Who(m)

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One of my myriad pet peeves is the misuse of “who” and “whom”. (This ranks slightly below using a clerk instead of a bunny to knot running shoes. The horror! The horror!)

In the Atlantic, Megan Garber writes “whom” is fading out of use, and will be “mostly gone in 50 to 100 years.” “Whom” will see me out, and the next generation will live in a world where the misuse of “who” will not ruin a chance for a higher station in life.

While not a Metallica fan, I did approve of their proper use of “whom” on their second LP. Unfortunately, the wonderful Bo Diddley got it wrong in 1958, setting the stage for hundreds of grammatically incorrect covers.

For who does the bell toll? It tolls for whom.

The Alchemical Thief

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The title sequence for “It Takes A Thief” (1971) remains one of my favourites. Unicase fonts, Don Grusin’s definitive 70s soundtrack, and graphics I still plunder.

So much of good design is knowing from whom to steal. It does takes a thief-but a discerning one!!

Designers were sampling long before musicians started using the technique in the late 1940‘s.

What keeps this from devolving into lazy (and actionable) plagiarism, is alchemy. The designer takes something, and changes it into something better. Jasper Johns, our greatest living artist, (and patron saint of graphic design) said it best;

“Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it. Do something else to it.

 

What do Lady Gaga and William Butler Yeats have in common?

The secret life of pronouns

First, the creepy part: this book is about computational linguistics, a new science using powerful computer programs to crunch words into dehumanized abstract spreadsheets.

Now, the warm and fuzzy part: The Secret Life of Pronouns, by social psychologist and author James Pennebaker, is written for laypersons and does a superb job making this esoteric science seem simple and logical. A review in the WSJ said it best, “”A good nonfiction book often feels like a new lens prescription: You marvel at suddenly being able to see what was always there.”

The author holds our hand as we walk into the sometimes Skinnerian world of word crunching, building a strong case that “style” and “function” words can be read like fingerprints.

Pennebaker caught my attention when he differed with the common analysis of President Obama’s bin Laden speech, and I immediately sought out his book.

I wanted to hate this book-and the theory, as I (incorrectly) saw it as an extension of structuralism. (I still have not forgiven Germany for structuralism or Stockhausen.)

But I loved this book—it revealed new avenues to consider language, and how the “how” is the “what”. (That’s the most Lewis Caroll statement I’ve ever typed.)

So what do Lady Gaga and William Butler Yeats have in common? Pennebaker’s analysis of Gaga’s tweets and Yeat’s poems points to both being depressed. (I didn’t need a Cray to tell me Yeat’s was depressed-read The Second Coming!)

Symbionese Literary Army (SLA)

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A new manuscript just popped into my inbox! There is nothing more exciting than picking up a new draft and grabbing a first read to get a feel for the potential design. The symbiosis between author and designer is unlike any other type of client relationship, and I’ve been really blessed in working with authors who write words worth reading. An honour and a challenge. Time to start cutting a grid and building a book that is so perfect the text pages are invisible. After that the cover, designed to elbow out all the other books on display in our ever shrinking bookstores.

Wounded Tortoise

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I’ve been asked to create a logo for my running and biking group-a crew of old farts aging very ungracefully. Years of 100 miles-a-week running, and 100 miles-a-day biking are catching up. That miracle drug Glucosamine can’t keep up. We all creak and pop going up stairs, and our PRs are slowing down.

But what other activity allows skinny old guys pushing sixty the opportunity to wear bright, tight spandex in public without being arrested? We all are starting to look like Keith Richards, except he has better hair. Well, Keith has hair, which most of us don’t. So we keep going, and celebrate the aches and pains with beers and bullshit after a long run or ride.

I’ve christened the group “Wounded Tortoise”. I love how that flows off the tongue. The logo, modified clip art, will grace shirts, and bike kits. (More spandex!)

If you see us early some morning, toot your horn and wave. We always wave back.

The Big Black Rocket

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Every Fall, as Summer winds down, I pull out Gravity’s Rainbow (GR) and crawl into this amazing book. I first discovered GR in 1974, and it fuelled much of my early artwork.

GR paid for my first art show in London. Luckily, I knew a bit more about Rilke than the Pynchon scholars, and a bit more about Pynchon than the Rilke scholars. I turned a little learning into a paper, an art show and a first class plane ticket.

GR is about myth, and the biggest myth is that this is unreadable. Granted, it is not James Patterson, but, neither is it James Joyce.

The Viking first is the reference edition, and all critical writing on the book uses the Viking pagination. And like, land, they don’t make it anymore, so the price has skyrocketed. My copy is worth more than my car. (But, not as much as my bicycle.)

So this year, I’m taking a new approach. My Viking will stay safely on the bookcase, and I will read GR on my Kindle. I’m not sure how this will work-I found I could not read Joyce on an e-reader. Bloom bloomed best on paper between hard covers.

Pronoia

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Pronoia is the opposite of paranoia, and aptly describes the mindset of anyone writing a blog. I’ve dabbled with Blogger for years, but have decided to make the switch to WordPress for the control it allows. Automattic was so pleased to have me swap they changed the W logo to an M for MCKY.