Thursday, October 12, 2017

How to bewitch a middle-school kid

A former student of mine writes:

I have been teaching middle school, and I love to be with the students. ... I have dozens and dozens of stories from the year so far. It seems that at every moment of teaching, my attitude is either "I can't believe I get paid to do this," or, "you cannot possibly pay someone enough to do this." The challenges and joys together make it great.

As part of my personal desk setup in my classroom, I included, of course, the Brother typewriter that I acquired from you a couple of years ago. I was under the impression that it would be useful to me, and that it is also a good item to have on any serious instructor's desk.

What I did not foresee was just how fascinated all of the students would be by it.

The 6th graders have taken to keeping a collective, daily class journal on my typewriter. The physical sensation of the apparatus is all but bewitching for them. And the notes they type reflect a connectedness to their day that I don't think would be catalogued in a Word document. The amount of instances per day in which I hear the words, "Mr. P_____, can I type on the typewriter?" is higher than I could have possibly anticipated. It is downright delightful. Several students have also expressed to me that they are finally typing well on the computer precisely because of their practice on the more-difficult typewriter.

Attached is an image of a page of text that some of my students typed a few weeks ago--to give you an idea of what they've been using it for.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Correspondence from around the typosphere

I enjoy all the messages I get from around the typosphere. Forgive me if I'm slow to reply! Here are four that have arrived recently.

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From Richard G. in Ohio:

It's always good to know where our typewriters began their life. Olivetti had a worldwide network of typewriter factories. By the way, if you read Spanish, I highly recommend a recent post on Escrituras Mecánicas where a typewriter tells the story of its perilous life.

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From Klaus M. in Germany:

Can anyone advise Klaus? I think the reinked ribbon works pretty well. Ingenuity will keep our insurgency going!

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Here's a handwritten communiqué (apparently, more advanced writing technology was unavailable), battered but unbroken, from Agent B. in Czechia:

It's true, this is my ancestral land (Polt was abbreviated from Pollatschek). I have been meaning to read Patočka. Those interested in Czech typewriters should consult ETCetera No. 79.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

Finally, a query from Abby H. in California:

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Erasure unachieved

I got to see "California Typewriter" for the third time in Chicago on Saturday and participate in a Q&A along with Martin Howard (, Eric Plattner (Poems While You Wait), and Arthur Wagner (Wagner Office Machines). Also attending: Ton S. (i dream lo-tech).

In the film, Silvi Alcivar (The Poetry Store) talks about how the words come when she's at the typewriter, and about being asked to write poems about intimate experiences. One man who had attempted suicide asked her for a poem about surviving.

I wondered what on earth I could come up with if I were given such a request. Back home, I sat at the Woodstock and tried a response. So here it is, for whatever it's worth.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Woodstock workhorse

Mid-1920s Woodstock catalogue, courtesy of Peter Weil


Writer Robert Bloch on his Woodstock:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

“California Typewriter" event in Chicago 9/30

"California Typewriter" opens at Chicago's Music Box Theatre on Friday, Sept. 29. I'll be there on September 30 for the 4:15 show along with collector Martin Howard, poet Eric Plattner, and repairman Arthur Wagner. I'll have books to sign before and after the show, and you can win a Brother donated by Eric.

Be there, City of the Big Shoulders and Strong Fingers!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Caligraph complete

Remember my Caligraph?

I finally got back to it and completed the restoration process. It doesn't look like new, but it works, and it's clean. Here are some before and after pictures:

But no sooner has it been restored than it has left my collection and joined that of a fellow typospherian. I enjoyed finding it and fixing it — I learn so much by cleaning and repairing a typewriter. But with my limited display space, it makes sense for it to go to someone else now.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hey Cleveland! This Friday! Be there!

Breaking news for typists in the Cleveland, Ohio area:

"California Typewriter" opens this Friday, September 22, at the Cedar Lee Theater at 2163 Lee Road in Cleveland Heights.

After the 7:15 show, I'll be there to take questions along with Clevelanders Will and Dave Davis. Will is the creator of an amazing set of typewriter websites that has been very influential in opening people's eyes to modern portables and other machines. He and his brother Dave are the authors of the blog Davis Typewriter Works, and Will recently started the blog On the Margin, about rebuilt typewriters.

I'll have signed copies of my book, The Typewriter Revolution, available at a good price.

I'm also bringing this Smith-Corona Silent-Super from my own collection. The theater is sponsoring a free sweepstakes with this machine as the prize. It will come with a typed, signed copy of The Typewriter Manifesto, and it has a very unusual Yes/No type slug. Enter the sweepstakes here by September 28. You will need to pick up the typewriter in Cleveland, of course.

And I'll be in Chicago the following weekend — more details on that event as they become available.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Berkeley, CA type-in on September 26

There's a type-in coming up at the real California Typewriter, in conjunction with the theatrical release of the film! Be there if you can, and please spread the word.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ruminations on digital sabbath & smart speakers

PS: Apparently the generic term for things like the Amazon Echo is "smart speakers." Of course, even that is a lie: the speaker itself isn't "smart," but connects you to a remote server that runs an artificial intelligence program. Nicholas Carr's piece can be found here.