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Remember a while back when I linked to a story about the Dyatlov Pass incident? Mystery solved!

Confessions of a TV ghost-hunter.

Tokyo’s “oldest man” died—30 years ago. In related news, the New York City medical examiner’s office lost a body.

The Kraken has apparently been released. No? Maybe it was this, then.

…and on the other side of the shaman was a bag of 2,700-year-old Doritos.

Writing in the 21st Century

Interesting thoughts on writing from Steven Pinker, who, in lamenting the “robotic” adherence to style manuals, says, “…if you follow the guideline, ‘Change every passive sentence into an active sentence,’ you don’t improve the prose, because there’s no way the passive construction could have survived in the English language for millennia if it hadn’t served some purpose.”

Good point.

He goes on to say that “the first step to being a good writer is to be a good reader: to read a lot, and to savor and reverse-engineer good prose wherever you find it.” Amen, brother.

It’s a 37-minute video, but (mercifully) there’s a transcription.

Zu-Zu! Pow!

It’s Cole Porter’s birthday today, which I’m totally using as an excuse to dig into my Esquivel! collection.

From 1962’s More of Other Worlds, Other Sounds, here’s the King of Space-Age Pop performing his rendition of Porter’s “I Get a Kick out of You.”

A Tribute to a Unique Artist

I just learned that a friend of mine, Bernard Perlin, passed away in January. He was 95.

I met Bernard in 1995 when he came to Spokane to speak to the local ad club about his experiences producing WWII propaganda posters for the Office of War Information. Bernard was an exceptionally talented artist, and his war posters remain some of the most iconic from that era. One of my most prized possessions is an autographed copy of his famous “Americans Will Always Fight for Liberty.”


I visited Bernard in his Ridgefield, Connecticut home in the fall of 2012. My family and I enjoyed lunch and listening to his amazing stories. We walked away with a wonderful painting he first completed in 1966. (I say “first” because he reworked the canvas over time.) It now hangs in helveticka’s new studio.

Bernard Perlin was, and shall remain, one of the most incredible people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. RIP, BP.

The Sky Is Falling!

Big news in the world of typography: Apple has dropped Lucida Grande—its font of choice in every operating system since 1999—like a bad habit. What’s replacing it? Why, it’s Helvetica Neue.

Naturally, there’s been a great hue and cry from the design community. Erik Spiekermann calls Helvetica “the McDonalds of type.” Tobias Frere-Jones* worries that it won’t work in small sizes. Scott Anderson says that Helvetica Neue is as “predictable and disappointing” as Lucida Grande.

Shrug. It’s hard to argue with Apple’s success in the realm of design. I’m pretty sure they’ve thought this through.

*Alex Walker, who calls Apple’s decision “tin-eared,” refers to Frere-Jones as the “Paul McCartney of rockstar type designers.” So I guess that makes him another vastly overrated hack whose best work was done forty-five years ago.

Spokane Scene no. 12


Took the dog for a walk yesterday evening after the rain and hail. This is part of the newly improved Hart Field, looking south-southwest across the soccer fields.


Apple’s bloom has faded for me over the last couple of years, in part because it seems they can no longer handle the simple stuff. (Both the iPhone music app and iTunes Match are notoriously glitchy and almost counterintuitive.)

But I have to hand it to them: this is a great ad. It’s nice to see “classical” music taken seriously and portrayed without the usual stereotypes. And it’s particularly ballsy to feature a contemporary piece like Salonen’s remarkable violin concerto.

Well done.

Oh, hi.

Yes, I know, it’s been a while. No, I don’t have an excuse for our absence. What I have instead is a fascinating read over at the Chronicle of Higher Education: the identity—perhaps—of Little Albert, the baby terrified by psychologists nearly 100 years ago in a creepy filmed experiment.

Mark your calendar, you don’t want to miss this…


helveticka will be hosting an open house on Friday, June 27. An official invitation will be arriving soon. Over a year ago we began planning, remodeling, and building out our new office space. Come see what a 1930s building can look like with a little thoughtful design. That, plus food, spirits, and some talented musicians, will help us celebrate this milestone.

photo by Charles A. Libby, 1941

Tattoo You

Is tattooing art? We’ve asked that question before, but I’m not sure we ever landed on a satisfactory answer. This video at least demonstrates the inherent difficulty in trying to paint a living, breathing—and apparently quite jiggly—canvas. As for me, I’m even less inclined to get a tattoo now.

5 maj

Before you ask, no, I won’t be going out tonight to quaff a dozen tequila shots in honor of a minor Mexican holiday that, in the U.S. anyway, is little more than St. Patrick’s Day with a side of nachos. (And no, I’m not trying to be morally superior, either. I, um…don’t like tequila.)

So instead, I’ll be celebrating the 201st birthday of Søren Kierkegaard with a bottle of Heering and a dog-eared copy of Fear and Trembling. Who’s with me?

New Music!

How about some tunes for the weekend?

Elbow released The Take Off and Landing of Everything, their sixth studio album, back in March. I just got a copy of it last week, and it’s easily as good as their previous work. Check out “Charge” and see what you think.

“The Least Understood of All Major Art Movements”

Amid Amidi over at Cartoon Brew has compiled a list of 25 Cartoonists You Should Know. Three of my favorites made the cut: Walt Kelly, Harvey Kurtzman, and R. Crumb. Perhaps most interesting, though, is Amidi’s argument that pure cartooning of the type represented in his list simply doesn’t exist anymore, in part because “…cartooning was a specific art movement rooted in and resulting from the uniquely turbulent qualities of the era in which it had its heyday….”

Al Feldstein, RIP

Former Mad magazine editor Al Feldstein died yesterday in Montana. Back in the 1970s, I must’ve read every issue at least a dozen times. I tried to write like Dick DeBartolo, draw like Mort Drucker, and engineer Fold-Ins like Al Jaffee. For better or worse, Mr. Feldstein’s magazine made me the sardonic misanthrope I am today. Mad‘s tribute is here.

Stop! Grammar Time!

Ever hear of the subjunctive mood? It’s that weird rule that seems to pair a singular subject with a plural verb, like when Tevye sings “If I Were a Rich Man” in Fiddler on the Roof.

So why were rather than was? Basically, the rule has to do with the past subjunctive form of the verb be, but that’s not important right now. All you need to remember is that, when you want to express something wishful—or when you state a condition that isn’t true—use were.

RIGHT: “If I were better looking, maybe she’d go out with me.”
WRONG: “If I was better looking, maybe she’d go out with me.”

RIGHT: “If I were you, I’d pay attention.”
WRONG: “If I was you, I’d pay attention.”

RIGHT: “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.” (NSFW)
WRONG: “If it wasn’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.”

There’s a lot more to the subjunctive mood than the were/was issue, of course. But that’s the one that regularly trips people up. Stick to these basic guidelines, though, and you’ll do just fine.

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