Friday, January 24, 2020

Bonus bummer book review: Storybook Girlfriend, by Jeremy M. Brownlowe

I met Jeremy in Portland 5 years ago—with a recently shaved head (click pic for the story):

He has now completed his transition into a transgender man and has traveled widely typing poems for the public (see the collections Angels of the Underground and Typewriter Troubadour). Click the pic for his website:

Storybook Girlfriend can be bought here. You can download the Remington Noiseless font here.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

From fake to tattoo

By now, the typosphere is familiar with the fake typewriters made in China. (What, you're not familiar? Follow the "fakes" label at the end of this post.) As I've documented before on this blog, the fakes have generated successively more copies, which have become increasingly grotesque. Here's the sequence from a real Gourland typewriter to a copy of a copy of a copy:

But now I've seen it all. This is what I just spotted on Instagram (I will not divulge the name or username of the person who posted it, as I hope they will never realize what they have done to themselves).

The typewriter tattoo phenomenon, which is documented in my book, is kind of neat, in my view. It's like typing on your own body, and imprinting a powerful symbol of creativity and language on yourself. I'd get one, if my wife didn't hate tattoos in general.

But this person has—unwittingly, I assume—gotten a tattoo of a fake typewriter, complete with the weird little details that make no sense to anyone who has experience with real typewriters. The tattoo, a signifier of authenticity (indelible ink, pain, self-expression), has been undercut by the phoniness and superficiality of the notorious "Govrland."

O tempora, o mores.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A Gothic Royal

I'm glad that I took a close look at this 1937 Royal KHM when I spotted it in a Kentucky antique mall last month. The model is one of my favorites, as it has the good looks and snappy touch of older Royals plus the basket shift that makes the newer Royals easy to use. This particular KHM wasn't in mint condition—its decals were faded, and there were various signs of wear and tear—but when I tried typing a few words, even though there was no ribbon in the machine, I could see that it featured a double Gothic typeface. The price was right (under $50, as I recall), so I snapped it up.

Yesterday, I spent the usual 3-4 hours that it takes to clean a standard Royal. By now I'm familiar with the routine: remove body panels, remove the platen and feed rollers, blow out the junk that has accumulated under the typebars, install a new ribbon, polish with Turtle Wax, and so on.

Today we associate the word "Gothic" with "Goths," and we expect typography that belongs on a heavy metal album or is reminiscent of German Fraktur. But "Gothic" in the printing world traditionally refers to plain, sans-serif typefaces. A "double Gothic" typewriter prints two sizes of sans-serif capital letters. It's one of the more unusual styles that you can find on typewriters; I see it about as often as I see italics, and less often than script. I think the main use of double Gothic was to produce captions and labels; it would be a bit odd to type a long text in this style. I have used a double-Gothic Remington noiseless portable to type headings for stories in Cold Hard Type; that machine recently went to a colleague, so I needed a new double-Gothic machine for the upcoming CHT volume III.

This typewriter gave me an opportunity to use a standard Royal spool with green ribbon that I had picked up from Spitzfaden's years ago. (Here is my nearly ten-year-old report on Spitzfaden's and the surrounding "typewriter row" in Cincinnati. Recently, Spitzfaden's finally shut down, and there are other new developments on Main Street that threaten to wipe out its old character.)

Eventually this typewriter may be put up for sale to benefit WordPlay, but for now, it's a welcome addition to my battery of writing machines.

What neat typewriters have you found recently?