How Typography Happens

A brief history of How Typography Happens in Britain, America, Germany, and France. McLean’s lectures complemented with illustrations of book cover provide an informing overview of typographic design.

Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language

Patricia O’Conner, the author of Woe Is I, and her partner in crime Stewart Kellerman debunk the misconceptions of words and usage that are often misundestood in the English language. The book is both an intriquing and informative read. I particulary enjoyed the origins of “shit,” “fuck,” and “niggardly.” The only word I wish they have covered is “motherfucker.”

Coming This Winter: Vietnamese Typography

In the fall I will be completing my MA in Graphic Design with a final project on Vietnamese Typography. With a passion for typography and a love for my native language, this project is near and dear to my heart. My goal is to help designers in the field of type, web, and graphic understand the nuances of Vietnamese typography. I secured and put up a teaser page. I can’t wait to share it with the world this winter. Stay tuned!

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Like filmaker Liz Garbus, I listened and loved the fascinating music of Nina Simone (her raspy voice, piano skills, and fearless song choices) for years, but I have not had a chance to learn about her life. Fortunately, Garbus had done all the hard work to create a striking documentary on Ms. Simone. Garbus’s sources came from Ms. Simone’s own voice speaking about her own life, diaries, and performances. She also conducted interviews with the people who were closest to Ms. Simone including her abusive husband, long-time guitarist Al Schackman, and beautiful daughter Simone Kelly. What Happened, Miss Simone? is a masterpiece that sheds the light on her life, which filled with turbulence such as fame, violence, and racism, and how it shaped her music and personality. It’s a must-watch on NetFlix for fans of Ms. Simone.

The interview with Liz Garbus about the film is also worth a read.

Blue Note: Uncompromising Expression

In addition to its superb jazz catalog, Blue Note Records, as illustrated in the official story of the label, produced some of most striking and distinctive album covers in the history of jazz. The work of Reid Miles, in particular, used bold typography and stunning photography. The visual richness of the 400-page hardcover makes up for its lacking of critical assessment.

Tiếng Hát Hà Vân

Khi nhìn bìa Tiếng Hát Hà Vân tôi tưởng là một album củ mà chưa hề nghe qua cái tên Hà Vân. Khi nghe thì mới biết đây là một đỉa nhạc mới được dàn dựng lại theo thiệp niên 60 và 70. Không những chỉ về thiết kế bìa đĩa mà luôn cả cách hát và phần hòa âm phối khí.

Khác với nhiều ca sĩ hiện tại hát lại dòng nhạc trữ tình với hòa âm mới, Hà Vân giữ nguyên bản phối củ. Kết quả là album của cô nghe rất có hồn vì đã được thu âm trực tiếp cùng ban nhạc chứ không phải những bản hòa âm đã được phối trước. Với tiếng kèn trombone và trumpet réo rít trong bài “Dấu Chân Kỷ Niệm” (Thúc Đăng) và giai điệu tango say sưa trong “Kiếp Nghèo” (Lam Phương) làm tôi nhớ đến những bản của Thanh Thúy, Hoàng Oanh và Phương Dung đã được thu âm trước năm 1975. Với giọng hát alto trong veo, lối hát mộc mạc, và cách phát âm rỏ ràng va nhẹ nhàng, Hà Vân thể hiện rất tốt những nhạc phẩm xưa, đặc biệt là “Về Đâu Mái Tóc Người Thương” (Quang Linh) và “Đà Lạt Hoàng Hôn” (Minh Kỳ).

Đã lâu mới được nghe một album nhạc trữ tình thật phê qua giọng hát một ca sỉ trẻ. Đó là nhờ sự đầu tư kỷ lưỡng và chịu chơi đúng điệu của Hà Vân.

Đán’s Dirty Talk

Last night my three-year-old Đán scratched his private area and bawled out. I shined a flashlight on him and saw that he had rashes all over. He was having some allergic reactions. I took off his pants, picked him up, and my wife gave him some Benadryl. To prevent him from scratching himself, I put him down and blew some air to soothe him. He fell back to sleep, but when I stopped, he said, “Daddy, blow me.” That was the first time in my life I had to give a blow job.

Early today as we made way toward the boardwalk, we spotted a bunch of girls in bikinis in the opposite direction. Đán said to me, “Daddy, there’s a lot of ‘con chim.’” He meant to say birds, but you have to know Vietnamese to understand the other context.

Inside Out

Took the boys to see Inside Out. With a big bucket of popcorn and comfortable couches at Regal Cinema, they made it through the entire movie even though they didn’t get the concept at all. This is definitely another groundbreaking work from the creative minds at Pixar. The storyline and the execution are superb as always. So glad to see they continue to push the envelope.

David Benoit: 2 in Love

2 in Love, a joint effort between pianist David Benoit and vocalist Jane Monheit, kicks off with “Barcelona Nights,” a groovy Latin-flavor that shows off Monheit’s chops for delivering a fast-tempo rhythm. “This Dance” and the tile track continue with the sensational bossa-nova sway. “Dragonfly” switches the vibe to a nimble waltz. But then the rest of the album turns into broadway and cinematic pop. Monheit turns into Celine Dion on “Fly Away.” While both Benoit and Monheit are extraordinary musicians and they could make anything together, I prefer their jazz collaboration.

Jurassic World

Because my three-year-old son is obsessed with dinosaurs, I checked out Jurassic World first to see if it is not too much for him to watch. As expected, it is not my type of movie and it isn’t good either. I doubt that my little guy can sit through 2 hours. Now I feel OK that he can skip it. We’ll try to catch Inside Out instead.