The Typewriter is Holy

13 Nov

The last two weeks have been pure madness: running from one appointment to the next, working on five hundred different projects at once. On the one hand, that’s a great thing because I’ll have loads to tell you about…! On the other hand, it’s been headless-chicken madness. I recently spent an afternoon opening the RittiMark Archive. Young artists out there, believe me when I say you are going to need an archive! Now we have a collection of folders boldly shouting things like WORKSHOPS, PROJECTS, PRESS, FILM PRODUCTION. All I’m missing is a pretty assistant with a hot cuppa coffee.

If you want to know where Mark and I will be this month, we have several lovely theater performances you can see on his website here.

So in order to escape the madness, Mark and I took off for Cologne. I am now sitting in a quiet room in a village outside of Cologne. My personal favourite in the room is undoubtedly the light wooden table I am sitting at. It has the vibes and beauty of a proper writer’s table. And on it is my beautiful new Remington typewriter…

beautiful Remington on a beautiful table

“Hemingway wrote on a Remington,” I told Mark at the second hand shop where we bought the delightful machine. I’m not sure if that is entirely true but I felt I had heard or read it somewhere. But, if anything, everytime I look at this machine, I think of Jack Kerouac, of Allen Ginsberg – and I love the machine. I’m thinking of writing something thought-provoking on it like Woody Gurthie has on his guitar.

Woody Gurthie's Guitar

As the rest of the world moves in one direction, Mark and I seem to move in the opposite. Modern films are made with 3D animations – we make films with puppets. Most people watch films on bluray – we watch VHS. There are ipads iphone itunes – we have computers, yes, but we only listen to music on vinyl. In the beginning, it wasn’t an active decision. We just both happen to love the scratchy sound of vinyls and think it’s brilliant that lp players are becoming cheaper while everyone runs after the latest HD 3D invention. But the mad scramble for the latest technology is simply ridiculous and I want no part in it. How necessary is bluray? HD? 3D? CGI? Not. At. All. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a filmmaker, I love films. But 3D television? Count me out. I think I’ll write “THIS MACHINE KILLS 3D TELEVISION” on my Remington.

Yes, I prefer the typewriter, where you cannot erase your mistakes, where your fingers hurt after pounding at the machine (no, it’s not an electric either), where typing too fast causes the iron letters to tangle. I find great beauty in it. It’s a dedication to slowness, to the simplicity of human inventions. A simple creature whose sole existence is for one pure reason; who is worthless without this existence; who is being discarded for multi-functional computers. It’s my personal symbol of all that is, in fact, necessary. What magnificent works were written on such a machine. What writers knew only this form of font and ink!

But I digress. We love second hand shops. We could spend hours in them. This is the last paradise for long-lost beauty; nostalgia before it fades away in the shrill dawn of a computer-orientated life. The Matrix got ya!

Wandering about the shop, I told a friend that I had always wanted to start a typewriter collection. “But, you know, that’s an awfully space-consuming thing to collect,” I said, “and heavy.”

Musing about the disadvantages of such a collection, I wandered to the technology section to have a look at these machines that are not suitable as collectibles. They were beautiful… I saw the Remington, I saw an Olympia and I thought, “One, just one, to type letters, or addresses on an envelope. It has such style!” And yet, as I walked to the cashier with three typewriters under my arm, Mark gave me a Proper Talking To.

“Look, you can’t buy three. It’s not a real collection if you buy them all at once. You should just buy one. What are you going to do with three? Exhibit them like museum artifacts? That’s nonsense!”

This coming from the man whose room is full of robot arms, foam mattresses, puppets, Hulk figurines, fluorescent orange plastic toy gun darts… “Those are all for my work,” he said patiently, as though speaking to a child. “I’m going to use them to build a robot one day… Or I’ll use them in my workshops. Will you build a robot out of your typewriter?”

… foam puppets in the conservatory, foam arms in my bookshelf, foam bits in his hair, in my hair, in the bedroom… A plastic guitar (yes I know it’s cool), a mini amplifier, a plastic disco machine – absurdities! absurdities!

“Two,” he begged. “Settle on two.” The lovely shopkeeper poked at my typewriters, an Egyptian plate, two Christmas trees and a vinyl for Mark, and said, “Take everything for twenty, darling.”

And just because it was pretty, and because I felt it looked like something from a ladies’ boudoir during the Golden Era of Louis XIV, I bought a strange blue and white straw… thing… Here’s a very happy me with two typewriters in their cases and the Louis XIV Boudoir Accessoire.

Two Typewriters & Louis XIV

Mark still disagrees that my typewriter collection bears any resemblance whatsoever to his collection of toy guns, plastic guitars, squeaky dog heads, Hulk Spiderman Batman Mr Fantastic figurines . . . but he’s pleased that I’ll be putting the machines to use and not just exhibiting them on my bookshelf. Ebay sells ink bands for typewriters. Hurrah!

And here’s the fun part of the story:  I wrote this blog post on the Remington typewriter. And then I copied it onto the computer. What a life. What a bizarre compromise between Loving the Past and Living in the Future.  I’ll get a Twitter account, carve each tweet into a small stone, and send the stones to my Twitter-followers. This’ll be my first tweet:

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: As I’m sure you know, I’m not a very consequent blogger with an iphone at the ready, blogging from toilets, autobahn and airports. I do this blog thing on a comfy sofa with Time to Think.

But I have decided to weave the blog closer into my life in the future. For the following reason: I am going on a writing journey to Perú to gather information for my new book. From December to January, I’ll be traveling throughout the country with our project manager and very good friend Rose. And I will be reporting about it on the blog. So in the upcoming months, you’ll find pictures of beautiful Perú, hear about our adventures and find out how the new novel is progressing… I’ll see you on the other side, in the mysterious country of shamanism and literature!

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5 Responses to “The Typewriter is Holy”

  1. Young Davey Jones November 17, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    Any 35mm film material transports a resolution a DVD or VHS tape could only dream of! High resolutions in digital media are necessary improvements to conserve the beauty and the youth of the analogue picture and acoustic for eternity, while tapes, vinyls and celluloid gets scratchier, colorless and diffuse with every time you play them. But in fact – it’s a matter of style 🙂
    By the way: Did you see Wim Wender’s last documentary and Werner Herzog’s new documentary? I did not see them yet, but I’m very sure: They will show the adequate application of 3D in movies.

    • rittisoncco November 17, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

      O I agree without a doubt that the resolution is amazing, the colours beautiful and the sound impeccable. We have a high-stacking collection of VHS lying about the apartment and trust me, I know *all* about the underwater-sound-effect of a 10 year old VHS tape. 🙂 But apart from being a nostalgic for the style and beauty of age, what I am criticizing is the mass hysteria over 3D television and converting everything onto bluray because “you have never seen the film LIKE THIS before” is simply not a logical argument. I haven’t seen the Win Wenders or Werner Herzog documentaries but those are fine examples of people who could put 3D to very good use. I trust them with it. I *do not*, however, trust James Cameron with it. Let me get this out of the way: “Avatar” was awful in 2D. Having the choice between 2D and 3D, I choose 2D. Sure it’s a fun little gimmick, but if it adds nothing to the plot, then it’s a useless little toy. I can’t understand why so many directors are insisting on shooting their films in 3D now. I am not interested in how amazing “The Hobbit” looks in 3D. I am interested in “The Hobbit”! If you can’t make your film exciting without 3D, then you shouldn’t be making a film. (I’m looking at you, James Cameron.)

      What I am also criticizing is Average Joe’s mad scramble towards all the latest technologies. Why can’t you live without your iPhone anymore? What would you do if you actually lost it? There’ll be something more fantastic in 2 years time anyway, so why run after every little innovation and not just wait and see?

      Such are my arguments. I’m excited to see the Wim Wenders / Werner Herzog films now. Thank you for suggesting it!

  2. Gerhard November 21, 2011 at 2:40 am #

    Like the instrument is holy for a musician, it`s the typewriter for you. That you write your posts on your typewriter makes it even more interesting and unique in a digital world. In fact your posts are thought-provoking per se but even more when the readers know how important it is for you to bring your thoughts and emotions to paper. Not just typing on a virtual keyboard like iPad but to feel the letters of every single word in your finger tips. It`s your reminiscence to the great writers in history who did their works not for winning the pulitzer price but for themselves and for a community of readers that are willing to understand their passion and style.
    Computers and servers can lose their datas (it happened to me recently) and we do not know if we can open our files that we safe today in 30 or 40 years. When you bring your ideas to a manuscript (manus – scriptum) than it is your original, your master copy. You don`t need electrical power to read it, it`s like a painting that cannot be changed afterwards. I like that style of instant translation of thoughts and ideas to paper knowing that mistakes can occur and changes not allowed (unless you use a new paper). That`s only possible when you`re a unity with your (holy) typewriter. And I guess that`s also the moment when you think of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg who did represent the Beat Generation with their unadulterated and spontaneous prose. No conventions, no limits, just to write down how you see what you experience. Wouldn`t it be crazy to live back in the fifties and being together “on the road” with them (before it became too much commercialized) ?

    I did some search and I`m not sure if I`m totally right, but I read that Hemingway wrote on a Royal and George Orwell on a Remington. Two famous typewriters indeed.

    You may buy as much typewriters you want for various purposes but you have to use it because they are in good hands. And of course you should use it on your “Writing Journey” to let us participate of your upcoming experiences. Thanks for your insights. Gerhard

  3. purple Harem January 17, 2012 at 5:35 pm #

    I find Beauty in the past as well 🙂 California has some of the most interesting vintage and antique shops, so does Las Vegas oddly enough, although some are questionable. Can’t wait to see more stone pic and hear from your trip to the Motherland!

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