I was in San Francisco in early June, and the Grabhorn Institute invited me to give a short talk in their gallery about type history and the Tiny Type Museum & Time Capsule. The institute preserves the practical history of type casting and fine-art printing by perpetuating it, fulfilling orders from letterpress printers and producing new books, while running an apprenticeship program, regular tours, and inviting speakers (like me!).
I sat down at Phinney Books on May 16, 2019, with Tom Nissley, an 8-time Jeopardy winner in 2010 and first runner-up in the 2011 tournament of champions, and Matthew Amster-Burton, a strong player who fell victim early in James Holzhauer’s run, to talk about James, his playing style, how to bet on Daily Doubles, and whether the game of Jeopardy has changed forever. (Me? I won two games by the skin of my teeth back in 2012.) Bios of Tom and Matthew below the sound link.
Tom Nissley won $235,405 across 8 games in late 2010, and he remains the #9 all-time regular play winner. He additionally won $100,000 in the 2011 tournament of champions, placing second to Roger Craig. Tom answered the question of “how do you afford to start a bookstore these days?” by using Jeopardy money to buy a retiring couple’s store and re-open it as Phinney Books in Seattle. The store opened a sister store in a bookstore-free neighborhood in Seattle, Madison Park, just weeks ago. Tom spent a decade at Amazon and wrote the book A Reader’s Book of Days.
Matthew Amster-Burton is a food writer, novelist, and podcaster. He’s written several books, including Hungry Monkey, a journey of learning to cook and eat with his then young child; Pretty Good Number One; and Our Secret Better Lives. He cohosts the food comedy podcast Spilled Milk. Matthew had the signal pleasure of playing amazing well in a Jeopardy match aired on April 8, 2019, in which he racked up a terrific score of $17,600 before Final Jeopardy—but was also one of the first victims of James Holzhauer.
The Tiny Type Museum & Time Capsule crowdfunding campaign funded magnificently—thank you to everyone who backed the campaign and the larger number of people who provided moral support and design suggestions!
I’m now taking direct pre-orders for elements of the project. Most museum are now spoken for (about two-thirds of the edition of 100 I’m making), but you still have time to order one, as well as pre-ordering separately the book I’m writing for it, Six Centuries of Type & Printing, which will be typeset in Monotype hot metal and printed by letterpress. The museum and book are in preparation for delivery in January 2020.
Here’s where you can order the various components:
The museum, paid as 10 installments: a number of people asked about paying over time, so I was able to add this pre-order option
The letterpress edition of the book (included with museum)
The ebook edition of the book (included with museum)
A Linotype slug with your custom text (included with museum)
Update: The project was wildly successful, and I’ll be making elements of it available for separate order soon at tinytypemuseum.com.
My latest typographic project is now live: I’m raising funds to build up to 100 tiny type museums and time capsules! These little museums will comprise actual historical and modern type artifacts, replicas, and printing samples—like a real museum—and the case and its components will be designed to last for centuries—or longer—like a real time capsule.
The cost isn’t low, but I tried to balance the authenticity and lifespan of the project, to give it substance and longevity, with the budget. I hope you’ll take a look at the main reward of the museum, and other campaign items, which include a book and a Linotype “slug” of type.
Trying to understand Slack? Or want to step up your mastery to be more efficient and get more out of it? I have a new book just for you! Take Control of Slack is the start-to-finish guide for Slack users you wish you had when you first fired the app up. The book covers macOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and the Web app.
I wrote this for three groups of people:
The new user: If you’re interested in or tempted by Slack but have never used it, this book will help you get up to speed quickly.
The experienced user: If you use Slack already and want to get more out of it, this book will guide you to more efficient and more sophisticated use and control.
The reluctant user: If Slack is a requirement for your workplace, nonprofit group, or other organization, this book will help you overcome frustration and confusion.
You can read more about the book and download an excerpt at the Take Control Books site.
Join me January 23 from 6:30 to 8:30 as I host an episode of his podcast The New Disruptors live at Ada's Technical Books and Café in Seattle with three letterpress printers as guests to talk about making some or all of their living in the 21st century by working in the past with techniques, equipment, and type that date as far back as the 19th century and earlier.
My panel discussion features Demian Johnston, Sarah Kulfan, and Amy Redmond, and we’ll talk about their work and practices, and how they make the past mesh with the present, especially at a time when authenticity is highly prized. The event will end with a Q&A and informal discussion. The printers and I will have some of their work on hand and available for purchase. (Note that this live event will be taped for later online audio posting.)
Admission is free and no ticket is required, but space is limited. As an incentive to venture out in the January cold, the first 20 or so arrivals will receive a free pastry courtesy of the podcast, so come early!
The New Disruptors podcast features independent artists who control how their work is made and distributed in a constantly changing creative economy. It was brought back after a hiatus through the support of patrons.
Sarah Kulfan is a visual designer, illustrator, and letterpress printer. She is the proprietrix of Gallo Pinto Press and Beans n’ Rice where she respectively prints limited edition prints and runs her freelance graphic design business. Sarah thrives working as an independent artist and designer where the flexibility in her schedule allows her plenty of time for opting outside. Instagram: @hellobeansnrice
Amy Redmond is a Seattle-based visual designer and artist who has been using letterpress as a medium for self-expression since 1998. Her apprenticeship with Stern & Faye, Printers, cultivated an appreciation for traditional and experimental use of letterforms. Amy works as an independent art director and graphic designer, and prints in her studio Amada Press. Her work has appeared nationally in solo and group shows. She teaches at SVC and PLU. She is a 2018 GAP Award recipient. Instagram: @amadapress
Demian Johnston is the Designer and Pressman at Annie's Art & Press, a letterpress shop in Ballard. At SVC, he teaches both introductory and advanced classes in the letterpress program. His design and illustration work has appeared in The Stranger, Seattle Weekly, City Arts, and Beer Advocate. He is also the founder of the art and music label Dead Accents and a veteran performing musician in Seattle’s underground music scene. Instagram: @anniesartandpress
My appearances on actual radio (as opposed to podcasts) goes in spates. After my Smithsonian magazine article appeared about the entry of 1923 in the U.S. into the public domain, I was asked to be on several shows.
NPR’s All Things Considered emailed me for a story, but I missed the email! They riffed off my article and spoke with Jennifer Jenkins, the director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke Law School, my stalwart source for all things public domain, and produced a very nice brief take. (A few days later NPR’s Weekend Edition did a longer and fun interview with Jenkins and her husband, James Boyle, also a copyright and public domain expert.)
WNYC interviewed me for a brief segment on the public domain that ran on January 4.
Wisconsin Public Radio had me on for a live interview on January 7 in which I was able to get a little more deeply into issues. (An issue raised in that interview: Recorded music remains under a separate copyright regime; 1922 and earlier recorded music expires from protection Jan. 1, 2022; 1923 expires Jan. 1, 2024; and then annual regular expirations happen more or less thereafter, just as with published work of all kinds. I left a comment to explain that for listeners baffled by my aside about “Yes! We Have No Bananas.”)
On Jan. 9, I recorded a long interview with WGN in Chicago for a segment aired Jan. 13 on the same topic.
Finally, I spoke recently with my friend Anze at Slovenia’s national radio network—but not about the public domain! We talked about Facebook’s devaluation of the birthday. I’ll be dubbed into Slovenian! (Updated: Here’s the link.)
Updated: We sang it!
Celebrate the entry of everything first published in the U.S. in 1923 into the public domain this January 1st by singing, “Yes! We Have No Bananas,” a 1923 novelty song that is no longer protected by copyright as of midnight on New Year’s Day! The tune is a send-up of a greengrocer one of the songwriters met, who started every sentence with “yes,” even when the answer was “no.”
With the January 1, 2019, expiration of 1923 copyrights in the U.S., anyone can perform that song without license or fee (and even release a recording for free or charge for it), along with thousands of other tunes (mostly forgotten) from that year.
I’ll be leading at least one chorus among New Year’s celebrants at my house at a midnight past midnight Eastern, and then post it to social media.
(I recommend avoiding Louis Prima’s and similar versions that play up a jokey ethnic style; the song’s original lyrics celebrate inventive use of language, rather than ridicule the speaker!)
(Audio recordings have a very different set of rights, recently modernized by Congress in a remarkable show of compromise among musicians, companies, and political parties. The above 1923 recording remains under separate copyright protection—called a “phonogram” right—for several years longer. If I’ve done my math correctly, a 1923 recording expires January 1, 2024, or to the end of the calendar year 100 years from its initial protection.)
I have an article in the January 2019 issue of Smithsonian magazine about the potential cultural impact of the expiration of copyright on nearly everything published in the U.S. in 1923. With few exceptions, everything that had proper initial notice and filed for copyright renewal from that year in 1951 (renewal was once required) will enter the public domain on January 1. It’s exciting, as it starts a 54-year cycle of annual releases of each year from 95 years prior into the public domain.
“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” is a prominent bit of literature from 1923. Robert Frost’s poems have had zealous copyright enforcement. It even featured in a landmark Supreme Court case, Eldred v. Ashcroft, in which the Supreme Court decided that the “limited terms” of exclusive ownership defined in the Constitution meant any duration that Congress picked.
In honor of “Stopping by Woods” upcoming entry into the public domain, I wrote this bit of doggerel. (A fancy typeset version appears below.)
STOPPING BY WORDS ON A NEW YEAR’S EVENING
Whose words these are it’s clear to see,
He wrote them back in ’twenty-three.
His reps have never stopped the fight
To limit use by copyright.
James Madison would think it queer
That rights this long could stay so dear,
But courts have let extensions be
Despite the case of Eldred v.
The house of publication shakes
Off questions that renewal breaks
In ’fifty-one, a form not sent—
No one tried to show dissent.*
The words are lovely, free and clear,
With oceans more that will appear.
And years to go before release,
And years to go before release.
*In an example of the kind of complexities that surround copyright, the poem first appeared in The New Republic, and may have not had proper renewal in 1951. It’s possible it’s been properly in the public domain for 67 years.
Last year was hard to top. I had a designer in residence position at the School of Visual Concepts, printed a book by letterpress, traveled to New York for a Kickstarter event, Wisconsin for the Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum Wayzgoose, and to London to research a book.
2018 started weakly. I got the flu on Christmas Eve, recovered briefly, and then was so knocked out with secondary illnesses that it took me about four months to recover fully. During that time, I was also writing a book, finding new publications to write for, and figuring out what I would do across the year.
It turned out pretty well in the end.
In the first part of the year, I finished researching and writing London Kerning, and then designed the book and had it printed—and then shipped it out to hundreds of people. I undersold myself on demand and ran out, and then banged a drum to sell enough copies to create a second printing. And then sent those out! (I wrote about the finances of the project in some depth for those interested.)
I had another book underway, too: the letterpress title I printed in 2017 wasn’t yet fully complete. I ran late in the printing, which cascaded into a large delay for Jules Faye, the bookbinder who created an incredible package for the work. I sent out part of the edition of 100 books in 2017, and the rest by April. I had a few unnumbered artist’s proofs remaining, and sold some of those, too. (There are a very few copies left, if you want one! You can also get a single chapter bound in a translucent vellum.)
This year I also updated some of my tech/how-to titles. Take Control of Wi-Fi Networking and Security hadn’t been updated in a few years when it was uncertain what Apple intended for its in-house Wi-Fi devices. This latest edition is more generally focused, especially for readers who haven’t set up Wi-Fi before or are replacing a whole house or small-office network. I also revised A Practical Guide to Networking and Security in iOS for iOS 12. And I wrote a new title, Take Control of Your Apple ID, which is full of tips and troubleshooting advice for Apple’s surprisingly fraught account-management system. I’m currently revising a Take Control title about using Slack for January 2019.
I continued writing for a slate of publications (not including Slate) that include the Economist, the Atlantic, Fast Company, Increment, Macworld, and TidBITS. (You can find a searchable list of nearly everything I’ve ever written at my Authory profile, which also provides a feed of new articles.)
My first article appeared in Smithsonian magazine (about 1923 and the public domain) and at Fortune online, where since June I’ve been writing breaking news every afternoon alongside other reporters.
I apparently wrote over 500 articles this year! That comes in part from the stint at Fortune, where I might file two to four stories a day combined with the Macworld Mac 911 column I’ve now written for years, which usually results in me filing three items a week.
Some of the favorite or most meaningful stories that I wrote and which appeared this year include:
Why European-descended Americans seem to want to declare themselves Native Americans (for the Economist). This story’s hook was Elizabeth Warren’s exploration of her past in a way that didn’t involved consulting the native community. I was spoke to Rosanne Cash for the story, someone I’ve known for years due to Twitter, as I’d read her father had once claimed heritage—then discovered he was incorrect. She said he was very disappointed, but he persisted in fighting for native rights.
The paper that poisoned its printers (for the Economist). This bit of history arose from my London trip in late 2017. For Queen Victoria’s coronation, one newspaper printed a golden-hued portrait—which sickened many involved in its production. Breaking news from 1838!
Why the genome of wheat is so massive (for the Economist). I had a great time learning about this topic, and this “Economist Explains” column found its way into a collection of these explainers, called Seriously Curious that came out in late 2018.
“The Racism Behind One of the World’s Largest Time Capsules” (for the Atlantic). I was slightly obsessed with this story for two years after discovering its detail. The Atlantic helped me birth it. The time capsule at a college in Georgia is like a dark mirror to the monuments aboveground, over which battles currently rage.
“A First Look At The Spheres, Amazon’s Wild New Corporate Biodome” (for Co.Design). Amazon gave me early access to their new habitat in January, and I broke the news that the company planned to bring a “titan arum” in—a corpse flower—when one bloomed. They finally did so in October.
“How Facebook Devalued The Birthday” (for Fast Company). My jeremiad on how when hundreds of people know your birthday, the social currency is wiped out.
The history of documentation (for Increment). From Noah (sort of) through Chaucer via sewing machines and farm machinery and to the modern era. Article opens with Squirrel Girl’s Ryan North and his dog, Noam Chompsky.
After finishing my residency, I had a lot of letterpress knowledge and research to hand, and decided to restart a Patreon campaign I had tried before. (The previous effort had led directly to the residency.) The new campaign, which looks for recurring pledges of $1 or more a month, provides funds that help me write more about typography, printing, language, and history as they connect. Funds this year gave me the flexibility to travel to TypeCon and give a talk, pay to scan a seminal 1887 book about typesetting races, and buy a high-quality book scanning device so I can turn more public-domain works into resources for the rest of the world.
Also this year, I restarted the podcast The New Disruptors. I produced almost 95 episodes between 2012 and 2014 about creating work independently in the new economy with new models and tools. A number of people asked me to bring the show back, and a Kickstarter in mid-2018 gave me the funds to do so. You can listen to old and new episodes via the Web site or by subcribing to the podcast feed.
I gave a few talks and presentations this year, and you can watch me speak about my year in review of my SVC residnecy, which covers lots of aspects of my work and the history of printing. I also edited up this talk I gave about London and type history at Ada’s Technical books mid-year.
Thank you to everyone who participated in and supported this great year!