Fresh ribbon as quest, and some interesting finds



This came to me – as many interesting things do – as an email attachment from a friend. I have no idea who to credit for this little ditty, but I’d cetainly like to. All I could find were dead links. I’d love to see cartoons #1 and #2.

Update: mpclemens whipped up a little search or two and was much more successful in finding the cartoonist, Tom Gauld. You can see the first two panels here and here. Marvelous work.

As I was bouncing around the internet the other day, I happened upon A Place to Stand – a Kelly Writers Junior Fellows (University of Pennsylvania) project that finished up last year in Philadelphia. Graduate John Carrol’s project involved reproducing one short piece of important literature on his typewriter every day, then mailing it out to a random recipient. Out of the Philadelphia phone book. Every day. The link gives a list of works he slammed out on the old typewriter, and challenges anyone reading the page to do the same: Type up a poem. Choose someone out of the phonebook. Mail it to them.

I can’t tell you how much I love that. The web page doesn’t discuss what typewriter(s) our boy John used, but I’ve emailed him and perhaps we’ll soon know. The announcement notes several of John’s inspirations for this project, most notably “Typewriter Man” by Ian Frazier. If you ignore every other link on this post – fine, but read Frazier’s article.

Fresh Ribbon…ruins a good manicure


Before I begin complaining about changing the ribbon on my Lettera 32, let me share a little gorgeousness from uppercaseyyc’s incredible collection on Flickr. These old typewriter ribbon tins are individual masterpieces, but collectively they’re an absolute bouquet of vintage collectibles. Do take a look at her individual photographs of each tin – I dare you not to start a collection.

I’m going to have to look locally, though, because some of these badboys are going for upwards of twenty dollars apiece on Ebay. I can fill my house with with all manner of flea market/yard sale typewriters for that kind of cash. I’m not cheap, I’m just thrifty.

Now for the complaining. I just spent entirely too much time replacing a ribbon in an achingly sexy Olivetti Lettera 32 and it’s not an experience I want to repeat for a while. I assume it would be easier to replace a ribbon if I had, say, an operator’s manual with a step-by-inky-step guide, but I’m not sure. There are all manner of ribbon guides and things that screw on and off (right-y tight-y, left-y loose-y) as well as these THINGS that poke UP and are clearly meant to somehow KEEP the ribbon from TOUCHING THE PAPER.

Well, I eventually figured it out but not before completely ruining my manicure. I’ve changed ribbon in all my typewriters and have never had such a snafu. It was like something out of I Love Lucy. The thing is done now, and I’m feeling a little pleased with myself for figuring it out sans written directions. Not that it would have helped.

I’m buying a box of surgical gloves for next time. This re-manicure is going to cost me at least one Empress typewriter tin. Maybe two.

Speed and Accuracy


I’m assuming she didn’t have to perform her outstanding typing skills with her feet or in that bathing suit during the contest. I don’t know, though. This appears to be her ninth win.
This makes me think of my grandmother. She was a 21 year-old mother of five when she got The Telegram during WWII – no skills, no high school diploma. The Army sent her to business school to learning typing and dictation to support all those fatherless children. I don’t imagine it paid for much, but it did throw my war-widow grandmother in the path of a few unmarried professional men.
That’s how it was done, really. I seriously doubt Gram’s typing skills netted that doctor she soon married. I believe she relied more on youth and an uncanny resemblance to Jane Russell. I also believe that’s what the Army had in mind all along.
Post-war, typing skills were many times the means to a happily married end. She’ll tell you that herself. She’ll also tell you the times called for being gainfully married, so it definitely mattered where a girl did that typing. Gram says she typed like the wind, but in the end it was more important which sweater she wore to the office. A mother of five had to be practical about such things.
If you’d like to test your words-per-minute, try this online typing test. You’ll be tested on your laptop rather than your Remington, but at least you don’t have to wear a bathing suit.

One Street Typewriter-Poet and My Retirement Plan

I’m in grading-mode right now and have banned myself from All Things Distracting. I saved this little ditty a few weeks ago for just such a moment. I’m thinking about retirement and moving to Eureka Springs forever so I can be a typewriter poet in front of the cafes. If gas gets any more expensive, I may have to find a folding table and get to work sooner. Enjoy the video.