It’s a blue moon today. Some say a blue moon is the second full moon in a calendar month, others that it is the second full moon in a zodiac sign. If a season has four full moons, the third is called the blue moon. Whichever way you look at it, a blue moon is an additional full moon in relation to a calendar period of time, and it’s significant enough that people write songs about it. The origin of the term remains sketchy, but as good an explanation as any is that it derives from someone, sometime, saying ‘you would argue that the moon is blue’ in the same manner as we would say ‘you would argue that black is white’. There are a few fonts with the name Blue Moon, but this one is by Fonthead Design, and the dingbat is from Eclectics, designed by Pepper Tharp.
The sky was grey, the wind was howling and it was just starting to rain, but I just had to stop and take a picture of the children’s pool before beating a hasty retreat to the car. The pool, at Eastern Beach in Geelong, is a shallow area contained within the larger semicircular boardwalk. Whenever I visit the area I love walking around this boardwalk and taking in the view, especially across the bay to the You Yangs in the distance. This particular day, though, my head was down and my collar turned up, which is perhaps why my focus was closer, and I saw this painted sign for the first time.
The typeface used in the Miami Vice logo is Broadway, a decorative Art Deco typeface designed by Morris Fuller Benton for ATF in 1927. In the actual logo—as opposed to my rendition of it—the typeface was customised for the word ‘vice’. The logo is as 80s as Sonny Crockett’s shoulder pads and hairdos, but it occurs to me now, after watching the final episode recently, that its design was more considered than I realised, a complement to Miami Beach’s famous Art Deco district where much of Miami Vice was shot. Miami Beach was the first twentieth-century neighbourhood to be recognised by the United States National Register of Historic Places. There are 800 structures of historical significance, most built between 1923 and 1943. They feature pastel colours, porthole windows, ship-like railings, curves, glass, chrome and terrazzo. Miami Vice has been credited with raising the awareness of the architecture, and many buildings were renovated in the 90s, post-filming, turning what was once a poverty-stricken and crime-ridden area into a tourist destination.
The unseasonal spring clean that started in my office has taken on a somewhat scattergun quality. One minute I’m throwing out old magazines (they have gone! what a relief!) and the next minute I’m putting the office clean-up on hold while I sort through my wardrobe. And dusty old videos—where I came upon the last episode of Miami Vice. I loved Miami Vice, and when I watched this recording—so old the ads had 7-digit phone numbers and the tv station hadn’t started using an ID bug—I was reminded how ahead of its time it was and how influential it has proved to be. Even now, while much of it was so dated, it exuded style and originality. This is the staggeringly fabulous closing shot of that final ep.
Really, it’s going from bad to worse. Last December, on the morning of the Lindt cafe siege in Martin Place, our esteemed newspaper, digital edition, published a photograph, headline and, in upper case under the byline, the words ‘FAKE BODY’. At first this elicited a mere eye-rolling ‘here’s a good one’ response in my household, but as the seriousness of the situation unfolded, it became a far from amusing blunder. The typo in this headline, while not quite so insensitive as the story that went online before the text was ready, is still inexcusable. The Sydney Morning Herald is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Australia, although given its numerous staff cutbacks and resultant decrease in quality of journalism—not to mention the increasing occurrence of mistakes in spelling and grammar—it must be hanging on by a thread.
We were looking for something we had read about: an unlikely shop with a massive collection of fine writing instruments and quality paper supplies. We knew where it was supposed to be (a hop skip and jump from the Iao Theater) but we couldn’t find it. Then we crossed the road and went into a tea shop to see if they could point us in the right direction. And this amazing tea shop turned out to be the pen shop! A couple of hours later we left with our new pens and other bits and pieces in hand, richer from the experience of spending time there, talking with the owner, listening to his music, taking in the aroma of spiced tea, and trying out an array of fountain pens. This crossing sign has nothing to do with that extraordinary shop other than the link in my mind of time and place, and the fact that we had to push the button to cross the road to get there. But I guess that in itself speaks of the impact of signage and typography and how it affects us on a subliminal as well as conscious level.
For the last few weeks Jupiter and Venus have been visible, in close proximity, in the early evening sky. But on Wednesday evening it was extra special because, just after 5.30, the ISS flew between them. We stood outside and watched it appear low on the horizon, as if from nowhere, fly upwards between the planets, and continue its trajectory across the sky until it disappeared behind the clouds in the southeast. I was surprised by how clear and bright it was, amazed at the speed it travelled. I have seen the ISS before, once even from Mauna Kea, and this time it was no less thrilling. The sight of it engenders an emotional response in me—a sense of connectedness and wonderment. It is up there, above Earth, yet there are people living on it and you can follow it on Twitter and Instagram!
It’s not spring, but I have launched into what amounts to a spring clean. My office is too full, too cluttered, and I desperately need to make space. This is not so easy. My bookshelves are full because, well, I’m a book designer, and not only do I have reference books and type manuals, but copies of most of the books I have designed. Before I became a book designer I worked on magazines—and up until a few days ago I kept copies of those too. Right now, though, I am greatly looking forward to paper recycling pick-up day, when those magazines (so outdated now I would never even consider having them in my portfolio!) will be gone for good. One upside of clearing the shelves is that I come across ephemera, like this envelope and its handwritten A, separated from the birthday card it once contained. I like this single underlined letter, used for who knows how long as a bookmark, and am glad I kept it because, in recognising the hand of the writer, memories of good friendships and celebrations are evoked.
The Iao Theater in Wailuku, just 35 kilometres from the Queen Theatre in Lahaina, holds no surprises with its spelling of theater. The challenge—for a non-Hawaiian—is learning to pronounce a word consisting solely of vowels! (Although not so hard once you learn how.) The Spanish Mission-style Iao Theater opened in 1928 and was originally both a movie theater and vaudeville house. It closed in the early 1980s and was almost demolished, but the community and county made efforts to save it, and in 1995 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra have performed here, as well as Maui musicians Keali‘i Reichel and Amy Hanaiali‘i Gilliom. Typographically speaking, I find that my preconceptions are challenged. I would usually keep well clear of this style of type, but on this sign, in this context, it’s exactly right.