Right-reading (adj): Having the proper orientation (used in printing)

Today is Thursday, July 24, 2014 7:18 pm (U.S. central time).

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Tom Christensen
("xensen") . tom [at] rightreading.com
 

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Tarting up Jane Austen

Since Jane Austen is so much in the news again these days, it might be worth revisiting this post, which I originally published in 2007:

jane austen enhanced

Is the attractiveness of authors directly related to their promotability in the minds of publishers today? Certainly to judge by the photos on their dust jackets, authors have gotten collectively younger and cuter every year for the past several years. Some publishers deny, however, that they place any importance on author photos. I guess Wordworth Editions is not among them. For a reissue of Austen they have tarted Jane up a bit. The image on the left is the portrait of Jane Austen by her sister Cassandra (said to be the only fully authenticated portrait of the author). The image on the right shows the effects of Wordworth’s Photoshop magic: Jane’s bonnet has been removed and replaced with flowing locks, her cheeks have been rouged, and if I’m not mistaken she has had some subtle nips and tucks about the eyes and mouth. Wordworth’s managing editor Helen Traylor explains:

She was not much of a looker. Very, very plain. Jane Austen wasn’t very good looking. She’s the most inspiring, readable author, but to put her on the cover wouldn’t be very inspiring at all. It’s just a bit off-putting.

I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover. Sadly people do. If you look more attractive, you just stand out more. Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world and people do judge by appearance.

I guess that about sums it up: “Sadly, we do live in a very shallow world.”

Friday roundup : Links for 2 August

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

Friday roundup: links for 19 July

An ecclectic mix of links today. Enjoy.

Every separation is a link

Worth revisiting

Duly quoted

  •  “What is the question?” — Gertrude Stein, from Famous Last Words
  • “Wyoming is a place with two escalators; it probably shouldn’t get two senators.” — Nate Cohn

River of Ink: the cover

river of ink cover

This is what I’m thinking of for the cover of my new book, a selection of my essays. We’ll see if my publisher likes it.

I’m happy again to also be the book’s designer/typesetter. The image is a photo I took of the Castel San Giogio, an early castle (ca. 1400) in Mantua, Italy. Mantua is built amid lakes rather like my old home town of Madison, Wisconsin.

For the cover I darkened the water, but not so much that it is just a solid color–it still retains reflections, although that is hard to see in this image.

Friday roundup: Links for 21 June

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

Duly quoted

  • “Put a fact in every sentence.” — Michael Hastings
  • “All that matters is what you leave on the page.” — Zadie Smith

Web redesign

new-site

 

It’s been a long time since I did a redesign to this creeky old website. Now I’m in the middle of one; in fact, I am uploading core files to the server even as I type this. The home page has been changed to look like the above, and the main pages referenced in the nav at the upper right have been updated as well. There’s still lots that remains to be done, but I’ve been working hard.

The home page on the old site looked like the below. Let me know what you think.

old-site

Are you not happy with me as the translator of you?

Shamed by you English? You can speak soon and write like a graduate college if me let you help for a day of 15 minutes.

What is water?

Cool video made from David Foster Wallace commencement address.

April 3">Friday roundup: links for April 3

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

26 April">Friday roundup: Links for 26 April

“Every separation is a link” — Simone Weil

Duly Quoted

  • “What happened when a ship carrying red paint collided with a ship carrying blue paint? Both crews were marooned.” — Chris Cobb
  • “Letters do love one another. However, due to their anatomical differences, some letters have a hard time achieving intimacy.” — Ellen Lupton in The Designer Says

Landscape with Yellow Birds: Selected Poems by José Ángel Valente

valente-P4110859

I returned home yesterday to find a case of books waiting for me.

valente-P4110853

This is my translation of poems by José Ángel Valente, considered by many the most significant Spanish poet of the second half of the twentieth century. (Thanks to Eliot Weinberger for the generous blurb.)

valente-P4110856

valente-P4110854

The book was published by Archipelago Press, in a lovely edition with a laid-textured cover. Its elegantly simple design is by Dave Bullen (whose mastery of typography is evident in the treatment of the title on the cover).

valente-P4110858

Fun with panoramas


Stitching together photos can be great fun in the proper context. I think the Piazza del Duomo in Milan counts as one of these. This photo was taken 5 April 2013 with an Olympus E-Pl2. I stiched the images together with Olympus’s own photo software, called Olympus ib, but I’ve uploaded the result to a new service I found called Dermander, because I like its scrolling and embedding functions. Its a bit bare-bones (I wish it had the capability of selecting where to begin the scroll), but in contrast to Clevr (a service I’ve used before), it does allow full-screen panoramas (click the play icon and then the full-screen icon at upper right).

This version is downsized for web viewing. The original comprises seven large images.

panorama of piazza del duomo, milan

Mailbag: NCBR (1616)

This is nice. While I was traveling I received this e-mail:

Dear Tom Christensen,

On behalf of the Northern California Book Reviewers (NCBR), I am delighted to tell you that 1616: The World in Motion has been nominated for the Northern California Book Award in General Nonfiction as one of the best works by a northern California author published in 2012. Congratulations!

We hope that you can join us for the ceremony. Please let us know. It is free and open to the public; feel free to invite your friends and family. If you can’t attend yourself, please send a friend or representative to represent you and to accept should you receive the award. All nominated books at the awards will be celebrated, acknowledged, and made available for purchase and signing. We are looking forward to celebrating all of the nominated books and authors.

The 32nd Annual Northern California Book Awards will be held Sunday, May 19, 2013, at Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin, at Grove, at 1:00 p.m.

Immediately following the awards, a public reception with book signing for all of the nominated books will begin in the Latino/Hispanic Room at the Library. (The Library closes at 5:00 on Sunday.)

The event draws an enthusiastic literary audience to celebrate books and writers in northern California. All of the nominees will be brought on stage for recognition during the ceremony, and the winner in each category will be asked to speak briefly and read for three minutes. (Please come prepared to read for three minutes if you are announced as winner.)

Your book will be ordered for purchase at the reception by Friends of the San Francisco Library’s Readers Bookstore at the Main. During the reception, please stand or sit near your books for a time, so those who wish their books signed may find you. Please introduce yourself to the booksellers. There will be a reserved table for book signing at the reception.

The Northern California Book Awards were established by the NCBR (formerly BABRA) in 1981 to honor the work of writers and recognize exceptional service in the field of literature in northern California. The awards recognize excellence in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translation, and Children’s Literature. In addition to the book awards, the Fred Cody Award is presented annually for lifetime achievement. This year, poet and educator Kay Ryan will be honored. A complete list of nominees is posted on Poetryflash.org http://poetryflash.org/programs/?p=ncba_2013

The Northern California Book Awards are sponsored by Northern California Book Reviewers, Poetry Flash, Center for the Art of Translation, Red Room (redroom.com), Mechanics’ Institute Library, PEN West, the Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, and San Francisco Public Library.

Someone representing NCBR may contact you directly regarding an interview opportunity if we receive a media request.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Warmest regards,

~Joyce Joyce Jenkins, NCBR chair

N C B R * Northern California Book Reviewers

Canon Powershot A630 vs. Olympus PEN E-PL2

Pixels or sensor size? Consumers have been trained to judge cameras by their pixel counts, But there are other factors that may be more important to image quality, in particular lens quality and sensor size. Recently I purchased an Olympus PEN E-PL2 camera. This is one of the newish breed of interchangeable lens mirrorless digital cameras that have near-DSLR-size sensors in bodies almost as small as those of point-and-shoots. It’s a good camera for me because much of my photography is travel related, and DSLRs tend to be too heavy and conspicuous for travel work (If I had the budget I would upgrade to the newer OM-D E-M5.)

On a recent trip I took both the Olympus and my old Canon A630 (which was more of a photo enthusiast camera than the current Powershot line, which to me is barely an upgrade from an iPhone camera), and I found that I used the Canon point-and-shoot more than I expected to. Among its advantages are its smaller size, which allows it to be slipped into a pocket and whipped out instantly (the Olympus is a little too big for this, except maybe when equipped with a pancake lens), its shorter time lag time between shots, its silent shutter (the PEN’s is fairly loud), and its swivel view screen, all of which make it well suited for inconspicuous street shooting — it draws virtually no attention. The Canon is also good in low-light situations, when I might not bother to pull out the PEN (unlike the more recent but expensive OM-D E-M5 in the same line, low light is not one of its particular strengths).

But how does the image quality compare? Photography sites tend to do comparisons between comparable cameras, which makes sense if you are shopping in a particular segment. It is less common to compare cameras that are significantly different in nature. But I was curious how great the difference would be between such cameras, and I made a quick, unscientific comparison. The results indicate the the larger sensor size and better optics of the Olympus are (as would be expected, or at least hoped) a distinct upgrade from the Canon. (The Canon is 8 megapixels, the Olympus 12.3 megapixels, but I don’t think that is sufficient to account for the difference in these images).

The Canon images are on the left, the Olympus on the right. The first obvious difference is in color. Olympus has the reputation of producing satisfying jpegs out of the camera without post processing (I’m mostly shooting jpg with the occasional raw; these are jpegs), but I’m not sure in this case that the color of the tomatoes is more accurate from the Olympus than the Canon — though I do think the Canon overdarkens the countertop and stove. (These images are reduced in size and sharpened a little to compensate for the reduction but otherwise not manipulated. They were taken without a flash.)

The difference becomes more apparent (even when reduced to the tiny size of these blog images) when we zoom in. Most obviously, the Canon fails to capture detail in the tomato sprigs, while the Olympus captures individual hairs.

.

There is also a clear difference in the cameras’ ability to capture the quality of the tomatoes’ translucent plastic container (the angles of the shots are slightly different).

Bottom line: no surprises (thankfully), but I think it is interesting to see just what the degree of difference is between a relatively top-of-the-line point-and-shoot and a typical mirrorless camera. For people who want high-quality images from a small camera, I would recommend the Olympus PEN series.
.

 

Pulp nonfiction

pulp-style cover showing warrior for print

 

Thanks to the Pulp-O-Mizer.

9 March">Friday roundup : Links for 9 March

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

Olympus E-Pl2

P3070267

This photo of a jade plant in front of the fireplace was taken with my new camera, an Olympus E-PL2. This is a mirrorless camera in the micro four thirds format (so called for the 1.33 in. size of the sensor, I think). The best thing about the fairly new mirrorless cameras is that they employ near-DSL-size sensors in point-and-short-sized bodies (although eqipped with anything other than a pancake wide angle lens they are not really pocket sized). Within the mirrorless category, the u4/3 system is nice because some major camera manufacturers (notably Olympus and Panasonic) got together and agreed on specifications for the system. This means that within the u4/3 system you can buy a camera body from one company and make use of a lens from another company. The E-PL2 is a couple of years old, but it was offered at a great price, and the lenses are the same as on the current models (such as the OM-D-EM5, which is great but lists for $1300 on Amazon).

For more examples, I have some garden photos like this one posted at Frisco Vista.

apricot blossoms - P3080274

And low-light examples like this one from the Asian Art Museum’s Terracotta Warriors show at 7Junipers.

terracotta warrior (kneeling archer)

Links for Friday, February 22

February 22: After nine months, Friday Roundup returns.

“Every separation is a link.” — Simone Weil

“Write in recollection and amazement for yourself.” — Jack Kerouac
(resurrecting a few old posts, because it’s been so long)

Stand by me

While we’re on the subject of music, here’s a fine chorus of street musicians from around the world. Pretty cool.