The Mystery of the Typewritten Letter

Two Typewriter Faces
Top: «Leatherjacket» magazine # 2, June 1973; note the top left of the “p” and the “l”, and the top right of the “r”. The letters are less worn than in the image below, six years later. Below «Surfers Paradise» magazine # 2 (Steve McGarrett issue), 1979.

I began writing poetry with a pen, of course, but quickly moved to typewriters when I could. I used an electric Smith-Corona portable typewriter for many years. In the early 1990s, when I had been using a desktop computer for nearly a decade, but before the days of light and affordable portable computers, I took the Smith-Corona with me on a short visit to Melbourne and used it for a few weeks, but found the experience very frustrating. Every page was littered with mistakes that seemed to take ages to rectify, and I had aching shoulders from pounding the keys. The machine has been sleeping at the bottom of a wardrobe for a decade now. Here are two photos of two different magazine pages from the 1970s, printed from Gestetner rotary silk-screen stencils struck on the machine.

Then, in January 2012, I received a typed letter from somewhere in the USA. Typed? In capital letters? But typewriters are extinct, aren’t they?

Well, no. They still carry on a kind of ghostly after-life, but only in a few odd and shadowy corporate niches. So where did this letter come from? Continue reading “The Mystery of the Typewritten Letter”

Vale Eve Arnold

Eve Arnold, London, 1998, photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Copyright Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos
Eve Arnold, London, 1998. Copyright Henri Cartier-Bresson / Magnum Photos

Photographer Eve Arnold died recently, at 99. From the obituary article in the «Los Angeles Times»:

“Eve Arnold, one of the first woman photojournalists to join the prestigious Magnum Photography Agency in the 1950s and traveled the world for her work but was best known for her candid shots of Hollywood celebrities, died in January 2012. She was 99 years old… Starting in 1951, when career women were a rarity, Arnold navigated distant countries and cultures, photographing horse trainers in Mongolia, factory workers in China and harem women in Dubai. Her photo essays appeared in feature news magazines and in the many books she compiled.” (From:,0,7118173.story?page=1)

In late October 1996 I attended a party at the London home of the Lebanese novelist Hanan el-Shaykh, and met Eve Arnold. She was then in her mid-eighties, with beautiful manners, a lovely light American accent, and dressed in the most elegant dove-grey suit I have ever seen, rather like the one she is shown wearing in Henri Cartier-Bresson’s portrait a year or two later. Continue reading “Vale Eve Arnold”

Yul Brynner: Never Argue with Fools

Yul Brynner, passport photo, 1940s
Yul Brynner, passport photo, 1940s

In a thoughtful interview with David Frost on the David Frost TV show, 28 April 1971, actor Yul Brynner talked briefly about his second PhD degree. He did this at Chicago because he had plenty of time free in between acting in «The King and I» at night. He knew all the lines by heart by then, and he was bored. He also recounted that when he left Europe for the United States in 1941, he traveled to the USA to study with acting teacher Michael Chekhov and toured the country with Chekhov’s theatrical troupe. He said that when he left Paris, a friend who was too poor to buy him a proper going-away present gave him some valuable advice instead: “Never argue with fools. To do so, you have to climb down to their level, and on that level they always win.”

There’s a good biographical précis here:

Can anyone supply me with more details about this interview? I’d be grateful.

A Kelpie’s Breakfast

Kelpie and sheep
Kelpie and sheep

“Most of us manage on a kelpie’s breakfast: a drink of water and a good look around.” — Doug Anderson, television reviewer, «Sydney Morning Herald», December 2011.

The Kelpie is a medium-sized Australian farm dog with great endurance and a cheerful and independent temperament, good at mustering and droving sheep, cattle and other ungulates. Kelpies come in a variety of colours and blends, mainly chocolate, tan and black, and are popular around the world.