Monthly Archives: November 2007

Helvetica

Last night I went to see the movie Helvetica at the ICA. A movie about the ubiquitous typeface (if you don’t think you know it then you might know the cheap knock off Arial). Once you know what you’re looking for you will see it everywhere (hint: the a and e are the easiest ways to identify it). So an important typeface is 50 years old, but is the movie any good?

I very much enjoyed it. The design gurus interviewed were just as crackers as you need to keep the thing moving along. In fact there were quite a few laughs in the sold out cinema – mostly people were laughing at the obsessiveness of the type designers. The only question I had afterwards was one of how different the film would have been if a different typeface had been the star? The film’s main interest was in these crazy characters of the world of type and they would have happily spouted forth on any font. I think the film maker was wise to hang the film on a specific typeface though as it did ground the piece, I just don’t think in that in the end Helvetica was the star of the movie.

After the movie one of my friends, Anna said that she’d enjoyed it but that it made her feel a little dirty. I think she felt that because there were these obsessives revealing the details of their secret world. I loved the obsessiveness of it all. It certainly stuck a chord with me and the way Adrian and I approach our work.

All in all an interesting film. Should you see it?

A modern convention

One of the more obscure social conventions of the 21st century is that friends don’t put friends on company mailing lists. It is a cardinal sin akin, in the modern age, to stabbing.

Companies have cottoned on to this and now they try and bribe people who have already been foolish enough to be caught in their web of doom to enslave others. This is still socially unacceptable but you get to replace your acquaintances with vouchers. Surely everyone knows somebody they’d like to passively aggressively de-friend and this is the ideal way. What says “I don’t value your friendship very much” better than actually letting somebody know you value it less than a five pound gift voucher for Boots that you’ll leave in the fruit bowl until it expires.

So as you can imagine I was interested to work out what was going on when I heard two women on the train and one said to the other, “I signed you up to the mailing list because that way they gave me a free facial”. I expected blows to follow so I took out my phone to call the police, but then the first woman added, “don’t worry I used your old address that way you won’t get the junk mail”.

Weirdly the second woman seemed satisfied with this arrangement. I wonder how long it will be before she realises: there is only one thing more annoying than junk mail, incorrectly addressed junk mail. You can’t contact them to fix the address because then they’ll know you’re alive but if you do nothing the junk just keeps on coming and coming – forever.

The collective short story

I’m going to write a word in the comments in a moment and all you need to do is decide what word comes next. Write that word in the comments and off we go. Good luck to all of us, this could be quite weird.

I’m forever pouring bubbles

I was asked, the other day, as I often am, a fairly random question: “why does the beer always overflow the first time I pour a glass”?

Well the answer is pretty simple but some of the other people crowded around the pub table got very much the wrong end of the stick. “You’re not pouring it right” was the most common suggestion, others added helpfully that you always realise your mistake and that’s why the second glass poured better. Good guess but wrong.

The answer is of course, as it is for so many things in life, dust. Basically the head in beer is formed by trapped bubbles. Bubbles that are free fly off through the top of the beer and off into the atmosphere. But all bubbles are formed around dust. The bubbles are formed around any little particles they can find. If there are a few particles then the gas remains lighter than the water and breaks for freedom. But what if there is enough dust grouped together that the gas is trapped under the surface? Well that’s the head and the more dust there is the faster the head grows. The head has more volume than the liquid and so it takes up more room in the glass, hence the overflowing.

Now I will admit that poor pouring is a factor because it means that more of the dust is touched by the beer more quickly. In fact if you are pouring your beer correctly then you’ll probably end up only touching a small section of one side of the glass. And we now know that the reason the beer doesn’t overflow the second time isn’t because your pouring improved but simply because you’ve drunk all of the dust.
The safest way to be sure your beer pours perfectly is to rinse the glass (no soap) and you won’t have any problems.

By around this time you might be thinking, “urgh I don’t like the fact that I’ve been drinking dust all of these years”. But don’t worry, unless the glasses that you’re drinking from are actually dirty this dust is no different than the dust you inhale through breathing. In fact without it you would be dead. So worrying about the dust is silly, but rinsing the glass before you pour will stop you spilling beer and surely that makes it all worthwhile.

Rome-ing about

When we went to Rome on the weekend I was worried that we wouldn’t see any really old things, but then we did:


That’s a relief!

Afterwards we decided to buy something from a gift shop, it was pretty large but we thought it would be okay.

Unfortunately we can’t fit it in our living room so we’re going to have to sell it, hopefully it will urn a few quid.

Anyway Rome is no laughing matter, there is one road that Katherine and I managed to avoid the whole time we were there:

Buy the Book of the Blog

There is a copy of my book in my hands.* It’s one of the most exciting moments in my life. Thanks for everyone who helped especially last minute heroics from Adrian who got the copy to me before I flew to Rome. However if you feel like you were unable to help thus far and still want a piece of the action then why not buy a copy online. It’s available direct from the publisher now, but will be available on Amazon shortly.

It’s a collection of some of the short stories from the blog. Go on! You know you want to be able to point to a book on your shelves and say “someone I know wrote that”. That’s the kind of thing that impresses some people. People, having seen that you own this book, might even declare their undying love for you and offer to kiss you, and more! That’s the power of this book. I’d want to have that kind of help in my life but I don’t need to worry because I already have a copy. Let me know how your life is working out without it or even better buy the book and let me know what you think!

*Not while I’m writing this of course that would be tricky. It’s a metaphor.**

**Of course I could have been using speech recognition to write this***

***But I wasn’t.