Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Press Check

In case anyone wonders what I do on these alleged "press checks" I'm always going on, I snapped a photo last week at our printer in Vegas. Here's me inspecting a pile of PCBC registration brochures.

OK, no. More accurately, I'm biding my time while waiting for the guys to fix the web press. These types of delays cost a bundle for the printer (who charges by the job, not by how much time it takes to print), and wastes a bunch of paper. Paper is a tricky thing, especially when combined with water, as it is in printing. As you can imagine, the works get mucked up pretty easily.

And that means a very late night of hanging around, playing video games and causing trouble with my good friend and print broker, Chris. I'm lucky to have a printer I can tolerate for all these long hours (I hope he can say the same for me).

Helvetica: The Movie

I was so excited about this film, a documentary all about the typeface Helvetica, that I pre-ordered the DVD. I thoroughly enjoyed my first viewing at home, while Gary fled to the spare bedroom to watch "Prison Break" or similar. I don't blame him. It is fairly dry. Although bunches of critics can't be wrong -- this is a film with jillions of award nominations. I have to give credit to Gary Hustwit, a designer and filmmaker responsible for "Hevetica" -- he realized that there are millions of designers out there, all noticing this sort of thing, and all fascinated, even consumed by it.

Once I found out I would be teaching Typography I, I knew it would be a natural for my students, and I showed it at one of our first classes, and we ended up referring to it for the remainder of the term. I recommend it to all my designer friends, or anyone with a love of the visuals we encounter every day.

The film is an ode to Helvetica, but it is also a history of 20th century graphic design (and a little bit of 21st century). It is a "who's who" of contemporary graphic design, and it includes such luminaries as Massimo Vignelli, Neville Brody, David Carson, Paula Scher and Stephan Sagmeister! And not everyone (as you can imagine from this lineup) is pro-Helvetica. Paula Scher considers it the font of the "man" or the establishment. But some of-the-moment designers like this group called Experimental Jetset are in love with it, and use it in a more ironic way -- not in the literal way, for example, Massimo used it.

Its amazing that so much could be said for a typeface that was designed to be neutral and fade into the background. And once you see the shots throughout the film of the various places it is used where we would probably overlook it, you realize you have been changed by this film. Everywhere you go, you'll spot Helvetica. Even more than perhaps you used to. At least that was true for me. I guess the message is that we are all slightly changed or affected by this typeface, whether we realize it or not.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Trip Home

Gary & I took a trip back to the DC area to visit my mom this past week. Mom seems to be doing really well. Her community of Riderwood is so positive and offers so many active, fun opportunities for her -- I literally think the place is good for her health!

The big highlight of my trip was attending the 10-year anniversary of the women's book group I used to belong to when I lived in DC. I hadn't seen them since I moved away 6 years ago! It turned into an all-day event starting with brunch at one woman's home, proceeding to Georgetown for some shopping & visiting, then to the National Museum of the American Indian, then another shopping interlude, then to a great restaurant downtown with the whole group for a fun shared meal. What a day! When I found myself slipping back into the easy rhythm of these friendships, even after they've been on hold for 6 years, it struck me how wonderful it is to carry friendships in your heart, even if you are not always close by each other. It also became clear that my friends in California and my friends in DC share some interesting similarities, and I think seeing that somehow helps me to see myself, too.

Another highlight was attending my old church, Dumbarton United Methodist, in Georgetown. The welcome they gave me was overwhelming! Catching up with all of the people there took all morning -- luckily there was a pancake breakfast that day after church (for the 21st anniversary of the congregation's commitment to being a Reconciling church!) so I could connect with lots of the people I have missed so much. Dumbarton is so special, and being back reminded me of how lucky I am to be a part of that community, even as part of the diaspora. I need to renew my commitment to that church.

I have to say that watching the Superbowl was a fantastic experience on Sunday. We went to Third Edition in Georgetown and emerged at the end of the night with lots of new friends. I particularly enjoyed their ritual re-playing of the Redskins fight song not only before the game, but at halftime, and directly after the game. What a fabulous thing after having been the lone Redskins fan all season in Sacramento. HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!!

The trip continued with more visits with Dumbarton folks -- this time over dinner at Riderwood, as some of the members now live near my mom there. Gary is such a great sport to go along to event after event where he knows nobody, and he always enjoys himself, makes friends with my friends, and is kind and charming, too. I'd marry the guy again if I could.

We also managed to squeeze in a day trip to Annapolis which was fun. Showing Gary the historic town, with its Federal architecture and quaint character was great -- he, like me, always particularly loves towns on the water. We saw the Naval Academy and ate oysters and crab cakes. Yum.

If I hadn't had a head cold nearly the whole time, I would declare it an almost perfect trip. Oh, did I mention the awesome pub we found in Wheaton? Cheers to the Royal Mile, and to a fun week.