Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Brian Sonia-Wallace's The Poetry of Strangers: What I Learned Traveling America With a Typewriter


Brian Sonia-Wallace appears in The Typewriter Revolution as a member of L.A.'s Melrose Poetry Bureau. (That's him on the right in the upper left photo.)


Brian is also a successful independent street poet. You can learn more about him on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and his website.

Now Brian has come out with an inspiring book about his adventures writing poetry for the public.



I got to read an advance copy, and was glad to write a blurb for it:



A bit hard to read, I know. Here is my full blurb, excerpted on the back cover:

Exploring America by road and rail, Sonia-Wallace offers his presence to strangers, typing poems for them and, in turn, learning from them about sex, music, politics, religion, and magic. He peers past our consumerism and polarization to uncover the intimate desire of every one of us: to be heard, and to receive the gift of words. 

Here are some of my favorite passages:








Tonight, Brian celebrated the release of The Poetry of Strangers with an online gathering of over 100 friends, family, poets, and 21st-century typists.

Brian with his Remington Rand Model 1

"This incredible typewriter community is [not just] finding new uses for these objects, they're reinventing themselves. ... We are isolated, and people really want to be heard."


And finally, here's a beautiful promotional video for The Poetry of Strangers:



I think every reader of this blog can enjoy Brian's book. Perhaps you'd like to support a local independent bookstore by buying a copy? You can easily do that at IndieBound. It's also available as an audiobook (MP3 or CD).


Saturday, June 13, 2020

Guest post: Disassembling a Smith-Corona Zephyr

The Smith-Corona Zephyr, introduced in 1938, was the company's response to the Hermes Baby — a light, compact typewriter that could easily be taken on a trip. The design was a success, especially in its postwar incarnation as the Skyriter. The basic mechanism continued into the 1970s, with Skyriter descendants manufactured in England and electrified adaptations made in Singapore.



Although the Skyriter is very easy to disassemble, the Zephyr is definitely not. Its streamlined body fits tightly over the mechanism and keyboard.

A solution comes from Garrett Lai of Time Travel Typewriters in L.A., who is the author of today's post.

*  *  *  *  *  *

"How do I remove/replace the Zephyr from its body?" seems to be a perennial question.

The felt liner inside the body easily gets torn up when extracting the works. It also tends to catch and hold the front of the chassis as the metal digs into the felt, making extraction difficult. You end up plowing a furrow into the felt. Damage from a previous extraction below:



So I butcher up a plastic lid (any semi-slick plastic will do, such as a plastic milk jug, this is a yogurt tub lid). Dimensions not important, the parts you want are the two larger, middle pieces, which just need to be wide enough to hold the front edge of the chassis and be about 3-4" long:



If you slide the plastic under the front edges of the chassis they'll act as skids, and the whole works slides right out once you compress that top row of keys.

Here are the skids, positioned for replacing the chassis. Notice they're slightly wider than the chassis front lip, which is the only critical dimension:



The lip from the edge of the lid sticks up, and makes it easier to grab the things with pliers when you want to remove them.

A thickish piece of card stock works as a shoehorn for compressing the keys for extraction. When inserting the works it's important to make sure your cardboard shoehorn covers the entire upper part of the body, to prevent the top bank of keys from catching on the edge of the felt glued inside the top, and the front lip of the body itself. Here I'm using a thick piece of glossy card stock I found in the mailbox, advertising a home for sale that I can't possibly afford:



Chassis partially inserted, skids and shoehorn in place:



Here's another view with chassis partially inserted, shoehorn and skids in place.



Once you get the chassis situated you just reach between the keys with needlenose pliers to remove the plastic skids (here's where that lip sticking up comes in handy). Then carefully slide the cardboard out from the top before securing the works.


Monday, June 8, 2020

The thing called freedom

On April 1, I asked:



Downtown Cincinnati, March 28, 2020:



Now we have an answer:



Downtown Cincinnati, June 7, 2020 (WVXU photo):




Sunday, May 31, 2020

Typewriters of the Times: Maxine Kumin's Hermes

Today's New York Times contains some of the worst, most depressing news I have seen in a depressing year. But an effective way to avoid grim reality is to focus on our tiny areas of expertise and idiosyncratic preferences. Hence ...

Here's a photo of onetime U.S. poet laureate Maxine Kumin at her Hermes 10.



The model 10 is essentially an electrified version of the legendary Hermes 3000.

(By the way, Lorraine Hansberry was pictured recently in The New Yorker with her imposing early IBM. Check out Robert Messenger's post for a whole series of interesting photos of the writer and her writing machine.)

The same issue also includes a rave review of Samanta Schweblin's novel Little Eyes. This is the novel that I reviewed last summer under its Spanish title, Kentukis. I highly recommend it as a creative and insightful exploration of technology and psychology. Here is an interview with Schweblin.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Guest post: The IBM Model D Executive typewriter

I'm glad to present a guest post by Peter Stuart. Peter is known among typewriter collectors as an expert on typefaces, including the proportional typefaces offered on IBM Executive typewriters. He was recently featured on the Austin Typewriter, Ink. podcast.

Today, Peter kindly introduces us to the IBM Model D Executive, picking up where I left off over 9 years ago in a post about the Model C.




Peter has also sent me this sample of text that features the cool Shadow Printing feature. Can you tell how it was done?