Print Connections by Richard Romano
Bugged By Technology
In January, 2017, the final installment of a three-volume biography of Kafka was published. For logistical reasons, the volume covering Kafka’s earliest years was the last to be published, and in many ways it’s the most fascinating. One thing I never knew was that when Kafka and Brod traveled around Europe in 1910 and 1911, they hatched a plan to write and publish a series of travel guides which they were going to call “On the Cheap.” At the time, there was very little like Fodor’s (let alone TripAdvisor) that reviewed and rated hotels and restaurants and provided other practical information — or, more to their point, kept travelers from getting ripped off in “tourist traps.” You know, I’d pay good money to read a travel guide written by Franz Kafka! (A hotel that carves your room folio on your back after checkout?) Neither of them had the funds to get very far with the idea, though.
One of the simultaneously great and terrible things about English is that it has always been an organic language. That is, the grammar police to the contrary, there is no central authority determining what is proper English and what isn’t.
Pass the Bubbly
Some time ago, I was binge-watching on Hulu+ the British quiz/comedy series Q.I. (Quite Interesting), simultaneously the most fascinating, funniest and, at times, bawdiest TV program on the air. Stephen Fry (until 2015; now Sandy Toksvig) hosts four British comedians who answer questions about obscure knowledge, and make all manner of jokes. In an episode called “Kitsch,” the subject of bubble wrap came up, and I learned that there is such a thing as “Bubble-Wrap Awareness Day,” which falls on January 30 in 2017. (It is alternately called “Bubble-Wrap Appreciation Day,” and was started by a radio station in 2001.)
Of Fonts and Fears
After glancing at the calendar, I have decided that for the rest of the week, I’m going to set everything I type in 13-point Helvetica. Why? It’s a long story, one that takes us through Medieval Switzerland and the world of opera.
Helvetica is one of the most famous typefaces in the world. Designed in 1957 by Swiss type designer Max Miedinger, with a little help from Eduard Hoffmann, it was intended to be a neutral typeface suitable for a wide variety of signage. It was originally named Neue Haas Grotesk, and Mergenthaler Linotype licensed it almost immediately. However, they (actually German Linotype in particular) didn’t like the name, and one could hardly blame them.