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Saturday 30 March 2013

Taking the Kolibri on the Stairway to Heaven

This katabatic wind formation is an almost daily occurrence in Greymouth
Rachel outside the West Coast Wine Company
Whitebaiting stands

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Kolibri Survives Kea Attack

I had no idea of the degree to which I was tempting fate last night by writing in such a frivolous way  about New Zealand's thieving parrot, the kea.
These marauding birds must be taken seriously, even in the growing darkness of late evening high in the South Island's mountain ranges.
Less than 24 hours after posting about the kea, in the very same spot I had mentioned, at Arthur's Pass on New Zealand's Southern Alps, I was fending off keas to protect the Kolibri.
Forgive the quality of this photo, but it was taken in darkness tonight of the more confronting of the two keas at Arthur's Pass. These guys mean business.

Homeward Bound, with a Hummingbird of a Typewriter

It's midnight in Canberra. In four hours I will be leaving here, travelling by Greyhound to Sydney International Airport and then flying on to Christchurch, New Zealand. This time tomorrow I will be back in my home town of Greymouth.
I haven't even started to pack yet. But there is one item already in the suitcase. After much consideration, I tested and settled on a Groma Kolibri ("hummingbird"). Knowing I'd be confined to just the one typewriter to use for a week, I wanted to be sure it was both small and light enough, as well as reliable. This one appears to fit the bill. Only the "8" played up, a little, but a bit of a toggle soon got it working:
There are no New Zealand hummingbirds. Indeed, this Groma might be the only Kolibri to reach its shores. But New Zealand, before the arrival of humans - less than 900 years ago - was completely free of mammals, except those which could swim or fly there. It has some wonderful native birds. My favourite is the kea, the thieving parrot. Just last month one of these birds stole $1100 in cash from a Scottish tourist. In 2009, another Scot had his passport stolen by a kea. Keas are described as intelligent, but are notorious for vandalising cars, including stealing keys, breaking off wing mirrors and stripping rubber from windscreen wipers for nest souvenirs. Zoologist Mark Cawardine describes them as “a devilish mountain parrot feared by hire car companies.”
The kea stole the $1100 in Arthur's Pass, through which I will travelling on my way up from the wide Canterbury Plains through the Southern Alps, on my way to the Wild West Coast. It's an area which enthralled Agatha Christie, who photographed it in 1923 (see earlier post on "Have Typewriter, Will Travel"). I don't know whether I will spy too many native birds in Greymouth, but one I would dearly love to see again is the honeyeater, the beautiful tui:
One I definitely won't see is the moa, which was hunted to extinction by the Maori. Here is a model of the moa standing beside a kiwi:

The moa,  a flightless bird endemic to New Zealand, was the tallest and heaviest bird that ever lived. It grew to 14 feet and weighed 600 pounds. It was thought to have been hunted to extinction by 1400 AD. But some folks in Arthur's Pass have been known to have some fun with the moa:
Moa sightings or not, I will be posting and typecasting when and if I can in New Zealand. With no access to a scanner, I will have to photograph typecasts. Let's hope the hummingbird hums along as nicely as it did tonight in its test type. As of now, I have full confidence it in. I took a little Remington Model 2 to Noumea a couple of years ago, but didn't get a lot of work out of it. This time, fingers crossed, things will be different.

Monday 25 March 2013

1966 Olympia SM9 Typewriter

Typewriter Kid's Cojones in the Classroom

Hemingway liked to call them cojones, possibly to avoid censorship, or possibly to prove he was smarter than the rest of us. There was an amusing aside among the comments on Scott Kernaghan's post today about his Bing No 2, along the lines of not making jokes about only "having one nut". I'll tell you who does have balls, as in the sense of tener cojones. In case, because of changes made to it, some of you missed young Typospherian Jasper Lindell's post headed "High school journalism doesn't work", and his outburst about censorship of the school newspaper he edits in Canberra, please do yourself a favour and read it here. I know Jasper won't mind me calling him "kid"; he's mature enough to know it's meant in the nicest possible way, and not in the least bit belittling. Jasper is a young man who is well-read, erudite and highly intelligent. He would grace any future newsroom. And besides, as Hemingway might also have said, I like this kid's style. Grace under pressure and all that! My own feeling, putting this little story into its proper context, is that school authorities are being absolutely gutless to put the blame on a 15-year-old for doing what he believes is the right thing to do. To write the truth. His ambition is to be a real journalist, and he will be a good one too. At this age he needs to be pushed along, not discouraged. Really, what sort of example is the school setting him here? Certainly not one of taking responsibility, as they are meant to do. It’s a classic backdown by the school, slapping itself in the face for the privilege of having a student newspaper. They'll never have another editor as good as this guy.
This is the signal which comes on your screen at the end of the night's television transmission. It's also the image that goes with Jasper Lindell's typewriter blog. If idiot school authorities continue to refuse to "handle the truth", it could signal the end of a budding journalism career. Are journalists who simply want to tell the truth so abundant we can afford to let this happen? What is education all about anyway? Knocking the stuffing out of kids so they will conform to what is perceived as "standard, non-radical" behaviour? I think the Press already has enough conformists. I'd like to see one emerge who isn't afraid to use his own voice.

The Life of a Typewriter Technician, by Michael Klein (2)


Hess Collection. A Hess would never allow a Royal to burn

I went down, down, down,
and the flames grew higher
That typebasket of fire.
I had just started out as a typewriter mechanic and in my first week of work, my colleague took me into a wonderful shop called Ames Agencies. This shop supplied the office equipment trade with tools and platen refurbishment services. They had a magnificent assortment of specialist tools, the like of which you would never find in any hardware store.
Brands were stocked such as Excellite, Facom, Druesche, Knippex, all of extremely high workmanship and precision built – they just felt right in the hand. Here are some of the tools that I still proudly own (from left, blowtorch, peening tool, type alignment tool and roller pliers).
These particular tools are all used to align the height, depth and angle of the typeslugs as they hit the paper. It is a near impossible task to get the typefaces aligned to the same precision as they come from the factory (which is what forensic scientists used to exploit when identifying which typewriter created a particular document, as typewriters all wear at varying rates and so develop a unique “signature”).
It was an unfortunate incident with this blowtorch that I will relate now.
As a young and inexperienced typewriter technician, I was in an office trying to align a typeslug that had come adrift (a common fault, as they are only soldered onto the tip of the typebar and with constant pounding they do come loose). I had practised many a time back in the workshop the use of my trusty blowtorch to perform the re-soldering job. In fact I proudly considered myself somewhat of a deft hand at it.
However, this was my first attempt out in a customer’s office. Unfortunately, there is a slight design fault with this particular brand of blowtorch, which ran on methylated spirits. In those days air-conditioning in a car was not common and on a hot, sunny day, the tool case in the back of the panel van could get very hot between jobs, especially if it sat in the sun.
Well - a blowtorch stored in such a situation can develop internal pressure in the heat, and if subsequently used under such circumstances can erupt in quite an impressive plume of flames!
So what does a naive and somewhat shy young lad do to preserve what little dignity he has left in such a situation in front of a pretty young lass of a typist? All I could do was to try and put out the fire with my cleaning rag. Picture this – instead of putting out the flames, the rag (which was soaked in an even more volatile cleaning fluid, Shellite) causes an even more impressive bonfire. By now I’m panicking (and I suspect also the typist, and now her manager, who is poking his head into the office to see what the commotion is all about).
In the turmoil that fast escalated, all I could think of was to toss the flaming cleaning cloth into the wastepaper basket on the floor. Well, you can now imagine how the situation developed, as there were papers in said bin.
This incident was for some inexplicable reason always brought up at our weekly social drinking sessions, held with my colleagues. It gave them much amusement and myself much embarrassment for many months.
Oh Michael, light my fire!

Sunday 24 March 2013

Homage to the Humble Hermes 2000 Typewriter

I use the word "humble" advisedly. The Hermes 2000 has been, I believe, undeservedly overshadowed by its stablemates, the Hermes 3000 and the Hermes Baby. The 2000 was actually the first Hermes portable typewriter Paillard made, in 1932, followed by the Baby in 1935. But the Baby, which started life as the Featherweight, is one of the most significant machines in portable typewriter history. And the 3000 has been allowed to establish its own reputation, as a favourite with writers such as Larry McMurtry. This has unfortunately left the 2000 languishing in comparative obscurity. But it is a far, far better typewriter than most in its size range. Indeed, the three 2000s I tested today are all among the nicest typewriters I have ever used. So here is my tribute to the "humble" Hermes 2000:
Georg Sommeregger image
Georg Sommeregger images