Live Podcast Taping at Ada’s on January 23: Life of a Letterpress Printer

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.

Update:  A great time was had by all!  Photo by    Jeff Carlson

Update: A great time was had by all! Photo by Jeff Carlson

Biographies:

2018 SVC-SCH Broadsides (136 of 186).jpeg

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_credit-Radford-Creative_091718.jpg

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_Apr2018_sq.jpeg

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




2018 Creative Year in Review

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 AtlanticFast CompanyIncrementMacworld, 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!

The New Disruptors Is Back!

I somehow managed to fail to post here that the first episode in the new series of The New Disruptors podcast came out! Last month! I am very good at self-promotion!

Listen to my interview with comics publishing impresario C. Spike Trotman (or use the SoundCloud link below). You can subscribe to the podcast via this link or find it in all podcast directories.

That was episode #100 (I jumped up a few to reset). Episode #101 is coming soon plus a mini-episode. I’ll be creating 12 new full episodes between August 2018 and July 2019, but I also plan some shorter ones in which I ask a creator about their latest project.

You can help support the creation of more episodes and keeping the show running past July 2019 by becoming a monthly or one-time sponsor. Benefits include a private discussion forum, nifty enamel pins, and thanks on the air!


The Latest Glenn: Articles and Podcasts

I’ve published a number of interesting articles recently and had a spate of podcast appearances. Here’s a short summary. (You can also use my Authory page to see recent articles and search on the full text, and sign up to be notified about new articles.)

Articles

  • A Landslide of Classic Art Is About to Enter the Public Domain” (the Atlantic): An amazing day is coming. January 1, 2019, for the first time since 1998, a huge number of books, films, and other works will escape U.S. copyright law. Due to a number of quirks and changes in U.S. copyright law, every year for decades, a swath of history gets brushed into the public domain at last.
  • How Facebook Devalued The Birthday” (Fast Company): What was once a private celebration has become public currency. What have we lost in the process? After this ran, a lot of resonance from people who told me they felt the same way.
  • John Henry was a type-setting man: When newspaper compositors were sporting heroes” (the Economist): In the 19th century, crowds cheered and bet on competitions to see who could set metal type fastest.
  • The Visual History of Type review (my Patreon): This remarkable book is big in every way—not just in weight and dimensions, but in scope and quality. While this article is available to everyone, I write exclusive and exclusive-for-patrons-first articles, along with other benefits, for people who contribute $1 a month or more. Read more here.
  • NASA’s On-Again, Off-Again Satellite” (Air & Space): Amateur astronomers never know what signals they might pick up. You could call this a SADellite story: the IMAGE orbiter mentioned stopped broadcasting in a way NASA could pick up, for the most part. So far, no luck in making contact again after early March.
  • Why is the American sheriff such a polarising figure? (the Economist): A historical look at why sovereign citizens, white supremacists, and militia members, as well as more mainstream right-wing figures, all think the county sheriff has more power than the federal government.
  • Why was this season’s flu so deadly? (the Economist): Many factors, but primarily, a more virulent strain, and one that the vaccine didn't target as well as usual.
  • It’s COBOL all the way down (Increment): The COBOL programming language is often described as something from the distant past, but it still powers most of the world’s financial transactions. Billions of lines of COBOL code aren't being replaced, need maintenance, and programmers keep retiring—or passing away.

Podcasts

  • I talk Frankenstein with John McCoy on Sophomore Lit. I relied on the great book, The New Annotated Frankenstein, which encompasses aspects of the two major editions of the Mary Shelley book (1818 and 1831), parts of the original draft that survive, and a significant marked-up copy of the 1818 edition she gave to a friend that reflected some changes in direction realized in the 1831 release.
  • Quinn Rose had me on her podcast about musicals, Corner of the Sky, to let me talk, rage, blather, and sing (sometimes in German) about The Threepenny Opera, one of my favorite pieces of theatre of any kind.
  • I appear on Download, a tech podcast, in an episode called, “Put the Toothpaste Back in the Cat,” which maybe you don’t want to know what that means.
  • Holy cats, we’ve made 400 episodes of the Incomparable, and I’m about the #10 all-time guest by appearances (but #1 in your hearts). Here’s “Snellology,” our 400th episode.
  • I acted as scorekeeper (and put in some bon mots or mal mots) for the Emerald City Comic-Con live taping of Inconceivable!, a game show by Dan Moren.

 

Some Favorite Podcasts, 2015 Edition

I admit I have a very uneven podcast listening habit. I work from home and travel rarely, so I don't have an opportunity to listen to much or a lot of new stuff. I can't listen to podcasts and do most of the kind of work I do, either (writing, editing, audio editing, and podcasting!). But then I'll wind up with a slough of appointments or slack time in the evenings, and catch up. I seem to prefer to binge listen to podcasts than binge watch TV series.

These are shows I think a lot of other geeky people or damned intellectuals will enjoy, not just with my niche interests and quirky tastes. (For instance, while I like listening to Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten, a weekday 10-minute podcast of German news spoken slowly and clearly to aid in learning (or re-learning), I doubt many will.)

  • Hello from the Magic Tavern. I'd heard about this for months, but I hadn't dipped my toes in, and I'm now I'm just obsessively listening to the dozens of episodes produced so far—it's hilarious and fascinating. Magic Tavern is podcast by a guy named Arnie (true) who fell through some kind of gateway to the magical land of Foon (not true?), from whence he podcasts in a tavern. It's an improv show combined with light scripting, so every week they build canon and remember it. So in episode 40, there will absolutely be a callback to something said in passing in Episode 1. It's really an extraordinary bit of mythmaking and incredibly funny.
  • Answer Me This: A podcast by Helen Zaltzman and Olly Mann (with interjections from producer Martin the Sound Man, Helen's husband). They answer listener questions with humor, obscenity, and sometimes great moral reasoning. The show's been around since 2007 and is now fortnightly. Helen launched a great podcast in 2015 called The Allusionist, which does deep clever dives into the meanings of words.
  • The Flophouse Podcast: Three hosts, including the former head writer of the Daily Show, bring a mix of absurd intellectualism and intentional poop/sex humor to dissecting terrible movies. They watch a bad movie and then discuss it, and improv off into hilarious tangents.
  • Thrilling Adventure Hour: After a decade of continuous production of freshly scripted radio plays—performed and recorded live as readings—I only tuned in as it was going "off the air." The back catalog is enormous, and they promise more limited future additions to the canon. The live show was structured into segments, which typically appear as individual episodes. It's a combination of parody, homage, and truly original work.

(Of course, you should also tune into The Incomparable Network, which now has a huge array of shows about geeky and nerdy stuff, including our main podcast, a radio theater show, a rotating gameshow format, and much more.)

Podcast, Podcast, Podcast! I'm Talking All over the Place

I had a spate of podcasts (some taped weeks ago) go up recently:

  • Clockwise #112: A 30-minute dash through four tech topics and one bonus question! I frighten everyone in this episode. (Yes, I am available to wash your dishes.)
  • Low Definition: Space Blobs: The Game Show podcast that's part of the Incomparable Network did a game that is absolutely not a popular word game in which you provide meanings to words. It was hilarious, and raccoons were not harmed, I swear. Seriously. Maybe squirrels, though.
  • Afoot: a mystery-genre podcast: I just launched this at the Incomparable. This was our introductory episode, and we'll be putting out new episodes every few weeks.
  • Doctor Who S9E8 review: “The Zygon Inversion”: A "flashcast" at the Incomparable, recorded just after watching the episode (with Jason Snell).
  • Love Blooms Naturally on a Vespa: A Rocket Surgery sub-podcast outing on the Incomparable in which we talk about Frankenstein Meets the Spacemonster. You can also watch the movie at no cost, if you dare.
  • Every week, you can catch me on the Macworld podcast, too.

What's That? It's…Afoot! The Game, That Is

Over at The Incomparable network, I've just launched a podcast about mysteries—anything within the genre and related—called Afoot! No, it's not just about Sherlock Holmes, though you can imagine the great ratiocinator will come up. I've assembled a set of panelists, and different members (plus special guests) will appear in each episode depending on the topic.

The first episode is live! It's an introductory one in which six of us talk about what got us hooked on mysteries, our favorites, and what makes a mystery a mystery. We're planning on having new episodes at least every month, possibly more frequently.

The artwork is by Antony Johnston (based on my feeble imaginings), writer and podcast host; the intro and outdo sound-effect "play" by David J. Loehr, playwright and panelist.


Listen Up! Latest Podcast Appearances

I had a busy run of talking to invisible people the last few weeks, and several episodes have dropped:

  • The Committed (Ian Schray, Rob Griffiths, Kirk McElhearn): We talked security, Apple Pay, and Windows 10.
  • Systematic (Brett Terpstra): Brett asked me about my work and how I report, and we compared notes on how we approach tasks. We also talked cryptocurrency and a kid-derived currency.

In the next few weeks, you'll find me in an episode each of:

  • The Internet History Podcast: I talk with host Brian McCullough about myths of Amazon that are perpetuated even when Amazon itself denies them, my examination of the New York Times article detailing a culture that appears to thrive on conflict, and whether journalism is better off now than before the 2001 dotcom crash.
  • Cool Tools: Kevin Kelly and Mark Frauenfelder host this show in which a guest brings some of her or his favorite tools of any kind: farm, software, and more.

You can also hear me every week as the host of the Macworld Podcast, which is approaching episode 500! (I was the guest on episode #1 way back in the far past, too.)

There's No Use Crying over a Podcast

This week, I pinch-hit to write an issue of a favorite email newsletter, Hot Pod by Nick Quah. I discovered it a few months ago, and it is like ambrosia to those like me who want more insight into the broad podcast "industry," especially the parts I don't know in public radio. Nick just got a new job and was going to take this week off, so I offered to write an issue, which you can read here.

Read More