There is of course a chapter on Comic Sans.

Just My Type: A Book About FontsJust My Type: A Book About Fonts by Simon Garfield

The most I can say about fonts is that I can recognize Courier New 12, and now I know why: Because it was the standard font for the IBM Selectric ball, the Selectric being the typewriter I learned on in high school. (Mrs. Brown. Boy was she tough. You typed fast, fine, but you’d better have typed accurately, too, or she’d dress you down right there in class.).

Simon Garfield, on the other hand, is in love with typefaces, and here presents a comprehensive and believe it or not pretty amusing history of same. Some of his descriptions are lyrical

Doves type is most easily recognized by its ample space between letters, a y that descends without a curl, a ligature connecting c and t, and the bottom bowl of its g set at an angle, giving it a sense of motion, like a helicopter tilting at take-off.

There is of course a chapter on Comic Sans, although I have to stay that after reading it I still don’t understand the Univers[al] loathing for it. There is a marvelous chapter on the ampersand

Even in its more basic modern form, the ampersand is far more than abbreviation; its creativity provides a heartening reminder of the continuing impact of the quill in type design, and it signifies more than just a link. It also signifies permanence, not least to a profession partnership; Dean & Deluca are clearly in it for the long haul, as are Ben & Jerry’s, Marks & Spencer and the magazines House & Garden and Town & Country. But Simon and Garfunkel? No wonder they kept splitting up. Tom and Jerry? Of course they hate each other.

and there is continuing commentary on Helvetica, including an hilarious story about a guy who tried to live a day without it

His troubles began as soon as he climbed out of bed. Most of his clothes had washing instructions in Helvetica, and he struggled to find something that didn’t; he settled eventually, on an old T-shirt and army fatigues. For breakfast he had Japanese tea and some fruit, foregoing his usual yogurt (Helvetica label).

and an equally hilarious chapter on the worst fonts in the world

#8 Ecofont
The software takes Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman and prints them as if they had been attacked by moths.

and Garfield really, really hated the 2012 Olympic font

…maybe it’s an attempt to appear hip and down with the kids–it looks a little like the sort of tagging one might see in 1980s graffiti.

A wonderfully produced book with many fun illustrations, hundreds of typefaces incorporated within the text, and one of the world’s greatest prefatory essays. Oh, and love the endpapers, A Periodic Table of Typefaces.

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I have spent a lot of time in front of this painting.


It’s “Antwerp” by J.M.W. Turner. It hangs in the Frick Museum and all by itself is reason enough for me to go to New York City. All those boats and all the people on them are toast, with one exception, whose skipper is holding grimly to the only survivable tack. The bits of flotsam at bottom left foreshadow the havoc that that storm at top right is about to wreak. Disaster is imminent and unavoidable. It’s a portrait of terror and despair.

Click on the image above and it’ll take you to the Frick’s interactive “Antwerp” page where you can zoom in and out. Better, go see it for yourself.

Drive down roads that no longer exist.

In 1951, a man bought a pickup truck because he needed to load things up and move them. Things like bricks and bags of feed. Somewhere along the line trendsetters and marketers got involved, and now we buy pickups — big, horse-powered, overbuilt, wide-assed, comfortable pickups — so that we may stick our key in the ignition of an icon, fire up an image, and drive off in a cloud of connotations. I have no room to talk. I long to get my International running in part so I can drive down roads that no longer exist.

–Michael Perry, Truck


I have no words to speak of war.

Here, BulletHere, Bullet by Brian Turner

A series of poems about the author’s experiences as a soldier in Iraq, which together sum up the price of war and this war in particular.

‘In the Leupold Scope,’ where the narrator is looking through a spotting scope at a woman hanging laundry

She is dressing the dead

The narrator, by inference, just hasn’t shot the people who will wear those clothes yet.

In ‘AB Negative (The Surgeon’s Poem)’, a wounded soldier dies on her way to Germany

a way of dealing with the fact
that Thalia Fields is gone, long gone,
about as far from Mississippi
as she can get, ten thousand feet above Iraq
with a blanket draped over her body
and an exhausted surgeon in tears…

In ‘2000 lbs.’ Turner writes of a suicide bombing in Mosul using multiple viewpoints, beginning with the bomber

his thumb trembling over the button.”

followed by a taxi driver

…he regrets how so much can go wrong in a life,
how easily the years slip by…

a National Guardsman

…it’s just as well his eardrums ruptured
because it lends the world a certain calm…

and others, coming full circle back to the bomber

who may have invoked the Prophet’s name,
or not…

‘2000 lbs.’ is better at showing you what a suicide bombing is like than any photograph or video you ever saw.

In “Night in Blue’ Turner says

I have no words to speak of war.

You may beg to differ when you read this book.

One cranky note, because you know that’s how I roll: Here, Bullet is all free verse, with nary a sonnet or even any blank verse (Yes, I scanned some.) to be found. What ever happened to form in poetry?

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I have slipped the surly bonds of earth.

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the sky on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds–and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of–wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

–John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Keep marching forward.

What I’ve learned, above all, is to keep marching forward because the best news is that since chance does play a role one important factor in success is under our control: the number of at bats, the number of chances taken, the number of opportunities seized. For even a coin weighted toward failure will sometimes land on success. Or as the IBM pioneer Thomas Watson said, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”

–Leonard Mlodinow, The Drunkard’s Walk


Books! Books! Books!

As promised, here are all the books we talked about on Coffee Table on KBBI this morning. Quinton, Terry and I had a blast like we always do, and thanks to everyone who called in!

Click on the photo below to listen to the audio of this morning’s show:

Me, Quinton and Terry in the studio this morning, all with our annotated book lists. (Photo by Rose Grech)

Me, Quinton and Terry in the studio this morning, all with our annotated book lists. (Photo by Rose Grech)


11.23.63 by Stephen King (which Quinton hasn’t actually read, but he gave it as a gift to his father, who loved it. Quinton is now officially the favorite son.)

The three of us got to talking about books everyone has heard of that we feel like we are the last to have read, and in that category Quentin recommends The Giver by Lois Lowry and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy. He also liked the Conn Iggulden series on Genghis Khan, Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here by Karima Bennoune, and Pink Martini lead singer Storm Large’s memoir, Crazy Enough, which he says is an emotional read while at the same time an easy read, and he could not put it down.


Terry, now that he has completed his degree, is delighted to report that he gets to read in a less structured way, as in whatever he wants whenever he wants to. He’s still big with the history, recommending Edmond Morris’ trilogy about Theodore Roosevelt, which he says improves in craft as it goes along, as it well might given it was twenty years between the first and second books. He also recommends Lynn Olsen’s Those Angry Days, when FDR and Charles Lindbergh went head to head over entering into World War II. He was chilled to the bone by Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. In fiction, he just finished Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle, an alternative history which explores the possibility of the Allies losing World War II and a post-war US occupied in the east by Nazi Germany and in the west by Japan. He says there is a twist at the end that he did not see coming. Sounds like Philip K. Dick to me.

And from our callers–

The History of Love by Nicole Krause
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Unbroken by Laura Hillebrand

The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercranz

Two Great Courses audible books, The Barbarians of the Steppes (there was a Genghis Khan theme going on this morning) by Professor Kenneth W. Harl, and Brunelleschi’s Dome by Ross King, which he made sound like a how-to book, my favorite kind.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne.

Teresa called in from the Homer Public Library, where she coordinated this year’s “15 in ’15” event, and from which list I got some of my favorite reads this year (see below). She reports that the event was so successful that they’re doing it again next year, whoop!

Screen Shot 2015-11-11 at 11.05.22 AM


The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande
Ms. Marvel, Volumes 1-3 (and a fourth one is due out the first week of December, yay!)
The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Operation Mincemeat by Ben MacIntyre

PS–I’ve been reading great fiction, too, like The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb and the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews, but we didn’t have time to get to them on the air. Check out my reviews on Goodreads for more.