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June 2011

FAQNP #3: A Queer Nerd Travel Guide


I contributed an article to the zine FAQNP for its third issue, “A Queer Nerd Travel Guide”. My photo feature, “A Type Nerd's Time in India”, is a look at how well (or for the most part, how badly) a variety of western brands like Citibank and McDonald's carry through their typographic branding when they use the local scripts in different Indian cities.

Spread from FAQNP #3

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Treasures from the attic

About five years ago, when I was getting ready to move to England and take another crack at grad school, I was starting to worry about what to do with all my stuff. I'd surrendered many treasures as I downsized and moved from one place to another, but emigrating — even if it would only be for a year — would require me to pare down to the essentials once and for all, and even then I'd probably need to give preference to relevant books for my course.

Luckily, my brother generously agreed to let me use the attic of his large house to store all the boxes of things that I couldn't take, but wasn't quite prepared to throw away or sell. In the years since, as I've adjusted to the idea that I may be living here for quite a while, I've emptied out a box or two when possible, throwing away things that don't seem quite so precious anymore and bringing some of the treasure back to the UK.

Last week I sorted through the stack of boxes again, grabbing a few essential books I'd been missing and rescuing a small stack of ephemera I've been collecting for the past thirty years or so. Looking through the pile is like finding old friends again, and unleashing a flood of memories. I suspect many of the the tidbits will make their way into Pink Mince eventually, but here's a selection of other things with less editorial potential.


Ticket stub from the Cyclone at Coney Island

Divorce Sale

Flyer for a divorce sale — "Everything is cheap but HIS stuff is cheaper"

Loch Ness

Flyer for a "Scottish" gay bar in Rio de Janeiro


Note given to me by a 15-year-old deaf boy when I was working the front desk at Waterstone’s in Boston

John Waters autographs

A couple of John Waters autographs from 1989 or so.

John Waters scripts

Much more beloved Waters memorabilia: copies of various scripts from films of his.

AMG Thousand Model Directory

AMG Thousand Model Directory

Pink Minions! Your next mission is to track down a copy of this for acquisition by the Pink Mince reference archives.

(Source: knappy-head)

Update: Found it. Bought it. I love it when crowdsourcing works!

Most Wanted Man

Whitey Bulger

Whitey in 1959That dashing young man would one day become one of the FBI's most-wanted men, but let's stop for a moment to appreciate a different kind of desirability he once had. That head of hair alone makes me jealous, but you also have to give him props for style. As Esquire says: "the mug shot is a strange amalgam of Jim Stark and Roger Sterling. He's the rebel with a cause, the real tough from whom the Hollywood toughs were ripping off their style."

Notorious mobster Whitey Bulger, we can't condone your actions, but nevertheless we salute you.

View from above



Vertical view of Manhattan over 10,000 feet high. July 1944.

Ziggy played guitar here

After living out of suitcases for the past few months, I finally get to settle down again month. I was spared the horrors and aggravation of gambling on strangers when some friends of mine in Greenwich let me know that one of them was moving out and freeing up a room, a much better situation — in terms of rent, location, and housemates — than I was facing otherwise. So I'll be south of the river again, happily reunited with my books and the rest of my clothes. I'll also be living in a neighborhood where I'll be within walking distance of decent food and places to hang out, a welcome relief from the general lack of amenities in Leyton. (It was a nice enough two years in a super flat with a super housemate, but sorry, Leyton, as a neighborhood you kinda suck.)

Ziggy Stardust

On the whole, Greenwich looks like a great area. There's the nice bit nearby, with the shops and observatory and the river taxi and the park. In the other direction are trains which will get me up to my studio or down to the office with minimal fuss. Lots of charm and amenities, to say the least. However, the gentleman whose room I'm taking points out an exciting piece of trivia that dwarfs all of that, at least this morning. It seems as if the pharmacy on the corner down from the new place is actually the site of Underhill Studio, where David Bowie developed Ziggy Stardust.

Early in 1971 Bowie was regarded as washed-up, a one-hit wonder. That summer he worked up Hunky Dory, which was a critics’ fave but initially made no impact on the charts. Then around September 1971 he started work on the album that would make his name: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. And Ziggy, the ultimate rock-’n'roll creation, was hatched at Underhill.

Hunky Dory had been put together in the recording studio, without any preparation. Ziggy was the one time when Bowie worked as a proper band, with guitarist Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder and drummer Woody Woodmansey, taking time to work out the songs beforehand. “It was a bit more rock and roll and we were a rock band,” says Bolder. “So doing that album was more like Oh yeah, we know what to do with this. We rehearsed it, we went in and we played. At Underhill Studios in Greenwich.

— Paul Trynka, Starman: David Bowie - The Definitive Biography

There's a bit more detail at The Greenwich Phantom, but essentially, yeah — I'll be buying aspirin at the conceptual birthplace of Ziggy Stardust come next month.

Birthplace of Ziggy

Sex Facts for Men

Sex Facts for Men

Sex Facts for Men by Richard J. Lambert, M.D.

(via queer-miscellanea, samesamesame)

Story of my life

Story of my life

I'm tempted to bill Fontlab for all the lost hours, but it crashes too often for me to bother keep track.

Avant Garde

Avant Garde

I spent the day working on a custom version of this typeface, thinking that it's one of those designs that only seems to deserve its fame when it's used just right, but the rest of the time feels a bit off. I don't love it, but I have a deep affection for it. Avant Garde was, after all, the typeface that turned me into a typographer.

Kroy 80 Supplies and Specimens-coverKroy 80 Supplies and Specimens-11.jpg

When I was a pimply 14-year-old freshman in high school who still just wanted to draw comics for a living, I joined the staff of the school newspaper hoping to contribute a bit of art now and then. One of the first things I was taught was the use of the Kroy machine, which set type on transparent strips of adhesive tape for the headlines in the paper. Among the font discs we had on hand was Avant Garde Demi, and it included a number of the alternate glyphs that actually make this design interesting. Playing with that font and that machine was the first time I thought about the visual possibilities of a certain style of letter, and how you could create something by manipulating how you arranged letters. It wasn't an immediate conversation, but something clicked, connected to my fascination with comic book titles and sound effect balloons, and — obviously — eventually led to a lifelong fixation.

Avant Garde Sparky

[Letraset photo via alexvmsf]

The Pink Mince mood board




Old Friends

I had a vivid imagination as a kid, in a way that is a lot harder to maintain once you get older and have to devote more and more mental space to the rest of the world. I wasn't lonely, but I spent quite a bit of time alone. This wasn't a matter of deprivation at all — I had plenty of friends in the neighborhood, and was typically active, at least as much as a nerdy introvert who didn't like sports was likely to be. I guess perhaps it feels like I spent so much time alone just because that time was creatively rich.

I invented characters and worlds, built spaceships and house out of boxes and styrofoam packing inserts and Lego and odds and ends. I collected action figures, but ignored who they were "supposed" to be and made them into new characters. Before 1977 my cast was primarily made of Fisher-Price Adventure People, but after 1977, well:

Brother Sister

...there was really no other competition.

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Street Life, 1960s

Street Life

[via I Am So Retro]

That finger!


[via Be My Valentino]

The Pink Mince mood board

59 Club

59 club. Graham Hullet collection [via Memoirs of a Ton Up Boy]

Childhood dreams

I've been trying to be diligent about duplicating here what goes into my Tumblr feeds now that I've pulled the old stuff into the archives, but this time it makes more sense to combine these three posts into one.

As much as the stories and the images of old comics seared themselves into my memory as I grew up, the ads in them are burned in even deeper. The repetition of seeing the ads in issue after issue, month after month, give them a certain resonance. Here, then, are a few favorites that popped up on Public Collectors.

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Dazzling array of Bengali book covers

Bengali book 3

While I'm on the subject of Indian lettering, I should give a shout to this exquisite collection of book covers posted to Flickr by Quinn Dombrowski. The range of lettering and illustration styles shown in these covers will blow your mind, I hope, and show a little something about the richness of the lettering tradition in those scripts. And dig those rich lithography colors!

Bengali book 1

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Hand-Painted Type

Hanif Kureshi

It's been a treat to see Hanif Kureshi's completely awesome HandPaintedType project getting a lot of attention and praise during the last month or so. I met Hanif back in March, at Typography Day in Ahmedabad, and immediately took a shine to the painted lettering he put on display, and it's no suprise that I was all for the idea of documenting and supporting the efforts of those artists. Hanif showed this short film he made as an introduction to the situation that inspired this project:

Handpainted Type is a project that is dedicated to preserving the typographic practice of street painters around India. These painters, with the advent of local DTP (Desktop Publishers) shops, are rapidly going out of business with many businesses and shops switching to the quicker, cheaper but uglier vinyls. Many painters have given up their practice altogether.

The project involves documenting the typefaces of road side painters across India, digitizing it and archiving it for future generations.

I had a lot of discussions about the sign painters with a lot of designers while I was in India. It's a difficult bind for the artisans whose livelihood is giving way to the production of cheap digital signage. They can't match digital sign shops in terms of price or speed, but the work they do is both more charming and more likely to last for a long time. Of course, style and longevity are probably low priorities for customers who are also trying to eke out a living in a difficult economy.

I think the key to survival for the sign-painters may lie in the hand of designers and other tastemakers who not only appreciate the work, but are also more likely to have the market savvy to shift the perception of the lettering trade from being "just" a trade to acknowledging the artistry. A similar thing has been going on in the West with the explosion of interest in crafts and the handmade object, and I think it could certainly happen in India, where everyone seems so quick to see the vibrancy of the handmade letter in comparison to the glut of poor typography. The fonts will improve, though, and what then of the lettering artists (and the art of lettering itself) if they can't find a place for themselves elsewhere in the culture?

That's MISTER Queen to you

Mr. Queen

Street Life: India

Well, street traffic, at least. You could spend a lifetime trying to show all that happens as part of the rich, bustling, messy, magnificent life on the average city street in India, but here are a couple of quick videos from my trip this past March.

The first is in Kolkata/Calcutta, and the second is Mumbai/Bombay.

DC Stock Art Color Swatches

DC Pantone swatches

This is relevant to a variety of my interests. [via From Beyond the Unknown]

No kid should do without


Guns are fun!

Opulence! You own everything!

For a while now, I've been joining some pals for a monthly movie night and last night we had a selection of mine, the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning. Every time I come back to this film, I love it just as much as the first time, and it strikes me as more and more poignant as time goes on. It captures a moment, but the further we get from that moment it's easy to see how much of an impact the whole ball culture has had as it leaked out into pop culture at large. As well-received as this was at the time, its success was a bit of a bitter pill for the subjects of the story, who weren't able to share in as much of that success as they thought they would. Time has secured a legend for them outside the world of the balls, but the outcome only reinforces what many of them say in the film about their lot in life.

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Bear Parade

Pink Mince 5

Pink Mince #5, obvs. All the Tumblr attention isn't that much of a surprise (there was a certain shameless pandering to my art direction for that article), but I wish all the visibility would lead to a few more sales. It's hard running a small press, yo.

But I am delighted to see my associate Mr Moore's exquisite Leyton getting a little extra attention as a result of that image. Maybe super-black typefaces with a dash of swing will become the rage of the bear community! That's why I made the {BEAR HUG!} t-shirt, just in case.

Bear Hug

It's Madison time. Hit it!

Although it's not the most thrilling clip, it's cool to see this version of the Madison Time from Baltimore's Buddy Deane Show, the inspiration for Hairspray's Corny Collins Show. (And it's worth looking for other Buddy Deane clips to get a better idea of where the Hairspray aesthetic came from. The hair looks a little flat in this one.) The dance is done with a little more pep in the film:

The Madison sequence has always been a favorite moment in the film. It's not the funniest or the craziest, but it's warm and sweet, and a pivotal moment in the story. Really, it's the part that exposes the sentimental streak that underlies the film. It always catches me off-guard to get a reminder that it was a huge smash with a life of its own outside the John Waters bubble.

The quality of this clip is awful, but here's the second version of the Madison I ever saw, when it was played on a reel of old music clips between shows at the Somerville Theater some time in the early 90s. I never figured out the context at the time. Most of the other clips turned out to be Scopitone films, and perhaps this was as well, even though it's not specifically French. It's the Ray Bryant Combo doing their version, set in a bowling alley:

First Mention Of AIDS In Print: 30 Years Ago Today


Thirty years ago, on June 5, 1981, AIDS was first acknowledged in print.

The article from the Centers for Disease Control wasn’t widely read, and it didn’t give a name to the disease. (It would be another year before scientists found one that fit, after giving several a try, including the terrible GRID, for “gay-related immune deficiency”.)

The paper certainly didn’t talk about HIV, since the virus wasn’t discovered until later. In fact, the article was mostly about the unusual appearance of Pneumocystis pneumonia in five young, gay men in Los Angeles. For all scientists knew, they were dealing with a superstrain of Pneumocystis that could eventually threaten the entire planet.

Well, they were half right.

At first, HIV and AIDS were a major setback for the burgeoning gay rights movement. Things had been moving swiftly for the community until then: the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of diseases in 1974 — just five years after Stonewall — and we were being treated more fairly in the media. We were even featured on popular TV shows like Dynasty and Soap, and although those representations weren’t perfect, they were far better than the psychopathic killers and suicidal maniacs we’d played before.

AIDS took the lives of many who campaigned for those achievements, and even people who weren’t ill were dumbstruck for a time. But grief is an unparalleled motivator, and soon, the LGBT community and its allies had formed sophisticated, efficient activist groups, pushing for treatment and prevention programs, destigmatization, and equal rights. We did as the ACT UP slogan said and turned our sadness into rage.

Over the course of the epidemic, roughly 30,000,000 people around the world have died from AIDS, and another 32,000,000 live with HIV/AIDS today. Treatment has gotten much easier and more bearable for those living with HIV, and there have especially promising developments in recent years, particularly in the area of stem cells and genetic therapy. But there is still no cure.

Take a moment today to think of your friends, family members, and neighbors who have died from AIDS or who are living with HIV/AIDS. Renew your commitment to wiping out this disease. Contribute to a local hospice, sign up for a charity walk, send a letter to your elected officials — whatever fits your style.

Everyone thought that AIDS would be cured by now. Let’s make certain that happens within the next 30 years — or hopefully, far sooner.

[Reposted from the lovely Sturtle. For those who have time, here is the original article from June 5, 1981 (or on the CDC website).]

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Ladies & Gents

Haircut £4

Quite a bargain on Balls Pond Road, Dalston

The Pink Mince mood board


via skeetshoot:


The most likely prospect

How about a date?

My Daguerreotype Boyfriend

Vintage hottie

While I'm tempted to just repost every single image from My Daguerreotype Boyfriend, I'll show some restraint and just make this one choice and urge you follow along the site itself. Or, if this sort of thing resonates with you, you might consider picking up Leftover Beefcake, the latest Pink Mini. This sort of thing is certainly right up my alley.

Damned if I do, etc.

I've been doing a lot of housekeeping in the archives lately — republishing old stuff, cleaning up code, integrating stuff from my Tumblr blogs — and I keep seeing old things that remind me how little certain things have improved. Here's one that I could have written at almost any point during the decade since I first wrote it. Sigh. So little progress.



[InAisce, via the Fashionisto]

Good pals

I want everything here


Bruce Davidson

The Pink Mince mood board

The Pink Mince mood board

It's all about the cravat

The Art of the Book Jacket

The Art of the Book Jacket


The Art of the Book Jacket, front and back cover design by Hans Tisdall. From the 1949 exhibit catalog for The Art of the Book Jacket at the Victoria & Albert Museum in England. From FullTable, via the always awesome Letterology,


Archival material: NYC edition

Photo by Rebecca Cooney for New York TodayA decade ago, which is essentially a lifetime ago, the New York Times had a web-only site about living in New York, and featured me in a weekly column about homes/apartments in the city. While I'm impressed that the article and accompanying slideshow are still online, I'm making an effort to gather up things like this and store them here for posterity, just in case.

[To be honest, I'm also just having a bout of nostalgia for the days when I lived alone an had a lot of space to myself for gathering treasure and doing cool stuff.]

So let's take a little wistful trip down memory lane, past all the awful (and occasionally lovely) things that have happened since then.

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