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Monday 25 June 2018

Makeover for an Underwood 5 Typewriter

I've never had much luck when it comes to owning a working Underwood 5 in good condition. I've been on the look-out for one forever. So when I was contacted last week by a Canberran asking me to give his daughter's Underwood 5 a makeover, I jumped at the chance. This chap had done his research and had hunted for a full year to find a 100-year-old Underwood 5 in good nick to give his daughter for her 21st birthday. He eventually found one in Florida, US, and shipped it into Australia at great expense. It arrived in very good shape, as can be seen from the bottom image, but it had some minor problems and wasn't working properly - plus it had the to-be-expected paint chips and worn-off paint here and there, and a fair bit of century old dirt and some corrosion. I worked on the Underwood 5 on the weekend and am very pleased with the result. One typeslug was sticking (solidly) at the printing point, but it was merely a spot of rust on the side of the slug that was causing that problem. The carriage had a habit of slowing down about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way across the escapement rack, causing it to pause, skip and eventually stop moving. Of course, the margin and tab sets were almost unmoveable. A thorough clean out of the mechanics, a relube and a blow out with the air-compressor has got the typewriter working like new. Also, I happened to find in my shed an old Underwood bichrome ribbon on its original metal spool, wrapped in aging tin foil and tissue but still usable. This, coupled with cleaned out typeslugs, gives a nice clear print. I'd put the pleasing end result down as much to elbow grease as anything else. 

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.