In 2013, acclaimed filmmaker and author Errol Morris ran a bold experiment. With the collusion of the New York Times, he asked 45,000 readers to take an online test. The test allegedly measured whether or not readers were optimists or pessimists. But in reality, Morris was trying to find out if the typeface a statement was written in had any impact on a reader's willingness to agree with that statement. Simply put, are some typefaces more believable than others?
The answer is yes. Baskerville, a 250-year-old serif originally designed by John Baskerville, was statistically more likely to influence the minds of readers than Computer Modern, Georgia, Helvetica, Comic Sans or Trebuchet. The results of Morris's experiment were published online in a two-part essay called Hear, All Ye People; Hearken, O Earth!*
On the African view of the prosperity gospel:
Behind Nwankwo's endorsement of “prosperity” was a distinctly anti-gnostic conception of the good of religion: “Lawrence says that Africa’s holistic worldview means that ‘the expectation that the experience of wholeness, that is long life, wealth, fertility, success, etc., is legitimate and that religion should contribute to its provision.' He points to the Igbo people of southwestern Nigeria as a good example of this and as an explanation of why prosperity teaching strikes a deep chord in Africa. The Igbo understand their gods to have an obligation to provide the conditions for well - being in the lives of the people in the community—life on earth is a foretaste of the fullness of life in the ‘other world.' So the prosperity gospel is really a human dream—to have enough (and maybe a little more).”*
Before Letterman sucked, he was funny, and co-writer Merrill Markoe remembers favorite bits:
“New Catch Phrases” is another idea that started with me but went on to be group written by everyone. Once again it was a take on advertising and television in our culture and the way certain frequently repeated slogans make their way into every day life. At the time everyone seemed to be quoting a commercial that starred an old lady who looked into the camera and said “Where’s the beef?” So we decided to try to start a catch phrase, all by itself and let an audience vote for their favorite. After the winning entry, “They pelted us with rocks and garbage” (contributed by Matt Wickline) was selected, the show spent the rest of the week working out ways to include it and hopefully help it gain traction. I still have a shirt and a button that someone sent us.
Every now and then, in the middle of the night, “Chinese Restaurant College Bowl” comes to me like a strange hallucination. It owns a place in my heart for its sheer labyrinthine craziness. Assembled by Tom Gammill, Max Pross and myself, it started out as an idea about staging unusual reunions. We planned to go up to random people as they stepped out of an elevator, get all of their names and phone numbers, and then reunite the whole elevator on the air. It ended up being about two Chinese restaurants that we had seen somewhere in New York City that both had names that sounded like colleges. One was called Hunan Wok University, because it was on University Avenue. The other was called Szechuan State, because it was on State street. From there it morphed into bringing customers from each of the restaurants on to the show to play College Bowl and answer questions about the respective restaurant menus. Having decided on that, we felt we needed to add a tour of the two campuses and a Chinese food delivery race between the two restaurant competitors. And so we did.
Kathleen Ankers, who appeared on the show as the Bookmobile lady, ran the art department and would patiently find a way to manufacture a decent working version of whatever it was we requested. Of the hundreds of crazy things I saw her make, some of the ones that have stayed with me were by the always brilliant George Meyer. A few times a year, I think fondly of “The Giant Doorknob,” George’s take on what is for sale in “joke catalogs.” The copy George wrote for it still makes me laugh.
“In Mexico it’s El Knob Grande. Here in the U.S. we call it the giant phony doorknob and it’s a panic. This over-sized jumbo knob is much larger than it oughta be. In fact, its just plain big! Simply attach it to an ordinary door and then wait for the fireworks. Your friends will flip when they see for themselves how truly big a doorknob can be.”
I also think frequently of Andy Breckman’s “Perpetual Birthday Card” which read “Happy Birthday today and on this day every year for the rest of your life.”
Improving your drinking is a New Year's resolution I could get behind:
Drinking is a skill that requires practice and strategy. That's right, eaters and drinkers -- you have to drink more to drink better.
"It's not about getting wasted. Drink more so that you know how to do it," Matthew told me. "I want people to be like race car drivers. You speed up, you slow down, you're in tune with your highly honed drinking machine -- which is you and your body."
"Children basically act drunk all the time so I need to have a little bit of alcohol just to get in their rhythm," Matthew said. "It's like a slow drip -- like an I.V. drip of alcohol. You're feeling a little more jovial but you could also still speak in church."
As someone who has long endorsed moderate alcohol consumption as one route to more effective parenting, I couldn't agree more.
Plus Sarah introduced me to a brilliant new beverage innovation: caffeinated beer. That's right, you can mix cold-brewed coffee with beer (she recommends a dark porter).
"It's revolutionized my life," Sarah told me. And now mine, too! (Thank you, Sarah, for introducing me to this breakfast of champions.)
But there are other areas where the three of us disagreed, especially on the topic of light beer.
I like light beer. I believe there's a time and place for every beer on earth, and light beer is no exception. When I'm drinking all afternoon at a barbecue or the beach, I don't want to feel like I have a bowling ball in my stomach. I want a beer that tastes like it's 25% water. Light beer fits the bill.