Illustration | design

Tiny Tea Dispatch #034


Room for growth

photo of a jalapeño plant in a pot against a brick wall

As you can see here, the pepper plants are doing great. This Jalapeño is one of the bigger ones, we’ll have to move it to a bigger pot soon. Then it’s a matter of waiting for the flowers to come in and hot summer days to get good peppers. That’s one upside to temperature rising around here, I suppose.

# Seen #

Smulders Projects

photo of giant yellow

On Saturday, I went to an ‘open house’ at Eiffage Smulders to look at the stuff they make for installing those giant wind turbines you see off the coast in the North Sea.
They don’t build the turbines but the columns and foundations. Basically, the things that go into the ocean, including platforms. We got to climb a few of these giant yellow tubes, amongst other constructions. They’re about 8m in diameter and I’m guessing the height is 15 to 20m. Not sure, pretty big though.
One thing that came up several times in conversation during this tour, is that we don’t really have a proper sense of scale, when it comes to seeing modern wind turbines at sea (or even in the Belgian landscape). Walking on a wharf, between the cranes and equipment, it starts do dawn just how gigantic these things really are. One of the cranes (or whatever they’re called), is called ‘Titan’, for heaven’s sake. It’s awesome in the most literal meaning of the word.

Expo Le Petit Prince

illustration of the Little Prince, with a picture of the author and some text

Boo and I also went to an exhibition in Brussels, about Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the author of ‘Le Petit Prince’.
It started with a beautiful dark room, mimicking a starry night, displaying all the tiny planets at a size of about 1m across. You could walk around and touch & rotate, and the planets were illuminated by some (black)lights.
Most of the expo is about Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s himself, even including fragments recovered from his plane crash. I didn’t realize they had found the wreckage in the early 2000’s. I also learned that he wrote several movie scripts, some of which were turned into movies during his lifetime.

# Retro corner #

an Olivetti Lettera 32 typewriter

a Torpedo 18b typewriter

I have a new ‘old man’ hobby: typewriters. There’s 2 in the collection at the moment: an Olivetti Lettera 32 (model from the 60’s, built in ‘71) and a Torpedo 18 (model from the 50’s, built in ‘62).
You might know the first one because it is said to have been used to write the screenplay for Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’, or because The American writerCormac McCarthy wrote his books on one of these and his got sold at auction for $254,500 in 2009. It was in great shape when I got it and only had a bit of cleaning to do (and buy an appropriate ribbon).
The Torpedo took a bit more work to get right, as you can see in the pictures below.

the Torpedo 18b typewriter before cleaning

There was paint splatter I had to clean off without damaging the original paint underneath, the ‘W’ key was damaged (I fixed that with epoxy putty) and a piece of the ribbon mechanism (which moves the ribbon while typing) was bent and broke off (fixed that with some epoxy putty). But it only cost €10 and required minimal cost to clean and fix, so I’m okay with it. That actually makes this the cheapest hobby/collection I’ve had so far.
The last thing I still need to fix, is the ‘platen’ (the rubber paper feed roller). It was manufactured in ‘62 so the rubber is rock hard and not very grippy anymore. There’s some tricks I tried out, which work in the short-term, but I will be sending it to a company that replaces this kind of rubber.

the Torpedo 18b detail of the 'W' key before and after repair

# Photography #

the Torpedo 18b detail of the 'W' key before and after repair

the Torpedo 18b detail of the 'W' key before and after repair

It couldn’t be a dispatch without at least a few pixel photographs. As it turns out, the typewriters make excellent subjects for some cool pictures. Two types of retro coming together.

# Closing thoughts #

It’s been great fun (sometimes accompanied by cursing) stumbling into this new field of interest. The only downside has been finding a place to put those machines. We’ve already had to downsize a bit when we moved house at the end of last year, so this isn’t doing me any favours. Hell, we still have a few boxes of stuff over at Boo’s parents place, which we need to go through.

Meanwhile, here in Belgium, 2 major newspapers published opinion pieces about last week-end’s Pride march in Brussels (it’s a little earlier here in Belgium than in other places) which pick up on the prevalent alt-right bullshit that the USA has been exuding for a while now: that somehow there’s a ‘dangerous movement’ with a ‘gay agenda’ causing division in society. Which is baffling, since people get attacked in the street for looking ‘gay’.
Basically, it’s a way of framing all the anti-gay violence as “they did it to themselves”. Which is all kinds of fucked up. But hey, can’t put the blame on the other side of the ocean: we just stole the marketing tactics, the content has been here for decades. The pull to the right has been happening for everyone to see, in all corners of Europe, for years now. This kind of rhetoric is now normalized and the proof is in major national newspapers.
I don’t know about you, but my prevalent feelings in all this, are of deep shame and anger. The thing is, these emotions are powerful fuel for change. As fucked up as these times are, there’s still people, projects and movements opposing our current decline. I have very little faith in politics (none, actually) but I do in people working to change the discourse through art, writing, public speaking, … Give those people your money and your time. Hell, watching and talking about Drag Race in public is a form of protest at this point. Give money to queer artists, tell other people about their work. Don’t let the fascists grind you down.

It’s been a rough week and I hope you have something that’s at least a little bit diverting you can focus on this weekend.

That’s it from me for this dispatch.
Have a good week-end and see you next month.