Monthly Archives: September 2015

Some sketches

It’s Newsjack time again. Woo and yay. Basically that means I write things for the Radio that don’t get put on the Radio.

Here are this week’s failures. Apparently Font Factor got into the recording at least. It just got the chop in the edit. Boo hoo.



1. INTRO Google has been in the news this week after changing its

typeface, freaking out internet nerds the world over. Yes,

Google the company that harvests all of your personal data on

a day to day basis without anyone batting an eyelid. But

change how the words look a little bit and suddenly everyone

grabs their torches, flaming pitchforks, and USB sticks. But how

exactly does Google pick a new font? It’s actually quite a

competitive process…

2: PRESENTER Hello and welcome to Font Factor. The show where you, the

audience, can decide what becomes the next big thing in

typefaces – and which ones will be forever discarded to the

Recycle Bin. Let’s meet our contestants.

First up, Sans Serif!

3. SANS SERIF (BUBBLY) Hi, I’m Sans Serif. You might know me from, like,

every start-up company in the world. I’m friendly, oh so

personal, and not at all intimidating. I’m your best friend!

4: PRESENTER Yay! Next up, Times New Roman..

5: TNR (OLD) Huh? Oh, I’m Times New Roman. Remember me? I

used to be everyone’s favourite. But then Microsoft stopped

making me the default and now I’m just a lonely old font. WHAT


6. PRESENTER And last but not least, we have… Comic Sans!


7: PRESENTER Great. So in this round the fonts will be showing us what they

can do in the world of marketing. Fonts, we’re making an ad for

a new kind of shoe. We want to sell as many shoes as

possible, so what do you do? I’ll give you five seconds to think

it over. Font off!

Five, font, three, two, one. And that’s it! What have you got,

Sans Serif?

8: SANS SERIF Well I think we should use Arial and do a lovely minimalist

poster talking all about the benefits of the shoes. It’ll really

appeal to the millennial market and work at scale for different

ad platforms.

9: PRESENTER And how about you, Times New Roman?

10: TNR (SUDDENLY AWAKE) Huhh?! Sorry I wasn’t paying attention.

But I’ve got an essay about the history of the English penal

system if that helps.

11: PRESENTER I’m sorry but that’s not what we’re looking for. Tough luck,

Times New Roman. And what’s Comic Sans got fonted up for



13: PRESENTER Ooh, it’s definitely going to be a close one. Let’s see what the

results of the audience vote show. The winner is…


14: PRESENTER Oh my god, I can’t believe it. Out of nowhere, the winner is

Wingdings. Wingdings, would you like to give a victory speech?

15: WINGDINGS Smiley Face. Left arrow. Trademark Sign. Skull and

crossbones. Skull and crossbones.

16: PRESENTER And that’s all we have time for. Join us next week when we’ll be

seeing if Helvetica can impress the judges in an all-out battle to

the death with Comic Sans in the Font Arena.


18. END


1. INTRO The Pope was spotted out and about in central Rome as he

visited an optician in person, drawing huge crowds. Watching

an old man try on different pairs of glasses might not sound like

everyone’s idea of a fun day out, but apparently it was worth it

just so everyone could keep making ‘Holy See’ jokes. Reports

that he also put on a pair of Harry Potter glasses and ran

around the shop shouting killing curses at people were sadly

greatly exaggerated. But what was the Pope really up to in

there? He could easily have sent for someone to come into his

little Pope bedroom and fit his glasses. There’s only one

conclusion: The Pope is planning to launch his own range of

designer eyewear.


3. POPE (STREET TALKING) Heyyyyy! It’s me, the Pope! Don’t ya just

haate it when ya preparing your weekly Papal blessings and

you can’t see a damn thing?

4. CHOIR SINGER Preach it!

5. POPE Well, me too. So that’s why I’m launching this new range of

totally kickin’ Papal spectacles. They’re called: Holy Specs!

6. CHOIR SINGER Amen to that!

7. POPE Now, I hear what y’all saying. Aint’ these specs just like the

same ol’ same ol’ glasses people been wearing for hundreds of

years? Well, hell no sister!

8. CHOIR SINGER Hell no!


9. POPE No, these are unique, top-of-the-line holiest-of-holies

eyepieces. Each one has been blessed by me – your buddy the

Pope! And I can personally guarantee you’ll witness at least

three miracles while wearing them.

10. CHOIR SINGER (SINGING) This guarantee is not legally binding. Your statutory

rights are not affected.

11. POPE But wait! Just like Jesus said to his disciples when he came

back from the dead: “there’s so many great benefits to these


The lenses are bifocal, polarized, UV protective, and 100% gay

marriage reflective.

11. CHOIR SINGER (SINGING) But what about contraception?

12. POPE (SINGING BACK) We still haven’t formed an effective

consensus on thaaat…

13. CHOIR SINGER Fair enough!

14. POPE Holy Specs are the only choice for the discerning bishop in

YOUR life. So don’t forget the 11th Commandment: Thou shalt

always buy glasses endorsed by the Pope and also buy some

extra pairs for friends and family.

15. CHOIR SINGER They make a perfect gift!

16. LAWYER (SERIOUS) Not suitable for the non-religious, elderly, or young

vulnerable church boys.

17. END

Review: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury


This is a book about burning books. But maybe you know that already, because this book is like super famous. It’s on loads of lists of books and things, so I thought it was about time I got around to reading it.

It’s kind of a light sci-fi, in the dystopian theme. Chronologically, it could be set as little as like twenty years in the future. Much of the tech in it isn’t too far from what we have now, as it’s implemented in nice understated ways.

For instance, the main character’s wife is obsessed with this ‘parlour’ in her house where she watches literal wall-to-wall TV with characters who interact with her. She ends up spending all day in this room, neglecting reality. So basically video games and oculus rift and all that.

More interesting is the picture of society painted by Bradbury. It’s a dystopia though not so much in the Orwellian vein (though there is a bit of that). It’s more a cultural dystopia, where entertainment rules.

Many readers take Fahrenheit 451 to be a clearcut tale about the tyranny of censorship by the government. But I read it more as a moralistic vision of how we need to stop ourselves sleepwalking into a cultural vacuum. In Bradbury’s future, books are outlawed not so much because they are dangerous, but because they are boring. It’s a society where only the fast and easily understandable can be accepted, and books are evil because they can confuse the mind.

I really appreciated the nuance that Bradbury approached this topic with. And the sci-fi in it is nice and original – there’s a fascinating mechanical hound in it that really sticks in the memory.

My only gripe is that the book itself is rather short. There’s a great character we’re introduced to at the beginning that never gets followed up on. And the ending of the book isn’t really a satisfying conclusion to the story. But overall it was great and I really liked it!

Rating: 5/5

The beginning of the end for The Simpsons? Frank Grimes.



“I was watching. I saw the whole thing. First it started falling over, then it fell over.”

The “beginning of the end” of The Simpsons isn’t in a wacky, over-the-top episode like The Principal and The Pauper. It’s more subtle. It’s the 23rd episode of the eight season: Homer’s Enemy.

Homer’s Enemy is just after In Marge We Trust and just before The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase. That second episode is a good candidate too. It admits the show has run its course and it’s time to start thinking about the future. It’s this self-awareness that makes Homer’s Enemy the series’ turning point.

What’s the episode about? Well, it’s about Frank Grimes: a man who starts work at the power plant and becomes annoyed at Homer. It’s been said before, but Grimes is a proxy for the audience. He’s also a self-insertion for the writers themselves. They’ve created a monster and Grimes lets them vocalise their guilt about it.

Grimes points out Homer’s flaws, and how he’s never held accountable for them. He flags up that Homer lives in a huge house – despite “a lifetime of sloth and ignorance”. He’s the safety inspector for the power plant – yet a huge liability to those around him. Previously, these contradictions in the show went unspoken. As an audience, we’d bought into the notion that Homer’s lifestyle could sustain itself.

Grimes breaks this spell. And what happens to him? Like other detractors in the history of literature, he is condemned. The escapee from Plato’s Cave gets shunned by those he returns to. Meursault in Camus’ L’Etranger is sentenced for rejecting the morals of society. Likewise, Springfield won’t accept anyone who questions the status quo. Grimes dies in one of the most violent scenes in the show.

At his funeral, nobody shows remorse; Homer is even asleep. “Change the channel, Marge!” he blurts out. “That’s our Homer!” shouts Lenny. Like him, we can’t accept Homer changing now; not even when the absurd foundations of the show have been revealed. With Grimes’ grave, The Simpsons buries the last residues of its credulity.

And this is why it marks the beginning of the end. Once the genie is out of the bottle it can’t go back in. Like Bart’s factory in the episode’s subplot, The Simpsons has started to collapse in on itself.