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Saturday, 13 August 2022

When Jeff Missed Out To The Typewriter Guy

While I was cleaning up this Remington Noiseless portable for today’s typewriter presentation, I came across what I at first took to be a bit of foliage or piece of cloth buried inside the workings of the machine. Nothing unusual in that. I brushed it out and only some time later looked more closely at it - and realised it was a typed slip of paper. “Do you love me or Jeff” was the plaintive cry of the guy who once owned this lovely machine. “No” the future Mrs Typewriter Guy seems to have written on it in pencil. I’m taking it to mean she didn’t love Jeff, just the Typewriter Guy. Lovers of typewriters, after all, make the best lovers. What’s your interpretation?

Friday, 8 July 2022

RIP James Caan (1940-2022)

Actor James Caan, who died in Los Angeles on Wednesday, aged 82, will be best remembered by typewriter lovers for his manhandling of a Royal 10 standard in the 1990 movie Misery. He also used a Smith-Corona electric portable in that film, and it wasn't the only movie in which Caan used a typewriter. He was seen typing on an L.C. Smith in 1975's Funny Girl, in which he played impresario and theatrical showman Billy Rose, opposite Barbra Streisand as comedienne Fanny Brice, Rose's first wife, and also in Neil Simon's semi-autobographical Chapter Two in 1979, in which Caan played George Schneider, a New York City author. In this movie Caan was also using a Royal, but a much more modern Ultronic electric. James Edmund Caan was born in The Bronx on March 26, 1940.

The stunt typewriter

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Typewriter Dinkuses

Did you know dinkuses, the plural of dinkus, is an anagram of unkissed? Yet there once was many a time when, rushing against deadline to make up a sports page on an evening newspaper’s stone floor, that I kissed the wooden back side of a dinkus, offered to me by a compositor as a way of filling a gaping hole, left by a story which had fallen an inch or so short. In more recent times, I have gathered a small collection of typewriter-related dinkuses, as has Peter Weill (see ETCetera No 109, Summer 2015).

A couple of my typewriter dinkuses mounted on wooden blocks.
In the digital age, Richard Polt’s efforts, between 2015-18, to get the emoji subcommittee of the Unicode Technical Committee to accept a typewriter emoji have been as yet unsuccessful, but he remains determined. As he said back in May, “The typewriter still powerfully symbolizes the act and craft of creative writing.” (You can read about Richard’s submission here.)

Richard's suggested emojis.

In the meantime, we can always use the scan of a typewriter dinkus when we need one.

Seven years ago, Writing New South Wales tweeted that “dinkus” was a “new word from today”. It was at least 90 years behind the times, possibly as much as 140 years and maybe even 160 years. My own efforts to find the origin of the word dinkus, as I know it, relied in March 2011 on Australia’s Macquarie Dictionary, which said: “A dinkus is a small drawing used in printing to decorate a page, or to break up a block of type. It was coined by an artist on [Sydney’s] The Bulletin magazine in the 1920s, and it is derived from the word dinky, meaning ‘small’.” I now find that in 1952, the Melbourne Herald's head proof reader, Charles Crampton, said there was a printers' embossing tool called a "dinkus-and-die", with a "dinking" tool which fitted perfectly into the die. "Hence we get a 'dinky-die fit'." So from dinkus came the Australian term "dinkie-die", meaning straight and true ("It's not a lie, it's dinkie-die"), as well as the expression "fair dinkum" ("Fair dinkum, I use a typewriter all the time"). The Herald journalist, social commentator and activist E.W.Tipping said, "Printers call a small picture used to fill up a space in the compositor's forme a dinkus, the latter getting its name obviously from it being used to wedge tightly the type."

 Wiktionary gets it right by describing dinkus as “A small drawing or artwork used for decoration in a magazine or periodical”. In print newspapers in the hot metal days, a dinkus was usually used to give the eyes a momentary rest from reading a page of “grey matter” – that is, columns of a small black typeface on a light background. Wikipedia gets it wrong by confining dinkus to “a typographic symbol which often consists of three spaced asterisks in a horizontal row … The symbol has a variety of uses, and it usually denotes an intentional omission or a logical ‘break’ of varying degree in a written work.” Wikipedia compounds its mistake by adding, “In Australian English, particularly in the news media, the word refers to a small photograph of the author of a news article. Outside of Australia, this is often referred to as a headshot.” Wiki is most decidedly wrong on this count.

Last month (June), The New Yorker featured typewriter use in dinkuses (it calls them “spots”), one (seen at the top of this post) above a wonderful tribute to the late Roger Angell (“That Titian of the Typewriter”), written by the incomparable David Remnick, the other among the regular “spots” that run through the magazine, in this case showing people writing using all manner of machines and methods.

This last one was not entirely "new", as a similar idea had been used to advertise the Bar-Let portable typewriter in 1934:

Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Vale Frank Moorhouse (1938-2022)

Frank Moorhouse, one of Australia’s most celebrated and controversial writers, died early on Sunday morning at a hospital in Sydney, aged 83. Moorhouse wrote 18 books, many screenplays and countless essays. He was renowned for his use of the discontinuous narrative in works such as The Americans, Baby and Forty-Seventeen. He was a life-long activist who supported feminism, advocated for gay liberation and supported indigenous land rights. Moorhouse’s activism on behalf of authors led to him becoming a member of the distinguished writers panel for PEN, an international organisation for freedom of speech for poets, essayists and novelists. The 1989-2011 “Edith Trilogy”, a fictional account of the League of Nations and made up of the novels Grand Days, Dark Palace (which won him the 2001 Miles Franklin Literary Award) and Cold Light, affected the career paths of many women.

Moorhouse was born in the New South Wales town of Nowra a few days before Christmas 1938. His New Zealand-born father, electrical engineer, dairy machine inventor and manufacturer Frank Osborne Moorhouse, moved to Australia in 1925. The younger Frank began his working life in 1955 as a cadet reporter on Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and from 1957 worked as a journalist for the Wagga Wagga Advertiser, Riverina Express, Lockhart Review and Boorowa News. At 18 he published his first short story, “The Young Girl and the American Sailor”, in Southerly magazine. Moorhouse lived for many years in the Sydney suburb of Balmain, where together with Clive James, Germaine Greer and Robert Hughes he became part of the “Sydney Push” - an anti-censorship movement that protested against right-wing politics and championed freedom of speech and sexual liberation. 
Clive James at a Remington Rand.
Germaine Greer.
Robert Hughes at an Olivetti Lettera 32.

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

Searing Cutlass Typewriter in Taylor Swift Short

Taylor Swift last week “spilled secrets about her short film” All Too Well during a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. These included “why that red typewriter is so important” – the featured Sears Cutlass represents, apparently, “this dream and hope of being a writer”. It's a Smith-Corona manual portable sold under the Sears brand and, judging by Ted Munk's Typerwriter Database, reasonably common:

There are many online articles out there which explain more fully than I can be bothered to do the "relevance" of the typewriter to Swift's film.

Friday, 10 June 2022

Typewriters in the News

In Bloomington, Indiana, last week, a typewriter and a puppet of Kurt Vonnegut were part of the "Nature Tour of the Century" during the Granfalloon Festival. Granfalloon is an annual event of arts, music and scholarship inspired by Hoosier author Kurt Vonnegut. (Hoosier is the official demonym for the people of  Indiana; Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis.) Below are some images of Vonnegut with typewriters:

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, typewriters were displayed at the Richmond Museum's artifact storage warehouse during the "Doors Open Richmond" event last week. This is where the city stores historical artifact collections.

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Johnny Depp and Typewriter

Have you Heard? Johnny Depp isn't taking any money from Amber but has bought himself a Glasgow-made Remington portable typewriter to write lyrics for a song he'll perform with Jeff Beck.

Margin Release, and a Turning Point for ozTypewriter

ozTypewriter reached five million page views at 8.22 last night, June 8, and to celebrate the milestone we popped the cork on a bottle of Veuve Clicquot. A bit extravagant? Well, it’s been a long slog, 2917 posts in more than 11 years. The five-million mark has been both a goal and a cut-off point for me for some time now. My original intention was to stop blogging altogether, but with encouraging comments from the like of Ted, Joe, Bill and Dave, I’ve decided to merely apply the brakes, pull over and idle for a while. It’s not exactly a hibernation, certainly not a complete closure, but just slow-down time. I may, as Ted suggested, decide to turn off comments, for no other reason than that between blogging and fixing typewriters, I never have enough time to respond to all comments, or reply to emails for that matter. Plus, if everything goes according to Hoyle, we should be doing a fair bit of travelling in the second half of 2022.

Yes, ozTypewriter has become a bit of a yoke around my neck, so the plan is to continue posting, but only occasionally, certainly not with the same regularity with which I’ve tried to post since the end of February 2011. Before reaching five million page views, I simply hadn’t been able to get to all the posts I had planned to write – there are probably 30 or 40 ideas still floating about in this study, all of which I still intend to get to one day before I die. For all that, I do wonder about the ongoing relevance of ozTypewriter – online interest in typewriters, as reflected in the various social media sites and platforms, has definitely changed considerably since I started blogging. Sometimes the page view numbers just straggled along and I found myself urging on this "turning point". Blogging began to feel a little like too much hard work for scant return.

An unexpected part of yesterday's celebrations was to find this nice little Nakajima Litton Imperial portable typewriter in a Salvos store. We'd been clearing out things and donating stuff to the Salvos, when by chance I saw this Imperial hidden under a shelf. I can't remember the last time I found a typewriter at any op-shop in Canberra.
Anyway, enough of that … once I’ve recovered from last night’s celebrations I’ll start thinking about resuming posts and clearing the decks of typewriter history topics. There’s one post in particular I’ve been “getting to” for many weeks now, and it’s a bit of a “scoop” for ozTypewriter. In the meantime, we’ve just taking a bit of a break and will be back soon – although with nothing like the former ferocity

Wednesday, 8 June 2022

Erika Model 4 Folding Portable Typewriter

A young Canberra lady has entrusted me with the task of working on her great-grandfather's 1927 Erika model 4 folding portable typewriter (serial number 81633). The Model 4 was introudced in 1926, not 1923, as noted elsewhere (the Model 3 came out in 1923).

This is a real beauty. And I've got it typing beautifully, too. I did the scan above without putting in new ribbon, and one can imagine how brittle the ribbon has become after being in the machine for probably 70 years or more. From what I've been told about it, I doubt if this typewriter has been used in all that time. The capitals and figures shift keys were almost rigid from lack of use, and of course the feed rollers have flattened out.

The case it comes in has a sort of mock crocodile skin covering. The case has stickers from the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore (noted for the Gin Sling) and German shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd of Breman. Inside the case are the typewriter's original brushes. The Japanned paintwork is so shiny who can see your reflection in it.
These Erika portables were made by Seidel & Naumann in Dresden and sold in Australia as the Bijou. Although Bijous were taken to Egypt in 1915 by Australian military units, Prime Minister Billy Hughes, who used a lookalike Corona 3, briefly outlawed the importing company, Chartres, as an "alien" organisation because of the German origin of the Bijou. The Chartres family mostly imported and distributed Remingtons from the US, while the Stott family imported Underwoods.
The young lady's grandfather was German but apparently was in business in Thailand for most of his life. The brand name Erika comes from the grand-daughter of company founder Bruno Naumann.

Tuesday, 7 June 2022

A.J. Liebling and D-Day: Armed With a Typewriter

Each anniversary of D-Day, I’m reminded of A.J. Liebling, the more so since having had the extreme good fortune to find in a cut-price bin at the National Library in Canberra a few years ago a fabulous New Yorker collection called The 40s: The Story of a Decade. This included a couple of particularly brilliant Liebling articles written for The New Yorker, one about Paris immediately before its fall to the Nazis, the other about his landing at Normandy on Tuesday, June 6, 1944.

Liebling pulled some strings to get aboard a large infantry landing craft designated LCIL 88, embarking from Weymouth, Dorset. Typical of the great journalist that he was, Liebling had managed to use his connections with LCIL 88’s commander, Henry K. “Bunny” Rigg, who was rowing and boating correspondent for The New Yorker. Liebling’s description of US troops descending the ramp, heading into the shallow waters and their fate beyond, titled “Cross-Channel Trip (On D-Day)”, made watching Saving Private Ryan an experience akin to seeing a Disney fantasy after a Hitchcock thriller. One felt the blood and gore in Liebling's typewritten words, one didn’t need to see it or smell it on the page.  

Roger Angell, the baseball writer with the gently magic touch who died a few weeks ago, contributed a piece published in The New Yorker on the 2019 75th anniversary of D-Day. In it he said that “Liebling put himself at ease during the pause, most notably as a messmate. Liebling’s wide range of reporting often included loving passages about French cooking, but those who knew him always understood that there was more of the gourmand than of the gourmet behind this interest. In Rigg’s account, Liebling ate, and ate steadily, for the better part of three days aboard -and, after Joe [Liebling] had been safely put ashore, Rigg and his two companions found that there was nothing left in the larder for their return trip but a box of pilot crackers.” Those who saw Wes Anderson’s wonderful bit of whimsy, The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun, will recall that the character of food writer Roebuck Wright was in large part based on Liebling.

Another American journalist I think of on D-Day anniversaries is Bill Walton, above. By chance, on Sunday night, while waiting for my wife to return from Sydney by train, I happened to watch parts of a movie called Jackie. This is a 2016 biographical drama in which Natalie Portman plays Jacqueline Kennedy and the usually superb English actor Richard E. Grant is what seemed to me a rather wishy-washy Walton, an advisor to both Jackie and John F. Kennedy.

Time correspondent Walton parachuted into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne Division. In England he had worked with Mary Welsh, through whom, indirectly, he befriended Ernest Hemingway, who joined Walton in Cherbourg in mid-July 1944 and with Walton covered the first phase of the Battle of Hürtgen Forest in September-October. Hemingway saved Walton's life during the fighting after recognising the sound of a German plane and throwing Walton out of the jeep they were riding in, moments before it was strafed.

After Hemingway’s suicide in 1961,  Walton used his connections with the Kennedys to help Mary Welsh obtain a passport to Cuba to retrieve her husband's effects and papers. In return, Walton convinced her to deposit Hemingway’s papers at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, of which Walton became a trustee.

Bill Walton far right.

In 1997, when Soviet Union archives became available to US historians, it was revealed that in 1963 Walton had gone on a secret diplomatic mission to Moscow just eight days after Kennedy's assassination. At the behest of Robert F. Kennedy, he secretly met with Georgi Bolshakov, a Soviet journalist and spy who served as a backdoor channel between the Kennedy administration and the Soviet government. Walton carried a message from Robert Kennedy: Although Lyndon Johnson was a “sabre-rattling anti-communist”, Kennedy assured the Soviets that Johnson was nothing more than a “clever time-server incapable of realising Kennedy's unfinished plans”. Kennedy also informed the Soviets through Walton that he intended to run for president in 1968, and that if he won there would be a significant thaw in US-Soviet relations. Walton conveyed the Kennedy family's belief that the President had been the victim of a vast right-wing conspiracy and not a Soviet assassination.