Links: Planet of Introverts, Book-Collections and the Font-Detectives

Six Young Women with Prize-Winning Book Collections: „Samantha Montano, twenty-seven, is an expert in emergency management. As a professional “disasterologist,” Montano collects firsthand accounts of disasters—fires, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions—from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, accounts that predate the academic discipline of emergency management. She aims to preserve an increasingly relevant piece of the historical record in a time of rapid climate change.“

Planet of Introverts:

One story in Le Guin’s Hainish Cycle is “Solitude,” described by Le Guin:

„The final story, 'Solitude', takes an even more radical view of personhood. Having been an introvert all my life in a society that adores extraversion, I felt it was time to speak up for myself and my people, to imagine for us a society where loners are the norm and the gregarious and self-advertising are the oddballs, the misfits. I invented a peculiar social arrangement involving an extreme kind of gender segregation, only tenuously connected to the extra/introversion theme. My fear of the ongoing human catastrophe of unlimited growth, imagery of the ruinous aftermath of overpopulation and mindless exploitation, which has haunted much of my science fiction for forty years or more, is very clear in the story. All the same, I ended up feeling quite at home on poor, impoverished Soro, a world without crowds, teams, or armies, where everybody is an oddball and a misfit.“

The It factor: „The fictional town of Derry, that appears in so many of his stories, is based on Bangor, a couple of hours up the interstate from Portland. 'Derry is Bangor', King has said. He moved his family there in 1979 for the schools and small-town community – and because it inspired him. The town has stories to tell. So when following in his footsteps – and chasing the metaphorical red balloon – it felt fitting to start there.“

The secret History of Dune: „Even a casual political observer will recognize the parallels between the universe of Dune and the Middle East of the late 20th century. Islamic theology, mysticism, and the history of the Arab world clearly influenced Dune, but part of Herbert’s genius lay in his willingness to reach for more idiosyncratic sources of inspiration. The Sabres of Paradise (1960) served as one of those sources, a half-forgotten masterpiece of narrative history recounting a mid-19th century Islamic holy war against Russian imperialism in the Caucasus.“

Kazakhstan: Latin Alphabet Is Not a New Phenomenon Among Turkic Nations: „Kazakhstan’s planned transition to the Latin alphabet raises complex questions. While alphabets may not be important in and of themselves, they play an important role in helping define a nation’s place in the world.“

A Secret History of the Pissing Figure in Art: „Look at 'Saint Luke Drawing the Virgin', a fifteenth-century portrait by Rogier van der Weyden, and you’ll notice two figures in the middle distance, lingering at the crenellations in the courtyard. One gestures in faint surprise; somebody has captured their attention. It’s not Luke the Evangelist, the Virgin Mother, or even the infant Christ. It’s a faraway man who has stopped to piss on a high wall.“

How Do You Decode a Hapax? (Also, What’s a Hapax?): „It’s a word that only appears once in a work, author’s oeuvre, or an entire language’s written record.“

The Satyricon contains a number of hapaxes, including “bacalusias” (possibly “sweetmeat” or ”lullabies”) and “baccibalum” (“attractive woman”).

Hapaxes are not limited to Latin. They appear in every language, from Arabic to Icelandic, even English. But where do these words come from, and what is their purpose?

Various theories have been posited about the role of hapaxes. In a 1955 lecture, philologist Joshua Whatmough suggested that the poet Catullus inserted them to draw attention to a specific moment, just as poet Ezra Pound would do centuries later. Others hold that authors do not pay attention to the frequency of specific languages in their writing, suggesting that words become hapaxes only by chance.

Meet the Font Detectives Who Ferret Out Fakery: „What does international political corruption have to do with type design? Normally, nothing—but that’s little consolation for the former prime minister of Pakistan.“

This wasn’t Phinney's first forgery rodeo. He calls himself a font detective—an expert called upon in lawsuits and criminal cases to help determine documents’ authenticity based on forensic analysis of letterforms used, and sometimes the ways in which they appear on paper. Phinney even IDs each of his cases with a Sherlock-Holmesian title: The Dastardly Divorce, The Quarterback Conundrum, and The Presidential Plot.

Detecting fraud via fonts isn’t as sexy as sleuthing art forgery; it often involves tedious measurements with digital calipers, examinations under loupes and microscopes, charts that track the slight differences between two versions of the Times Roman face, or evidence that a particular form of office printer didn’t exist at the document’s dated execution.

Even so, such measurements can be worth millions—and can even be lucrative, for the handful of experts (maybe a dozen) who have hung out a font-detective shingle.