Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The Typewriter Art of Janet Hill

Like many people, it seems, I came across Janet Hill's art serendipitously. In my case it was while sitting in a hospital ward the other day, reading Frankie magazine to while away the time. I could see instantly that Ms Hill likes her typewriters. Janet lives in a 151-year-old home in Stratford, Ontario, 80 miles south-west of typewriter city Toronto, where Martin Howard lives. The Hill cottage was built in 1867 for men working on a hotel at a time when the town was receiving an influx of visitors through a then new railway link. Thomas Edison, at age 16, worked as a telegraph operator for the Grand Trunk Railway at Stratford's railway station in 1863. Since then much less talented people, like Justin Bieber, have lived there.
Hill is a painter and author of children's books and with her husband, John Woodward, manager of the Fanfare Books bookstore in Stratford, operates Janet Hill Studio. Most of the images on this post can be found on Etsy.
 At the Ursula Academy for the Supernaturally Gifted
 The-Elephant and the Dancing Girl
 A Melodrama
 Reading, Writing, Crumpets and Tea
 Black Coffee and a Blueberry Muffin
 Still Life
Janet Hill in here home

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Karl Marx and Typewriters

What has Karl Marx got to do with typewriters? Well, not a lot really. As one commentator wrote a short while ago, " ... to young people for whom the Cold War is ancient history, Marxism may seem as relevant as a typewriter." The hide of him!
So why, then, is this German woman using a Triumph Norm-6 portable typewriter to write text about Marx at an exhibition exploring his works and life at his birth house in Trier? (It's now a museum, by the way, called Karl Marx House).
The exhibition opened a month ago, to mark Marx's 200th birthday (he was born on May 5, 1818, to be precise). The organisers might just as well have supplied (along with a Chinese-made statue of Marx) a Chinese typewriter, like a Flying Fish. The whole shebang is being paid for by the Chinese Government, leaders among those who still cling to Marxist ideals. But of course Marx didn't use a typewriter, though his handwriting was certainly bad enough to warrant one:
The home town of the legendary philosopher, economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, journalist and revolutionary socialist sits on the banks of the Moselle, in a valley between low vine-covered hills of red sandstone in the west of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, near the border with Luxembourg. During the festivities, Moselle wine is being served under the label “Das Kapital”. I kid you not.
Perhaps the closest Marx came to typewriters was 70 years after his death, when in 1953 Saxony city Chemnitz became known as Karl-Marx-Stadt, and stayed that way until the fall of the Berlin Wall. Chemnitz was the home of one of the massive Robotron factories (VEB Robotron-Buchungsmaschinenwerk) - though the Robotron plant that spewed out typewriters in their tens of thousands was in Dresden. (The machines being assembled below, in November 1971, are teleprinters and tape-point transmitters for the Soviet Union.)
In the absence of such manufacturers, and in the post-Cold War era, the Chinese have capitalised by, among other things, continuing to make typewriters. But in Beijing, Chinese president Xi Jinping used Marx's birthday to reinforce Marxist ideals. Sidney Rittenberg, a journalist who joined Mao Zedong’s revolution and served for years as his translator, said, “Xi is depending on restoring the theoretical soul of the Chinese people. They built a better life and made money, but they lost their soul and I think he's  trying to restore that.” Xi told a Politburo session in late April that officials need to “grasp the power of the truth of Marxism” and view the Chinese Communist Party as the heir of the “spirit of the Communist Manifesto” [which was first published 170 years ago].  
Back in Trier, however, a city spokesperson told the Xinhua news agency that townsfolk “have long been a bit ashamed about Marx”. And that might have something to do with the Berlin Wall, too.
Maybe, amid all these confused loyalities. the festival organisers were thrown by the portable typewriter below, though I don't think that's another member of the Marx family, Groucho, with Greta Garbo as Nina Ivanovna Yakushova in Ninotachka (in fact it's Felix Bressart.)
As for me, my only connection with Marx and typewriters is yet another relation, Louis Marx:

Friday, 1 June 2018

Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s Groma Kolibri

Russian writer Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s Gromo Kolibri portable typewriter is part of the exhibition which opened on May 22 at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art on Gogolevsky Boulevard, to mark Petrushevaskaya's 80th birthday. The exhibition, curated by Kommersant literary critic Anna Narinskaya and designed by Katya Bochavar, continues until July 22. Narinskaya also curated the 2016 exhibition "200 Keystrokes per Minute: The Typewriter and the 20th-Century Consciousness" at MMOMA. The latest exhibition is sponsored by Moscow's Metropol Hotel, where Petrushevskaya was born.
MMOMA says, "The early 1970s marked the beginning of the Petrushevskaya epoch - it is then that her short-stories started to be retyped on typewriters and distributed. Her early pieces such as Cinzano, Music Lessons and Three Girls in Blue boldly depict women of the stagnation period. At that time only [a] few voiced the issue of the independence of women - although it had been declared formally by the Soviet state, it was far away from reality."
Lyudmila Stefanovna Petrushevskaya was born on May 26, 1938, to Stefan and Valentina Nikolaevna Petrushevskay. They lived at the Metropol with her great-grandfather, Ilya Sergeevich Veger, a Bolshevik, doctor and commissar. 
Petrushevskaya is both a novelist and playwright who has been compared in style to Anton Chekhov and in influence to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Her novels include The Time: Night (1992) and notable among collections of short stories is There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby, which was published in the US by Penguin Books in 2009 and became a New York Times Book Review bestseller. The New York Times pronounced her "a contemporary Edgar Allan Poe'. Another collection followed in 2013, There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself. Last year she published a memoir, The Girl from the Metropol Hotel. 
In 1941 Petrushevskaya's father Stefan, a Bolshevik intellectual, was declared an enemy of the state and abandoned Lyudmila and her mother Valentina. The pair were forced to flee for Kuibyshev (now Samara) and Petrushevskaya spent a harrowing early childhood in group homes, on the streets, and later in communal apartments. She returned to Moscow in 1947 and went on to attend Moscow State University, graduating with a degree in journalism. With Gorbachev-era reforms, she was able to publish novels and short stories that she had previously kept to herself.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

RIP Philip Roth (1933-2018)

Philip Roth was one of the first writers who made me want to write myself. I read Goodbye, Columbus in my early teens, around the time of my "Anthony Marks period", and it remains one of my favourite books. I hoped Roth would produce more of the same, but for me he didn't. He said in 1981, “My autobiography would consist almost entirely of chapters about me sitting alone in a room looking at a typewriter. The uneventfulness … would make Beckett’s The Unnamable read like Dickens.” Little did I know, even back then, that the typewriter he looked at was the same model I often contemplated, an Olivetti Lettera 32.
Philip Milton Roth died on Tuesday at a Manhattan hospital of congestive heart failure, aged 85. He was born on March 19, 1933, in Newark, New Jersey.
Roth's first gained fame with the 1959 novella Goodbye, Columbus, and he went on to be one of the most awarded American writers of his generation.

Monday, 21 May 2018

How Paddy Chayefsky Learned to Type Playscripts

Paddy Chayefsky came out of the US Army's 104th Infantry Division with a Purple Heart and a new first name on February 27, 1946, after almost three years of service in the European Theatre of World War II. He had just turned 23 by a month and was determined to be a playwright.
The passion had been born in him in 1945 when Chayefsky, recovering in an Army Hospital at Cirencester, 80 miles outside London, after an encounter with a land mine at Aachen in Germany, wrote the book and lyrics to a musical comedy, No T.O. for Love. The work, produced by the Special Services Unit, opened at the Scala Theatre in the West End of London. This led to Chayefsky befriending Garson Kanin (1912-1999), already a very well established writer and director of plays and films, who invited Chayefsky to collaborate with him on a documentary of the Allied invasion, The True Glory.
Chayefsky's release from military duty coincided with Kanin's play Born Yesterday opening on Broadway, beginning a run there which would extend to the end of 1948. Back in New York City later in 1946, Chayefsky happened to bump into Kanin and his wife, Ruth Gordon (1896-1985), a screenwriter and playwright as well as a renowned film and stage actress. The couple, impressed by Chayefsky's single-mindedness and enthusiasm, gave the budding playwright $500 to make his start and write his first full-length play, the never-to-be-produced Put Them All Together (aka M is for Mother).
This photograph of Paddy Chayefsky at a typewriter in a garment factory was taken by Michael Rougier for a June 6, 1955, LIFE magazine spread titled "Bride in the Bronx: Chayefsky builds his new play on wedding plans", which began by describing Chayefsky as "the most celebrated of the young TV playwrights". In the event, the photo was cropped to a thumbnail, with the typewriter only just visible.  
How did Chayefsky go about learning to type plays? Well, in the words of Marc Norman in What Happens Next: A History of American Screenwriting, "To learn drama's rhythm, Paddy typed out [Lillian] Hellman's The Children's Hour word for word." This 1934 drama is set in an all-girls boarding school and is based on a false accusation that two headmistresses are having a lesbian affair.
Lillian Hellman
Norman goes on to write that Chayefsky, in order to "learn comedy", then proceeded to type out the full script of The Front Page. This, of course, was a hit Broadway comedy about tabloid newspaper reporters on the police beat, written by two former Chicago journalists, Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur, and first produced in 1928.
Charles MacArthur at his typewriter
Osgood Perkins and Lee Tracey in the play The Front Page
Chayefsky was born Sidney Aaron Chayefsky in The Bronx on January 29, 1923. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay (the other three-time winners, Francis Ford Coppola, Charles Brackett, Woody Allen, and Billy Wilder, have all shared their awards with co-writers). Chayefsky's Oscars were for Marty (1955), The Hospital (1971) and Network (1976).
Chayefsky in 1957, the year he wrote The Great American Hoax
Chayefsky died of cancer in New York City on August 1, 1981, aged 58.
 Chayefsky in 1976, the year he wrote Network.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Proper Post Posture with Remington Portable Typewriter

Emily Post (1872-1960) was an American author famous for writing about etiquette. Post was born Emily Price in Baltimore. After being educated at home in her early years, Price attended Miss Graham's finishing school in New York. She grew up in a world of grand estates, her life governed by carefully delineated rituals. Price met her husband, Edwin Main Post, a prominent banker, at a ball in a Fifth Avenue mansion. Following their wedding in 1892 and a honeymoon tour of Europe, they lived in New York's Washington Square. They also had a country cottage, named "Emily Post Cottage", in Tuxedo Park. Emily divorced  Post in 1905 because of his affairs with chorus girls and fledgling actresses. She produced newspaper articles on architecture and interior design, as well as stories and serials for magazines including Harper's, Scribner's and The Century. She published her first etiquette book Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home in 1922. It became a best-seller. After 1931, Post spoke on radio programs and wrote a column on good taste for the Bell Syndicate; it appeared daily in some 200 newspapers. Her books had recurring characters, the Toploftys, the Eminents, the Richan Vulgars, the Gildings and the Kindharts. In 1946, Post founded The Emily Post Institute, which continues her work. She died in 1960 in her New York City apartment at the age of 87. 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

AI and Typewriters (Well, EI Anyway)

Artificial intelligence and typewriters? Well, not quite, but "electronic intelligence" was added to the IBM electric in 1956 - at least for tabulation. IBM called it "The first electronic typewriter". "[It] 'reads' business forms and does all the tabulation setting for the typist electronically," the company announced on September 14, 1956 - the same year that the field of AI research was born in a workshop at Dartmouth College.
IBM president Thomas J. Watson proudly exhibited the electronic typewriter at IBM's New York headquarters, as part of what he described as "the greatest new product day in the history of IBM and, I believe, in the history of the office equipment industry."
Watson added that the new electronic tab setter on the IBM electric typewriter will be "a tremendous time and work saver to every typist who works with prepared business forms and documents."
The company explained, "An electronic 'reading' device has been added to the IBM electric typewriter so that typists will no longer have to set tabulating stops while filling in the hundreds of different varieties of forms that are used every day in a business office. Business forms will be printed with vertical lines of electrically-conductive ink associated with each blank fill-in area for which the typist would normally set the tab. These lines, in effect, program the typewriter. No matter what variety of form the typist rolls into the machine, the tabs will be automatically set. All the typist need do is operate the tab key, and the machine, 'reading' the lines on the form, will position the carriage before the next fill-in area."
The sales manager of IBM's Electric Typewriter Division, Henry W. Reis Jr, said "this historic application of electronics to office machines opens many dramatic possibilities. This marriage of electronics to the typewriter promises to be a most fruitful one. Since IBM introduced the first electric typewriter to the business world 23 years ago, many advances have been made in all phases of typewriter engineering, but they are merely mileposts along the road to making the origination of letters and documents easier and faster. Our endowing the typewriter with an 'electronic intelligence' is just one of the many strides we will make as we continue to incorporate scientific developments into the typewriter of the future."
The cost of the machine? A very steep $520 ($4783 in today's money).
The advertisement at the top of this post appeared in The New Yorker on November 3, 1956. The day before, a 30-page supplement called "Open House Edition" was published in The Kingston Daily Freeman, marking IBM's arrival in Kingston, Ulster County, New York's first capital, 91 miles north of New York City. The supplement included this article:
The man largely responsible for the invention was Thurston Homer Toeppen, a University of Michigan graduate who been appointed technical assistant at the IBM electric typewriter engineering laboratory in Poughkeepsie the previous year. Toeppen was born in Chicago on October 11, 1915, and spent time in California before graduating from Michigan in 1938. He moved to New York to be assistant manager of a printing company but later became an inventor and mechanical designer. He joined IBM in 1954 and had a large number of typewriter patents to his name. Toeppen later went to work for Friden Inc in Rochester, again on typewriters. He moved to Tucson in 1997 and died at the hospice Casa de la Luz, on September 25, 2007, aged 91.
Machine testing at Kingston, 1956
 The man in charge of the IBM Selectric development