and a goal: to type more than they could ever have imagined possible.

Decades later, with hundreds of similar groups operating in Albeit and increasingly complex membership structures, their original goal has stayed intact.

Of all the secret societies operating in albeit, Type Club is both one of the simplest (at its roots) and the most abundant. Almost every group has between 5 and 26 members, most of whom knew each other from college workshops or other seminars. Skill levels are usually higher than in regular workshop settings, with many groups’ members published by large presses. Other groups comprise members who have just begun to write seriously.

It may seem that such clubs are nothing more than more intimate writing classes. What sets the concept of “Type Club” apart are the traditions and customs that go into every meeting, along with the emphasis on secrecy.

There is no visible leader of meetings. What members of Type Club use instead is “The Board,” an old keyboard that serves as a tangible centerpiece and identifier. When a meeting is created, its new members scrounge around and find the oldest keyboard among them. All of its letters keys are then popped out and put in a bag. One by one, the members pull out the letter keys to gain their “character.” This key serves as their identifier and proof of membership.

At the start of a meeting, each person pulls out his key and sticks it on the board. Once all the keys are in place, someone hooks the board up to a computer, types up the club’s name—a word composed entirely of the said letters—and prints out the page, along with the date. (These print-outs could be considered the minutes.)

    Following the “Opening Ceremonies,” as some Typers like to call it, all members sit down with their keyboards and begin to type. What about? There is no prompt, no advance instruction, not even a requested category. The purpose of coming together is not to learn from the same person, but to experience the feeling of “Mitschreiben,” or writing in the company of one another. Rarely does any form of conversation take place during this period; in more advanced groups, one must wonder if those typing are even breathing. Though nobody would attempt to make Type Club a religion, it could be said that this period of silent, mutual typing has spiritual elements to it.

    Depending on the group, this initial typing phase can go anywhere from thirty minutes to three hours. It almost always concludes with each person printing out three copies of what they produced. The group then comes together, still in silence, and take turns reading spontaneously. One person might start at their first paragraph, then give up the floor to someone speaking from the very end of their own tale. Though this part of Type Club varies in style between group to group, and even within a group’s meetings, a few things usually stay the same: readings cannot just be of a few sentences, but of two paragraphs or more; nobody should ever be afraid to speak; everyone in the Type Club is expected to share; and, perhaps the most divergent from a regular workshop course, no edits, suggestions, compliments or criticisms are to be given a piece during the sharing session; all of that comes after, when everyone switches stories with their neighbor and does edits at home. The meeting, thus, is silent—except for the aforementioned sharing.

    Type Clubs end for the day when each person goes up to the keyboard, drops a copy of their story in an adjacent bin (so that a packet of the day’s work can be compiled and stapled to the Board printout) and exchanges a copy of their story for editing. Once everyone picks up their keys and the main computer is shut down, the group disperses.

    It would be nice to find better concluding words than that, but Type Club offers few. Everything about the system is so to-the-point that it only seems right to give a brash chronology and stop there.

 

    But Albeitians did not stop there. The first college group eventually passed on their idea to professors, who suggested to students that they give the idea a try. Within a half-decade of word-to-ear advertising, Type Clubs had shot up on the Albeit You lawn faster than grass. Within a decade, college grads and perceptive adults had taken the idea beyond the college environment and into everyday living.

    Technology made its own impact on the basic meeting format. Instead of printouts, users read from their computer and e-mailed each other their stories. Some even proposed type club meetings over a video internet connection, though that was ruled down by most groups as not upholding the concept of Mitschreiben.

    One place where technology has made a large impact is in the realm of key counting. Type Clubs are about typing, after all, and many groups enjoy keeping track of how many characters they’ve pounded out over the years. In some of the better established clubs, it is customary to rate groups by their total accumulated keystrokes (TAK), with 1 billion TAK considered the mark of a respectable club and 3 billion a prestigious one. 10 billion TAK will put a club, no matter the quality of its writing, in the league of legends.

    It seems like the most barebones of writing workshops. All editing takes place privately. Most of the class is done in silence. There is no experienced teacher to instruct the class. Why, then, have so many people bought into the “Type Club” system?

    The answer may lie in that very simplicity. Here, writers need not put up with didactic instructors, piles of “more concise than thou” editing instructions and squeezed-in typing sessions. The entire time consists only of writing and sharing, the two core elements of the creative experience. And Type Clubbers, for that matter, write and share like no other seminar or peer group in Albeit.

    There’s always the element of secrecy, of course. Writers can be considered a mysterious bunch, and to have the chance to enroll in a confidential society makes the creative process all the more intriguing.

 

    Needles to say, the simple idea of a “Type Club” geared around silent writing and sharing has gone some distance in its last twenty years. The bearded group of college students that started the idea have logged hundreds of millions of keystrokes, as have thousands of their contemporaries. Not that the fame has affected their original goals. Every Thursday, they can be found in the basement of a Graupel warehouse with keyboards on their laps. Still typing.

 

    

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An Acquired Taste

An Acquired Taste:

An Overview of the Albeitian Climate

9/12/08

Kenneth Burchfiel

 

    In most towns—even those that consider themselves a cold-weather location—the winter coats only come out from late fall to early spring. In Albeit, however, parkas, jackets and fleeces can be seen on coat hangers and seatbacks year round. Not that the citizens necessarily wear them.

    There is one thing especially that surprises visitors to Albeit: just how cold it can be at any given time—not just the winter months, where convenience-store thermometers have been known to “run empty” or drop below their scale, but in the summer, too. The first shopping trip for fall tourists is often the jacket store, if only because they didn’t believe the weather sites.

    Albeit does not have a climate as much as it has an eight-month winter and an “offseason.” Snow has fallen here as late as June and as early as September; even in the months that comprise what Albeitians call summer, temperatures have been recorded in the mid-thirties. These are abnormalities, of course, but not too far off the beaten meteorological path.

    The second thing that surprises visitors, however, is how accommodating the city is to the subzero temperatures. One would expect that Albeit residents have come to despise the cold air that occupies nearly every day of their lives, yet few seem to mind. It’s hard to explain just why, though given that 80 percent of Albeitians have lived in Idaho all their lives, most have rugged enough skin to handle the cold. Besides, anyone with an aversion to cold weather would have moved out by September.

    Temperature is certainly the defining point of Albeit’s climate. But meteorology goes far beyond the thermometer, and it would not do justice to skip over the city’s other climate characteristics.

    One look at a satellite map reveals that Albeit doesn’t get much precipitation. Areas to the south and east appear lush and green, but there is no mistaking from above that the city receives little rain down below. Of course, there are plenty of exceptions. Heavy snow loves nothing more than to track directly over the city, dumping upwards of a foot before disappearing over the mountains. Ski country is some distance away, but Albeit tides themselves over with mammoth sled ramps (meant for adults, too) that thread through some of the city’s byways. For the most part, however, the Globe’s weather section displays many more suns than they do clouds. Enough suns to cause an average of three major droughts per decade.

    Day-by-day weather excluded, Albeit’s weather seems to be twins with Idaho’s as a whole. Winds and pressure are variable, but manageable. The risk of tornados is minimal—and that of hurricanes and volcanoes, all but zero. Local stations in Du Bois and Rexburg often post the exact same readings as does the console at Albeit International; in a portion of the state that’s known more for its farming than for its mountains or forests, there are few microclimates. Rather rarely gets more severe than the occasional hailstorm.

    It may seem pointless to write an article about Albeit’s weather. One need not understand orographic lifting or anticyclones to know that the city is usually cold come July and iced-over come December. What justifies the word count are the citizens’ reactions. These residents, instead of walking around with parkas and quilted jackets burying their features, dare to step outside in minus-ten weather and raise their arms to the sky. For them, the weather is not just a source of snow and rain, but of pride.

There goes an idiomatic saying in the city: “You’re not an Albeitian until you get hypothermia and fail to notice.” That joke goes a long way towards describing the climate here—and how citizens react to it.

    

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“Quadrantism” in Albeit—2F

“Quadrantism” in Albeit

7/17/08

Kenneth Burchfiel


If it’s true that humans instinctively divide themselves, Albeit is a great piece of supporting detail. The residents live in a community divided into four separate Quadrants, each of which contains anywhere from one to five Cantons. If it’s also true that humans instinctively stereotype, Albeit certainly doesn’t defy the status quo.

    The four Quadrants—Northwest, Southwest, Northeast and Southeast—are no more than a few miles apart at their corners, yet the residents of Albeit often act as if each lies in a different continent. The resulting stereotypes and blanket statements have never gotten destructive enough to warrant an anti-“Quadrantism” campaign. Even so, any Albeitian who makes the mistake of identifying him or herself by a section of the city is making a risky move.

    Albeit’s residents, of course, are stereotyped as anti-materialist and creative, but also poor, odd and somewhat secretive. (The city has a long tradition of embracing all of these terms, especially those that separate them from the mainstream.) Thus, one shouldn’t think of the Quadrant-specific language as overriding that which pertains to all of the Cantons. The following is a general overview of the preconceptions and biases that affect specific parts of the Albeit region.

    One might as well start with Southeast, the largest of the Quadrants. Stereotyping this area is quite tricky, as its Cantons range from entertainment centers to housing projects, from universities to Postball stadiums. Anyone who hails from Southeast is expected to give their specific Canton; otherwise, the person whom they address will have a host of contrasting stereotypes to pick from. (Perhaps this is a good thing.)

    There are a few adjectives that have come to define the entire region, however. Most people in Southeast are known to be a little bit quirky; in Albeit, the common phrase is “a pink flamingo mentality.” Hauraki, the southernmost Canton in Southeast, is indeed known for the flocks of plastic flamingos that adorn some of the lawns. Southeasterners are considered wealthier than their neighbors in Southwest and Northeast, but this isn’t to say that every resident has a mansion and a Rolls. Indeed, Elam—known more or less as “The Welfare Canton—” is the poorest area in all of Albeit.

    Moving into Southwest, clearer generalizations begin to appear. This part of the city was relatively uninhabited into the mid-nineties, but experienced a matriculation of “Old School” residents who wanted to escape the increasingly mainstream Cantons of Southeast. As a result, Southwest residents are known for their independence and need for space. The stereotypical Southwesterner also has a love for the outdoors and tends to live frugally. Such generalizations fit more with the outskirt Cantons of Slat and Pacfyst than with the densely populated canton of Phoebe. Though inhabitants of Southwest are perceived as genial and friendly, they’re also known for their rampant idealism—which, from time to time, gets in the way of friendships and commitments.

    Northeast truly is a tale of two Cantons as far as stereotypes are concerned. On the western side lies Graupel, an area without much money and excitement but known for its committed, passionate citizens who just never seem to pick up much luck. Graupel is the only part of Albeit that has a working industrial sector, adding the factory worker stereotype to the bag. A trip East, however, takes residents into the most stereotyped (and most accurately stereotyped) Canton of all: Em. Sadly, the popular image of drug-riddled, bullet-plugged Dry Street tends to hold true for most of the residents. This is an area that the police more or less gave up on by the turn of the millennium; as a result, the Canton managed to suck up all the crime from the rest of the city and dispose of it on Em streets. By 2005, eight out of ten residents had at least some involvement in crime.

    On the opposite side of the spectrum is Northwest, a one-Canton Quadrant that has somehow managed to irk almost all residents outside its borders. Residents of NW are labeled as cosmopolitan, fashion-loving, white-collar citizens who don’t care for the city’s traditions of independence and creative fraternity. True for all residents? No, especially those who moved specifically to “win back” the Canton for Albeit proper. Nevertheless, Northwest proves a relatively simple Canton to caricature.

    Once nothing but an aid for postal workers, the Quadrant system has since led to stereotypes and generalizations about each section of the city. It’s never easy to make blanket statements in Albeit, but the preconceptions people have about each Quadrant—at the very least—shed some light on the social differences among Albeit’s residents.

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A Coordinated City—2C

A Coordinate(d) City—2C

6/12/08

Kenneth Burchfiel

For someone to understand any map or overview of Albeit, they must first be familiar with two things. The first is the Canton system; it has been covered in a previous article. The second, perhaps just as important, is the structuring of the city around geographic coordinates.

Albeit was planned and designed in the midst of a navigation renaissance; new Global Positioning Systems, if not handheld, made it much easier to locate one’s place on the world. The preliminary Albeitian government chose to capitalize on this trend by making their city “Navigationally Inclined;” their hopes were to construct a city that was GPS-friendly in all aspects.

It was a strange goal, but they certainly achieved it.

The innards of Albeit might have been designed at the whim of landscape architects, but the city’s skeleton was inspired by geography. Each of the eleven Cantons, or partitioned neighborhoods, takes up one square minute in area. Stranger yet, the borders of each Canton fall exactly on the start point of latitudinal and longitudinal minutes, meaning the roads running in between them (Canstras) simply overlap the lines one might find on a globe. (The central point of Albeit, for example, is located exactly at 44 11′ N, 111 44′ W. The palindrome these coordinates create is a common sight on T-shirts and restaurant windows.) Things remain oriented underground; each and every Inter-Canton subway system lies on the intersection of a longitudinal and latitudinal minute. Never mind that barely any GPS works in the tunnels.

It’s difficult to say whether the geographic touch paid off. Albeit did become a prized destination for the navigationally inclined, but most residents reflect on the perfectly oriented streets and fine-tuned layout with a shrug. Most people are happy enough that the roads are smooth and the trains punctual; the alignment is just icing on the cake.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that some of Albeit’s residents would take the coordinate system to a new level. As the years progress, more and more neighborhoods are exchanging their traditional house numbers for a geographic alternative: the exact location of their home, in seconds. With just as many roads showing the latitude or longitude line on which they run, finding a destination can be as easy as whipping out the GPS and punching in the coordinates. One popular mapmaking company in Albeit, “Inside the Box,” has used the unique layout to its advantage: instead of listing properties by address, it provides geographic coordinates for unnamed buildings and encourages readers to discover their identity.

Many would claim that the geographic quirks to the city are anachronisms from a positioning satellite-obsessed era. Then again, the system doesn’t have to be practical to be appreciated. Albeit has always been a place that loves to distance itself from the mainstream; if it takes a layout based on coordinates to make the city unique, so be it.

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The Canton System—2B

The Canton system

6/12/08

Kenneth Burchfiel

    For one to understand Albeit, it is absolutely imperative that they understand the Canton system that lays at the root of its uniqueness.

    In just about all cities, “neighborhoods” are mere shades of the city as a whole; minor deviations in culture and architecture from one region to the next. Boundaries between one section and another are blurry and dynamic, with some zones changing completely within the span of a year.

    This is the status quo that Albeit contrasts with. Its eleven “Cantons” are as clear-cut, unique and rooted in tradition as they come. These individual zones are both the founding element of the city and a force of change in the present.

    On September 24, 1978, the official date of Albeit’s foundation as a city, the “Canton System” was introduced to the local public and the viewing world alike. The concept was simple: instead of starting construction at one point and branching outward, contributing to sprawl and a lack of metropolitan identity, Albeit planners portioned off 11 sections of land to 11 world-famous landscape designers. Measuring about 0.718 nautical miles (longitude) by 1.00 nautical miles (latitude,) these giant portions of Albeit were all designed, mapped out and constructed individually; as a result, each and every one had an appearance to call its own. Each Canton reflected the individual ideas of its designer.

    By the mid eighties, each section of Albeit had a unique flavor of architecture, dining and culture. Residents of each Canton took pride in their status as, say, an “Unterwaldie” or a “Paccie,” and did their best to distinguish themselves from one another. By choice, each of the eleven districts was markedly different from one another by the beginning of the nineties. Some went so far as to identify themselves by their Canton instead of their city, writing “Graupel” or “Phoebe” on envelopes instead of Albeit.

    For some, it is a wonder that the city did not merely disintegrate into eleven pieces. Credit for the city’s relative unity goes primarily to the extensive transportation grid that links every Canton with one another.

    Although the eleven designers had free reign over the inner contents of their eleven neighborhoods, the border of each lay firmly in the government’s hands. “Canstras” (A play on Canton and Strasse, the German word for street) run in between each region and make up the city’s main road network. Underground, things get even more complex. Albeit’s massive subway line includes both inner-Canton rail and inter-Canton rail, the latter of which comprises 20 subway interchanges. Incentives like these ensure that the city stays physically unified, even if each Canton’s culture seeks to be distinctive.

    It is this large-scale division problem, this equal portioning of the city boundaries that sets Albeit apart from all other cities. Washington, DC has one large road diagram; Albeit, ID has eleven. Rome and Munich each have their respective architectural styles, but the city of Cantons has nearly a dozen. In most states and countries, it takes a good hour of driving to see any change in the local culture. Not so with Albeit. One trip through the city is all it takes to go from utilitarian to whimsical, bread-and-butter to architecturally exotic. Other cities can have their singular baseball and basketball teams; here in Albeit, the competitive spirit runs deep through each neighborhood. It’s not uncommon for an Inter-Canton baseball game to garner a higher audience than a professional match against New York.

    The greatest consequence of this alternative to city planning, of course, is that Albeit cannot be studied in the singular. Treating all the Cantons as one would be as gross a generalization as grouping the residents of Dallas and Moscow together. A study of Albeitian construction, for example, would have to include the individual architecture styles of all eleven districts, lest one or two neighborhoods speak on behalf of all the rest.

    Is this to say that no unifying themes exist? Of course not. For example, the A-frame house is a mainstay in every single Canton in Albeit, as is the game of Alball. What makes each neighborhood special is its unique approach to these overhanging standards. For example, A-frame houses in Noluevac have gables on all four sides, flat rooftops in Elam and raised bases in Phoebe.

Divisive as they might appear to be, Albeit’s 11 Cantons are a source of camaraderie for almost every resident of the city. Unified as they are by road and rail, the neighborhoods are best studied apart—not together. Only then does the sheer diversity and splendor of greater Albeit begin to show.

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The Albeit Manifesto–2j

The Albeit Manifesto—2j

5/30/2008

Kenneth Burchfiel

One popular tradition for incoming residents is to write a paragraph or two explaining the reason for their move, then give it to family and friends. These ‘manifestos’ have become popular enough to spawn an off-the-wall memorial: Manifesto Wall in Spengler is a forty foot-long wall of concrete on which residents may pin up new manifestos.

Perhaps the most famous manifesto of all is that of Anthony Patron, a famous author and critic who made the move to Albeit after visiting the city. Some consider his essay to be a spot-on representation of Albeit’s citizens, values and goals; others say that Patron’s piece represents only the anti-establishment Albeitian and doesn’t take into account the majority of the population, who shares Patron’s love for adventure and creativity but not his hatred of the mainstream. Both groups do agree that his “Albeit Manifesto” has stood the test of time since its 1983 rendition; indeed, it occupies the centermost spot on the Spengler wall.

My reasons for living in Albeit: a Manifesto

The cities of the “modern world” have become polluted, filled with the packaged waste of corporations and the mainstream media. The citizens of each identify themselves as such, but American cities are all browning leaves of the same conformist stem. Television and the white-collar industry have made each city practically the same.

All through this land, humans have strained to maintain their deepest principles. Faith, hope and love are not alien to them; neither is a love for adventure. For them, the future looks as bleak and bland as the urban world in which they struggle to reside.

For 30 years, I have lived out a mental battle in New York. This city told me to love money. I refused. This city told me to love fine dining, flashy automobiles and stucco houses. Again, I refused. The aggravated city then goaded me into hobnobbing with cash-inflated socialites, and I spat in its face. And so, with my pen pointed West, I leave for Albeit.

My destination is a city that defends values–love for the poor, love for each other, love for God–in a time when the words “purpose” and “meaning” are becoming anachronisms. The town may very well be the last outpost on Eart for creativity, a lone hearth against the howling winds of passive materialism and indifference. Only in Albeit do citizens have the resolve and courage to live the life they know to be right.

But how can one even begin to write out the reasons for leaving? There are arrows in my heart, and they point towards Albeit—that is the only way to explain it. People ask why I leave New York for a city of lesser wealth and a lesser population. The answer is simple: my arrival destination is richer in spirit and contains more true individuals than any other spot I know. In New York, the money and the people are all the same. But now, I prepare to join a collection of citizens who have overcome the simple desires for money, power and acceptance to reach a new plane of meaning. 

Some describe Albeit as an “Alternative City.” This misconceived term never fails to irritate me. This place was not conceived in a knee-jerk reaction to modern society. It is built out of different material.

My departure will not be drawn out; indeed, I might already have arrived. Albeit is not a physical location as much as a corner of the mind. It is more than possible to live within its borders and still be miles away, but likewise, one can proclaim themselves a citizen without ever seeing it in person. I like to think that I’ve been an Albeitian for the last thirty years. This is my chance to meet the other 729,000 of them.

You are free to criticize me for this move. Write what you will in the magazines and the “social papers,” rest assured, I won’t be around to read it. There simply came a time in my life when the need for love, community and spirit finally overcame my primitive urges for cash, acceptance and power. There are thousands of cities that accommodate those seeking the latter desires; only one city, that western outpost called Albeit, satisfies mine.

Anthony Patron

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The town that set out to be sincere

The town that set out to be sincere—2a

5/25/2008

Kenneth Burchfiel

There is a popular story that Albeit’s citizens like to tell those around them. It goes something like this. In 2006, according to an observer’s blog, a man from out of town—Chicago, most people say—walked up to an Albeit resident and asked where the nearest McDonald’s was.

“McDonalds,” the man said. “Sir, I’m assuming you’re from out of town?”

“I am,” the Chicago resident said.

“You can eat McDonalds any day that you want. But you’re in Albeit now, and my advice is that you avoid McDonalds like the plague. It’s not the local thing to do.”

He then steered the man towards Kino’s, a popular theatre-and-dinner restaurant in Spengler. Rumor has it that the man enjoyed his meal so much that he moved to Albeit a few years later. At the least, he enjoyed his meal enough to put the restaurant on the map.

“The local thing” is an important part of Albeit’s terminology, right along with “the outside thing.” For most residents, shopping at malls in an outside thing; knocking on a neighbor’s door and offering to sell a potted plant is a local thing. Watching basketball or football on TV is an outside thing; kicking back with a drink to a good game of Alball or Mensch is a local thing. Joining a glass-skyscraper corporation is an outside thing; teaming up with a group of friends to sell romantic paintings in the middle of an intersection… local, to the core.

Every so often, someone criticizes an Albeitian for being elitist and “rejecting” the world that surrounds them. This is rather humorous, as most of Albeit’s residents live rather close to the poverty line and wouldn’t be caught dead at a country club—let alone an IKEA.

To be fair, there are plenty of citizens here that love the selection at McDonalds, follow the NFL as closely as they would their child and have a cubicle for a second home. But just as Bavaria is known for its lederhosen and France for its berets, so Albeit is judged by its honest critique of the mainstream.

With all this in mind, it’s easy to view Albeit as a group of anti-social, oddball inhabitants. It’s a fallacy that most of the city’s critics fall into. Albeit does not “reject” society; it seeks to become a true society, where individuals are interdependent and love one another. This society might have been created in response to the norm, but given time, it became something greater than the negative image of urban America. Those who put up with Albeit for long enough discover a sense of warmth, excitement and mutuality that melts outside allegations of elitism or indifference.

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