Typewriter Trip part 1

26 10 2020
Part 1

I’ve Got a Typewriter: Now What?

9 10 2020

You just had to have it and now there it is, picture pretty sitting on your picture pretty home office desk. It did not come cheap and you are pleased with your purchase. Is there anything else you can do with it? So now what?

Well yes, Virginia, you should learn to type. The next level of evolution in the antiquarian art of typewriter collection is to learn how to use your typewriter. You have to teach those little fingertips the arcane art of typing accurately, with consistent force, and cadence, to match the words that come to your head.

There are old typewriter hardcopy books still floating around on the market and it might not be a bad idea to acquire one or two. Lacking that, you can translate the computer typing lessons on the internet into typewriter lessons. Mind you it will be a frustrating and exasperating exercise that will take time to master. Be ready for pages with a lot of errors and typos, but be gentle with yourself. Comfort yourself that when you finally get the hang of typing, you will be rewarded with facility in the conduction of your abstract thought to printed ideas on the page.

Note: do not wait until you are “perfect” in your typing skills to put thought down on the typewriter. That will take forever and you will probably lose interest in the whole pursuit before you get better. Instead, start typing. Do not correct. Do not use Wite-out. Do not use correction tape. If you simply must, use a felt pen to cross out the offending words or phrase and then continue writing. No one is going to check your work. No one is going to give you a low grade. Instead, you get full marks if you keep on putting your output down on paper with your typewriter.

Start thinking. Yes, become more aware of the thoughts running through your head in the course of the day. If it helps, keep a small notepad and pencil in your pocket to jot down questions and ideas that come to you. A good start would be to type out a half page of your thoughts every morning. Remember, it does not have to be any good. It does not have to be organized. It does not have to make a point. The only objective is getting used to putting what’s running in your head down on the paper.

What good is this going to do? As you continue to do this, your thinking and (consequently) writing will begin to organize themselves. Yes, like magic. Magic you do not force yourself to do.Hint: Take note of things you feel particularly interested in, what ever those are. Bid your servants: who, what, where, when, why, and how, to do their work!

Start reading critically. Not only should you pick up the habit of reading, but now you have to learn the art of stepping back from what you have read and asking yourself questions like what you liked about the article, what the writer’s point of view was, how he approached the idea, what supporting arguments he or she used, what examples or authorities were cited, and how the conclusions were drawn. It isn’t hard work because you likely already read a lot of things in the course of your day. Only this time, learn to step back and look more deeply. Reflect on it. Interact with the reading material.

Get writing by taking baby steps. The first things you write do not need to be long. Half a page to one page should do it. Have a folder and slip your finished work in there. Put a date on it and keep at it daily. Don’t throw your work away because the day may come when you will want to rewrite that piece and maybe even publish it. Whatever happens, congratulate yourself for being a writer, because, if you do this, then you are a writer.

P.S. You will find that as you force yourself to write, you will inevitably get to know the mechanical functions of your heretofore mysterious machine. Yes, you will start fiddling with this, poking at that, tweedling, wiping, oiling, and what not. This is par for the course. It is also a good thing because getting to know your antique typewriter is part of being a good collector. Bon chance!

D. Pinpin 8 Oct 2020

For the Filipino Typewriter Collectors group on FB.

Remington Noiseless Portable Model Seven

Water Lilies and Things I Learned as a Kid

15 09 2020

The latest is I’m down to three plants. One has disappeared into the depths of the pond. The next have up its ghost and all I got was a decaying seed embedded in mud. There are three left and here’s hoping that whatever it was that cut off the leaf stems of the plants is no longer going to do it with the remainder. Just to make sure, I have placed the three inside a plastic enclosure in the pond, an old and torn laundry hamper.

You’ve read how I excited I was when I received a packet of twenty water lily seeds . And how in the last entry the last five survivors were beginning to produce leaves. That’s not the latest.

And here’s the deal. I’ve done a little research on stem rot and it turns out that the lily can be prone to a variety of ailments and environmental dangers. For something that grows in clay soil, would you believe it’s sensitive to bacteria? Puts a new meaning on probiotics!

Then there are creatures. I understand that turtles love young water lily sprouts. To eat. No, we haven’t got turtles. Haven’t had them since the day I discovered that your typical deceptively slow aquatic turtle actually has the ability to hoover in little fish. I was a kid back then and all my guppies disappeared when I put a turtle in. Incidentally, another creature that can also make short work of your small fish is the duck. Yes, your ordinary duck. That daffy looking creature has this ability to “filter” the water through its beak and its beak is so sensitive that it can feel the presence of a fish that it comes it contact with. Goodbye fish.

So what creature? Fish. There are five foot and a half long Mekong river catfish in my pond and it has become clear that their idea of fun is either dragging their sides on the leaf stems or nudging the stems with their sturdy heads. Think tender lily stems. Now think 18 inches of strong fish multiplied by five.

But wait! There’s more! In my research, I’ve discovered that there are two schools of thought regarding water lily seeds. One school believes that it is ok to plant in the seed i the muck after a week, whether or not the roots have appeared. The other school believes that it’s is better to embed the seeds when they have appeared. Oh, and there’s a third school. This one believes that not only should you wait for the roots to show, but you should wait until they’ve aged a bit and turned fibrous. In my experience of the seed rotting, this third school of thought might just have a point.

So what do I do? The first thing I did when the seeds were down to five was I ordered more seeds. Twenty more had arrived a few days ago. And I’ve started them growing.

The next thing I do is I’m not going to get all anxious about these plants. In my experience, there is something to be said for a little laissez faire when it comes to hobby objects. Me, I grow guppies easily. Swarms of them. And they get very little attention from me. I keep their water reasonably clean. I provide them with places to shelter their fry. I keep them fed. Meanwhile I watch the members of an online guppy group get ulcers with the amount of stressing they do over their pet fish. I’ve kept fish since I was a little boy and that was many decades ago. I’ve learned that often enough, it’s the fuss that the owner makes over the fish that kills them. The fish literally get loved to death. 

I’m applying the same philosophy of leaving well enough alone to my next batch of water lily seeds. I’ll grow them alright, but I am not going to worry them to death. If they live and flourish, fine. If they don’t even under reasonable care, then they don’t. Good luck, water lilies!


15 09 2020

Lessons from a Passing Rainstorm

“I was still on the motorbike when I concluded that these storms are so like life. They’re loud, impressive, and – if you let them – frightening. But they never last. The lesson for me here was to stay calm always. These things (storms) are part of life. They come, they go. But if we know ourselves, we need not be troubled. I felt good, thinking that. And rode on home. (Drone shot from right side, then rising and pulling up to a vanishing panoramic shot. Matching music).

Filipino Blades

12 09 2020

Bladed weapons. Earlier today there was an online seminar under the auspices of the Chinatown Museum under the general heading of “Coolections.” More specifically, the seminar was on Filipino Blades. Hosted by journalist Janine Cabato, five guest speakers, talked about their hobby and personal collections of traditional Filipino short swords from throughout the Philippine Islands.

Short swords? You mean like bolos and the kris? In this day and age, why? Why one earth would anyone be interested in maintaining the knowledge and art of a weapon that must have been invented soon after man learned for forge metal. The earliest sword specimens are dated to 1600 BC. But why the interest indeed?

I attribute it to primal urges. Underneath the trappings of modernity, men are still drawn to their more basic inclinations. To work the earth, to plant, and grow food. To use tools and build houses of wood and stone. To fight. To dominate. To kill.

Oh yes, this is likely to be a very unpopular point of view, especially to those who hold that man has come a long way from his more barbaric forebears. I disagree. I hold instead that men have just learned to hide his nature in plain site. Modern man speaks of patriotism and self-defense. He speaks of civility and social responsibility. Yet let the power grid go down and you have a full assortment of civil unrest. These days we have big ships, mach speed fighter planes, missiles, laser and what have you. All designed to do one thing: kill.

The sword on the other hand is more honest in its simplicity. It is an indispensable tool when out in the field, for cutting brush, belaying wild animals, preparing food. Yet by just changing his frame of mind, the sword bearer changes his domestic tool into a weapon. You may be able to use your gun for bringing down wild game, but you can hardly bludgeon it into cookable pieces. Again, you need your knife for that. It is no wonder that despite all claims to modernity, every home has a sharp kitchen knife that could otherwise be described as a deadly weapon.

And people still dream to be what their real lives do not allow them to be. How else to explain the fascination with war stories and other portrayals of violence. Modernity is only skin deep. What man who lays his hands on a sword does not automatically want to swing it in the classic diagonal arc or thrust it forward into an invisible foe? Have you ever wondered why there are so many hulking SUVs on the road when there are hardly any joining the Serengeti Safari? Or the great disparity between the number of divers watches rated for 200 meters under the sea or more, when sports divers can only go down to 40 meters, and that there even fewer people who are actually SCUBA divers? 

There are more Walter Mittys among us than we care to admit. People who are able to get through the drudgery of their daily lives using their fertile imaginations. That secretary or clerk is a K-Pop star. That middle-aged guy is a Special Forces team member or a secret agent. That old guy? He’s Tom Jones on the stage, pelted with knickers. And these bladed weapon collectors? You can guess. Ah, imagination! What would our lives be without it?

What Typewriter Should I Get?

10 09 2020

Someone recently posted a question on the Antique Typewriter Collectors group on Facebook about what typewriter to get a friend. That had me stumped for a moment. Was it a trick question? You see, when you’re asking that question of people, the first you really want to know is if these people are collecting for pretty or collecting for use. Or possibly, looking for something (just one or two) to write with. Me, I’m the second kind. I collect, yes, but I want to be able to use that machine too. No, neither will I go for a functional typewriter, but one that just has no chic. We have, to this present day, machines coming out of China that are like that.

And what sort of collecting? There are still those who will be happy with any old decrepit looking machine that they can put in the corner for that quaint, old-fashioned feel. They don’t really care if the machine works or not. 

It doesn’t end there. Those that want their machines for writing want certain things of their machines. It will vary for different people. Me, I like the keys on my typewriter to have a certain feedback, the slightest bit of resistance from the point where the key is struck to the time the typeface hits the paper. There are typewriters where the keys are just “dead.” When you hit the key, you can feel the limpness of the mechanism all the way to the strike. The resistance I’m talking about has infinitesimal degrees of difference. So machines resist because their mechanism just happens to be dirty and are in need of an overhaul and lubrication. There are others that are just plain heavy to the touch. 

You’ll forgive me here but two of my favorite machines happen to be of a famous brand not so recently made infamous because a famous person praised the machine. The media went crazy over that and the prices went North. The brand is Hermes and the famous guy is Tom Hanks.

1963 Hermes 3000

I can’t blame Tom either, because I agree. I have both a 60s and a 70s Hermes 3000. Their keys have just the kind of typing resistance I like. From the time your fingertip hits a key to the time the slug’s typeface strikes the paper, you feel the mechanism guided throughout. It never feels passive or loose. The feel has been described as “silky.” What about other models of the Hermes, do they have the same feel? To a lesser degree, yes. I also have a Hermes Rocket/Baby and it also has the characteristic live feel. 

Now don’t get me wrong. This is not to say that the rest of the machines out there all worthy of the trash heap. There are varying degrees of refinement in typewriters and there are varying degrees of user expectation. I’m only setting up the Hermes as coming closest to what I, as a typewriter user, expect of my machines. In a perfect world. And hey, even I admit that I tire of the Hermes and sometimes look forward to the feel of another machine! I have a number of Olympias, which I find to be reliable and precise working machines, Underwoods, Remingtons, Royals, and Smith-Coronas. See? Now we come back to the question, “What typewriter should you get?” The way I see it, whatever typewriter you connect with. And never let anyone tell you different.

Discarded Memories

9 09 2020

9 Sept 2020. Would you throw away your memories? I had to, just now. Threw out two boxes of perfectly good VHS tapes. It being a Wednesday, this was the designated day for pickup of the non-biodegradables. VHS tapes qualify. My mother, bless her soul, was big into VHS. 

It’s been a couple of years now and the tapes are simply taking up space. Throwing out the tapes has been harder to do than you would expect. I did not want to look more closely at the tapes because I knew that if I did, I would begin having second thoughts and the tapes would once again troop back into the house to remain in limbo until they got in the way and I’d see the sense in throwing them out again. Two extra large garbage bags full.

But I finally steeled myself and did it. Put the bags out there on the street and the truck took them. Now I’m happy. And I’m sad. What’s there to be said for the material things that we accumulate in our lifetimes? Do they all suffer the same fate? Should they?


While here I am throwing things out, there are those who collect. The antiques industry has so far had revenue of $1.5 billion Dollars. A tangible example of the proverb “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” But where’s the magic line? Where does trash qualify as treasure?

And we can’t be too harsh either. It might surprise you to know that people are more romantic than you think. Nearly every product today is sold using the trigger of feel-good memories picked up in our lives, from soap to cars to houses. Beyond the cold hard facts of the product’s qualities, the purchase tipping point is the good feelings we associate with the products. Why for instance would so many people put time and money into restoring a vintage car when present day cars are cheaper, more fuel efficient, more comfortable, safer, and so much easier to drive? Associations. Memories. Is it any surprise that the current Queen of Home Decluttering has, as a distinct category, mementos. Their essence? They must “spark joy.”

Moving On

There is a Filipino saying which translates to “What is the grass for if the horse has passed away?” Pretty harsh, but pithy. If you will visit the antique shops of your town, you will likely find the very same things that your ancestors would have killed you for touching, being sold without the fanfare and ado that always came with them at your home. Remember the treasured china that never came out except on special occasions?

We’re not exempted. We too will go and the things we’ve lavished with our time and attention, they will be left behind, no longer bathed in the glow of our projected values. Which is not to say that we should therefore start tossing out that which we will leave behind. Nor does it mean that we should turn into heartless monsters tearing out sentimentality from function. What sort of life would that be? Besides, I doubt we could do it. All I’m coming up with is this: the things that really last are the things we cannot touch. Like love. True treasure.

I’ve Got my Water Lilies (Part 3)

7 09 2020

Monday, September 7, 2020

In Buddhist scripture, Buddha compares himself with the lotus flower in that he rises pure, transcending a stained and muddy world. That in summary is pretty much the miracle of the lotus, the flower of the water lily which roots itself in the mud then rises to surface level. The flower, which with only a little stretch of imagination, is shaped like a shining star, rises above the water line and blooms heavenward.

AD ASTRA PER ASPERA (to the stars, through difficulties)

In Buddhist scripture, Buddha compares himself with the lotus flower in that he rises pure, transcending a stained and muddy world. That in summary is pretty much the miracle of the lotus, the flower of the water lily which roots itself in the mud then rises to surface level. The flower, which with only a little stretch of imagination, is shaped like a shining star, rises above the water line and blooms heavenward.

Yes, you could definitely trip on that. The Japanese use Bonsai to evoke forest nature scenes in their mind. I’ll be using my lilies to remind myself of the peaceful environment that the lily thrives in. Usually tranquil bodies of water. Underneath there may be fish nibbling on the stem, domed above, the vast sunlit skies and the breeze on the water surface.

Today is the ninth day since I started my water lily seeds. Yesterday was the first unfurling of the lilypad and today, the rest are following. This will likely be the last report I’m making for the water lilies now that I know who to go about getting them started. I’m happy. I’ll be watching them, of course, but unless something remarkable presents itself, we move on to other business. Cheers!

I’ve Got my Water Lilies (Part 2)

5 09 2020

Saturday, September 5, 2020. 


The package of seeds I ordered online arrived on Sept 28. 20 brown seeds, obout a centimenter and a half long, somewhat like a fat bullet with a point on one end and a flattish side on the other. The first thing I did was look up on Youtube how to germinate the seeds. There are several. As it turns out, the seeds do need some prior treatment before they are soaked. First thing thought is to place them all in a container full of water. The ones that float are not likely to germinate. Then you want to dry off the ones that sink. You dry them so you can handle them easily for “scarification.” 

I know it sounds like what some tribal warriors do to each other to mark their coups. No, this one is strictly for the seeds. It turns out that water lily seeds have a tough outer covering that protects the tender plant inside. These plants sometimes come from places where there is snow and ice. In those seasons, the seeds lie dormant in the mud until the season changes and the weather warms up. Not so in the tropics where they can grow any time of year.

Yes, it’s blurred, but that’s what the stem looks like growing from the seed at the pond bottom.

The way to get the seed to germinate is to provide an opening at the base (the flattish end) of the seed. You do this by scratching the seed on a piece of rough sandpaper until the shell is abraded and you see the whitish kernel inside. Stop when you see it. Do not by any means believe this Indian posted video where he got a hammer and cracked the seed with it. I did. That effectively killed 12 of the 20 seeds. 3 floated and did not germinate at all so I was left with five. So today I’ve put in an order to replace them.

Ah, but the five grew and grew well. They were putting on inches by the day and today, eight days after, the first stems are about 12 inches long and I can see the beginning of the first leaves.

I’ve already potted the five and sunken them in my fish pond. They need a few more inches to break the surface, which I expect they will do tomorrow. Already my curious catfish are nuzzling at the stems. I can tell when I see the tips of the unopened leaves moving in the water.

Unless you’re a gardener, you are probably wondering what kind of interest, let alone excitement, a person could have for such a petty-seeming thing like a lotus seed. If it helps, I liken it to the excitement of having children: the potential. While the potential for a human being is certainly beyond anything a mere plant would have, there is still the potential that is fitting of well-cared for plants. Me, I look forward to easing my eyes on the green lily pads on the surface of the water. And my first lotus bloom. The pond is easily visible from the dining table. The coffee during that first bloom will be extra delicious.

The furled leaf on the stem tip

Did you know there are myths and lore associated with water lilies and the lotus flower? More on that later!

(to be continued)

I’ve Got my Water Lilies! Part 1

4 09 2020

Friday, September 4, 2020. 

It was when I lived in Thailand that I got hooked on water lilies. It was hard not to. Thailand to my mind is a water country. That is, I think of it as not just land but land and water. Water is everywhere. The rivers, the khlongs (canals), the agriculture and aquaculture, even the food. There was a season when these carabao-shaped nuts would be available. I’m told these were some sort of water chestnut. A visit to Chatuchak Market opened a wonderworld of pet fishkeeping and plants. Oh, and there the monsoon floods! Indeed, there was water everywhere. Even in front of their houses. 

Lily Pads. Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr

Along the green-lit sidewalks of Bangkok’s narra tree-lined streets (soi), I noticed how many of the establishments had, usually at the foot of their spirits houses which were perched on a post, low bowls and pots of water outside. There were the round leaves of water lilies with, now and then, a lotus flower proudly sticking up on a stem, above the waterline. Turns out that it was an old Thai tradition to leave a pot of water outside of the house as a gesture of hospitality for the thirsty passersby. Anyone was free to dip in for a refreshing bowl of rain water. Of course, that was before the present day when air pollution was not a thing. What I saw were vestiges of the dying tradition. Nevertheless, it was a charming sight to behold. The gesture of hospitality was still clear even if no one actually took a drink. The visual stuck in my head, along with the fragrance of exotic spices and burning incense. 

It has been decades since I’ve been back to Thailand but the fond images remain with me. In my house I have a pond where I keep a variety of multi-colored, veil-tailed guppies, an assortment of other live-bearer fish, along with five river catfish, pangasius, that I’m told by the internet originated from the rivers of Indochina, likely the Mekong. The catfish started at three inches but they’re approaching two-feet long now. I also have some water plants growing and sticking their broad leaves into the air above the water. No, not water lilies. Not yet.

I could tell you about the therapeutic qualities of watching fish swim in the pond, and gazing at the forms of the green leaves of the water plants, or marveling at the play of light on the water as it ripples, but that’s another topic we’ll leave for another day. Instead, let’s move on to the marvel of online shopping, and the boom it has experienced thanks to the home quarantine imposition. It had me thinking: Would Lazada have water lilies? Lo and behold, they did!

(To be continued.)