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For Type Nerds Only

After an “intensive typographical adventure” comprising “hundreds of hours of in-depth research, meticulous drawing, discussion, testing, and refining,” a team of experts from the Plantin Institute for Typography has released “the largest and most comprehensive collection of revivals based on the work of a single punchcutter to date.”

The team? Walda Verbaenen, Michel Paré, and Lukas Schneider. The punchcutter? Jacques-François Rosart, born in Namur, Belgium in 1714.

The Rosart Project has all the deets, as the kids say. It’s a pretty cool story. And if you’re so inclined, you can even purchase licenses for revisions and reinterpretations of Rosart’s fonts, ornaments, and flourished capitals.

“And I think to myself / What a wonderful world”

A heart-shaped cattle brand, first recorded on February 10, 1873 and registered to O. C. Whitney of Ennis, Montana—and owned by the same family ever since—is going on the auction block two weeks from tomorrow.

Meanwhile, researchers recently discovered that, when you put an atom of gadolinium inside a carbon buckyball, the structure acts as if it has two stable polarization states. In other words, they’ve created a single-molecule switch.

Isn’t it odd that we live at a time in which the technological spectrum remains so…broad? I mean, here we are on the cusp of molecular computing, and someone’s about to purchase the right to use a 147-year-old livestock brand. Seems crazy to me, that’s all.

Miscellany

“That the dead do not always stay dead continues to rankle the scientifically minded.”

An interview with Brian Eno, whose new album Brian Eno (Film Music, 1976–2020) drops next week.

The future we’ve been promised for so long is—finally!—here:

In related news, “for the second time in six weeks, an unidentified person was seen flying using a jetpack near Los Angeles International Airport.”

And finally, an inspirational quote from an unlikely source: “You ought to spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself and a little less time trying to impress people.”

Take a Moment

“Quiet moments are when we put time aside to be quiet,” writes Robert Fripp about his ambient music series on YouTube. “Sometimes quiet moments find us. Quiet may be experienced with sound, and also through sound; in a place we hold to be sacred, or maybe on a crowded subway train hurtling towards Piccadilly or Times Square. Quiet Moments of my musical life, expressed in Soundscapes, are deeply personal; yet utterly impersonal: they address the concerns we share within our common humanity.”

Here’s the latest entry in the series:

Ode to the Humble Ballpoint Pen

From the November 12, 1945 issue of Time magazine:

In Manhattan’s Gimbel Bros., Inc., thousands of people all but trampled one another last week to spend $12.50 each for a new fountain pen. The pen was made by Chicago’s Reynolds International Pen Co. In full-page ads, Gimbel’s modestly hailed it as the “fantastic, atomic era, miraculous pen.” It had a tiny ball bearing instead of a point, was guaranteed to need refilling only once every two years, would write under water (handy for mermaids), on paper, cloth, plastic or blotters.

Why in the world would people line up to spend more than $180 (in 2020 dollars) for a pen? Stephen Dowling explains how a “stroke of design genius” paired with fast-drying ink “changed writing forever.”

The One and Only

We recently lost another industry giant: Celebrated graphic designer, typographer, and teacher Ed Benguiat passed away October 15 at age 92.

Ed was one of a kind. He’s responsible for designing the New York Times masthead, logotypes for both Ford and Esquire, and the Planet of the Apes typeface, not to mention countless other fonts and logotypes.

If you want to better understand the essence of Ed Benguiat—and graphic design in general—this video is well worth nine minutes of your day:

Do’s and Don’ts

DO read: While spending a few days camping on Long Beach back in July, the missus and I found ourselves in a charming used book store. We left with a stack of titles—one of which, a first U.S. edition of Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I finished over the weekend. Highly recommended (the campground, the shop, and the book).

DON’T watch: Just because the great Rutger Hauer is in Hobo with a Shotgun doesn’t make it worth your time. The “Canadian-American black comedy action exploitation film” is neither funny nor particularly good as a mindless beat-em-up flick. In fact, it’s pretty damn awful.

DO listen: On the recent news of Keith Jarrett’s retirement, I can’t stress enough the need for more of y’all to become familiar with his music. Doug Martin does an amazing job of helping newbies navigate the uncertain terrain. If I had to suggest only one, however, it might be The Köln Concert—easily one of my Desert Island Discs.

DON’T get involved: Ever think that maybe—just maybe—one of the reasons we’re in such a sorry state of affairs is that neither of America’s two dominant political parties takes leadership and governing as seriously as they ought to? Let’s not reward them with something they’ve long taken for granted: our votes.

DO cuddle up with a good movie this weekend: Halloween is Saturday, so maybe it’s time to revisit some old horror favorites, like An American Werewolf in London or The Wicker Man (the 1973 original, not the 2006 Nicolas Cage version). Or maybe get to know some of the newer fare, like The Visit, Hereditary, The Blackcoat’s Daughter, Midsommar, or The Witch.

“DON’T hate nobody”: Words of wisdom from Eubie Blake.

Today in History

On October 23, 1642, Jacob Astley, 1st Baron Astley of Reading and Royalist Commander in the First English Civil War, commenced the Battle of Edgehill with an appeal: “O Lord,” he prayed, “Thou knowest how busy I must be this day. If I forget Thee, do not thou forget me.” Then, with the pleasantries out of the way, he ordered his troops to “March on, boys!”

Though Lord Astley eventually came out on the losing end—surrendering to the Parliamentarians at the Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold in 1646—he survived the conflict and lived another six years.

So I guess he wasn’t forgotten.

“I said my prayers and went to bed / That’s the last they saw of me…”

Out of concern for my wellbeing, my buddy Dave alerted me to some sobering news: Deadheads are being murdered at an alarming rate.

I have thoughts.

First, the present-tense construction of the headline—”Why Are So Many Grateful Dead Fans Being Murdered”—is a bit misleading. We’re talking about cases dating back decades, after all.

Second, having witnessed for myself the “hippie bazaar” of Shakedown Street, I’m not at all surprised at the existence of a criminal element taking advantage of a rather disproportionate number of imprudent, wide-eyed innocents.

Third, since receiving Dave’s text, I’ve taken countermeasures. In addition to beginning an intense course of instruction in Krav Maga tonight, I’ve got the missus training in adaptive pistol combat—and, starting this weekend, half a dozen Dobermans will be patrolling the perimeter of my estate in four-hour shifts.

Because not listening to the Dead is simply not an option.

A Glimmer of Hope

A pandemic with no end in sight. Riots in the streets. Families and friendships torn apart by rank political partisanship. The dumbest presidential election in, like, forever (which is really saying something). Steven Spielberg remaking West Side Story, for God’s sake.

It’s enough to drive one to drink.

Until you realize that there is hope. Someone whose mere countenance is capable of calming inflamed passions; whose words alone can heal the sick (and, let’s be honest, probably cast out demons); whose humility and grace are a model to us all.

Someone who can gather the dispossessed and disconsolate around her, look 2020 in the eye, and tell it to f*** right off.

Praise be to Dolly. May she never leave us.

Handshake Deals, Copyright Law, and Rock and Roll

Somehow, none of the parties involved in this story—about the artist who painted the cover for Jethro Tull’s Aqualung—come out looking all that great.

Burton Silverman was paid $1,500 (a little over $10,000 in today’s dollars) for three paintings. He cashed the check; the record company used the art. All in a day’s work, right? Until Aqualung became a massive success, anyway.

So I have a hard time being sympathetic to the charge that Silverman was somehow wronged. On the other hand, it certainly wouldn’t hurt if Tull’s Ian Anderson—a guy whose net worth is estimated north of $100 million—would just throw Silverman a bone. I mean, to insist that the original agreement was on the up-and-up is one thing; to needlessly disparage one of the most iconic album covers in the history of rock is just…petty.

Quote of the Day

“Those who wring their hands about the decline of the language sometimes worry too much about the wrong things. They observe with horror that people confuse uninterested with disinterested, or don’t know when to say fewer and when to say less, or fumble in their use of the apostrophe or other punctuation marks. I share a due sense of irritation about points like those. But the more meaningful decline of the language doesn’t involve the presence of mistakes. It involves absences that are easier to overlook: the abandonment of half the orchestra, the erosion of rhetorical ability, the dwindling of attention spans, the scarcity of speech that inspires and rouses and strikes deep. A politician rises in a debate and speaks with utter vacuity and with the rhetorical sophistication of an adolescent. The modern guardian of English usage tends to look on without comment or alarm because the statesman was free from error. He was merely terrible.”

Ward Farnsworth, Farnsworth’s Classical English Style (2020)

Miscellany

The 2020 winners of Nikon’s annual Small World photomicrography competition have been announced. Prepare to be dazzled.

Why are some works of art stolen multiple times? Criminal prestige, mostly. But also to be used as leverage in order to reduce potential prison sentences.

Was Richard III “a bully, a thief, and a murderer who usurped the throne by killing the ‘Princes in the Tower’ (the boy-king Edward V and his brother, Richard, Duke of York)”? Or is it more accurate to say that “his vices were exaggerated by Tudor propagandists and that he was a pious Catholic, a courageous soldier, and a conscientious ruler”? Um…yes.

C’mon, folks. 2020 is clearly not the year to be engaging in this sort of nonsense.

Poetry Break

AMONG THE ROCKS
Robert Browning

Oh, good gigantic smile o’ the brown old earth,
This autumn morning! How he sets his bones
To bask i’ the sun, and thrusts out knees and feet
For the ripple to run over in its mirth;
Listening the while, where on the heap of stones
The white breast of the sea-lark twitters sweet.

That is the doctrine, simple, ancient, true;
Such is life’s trial, as old earth smiles and knows.
If you loved only what were worth your love,
Love were clear gain, and wholly well for you:
Make the low nature better by your throes!
Give earth yourself, go up for gain above!

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

In 1972, my home town of Chewelah, Washington was recognized as an All-America City. As a kid, I remember it was kind of a big deal. Since 1949, The National Civic League annually recognizes ten communities throughout the U.S. that “leverage civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues.” Only 14 cities in Washington state have received the award, and—I’m proud to say—Chewelah is by far the smallest. (Not that I’m impressed, but Spokane was named an All-America City three times: 1975, 2004, and 2015. Whatever.)

I recently ran across a copy of the April 19, 1973 edition of The Independent, Chewelah’s weekly newspaper. The issue, which celebrated the award, was filled with congratulatory ads from every mom-and-pop business in Stevens County, including the Chewelah Grange Supply.

Normally I wouldn’t get too excited about a 47-year-old, poorly designed newspaper advertisement. But this one featured a photo of the store’s manager, my dad (center), along with two co-workers—all of whom I later worked with over several summers during high school and college. (My mom served as the company’s bookkeeper for several years.)

Yep. Suitable for framing. And a reminder to never let the newspaper design your company’s ad.

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