Miscellaneous Characters

I was looking through a Linotype specimen book today from 1920, glancing at the faces, the advertising figures, some info on “the Rogers Tabular Matrix,” that sort of thing, when I came upon a page in the “miscellaneous characters” section which made me pause. It was a page titled “party emblems” and featured icons meant to represent 10 separate political parties. I thought, “In 1920, less than a single lifetime ago, there were 10 political parties in America taken seriously enough to warrant a logo?” My my, how times have changed.

01.13. filed under: design. history. observations. politics. 6


Mechanismo

Or: praise of futures past

A few weeks ago I picked up a book in the bargain bin at Strand titled Mechanismo. When the guy ringing me up at the checkout counter came upon it in my stack, he stopped, flipped through it quickly and somewhat sheepishly, and alerted a buddy standing a few registers down. They admired it together. I remember thinking, “Well, guess that one is Nonist worthy.” The book, published in 1978, is essentially a collection of essays by the venerable Harry Harrison on all things science-fictional. What makes the book standout, however, is the bounty of 70’s era sci-fi illustrations contained within, and it’s some of these that I’d like to share with you.

01.12. filed under: art. books. science. space. 13


The Secret History Of The Revolving Door

The revolving door is most often thought of today, if at all, in connection to the various forms of workplace-related dread it has come to be associated with. As the entranceway to office buildings it’s the cause of pavlovian groans (Christ! Here I am again at this hell-hole). As metaphoric short-hand it’s a stand-in for conflicts-of-interest, matters of ethical oversight, and corruption. Like snapshots from your last colonoscopy, or a multi-million dollar Damien Hirst painting, the images conjured aint pretty. The revolving door has, of course, not always been saddled with such negative connotations. There was a time, not so very long ago, when it was a shining symbol of modern man’s ingenuity- evidence of an energized drive toward the future. Yet surprisingly, even in the glow of the revolving door’s youth, when it was being enthusiastically installed in buildings the world over, few people were aware of its true origins.

01.10. filed under: history. lies. people. 5


A little something for all my NYC readers in tha house… For a year now I’ve been wondering when some enterprising “urban fashion” brand would seize upon the T-shirt design just staring them in the face every morning and night, on the subway and on the bus flanks, but it never, to my knowledge, materialized. So today, coming across a New York Times article revisiting the subject, I decided to just whip the damn thing up myself. And thus, I give you- “1,944 Snitches.” Perfect for that hustlin’ New Yorker keepin’ it really really real. Larger image here, and see the alternate version, with underscoring MF Doom quote, here. Hands-off Sean John.

01.08. filed under: design. play. 7


Gaikotsu’s Postcards

Or: Aitch’s Pick

This post comes to us, not from the usual source, namely my own expeditions of internet spelunking, but rather from an altogether more novel source- a friend of mine by the name of Mr. H. Most of you will remember Aitch fondly from his revered and only recently shuttered blog Giornale Nuovo. Well, it so happens that Aitch came across some images which he felt needed to be shared with the populace at large. He went ahead and crafted a post, leaving it here on The Nonist’s doorstep like a beautiful and cooing orphaned baby. Who am I, and indeed who are you, to do anything but embrace it lovingly?

So, without further interuption from me, here is Mr. H’s post on journalist Miyatake Gaikotsu and his collection of humorous and often obscure early 20th century postcards-

01.06. filed under: design. history. people. 15


In 1846 Dr. Andrew Comstock, proprietor of one of the oldest commercial language schools in America, called Dr. Comstock’s Vocal Gymnasium and Polyglot Institute, published his Treatise on Phonology. In 2008 I came across it on google books and, reading its simultaneously bitchy and braggadocios full title– A Treatise on Phonology: Comprising a Prefect Alphabet for the English Language; a Specimen Exhibition of the Absurdities of Our Present System of Orthography, I laughed. Reason enough to whip-up a quick post, so far as I’m concerned.

01.05. filed under: books. history. ideas. people. play. 3


The Repugnant Mugs of Ugly Bugs

Bugs- weird, off-putting, unknowable, swarming and creeping and crawling masters of the Earth. Even when seen from across a poorly lit room, at only a few millimeters long, scurrying for cover, we, the thumb-flexing warhead-builders, fear and revile them. Their “otherness” disturbs us I’ll venture to guess, because in nearly every encounter we reflexively let the boot-heels fall. So how, as a species, do we usually come to terms with things which we do not understand? Why, by looking at them more closely of course! Were we to make the effort and take the time to look at our insect neighbors more closely, face to face as it were, we’d see something in them that would bridge that gap of “otherness” and quell that deep-seated horror; we’d approach some new enlightened understanding which would, over time, in perhaps as few as two generations, effectively curb our instinct for instant murder, replacing it instead with feelings of fellowship for they who are, after all, not so very different from ourselves… right? Uh… think again.

Ten years worth of entries for the Oklahoma Microscopy Society’s Ugly Bug Contest, which are essentially micrograph mug-shots, ought to dispel any of those human/insect utopian notions. Check it out: 07, 06, 05, 04, 03, 02, 01, 00, 99, 98, 97. Yeesh. Where did I put my hobnailed boots ?

01.03. filed under: play. science. 5


The British Library has a dynamite collection of fine and historical bookbindings numbering, evidently, in the thousands, and their online database will happily serve them up, in random groups of 25, for your ogling pleasure. On the whole they are ludicrously beautiful, making those spiffy, redesigned, Penguin Classic’s we’re all so fond of look about as precious as supermarket circulars. To see them for yourself go here and simply click “reselect” to see more.

The site does not offer much, however, by way of supporting historical information, and knowing, as I do, that beautiful pictures just aren’t enough for you “internauts,” and indeed how ravenously hungry you all are for lengthy texts to read in your browser window, I’ve taken the liberty of gathering together a list of related materials which could shed some light on the art and craft of bookbinding. See below. 

01.03. filed under: art. books. design. history. 7


Everyone loves Saul Bass. It’s a deserved love. He’s a design giant and designers pay the respect due. But even those amongst us who don’t get hot under the collar for fonts and logo treatments love him, whether they know his name or not. They love his his incredible title sequences for films like The Man with the Golden Arm, Vertigo, and Anatomy of a Murder. I recently came across some commercial work he’d done for television in the 50’s, and upon doing some google-sniffing to search out more information, was surprised to find none of it was already represented on the web. With that in mind please consider the following images my small contribution to the digital remembrance of all things Bass.

01.01. filed under: design. film. history. people.


The new year approaches and as it draws nearer arms will begin to raise, and in each hand will be a glass, and in each glass a libation. As the midnight hour approaches more and more glasses will raise until, were the millions of libations allowed to flow into one another, and were gravity to join in the festivities and relax a little, a veritable river of spirits would form there just above our heads, flowing from hand to hand and from time-zone to time-zone, chasing the sun as it endlessly sets over the world.

And what sound will accompany this river of spirits as it’s bailed, glass by glass, into the air? Why the same sound that accompanies us everywhere, in all of our endeavors, great and small– the gush and tumble of words. Yes, my friends the toasting hour approaches, so before it catches us and our mouths inexorably up in its ebullient current let’s have a slightly closer look at this toasting business shall we? Glasses at the ready.

Prosit: A Book of Toasts Published by Paul Elder and Co., 1904.



The term “toast” itself is thought to have come from the Romans, who evidently found themselves drinking a lot of sub-par wine. They’d drop a piece of burnt bread into wine, the charcoal of which would reduce the drinks acidity, making it more palatable. This toast may have also been included with the wine as a token bit of nourishment. The term stuck even after the practice of including the burnt bread died out. It mutated even further when, in the golden age of toasting, the act of drinking a toast to women admired but not present spawned the phrase “toast of the town.”

Meanwhile there is a connected custom, the clinking of glasses, to consider. There are three theories as to its origin. The first is attributed again to the Greeks’ proclivity for poison. It’s thought that the hearty thud of wine vessels against one another might facilitate an exchange of liquid from one vessel to another, thus ensuring any poison would be imbibed by all. A second theory attributes the clinking of glasses to the Christian era. It was thought that the bell-like clink of glasses would banish the Devil, who was thought to literally inhabit liquor (and be the cause of the ill behavior of the drunken), and who was repelled by the sound of bells. The third theory, which sounds entirely more modern to me, is that all five senses had to come into play to get the greatest pleasure from drink, the sight, the smell, the touch, the taste, and with the clink… the sound.

“Do you know” Cigarette card, published ca.1919-1940.



In truth the species of speach which we moderns refer to as “a toast,” meaning the one word salutations, often in a phonetically-sounded foreign tongue, the literal meaning of which we rarely know, is only the dimmest shadow of a once grand and formal tradition of dinner speaking. Today, for the average person not serving as an ambassador on distant soil, that tradition is relegated almost exclusively to the dreaded wedding toast, in which a bitter and terrified “best man” stumbles his way through those few words which represent the final hurdle in his race to the open bar.

In the heyday of toasting the whole affair was elaborate enough that scores of books were published to help people navigate the treacherous rules of etiquette involved for both toast-giver and audience, and no drink could be drunk without “a few words” of praise to someone. To drink without offering a toast was simply an affront to everyone in the room, and this imperative evidently protracted even casual occasions into 8 or 10 hour binges.

Today it would just be impossible. Imagine heading over to your local Tex-Mex place for a few 6 dollar Coronas after a crappy day in your shabby cubicle, only to realize you were a “best man,” in a room full of nothing but other “best men,” obliged to speak and listen before every… single… round; for 10 hours. Didn’t Sartre write a play about that?

In any case, as I said at the beginning, the “hour of the toast” is fast approaching, and though I don’t expect many of you will want to wax eloquent, at length, in iambic pentameter, about how much you love your mother, or country, or best mates, you may still wish to surprise everyone with something a bit more imaginative than the expected, “May you rock out with yer cock out and jam out with yer clam out! Down the hatch!”



With that in mind I am including below a small sampling of toasts (mostly culled from the 1927 volume, The Big Toast-Book, by Carleton B. Case, pictured above) so antiquated sounding that they might be just the thing to… oh, I don’t know… persuade your mightily disappointed and old-fashioned father that he ought not disown you just yet, or convince your significant other’s parents that you’re more than the coarse, dead-eyed, lout you appear to be, or induce premature nostril-vomiting in your rivals, or embarrass the hell out of your sweetheart. Who knows? Maybe they’ll just inspire you to come up with a decent toast yourself and revive in some small way the time honored tradition.



For the Romantics:

Here’s to the one and only one,
And may that one be she
Who loves but one and only one,
And may that one be me.
-
Here’s to love, The only fire against which there is no insurance.
-
God made women both beautiful and foolish–
Beautiful, that man might love her;
Foolish, that she might love him.
-
Here’s to everything old! Old friends, old times, old books, and old wine.
-
Flow wine, smile woman, and the universe is consoled. -Beranger



For the Bachelors:

Love is the wine of life
And marriage is the morning after.
-
I would advise a young man to pause
Before he takes a wife;
In fact I see no earthly cause
Why he should not pause for life.
-
Here’s to the woman! –ah that we could fall into her arms
Without falling into her hands! -Bierce
-
A pipe, a book, a fire, a friend,
A stein that’s always full,
Here’s to the joys of a bachelor’s life,
A life that’s never dull.



For the Married:

To Home! The place where you are treated best and grumble most.
-
He is not worthy of the honeycomb
That shuns the hive because the bees have stings. -Shakespeare
-
Let the man who does not wish to be idle, fall in love. -Ovid
-
Laugh and the world laughs with you; snore, and you sleep alone.



For the Naughty:

Here’s head first, to a foaming glass!
Here’s head first, to a lively lass!
Here’s head first, for a bit of kissing,
For the good don’t know the fun they are missing!
-
Here’s to the ships of our navy,
Here’s to the ladies of our land,
May the former be well rigged,
And the latter be well manned.
-
Here’s to the lasses we’ve loved, my lad,
Here’s to the lips we’ve pressed.
For of kisses and lasses,
Like liquor in glasses,
The last is always the best.



For the Bitter:

Here’s to the woman with face so fair,
Framed in a wreath of beautiful hair;
Pretty red lips as soft as a rose–
How many have kissed them God only Knows.
-
Here’s to the love that lies in a woman’s eyes,
And lies, and lies, and lies.



For the Old Sots:

Which is the properest day to drink–
Saturday, Sunday, Monday?
Each is the properest day I think,
Why should I name but one day?
-
Here’s to the heart that fills as the bottle empties.
-
Man being reasonable must get drunk;
The best of life is but intoxication;
Glory, the grape, love, gold– in these are sunk
The hopes of all men and of every nation. -Byron
-
God made man frail as a bubble;
God made love, love made trouble;
God made the vine– was it a sin
That man made wine to drown trouble in?
-
Grasp the bowl; in nectar sinking
Man of sorrow, drown thy thinking!



For the Ladies:

If kissing were the only joy of bed,
One woman would another woman wed.
(followed by winking and giggling)
-
The more one sees of men the more one likes dogs.



For the Men:

You shall and you shan’t,
You will and you wont,
You’re condemned if you do,
And you’re damned if you don’t



For Parents:

Go back to bed!
I know it’s loud it’s grown-up time.
No you can’t have any of my grape juice,
Just go back to bed please.
Honey, you have to go back to bed
Because the monster is on his way
And he likes to eat children.
Yes he eats them
And chews up their bones.
He ate one of the neighbor kids last night.
Yes, he’s on his way here right now…
Wait, I think I hear him on the steps!
You better get to bed quick. RUN!



For All:

Yesterday’s yesterday while today’s here,
Today is today till tomorrow appear,
Tomorrow’s tomorrow until today’s past,
And kisses are kisses as long as they last.
-
May you live all the days of your life. -Swift
-
Weep and you are called a baby,
Laugh and you are called a fool,
Yield and you’re called a coward,
Stand and your called a mule,
Smile and they’ll call you silly,
Frown and they’ll call you gruff,
Put on a front like a millionaire,
And somebody calls your bluff.
-
May bad luck follow you all the days of your life,
And never overtake you.
-
At ten, a child; at twenty, wild;
At thirty tame, if ever;
At forty wise; at fifty, rich;
At sixty, good or never!
-
While we live, let’s live in clover,
For when we’re dead, we’re dead all over.



And finally, here’s one especially for me to make:

May the people who dance on your grave get cramps in their legs!


Lastly I would just like to mention how strikingly perfect the symbolism of holding up a full glass, especially on New Years Eve, seems to me. We hold it there, brimming, shining and untouched. So much optimism for everything which is to come, for the fun yet to be had, for the possibilities which await! We take that first delicious and refreshing sip with bright eyes. But of course, by the end of the night it’s a different story though isn’t it? The glass lays toppled, used-up, cracked, empty and we… we are nauseous, disheveled, most likely embarrassed and full of some vague regret, having yet again failed to learn anything from the previous time we held up a glass, confidently swearing that things would be different.


For more on the history and art of toasting see the following:
The History & Ritual of the Toast
Toastbook by Paul Dickson
Drinkingsongs.net which offers many toasts as well as a terrific bibliography
Wine, Women, and Song published 1884
In Praise of Ale published 1888
Toasts published 1895
The Banquet Book Published 1902
400 Laughs, or Fun without Vulgarity published 1902
Rare Bits of Humor published 1906
Irish Toasts published 1908
A Tankard of Ale, an Anthology of Drinking Songs published 1920
More Toasts published 1922

Hope you enjoyed.
Happy New Year all and sundry! 2008 will be different! I swear!

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12.30. filed under: books. history. humanity. life. 10


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