One designer/artist I never hear an awful lot about is Lyubov Popova, in spite of her work and pedigree (student of Malevich, collaborated with Rodchenko and Stepanova, etc). 

This is a textile design she made in gouache and pencil in 1924.


In all fairness…

mcescherI didn’t mean to suggest in my last post that Czech is somehow any more insane than English. My fascination with aspects of Czech is the way that there’s often an underlying logic applied (as in the Island vs. Not Island example), but the logic turns out to be sort vague and applied in a half-assed manner. Many aspects of English, meanwhile, make no pretense towards logic whatsoever.

1. Our irregular spellings. Widely despised, mocked, railed against. Interestingly, it turns out that we have one man to blame for these. His name was William Caxton. In the early days of book printing in the late 15th century, England was lagging behind much of Europe in the field. Also, the English language was in flux with individual regions speaking their own highly individualized dialect. Caxton was the first prolific English printer; he also happened to hail from the part of England with all the awful ‘th’-y and ‘ough’-y spellings. Hence, he managed to codify the language, but in all the wrong ways.

2. Past-perfect-subjective-purple-monkey-dishwasher tense. Really, our past verb tenses are insane (‘would have had I known’, etc) and the part of the language that seem to inspire the most dread in foreign learners. (I used to work at an agency that had quasi-mandatory English lessons, and the ashen expressions of my Czech co-workers as they emerged from the teacher’s office after trying to learn past conditional led me to dub her ‘the dentist’ and her office ‘the dentist office’. That was fun.) Why not just have an international standardized, simplified version of English? When you consider how many conversations are happening every second in English among two non-native speakers, and how much time is wasted tripping and bumbling over these tenses, it really seems massively cruel and wasteful. And it seems to me that you could fully express yourself if you just used past perfect for everything. “I would have come earlier if I had known you were thinking about coming’ doesn’t express much more than ‘I would came earlier if I know that you thinked about coming’, which is basically the same sentence transposed into Czech grammar.

Nerd time: Czech language fun facts

mcescherHere’s a puzzling and quirky aspect of Czech, in case you haven’t yet gotten around to learning the language yourself. I imagine this becoming a kind of fun ongoing series in this blog.

Fun Fact #1: Island vs. Not Island

Generally, the preposition do is used when you’re going to a place (‘jedu do Ameriky’). But, if you’re going to an island, you use na instead (‘jedu na Hawaii’).

Now, if you go to England, that takes the do preposition (i.e. the non-island one). But New Zealand takes the na one (the island one). Even though they’re both islands and New Zealand is bigger. I asked about this and was told that it’s because England is considered more important. Hmm. Seems like kinda a weird subjective measure to base the language on, doesn’t it? If New Zealand somehow became more important on the global stage, would they award it the do preposition?

Only a Dan

Most of the time, being named Dan is annoying because it sounds too much like ‘Damn!’ and other grunted exclamations, such that you’re constantly whirling around in response to false alarms.

However, one enjoyable thing about it is that you can substitute it with almost any song lyric and the results are fun. (For example: ‘LET’S DAN… put on your red shoes and Dan the blues’.) Even works for riffs (Zeppelin, Heartbreaker: ‘Dan Dan Dan Dan-Dan Dan…’). Probably the best is ‘Stand By Your Man’. Not only do you get the deeply stirring (for me) chorus of ‘Stand by your Dan’, but there’s also the profoundly wise line at the first verse: ‘After all, he’s only a Dan.’

Words to live by. If your name is Dan.

Dirty silkscreen


A few years ago, I took a silkscreen class. I think the most interesting image that came out of it is actually this photograph of my half-cleaned screen. I like it when interesting visual things come about by random chance like this.

The image on the screen is a photograph by Malick Sidibe.

I Burn Paris

Here’s a cover I’ve designed for Twisted Spoon Press. It’s a novel by a Polish Catastrophist (that’s right, Catastrophist), Bruno Jasienski, who was actually deported from France as a direct result of the book, in which a disenchanted proletariat poisons the Paris water supply and reduces the city to a plague-ridden, post-apocalyptic rabble of rival ethnic and national enclaves.



Charles Shaw: man or myth?

I’ve often wondered whether Charles Shaw was an actual person, or simply a kind of fictional amalgamation of upscale characteristics (slippers, fireside, pipe, monocle, etc). Today, I found out the answer:

Charles Shaw, the man, epitomized the Napa life style of the glamorous eighties, and its folly. Shaw, handsome and rugged and happy-go-lucky, had spent time in France, and his dream was to make a burgundy – in a region where everyone wanted Bordeaux […] They had money; a lovely house, with a tennis court, in the middle of their vineyard, and a bunch of good-looking kids. “They were right out of ‘Falcon Crest,'” a local winemaker told me…

Falcon Crest— how gratifying is that?