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September 2008

House in the house

The House Trio

I’m a big fan of House Industries, not just as designers and fellow pop-culture enthusiasts, but also as a bunch of really good-natured, fun, talented guys. It pains me regularly that they release all these zesty, beautifully crafted typefaces that I rarely get a chance to use. Luckily, they also make the best schwag in the business, effectively building something of a lifestyle brand based around their typefaces. This Fast Company article about them is a nice little profile, in case you don't know much about who they are. (And shame on you if you don't.)

Candy store

Most of my medical stuff happens at the sexual health clinic rather than a GP's office, so the vibe in the waiting room is always a little weird. In the town where I used to live, this meant there were lots of nervous college kids, sketchy guys, and kinda trashy girls. There are lots averted eyes and people actively trying to state at the telly instead of anything else.

In the middle of London, however, this means that everyone is almost eerily hot, and mostly gay — including the staff. It's hard to ignore the distinctly cruisy vibe in the room. Even if folks aren't actively cruising, they're definitely inspecting everyone else. It's a totally different kind of awkward, much more like my doctor's office back in Chelsea in New York.

Is there a socially acceptable way to ask someone out at the clap clinic?

A font walks into a bar

Believe it or not, corny jokes about typefaces are the kind of thing that are usually too geeky even for me. Nevertheless, I feel like I ought to just post something about this now before every other person in the universe starts sending me links to it, like they did with the font conference video. (I appreciate the thought, by the way. Don't get me wrong.) So here you go: Typographunnies. [Thanks, Brad.]

Papa, can you hear me?

I’m sick as all get-out this week, with some sort of chesty, fever- thing going on. Hopefully, though, Thursday night's audience with the Pope of Trash will be the miracle cure for my ailment.

The Pope of Trash

Judge not lest ye be judged

This is a snippet from a fascinating little documentary called Dressing for Pleasure by John Sampson. (Unfortunately the site that used to host the whole thing has shut down, and this is all I can find at the moment.) I totally lack the energy to combine this barrage of related links into a proper post right now, so just think of this as sort of a pervy brain dump:

These go to 11

Rejoice! The MA Type Design program at Reading has just unleashed a new batch of gorgeous, freshly minted typefaces! Behold!


I’ve had a real blast getting to know these guys during the past year, but since I wasn't actually there in the studio with them all year I only had the barest notion of where everyone was going with their designs, and then I had already moved to London by the time everyone began the final frenzy of completing their fonts. It's so exciting to see what great types they finally produced. Congratulations, gang!

Kids those days

From the foreshortened perspective of the 21st century, this extraordinary clip just reads as a bunch of old or dead people doing stuff a long time ago that sure looks goofy now:

But yet if we pick it apart, we can see that it was even ridiculous back then. Like a lot of stuff that made its way onto variety TV, this blends enough weird stuff together in a way that would make anyone cool just want to scratch their skin off. It's kind of like watching Celine Dion do a Britney Spears dance to gangsta rap, if you want to put it in a modern context.

Some notes:

All those elements are pretty great in their own ways, but really almost none of them should ever go together. It's a clear sign that just about every cultural influence noted above had lost its edge or relevance by the time they all got thrown together for the benefit of viewers of network TV.

Of course, I also think it's kind of amazing, but maybe that’s just me. My pop culture interests cross encompass all the stuff they're throwing together, and I’m a huge homo with a penchant for dated camp and no patience for ironic detachment.

Typography for Lawyers

Once you start thinking about typography, you begin to realize that it affects everyone to some degree or another: it's not just the preoccupation of the font nerds in your life. (Just ask any of the many people I’ve turned to the Dark Side over the years. Once you start thinking about kerning there's no return.) Typography is an integral part of communicating, and people often need to communicate. It's nice, then, when people who get it take the time to explain its relevance in their own field. Case in point: Typography for Lawyers, written by lawyer and former type designer Matthew Butterick.

The few comments on the site so far are hilariously detail-oriented and pedantic, which you might expect from a project aimed at lawyers and typographers.

Edwardian masher

While I’m on this Joe Orton kick, here's another great bit from the diaries:

Saturday 15 April

Watched Doctor Who on television. Rubbish, but there's a young boy in it who's worth looking at; like an Edwardian masher at a Gaiety show, I mentally undress him. I’m sure the BBC would horrified if they realised that even a science fiction series can be used erotically.

Judging from the date, I’m assuming that the episode in question was part of "The Faceless Ones", and that the alluring lad in question was probably young sailor Ben Jackson, played by Michael Craze.

Ben Jackson

"Edwardian masher at a Gaiety show" is my new favorite phrase, by the way. And though Orton is a good enough writer for that quip to feel very off the cuff, it's actually the one instance in his diaries where I spotted him re-using an earlier joke. On the 24th of January, 1967, Orton paid a visit to meet Paul McCartney and Brian Epstein to talk about writing a script for the next Beatles movie. During the course of the evening, a pop group called the Easybeats drop by, about whom he says:

...about five very young and pretty boys trooped in. I rather hoped this was the evening's entertainments. It wasn't, though. ...After a while we went downstairs. The Easybeats still there. The girl went away. I talked to the leading Easybeat. Feeling slightly like an Edwardian masher with a Gaiety Girl.

The Easybeats

Singin' for your supper

Bette Davis pulled a neat trick when she took on the title role of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, managing to revive (and in some sense, reinvent) her career at an age when most leading ladies were left with no place in Hollywood. I knew that she worked hard to get the role, and worked hard to get it right (that kind of scenery-chewing doesn't come easy), but I had no idea she went to such great lengths to promote the movie:

Poor dear. The spectacle of her performance in the movie was intentional, and quite briliant. This just makes me wince. You can almost see her gritting her teeth and thinking, "focus on the paycheck, focus on the paycheck".

[Thanks to Café Muscato for digging up this gem.]


Badger by Howard

If you think you would enjoy an extremely cute but sad tale of a lonely badger living in a flat in South London (and really, how could you not enjoy it?), then you should buy a copy of Howard Hardiman's Badger. It's really charming, I promise.

[Shameless self-promotional alert: I helped Howard put the final product together, since I’m such a fan of the badger. The book also features a little bit of a little typeface I designed.]

And people think I’m fussy?

I giggled at this passage that I just encountered in The Joe Orton Diaries:

Peter Willes rang up. 'What do you mean by sending me such an atrocious script?' he said. 'What?' I said. 'All the "O's" are out of line. I can't read a script like that. Haven't you another copy? 'No,' I said. "I'll have to get it retyped,' he said. 'I can't let the actors see a script in that state.' 'Did you read the script?' I said. "A little.' 'What did you think of it?' 'I thought it rather dated,' he said, 'though that may have been the effect of the "O's".'

See? Good typography makes a difference.


Do you like the idea of using crazy characters in your blog posts or online profile headlines, but just can't remember all those nutty character entities? Fret no more! This website is a tiny little thing that lets you copy and paste to your heart's content. Of course, after all the time I’ve spent dealing with Unicode charts, I actually think they could have been a little more ambitious. How useful is it to include the interrobang (‽) but not mu/micro (μ) or the eth (ð)? We love the eth!

One more thing about Orton

You know, there are lots of other things that have been happening that might be better to write about (travel and work abroad! fetishwear spending sprees! the waxing and waning of various flirtations!) but all that stuff always takes so much time and effort that I ought to be devoting to things that actually help pay my bills. But since I’ve just started reading The Orton Diaries on today's bus/tube/plane/train trip, I’m thinking again about a certain ex and all the similarities between him and Orton's carefully constructed public persona that just seem too perfect to be a coincidence. And the intro of the book also reminded me that Orton's diaries and letters are held at my old university, in the library where a certain someone also used to work.

Also, Orton is still really sexy and smart and funny. But kind of a jerk, just like a certain someone always was.

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