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Friday, 28 January 2022

Typewriter Eye Candy: Engin Turhan's Technology Collection in Ankara, Turkey














Typewriters in Mexican Journalist Protests

An Olivetti portable typewriter has once more featured in protests in Mexico over the killing of journalists. This photo was taken in the Zócalo, the main square in central Mexico City, where journalists from the state of Veracruz in eastern Mexico displayed images of murdered colleagues. Last Tuesday Mexican journalists started nationwide protests to denounce the murders of three reporters, demanding an end to impunity that has often characterised the killings of their colleagues. The protests follow the murder of seasoned journalist Lourdes Maldonado last Sunday, some three years after she raised the issue of killings with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and said she feared for her life. Protesters in the central state of Puebla laid flowers and candles on the street along with signs that read “I'm angry at censorship”, while in the northern state of Chihuahua protesters scrawled on a wall “Journalism is a risk” and drew the face of Maldonado. Israel Ibarra, president at a Baja California communications college, said if government and society failed to act they would be “complicit” not only in the murders of Maldonado and others but “the murder of freedom of expression in Mexico”. Mexico is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists, and 145 have been killed between 2000-2021, according to Article 19, an advocacy group.

Reporters also held a vigil in the Journalist's Square in Ciudad Juarez and in Veracruz after the Mexican journalist networks voted to stage the gatherings, which coincides with online protest campaigns. “It is matter of urgency that state and federal authorities prevent attacks, protect journalists when they are victims, and investigate crimes committed against the press with due diligence," Article 19 said.

Maldonado's murder in the northern border city of Tijuana, where she worked for many years, followed the killings of two other Mexican journalists this month. Lopez Obrador, who has been criticized for not doing more to protect reporters, said his government would investigate and “clear up this crime to prevent further murders of journalists”. Critics say Lopez Obrador has failed to deliver on pledges to reduce violence, combat deeply entrenched organised crime, or reduce impunity. The president says crime and violence are the products of chronic corruption and inequality.


An Olivetti portable typewriter was used in a similar protest in August 2010, after the abduction of four journalists by the Pacifico drug cartel to demand television stations broadcast a video linking the Durango state government to a rival drug gang.

Thursday, 27 January 2022

Liberating the Stories Behind the Characters and the Typewriters in ‘The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun’

The publisher-editor of The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun was orginally to be called Leibling, after Abbott Joseph Liebling. It was changed to Arthur Howitzer Jr, but the back strory of how Howitzer came to be in France remained Liebling's.

It had been a long, agonising 10 weeks. Yesterday we were finally able to go to a movie theatre and see Wes Anderson’s latest quirky offering, The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. It is tout simplement magnifique, as they might say in Ennui-sur-Blasé, which, as it turns out, is anything but bore-dering on the jaded. After all, it's “the Paris of Jacques Tati” (actually, it's Angoulême) and the opening scene is a homage to the one in Tati's Mon Oncle, one of my all-time favourite films. Any movie featuring so many machines à écrire is going to be absolutely brilliant anyway. What's more, given it is Anderson’s “love letter to journalists”, it was a top-of-the-wozza must-see.


Ten weeks ago we were alerted to the existence of this new Anderson film, which had been released in the United States on October 22. A friend had picked up and dropped off one of those wonderful mock 20-page copies of The French Dispatch magazine, illustrated
 by Spanish artist Javi Aznarez, in this case 149 Série, N° 12, at “200 Old Francs”. Our friend found it at a cinema complex and, like us a subscriber to The New Yorker, she recognised the cover style straight away. Seeing a typewriter advert on the back cover, Penny knew it would be of great interest in this household. She wasn't wrong. Our sense of anticipation thus heightened to the max, we waited impatiently for a chance to see The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. And yesterday it came. Well worth the wait!

The back cover of The French Dispatch magazine, right,
and the Hermes Baby poster upon which it was based, left.

An illustration of A.J. Liebling by Javi Aznarez in The French Dispatch magazine.

Anjelica Huston’s voiceover at the beginning of the film explains that the publisher-editor of The French Dispatch, Arthur Howitzer Jr (played by Bill Murray) had, in his youth, convinced his father (proprietor of the Liberty Kansas Evening Sun) to finance a series of travelogue columns from France to be published in the “Sunday Picnic” section of the Kansas newspaper. As soon as I heard Huston’s words, I recognised them as essentially A.J. Liebling’s story. In 1926, Liebling's father, wealthy New York furrier Joe Liebling, asked his son if he would like to suspend his budding career as a journalist to study in Paris for a year. Liebling, fearing his father might change his mind, concocted a yarn that he was thinking of marrying a woman 10 years his senior, a woman “being kept by a cotton broker from Memphis, Tennessee”. Joe senior promptly sent a letter of credit for $2000 and a reservation on the Caronia. Joe Jr sailed to Europe and studied French medieval literature at the Sorbonne in Paris, all the while absorbing French life and food. The experience inspired a lifelong love for France and the French. 

  That's a Japy on Bill Murray's desk, by the way, masquerading as an "Andretti Ribbon-Mate".

In An Editor’s Burial (Howitzer dies at both the beginning and end of the movie) - Journals and Journalism From The New Yorker and Other Magazines: Inspirations for The French Dispatch, an American Empirical Picture by Wes Anderson edited by David Brendel and published by Pushkin Press, Anderson tells The New Yorker’s articles editor Susan Morrison “Originally, we were calling the editor character Liebling, not Howitzer, because the face I always pictured was A.J. Liebling’s. We tried to make Bill Murray sort of look like him, I think. Remember, he says he tricked his father into paying for his early sojourn in Paris by telling him he was thinking of marrying a good woman who was 10 years older than he, although ‘Mother might think she is a bit fast’ … ” The Anderson-Morrison interview appeared in The New Yorker last September 5, under the headline, "How Wes Anderson Turned The New Yorker into The French Dispatch".

Illustration by Toma Vagner

For all that, it's a little odd that the Roebuck Wright character played by Jeffrey Wright (above) is a food journalist based on an amalgamation of James Baldwin and A. J. Liebling.” It's a memorable part, played extremely well by Wright. But Baldwin and Liebling? Seriously? (By the way, Wright and Bill Murray were also together in Broken Flowers, which featured a pink Olympia.)

The most discordant part of the movie, from the point of view of typewriter use (and there’s a lot of it), involves poor old (looking) Frances McDormand as Lucinda Krementz, a journalist profiling the French student revolutionaries of 1968 (in real life Mavis Gallant). The machine the props people have given Frances to use to type in bed (with Timothée Chalamet as Zeffirelli, a student revolutionary) is one of those awful plastic versions of the Hermes Baby, for goodness sake! I’ve never tried to type on one of the plastic models while sitting up in bed, but the sound of a plastic portable typewriter is, in itself, sufficiently grating to put one off the idea. (Frances is later seen typing her report on a red plastic Hermes Baby.)

Below, the real Mavis Gallant using a metal Smith-Corona.
The portable typewriter on Bill Murray's editor's desk is a mock-up of a Japy, masquerading as an Andretti Ribbon-Mate, a product of Ateliers Andretti and Brothers. And why not? This model is also known by a vast array of different brand names, and is part of what Georg Sommeregger insists should be known as the Euro Portable Clan. Here we see Jeffrey Wright starting to type Horiwitz's obituary (the corpse is stretched out on the editor's desk), and below that different sizes of the mock-ups - the smaller versions using bottle tops as platen knobs:
Here are some real-life variations:
There is also what looks like a Hermes Media/3000 in the editorial office:
And others:
Please go see this movie. It's totally:

Wednesday, 26 January 2022

The Cooee March, the Corona Portable Typewriter and the first Australia Day*


On the weekend of October 2-3, 1915, 43-year-old career public servant Edward Hugh Palmer took his Corona portable typewriter with him on a 546-mile round train journey, northwest of Sydney to the Central West New South Wales town of Gilgandra and back. There was an intense sense of urgency about his mission. Since the beginning of May, five months earlier, casualty lists revealing the slaughter of Australian and New Zealand troops at Gallipoli and on the Western Front had been appearing in Australian newspapers, and the nation was naturally appalled. Many Australians, especially the mothers of enlisted soldiers, quickly formed the opinion that “enough was already enough”. Where once young Australian men had queued up to enlist to fight for the English king and his country, now recruiting had stalled almost to a standstill. Palmer, secretary of the New South Wales State War Council, and a man vitally concerned with recruitment, had on September 1 read news in the Australian Town and Country Journal that a 51-year-old Gilgandra plumber called Bill Hitchen was proposing a “moving army” recruitment march from Gilgandra to Sydney. This was exactly the type of movement Palmer badly needed. Indeed, it was a recruitment officer’s dream come true. As Hitchen and his Gilgandra march organisers cried out for some sort of official endorsement for their plans, Palmer raced to Gilgandra to find out for himself what was happening there. On October 5 he took out his Corona and typed a three-page letter to his superiors in Sydney, strongly advising moral and material support for the Gilgandra marchers.

Edward Hugh Palmer


The “snowball march” which set off from Gilgandra on October 10 became known as the “Cooee March”. Twenty-six men started out, led by Hitchen. At each town on the route the marchers shouted "cooee" to attract recruits and held recruitment meetings. By the time they reached Sydney just over a month later, on November 12, the numbers had swelled to 263 recruits. The march had covered 320 miles. Cooee! is a shout originated in Australia to attract attention, find missing people, or indicate one's own location. The word originates from the Dharug language of Aboriginal Australians in the Sydney area. It means “come here” and has now become widely used in Australia as a call over distances.


By October 1915 Palmer’s word was near to being gospel in Sydney. He had already organised, with enormous financial success, two appeals, called the Belgian Day Fund and Australia Day Fund.  The latter was held on July 30, a date which has no particular relevance in Australian history. Nonetheless, this 1915 event, launched to raise money for the Red Cross to aid wounded soldiers, is considered by some historians to be the first Australia Day.

Medal presented to Mrs Wharfton-Kirke

The idea came from a Mrs Ellen Wharton-Kirke of Manly, Sydney, whose four sons had enlisted and who suggested a fund raising event in this form of Australia Day to NSW State Premier Sir Charles Wade. By August 3, a staggering £739,489 had been raised in NSW, Victoria, South Australia, West Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. That sum surpassed even the massive amount raised in May on behalf of stricken Belgians.

Edward Hugh Palmer, right, born in Sydney in 1872, the son of NSW Civil Service Board secretary Edward Gillett Worcester Palmer (1842-1914), joined the NSW public service himself in 1892. He was moved from treasury to become one of the first officials appointed to the NSW Premier’s Office when it was established in 1907. In 1912-13 he was sent to London on special duties, working for the NSW Agent-General Sir Timothy Coghlan. Back in Sydney, Palmer, as well as being the driving force behind the two fund raising events, was deeply involved in pushing for the creation of Anzac Day, first celebrated in 1916, as well as with repatriation for soldiers. He later became superintendent of the NSW Immigration and Tourist Bureau and resident controller of the Jenolan Caves, limestone caves in the Central Tablelands region, west of the Blue Mountains, 109 miles west of Sydney. The caves are the most ancient discovered open caves in the world and include Silurian marine fossils.

New South Wales was hit by the “Spanish flu” pandemic on January 27, 1919, and a month later it reached Jenolan. Palmer coordinated the response and converted his bungalow residence to a hospital. He organised for doctors to tend to the sick and installed an inhaling chamber. The NSW Government approved of Palmer’s suggestion to use Caves House for 40 convalescent nurses. Palmer retired at the end of 1921 because of ill-health and died at Bulli on February 26, 1922, leaving a widow and three children.

*Today, January 26, is Australia Day, as it has been nationally since 1935. It marks the anniversary of the 1788 landing of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove and the raising of the Union Flag by Arthur Phillip.