243 Comments
Mar 4Liked by Charles Eisenstein

I could not agree with you more. When I teach writing, all my students get is a pen and a notebook. All assignments are timed and must be read out loud. There was no internet when I got my doctorate, only long hours in the stacks of Columbia's Butler Library. When you went to the National Archives, they gave you paper and pencils. Has Big Tech improved writing, thinking and scholarship? Absolutely not. My professor Mary McCarthy refused to give up her old Hermes and she was right. In a prophetic 1989 lecture at Bard College, she said: "I do without cuisinarts, gelatoios, word processors, credit cards, happy to be without them. For just here, in this practical domain, our freedom, our vaunted abundance, takes on the sinister (to me) appearance of compulsion and scarcity. And I resist. You would be surprised (unless you too have resisted) to find out how hard it is. The word processor, for example. People, young and old, keep trying to convert me to using a word processor; it is for my own good, they tell me. I will see if I only try. It is like being surrounded by a religious movement, calling on me to join them and be saved. The pressure becomes wearisome, always the same arguments, and finally they start coming from one’s own family—a treacherous breach of my defenses. Some morning—Christmas or a birthday—I will find the egregious word processor tied up in pink ribbons in its hood on my desk. Even if I am spared that (“My dear, how can I thank you?”), I will lose the battle, if I live long enough, by simple force of attrition. It will be impossible to buy a new manual typewriter of the kind I like. Already my last two have had to be second-hand. And how long will workmen repair old manual typewriters? When I called the typewriter man last September to fix my three old Hermes machines—a Baby, a Rocket, and a big desk portable—his wife said he would be at the junior high school all week putting their word processors in shape. No time any more for my job. Let us not talk of micro-film replacing books in libraries. If I tell you that it is possible to rent a car without a credit card, you will doubt me. But it is true—you can—but even to tell about it is like recounting some long, complicated history of medieval adventures." https://petermaguire.substack.com/p/mary-mccarthy-and-macroaggressions

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I have found that writing on a word processor truncates my thinking in a subtle way. When I write by hand, I have to plan out the whole sentence or paragraph before I start writing it, because if I write myself into a corner I cannot so easily modify. Writing on a computer (like now), I can think in sentence fragments. For example, that last sentence. When I began with "Writing on a computer" I still didn't know exactly how I would finish the sentence. So, writing by hand demands a longer span of concentration. I have to hold more in my mind at a given moment. If I never do that, that ability atrophies.

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I am a professional writer and publish @ 200k words a year. Most of the seeds of my work are planted in the notebooks I write in every afternoon. When I am editing a book manuscript, I do most of it on paper. I love Flair pens and crappy Bic ball point pens. Of course I can write on the screen, but I love paper. Not only is it sensual, I can edit anywhere which for me usually means near a surf spot. I never bought into the myth that I needed to be toiling solemnly and self seriously in a library or office. Instead I preferred Friedrich Nietzsche’s “happy/gay science” (die fröhliche Wissenschaft).

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Sort of like the way being on social media changes how your brain works. Everything starts looking like a possible post and your brain starts thinking in short bits of sentence and idea. I find it disturbing and long to pull myself out of it completely so I can go back to long, flowing, creative thoughts and ideas...and a typewriter...

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This is such a beautiful rant. Thank you for sharing Ms. McCarthy's words. I send my kids to a school which teaches classical education -- no technology in the classroom. None. Except for the darn standardized tests that they have to take since it's a charter school. My two high school students tried public school for one week, and were right back at their school with uniforms and zero computers, because their experience at public school was that there was no real discussion, no real thinking, no real processing or analysis of the works they were reading. They prefer to have a printed book to annotate with a pen and highlighter, and to engage with their peers without a phone and/or earbuds as an intermediary. I just wonder (and grieve) why such a school is so rare anymore, when even the kids can clearly see the value.

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Mar 4Liked by Charles Eisenstein

I stopped teaching at the university to home school my sons for 5 years. They are 16 and 18, thriving academically, athletically and creatively. They are not on social media by choice. My older son is spending his so called "gap" year working as a professional welder and younger brother is in community college and an accomplished ballet dancer and skateboarder. Boredom breeds creativity, just say no to technology!

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I am currently training for a triathlon, and there's been a recent wave of water-proof speakers/earphones for swimmers, so you can listen to music as you swim. I see them all over the swimming groups I'm a part of.

And it's just fascinating to me, what better sound is there, than the waves washing against your body?

The only reason I put myself through this training is to have an excuse to not have to think, and just sit with my mind without any distractions, just the repetitive movements of my body.

We definitely need to allow space for boredom.

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I have surfed since I was a small boy and still surf today. I have spent so much time alone in the ocean in my life. I now realize that is where my mind had time to roam, ruminate, and connect dots. I used to camp for long periods of time in Baja with only surfboards and books as companions. Writing and scholarship and lonely vocations and they are not for everyone. No amount of Tech can soften the blow of the empty page.

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Yes, yes, yes! I homeschooled my kids off and on with no/low tech — perhaps that’s why they prefer their current learning environment? Boredom is underrated! It’s like a vitamin that we’re all lacking these days.

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I think you hit it on the head Chelsea. I was very conscious of this and used to take my kids for long surfing camping trips to Baja. They got drawing pads, books, and surfboards. They made chess sets out of rocks and shells. My younger son made a drum set out of our cooking pots. They make their own life choices but above all, they are motivated by excellence and mastery in things that cannot be bought or faked: physics, surfing, martial arts, ballet, drawing/painting. I am lucky that my wife shared this vision and was the backbone of "The Maguire School For Boys."

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So inspiring Peter! Coolest kids on the block!

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Amen, Peter! My adult children sound very similar to yours -- no social media, with real-world careers that require skills far beyond computer-jockeying -- and their education was a combination of Waldorf and home school. Their only frustration is finding other creative, athletic, un-plugged peers to spend time with.

In my essay "Art vs. AI" I take a belligerent stance against ChatGPT, and a typewriter saves the day...

https://marypoindextermclaughlin.substack.com/p/art-vs-ai

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Some very interesting essays on your page. I like the ones about adversity. I can teach much more through Jiu Jitsu than I can in a class room. Discomfort in the age of "comfort and safety" is a very revealing tool. Some students come to one class and then return to their games of nets and balls. For many, many others, the discomfort is cathartic. Not only do they embrace it, it changes them from the inside out in a way a pill or shrink never could. In my new book Comfort in Darkness, Rickson Gracie, my teacher friend and the world greatest living Jiu Jitsu master who is now battling Parkinson's puts it this way: "More often than not, the greatest human performances are not relaxing or comfortable for the performer. An outnumbered fighter pilot winning a dogfight, a violinist successfully performing a difficult sonata, a rock climber free soloing the vertical face of a mountain, a surfer successfully threading a gigantic tube—in all these cases, the performers are being pushed to the absolute limits of their ability. All thoughts of money, fame, or glory vanish because they are so absorbed by the activity and the moment."

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Thanks for taking a look at my stack! That's a fabulous quote from Gracie, deeply true. My daughter, a professional volleyball player, would totally agree. Where do you teach Jiu Jitsu?

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I put my kid in a classical school for similar reasons. One other thing they do that sets them apart from the public schools in my area is focus on the "whys" of education, not just the whats. It's so wonderful. Every kid should be entitled to receive this kind of thoughtful, deep, respectful education.

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My teen who has been immersed in technology since a young age is deciding to become a farmer. We can’t be more pleased or proud. We just talked this morning about the public school system which we agreed is at best poorly designed but has some pros along w the many cons. I have a lot of hope for the young people. The churn is so fast paced that they have already figured out that technology is toxic and needs to be kept in check

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Makes me think of the kids in “Captain Fantastic” vs their cousins who went to “normal” school. The curriculum and expectations of students 100 years ago is unimaginable today…we’re so dumbed and numbed down. And I’m not saying we had it right with education back then, simply that all of our technology has turned many of us (even those somewhat aware of this) into those folks riding around in air chairs in WALL-E.

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"Timed" you say ... hmm, I have issue with "timed" creativity. "Write an essay in 40 minutes" never made any sense to me. All it does is distinguishing students who can ignore their surrunding and pressure of time and those who are sensitive to both. In my experince the latter are actually true writes. The first are shaping up to be part of the machine. It starts with timing creativity ... it ends up with AI.

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Writing is a craft that occasionally rises to the level of art. 40 minutes! Are you kidding? Try 5 minutes. For example, give me 5 things in your closet--read out loud to class, 5 times you should have left--read out loud. 5 places--read out loud. After assembling the lists, the students will pull elements from them and write a story that is prompted by a photo. The point of the time is to silence the voice of the critic in your head by not giving it time. This method was pioneered by one of the world's great writing teachers, Joan Tewkesbury (Nashville). She has been teaching at the Sundance Institute for decades. I disagree with your premise, in my opinion writing is a craft. While it might occasionally rise to the level of art, there is nothing precious about it. It is work, often very hard work..

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This is how I see it:

writing is a need. A necessity. As such, it is precious in every way. To me, the only Writers are those who feel how precious and necessary and intimate yet deeply connecting the act of

writing is.

Being a writer as a chosen career or profession is a craft, I agree. It takes a skill to write even when you do not feel like it about things you could not care less about, most likely in a way that does not truly resonate but is required ... like any other work that puts food on your table - you just do it, and you do your best to do it "right" according to some public standards. .. so it is hard work, and it is less precious. That is a general problem with all professions. You trade a piece of your soul every now and then, but oh well - and least you are paid for it.

Then there is such a thing as being a publish author. Nowadays, we see a proliferation of those. Not many of them are even writers, let alone Writes. Being a published author is even less precious plus (again - nowadays) it does not take much craft or hard work either. It is a whole different business.

Being a writer and being a public author indeed can take you away from preciousness and necessity of wrinting ... paradoxicaly so.

I thank you for sharing your perspective. I have no doubt in my mind that your method will produce many professional writers and quite a few published authors.

But please, every now and then, when you meet a Writer in your class - you know, the one who simply needs to write even though much less crafty than a future writer or future published author, allow him/her to be precious about it! For s/he be the only one that AI will never be able to replace

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I actually think we are in heated agreement. Precious or not, good writing of any genre is hard work. "Published author" and "best selling author" are pretty meaningless terms these days. While I write professionally during the week, I spend most of weekends writing on Substack, about things closer to my heart--for free. Ghostwriting and screenwriting are the necessary evils that buy me the time to write what I want. The books I am proudest of--Law and War, Facing Death in Cambodia, and Thai Stick--were not NYT best sellers, they took decades to complete, and were published by an academic press. They were labors of love that were extremely precious to me. As for teaching, I stopped teaching in the stifling university setting long ago. By today's standards my methods are unsound because they are Socratic. I don't believe that "comfort and safety" are good metrics for education or art. My present students are mostly experienced writers. Some want help on books, others enjoy the timed assignments. Probably the most important thing I teach writers today is the same thing artist Robert Irwin taught me, have a side hustle that has nothing to do with your art. It will enable you to purchase your creative freedom. I teach through the non profit I started to help writers, scholars, and teachers and others: www.faintingrobin.org. Some years I pay all my bills with writing and even get WGA health insurance. Others years, are more difficult, like this one thanks to the strike. There are limits to what I am willing to write for pay as a writer, or as one friend who refused to ghostwrite a book for an odious celebrity put it best: "I am a prostitute not a whore." In order to preserve what is left of my virtue, in an hour I will go to work as a construction project manager, a job that has nothing to do with writing. In the sublime predawn hours, before the phone starts ringing, and people start fighting over who is to blame for the cracked concrete or the job that has gone over budget--I write. Today I am writing about an old friend who died unexpectedly. He was not famous or fabulous, but he was a good friend and I will miss him. He had just retired, was an excellent writer, and was finally going to finish his novel.

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We're stuck choosing between quantity vs quality. Can I ever qualitatively answer "what is the meaning of life?"

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That is a big question Roman. To me my time is my most precious commodity. I get great joy out of very simple things. However, you can only enjoy them if you slow down.

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I would go back a bit in time, but not so far as a type writer. Too hard to correct errors. I prefer what came after a type writer. A simple word processor unit that allowed you to save your documents, and easily correct errors that was not hooked up to the internet.

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Mar 4Liked by Charles Eisenstein

Grow your own food. Without the toxic drugs that the industrial farmers use.

Not only is that low tech but it will provide your whole family with exercise (saving on gym fees), improve your health (saving on medical fees), improve your finances, and taste super-frigging awesome at the same time.

There can be no greater freedom in the world knowing that you do not have to spend and consume to live a life that people who are only rich find most annoying, in that it cannot be purchased with money.

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Mar 4·edited Mar 4

Not only does it get you away from AI, but the act of "tending the garden" is the answer to becoming a more whole human being. They etymology of "holy" is after all "wholeness". It's therefore not necessary to have "green fingers". It is however necessary to try...

As Masanobu Fukuoka said, "When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings."

"Tending the Garden" is the way to find meaning in life, and not "eating the apple" of consumerist serfdom, which brings a lifetime of emptiness and wasted time.

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Wow I love that Fukuoka quote. Was that in One Straw Revolution? I don't remember it. What a profoundly wise observation.

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I think so, at the end of the chapter on "Various Schools of Natural Farming". Very Zen. Hope you're well Charles. I recall having a moment of madness about 2 years ago, running off into the freezing night after discovering the "grail" in Scotland with all my Templar etc. research, and shooting off a mail to you that you would need to lead the new messiah etc. to the new land. I never once figured that it would be RFK Jr..... 😂

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So beautiful, thankyou! Totally solved the riddle of the shrunken cucumber...its obviously not that important if Im successful. Its important that Im out there.

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Ha, ha. Awesome. Cucumbers are not really the easiest things to grow though. Kudos to you for trying! 😀

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Bevan!! Hi there, from Lisa Zengirl Hagen....from a long while ago! Hope you are doing well:)

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Hi, great to hear from you. All good down here in beautiful South Africa, where the government is too ineffectual to bother us, so we keep on living and loving in peace and serenity.

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Here’s to the combination of ineffectual governments + good people!

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That's a very nice idea - but some of us are not natural gardeners!

I have tried, believe me. But I am very glad that we live in a world where there is a good level of division of labour.

I have some other practical skills, homesteading skills such as cooking, preparing tinctures, sewing and working with wood and other materials.

But gardening - though a lovely idea and an important skill - has never worked for me.

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That's awesome. I think the main thing is to get away from the keyboard and get practical. Get producing, and not consuming. The old monastic orders said it best, "Laborare est Orare" - "To work is to pray". Finding symbiosis with Nature and doing the work that is yours to do to "tend the garden", or "work the wood" etc. For me, that is the secret to life, and it is how God designed the game. Chasing the emptiness of wealth, power and consumerism is a trap that so many have fallen into.

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Yes! That's exactly why we're bringing Life Independence Project to our world - so all humans on earth can have the option to live a rich and beautiful life, the kind that money cannot buy.

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Mar 4·edited Mar 4Liked by Charles Eisenstein

The Analog Revolt. Clocks that wind, phones that dial, vinyl records that play on a turntable, typewriters, fountain pens, handwritten personal letters to the ones we love..

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Mar 4Liked by Charles Eisenstein

Cars you can fix yourself.

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Bring back teaching & using cursive writing!!

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My son is the only kid in his class who can write in cursive.

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Good on you that he can. It needs to be brought back along with other right brain activities.

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Cars without 'chips.' Heck, anything without chips.

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Mar 4Liked by Charles Eisenstein

Best idea I’ve heard of in quite a while, I’ve got 245 green shield stamps I could invest…

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LOL

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i loved my typewriters...my wife got in shape by running through the woods with an Olivetti in her backpack.

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Who was she running from?

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Great idea! I'll have to look for my old Olympia. . . . Fountain pens are AI-proof, let's have more handwritten texts!

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I love writing with fountain pens ✒️💗

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There is truth in what you say

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I've just discovered fountain pens and I can't get enough!!

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🤣😂😆

Brilliant!

I used to be a prolific longhand letter writer. Chose papers and pens based on how they’d inform the content, along with drawings and clip art. I’ve been told that the recipients still have them 30 years later.

But I too have succumbed to the need for speed.

🧐

Seriously considering adding old school letters to my communication arsenal again.

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Synchronicity is blossoming. I have an acquaintance i would like to keep in contact with, but she's driving me nuts sending messages all day and expecting me to answer asap. Today i thought i'd start sending her old school letters by snail mail... ;-)

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And requesting that she do the same 😂

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🤣 I’m most definitely in this class (tho I haven’t graduated from your class yet!)

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I am very much tempted to do so, but that would contradict the 2 lessons i'm in the process of learning right now:

1. Stop doing what other people tell me to do

2. Stop telling other people what they have to do.

Both are not easy but i'm confident i'll get there. As a teacher and trainer that lady is just perfect.

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Saving this💖

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Great lessons!

There’s another set of lessons regarding boundaries: acknowledging to myself what I want and don’t want, and communicating that as lovingly as I can. I haven’t graduated from this class by any means. There have been times I have been sharp when I deemed it necessary. Another lesson is, sometimes sharp is necessary.

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LOL! Seems like you're already in the next class! I hope you don't mind me taking notes in advance ;-)

Good luck to you!

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Mar 4Liked by Charles Eisenstein

So happy you are joining me in 'Retrotech' with this plan for a typewriter business. Count me in!

I learned to type (NOT text) in 1951 on a huge Underwood. Strengthens your finger muscles, valuable for playing piano. Etsy has a couple available for about $1400. Then there are Royals, also big and heavy. Both tended to impress the letters into the paper as well as use the ink ribbons to make the letters easy to see and read. Consider creating NEW 'Retrotech' Underwood Typewriters. I would love to write on it.

I also write handwritten letters with an 'inkpen' that must be refilled, (not dipped in ink), and friends invariably remark on the pleasure they enjoy on receiving them. I think a hand written note carries the

energetic quality of the writer, even more import than the words. I'm thrilled at the prospect of being

REAL again. Charles, YOU are the BEST!!!!

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Mar 4Liked by Charles Eisenstein

I was really, really depressed in November and felt certain that part of my problem was spending too much time alone on the internet. Recalling how my life used to be pre-computers, I remembered how much I enjoyed exchanging mail with friends and so I decided to reach out to a small group of people and offer to send them "real" snail mail letters. Everyone responded enthusiastically yes. Not only did writing and sending those letters cheer me up, but I also received letters back, and now 3-4 of us are regularly corresponding. I love getting the handwritten notes and seeing what cards and stationary my friends have chosen. I like the idea of an inkpen or other really special pen to add to the whole experience.

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Mar 4Liked by Charles Eisenstein

There is something magical that happens when you hand write your ideas and dreams. This is lost on the technology only focused individuals.

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Mar 4Liked by Charles Eisenstein

You are so brilliant that it seems unlikely that you are a real person. As a young woman I used to break my then cultivated long nails when I missed the middle of a key in speed typing. Ouch!

I LOVE shared handwriting on the condition that it is legible…

Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness, at times thought provoking opinion and viewpoints.

Please please continue 🙏♥️

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If only we could invest in your idea with something better than money... ;)

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Yes! Our visionary co-creative capacity and our love! 💖

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Excellent idea! An ode to the creative process. We’ll happily set up a manufacturing plant for them and distribute typewriters widely throughout our artist communities… ✨🌎✨ I also fondly remember the distinct scent of fresh typewriter ink, from my first time learning to type as a preschooler 😊🙏🏻💗

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you're in luck, the last typewriter ribbon manufacturer is just south of you in Arden, NC. all the best

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How wonderful. I still have a typewriter but the ribbon is worn out. Could you please provide the name of that company, or a link? Google appears to no longer know what a typewriter ribbon is... Thanks in advance!

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if you're not averse to amazon there's a large selection

Company is Filmon Process Corp

best luck

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Thanks again! :-D

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Funny enough, i have a friend who used to work for Google and now sells high end fountain pens...he and you are onto something for sure!

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Norie, that is so cool! 😍

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He also went to an ivy league, so perhaps this path is some kind of homecoming to the beauty of literary pursuits? You can bet I've had my eye on a fountain pen for some time...it is just a matter of deciding which one! (In japan, it is quite a niche market, but seems to be a profitable one!)

Go Charles! I bet if you come up with ecologically sustainable solution for the typewriter body/keys/ink/ribbons/paper, you will be good to go!

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Great Idea, Charles. Count me in. I wish everyone would go back to landlines. I have one and no cellphone for years. This would help the powers to be not to distort our reality and documents too. I have been saying this for years. I have not had a cellphone in 2 years. We survived fine without them before, and now we think we never could. Think of how connections with each other would open up! Please Charles and others give up your cellphones!!!!!! I also have an ethernet cable instead of wifi.

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