Archive for 26 May 2013

Three Great Typewriter Movies

The “10 Memorable Spy Novel Film Adaptations” appeared on the Huffington Post. Glancing through the article and the related video, I noticed one glaring exception on this list. “Hopscotch” by Brian Garfield, which he adapted for a 1980 comedy movie with Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson, was missing. I posted a comment protesting this oversight with a link to the trailer. The comment never got past the moderator. The few comments that did appear weren’t very enlightening. On that note, I decided to put together my list of three great typewriter movies.

Yes, Virginia, typewriters.

Those ancient devices that writers slaved over in isolation before the invention of word processors and laptops made writing in coffee houses fashionable again. A great typewriter movie appeared every four years from the mid-1970 to the mid-1980. As the typewriter became less ubiquitous in society, its starring role in the movies declined over the years. If a typewriter does make an appearance, it’s always tucked away in a corner to gather dust.

1. All The President’s Men (1976)

Set in the newsroom of the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal, typewriters were everywhere as Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) unraveled the criminal conspiracy that forced President Richard Nixon to resign from office in disgrace.

When I wrote my still unpublished first novel from 2007 to 2008, I had “All The President’s Men” playing in the background as I sat at the typewriter. The constant rhythm of the click-clack kept me focus, especially when my typewriter fell silent from figuring out what to do next with the novel.

2. Hopscotch (1980)

After an old CIA agent, Miles Kendig (Walter Matthau), gets punished with a desk job for letting his Russian counterpart go free in West Germany, he plots revenge by writing his memoirs to expose the CIA’s “dirty tricks” division and mailing each chapter to all the intelligence agencies. With the assistance of his Austrian girlfriend, Isobel von Schoenenberg (Glenda Jackson), and her manual typewriter, he stays one step ahead in a Cold War game of hopscotch.

I recently read the novel for the first time. The major change between the book and the movie is keeping Isobel as a central character in movie and eliminating the one night stands as Kendig slept his way through the novel. Having seen the movie years before I read the novel, I enjoyed the movie better than the novel even though they are both similar.

3. Romancing The Stone (1984)

A lonely romance writer, Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), receives a treasure map in the mail and a phone call from her kidnapped sister to come to South America, beginning a romantic adventure where she meets jungle explorer Jack T. Colton (Michael Douglas) and together they search for the stone.

I was always fascinated by the opening scene with the sexy hero freeing the sultry heroine in an Old West bodice ripper that transitions to the writer weeping over her typewriter as she types THE END on the last page. I too have wept over my typewriter, usually on a blank page. This movie always gave me hope that being a writer can lead to having larger-than-life adventures.

When Your Debit Card Travels To London Without You

Internet CheatIf you want to stay on top of your finances, you need to spend ten minutes every day looking at your account balances. This little habit can help you spot problems before they get out of hand. I got a nasty surprise last week when I found two unauthorized transactions pending on my personal checking account. The timing was terrible. The rent check was coming in and I didn’t have enough in savings to cover it.

I called the toll-free number for my credit union to report the unauthorized transactions and cancel my debit card. I asked the woman assisting me how my debit card could be used if it never left my physical possession. She told me that my debit card information could be copied by a waiter at a restaurant, from a hidden card skimmer at a gas station or a spyware-infected computer watching a legitimate Internet purchase being made.

I haven’t visited any restaurants where the waiter could disappear with my debit card. The gas pump I usually use was down for maintenance several days before the unauthorized transactions appeared. When I came back the following week to get gas, all the gas pumps had inspection stickers from the county weights and measure department. No way to know if that was the source. As for my computers, I run anti-spyware and anti-virus scanners on a regular basis and avoided questionable websites.

The affidavit form to dispute the charges never arrived at my personal email address. I went down to my credit union on Saturday morning to talk to the branch manager. He confirmed that my debit card got cancelled, flagged the unauthorized transactions as being fraudulent, and printed out the affidavit form for me to fill out. I withdrew some cash since the new debit card won’t arrive for two weeks.

An Internet search on the two companies for the unauthorized transactions revealed that they were cosmetics companies, which is a product category that I have little use for. I filled out the “contact us” form to request the identity of the person who placed the orders and threatened to file a police report against the companies if they don’t comply.

The first company based in San Francisco told me that their privacy policies prevented them from revealing the identity of their customers, and, besides, the transaction never went through on their end. The pending hold on my checking account fell off a few days later. I didn’t pursue the matter with them any further.

The second company based in Texas immediately gave up the identity of the customer and refunded the money taken from my checking account. Either I was dealing with an inexperienced business owner or the privacy laws in “no tax / low regs” Texas don’t exist.

The customer (a.k.a., the thief) had my debit card info and street address, used her presumably real name, listed a phone number for a storage rental place in San Francisco (50 miles north of Silicon Valley), and wanted the merchandise shipped to London via FedEx overnight delivery. Didn’t I read something like this in a Stephanie Plum novel?

I wanted to file a police report on the London Police Department website, but forwarded the information to my credit union to handle instead. I didn’t lose any money; my rent check went through. This has been another needless distraction in a long month of needless distractions that have taken me away from writing. Seems like it never ends.

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