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12/28/2007

Helvetica: if you see only one film about a font this year…

By Kenneth Rainey. Filed under: TweedBlog. Tags: , ,

I recently watched the film Helvetica, and have since been irritating my wife with my newly enhanced font-spotting skills. And, also, with lame jokes like ‘if you see only one film about a font this year, let it be Helvetica’. And, “I saw Courier Oblique last year. It sucked.”

It reminded me, though, of what an ugly, cheap-looking font Arial is. Arial, the most ubiquitous font on the web, was borne of cheapness, when Microsoft refused to license Helvetica for the windows operating system, and instead created a knockoff. As a consequence, I’ve tried to stop using Arial on this site. If you don’t have any other good sans-serif fonts on your computer, you may still see site content displayed in Arial. Otherwise, it’ll be in the more readable and aesthetically pleasing Helvetica.

Can you tell the difference? Try this quiz: Arial or Helvetica.

Feeling resentful? Battle it out in Arial Versus Helvetica.

The Amazing Randi takes on Audiophiles

I have long believed self described ‘audiophiles’ and ‘stereophiles’ to be little more than gullible and vain conspicuous consumers. So it is with great pleasure that I read the exchanges professional pseudo-science debunker James (‘The Amazing’) Randi has had with audiophiles over a pair of ludicrously overpriced speaker cables.

The Pear Cable Company has introduced their premium “Anjou” speaker cables, priced at $7,250 for a pair of 12-foot cables. The technical details the company offers justifying the extraordinary expense are hilarious. And the company had no problem finding shills in the press to rave about their hokum.

“In extended listening sessions, I found the cables’ greatest strength to be its PRAT. Simply put these are very danceable cables. Music playing through them results in the proverbial foot-tapping scene with the need or desire to get up and move. Great swing and pace—these cables smack that right on the nose big time.”

- Dave Clark, Editor Positive Feedback Online

Speaker cables are made of copper wire. The copper wire’s job is to conduct electricity. Copper is a conductor, and, to paraphrase the band Shellac, it’s easy work. Copper, being an element, is pretty much the same. What makes one company’s copper wire worth over $300 a foot? Nothing.

Nevertheless, audiophiles refuse to allow either science or common sense deter them in their quest to consume conspicuously. I am always amazed, for example, at people who will drop 10 grand on a pair of stereo speakers to listen to music that was, in all likelihood, recorded using a pair of Yamaha NS-10s, and mastered on Genelecs, neither of which will set you back anything close to ten thousand dollars. I have yet to see any of this hokum used in an honest-to-god studio or production facility. If you would like a $10,000 pair of speakers that will allow you to hear what music sounded like in the studio, I would be happy to sell you a pair of used NS-10s and pocket the remaining $9,500.

Randi has offered these snake oil purveyors a simple challenge: prove that you can tell the difference between two audio cables in a simple, double-blind scientific test, and I will give you one million dollars. Has anyone come forward to claim the prize? Nope.

Remember, about fifteen years ago, many of these same shitheads were drawing green lines on their CDs to improve the sound quality.

Read more on Randi’s site:
More cable nonsense — the beginning of the Pear thread
The audio insanity continues
Blake withdraws from Pear Cable Challenge
Yet another snag in the cable Challenge
The latest on the Pear challenge refusal
The end of the Stereophile exchanges — for now