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Thursday, 12 January 2017

Backspacing to 2016

With this blog passing two and three-quarter million page views tonight, six weeks shy of its sixth anniversary, I thought it opportune to backspace over 2016. My “output” last year was a mere 145 posts (630,000 page views), down by 100 from the previous year, which in turn was half what it was in 2014. So I guess it’s fair to say ozTypewriter is gradually winding back, and my gorgeously cool granddaughter Ely might have something to do with that.
Still, there was plenty to write about in 2016, as there will be in 2017.
I didn’t bother posting on Bob Dylan when he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in October (I was too busy organising a grand garage sale at the time). Not surprisingly, all the Dylan books went from my library at that sale, and there was a sudden surge in interest in my blog posts on Dylan’s typewriters. One, titled “How Many Typewriters Will it Take Till He Knows?” reached a staggering 8593 page views, making it by far the most popular among my 2258 posts, almost 2000 ahead of “Reattaching the Drawband to the Mainspring on a Portable Typewriter: The Layman's Rudimentary Way”. Sometimes the level of renewed interest in a particular post is unfathomable, such as in the past few days with “Køhl's Kryptograf Writing Ball”.
Another singer-songwriter who, in my book at least, would have been a contender for the prize earned by Dylan was Leonard Cohen, who died in November. Cohen’s passing also drew a lot of page views to various posts about his typewriter use, most notably “So Long, Marianne”, posted after Marianne Ihlen died in Norway in July. David Bowie, who died in Manhattan exactly 12 months ago, aroused some typewriter interest because his Olivetti Valentine portable sold at auction for more than $75,000 late in the year. Similar interest may now attend my October post on Clare Hollingworth, the British journalist who scooped the world with news of the outbreak of World War II - she died aged 105 in Hong Kong yesterday.
Internationally, in strictly typewriter terms, the high points of 2016 were the presenting of a QWERTY Award to Herman Price in West Virginia in October and the publication of a new book from Peter Weil and Paul Robert, Typewriter: A Celebration of the Ultimate Writing Machine, in November. Newark’s Peter Weil is himself a previous winner of the QWERTY Award (in 2013), following on from Richard Polt from Cincinnati the preceding year and being followed by Mike Brown of Philadelphia and myself in 2014 and Gab Burbano from Little Falls, New Jersey, in 2015.
It was great to see in the Texas Monthly in July that Larry McMurtry, who turned 80 the previous month, is still using his (topless) Hermes 3000s - in fact, since praising the Hermes 3000 when winning a Golden Globe in 2006, McMurtry has increased the number of this model he keeps around the country from seven to more than two dozen. Nonetheless, he's still be to be photographed using one. “Well, my fingers aren’t as nimble as they once were,” McMurtry told the Monthlyso I have trouble changing my typewriter ribbon. And there are days my vision gets so blurry that I can’t always see what I’ve typed. There are other days when my energy lags.” In this heat wave, I know exactly how he feels!
Along the way in 2016, ozTypewriter corrected some serious misconceptions about Ernest Hemingway’s supposed Corona 3 in Cuba and Alger Hiss’s Woodstock, located Lewis Carroll’s Hammond and revealed much about the Australian lass subjected to Raymond Chandler's lurid typed love letters. It also presented a detailed history of 20th Century typewriter collecting. The movie typewriting performance of the year came from Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo, followed at the length of a country mile by Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett. I also liked seeing the post-war Soviet-era typewriters being used in Klaus Härö’s excellent Estonian sleeper The Fencer.
This image, taken of a see-through typewriter in a cell at San Quentin in August, left me with mixed feelings. The machine sits on the bed of a condemned inmate on death row. It's made the way it is so that nothing can be concealed inside it.
Little was concealed during the Rio de Janiero Olympic Games, which kept me glued to the TV set for a few weeks mid-year. During this time ozTypewriter page views skyrocketed (for reasons unrelated to typewriters). I managed to extract the heat from that situation, my first real taste of the Internet's incredible capacity to distort the truth. The consolation was watching Fiji humbly win its first Games gold medal, succeeding the United States as Olympic rugby union champion. And that led me to the rediscovery of a childhood hero, Joe Levula, and one of the best sports photos I've ever seen, taken in Brisbane in 1952.
Meanwhile, a former colleague, writing from the sailing in Rio, asked me to compare the equipment I had needed to cover the Olympics in bygone years with the mind-boggling tangle of bits and pieces that went with his laptop in 2016 (see images above).

There were seven typewriter presentations in
Canberra, each giving me yet another chance to dust off a few prized machines and talk about them. On his trip to England, Richard Polt had far greater success finding interesting typewriters in museums, and I was deeply envious. Frankly, our own National Museum is an utter embarrassment, and the best I could see there were Mary Gilmore's L.C. Smith, now associated with a new $10 banknote, and an IBM paper tape reader.  
David Lawrence was able to locate much more interesting machines on Trade Me in New Zealand, and one image he alerted me to was right up Georg Sommeregger's alley - a "Down Under" Empire Aristocrat. Yep, that's the way it was presented in its listing. It seems Flying Fish typewriters are also in favour in New Zealand.
For me, however, the typewriter highlight of 2016 was definitely the advent of weekly gatherings in Sydney involving Richard Amery, Phil Card, Warren Ingrey, Terry Cooksley and Phil Chapman of Charlie Foxtrot. These culminated in a Big Typewriter Bash last month, also attended by typewriter technicians Michael Klein from Melbourne and Jim Franklin from Canberra. The Chapmans depart Australia next week to set up a British branch of Charlie Foxtrot, but the Sydney gatherings are bound to roll on unabated in 2017.
The Big Bash was held back until Richard Amery returned home from a typewriting cruise to New Zealand aboard the Emerald Princess. The ocean liner was back in the news last week when a Sydney woman’s six years on dialysis, waiting for a kidney transplant, ended with her being winched off the ship into a helicopter in Bass Strait. She was choppered to Bairnsdale, Victoria, flown by fixed wing plane to Sydney's Bankstown Airport and driven by ambulance to Westmead Hospital. This remarkable story made me wonder if the same effort would have been made if Richard had run short of ribbons for his Olivetti Lettera 22.
My own kidney yarn didn't concern an emerald but an alleged sapphire. It involved strenuous work from Phil Card, Warren Ingrey and Terry Cooksley in helping me find the escapement wheel “jewel” in Smith-Corona Galaxies IIs. This was all for the sake of an article in ETCetera, and meant completely stripping down two portables. The truth was duly exposed, but the SCMs got their revenge when I later fell on them and broke three ribs. The pain was so intense for a long while that I actually feared I’d pierced a kidney, and would need my own transplant. It took two months for the ribs to fully repair themselves, but by Christmas we were all having a hearty laugh about it.
Miss Dactylo 1960: Simone Simion, Paris
I wasn't chuckling so much when AdSense, the outfit that pays me a princely 76 cents a day for placing adverts on my blog, wrote saying it had received a complaint about a June 2015 post showing nude women sitting on typewriters (it was actually about the use of Paul Robert's Sexy Legs erotica images in an ABC TV series called Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries). AdSense showed no sense in wanting the post removed, and in this case I flatly refused. Then a helpful reader sent me an image to add to my post on a collection of British cheesecake photos ("Titillation with Typewriters", Boxing Day 2015). So to cheese AdSense off properly, I'm adding it here:
The typewriter-related story which amused me most in 2016 concerned a luminary among the twittering classes, one Marcin Wichary, who in October tweeted furiously on a “serendipitous and magical event”. While looking for a Dali museum, he’d stumbled upon industrialist Pere Padrosa’s well-known El Museu de la Tècnica de l'Empordà in Vigo, in the north-west of Spain. I take up Wichary’s tweets as he walked towards it: I see this sign pointing the other way, saying ‘Museu de la Tècnica’, with a cute gear icon. I don’t have internet because of another earlier snafu (bad SIM card), but I had the foresight to save offline Google Maps. But Google Maps returns nothing for the museum, so I don’t know where it is exactly. I follow the sign’s directions the old-fashioned way.”  I don’t know about anyone else, but for me the idea that Wichary had to resort to “the old-fashioned way” to find a typewriter museum was just dripping in irony.
And so on to 2017 ...


Bill M said...

Congratulations on the approaching six and the 2-plus million! You have a great blog Robert. I look forward to your 2017 posts even if they are fewer than before. Ely deserves your attention.

Jasper Lindell said...

Thank you for providing another fantastic year of reading, Robert! Looking forward to more typewriter fun this year