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Sunday, 16 December 2018

The Young Typospherian Who Could

Twenty-year-old Jasper Lindell, the Typospherian who has exhibited his typewriting skills from Canberra to the cantons of Switzerland, and from Sydney to Swinger Hill, has fulfilled a long-held ambition to work full-time in the print newspaper industry. On August 28 Jasper was interviewed as one of 20 applicants for a cadetship at The Canberra Times and on September 18 he got the call to say he had been awarded one of only two openings. After a short introductory training session with Fairfax Media in Sydney, Jasper started his journalism career at the Times on November 26 and within days was scoring page 2 bylines. Yesterday his byline appeared on the page 3 lead article. One notable "scoop" concerned the capture of a python in the Museum of Australian Democracy (Old Parliament House) - most appropriate for someone who's a big fan of the Monty of that species.
When Jasper announced his appointment on Facebook, one friend responded: "Congratulations Jasper - you were destined for this role. Which typewriter will you be taking to the office?" To which Jasper responded: "I reckon this will do."
It's almost certainly no coincidence that this was the very model of typewriter which was once the stock work tool at The Canberra Times.
Jasper reading the last broadsheet edition of The Canberra Times, July 15, 2016.
He called it a "travesty" and a "sad day".
For him, broadsheets were a "glorious, tactile experience".
Jasper has had his nose stuck in newspapers since at least the age of seven, and for much of the past 13 years has dreamed of not just reading the printed pages, but of writing the copy that appears on them. For more than six years now, he has also been an enthusiastic typewriter collector and user. His blog DHIATENSOR (by which the Blickensderfer keyboard layout is known) has been moribund since 2016, but in that time Jasper has been concentrating on attaining his professional goal (although anonymous donors kept leaving typewriters on his doorstep):
Jasper was editor of his school newspaper, the Orana Steiner School's Student's Standard, and in August last year, while editor of the Australian National University's student newspaper Woroni, won his stripes with his coverage of a scoop that quickly became a nationally breaking news story. He'd previously started writing for The Guardian Australian edition and in 2016 became the youngest person at a Federal Government Budget lock-up - a year later the Government denied him accreditation, which the fearless and outspoken Jasper put down to it "announcing its controversial university reforms".
Given an already highly impressive track record in journalism, it's astonishing to recall that while he was visiting leading typewriter historian and collector George Sommeregger in Switzerland in March 2014 (while on a student exchange trip to Germany), Jasper applied for but missed out on an internship at The Canberra Times. To its credit, that newspaper has now seen the error of its past ways, so cheers to the "Crimes". 
To its eternal discredit, the Times, a fortnight into Jasper's cadetship, assigned him to check out Canberra's high birth rate, saying, "We sent the baby of our newsroom, new trainee Jasper Lindell, to take a closer look at the boom." Oh dear, what a condescending comment about someone who has entered the joint far more roundly experienced than most of his colleagues! As proof of that, and among the many efforts which helped change the mind of Times management about Jasper, was this opinion piece, which appeared in both the Times and The Sydney Morning Herald on his 18th birthday, before he'd even started his university studies:
Jasper last appeared at a major Type-In at the Big Sydney Typewriter Bash two years ago. He's seen here "blind" touch typing on a Willy Scheidegger Princess Matic, beside Julie Chapman:
Jasper has persisted - and ultimately succeeded - in his long pursuit to become a print newspaper journalist, in the face of clear evidence of a rapid worldwide decline in his chosen profession. Jasper has all along been only too well aware of the failings of modern newspapers, and yet it hasn't deterred him, nor is he now daunted in leaping into the cesspit. Good luck to him! Maybe, just maybe, he will be an example to other youngsters, in his offering of new blood to a dying trade. But Jasper is without doubt exceptional. It's not just the short-sighted tight-fistedness of media owners which is killing journalism, it's also a failure in our education systems and the emergence of a generation of youngsters far less interested in reading hardcopy - books, magazines or newspapers - or in words and writing in general and politics and climate science in particular, than they are in technological faddery. For most of his life Jasper has been encouraged to learn, read, write, discuss things knowledgeably and openly, and to not shun old formats or technology.  In turn, he has himself encouraged others in these things. May his journalist career flourish!

Friday, 14 December 2018

Typewriter Spotting: Can You Ever Forgive Me? ... For Missing One (Or Two)?

A late contender for the much-coveted 2018 Typewriter Movie of the Year (Oscar nominations voting closes on January 14) is Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the biographical comedy drama based on Lee Israel's 2008 memoir of the same name. It stars Melissa McCarthy as Israel and follows the failed writer's fraudulent efforts to supplement her income by forging letters from deceased authors and playwrights. We saw the movie last evening and found it well-acted and entertaining, though the ultimate treatment handed out to Israel-McCarthy's typewriters was a major downer for me:
On July 27, 1992, Israel, realising "the jig was up" after being questioned by FBI agents outside a kosher deli, raced to the rented storage locker where she stored her "gang of typewriters" and "woke them up". She wrote in her book, "I deposited them, one by one, in trash cans along a mile stretch of Amsterdam Avenue, watching the traffic to see if I was being surveilled." Oh, to have been a typewriter collector wandering down Amsterdam Avenue that very day! (The image above is from the movie, and shows McCarthy ditching an Olympia SM9 in a bin.)
Above, the real Lee Israel. As for where she bought most of her typewriters, Israel wrote that she began the buy them in the first half 1992 "from a store in the West Twenties that sold vintage machines." This store appears to have been run by a man called Farber:
Israel rented a locker in an "ugly tattooed building" on Amsterdam Avenue. There she neatly stacked the typewriters on four wooden shelves - they were not, as the movie suggests, crowding out her apartment. The typewriter locker space "began to look like a pawnshop with a mighty distinguished clientele".
Back on October 6, Richard Polt of The Typewriter Revolution posted on Facebook that the movie, "looks like the most typewriter-heavy film since The Post. Did they consult my list of writers and their typewriters?" The short answer, Richard, is, "No!" The thought that - then or now - one of the Tytells might have been consulted doesn't appear to have entered anyone's head, either (Martin died the year the book came out, but Peter is still around). In the image at the top of this post, the eagle-eyed among you may note that Israel-McCarthy has labelled a Brother portable "Ezra Pound". This is what Pound actually used:
The first typewriter Israel-McCarthy buys in the movie, at the start of her criminal activity, is a Gossen Tippa Pilot. It's at the foot of the image at the top of the post, though out of focus. This specific purchase is presumably (as mentioned in the book) for letters purporting to be written by Dorothy Parker, though goodness knows why (other than Parker "having fun with the umlauts"). Yet in the movie it is labelled Noël Coward, the English playwright and composer,who did use just such a typewriter. McCarthy certainly needs a German-language keyboard, even if she doesn't type the letter ë in Coward's first name. The ë appears quite frequently on screen, but I'm not convinced that even a German keyboard Tippa had an ë key.
Later in the movie, Israel-McCarthy is seen using a different, earlier model Gossen Tippa:
Steve Kuterescz Collection
Israel wrote that, "I bought the first of a long and distinguished line of manual typewriters, a clattery, jet-black Royal [portable], old enough to have been used by Fanny [Brice]  or, more likely, her secretary, from my neighborhood hardware store where various secondhand items were - still are - put on the street for quick sale: chipped china, worthless books, and old typewriters, the last singing siren songs to passing Upper West Siders nostalgic for the clatter of typing ... as opposed to the silence of keyboarding."  Israel paid $30 for the machine and said its pica typeface was "similar to Fanny's." The first words Israel typed on it were, "Now is the time for Funny Girl to come to the aid of Lee Israel."
The movie begins in April 1990 with Israel-McCarthy using her own Smith-Corona Electra 210 portable. Or trying to use it, I should say. She is suffering from writer's block (an affliction she has heard Tom Clancy dismiss out of hand at a drinks party put on by her agent). She types, “This is me f***ing using the typewriter.” Or not.
Astonishingly, Israel-McCarthy's first "bogus billet" is actually a postscript McCarthy types on to the bottom of what is supposed to an actual Brice letter. It reads, “My new grandchild has inherited my old nose. Should I leave something extra for repairs?” So the gormless mark is not supposed to be able to tell the difference between words typed on a manual typewriter sometime before 1951 (when Brice died; I think the letter is actually dated 1942) and a PS written on an electric portable typewriter (which didn't appear before 1957)? Someone has to be kidding, surely? After all, the real Israel was clearly very resourceful, and to a large degree the movie reflects this. At least Dorothy Parker lived to see the advent of electric portables, though not the Electra 210 (the Tytells would have seized on that in seconds, at one quick glance):
Dorothy Parker, typing on a Royal, and Alan Campbell at their farmhouse
in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 1937.
Noël Coward on a very British Imperial in Jamaica in 1953. 
Some of the forgeries (which Israel described as "her best work",
and much of which fooled the experts):