“We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens. And so in all we do, we must trust in the ability of free peoples to make wise decisions, and empower them to improve their lives for their futures.”—
Daniel Day-Lewis is my mother’s celebrity crush. From about eleven years old till about eighteen, that’s how I thought of him: the man my mother would stalk should my father happen to die. Since then I’ve seen him in a few films and he’s moved up in the ranks a bit to Oh Yes He’s An Actor—I particularly enjoyed his turn as Cecil in ‘Room with a View’—but despite his Oscar I never looked at his IMDB bio until today. Thank goodness I did.
If you enjoy acting, or the technique of acting, you ought to read the quotes section. Day-Lewis is a thoughtful and well-spoken man, the son of a poet laureate, and is an obsessive method actor on par withthebest. He also has that rare gift of being able to explain his personal quirks in a knowledgeable and easily recognizable way. Because I am fascinated with how people disparage their peers, I particularly liked this wonderful quote about his middle-class interest in the lower classes.
I came from the educated middle class but I identified with the working classes. Those were the people I looked up to. The lads whose fathers worked on the docks or in shipping yards or were shopkeepers. I knew that I wasn’t part of that world, but I was intrigued by it. They had a different way of communicating. People who delight in conversation are often using that as a means to not say what is on their minds. When I became interested in theater, the work I admired was being done by working-class writers. It was often about the inarticulate. I later saw that same thing in Robert De Niro's early work - it was the most sublime struggle of a man trying to express himself. There was such poetry in that for me.
Monty Python has a funny sketch about this sort of attitude, but what Daniel Day-Lewis said is very honest and I don’t often see it expressed so plainly. When I was in high school, we called kids “wiggers” if they liked hip-hop; when I was in college, frat boys made fun of other frat boys, and today I often see people making fun of their peers for behaving normally, and I don’t understand it by any means other than what I’ve stated before.
So it is nice to see Daniel Day-Lewis, without any sense of awkwardness, say that he was intrigued by another class—or really, by anybody else at all. This is clearly not a large admission to him, but merely anecdotal to his work, and stems from his remarkably canny self-analyzation. Very lately people prefer to embrace irony over admission, but humour doesn’t have a long lifespan—so I wonder, when the irony has lost its power, can we start being as plain and honest as possible? The stripped-down prose of the great contemporary American writers is already much admired. Will that be our legacy? I hope so. I hope Daniel Day-Lewis’s clear statements are among what future generations find and repeat everywhere.
“There’s a terrible sadness. The last day of shooting is surreal. Your mind, your body, your spirit are not in any way prepared to accept that this experience is coming to an end. In the months that follow the finish of a film, you feel profound emptiness. You’ve devoted so much of your time to unleashing, in an unconscious way, some sort of spiritual turmoil, and even if it’s uncomfortable, no part of you wishes to leave that character behind. The sense of bereavement is such that it can take years before you can put it to rest.”— Daniel Day-Lewis [ via IMDB ]
“The study, published in 2005 by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, found that younger women were 40 percent more likely to receive an offer of a job interview than women over 50; a woman over 50 in Boston would have to send in 27 résumés just to get one job interview, where a younger woman would have to send in only 19, the study said.”—
I didn’t realize even young women needed to send off 19 resumes per one interview. I’d thought the number would be somewhere closer to three. Suddenly I feel much better about my finding-a-job experiences.
“It’s little surprise that virtually all judges when asked to comment on what they’ve just seen nearly always express disappointment and say ‘the work this year was worse than normal’ or ‘not up to last year’s standard’ or suchlike. It’s a cruel combination of low blood sugar, human nature and the hard stats that show that only 5% of the work will ever be any good.”—[ Which way now?, from johnson banks, London design consultancy ]
Instant messaging, a synchronous form of typed, computer-mediated communication, is becoming more conversational, blurring the divide between face-to-face speech and writing, suggests a new study.
Evidence for the change includes the growing use of forms of “to be” combined with the word “like,” as in, “He was like, ‘It’s so interesting.’” The practice is commonly known as “Valley Girl speak,” but linguists refer to it as “be + like” or “quotative like.”
That is, like, the dumbest thing I’ve heard since I started saying “like” when I was twelve. In 1992. Way before IM.
“This game technically has no end; the player will be given new boards to clear as long as he or she retains at least one life. However, due to a glitch in the game, the right side of the 256th board is a garbled mess of text and symbols rendering the level unplayable. This bug, known as a “kill screen” occurs because of a bug in the subroutine that draws the fruit at the bottom of the screen that indicate the current level. Normally, at most seven fruits are displayed, regardless of the current screen, but since the level number is stored in a single byte, level 256 (100h) rolls over to 0h in the subroutine, and 256 fruit are drawn, corrupting the bottom of the screen and the entire right half of the maze. Enthusiasts refer to this as the “Final Level,” the “Split-Screen Level,” or simply as the ending.”—[ on the Pac-Man split screen level, via Wikipedia ]
Let me put it this way: when Leonardo da Vinci finished his big statue of David, you think he said “Oh! I’m gonna go get this plastic monkey award”? No. He said “Leave me the fuck alone, alright? I’m Leonardo da Vinci, I made a big statue, it’s very cool, it’s like, the greatest statue ever made, but that’s it. I’m done. I don’t need a plastic monkey award.”
Anyway, thank you so much for this stupid fucking award.
“In the next few years I foresee the abandonment of music collections. The burden of each person being a librarian over terabytes of data will slowly seem meaningless now that most everything is attainable somewhere else online. The fetishism of 7-inches will die out. People will realize they have better things to do in life than cleaning up ID3 tags. The focus will move to mixes.”—[ Llewellyn Hinkes for the Morning News’ MP3 Digest ]
The coffee trade is unhealthy for two reasons, Clark says: because the United States refuses to permit quotas that would prevent surpluses, and because a few behemoth buyers like Nestle purchase large quantities of really bad, really cheap coffee (they cover up the taste with artificial flavors). The best-known proposed fix for these problems is what is called “fair trade,” an arrangement in which consumers willingly pay higher prices in exchange for assurances that their coffee was acquired ethically.
Fair trade farmers, he says, get paid a fixed price, so they have no incentive to produce quality coffee—”It’s an open secret,” he writes, “that Fair Trade beans have historically been much lower in quality than their unsanctified cousins.” And how many consumers will really pay a higher price for worse coffee? Starbucks, meanwhile, buys high-quality beans on the open market, for which it typically pays a few cents less per pound than the sanctioned fair trade price (last year, it paid more).
”—[ Drip Grind by Doron Taussig, in Washington Monthly ]
On Finer Points in the Spacing and Arrangement of Type
I have a confession to make: I have never managed to get more than fifty pages into Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style, aka the typographer’s bible. I’m not sure why; the writing is fine and the subject matter is fascinating, but for some reason I pick up the book and never manage to finish. By contrast, I received Goeffrey Dowding’s Finer Points in the Spacing & Arrangement of Type as a Christmas gift and read the whole thing in double-quick time. It is neither a well-known nor particularly lauded book on typography; there are only six reviews on Amazon (versus Element’s seventy-six), most of which are written with the caveat that Finer Points really is just the finer points, possibly a worthy addendum to your design library but then again, maybe not.
I disagree. Finer Points is picky, stodgy, snobbish and inadvertently hilarious, probably one of the most entertaining books you could read on the subject of typographic composition. Unfortunately for everybody, the current (used!) running price is $80, a rather prohibitive dollar a page. Accordingly, I’ve transcribed a few quotable gems from Dowding to tide you over until the next printing. (The headlines are mine, but italics are his—Dowding was rather fond of italics.)
On the importance of letter-spacing in creating an even texture in body type
'The colour, or degree of blackness of a line is improved tremendously by close word-spacing. A carefully composed text page appears as an orderly series of strips of black separated by horizontal channels of white space. Conversely, in a slovenly setting the tendency is for the page to appear as a grey & muddled pattern of isolated spots, this effect being caused by the over-widely separated words…But whenever word-spacing is increased beyond the thin space care must be taken not to increase it to the point where the line ceases to be a unit.’
On those pesky Modern fonts
‘In faces of this modern group (Bodoni, Walbaum, etc.), the extreme contrast between thick and thin strokes, and the weakness of their hairlines and unbracketed serifs tend to dazzle and tire the eye. Neither these, nor the sans serifs, are really suitable as designs for continuous reading…Even when the short pieces of copy are set in faces the greatest care must be exercised in arranging the settings—measures must not be too wide and the lines must always be leaded generously.’
On hyphenation, and why it is to be embraced
‘Many books have been set without the division of a single word. But it is obvious that consistently close and even spacing cannot be achieved—except in the most unusual circumstances—if the typesetter has resolved never to divide words. Such works would rarely, if ever, be of any typographic distinction…It is a most unfortunate fact that many apprentice compositors are still being taught that to have more than two successive line breaks, i.e. lines ending with a divided word, is bad practice. This kind of training encourages the easy, slovenly solution: it is infinitely preferable to have a number of break lines succeeding each other than to have widely-word spaced lines.’
On the ampersand in body text, and why it is to be embraced
‘In hand-composition the use of the short ‘and’, as in this sign (&) is sometimes called, is completely justified in all cases where the considerations of good setting demand it, that is, when the spacing of the line, and consequently of the panel, column, or page, is improved by its use.
By setting an ampersand in place of ‘and’ a little more than the width of a normal letter is saved, and this apparently small saving often makes it possible for another word or part of a word to be accommodated in a line. Frequently in ephemeral printing the use of an ampersand saves the copywriter from being asked to alter his copy in order to tighten the spacing of a gappily spaced line, or to avoid an awkward word division.’***
On those pesky quotation marks
‘The use of quotation marks never improves a text setting. Whenever the meaning is clear without them they should be omitted…If their absence is likely to cause confusion then use single quotes only, never double ones, except when a quotation appears within a quotation…Double quotation marks introduce an excessive amount of whitespace into the lines however carefully they are set and so destroy the even color of the lines, and, if there are many of them, of the page.’
On altering awkward punctuation
‘But as type bodies increase in size, the number of punctuation marks that it is necessary to watch multiplies. Beware of using over-large quotation marks, e.g. those designed for use with Gill Extra Bold or Ultra Bodoni. They are gross, and like most gross things, ugly. If quotation marks must appear in these settings in these types they should generally be set two sizes smaller than the body size of the words they enclose…Often it is possible to omit quotation marks altogether in headlines without any obscuration of sense & with an immense improvement in the appearance of the setting. This improvement is especially notable in fonts with extremely ugly quotation marks, e.g. in Rockwell & other members of the Egyptian family of faces.’
‘Underlining as a method of emphasizing a word or phrase in a displayed setting is a crude relic of Victorian typography.’
It is worth noting that a lot of what Dowding recommends is virtually impossible with even the most advanced layout programs (e.g., you cannot usually automatically set letterspacing only within a word), much less CSS (for an overview of the sad state of hyphenation, you can visit The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web). This does not mean that these rules are not worth knowing, only that to replicate them will take at least as much time and care on the part of the digital compositor as the physical.
A few things are genuinely impossible, such as maintaining font fidelity on web pages to the point that one can reasonably expect when an ampersand substitution would be warranted. But this is what technology is for; and as it improves and digital typography comes into its own, we can hope that such arrangements will be automatically accounted for.
**Okay all. Every single person.
***If you are like me, you are probably reading this bit with some incredulity. How on earth is the ampersand to be read comfortably in body text? However I only noticed the ampersands for about the first five pages, and after that read them as smoothly as any other word.
“However, wiser counsel has prevaled; we recognize the redemptive quality of art. As so often in the Church’s history, works of great beauty and inspiration have come from those who seem less than worthy of their talents. God uses vessels of clay to perform his great works, and sometimes it is shocking to us how weak those vessels are - yet his grace shines through, and even mediated by sinful hands, allows others to experience his presence.”—from Solomon, I have surpassed thee: A blog from Westminster Cathederal
“Based on [director of the center for public health nutrition at the University of Washington Adam Drewnowski’s] findings, a 2,000-calorie diet would cost just $3.52 a day if it consisted of junk food, compared with $36.32 a day for a diet of low-energy dense foods. However, most people eat a mix of foods. The average American spends about $7 a day on food, although low-income people spend about $4.”—[ A High Price for Healthy Food, in the New York Times ]
“Despite an improved economy, many Japanese are feeling a sense of insecurity about the nation’s schools, which once turned out students who consistently ranked at the top of international tests. That is no longer true, which is why many people here are looking for lessons from India, the country the Japanese see as the world’s ascendant education superpower.”—[ Losing an Edge, Japanese Envy India’s Schools, in the New York Times ]
“Kolata notes that the food-obsessed, sneaky, guilt-ridden behavior of fat people on diets is similar to the behavior of thin experimental subjects who are deliberately underfed. “A lot of thin people think that because they can skip a meal and feel a bit hungry, everyone can do the same,” one obesity researcher tells her. “They assume the sensation of hunger is the same for everyone.” They’re wrong, says Kolata: “Fat people are fat because their drive to eat is very different from the drive in thin people.”—[ Secrets of Weight Loss Revealed!, in Reason Magazine ]
This use of the apostrophe, also quite common with native English speakers, is sometimes referred to as Deppenapostroph which means moron’s apostrophe. Its counterpart is the Deppenleerstelle, also called Deppenleerzeichen which means Idiot’s Whitespace.