The almost mythical story of Haas Unica (a font, not a Dutch superhero)


Imagine if, due to some fluke in the development of projection technology, The Empire Strikes Back had only been shown in a couple of movie theaters. Imagine it fading into obscurity and existing for decades as nothing more than a cult film, a historical footnote, an object of fascination among serious movie buffs.

That’s the story of Haas Unica.

If you have eyeballs, you’ve almost certainly seen Helvetica. It’s one of the most widely used typefaces ever created, so popular that it generated a documentary examining its popularity. It’s almost equally certain that you have not seen Haas Unica, the typeface designed to be Helvetica’s sequel of sorts. Introduced in 1980, it was lost to history almost instantly upon its arrival.

A Legendary Redesign of Helvetica, Reborn After 30 Years

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The Story of A, B and C. Agriculture and its role in our demise.

I sometimes wonder how many times mankind has survived a trial of fire like the one we find ourselves in now. There is so much wickedness in the world, inequality and war, destruction and disrespect for our fellow inhabitants of planet Earth. We have evolved to this point where we live to earn and consume like a virus with a wallet and a work ethic but we have forgotten how we came to find ourselves in this position. Man is not inherently evil. We are but a tapestry of our experiences. If you look into it, memory and character all come from the same place. We are recorders. Objectively absorbing our experiences and learning through copying. Like software pirates we copy and repeat and hardwire our memories and character til our hardware learns to become subjective, and all of this is based on what we learn from our influencers and teachers. And some unfortunate people are raped mentally, physically and spiritually from an early age by others and this twisted world view lives on in them until they root it out and re-learn to be happy. The Dalai Lama was once asked what advice he could give the Western world and he replied “Be mindful of who you make your children’s teachers.” I’ve found this to be true in my life, and I can see how it affects all humans. And we are not being taught anything of value in our drive to produce more earners and consumers. We are being lied to on a daily basis by those that control our consumption.

"Cain slaying Abel" - Peter Paul Rubens, 1608-1609
Cain slaying Abel by Peter Paul Rubens

In The Story of B by Daniel Quinn a prophet and teacher (simply called B) talks about The Great Forgetting. This is a time in mankind’s history we have been taught to forget, our true heritage. We once flourished on this Earth in smaller groups and living off the land. We hunted, fucked, slept, talked, loved and lived in harmony with our mother Earth. The story of mankind is not one of evil and corruption and misery. Its one of beautiful experiences, inventiveness and intelligence. But the history we are taught only starts from when we started growing crops on a large scale – that is seen as the moment humans became “civilised”. This mean that our million year history before this moment is simply fobbed off as a period called “pre-history” and not dealt with in any important way in our education. This is The Great Forgetting B speaks about in his teachings, and this moment is when it all changed. Producing surplus food allowed us to spend our time inventing, improving, becoming agile developers who iterated til we found solutions to our discomforts. We built and procreated freelly with so much extra time. Industry developed and cities grew and we spread over the planet like the destructive wildfires we’ve seen on the mountains of Cape Town recently.

"Jessica" - a film by Neopixel
“Jessica” – a film by Neopixel

All of this is described far more eloquently in Quinn’s book but the myth of Cain and Abel has been taught for centuries in various forms, and is a metaphor (as are all the stories in the Bible and the other sacred texts). The murder of Abel by his brother Cain is a metaphor for the way agriculture replaced our hunter gatherer methodology. Cain was a farmer, Abel was a shepherd. Cain killed Abel and was the first human to be damned. The first to commit murder and the first to suffer for his greed and pride after Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden. Instead of living in harmony with our environment we now started having to find ways to kill off competitors and destroy anything that stood in the way of our growing agricultural systems. Grains have now been traced to most of our modern medical conditions and malladies. I think the connection is pretty clear, and it makes a lot of sense to me. And our overproduction of food has obviously also been a factor in the way we consume meat too.

One of the things I find most disturbing in our modern overpopulated world is the way animals are mass-produced and consumed, and if I had not found an ethical way to buy meat (through my friend Katja who runs a game farm I think I’d one day have to completely give up eating meat. Its just too sad and disgusting how animals are farmed and raised in shitty conditions, never experiencing the freedom or peace they do in the wild. Predators may be a constant threat, but their existence is not solely in order for others to consume them. They are another branch in the tree of life, and as I have learned in the last couple months, death is a part of all life and is coming for all of us. Its not about how you die, its about how you live. Life is a gift and I feel like moving off the grid to experience it more fully and not feel like a slave any more. Fuck capitalsim, fuck my iphone, fuck consumption and retail therapy. Its all bullshit. Momentary pleasures, instant gratifications, all of these are distractions. Life is about far more than that, and love is central to it all. And after the Earth shakes us off like a bad case of fleas, it will recover. Its history is many times older than ours. Don’t worry about saving the Earth, save yourself. Learn to love, live to love, grow and make good connections. Fight the urge to consume to feel better about yourself, learn to love yourself, get out into nature, enjoy what we have been given before its too late. Those last words were for me but feel free to read them as yours. Adios amigos.

2015. New beginnings.

Hmm yeah I know. Such a cliched title for this post. Be that as it may, 2015 holds true promise for me and my kin. After the tragedy upon tragedy that befell my family last year, I can only look forward. Forward to a year of catharthis and regrowth. Not much can phase me at this point, and I believe the pain I have been through HAS made me stronger. So, to complete the array of cliches on this page, here is another one. Although the classic “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is far more eloquently put by my man Kahlil Gibran:

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
– from The Prophet

So, my soul has been etched deeply. Marked. Scarred. As deep as my love for my wife was, and I believe in some sense still is,  the white hot pain of the tragic breakdown of our marriage has burned me clean.