April 23, 2009

For the Love (or Hate) of Typeface

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:12 pm by The Word Jar

HelveticaIt amazes me how much fervor can be built up over something as seemingly innocuous as a typeface. I do admit to a love affair with typeface in general. I love the different designs and how messages can be conveyed, both subtly and blatantly, with a good choice of typeface. I also love when I finish a book that had a particularly unique typeface, and the publisher includes the history of the typeface at the end of the book.

But apparently, not everyone feels the love. Some people have made it their mission in life to eradicate a certain typeface. Perhaps you’ve seen this typeface on a flyer your child brought home from school. Maybe you’ve even seen it around your office. It’s Comic Sans.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about Ban Comic Sans, a website that is the go-to resource for those wishing to join the fight against this most vile typeface (their sentiments, not mine). This site offers picture upon heinous picture of various instances where some poor schlub of a graphic designer chose to use Comic Sans instead of a more upstanding typeface. Visitors are even offered three free downloadable comic fonts that are more suitable to everyday use than Comic Sans.

I personally feel no ill will toward Comic Sans. It’s certainly not my first choice of font, but I wouldn’t criticize anyone for using it. I would much rather take part in a typeface love fest, and for that, I suggest viewing Helvetica.

Helvetica is a documentary that celebrates the design and usage of the Helvetica typeface. This typeface is used in so many different places, you will be surprised at all the examples they show. Again, I have no feelings of love or hate for Helvetica itself, but the documentary as a whole does a great job in explaining how typefaces are designed and how/why designers choose certain typefaces for projects.

What about you? Are you a Comic Sans hater? Do you have a favorite typeface?

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April 20, 2009

The Return of Dan Brown

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:56 pm by The Word Jar

It’s going to be a big year for Dan Brown. First, the movie version of Angels and Demons will be released on May 15, and according to PW.com, Dan Brown’s newest book, his first since The Da Vinci Code, will be released by Random House in September. The book will be titled The Lost Symbol and will again feature protagonist Robert Langdon. The Lost Symbol is sure to please Brown’s fans, and it will most likely bump up book sales in this down economy.

I’m very excited about The Lost Symbol. I held off for some time before reading The Da Vinci Code just because of the hype, but I was swept away once I sat and read it. Is it the most historically accurate book around? Nope. Is it the best written book around? Nope, again. But it was fun and well-paced, and it had no trouble keeping my interest. After I finished The Da Vinci Code, I promptly read all of Brown’s other books. So, put me in the “eagerly awaiting” column for The Lost Symbol. I know that even if it’s not the greatest book ever, it is certain to be a fun read.

Are you looking forward to The Lost Symbol? Did you pass on The Da Vinci Code? What did you think of Brown’s other books?

April 15, 2009

Word of the Week: Scobberlotcher

Posted in Word Fun tagged , , at 11:23 am by The Word Jar

How fun is that word? Go ahead. Say it. Scobberlotcher. It makes me feel like a pirate. “Walk the plank, ya scobberlotcher!”

According to Scobberlotch, the blog of author Karen Harrington, scobberlotch means “to loaf around, doing nothing in particular.” So, if we want to use it as a noun like I did above, we can say that a scobberlotcher is one who loafs around, doing nothing in particular (quite the leap, right?). In addition to expanding your pirate-sounding vocabulary, this word can also help you communicate with a lazy significant other: “Mop the floor, ya scobberlotcher!”

If you have a few moments to scobberlotch today (or even if you don’t), I’d suggest checking out Scobberlotch. She always has fun posts about books, her writing and publishing experiences, and her family. She also hosts some great giveaways!

Happy scobberlotching!

April 14, 2009

Book Talk: How Do You Read A Mystery?

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 10:18 am by The Word Jar

One word at a time, right? Ba dum bum.

No, my mysterious mystery readers, this question addresses how actively you engage yourself in the reading of a mystery. Do you put all of the clues together as the author presents them, so you can finger the suspect before the author officially announces it, knowing from page five that it was Mr. Hemingway in the bar with the stuffed swordfish? Or, do you merely follow the words the author has strung together, giving nary a thought to “whodunit” before the big reveal? I say “merely,” but that implies passivity, and it seems condescending. Especially since that’s my preferred method of reading mysteries.

Which is not to say that I don’t pick up on the clues the author leaves in the story. And if said clues do not match up with how the mystery is resolved, I do take notice. But I don’t go to much effort to untangle the truth before the author wraps it up. I figure the author worked hard to write the book, why would I want to race ahead and solve the mystery, when surely the author will do it for me before the book ends (hopefully). I enjoy meandering along the path the author lays out for me, even the dead ends and red herrings, and it feels more satisfying to experience the book as the author wrote it rather than trying to write it myself.

How about you? Do you get more satisfaction when you figure out the ending while you are still in the middle of the mystery?

Any mystery authors out there? Do you prefer your readers to try to figure out your mystery, or do you prefer they just come along for the ride?

Teaser Tuesday: April 14

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , at 7:32 am by The Word Jar

Teaser TuesdaysTeaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser this week comes from The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill.

This room, with these bodies, these instruments, this smell of formaldehyde and antiseptic overlaying the smell of decomposition, was where I had wanted to be for so long, this was the focus of my dreams and the end of so many years of work. I have never got over the thrill of it, the feeling of a dreadful excitement; the sense of power. A body in a dissecting room seems so far removed from life it might never have had anything to do with life at all.

Three sentences, I know, but I feel the third sentence really brings out the creepiness of the section.

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

April 7, 2009

Teaser Tuesday: April 7

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , at 9:33 am by The Word Jar

Teaser TuesdaysTeaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser this week comes from When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris.

Someone says this, and you naturally look down, or at least I do. The woman’s feet were tiny, no longer than hot dog buns.

I wish someone had sat me down earlier to tell me how funny David Sedaris is. I could have been enjoying his work so long ago! So many laugh-out-loud moments. Now I guess I have that many more books to look forward to!

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

Book Review: Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , , at 12:18 am by The Word Jar

Everyone is BeautifulAs if being the harried mother of three young boys wasn’t enough, Lanie had to pack up her life and move halfway across the country for her husband’s career. She’s left behind her mother—her only lifeline—and every park she and the boys had ever known. At this point in her life, she is wearing her husband’s clothes, she’s mistaken as a pregnant woman, and her new (and young, of course) landlord has already seen her naked. And that’s just the beginning of Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center.

A wonderful addition to the mom lit genre, Everyone is Beautiful follows Lanie, a devoted if not outnumbered and defeated mother of three, as she tries to regain her “self.” This quick and easy read manages to address the very real issue of moms who give practically everything over to the people in their lives—kids, husbands, friends—leaving nothing for themselves.

Center has a good eye for the minutiae of motherhood, and her deft characterization of Lanie gives readers a protagonist they can both cheer for and cringe with. Because of Center’s witty yet touching writing, readers feel the joy and pain as Lanie navigates her new world—new playgrounds, new people, and new chances to find herself.

The secondary characters are equally well written and entertaining. Josh (Lanie’s single landlord), Nora (the widowed downstairs neighbor who is not-so-secretly referred to as “The Witch”), and Nelson (Lanie’s divorced photography teacher) all offer Lanie a glimpse of what her life could be like if she weren’t married to her husband.

Center weaves into the narrative Lanie’s memories of how she met her husband and the story of their courtship. These insights show readers how things used to be, and we anxiously cross our fingers and toes, hoping that Lanie’s relationship with her husband hasn’t changed as much as she thinks.

Moms of all backgrounds will relate to Lanie. It’s possible you may even run into Lanie at your local playground. If you do see her with her greasy hair in a ponytail, diaper bag overflowing, and quite possibly a nursing boob hanging out, don’t rush to judgment. Just ask her if she needs any help.

(Review copy source: Public Library)

April 1, 2009

Word of the Week—Opsimath

Posted in Word Fun tagged , , , at 10:47 pm by The Word Jar

Our Word of the Week is again from The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. What a book—two words I’ve never heard or seen before! Although I couldn’t find opsimath in my trusty Webster’s 11th, several online sources corroborated the definition from The Uncommon Reader: “one who learns only late in life.” Such a bittersweet definition—the thrill of learning something new late in life, but the disappointment of knowing that you could have been enjoying it so much sooner (or, a bit of a downer, realizing you have little time left to enjoy it).

The context of opsimath in The Uncommon Reader is that the Queen of England, at this late juncture in her life, takes up reading and finds she loves it. Although I’m not nearly as “late in life” as the Queen, there are things I hope to pick up in my adulthood. I would love to learn how to play the piano and the cello. I’d love to learn how to sail. I’d love to learn Spanish. And I’m sure there are a million things that I don’t even know about yet that I would love to learn. So, although I’m not technically an opsimath yet, I better get started on these things before I have to fully embrace that bittersweet title.

Are you an opsimath? What have you learned late(r) in life that you wish you would have picked up sooner?