concept to publication

Month: June 2007 Page 1 of 2

Should reviewers read other reviews?

Discussion at the Reading Experience.

Recalling Malcolm Lowry

lowry under the volcano coverFifty years and a few days ago, on June 26, 1957, after a night of heavy drinking, Malcolm Lowry died. Within a decade his books — or at least Under the Volcano — would be widely read, but at the time none of his books was in print.

Ellis, at the Sharp Side, has marked the anniversary of Lowry’s death with a good short overview.

Companion Sites Roundup

Every now and then I post a roundup of what’s been going on at my companion sites. Here’s the latest.




Dillard Tired

In New York Magazine Daniel Asa Rose quotes Annie Dillard as giving up writing:

“I’m tired,” declared the 62-year-old Dillard, who says that she won’t be doing any more touring, public readings, blurb writing, or letter answering. “I worked so hard all my life, and all I want to do now is read. I’m glad to go out on this book,” she says.

Copyright video

Below is part one of the Disneyfied copyright video.

I previously linked to part two — which proves the information must be reliable.

A New Test for Lying

basic instinct interrogationTimesOnline reports that liars have trouble telling their stories in reverse order. It’s a good way to trip up falsehoods. Let’s try it out …

“We’re fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq, and, let’s see, we went in, the United Nations … no that was, um, there were weapons of mass destruction, no wait, that was, let’s see, er ..”

Bertelsmann continues to expand

Bertelsmann is continuing its quest to be the print version of Google and control all the world’s paper-based information (all of it that’s profitable, that is) by expanding into China. It see China potentially generating 10 percent of its global sales revenue.

Syria or Afghanistan?

afghanistan or syria?What country is this? CNN votes “Afghanistan.”

Hint: Try the Middle East and North Africa Map Game.

InDesign and XML

InDesign CS3 is being touted for its XML capabilities. It’s an interesting concept, especially, I suppose, for publishing repetitive documents like newsletters and journals, since the container and the content could be kept separate. And I guess you could have print and electronic (web) documents that looked nearly the same, without the limitations of pdf.

Does anyone (hello, India, Ink.) have any experience with this?

Helvetica Love/Hate Contest Winners

helvetica posterFunny the buzz about Helvetica lately. Over at Veer they had a “rant or rave” about Helvetica contest. Below are the winning entries. What does it say that the rant entry is so much better than the rave entry?

Best “I Love Helvetica” entry: Workhorse by Negar Nasoohi

My trusty little workhorse of a font,
Too often your quiet elegance goes unnoticed.
Past your no-nonsense exterior lies a supple core of gentle curves that complement your strict angles and crisp edges. Who will gape in admiration at this perfectly balanced marvel of human creation? Not the hurried grocer who slaps you on his window to announce an okra sale. Not the jolly fifth grade math teacher who uses your numerals to test young minds. Definitely not the irate smoker who glares at the sign forbidding her to light and inhale. No, few see the delicate vibrance of your versatile and timeless beauty. But for those of us that do, you are priceless.

Best “I Hate Helvetica” entry: Context by Derek Walker

The first marks, cut in clay, linear clues
Surviving, phoenix-like, through the fire,
Were just a starting point — papyrus bruised
Until a sheet was fixed, the calfskin quires
Stretched on a rack, their texture scraped away
With metal knives, after the skin was flayed.
And finally came paper, pulped and pressed;
These arts entwining trauma with finesse.
And quills and nibs, they scratched the surface;
Movable press would stamp its forms in place,
Hot slugs of metal cast for just that purpose.
It took so much abuse to leave a trace.
With this violence making way for bit and byte,
Helvetica steps in to wound our sight.

“Beware of seriousness …


… it is a form of stupidity” (Alexander Waugh).

Who Wrote The Books of Love?

juan ramon jimenesJuan Ramon Jimenez, that’s who. And the Sisters of the Holy Rosary aren’t too happy about it.

Called Los Libros de Amor, a new book collects 93 of the Nobel Prize winner’s poems, including 25 that were previously unpublished. And among those are erotic poems that scandalously recall Jimenez’s years being cared for by nuns of the order. The poems seem to imply very close care indeed — either in reality or in the author’s imagination — from Sister Amalia Murillo, Sister Filomena and Sister Pilar Ruberte in particular. In any case, the order has spoken out vehemently against the publication of lines such as these:

Sister! We stripped off our ardent bodies
In endless and senseless profusion …

Sister Pilar, are your eyes still so black?
And your mouth so fresh and red?
And your breasts…? How are they?

She would seek shelter in a corner, like a cat …
but her nails were sweeter than my kisses …

The erotic poems were apparently written between 1911 and 1912 and recall the years he called “the happiest of his life,” when, a decade before, he lived on doctor’s orders in the care of the nuns. In 1913 he sent the poems to his publisher. He later withdrew the poems from publication in deference to his wife and her conservative mother, with the result that this side of the author is only now appearing in public.

Las novicias del sanatorioLINKS
El Universal: Aparecen poemas eróticos de Juan Ramón Jiménez
Guardian: My sex in the convent – by Nobel poet
El Cultural: Los poemas eróticos de Juan Ramon Jiménez
At Amazon: Juan Ramon Jimenez

Red Hat Ladies

red hat society ladies

These ladies were having a great time at the Getty Center. They thought it was a hoot that I wanted to take their picture.

More L.A. photos: At Buried Mirror I’ve posted a couple of pictures of the wonderfully kitsch facade of the Mayan Theater.

Happy Bloomsday

ford, joyce, and pound, drawing by tom christensen

Desert Garden, Huntington

desert garden huntington

Light posting while I’m on the road, but just now I have an internet connection and a few moments to use it. Here’s a photo from a bright sunlit day at the Huntington Gardens.


gdp map

I’ve mentioned the website Strange Maps before. Here it is back again, with a map showing U.S. states renamed for countries with approximately equivalent gross domestic products. My state is France, evidement.

The Word as Art

artlink cover: the word as artThe latest issue of Artlink (a contemporary art quarterly published in southern Australia) caught my attention with a series of articles devoted to “the word as art.” Of course there is a long tradition of using letters and calligraphy as the basis of artwork. Traditional arts from Persia, East Asia, and the Maya world are particularly noteworthy in this respect. But the range of text art seems to have increased recently.

Inside Out, a show of contemporary art from China that in San Francisco was jointly hosted by SF MOMA and the Asian Art Museum in 1999 (curated by Gao Minglu of Harvard in association with Colin Mackenzie of the Asia Society and Elise Haas of SF MOMA) included several excellent examples, such as Xu Bing’s remarkable Book from the Sky, a work composed of thousands of made-up characters, and Wenda Gu’s United Nations Series: Temple of Heaven (China Monument), a work made up of human hair.

xu bing, from the sky

Xu Bing, A Book from the Sky, 1987-91. Woodblock print, wood, leather, ivory, four banners: 103 x 6 x 8.5cm (each, folded): 19 boxes: 49.2 x 33.5 x 9.8cm (each, containing four books). Queensland Art Gallery: The Kenneth and Yasuko Myer Collection of Contemporary Asian Art, purchased 1994 with funds from the International Exhibitions Program and with the assistance of The Myer Foundation and Michael Simcha Baevski through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation.

wenda gu, united nations series
Wenda Gu, United Nations Series: Temple of Heaven (China Monument), 1998. Installation with screens of human hair. Approx. 24 x 30 x 27 ft. (732 x 914 x 823 cm). Collection of the artist.

After the break: brief summaries of the Artlink text/art-icles (and a quotation from each).

How dirty words get dirty

Michelle Tsai discusses the lineages of a few obscenities at Slate.

Related: Jon Carroll, “This Is a Column about Obscenity …”

New insights into the Google search algorithm

I like Matt McGee’s summary of the NYT article on Google search.

The Aesthetics of Reading

the readersKevin Larson (Microsoft) and Rosalind Picard (MIT) have published a paper called “The Aesthetics of Reading” (pdf link) that attempts to determine whether typographic refinements result in improved reading. In the authors’ words:

In this paper we demonstrate a new methodology that can be used to measure aesthetic differences by examining the cognitive effects produced by elevated mood. Specifically in this paper we examine the benefits of good typography and find that good typography induces a good mood. When participants were asked to read text with either good or poor typography in two studies, the participants who received the good typography performed better on relative subjective duration and on certain cognitive tasks.

Preliminary results with standard measurements included the following:

  • Readers preferred good layout (duh), but this resulted in no measurable performance improvements. (The authors’ example of “good layout” would have looked better with a left-aligned head.)
  • OpenType refinements such as kerning, small caps, old style numerals, and sub/superscript features produced no reading speed, comprehension, or preference differences. (Clearly the sample did not include graphic designers.)
  • Even rather gross tracking and kerning improvements went unnoticed by readers. (When the differences were pointed out, however, the better set text was preferred.)

Theorizing that designers and typographers must know something, the authors attempted to find new ways of measuring the effects of typography and design. They came up with two measurements: time perception or “relative subjective duration” (RSD — this assumes that a more pleasurable experience will have less of a tendency to seem to drag on) and positive mood (based on studies that have shown that positive mood improves cognitive performance).

Using these measurements, good typography was found to produce statistically significant benefits. Hurray! The authors again:

We have … demonstrated that high quality typography appears to induce a positive mood, similar to earlier mood inducers such as a small gift or watching a humorous video. This is an exciting finding because there are important differences between good and poor typography that appear to have little effect on common performance measures such as reading speed and comprehension. To help move the field of typography forward we need methods that can successfully measure aesthetic differences.

Update: Kevlar at reports “We describe further progress on this line of research in issue 22 of Typo magazine.”


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