#99 Laurel & Hardy

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Laurel & Hardy AmperArt

#99 Laurel & Hardy
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Joe RinaudoAmperArt #99, Laurel & Hardy, was inspired by my best friend of fifty years, Joe Rinaudo, whom I met in seventh grade. We were both into “old stuff”—I collected & refurbished old office machines (mimeographs & typewriters) & Joe collected 16mm films of early cinematic comedy—Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, the Keystone Cops, Fatty Arbuckle , & of course Laurel & Hardy. I sure had fun going to his house & watching those old films. As a teenager he already had a large collection of 16mm films, both silent & sound. Later, Joe began investing in 35mm silent films & acquired a Power’s 1909 Cameragraph Model 6 Motion Picture Machine which he restored to pristine condition. He also became an expert at restoring the old films & acquired vast knowledge about the early cinema industry.

Visit SilentCinemaSociety.org, Joe’s new website for old entertainment.

Today, besides running Rinaudo’s Reproductions, his Victorian lamp business which reproduces & custom designs superb lighting fixtures of the Victorian, Craftsman & Art Deco periods (you’ll find many of his lamps throughout the Disney parks—yes, those massive chandeliers in the Emporium are his), Joe Rinaudo continues to collect, restore, & host itinerant shows of the silent era, as that is his ultimate passion. He frequently lectures & hand-cranks his beautiful antique projector at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences—to producers, directors & stars, many of whom have little knowledge of how their industry started. They are always in awe when Joe presents his shows (in full turn-of-the-century costume, no less). He also hosts smaller itinerant shows, similar to when projectionists would travel from town to town where there were no formal theaters & project at a hall, church, or even inside a tent —hence the term “tent show.” Twice a year Joe teams up with able assistant Gary Gibson & organist extraordinaire Dean Mora at the Mighty Wurlitzer to present a spectacular show complete with colorful glass lantern slides at intermission (or when the film breaks). This event is held at the Nethercutt in Sylmar, California, usually in October & February.

Most recently Joe has formed an organization called Silent Cinema Society “for the preservation & presention of the art & technology of silent cinema.” (It was originally named SCAT—Silent Cinema Art & Technology—but we’re still trying to obtain that domain.) I had the pleasure of creating Joe’s website, SilentCinemaSociety.org, where you’ll find most interesting & entertaining information about the art as well as the technology of the silent cinema era. Be sure & subscribe to his newsletter, “The Newsreel,” to learn of upcoming silent film shows & news in general. (It’s always exciting when a 100-year-old lost reel is found in a storeroom or attic, usually pristine but so frail that it must be handled gently & with the greatest caution, as old nitrate film is spontaneously combustible.)

See Laurel & Hardy in Burbank June 4, 2016

Joe’s upcoming Classic Silent Comedies itinerant show will be held in Burbank, California, Saturday June 4, 2016, at 7pm. Joe will hand-crank his 1909 Power’s projector as Scott Lasky embellishes each scene with live piano accompaniment. Gary Gibson will project glass lantern slides of the era. The show is nearly 2 hours with light refreshments for sale. Admission is $10. Full details here.

Joe Rinaudo is especially excited about this show, following the surprising turnout for the show in March. The audience was a lively, young crowd interested in this old technology & art form, the results of promoting the event on Facebook. More on that story here—& a bizarre scene of a dancing pig.

Adding sound to silent…

Joe Rinaudo playing his American Fotoplayer. Plug your ears!

Although early films were silent, as in no dialog or recorded music, there was plenty of sound in most theaters. Large theaters employed an orchestra. Smaller theaters & those with lower budgets relied on a photoplayer. The photoplayer (“photo” from photoplay & “player” from player piano) was built specifically to provide music & sound effects for silent movies. These machines appeared around 1912 & were used in medium sized theaters. Photoplayers were inexpensive to operate because you didn’t have to be a musician to play them—they were also playable by way of player piano rolls. But the person at the bench did change rolls & add the sound effects, as you can see in this demonstration.

Joe Rinaudo is playing his American Fotoplayer in the video above, which was featured on Huell Howser’s California Gold.

The photoplayer used a fascinating combination of piano, organ pipes, drums, & various sound effects designed to narrate the action of any silent film. Pedals, levers, switches, buttons, & pull cords were all used to turn on the xylophone, beat a drum, ring a bell, create the sound of thunder, or chirp like a bird.

When sound films came into being in the late 1920’s, the photoplayer became passé. Of the thousands of American Fotoplayers made during their heyday, sadly less than 50 survive, & of those only 12 are known to be in playing condition. One of those 12 is in Joe’s living room. & his neighbors ask him to leave the door open when he’s playing the instrument, as they love the happy sound.

Joe discusses the American Fotoplayer in depth, with video & photographs, here.


Laurel & Hardy: greatest comedy duo of all time

Quoted from The 25 Best Comedy Duos by Martin Chilton at The Telegraph:

Writer Kurt Vonnegut once said that his favourite comedians were Laurel & Hardy. “I used to laugh my head off at Laurel & Hardy,” said the author of Slaughterhouse-Five. “There is terrible tragedy there somehow. These men are too sweet to survive in this world & are in terrible danger all the time. They could so easily be killed.” What survives of the comedians – American Hardy died in 1957 & English-born Laurel died in 1965 – is 107 films released between 1921 & 1951. Their catchphrase was: “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into!” & their mixture of slapstick, wordplay & utterly charming comedy makes them the greatest comedy duo of all time. The Music Box, which depicts the pair’s hapless attempts to move a piano up a large flight of steps, won the first Academy Award for Live Action Short Film (Comedy) in 1932. “Those two fellows we played,” Oliver Hardy told an interviewer, “they were nice, very nice people. They never got anywhere because they were so very dumb, only they didn’t know they were dumb.”

Above all, Laurel & Hardy are wonderfully, upliftingly, silly:

Ollie: “Call me a cab.”
Stan: “You’re a cab.”

(Another Fine Mess, 1930)



Laurel & Hardy’s influence is alive & well in The Simpsons. Homer’s repeated use of the word “D’oh” was inspired by Jimmy Finlayson, the mustachioed Scottish actor who appeared in 33 Laurel & Hardy films.


Another fine nice mess (d’oh)

The famous catch phrase of Laurel & Hardy, from Another Fine Mess, is often misquoted as “Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve gotten us into.” The actual phrase in the film is “Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” 


Laurel & Hardy

This scene is from “The Stolen Jools,” a short made in 1931 “with more prominent stars than have ever before appeared in any one feature” as stated at the beginning of the film. The stars appeared as cameos to help raise funds for the National Variety Artists tuberculosis sanitarium. You can watch the entire film here on YouTube. It’s great to see all the old stars in one film & there are some funny lines & gags.

Who is your favorite comedy team with an ampersand?

Laurel & Hardy? Abbott & Costello? Burns & Allen? Lucy & Desi? Martin & Lewis? French & Saunders? Tom & Jerry? Wallace & Gromit? Any others?

Comment here (or below if you see a big blue box).


chaz sez ...

Check out the new “chaz sez” blog at DesimoneDesign.com, my commercial graphic design website. It’s mostly about design, typography, printing, publishing & marketing, but on occasion I’ll divert to a sideways topic that just can’t escape my ranting & raving.

#72 Boldface & Italic…just like the Italic Tower of Pisa

AmperArt Boldface & Italic

#72 Boldface & Italic
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#72 Boldface & Italic is about the two most common text variations in publishing—both used too much & too wrong.

Some writ­ers—let’s call them over­em­pha­siz­ers—just can’t get enough boldface & italic. If they feel strongly about the point they’re mak­ing, they won’t hes­i­tate to run the whole para­graph in bold type. Don’t be one of these peo­ple. This habit wears down your read­ers’ retinas & their pa­tience. It also gives you nowhere to go when you need to em­pha­size a word.

That’s no prob­lem for overem­pha­siz­ers, though, who re­sort to un­der­lin­ing bold text or us­ing bold italic. These are both bad ideas.

(The two paragraphs above, set in boldface & italic, are from Butterick’s Practical Typography. It is so well-stated—quite humorously & sadly true—about overemphasizers, many of whom I’ve encountered as overzealous clients, I couldn’t help but just reprint it nearly verbatim. More from Butterick’s below.)

Boldface & italic treatments are somewhat interchangeable, but they really do each have their own flavor of emphasis or character. Other variations for type are caps & small caps, but that’ll be the theme for another AmperArt installment.

Text that is nei­ther bold nor italic is called ro­man.

Roman? The Tower of Pisa seems to be italicized, doesn’t it? Oh—it’s in Pisa, not Rome.

Italic Tower of Pisa

Italic Tower of Pisa

Where to use boldface & italic

Boldface is great for subheads or anywhere you need to attract the eye.

Italics should be used for book titles, long poems, plays, television shows and films, artworks & song titles; titles of newspapers, journals, magazines & radio series; names of ships & airplanes; specific editions of sacred texts; legal cases.

For­eign words used in Eng­lish are some­times ital­i­cized, some­times not, de­pend­ing on how com­mon they are. For in­stance, you would ital­i­cize your zuppa Toscana & sfogliatelle, but not your lasagna & cannoli.

But that’s not all.

The Frugal Editor

For a complete list on how to properly apply boldface & italic, as well as a comprehensive reference for all other editing rules and tips, pick up a copy of Carolyn Howard Johnson’s The Frugal Editor, available at Amazon.com.

This book will save you hundreds of dollars in editing fees—& thousands if you do your own editing & you want to make sure everything is spot-on perfect before ink hits paper without any typos in the printed publications.

The Frugal Editor is worth every frugal penny you spend on it. The cover design is brilliant, too.

2 rules for boldface & italic

According to & paraphrased from Butterick’s Practical Typography (a free online guide):

Boldface or italic—al­ways think of them as mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive. That is the first rule. (So much for the title of this AmperArt piece, Boldface & Italic.)

The sec­ond rule is to use boldface & italic as lit­tle as pos­si­ble. They are tools for em­pha­sis. But if every­thing is em­pha­sized, then noth­ing is em­pha­sized. Also, be­cause boldface & italic styles are de­signed to con­trast with reg­u­lar ro­man text, they’re some­what harder to read. Like ALL CAPS, boldface & italic are fine for short stretches of text, but not for long ones.

Some fonts have both a bold style and a semi­bold style. And some have styles that are heav­ier than bold, like black or ul­tra. These weights are usu­ally in­tended for large sizes (for in­stance, head­lines) and don’t work well at the size range of most body text.

Boldface & italic also means boldface & italic

For those of you who just can’t inject enough emphasis into your elegant prose, there’s the other meaning of boldface & italic:

Set the text in a font that is both boldface & italic, such as this.

But let’s not stop there.


You might be exclaiming, “Add more exclamation points!” That’s where I draw the line. I never use more than one. As soon as I see multiple exclamation points after a sentence I automatically place the writer in amateur league. If a piece is written well, you don’t need any. Bill Bernbach, whose agency created the innovative VW ads in in the ’60s, never used an exclamation point. Best headline ever:


An exclamation point is like a symbol crash. Are two or three (or five or six, you screamers) more effective? No. They diminish the punch. Just one.

Suggesting boldface & italic the old-fashioned way

In the days of typewriters, emphasis was achieved in several ways, the most common underlining (you had to first type the words, then backspace and add the underline). This represented boldface & italic for emphasis, but always italic for indicating a book or film title. ALL CAPS was used to draw attention, or to indicate headings and subheads. And boldface achieved by actually backspacing the carriage and typing the text over two or three times until it was bold. In “modern” typewriters there were interchangeable balls and wheels that contained different fonts, another means of achieving boldface & italic.

And there was the two-color ribbon, red & black. That emphasized more than boldface & italic combined!

chaz sez ...

Check out the new “chaz sez” blog at DesimoneDesign.com, my commercial graphic design website. It’s mostly about design & typography—including plenty of boldface & italics.

Most articles will cover various aspects of design, printing, publishing & marketing, but on occasion I’ll divert to a sideways topic that just can’t escape my ranting & raving.

#66 Plain & Simple

Click image to view full-size or download hi-rez file for gallery-quality printing and framing. (But why would you want to hang this boring thing on your wall?) This is a high-resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download. Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

Everything about this release is plain & simple. Just like it says.

Not even the usual long-winded article. A thoughtful gesture for those of you who skip reading the story but feel guilty afterwards.

There’s no “chaz sez” column, either.  And you know how much I love standing on my soapbox. (I would expound on the virtues of professional, world-class design—in plain & simple terms, of course.)


#59 Weights & Measures



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So the other day I pop into my local supermarket which happens to bake the best peanut butter cookies I’ve ever had—delicious peanut butter flavor & loaded with chunks of peanuts. I love peanut butter cookies & it’s always a treat when this store bakes them, which is too infrequently. They come in a tray of 50 for $5 which is a good deal itself, but it’s the special peanut butter flavor I’m after.

I put a tray in my basket & did the rest of my shopping. In line at the register, I sensed something was wrong with my tray of peanut butter cookies (I had bought many trays before). I counted the cookies through the transparent lid & there were only 44. I told the checker I’d be right back & to take the next people in line.

I was gone quite awhile.

Back in the bakery section, I counted the cookies in each & every tray, and they varied from 37 to 46—not a single one was the full 50. I went back to the checkstand (where my ice cream was melting) and asked for a manager. Not to make a scene, but rather to inform of the issue & save the next unaware customer from being cheated. The manager was rather surprised upon counting several of the trays herself & quickly offered to “rob from Peter” to bring my tray up to the full measure.

She opens the lid, stops for a moment & says “These don’t smell like peanut butter.” Handed me one gratis to confirm & sure enough it was their new disgusting “apple crisp” cookie. (Attention bakers: apple crisp is done in a baking pan, not in a cookie.) The little bits of apple sure looked like peanuts but sure didn’t taste like them. & yes, all the trays contained apple crisp cookies, not peanut butter as labeled.

So one more thing to add to the list in this little hick town I live in: people can’t count & they can’t read, either. But they sure can bake excellent peanut butter cookies…when they’re actually peanut butter cookies.

listen up!

Why isn’t the United States on the metric system? I’ll tell you why—we’re too damn lazy, and I got proof. Back in the 70s or 80s several freeways in California installed highway signs that were black, not green (that alone was beauty to my eyes), displaying the upcoming exits in kilometers. And several gas stations switched their pumps to liters. How easy and efficient that was, computing distances and volume simply by factoring by 10, 100, or 1000. Easy and efficient while it lasted, anyway. Soon everything was converted back to our convoluted miles and gallons.

I can’t understand why architects try to scale things by 8ths and 16ths when using millimeters and centimeters is so much easier and accurate. I measure everything in metrics–times 10, divide by 10, etc. Anyone who can’t figure out simple metric calculations probably still uses a slide rule just to make math difficult.

Why are soda bottles in the US labeled 1.5L and so on? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a sneaky way to reduce the volume without anyone noticing. Remember half-gallon ice cream tubs? Today they’re 1.5L, which is far less than half a gallon. (1/2 gallon = 1.892 liters). I’m all for it, though. Maybe the metric system will catch on in this so-called progressive country after all.

I’ll give us credit for the currency system, though. That’s close to metric efficiency. The Euro has denominations similar to the US, but each bill is a colorful contemporary design, not black and green on every single note. Needless to say, America is behind on design, too. That’s another topic, though. And then there’s our prudishness about nudism. Yet another topic.

Gotta go get me a cup of coffee…or is that .23L? Cup is one US term I’ll stick with.

Original size: 20×30 inches
Programs: Illustrator, Photoshop
Font: Rockwell
Pointer: rubylane.com, Antique French Kitchen Scale: Balance de Famille
Apple: http://www.fowlerfarms.com/apple-introduction/ (5oz or 150 g is the average weight of an apple, according to the “great chart of apple varieties” at this website)

#57 Early & Late


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This is a high-resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download.
Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

You’ve heard the expression “always early, never late.” Or is it “never early, always late”? Well, the other day I was both — which inspired AmperArt #57, Early & Late.

I was going to meet a new friend at the movies, and she said she’d be there at 7:15 (the show started at 7:25). Not wanting to make a bad first impression, I arrived at the theater at 6:55.

Only to discover I had forgotten my wallet. (more…)