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Archive for October, 2009

Four score and three cheers


Time to mark one of those arbitrary points on the calendar that mean so much to us. October 21 is the 80th birthday of one of the finest American writers, Ursula K. Le Guin. Her novels have embodied a thoughtfulness, a humanity, and a pragmatic sensibility that have resonated with me since I read the earliest ones when I was just a teenager. Her essays, beginning with The Language of the Night, edited by Susan Wood, joined the most intelligent conversations in print, the ongoing weaving of ideas and their telling that humans have been engaged in since they first had time to speculate.

She’s got a great laugh, too. Happy birthday, Ursula!

[Photo: Ursula Le Guin, by Eileen Gunn]

Elegance & credibility, blown


Brooks Brothers has an amazing ability to project established elegance and solid reliability in the realm of men’s formal clothing. A Brooks Brothers suit is iconic. When Brooks Brothers first established a store in downtown Seattle, a few years back, they managed to make it look as though the shop had been established on that corner since the founding of the company in 1818 – despite the fact that there hadn’t even been a town, much less a street intersection, at that spot nearly two hundred years ago. In the spot they moved to later, a couple of blocks away, the building isn’t quite as convincing, but the shop still has that aura of conservative quality.

Except in the execution of its typography. The choice of Bodoni for the type on this window text was clearly meant to emphasize the classic elegance of the brand. But the effect is spoiled by the typewriter apostrophes, which neither Giambattista Bodoni nor any type designer up until the advent of desktop publishing had ever conceived of. (It’s further spoiled by the fact that the second apostrophe doesn’t even belong there: the adjective is its, not it’s.)

Window sign at Brooks Brothers shop in Seattle