Back to them good ol’ days

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

13 July 2013


As we compose this post on our white Apple MacBook, we have also on our desk a dinky Underwood portable typewriter identical with that on which US beat novelist Jack Kerouac wrote his epic road-trip novel “On the Road” in 1951.

[See our post yesterday 12 July 2013. The novel was not published until 1957.]

We picked up this neat little writing-machine in 2006 in a shop selling bric-à-brac in Seville at a time when we were living in Andalusia in southern Spain. Bizarrely, it has a label etched onto it indicating that it originally came from Watson’s Typewriters Ltd of 128 St Vincent Street, Glasgow, in Scotland.

Kerouac used this machine to write his epic in three weeks on a 36-metre scroll of tracing paper, the separate sheets of which he had joined together using sellotape, the roll then being wound round a plastic rolling pin. The aim was to write the book non-stop without letting his train of thought be interrupted by the continual need to feed new sheets of paper into the typewriter. Kerouac worked day and night to complete the text, his wife feeding him cup after cup of coffee to keep him awake.

The original scroll and typewriter are still extant and were displayed last summer in France in an exhibition devoted to “On the Road” at the Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits in the Boulevard St Germain in Paris. Unfortunately, the end of the scroll is missing as a dog ate it.

Kerouac’s Underwood was obviously in tip-top condition to be able to withstand all that non-stop pounding by the key representative of the post-war Beat Generation.

We have not been so lucky. The paper-pickup mechanism on our machine is out of order, so we have not so far been in a position to stand down our smooth silent soulless word-processor and revert to a machine which – no less than the savour of a Madeleine cake or the contours of a church steeple dispatched Marcel Proust on a never-ending quest for the vanished world of his youth – will inevitably evoke nostalgic memories of the days, long gone alas, when the rackety click-clack of antiquated Remingtons resounded through the newsroom as we first pressed typeface to paper in our salad days as a cub reporter on a local rag in north-east London.

However, things may be changing apace and a swift repair job at London’s only still-functioning typewriter surgery may soon become an urgent necessity.

According to a report in the Russian newspaper Izvestiya – relayed yesterday 12 July 2013 in the London Guardian – Russia’s Federal Guard Service (FSO), which protects the country’s top-rank officials, has ordered 20 Triumph Adler typewriters.

The aim is to counter electronic snooping by Russia’s enemies in the wake of the revelation by ex-CIA whistleblower Edward Snowden that United States spies have been intercepting internet data worldwide on a colossal scale.

An FSO source is quoted as saying: “After the scandal with the spread of secret documents by Wikileaks, the revelations of Edward Snowden, reports of listening to Dmitry Medvedev during his visit to the G20 summit in London [in April 2009, when Medvedev was President of Russia], the practice of creating paper documents will expand.”

And a jolly good thing, too, according to Antigone1984.

It has become massively apparent over the past few years that the spooks of the world have united in an Orwellian quest to pry into the most intimate secrets of every individual on the planet.

Not only that. Most of the world’s electronic data flows, at some point or other in its course through cyber space, via networks controlled by the world’s major internet companies – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, etc, all based in the United States.  According to the latest media reports, these companies are guilty of supplying private data by the  shedload to US spymasters.

The precautionary principle suggests, therefore, that we should treat more or less every communication we send or receive as being potentially bugged.

Antigone1984 believes that anyone concerned to protect the privacy of their personal, political or business communications should forthwith jettison all the electronic paraphernalia with which they have been saddled by the snake-oil salesmen of the internet. They should revert instead to good-old person-to-person oral communications supplemented, if necessary, by handwritten or typed messages.

And that means saying goodbye to smartphones, tablets, interactive TVs, computers and even old-fashioned Marconi landlines.

What a relief it will be to consign to the dustbin all the electronic garbage that so clutters up modern life and destroys social contact, turning what were once human beings into glassy-eyed inter-nerds!

But what about this blog of ours?  Shall we cease to publish?

Here again we can take our cue from the Russians, who appear to be setting the pace in taking us forward to the past.

Antigone1984 would be quite happy to abandon cyberspace and turn, instead, to composing samizdats – a Russian word for “self-publishing” – which were typed or handwritten political texts banned by the state that circulated clandestinely from hand to hand among dissidents in the bad old days of the Soviet Union.

Here’s to the past. We never appreciated it till it was gone.

Time for a revival perhaps.

The future is in the past.


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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