January 2023 archive
ff/fi/fl/ffi/ffl ligatures are a nice detail in most serif fonts, as long as a reasonably complete set of ligatures is available. An f followed by an fi ligature usually looks ugly, hence the need for ffi ligatures.
How many ligatures do you need? I've seen discussion of a proposed fffl ligature with the German word Sauerstoffflasche (oxygen bottle) cited as a possible application. Type designer Erik Spiekerman has said that such a ligature would be out of place in Sauerstoffflasche because ligatures shouldn't span across components in a compound noun. He has a point, one that's probably grounded in long‑standing German typographic practice.
Today I encountered an fffl‑containing word in the wild, to wit: Wasserstoffflugzeug (hydrogen airplane).
In Firefox, Wasserstoffflugzeug as it appears in this Tommyjournal page seems to be rendered with ff and fl ligatures in sequence. It looks OK.
But in the page I found Wasserstoffflugzeug on, the nonuniform height of the cross strokes looks weird:
The vagaries of ligature renderings aside, I'm just stoked to have come across the word Wasserstoffflugzeug in my day's reading.
My favorite route from Lone Pine to San Francisco goes through Alpine County, the least populated county in California (1,204 people in the 2020 Census). The county seat, Markleeville, is near the halfway point of the drive and I've stayed overnight there a bunch of times.
Before today, I had no idea that Alpine County figured in a bizarre chapter of gay history in the USA. In 1970, a group of gay activists announced plans to move to Alpine County en masse, take over the government, and establish a gay county. It turned out to be no more than a publicity stunt, to the chagrin of some gay people who showed genuine interest when they heard about it.
The Los Angeles Times was the first major newspaper to write about the idea. Their reporter, Lee Dye, covered health and science which included gay issues because homosexuality was at the time considered mental illness. His article spurred nationwide attention to the plan.
The history is recounted here and also has a Wikipedia page.
A friend asked me to write up 'pranks' I've done. He suggested starting with the one shown here (San Francisco, 1990).
Modifying a billboard like this one is just a formality. Text that you can improve by changing one letter is already teetering on the edge.
This was a 3:00 AM job. I rigged rope to climb up. I brought two colors of paint. The white didn't end up as opaque as I would have liked but the result was legible enough. I left my paintbrushes and cans of paint on the ledge. I had in mind an homage to what I'd heard about robbers who break into bank vaults: leaving the tools behind is the mark of a professional job.
This billboard was near the intersection of 7th and Howard. A friend standing across the intersection from me was my lookout. (It's surprisingly easy to get people to participate in mischief.) We were in touch with radio headsets.
A police car drove by in the middle of the operation and although my friend failed to warn me he did serve as misdirection: the police looked at him and never noticed me.
A weekly SF newspaper printed a pic of this billboard (archived here). I hadn't told them about it. Their office was only a couple blocks from the sign and it would've been easy for them to encounter it.
The modified text lasted about a week.