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Monday 29 June 2015

Out of O'Casey's Shadow

Typewriters feature in many stage plays; but there are few in which the typewriter is as prominent as it is in Seán O'Casey's The Shadow of a Gunman, which is back at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
The Shadow of a Gunman was O'Casey's first accepted play and was first staged at the Abbey in 1923. Each act is set in a room in a poor, busy tenement slum in "Hilljoy Square" in Dublin, in May 1920, during the Irish War of Independence, and centres on the mistaken identity of a poet thought to be an Irish Republican Army assassin. It is the first of O'Casey's "Dublin Trilogy" - the other two being Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926).
The Shadow of a Gunman deals with the impact of revolutionary politics on Dublin's slums and their inhabitants, and is understood to be set in Mountjoy Square, where O'Casey lived during the 1916 Easter Rising. 
A range of typewriters have been used in the very many productions of The Shadow of a Gunman during the past 92 years, not all of them fitting within the May 1920 setting for the play. In this 1953 Abbey show, however, it appears an Underwood 3 portable was employed:
At the other end of the scale of appropriateness is this little Silver-Seiko:
One of the more notable productions came in a 1992 BBC2 Performance series and starred Kenneth Branagh using an L.C.Smith standard:

The full 73-minute production can be watched here (the typing scene is at the beginning):

Some other productions:
Dublin-born  O'Casey (1880-1964) was a committed socialist and the first Irish playwright of note to write about the Dublin working classes. He died in Torquay, Devon, on September 18, 1964, aged 84.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Matildas Triumph

There's not an awful lot to feel good about in Australia right now. Indeed, in the political arena, we are being led by a man who is claiming that it's both legal and morally right to bribe criminals. Talk show hosts in the US sense our acute embarrassment with this calamitous Prime Minister, in what must surely be one of the shameful periods in our 115-year political history. 
So, as always, we look to the sporting fields for some uplifting events. And no national team is raising our spirits quite like the Australian Matildas* at the women's World Cup soccer** finals in Canada.
Indigenous Australian, super sub Kyah Simon, scores for the Matildas against Nigeria. Her cousins include rugby stars Kurtley Beale, Jamal Idris and John Simon.
Already the first senior Australian team to win a knock-out match at a World Cup soccer tournament (they beat Brazil this week), tomorrow morning the Matildas face defending world champions Japan in Edmonton for a place in the semi-finals. 
Australia lost its opening round match to the US but went on to qualify by beating Nigeria and holding Sweden to a draw. The US, which has eliminated China, now faces Germany in one semi-final, in Montreal on Tuesday. If the Matildas can get past Japan they will take on either England or host nation Canada in the other, in Edmonton on Wednesday. The Japanese Nadeshiko*** beat the US on penalties in the 2011 final in Frankfurt, with Sweden finishing third, so Australians can already feel proud that the Matildas got though from the "group of death".
To mark this achievement, and to give the team a kick along before tomorrow's quarter-final, I have created a new portable typewriter, the Triumph Matilda, in Australia's national sporting colours of green and gold.

*The Matildas take their name from the bush ballad Waltzing Matilda, Australia's unofficial national anthem. The lyrics were written by Banjo Patterson.  A matilda is a swag. The title is Australian slang for travelling on foot (waltzing, derived from the German auf der Walz) with one's belongings slung over one's back.
**Soccer is a late 19th century Oxbridge abbreviation of "association", as in "association football". It arose as a response to the word "rugger" for rugby union football. It is the more accurate name for the code, regardless of worldwide claims that soccer has an historic right to be referred to as "football". Soccer was not codified until 1863, more than four years after Australian football. Rugby School football was codified in 1843. This school codification was in large part based on the oral tradition of "mob" or "folk traditional" football, played in Britain from the time of the Norman Conquest, and generally a handling and running game.
***Japan’s women's soccer team is known as the Nadeshiko, a reference to the hardy plant whose pink flowers bloom despite the arid riverbed conditions in Kyoto. Here endeth the lesson for today.

Friday 26 June 2015

Typewriter Gems For Sale

Martin Howard, of Toronto, Canada, one of the world's leading typewriter collectors (Antique Typewriters), has some rare gems for sale on eBay (see typewritercollector):
Columbia 2, c1886
 Hammond 2, c1893
 Blickensderfer 7 with 14-inch carriage
 Helios, 1908
 Densmore 4
 Hammond Folding Multiplex, c1921
Standard Folding, c1910
Also, Hoby Van Deusen, of Connecticut, one of the world's leading collectors of typewriter ribbon tins and other typewriter-related ephemera, will be listing a large number of items on eBay later today (see nanvan1). Here are some of the Australian ribbon tins and packets:
One of the items to be listed, I believe, is an Oliver girl mirror

Thursday 25 June 2015

Jump in my Car

Sorry, I missed World Typewriter Day because I went for a jaunt in the country:
But I was reminded of this by the first part of Blood and Thunder on ABC TV tonight:

Typewriter Erotica, 1929 Women's Tennis and a Murder Mystery: Fishy Stuff!?

The delectable (as delectable as any detective gets) doe-eyed Essie Davis as "The Honourable" Miss Phryne Fisher in the Australian TV series Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries. Miss Fisher is a sort of sexy, shapely Miss Marple - only this foxy lady has far sillier, less plausible plot lines to follow. It's all part of the fun. The producers don't care too much about props matching the period, and she has been seen with a post-war Rheinmetall portable typewriter (maybe it's the same prop from the Dr Blake series?). Better still, she and her "Will they? Won't they?" love interest, Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page), can decipher typewriter ribbon!!! Now that's clever - for 1929.
Her trademark snub-nosed gold-plated, pearl-handled Smith & Weston Model 36 .38 "Police Chief's Special" pistol is also a 1950 model, she flies a 1932 DH82 Tiger Moth and makes Trans-Pacific phone calls (possible from 1956). But, hey, who cares when one is looking at Essie? No old knitted cardies for Miss Fisher!
The producers of an Australian murder mystery television series went looking for appropriate period images to help illustrate a story about a sleazy photographer blackmailing women tennis players in Melbourne in 1929. What did they find? Paul Robert's Virtual Typewriter Museum webpage publicising his fascinating 2003 book Sexy Legs and Typewriters: Women in Office-Related Advertising, Humor, Glamour and Erotica.
Yes, the bare naked tennis ladies weren't swinging racquets, they were pecking at typewriter keys. Maybe typing up their tennis reports? There wasn't even a pair of Gorgeous Gussie Moran's frilly knickers to be seen anywhere. Mind you, the gorgeous star of this series, Tasmanian Essie Davis, did get down to her non-tennis knickers for the benefit of the unsavoury lensman, which I suppose was some sort of compensation:
By chance I just happened to catch the latest episode of series three of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, "Game Set & Murder", on ABC TV last Friday night.
Imagine my surprise when well-known 1920s typewriter erotica images from Paul's book (and virtual typewriter museum) started popping up on my screen. Of course, Paul is not credited with unearthing these photos in the first place, which I guess is the way of the Web these days. All one has to do is key in "1920s erotica" on Google and, hey presto, up pops Paul's page:
The sight of so many typewriter photos was unexpected, given the ABC had promoted this episode thusly: "Our glamorous lady detective, The Honourable Miss Phryne Fisher, swans into early 1929 Melbourne, fighting injustice with her pearl-handled pistol and her dagger-sharp wit. Phryne hosts a tennis tournament to raise money for female tennis players, where the practice partner of a rising star dies; A murder investigation reveals Phryne's hidden fear."
Fletcher Humphrys as the blackmailing snapper
Notwithstanding Miss Fisher's use of a post-war Reinmetall portable typewriter, the ABC describes this series as a "meticulously constructed world" which "follows the independent, glamorous and unflappable leading lady detective ... This lush take on the traditional crime drama explores the fascinating and varied sub cultures of 1920s 'between-the-wars' Melbourne. From the shadowy lanes of the city to the halls of academia, from high-class brothels to haute couture, she defends the innocent and juggles admirers with her usual panache, all the while keeping up her delicious dance around Detective Inspector Jack Robinson (Nathan Page)." I suspect whoever wrote that is a bit of a lush themselves.
The series is based on the work of Kerry Greenwood.
Deborah Kennedy plays Regina Charlesworth in a 2012 episode,  "Away with the Fairies", as the editor of Women's Choice magazine.