Salon has a piece today called "Is Arwen pro-Life?" about how different ideological factions keep claiming a connection to Tolkien's real motives. Toward the end, it mentions how Tolkien characters are always shown in terms of how much they seek power, which is seen as a corrupting influece. Conservatives, the author says, "are very much enamored of power":
All of which should make Gollum, the river-dwelling hobbit who becomes entranced by the Ring of Power and pays for it with his soul, an ominous metaphor. He never hesitates to exploit a wedge issue, be it Frodo's trust of Sam or the distribution of lembas bread, and is savage in combat until defeated, at which point he whines endlessly about how unfair it all is.
Most people think you're ineffective, but you are trying to completely save the world from itself, so there's always going to be a long way to go. You're always the one trying to get friends to talk to each other, enemies to talk to each other, anyone who can to just talk instead of beating each other about the head and torso. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, and you get very schizophrenic as a result. But your heart is in the right place, and sometimes also in New York.
A little bit if what I’ve been writing lately discuss, if you're so inclined:
Book design has always responded to changes in technology developments in printing, papermaking, typesetting, and aesthetics. With all of these, though, the book itself was the primary result of the publishing effort the culmination of advances that made its form possible. All along designers have used all these developments as part of a language that, at its best, has created new possibilities for communication and enhanced the historical value and sensual pleasures of the tangible object. The last few decades have seen the emergence of other technologies, though, that have led to a vast store of published ideas outside the physical substrate. Software and publishing communities have sought all along to find ways of adapting material published as books. The growth of the internet and electronic publishing, though, has spread an acceptance of ways of reading, viewing images, and organizing information that are often alien to the established book format.
Publications are often conceived for primary delivery in one medium, even though they may be delivered to many. For instance, academic research may be summarized and analyzed for publication as a book, even though the information may be gathered within a database and distributed as digital documents or published as web pages. Each of these media offers its own advantages to the reader/user; however, a design refined for only one form may alter dramatically as features specific to each medium are incorporated when the publication is transferred from one form to another.
We read/view different media differently, and each medium has its own strengths and weaknesses. When a body of work is published in multiple media, it should be seen as an opportunity to enhance the meaning and evocative qualities of the work, rather than a need for compromises that detract from them. Instead of using a visual and structural vocabulary intended for one format when the publication is transferred to other media, how can the best features of the printed book as well as its sundry electronic counterparts be considered as core elements of a design approach that enriches the publication in all formats?
The design of books can be enhanced by an understanding of other media. Typography, composition, use of imagery, the sequence of information, and use of materials are all components of book design, but they are also the components of electronic design, which may use them in completely different ways. Just as digital media often take cues from the the established traditions of the book, the modern book could also take some cues from the evolving conventions of electronic publishing.
I’m too overwhelemd by deadlines and emergency planning today to delight you with pithy ranting, so instead I'll share the most entertainingly high-brow birthday invitation I’ve ever received:
I didn't ask to be born.
Neither did Frankenstein. Nor Adam, for that matter. You remember when he asked God, "Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay / To mold Me man? Did I solicit thee / From darkness to promote me?" I underlined that passage in Paradise Lost and wrote "So true!" next to it in the margin.
Clearly my chums and I will never fully shake the influence of the Jesuits.
I’m even more despondent about the demise of Plan A than I expected I’d be, but at least the possibility of this makes me feel the teensiest bit better about Plan B.
Assuming that doesn't also crash and burn.
I’m still failing to resist the allure of the hearts, even though I'll be the first to admit that they don't taste all that good, they leave a nasty film on my teeth, and the corny sayings don't have any particular charm when you're eating them alone.
It's mostly nostalgia, really. Not so much for the hearts themselves they're just easy to find this time of year but for Necco Wafers, which are made of the same stuff. More than any other candy I can think of, they have attached themselves to all sorts of goofy memories over the years:
- When I was little, I used to buy them a lot from the little gift shop at the nursing home down the street where my grandmother lived. I couldn't get Goldenberg's Peanut Chews or Marathon Bars for a few years when we thought I was allergic to chocolate, and Necco Wafers became my sugar-delivery vehicle of choice. I think I also liked how the pink ones taste like Pepto Bismol. (Please. I once ate a tube of Ben-Gay when I was a child. A fondness for Pepto was progress.)
- Like all good Catholic children, I used Necco wafers to pretend I was receiving Communion, because when you're a young, Cathilic, goody-two-shoes, that’s the kind of thing you look forward to doing when you grow up.
- I used to work for a design/architecture studio owned by a Muslim Pakistani woman and her English Protestant husband. One day the other employees and I were driving over to see the construction of our new office. I offered around some Necco wafers and we discovered that we were all raised Catholic and had all played Communion with them while growing up. We assumed that if our laughing led to a tragic car accident, decimating the entire staff, our bosses would not understand that we were struck down for our blasphemy.
- During my last year in Boston, I lived in the way-gay South End, from which I could easily ride my back across the river and over into Cambridge, where I worked for a children's-book publisher. My route through the Kendall Square area took me right past the Necco factory, which blasted me with that distinctive Necco smell. (At least on the days when the smell wasn't that of those waxy, foil-wrapped holiday chocolates.)
I made the tactical error of buying a bag of candy conversation hearts on my way to work this morning, because I’m festive kind of guy. Unfortunately, I’m also the kind of guy who has no self-restraint when candy is involved, so it's not even lunchtime and now I’m sugar-crashing so hard I might slip into a coma.
So Worst. Sex. Ever. was a total hit last night. Way more, I think, than anyone involved thought it would possibly be. Chris was worried that she might not scrape together enough in ticket sales to pay for the lighting guy, but that fear evaporated when we realized that people were lining up outside the door to get in. I think about 40 people had to be turned away, even after peope were let in to just sit on the floor of the space. The crowd was totally into it, and the brave souls who read their sorry tales totally rocked the mic.
I can not stress this enough: the readers were great, and kept us all in stitches, occasionally having us squirm in emotional or physical sympathy. Yes, it is funny because it's true.
It was also good to see some props given to the kind of bloggers that I’ve been trying to keep up with over the years: not ranty political bloggers or hand-wringing teenagers, but really smart and funny people who love to write and spin a good yarn, and who gravitated to the web as a way to tell stories or vent a little in an easy, no-fuss kind of way.
The whole event really made me think about how much I’ve neglected UltraSparky for a while now, or at least not used it the same way as I once did. that’s all fine and good, because the space is mine to do with as I please, but I guess the point is that I’ve gotten lazy about doing anything with it that I’d like to do.
I started blogging as a way to work on my writing, and it energized me and helped me in ways I wouldn't have guessed. After a couple of years, though, when I found myself in that spot where I was writing out of a certain desperatin to get a grip on my very troubled head and heart, the notion of maintaining this site for pleasure fell by the wayside. When I got my self back together and got back on track with one extraordinarily special individual who gives me a natural sounding board for my daily musings and whatnot, this site became an occasional chore or memo board.
As Charlie and I kept saying last night, we still have plenty of stories left to tell (and plenty of stories left to experience) but maybe we just need to remind ourselves once in a while that there's some payoff of some kind or another in making the effort to tell them now and again.
I was too lazy last week to mention how much this Times article struck a chord with me, but it certainly gave me a moment to feel grateful that someone, somewhere paused to acknowledge the plight of the friendly nerd. I happily dispense technical advice on a regular basis, since I feel like most stuff I know isn't that hard for people to work out once they're given a little direction. I’m occasionally stunned, though, by certain questions that seem to appear out of nowhere from the shadowy, distant time before computers were an everyday thing.
A regular reader of this site (I’m sorry to use you as an example, because I’m not mad or anything, but it's just a good example) wrote me this morning to ask about the "Hello" message that came from me (or rather, came in an e-mail with my address in the header). He said he didn't seem to have the right software to open up the .scr file attached to the message, and he was wondering what I e-mailed because there was no explanation. Strangely enough, the MyDoom mail that dissipated after the last couple of weeks suddenly started flooding my inbox again. Sigh.
Kids, be careful out there, and pay a little more attention. Nerds can only do so much to help if you're not trying on your own.
(P.S.: I don't want to do too much Mac-user gloating, as that may only invite karmic retribution, but I’m willing to point to others doing so as they address this problem in this thread from the Apple support forum.)