Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Font memories

Font memories
As part of his transition to HD last week, Craig Ferguson finally updated his show's opening title sequence, which used to be such a creaky-looking, misleading opening sequence (it made it look like The Late Late Show was all sketch comedy, when the sketches really only comprise two percent of the show--that's like if SNL opened with credits that consisted of nothing but shots of Seth Meyers reading the fake news).

The Late Late Show logo also experienced a makeover, which has been lesser-liked than the spiffy new opening ("The old logo was fun and distinctive, but the new one is somewhat bland"), while fontophiles have been more harsh towards the Ikea catalog's font switch from Futura to Verdana, according to a Gray Lady article that letterer Janice Chiang forwarded me. Branding is everything, which is why my picky self has constantly changed my radio station's textual logo over the years. I first used the Fistful of Soundtracks logo on flyers I made for AFOS the college radio program and then placed it on the AFOS sites, the covers of CD copies of episodes I burned for friends and the Microsoft Word files of the home-recorded program's episode scripts. Like what TrekMovie.com did in March with the many different Star Trek opening title fonts from 1966 to 2009, here's a brief history of AFOS fonts.

1997 A Fistful of Soundtracks logo
1997-1999: I wanted a dope font that both screamed "spaghetti western" and looked like something that came from poster art for a '60s or '70s European movie that was scored by Ennio Morricone, whose non-Sergio Leone '60s and '70s scores were among the scores I was discovering for the first time on CD back in 1997. I found that kind of font in Wharmby. I liked how it resembled the Morricone-scored Untouchables opening titles. Of course, after a couple of years, I get tired of the same old thing, so...

1999 A Fistful of Soundtracks logo
1999-2000: I chose another font that I thought screamed "spaghetti western," Wide Latin. Graphic designer Matt Hinrichs of Scrubbles.net used Wide Latin for the previous incarnation of his blog's logo. This was the first logo I featured on the program's then-new site. I forgot Wide Latin was the same font that was used in the Kung Fu opening credits. I didn't want anything to do with a font that, to me, represented an annoying show that starred yet another white guy who tried to pass himself off as Asian (I know PopeyePete loves that show, but I have issues with it), so...

2000 A Fistful of Soundtracks logo
2000-2001: At the time, I was crazy about the italicized opening title fonts from the Pierce Brosnan 007 flicks, the Mission: Impossible feature films and the Kyle Cooper-designed Lost in Space titles.

2001 A Fistful of Soundtracks logo
2001-2008: I felt like switching to a font that better conveyed speed and futurism. I stuck with this font the longest. This was the last of the logos to appear at the top of the scripts I typed for myself to record because in 2008, I switched from typing the scripts on Word to typing them on the more stripped-down Notepad, where the text is presented in only one font.

2006 A Fistful of Soundtracks logo
2006-2009: I was in the mood for a font that crossed Cowboy Bebop with those banjo-scored '70s Sesame Street "sand letter" interstitials.

2009 A Fistful of Soundtracks logo
2009-?: I wanted a return to the station name's spaghetti western roots because some people still don't understand that the name's a reference to Morricone's classic collabos with Leone.

The best result of the Morricone/Leone partnership was Once Upon a Time in the West, one of my favorite flicks since high school (I first saw it letterboxed and uncut on Bravo, back when the channel was actually watchable and wasn't a dumpster for irritating reality shows and Criminal Intent reruns). OUATITW was unique for having Morricone finish recording the score before filming began so that Leone could play it aloud on the set to help get the actors into character and to synchronize camera movements to the tempo of the music.

The 1968 epic is a still-misunderstood film (here's a reason why I don't like the city I live in and can't wait to leave it: when I rewatched OUATITW in a local theater, everyone there gradually walked out until I was the only one left because these downtown assclowns who were clearly raised on Michael Bay were expecting a shoot-'em-up, and that's not what the film is, though it contains a couple of kickass action sequences, particularly the Jason Robards shootout on the train). OUATITW is also a great union of music and image, and because the score was completed before a single frame of film was shot, it's very listenable outside the context of the movie, which is why I frequently played it on my college radio program and then on my Internet radio station.

I'm glad someone suggested A Fistful of Soundtracks as the title of my program in 1997 because Once Upon a Time in Soundtracks doesn't roll off the tongue as easily.


  1. Jimmy, cool to see all the font travels back when I didn't even know you or AFOS existed! And I hear ya about Bravo. Nothing to shout out about it now. And A&E has long since stopped being about A or E. God, I'm glad I no longer have cable. :)

  2. Really? You're glad you're no longer a cable subscriber? I agree there's a lot of junk to wade through on the cable dial, but many of the best non-reality TV series right now are found only on cable (Burn Notice, Breaking Bad, Mad Men...). One of the few reasons why I don't plan on cancelling DirecTV any time soon is TCM, which I'm writing an upcoming post about (and which I know you blogged about when they launched the Classic Film Union). Besides being able to see older flicks that aren't on DVD, I also like that they do tributes to film composers. Right now TCM's in the middle of a month-long Bernard Herrmann fest. In May, they did a night-long marathon of movies featuring Jerry Goldsmith scores.

  3. "I wanted a return to the station name's spaghetti western roots because some people still don't understand that the name's a reference to Morricone's classic collabos with Leone."

    Holy smokes! Seriously? This is why you've got to do more original eps... the people need to be educated ALL THE TIME.

    "The best result of the Morricone/Leone partnership was Once Upon a Time in the West, one of my favorite flicks since high school."

    One of my favorites since college. "People scare better when they're dying." You can say that again. I just saw Inglourious Basterds yesteday. Christoph Waltz is Tarantino's Henry Fonda.

  4. "Holy smokes! Seriously?"

    Yep. One of those people was Comic News Insider co-host Jimmy Aquino, who told me he thought A Fistful of Soundtracks was a porn site.