Thursday, June 23, 2016

gone electric

Happy International Typewriter Day. I bought my little red beauty at a flea market on the Rhine for less than 10 euros. I remember seeing it almost as soon as we got to the market. I snapped it up immediately and as we browsed it quickly grew heavy. It is a portable, though, with a handle and a case that snaps shut. The maker, Triumph-Adler of Nuremberg, first made bicycles, then branched into typewriters.

I love typewriters because they’re beautiful and the writer’s totem. When I was a child, my father, a reporter, had a small study upstairs and you could hear the typewriter clacking away, busy and productive, a positive presence. Sometimes he let me sit on his lap and peck at the keys. It was our piano. I also went to high school at a time when typing was an elective class. My European colleagues have always found this funny, but in a good way, as a sign of how practical Americans are. Indeed, it’s a great skill to have. 

One of my favourite typewriter scenes in movies is the opening of Atonement, where the sound of typing soon mixes in with a piano. This is a book I wish I had read before seeing the movie, since knowing the twist takes the air out of it. It's a good twist, though. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Colors in Swann’s Way, in Order of Ascending Frequency

“There are tints in the clouds this evening, violets and blues, which are very beautiful, are they not, my friend?” he said to my father. “Especially a blue which is far more floral than atmospheric, a cineraria blue, which it is surprising to see in the sky. And that little pink cloud there, has it not just the tint of some flower, a carnation or hydrangea?”
Cineraria Blue - Plum-Colored - Fleshly White - Blushing Pink - Eggshell Yellow - Pearl Grey - Golden - Orange Red - Ruby - Silver - Coral - Cabbage Green - Ultramarine - Roseate - Blood-Red - Opalescent - Plum Blue - Emerald-Green - Wine-Colored - Pearly - Scarlet - Dark Green - Crimson - Sky Blue - Orange - Lilac - Brown - Mauve - Red - Azure - Violet - Purple - Green - Grey - Yellow - Gold - Pink - Black - White - Blue 

Blue is the most mentioned color in Swann's Way. There are blue eyes, blue feathers, cuffs and ceilings, blue tiles, and a portrait of a man with a blue mustache, among many other moods and tints.  

I had to look up cineraria, which turns out to be a flower I’ve seen but never heard named before. The “ciner” suggested it could have to do with ash, and indeed the German name is ‘Aschenblume,’ or ash flower, but in reference to the underside of the leaves rather than the petals. 

I love how Proust's characters look at the sunset and imagine flowers blooming. 

The image from a seed packet found at the Smithsonian. You can see it says "cineraria hybrida." There are other varieties I found online that are even more intensely blue, and lack the white ring around the center. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Note on the Type: Frasco

The text of this book is set in Frasco, an angular typeface based on the handwriting of Eduardo Frasco, royal scrivener to King Ademarr I.

Frasco expressed his intelligence in a barbed tongue, with a wit evinced in the reams of correspondence he left behind. Frasco the man was an epicure: his spacing provided ample separation, inviting readers to savor every shape and word. 

Frasco wrote in an quick hand, his bowls evoking eyes that squint skyward in inquiry, be it daytime, midnight, or eclipse. The typeface that bears his name bristles with loops and tails; its ascendants emerge like figures leaping up on tiptoe. 

The letterforms are a lean creation, sparingly adorned, marked by acute curvature. Steep swoops dictate the pace, while the capitals are not overlarge, like a king who is respected, but not given too wide a berth.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Joy Alert

Things like Marie Kondo’s book about owning only items that ‘spark joy’ and articles like “Arrange Your Morning around Tasks that Bring You Joy” make it seem like joy is some kind of everyday commodity, within reach just by a trick of organization. 

That’s not joy. That’s what the marketing department and the cereal packaging designers are telling you to sell books and smart phone apps and Coca-Cola. 

Beware of products that promise you joy. It isn’t something you buy or pencil into your schedule. 

Joy is a mystery. Joy is a very welcome but unexpected guest. Joy is going to surprise you when you didn’t make careful plans for it.

Joy is exaltation. Joy is overwhelming, discombobulating happiness. Joy is emotional and/or spiritual. It isn’t a glutton, a hoarder or a hedonist. It does not appear on the menu. 

Joy is not a voluptuous blouse or a silk tie or an almond chocolate bar. Those might be a pleasure. They might give you satisfaction, even deep satisfaction, but they will not exalt you. Joy is of another order. 

Here’s a goofy listicle hellbent on debasing joy at your expense: “100 Things That Can Bring You Joy.” Among the supposedly joyous activities here are things like Go Shopping, Have More Sex Than Your Friends, Organize Your Bedroom, Eat More Steak, and Make a Gigantic To-do List.

If Starbucks brings you joy every morning, what word are you going to reach for when your underappreciated, much-beloved, deserving daughter against all odds wins an award for bravery? I feel sorry for you if you group these two things in the same category: joy.  

It is exaggeration that cheapens value.

Thursday, June 02, 2016


Grassland, a poem by Sarah Sloat from Dave Bonta on Vimeo.

Here's a video of 'Grassland,' one of my older poems, put together by Dave Bonta. I love it. I love the colors and the fiber-optic grass and the birdsong. Hope you'll watch and enjoy.

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