Hot Type at Type Drives Culture

The Type Directors Club held a one-day conference called Type Drives Culture, to look at the various ways that typography influences and reflects the world around us. I was asked to discuss my ongoing investigation into the typographic landscape of gay porn publishing. In the talk, I refer a few times to Steven Heller‘s excellent talk that preceded mine, “Raw Typography: Rebel or Rebel“, which did a great job of discussing some related themes about underground publishing and the democratization of type.

Continue reading “Hot Type at Type Drives Culture”

Art in Transit


I remember stumbling across this book in the New Dorp branch of the library on Staten Island when I was young. Looking at the publication date now — August 1984 — I realize I must have seen it just when it came out, right before I started my freshman year of high school. It had to be at least that early, because I distinctly remember being on the lookout for Keith Haring‘s subway drawings all through high school, when I commuted to the Upper East Side every day. Sure enough, I saw them show up a few times at East 86th Street a couple of times, and occasionally in other stations. I had no clue that Haring was already a name in the art world, so these always felt like secret treasures to me, connecting them only to this little book I found in a local library when I was looking for stuff about drawing cartoons.

This little book — and Haring himself — made an impression for all kinds of reasons, not all of which I could really pinpoint when I was just turning fourteen. It was the first time I thought to think of street art as real art, or vice versa. It was art that was fun, an idea I was starting to wake up to. I loved the drawings shown — so much! — and I also loved that they were quick, forbidden, and took advantage of really specific opportunities:

The advertisements that fill every subway platform are changed periodically. When there aren’t enough new ads, a black paper panel is substituted. I remember noticing a panel in the Times Square station and immediately going aboveground and buying chalk. After the first drawing, things just fell into place.

That seemed so cool to me when I was just a kid who drew comic books but was getting ready to jump into the wider world around me. Also, Keith Haring was cute — so cute! — in a goofy, nerdy way that was great; not like a model or a TV star but a real way. Although I couldn’t make any sense of that reaction at the time it certainly fit a pattern that would eventually be clear.


The Devo/Letraset Crossover


I get irrationally excited when two seemingly unrelated things actually have an intersection I didn’t know about:

Booji Boy is a character created in the early 1970s by American New Wave band Devo. The name is pronounced “Boogie Boy”—the strange spelling “Booji” resulted when the band was using letraset to produce captions for a film, and ran out of the letter “g”. When the “i” was added but before the “e,” Devo lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh reportedly remarked that the odd spelling “looked right.”

Booji Boy

Mapplethorpe and friends

Robert Mapplethorpe and friends

Robert Mapplethorpe and friends hang out in the West Village in 1978, as caught on film by amateur photographer Leonard Fink. Part of a set of images Fink captured of men at rest and at play around the West Village in the late ’70s, featured in the most recent issue of Pink Mince.

And let me be shameless here for a moment: please try an issue of Pink Mince, whether it’s this recent one or one of the back issues. Each is a stand-alone exploration of theme. I’m very proud of the work by so many talented people I’ve been able to gather for each issue, but the whole project is a drain on my resources and every little bit of support will help keep it going.

Spinsterish but sensual

Have you ever found yourself reading a novel or something, and then stumbled across a passage that resonated so clearly with something that was in your head, or that you’ve done before — OR BOTH — that you almost felt a flush of embarrassment, like some stranger had caught you in the act?

That night I put aside my fiction of former defeats, former glories . . . and began writing a letter. It began reasonably, as a sort of old-fashioned, literary coda to the afternoon. How pleasant to have met you, and so on, the kind of letter no one writes anymore, which naturally has its peculiar charm for the startled recipient. A courtly letter. Spinsterish but sensual. I felt in there brief time we conversed that I was speaking with someone of extremely rare sensitivity, and that you, of course, sensed my physical attraction to you, and were gracious enough to take this in stride, giving me the opportunity to show you the kind of person I am. I know it’s eccentric to come right out with this in a letter, but I have been so moved by your beauty that I, that, at this point everything floundered, I ripped the letter into shreds and started over.

Horse Crazy, Gary Indiana

Oh, and when I factor in the irony of who recommended I read this, I just want to crawl under a rock and die of self-consciousness. So busted, even if it was unintentional.

For an extra chuckle of relevance (albeit to other things), though, this was in the very first paragraph of the book: “Things commence in reckless hope and die away in stifled longing, not that we had hoped for much from the Staten Island Ferry.” Perfect.

If that’s all found in the first 4 pages, I’m almost terrified to continue.

The Classic Concordance of Cacographic Chaos

I’m rather smitten with this poem today, new to me but apparently one that’s made the rounds for decades. It playfully highlights the maddening inconsistencies of spelling and pronunciation in English, providing a vivid example of why I’m always impressed by and sympathetic to the plight of all my friends (and anyone, for that matter) who can take on English as a second language and thrive. Even as a native speaker, there are things in this that highlight tensions between my American accent and the British around me.

The Chaos
by Gerard Nolst Trenité

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
    I will teach you in my verse
    Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.

I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
    Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
    Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it! 10
    Just compare heart, hear and heard,
    Dies and diet, lord and word.

Sword and sward, retain and Britain
(Mind the latter how it’s written).
    Made has not the sound of bade,
    Say – said, pay – paid, laid but plaid.

Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
    But be careful how you speak,
    Say: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak, 20

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
    Woven, oven, how and low,
    Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
    Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
    Missiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining, 30
    Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
    Solar, mica, war and far.

From "desire": desirable – admirable from "admire",
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
    Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,

    Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
    Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
    Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind, 40

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
    This phonetic labyrinth
    Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
    Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
    Peter, petrol and patrol?

Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet. 50
    Blood and flood are not like food,

    Nor is mould like should and would.

Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which exactly rhymes with khaki.
    Discount, viscount, load and broad,
    Toward, to forward, to reward,

Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
    Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
    Friend and fiend, alive and live. 60

Is your R correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes with Thalia.
    Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
    Buoyant, minute, but minute.

Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
     Would it tally with my rhyme
    If I mentioned paradigm?

Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy? 70
    Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
    Rabies, but lullabies.

Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
    You’ll envelop lists, I hope,
    In a linen envelope.

Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
    To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
    Does not sound like Czech but ache. 80

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, moustache, eleven.
    We say hallowed, but allowed,
    People, leopard, towed but vowed.

Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover.
    Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
    Chalice, but police and lice,

Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label. 90
    Petal, penal, and canal,
    Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal,

Suit, suite, ruin. Circuit, conduit
Rhyme with "shirk it" and "beyond it",
    But it is not hard to tell
    Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.

Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
    Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
    Senator, spectator, mayor, 100

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the A of drachm and hammer.
    Pussy, hussy and possess,
    Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
    Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
    Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

"Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker",
Quoth he, "than liqueur or liquor", 110
    Making, it is sad but true,
    In bravado, much ado.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
    Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
    Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
    Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
    Paradise, rise, rose, and dose. 120

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
    Mind! Meandering but mean,
    Valentine and magazine.

And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
    Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
    Tier (one who ties), but tier.

Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring? 130
    Prison, bison, treasure trove,
    Treason, hover, cover, cove,

Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.
    Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
    Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
    Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
    Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn. 140

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
    Evil, devil, mezzotint,
    Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,
    Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
    Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did, 150
    Funny rhymes to unicorn,
    Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
    No. Yet Froude compared with proud
    Is no better than McLeod.

But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
    Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
    Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme. 160

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
    But you’re not supposed to say
     Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
    How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
    When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty, 170
    Episodes, antipodes,
    Acquiesce, and obsequies.

Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,
    Rather say in accents pure:
    Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
    Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
    Wan, sedan and artisan. 180

The TH will surely trouble you
More than R, CH or W.
    Say then these phonetic gems:
    Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em
    Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,
    Lighten your anxiety.

The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight – you see it; 190
    With and forthwith, one has voice,
    One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does [1]. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
    Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
    Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry, fury, bury,
    Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,

    Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath. 200

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
    Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
    Puisne, truism, use, to use?

Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
    Seat, sweat, chaste, caste, Leigh, eight, height,
    Put, nut, granite, and unite

Reefer does not rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer. 210
    Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
    Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
    Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
    Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
    Bona fide, alibi
    Gyrate, dowry and awry. 220

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
    Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
    Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
    Rally with ally; yea, ye,
    Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay!

Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver. 230
    Never guess – it is not safe,
    We say calves, valves, half, but Ralf.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
    Face, but preface, then grimace,
    Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
    Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
    Do not rhyme with here but heir. 240

Mind the O of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
    With the sound of saw and sauce;
    Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
    Respite, spite, consent, resent.
    Liable, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen, 250
    Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
    Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

A of valour, vapid, vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
    G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
    I of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
    Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
    Polish, Polish, poll and poll. 260

Pronunciation — think of Psyche! —
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
    Won’t it make you lose your wits
    Writing groats and saying ‘grits’?

It’s a dark abyss or tunnel
Strewn with stones like rowlock, gunwale,
    Islington, and Isle of Wight,
    Housewife, verdict and indict.

Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father? 270
    Finally, which rhymes with enough,
    Though, through, bough, cough,
hough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

If you’re curious, you can hear an abbreviated recited by Jennifer Dziura, a “semi-professional spelling bee word reader”. I tried getting all the way through the complete version, but even though I already knew most of the words (and appreciate the Mac’s control-click access to the dictionary more than ever), it’s a real tongue twister to get through them all in one go. Maybe later.