Friday, March 09, 2007

If Your Elba Looks Like An L, & Your L Looks Like An I

When you're propped up in bed at night reading about al-Qaeda (Looming Tower: al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright,) sometimes you need a diversion, so I picked up a book on penmanship at the library: Power Penmanship: An Illustrated Guide to Enhancing Your Image Through the Art of Handwriting Style.

In our texting age, it seems odd to receive a personally written letter or note anymore, beyond the scribbled signature of the greeting card. I was taught cursive handwriting, but sometime in my teens (mainly through the influence of an older friend) I decided my handwriting would have more flair is I started printing everything, giving it pizzazz. I started playing around with fountain pens and nibs and inks and educating myself on rag content in paper in terms of how it would absorb the ink, trying to avoid anything too slickly surfaced, or not wanting the pen to bleed through the page.

I half considered doing the practice exercises shown in Power Penmanship, just to make sure I was following the right stokes and that everything have proportion, hit the proper baseline and achieve " attractive balanced effect." The cursive "Q" can do you in. Uppercase, it can be mistake for the number "2" and Lowercase, it could pass itself off as a "g" if you aren't careful:

Oddly enough, while I was reading this book, I received a letter from my childhood doctor's office, announcing his retirement. The paper had weight and felt good in the hand, the return address was copperplate, it was laid out well on the page, and his signature conveyed everything the book said a signature should be: it had flow, it had balance and it looked confident.

I started rooting around in my desk and I found a family of fountain pens:

My antique Moore fountain pen, made in Boston and purchased in Boston.

My Mother's fountain pen: an antique on purchase. Mom did some serious correspondence, given the wear on it.

My father's fountain pen, given to me when I turned 21.

This is a vintage ball point pen. Upright, you see a pinup girl in a bathing suit. You flip the pen, and the liquid bathing suit drops, leaving a nude figure. There was a recent episode of Extras on HBO where Ricky Gervais' agent has a pen like this, and he's sitting in his office playing around with it and having a wank. Later, he is in a meeting with Robert DeNiro, and DeNiro wants the pen.

Our signatures change over time. Mine certainly has. I was studying Napoleon's signatures since he had a life of highs and lows and partied hard in a short span of time, and it was quite interesting to see how things quickly changed for him over the years, just by studying his handwriting:

Nappy B: Counsel For LIFE! (1803)
L'Empereur Est Merde Chaud (1807)

Napoleon After His Retreat From Moscow (1812)

Trying To Raise A New Army (1813)

Napoleon Two Weeks After Waterloo

:::texting:::'Roid Rage4U::::texting::::

Times change. Napoleon would be PowerPointing his campaigns now, googling porn while Josephine waited, and yes, probably blogging: "A blog revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets." Better, n'est-ce pas? Publish and save.


Blogger I-66 said...

Don't call it a comeback, Cube's been here for years!

1:05 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

I'm looking to raze something, 66'er.

1:18 PM  
Blogger The Lily said...

I love this. I was actually in a meeting yesterday looking at the sign in sheet and trying to remember what I had read before on the slant of one's handwriting.

Something to the effect of if it leans forward then there are sociopathic tendencies? If that is true then it explains SO MUCH about government civilians.

1:45 PM  
Blogger Momentary Academic said...

I've always been interested in handwriting because I'm left handed and check to see who is and isn't. My handwriting has be praised and criticized. Cube, you're always on top!

Welcome back! Woot!

3:17 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

I find it interesting as well.

My signature is not too dissimilar from Napoleon's - over the years it has become less and less legible - now to the point where no one could tell what my last name was by looking at it (except the first letter perhaps).

4:01 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Lily: I've noticed over time that British handwriting slants back on itself...just the way they are taught in school.

MA: I'm a leftie myself, and I should have written something about that (almost did) and how left-handed people either curve their hand over itself or twist the paper to the right (I'm a paper tilter).

Phil: You make so many executive decisions every day regarding the Playaz, you don't have time for more than a dash, dotted scrawl. In fact, I'm surprised you don't use autopen like the President.

4:39 PM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

In high school I tried to imitate the handwriting of my best friend. Later when I decided that pursuit was ridiculous, I figured out my handwriting is distinctive and actually suits me. Your handwriting is perfectly you, too (that is, works with your blog personna.

I love fountain pens.

GREAT post, as always.

8:09 PM  
Blogger Phil said...

I will say I am proud to have an original signature from Washington Cube herself...How many bloggers can say that?

11:57 AM  
Blogger Megarita said...

I've been a big fan of handwriting ever since I was old enough to sign my mom, grandmother, and aunt's credit cards. We've all got ridiculously unusual but consistent signatures, so it's quite easy. None of this Napoleon silliness.

6:03 PM  
Blogger always write said...

This totally made me smile. My Poppi (my father's father) was the proud winner of many "penmanship" (that's what they called it in those days) award. Fitting that he and my Nana owned and operated an office supply store in New York City.

3:53 PM  
Blogger cuff said...

My handwriting is absolutely illegible for most people, including myself. Sometimes I wonder why I bother. I'm certain it started as part of my secretive personality. Unfortunately I seem to have outsmarted myself as well.

1:27 PM  
Anonymous james said...

Great post! I've always been interested in penmanship ever since I picked up a notebook from my great great grandfather. It's the only thing that exists that proved he existed but it's a penmanship book from the elementary school. He had exceptional handwriting but it's all in German.
I have my father's Parker fountain pen, which are apparently still popular in Asia, but I can't find any for a decent price in the West.

4:53 PM  
Blogger Carrie M said...

you're a leftie and can write like that with a fountain pen?! color me impressed. i have to avoid certain kinds of pens like the plague else the side of my hand is covered with ink and my words are all smeared. i remember one year i thought it would be festive to write my xmas cards with red and green gel rollers on the kinda shiny paper stock...i had to write from the bottom of the card up. awesome. great post!

9:14 PM  
Anonymous ja said...

back in the day,
i went on a field trip once and got that [nudie] pen....i was dared to...and i managed to get it.
classmates thought i was very cool for managing to buy a pen.
no idea where it is now, it's not something you ask home about.

4:00 PM  
Blogger Pod said...

i love old pens. i have my grandad's old gold fountain pen, and my gran's. a patient once bought me a mountblanc pen, and i bloody lost it!!

6:10 PM  
Blogger mysterygirl! said...

It sounds funny, but I get oddly excited about seeing for the first time the handwriting of someone I'm interested in. I guess it's because I find something so special and intimate about things written by hand, and I love getting hand-written notes from a boyfriend. I have most of them saved in a boot box in my closet.

I'm glad you're helping to keep handwriting from becoming a lost art. :)

10:51 PM  
Blogger playfulinnc said...

Your disconnected g to the t is very interesting to me for some reason...

10:54 AM  
Blogger Stef said...

I worry that penmanship is rapidly becoming a lost art. Where I work, I have the chance to look at old documents (ahem) all the time. And I really admire and envy the beautiful calligraphy, and the obvious respect people had for the documents they were creating. Now? I really just write quick notes on Post-Its, doodle during meetings, and sign checks. That's about it.

9:37 PM  

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