Octopus' Garden

Thursday, April 24, 2008


There's been a disturbing trend toward autosarcophagy here at Artichoke Heart Headquarters, what with the advent of artichoke season and all. Sometimes I like to steam up a couple in the vegetable steamer for a light dinner. I dip the leaves in Miracle Whip Lite, into which I mix in gourmet green curry spice. I love how the artichokes keep one busy for awhile with the pleasure of eating . . . it takes time to peel off each leaf, and scrape of the soft nutty rind of flesh with one's teeth. I love how the flavor's complicated and difficult to pin down: Is it nutty? Is it bitter? Is it sweet?

I re-upped my artichoke stash at the grocery store yesterday, and in typical small-town fashion, the contents of my grocery cart were fodder for scrutiny and commentary.

"What are these?" the cashier asks.

"Artichokes," I reply.

"How do you eat them?"

I explain, but avoid getting all Antonia's Line about it.

"That's weird," the cashier says. "That's really, really weird."

Yes, maybe weird . . . but delicious. All you have to do is to steer clear of the thorns, which are readily apparent. Because of their thorniness.

* * *

My father still does all of his writing on an Olivetti Studio manual typewriter. Sometimes I mock him for being a Luddite. Sometimes I have to order him typewriter ribbons from eBay. Amusingly, his typewriter is now considered somewhat of a collectible vintage antique.

I learned how to type (and write) on a manual typewriter. I admit, there is something highly satisfying about writing and having the sound of one's writing bear a vague resemblance to artillery fire. It makes one feel busy, and as if one is producing something terribly noisy and important.

I periodically switch things up in terms of writing tools when I feel that I'm getting potentially complacent or lazy. Sometimes I worry that it's almost too easy to word process. You can go in and change one word here, and one word there, and poke at it from what occasionally feels like maybe too much of a distance. When I draft by hand, it feels more connected/visceral. More deliberate. When I type, the process of revision really means to re-vision. Every single word has to be retyped, and therefore reconsidered and redeliberated. The same with every line break. Goldsmithery. Hammerplating.

With that in mind, please meet the most recent soon-to-be acquisition at Artichoke Heart's House of Wayward Cats & Co. This is the Olivetti Valentine, designed by Ettore Sottsass in 1969. (I found it for a song! Well, okay, maybe not quite a song . . . more like a recitative and aria . . . but it usually goes for an entire opera). Not only is it a typewriter that nostalgically evokes my own literary roots -- a back to the source kind of thing -- but it is also a Design Icon!

Featured on page 245 of Landmarks of Twentieth-Century Design: An Illustrated Handbook, by Kathrynn Hiesinger & George Marcus, the description contained therein reads as follows: "Having used color and referential shapes to humanize the office equipment he had designed for Olivetti since 1957, Ettore Sottsass, Jr. further personalized it with the Valentine typewriter he designed with Perry A. King for use at home. Rejecting the cool efficient image of Olivetti's earlier portable models, he conceived a typewriter that would visually suggest an alternate context and be appreciated less for its function than for its novel design--of orange-red molded plastic accented by two yellow buttons on the ribbon spools ("like the two eyes of a robot"). It was made, he said, "for use any place except in an office, so as not to remind anyone of monotonous working hours, but rather to keep amateur poets company on quiet Sundays in the country or to provide a highly colored object on a table in a studio apartment. An anti-machine machine, built around the commonest mass-produced mechanism, the works inside any typewriter, it may also seem to be an unpretentious toy."

What could be better than that?

posted by Artichoke Heart at 10:36 PM


I love old typewriters, and this is one of my "dream machines." SO far, it's eluded me at a bargain price, but I'm still on the prowl for one. Congratulations on the sweet find. Valentine, indeed!
Blogger Pamela, at 7:26 AM  
You can find quality, new typewriter ribbons at Ames Supply.


Anonymous Steve, at 8:52 AM  
That's a pretty sexy typewriter. I am jealous.
Blogger Erica, at 4:31 PM  
That's fierce. Use it in good health!
Blogger Shelley T, at 6:49 PM  
That's really gorgeous!
Blogger Karin, at 9:59 AM  
Me likey that typewriter. I learned on a manual, too. Used to freak out my junior high teachers with neatly typed reports.

I see your particular model as a precursor to the Macintosh computer--with its lively, toy-like and please-touch-me qualities.
Blogger Michelle Rogge Gannon, at 12:44 PM  
I got similar comments in the Nebraska City grocery. "You sure eat a lot of ... vegetables."
Blogger Erin, at 11:09 PM  

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