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the various and sundry creations of sylvus tarn
Via boingboing, another typesetting recce, Matthew Butterick's Practical Typography. He notes that the most expensive commodity for a writer is the reader's time, which was certainly true in my case, since I'd already encountered a lot of this material in Bringhurst.
Unlike the Bringhurst, however, this book is geared towards the professional who may not write for a living, but has to do a lot of writing, yet is required to produce professional looking documents themselves. I admit, I find it kind of amusing to read someone stress the need for polished presentations: so many author guides stress the actual writing, without allowing oneself to be distracted by ‘prettying up’ the work.
Frankly, I think it's more important to focus on the writing.
However, this guy is a lawyer, and he's speaking to the sort of folks who will not have their work professionally edited or typeset but still must meet strict standards, such as doctoral theses or lawyerly briefs. (To that end, some of his hints have more to do with grammar than typesetting per se.) I actually think it's kind of neat to have now encountered two different font designers who are primarily something else to do with words: a poet and a lawyer.
And at least he mentions LaTex, even if he's not very impressed:
Computer scientists and documentation writers, take note: straight quotes and backticks in software code should never be converted to curly quotes. Those marks are, of course, part of the functional syntax of the code and must be reproduced literally. While fans of LaTeX have often written me to trumpet its typesetting superiority, I’ve never seen any LaTeX-created documentation that’s gotten this right.
TeX was created a while back, so it uses straight quotes and backticks in order to make proper quotation marks; so naturally it would be difficult to defeat the default behaviour. Given that this guy has worked on Open Source, and is stressing the need for professional looking papers that won't be professionally typeset, such as briefs or hello, scientific papers (for which LaTeX is the standard) you'd think he'd be a little more generous. But no.
Anyway, returning to my point of limited time, though I enjoyed the comparisons of highway-sign font changes, even appreciated the reminders about basics (e.g., spacing around en and em dashes, at the end of a sentence, etc.) the reason I failed to finish this book was not the annoying snobbery but that I basically read it for as long as I had to wait for the (some quite large) photo directories to load into the website database; once I finished making today's page I had my ‘reason to stop’.
Still, it's a good primer, and will certainly get you started—though I don't agree that anybody can learn professional level typography in ten minutes, (nor even a reasonable approximation, which is closer to his real argument) nor that it's any easier to do well than writing. And the font it's set in is certainly beautiful though alas I don't have $90 lying around to purchase it (besides which for that kind of money I'd want print capabilities, and I suspect there are no font metric tables for Metafont, given the author's appreciation for same.)
And if this book doesn't do it for you, while I was trying to find the author's name of the last typography book I ranted over, I found this intriguing list of top 10 typography books that has all sorts of typographic goodies for you to check out.
Or you could look at the page I made with pretty flower pix in between reading (and ranting) about typography.
Also, he hasn't bothered to look. The LaTeX Companion documents the problem, and its solution, including tricky workarounds for other, conflicting packages. Grant you, LaTeX has a lot of cruft, and the various sub-parts, being written by different people at different times, sometimes conflict. But its (sophisticated) users certainly aren't unaware of the problem and for him to blithely assume they are is part and parcel of the snobbery I was complaining about earlier; moreover, it's not like you don't have to jump through hoops with Word or similar, in fact significant chunks of Butterick's instructions are devoted to them.
This is the same tiresome argument that bead-making is harder to do than beadstringing. Certainly the initial learning curve for making an acceptable product is steeper, but to do either well is difficult. So too with writing and typography. In fact, I'd argue that people are less likely to be able to judge bad writing than rotten design—I suspect the average jane could pretty easily tell whether a design suffered from the loving-hands-at-home (the horror that is microsoft office) as opposed to professionally designed than whether a given piece of verbiage was pro, given the drivel by professional writers routinely foist on the unsuspecting public.
And why should LaTeX be exempt from clueless n00bs? The whole point of Open Source is that everybody can play!
Oh, I have been making fugly, fugly beads. They might actually show up friday...Also, it's hot. And I saw a hummingbird enjoying the red monarda, yay. Yesterday I saw a monarch on the milkweed, which was good news. —Otherwise it's been all cabbages—one swallowtail, no red admirals at all.
Continuing with things Middle Eastern, I also recently happened upon a blog post about sites to see in Iran, and oh my goodness, that Shah Mosque in Isfahan is absolutely gorgeous. Persian art in general (because of the Islamic prohibition against graven images) is just chock-full of beautiful patterns and calligraphy, and I love both. Yum.
So here are some more patterns, if not as elaborate, in this drawstring bag.
found read about, via languagelog a fascinating website featuring chinese-islamic calligraphy which I think is pretty cool. (I think, somewhere I once upon a time posted chinese brushwork roman calligraphy—this sort of cross-cultural stuff is pretty neat, but I think the arabic/kanji writing systems cross fertilize even better, seeing as they're both brush based.)
The author also talks a bit about technique, including center and edge brush tip style. O ho! When I “draw” flowers (as I was practising today) with glass stringer, I definitely use a ‘center tip’ approach, at least with round stringer; when messing with actual (flat) brushes, wedge-tipped callig pens (or ribbon stringer) I'm inclined to go on edge. Of course, Chinese painters don't use flat brushes, so they're evidently moving the tip of a round brush to the outside of a stroke, hmm... —I don't recall any of my water-color teachers talking about this, rats. But then, let's face it, watercolor and ink are much more deeply appreciated in the Orient than here.
Anyway, speaking of water, have some water-themed beads.
July 4th is the day we celebrate our freedoms—freedoms that the US government is doing its very best to erode. And they will continue to do so until and unless we complain. So make your voice heard. Protest!
Man, it's a good thing I saw a really cool video about bead chain, and needed a quick'n’easy page to go-with, cuz I'm surely not feeling very patriotic. (both via "Making Light's sidebar article links.
Anyway, leaving aside the home of the (not so) brave and (certainly not very) free, here's a really cool video about bead chain which has the wonderful property of looping up as it spills out of a jar. I've been partial to bead chain since I was a very small child, but it never ever occurred to me to try this. Ah well.
Oh yeah. 4 of July beads. Cuz the way I'm going I'm afraid if I try to wait till the 4th, you won't end up seeing them till 2014.
Unless otherwise noted, text, image and objects depicted therein copyright 1996--present sylvus tarn.Sylvus Tarn