#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 SilentCin​e​maSo​ci​ety​.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, SilentCin​e​maSo​ci​ety​.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 Des​i​moneDesign​.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.

#67 Few & Far Between

67 Few & Far Between

#67 Few & Far Between
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Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

Few & Far Between is said about a lot of things:

Fine restau­rants in this town are few & far between.

Good movies are few & far between.

Gas sta­tions on this high­way are few & far between.

Jobs for a time were few & far between.

Our rel­a­tives are few & far between.

Excep­tion­al­ly tal­ent­ed & pro­fes­sion­al design­ers are few & far between.

The expres­sion “few & far between” orig­i­nal­ly was used very lit­er­al­ly for phys­i­cal objects such as hous­es appear­ing at wide­ly sep­a­rat­ed inter­vals (mid-​1600s). Today it is used more loosely.

Late­ly Amper­Art releas­es have been few & far between (but I still churn out at least one per month).

What has been few & far between for you lately?

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

chaz sez ...

Check out the new “chaz sez” blog at Des​i​moneDesign​.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
Click to view full-​size or download hi-​rez image for gallery-​quality printing and framing.
This is a high-​resolution pdf & may take a few minutes to download.
Find printing tips & framing ideas here.

#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. (See what I mean? Did­n’t you hate read­ing this para­graph set in bold­face — and now italic?)

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 Ama​zon​.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 Des​i​moneDesign​.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.