Tag Archives: typography

codes

I’ve come to find through my life that I like codes.

This thought came to me earlier today when I was reading Broken Days (the book isn’t really important, but meh). I was looking at the chapter titles. (They bug me, because the first letter is so much bigger than the rest of the word. The difference in type size wouldn’t really bug me, except that the ascender of the lowercase H in both Chapter and Thirty don’t reach up as high as the bigger initial letter. Also, the weight of the character looks heavier than the rest of the word, just because it’s bigger. It should all be the same!! [Omigosh, Monk-ism. o_o] But anyway, enough about typography.)

The titles are set in italic, but the typeface’s italic style is subtle, so I was inspecting it to make sure it was italic, and not just oblique.

That made me think about the words italic and italicized. My teacher told us the words are based on the country’s name Italy, where the swooshy letter styles came from. (Versus Germany’s Blackletter, which is angular and straight and strict.)

I’d never, in all my life (from about elementary school, when I learned how to use Word Perfect [I’m so old] and that there was something called italic), thought about the similarities of the words italic and Italy. But I love it! It was like a revealed mystery to me!

And then I thought, it’s like a code! Language is like code, and other languages are like other codes. Sometimes they can translate, sometimes they can’t.

Reminds me of when I was a kid, and loved codes. Like 1 is for A, 2 is for B, and so on. I’d go off of that and make my own codes. They were simple. I’d reverse the numbers (like 26 is for A, and so on), I’d leave out vowels, I’d stick the vowels at the end (like A is 21, E is 22, and so on), other variations. I even came up with my own written language, or code. It’s based on the English alphabet, so it isn’t anything special.

I think it ties together a lot of my interests. Languages (not really the grammar so much though :x), words, coding, binary and hexadecimal. I just find it so fascinating how something can mean something else, how it can be expressed in a different way.

worth her weight in gold, but not in typography

I finished reading Thousand Pieces of Gold the other day. The story was all right. A bit short in parts. I had to get used to how the book would jump spans of time. No, I’m still not sure I got used to it in the end. But it wasn’t too bad.

Polly Bemis’ story is so incredibly heartbreaking. It’s amazing, all that she went through, and she just kept going. (Well I guess you don’t have any other choice, if you don’t die…)

I don’t know though. The story seems lacking, somehow. I know, being a “biographical novel,” that it tells Polly’s life story, but in a way that makes it more story-ish. But it doesn’t really feel like either a biography or a novel. The beginning started well, the whole thing seemed fairly contiguous, but after being sold to the lady the story got more disjointed and jumped more and more from event to event.

I’ll just have to keep the book and try reading it again at a later time. Like I do with all books that don’t wow me. (The only book I got rid of after reading only once, or not even once, I couldn’t even finish it, was Mary, Called Magdalene. I expected it to be at least as good as Song of the Magdalene, by Donna Jo Napoli, if not better, considering the author, Margaret George, said she did research for her historical novel. But once I read that Mary supposedly heard an iconic idol talk to her, the book just went waaay downhill from there. I stopped reading at Jesus’ crucifixion.)

One part I found interesting, was Polly having to confine her body into special bindings. First her golden lotus, binding her feet so they were smaller. It made me think about other cultures where women had to change their body shape to conform to standards of beauty.

I don’t know much about other cultures and their histories (I am so ignorant. *hangs head*), so the only thing I could think of was corsets in western society. With the golden lotus, girls and women were limited in mobility, relying on servants to move them from place to place. With the corset, the women were free to move of their own accord, although I’m sure they couldn’t run away if their life depended on it. But it did restrict their lung capacity, and fainting couches were commonly used for when they couldn’t get enough oxygen.

And now? In western society women will starve themselves to look like models. I think that’s the most detrimental to health, no? We haven’t gotten much better. And in China leg lengthening surgeries are performed, where legs are broken and slowly stretched to grow more bone mass. Then there are those eyelid glue products in Japan (and other far east countries? I don’t really know) where you have to jab a stick into your eyelid just to get that eyelid line. I don’t know if there are any bad long-term effects with that though.

But back to Polly. Later, while she was still in China, it was mentioned that her mom gave her a bodice that would flatten her chest. I’d never heard of that before, and wondered why that would be a standard of beauty.—Although in Japan, with the kimono and the obi and everything, they had women looking like logs as well. I just don’t get it. But then I do live in a time when “bigger is better”…

Then even later in Thousand Pieces of Gold, Polly had to wear a corset! The unfairness of life! Going from one confinement (which she never quite got over — her feet had been bound for too long before they were unbound, and never fully regained their mobility) to another. I wonder if she willingly wore the corset after she got out of slavery, or choose not to, or felt she had to in order to fit in with other midwesterners.

The photos included in the book were a nice touch. They made the story, and Polly, more real. (I think the last photo of her is so cute!) Because haha, it being a biography doesn’t make it real enough.

Despite all of what I’ve said so far, the only real complaint I have is with the printing. The typeface isn’t a monospace one, but it’s set so large and dark that it feels like one. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Courier or other monospaced fonts like other designers do. I guess code runs deep in my veins. *laugh* But I definitely don’t want to read a book set in any such typeface.

What’s even worse is that I could forgive the typesetting (perhaps it’s meant for an older audience, who have poor eyesight), because there’s a much worse typography sin committed in the book—there are double spaces after every period! Gasp and shock and horror! Since the type is set so large, there is less leading required to make it legible and so it looks to me like it’s 110% of the type size. Nothing wrong with that. But because the type size is so large, the word spacing is also large, and therefore the double spacing is extra doubly large! And I see all these empty areas in the text, and augh I can’t stand it! As my typography teacher said, “You could fly a plane through there!” In this book, there’s more space for planes than at LAX!

I shouldn’t complain though, I got the book at my library for $1. If I do decide to keep the book, I’ll just give this book back to the library (they can make another dollar, woot!) and go find a nicer printing at Borders.

Madeleine L’Engle’s Chronos and Kairos

I really have to work on posting entries when I first think of them. I’ve got a few ideas waiting to be written. This is the first one! (Chronologically speaking in order of when I thought of them, as well. Funny.)

I read through my Madeleine L’Engle books over the past couple months, seeing which ones I really didn’t have an interest in any longer. (Of course I read through them chronologically: A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, Many Waters, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, The Moon by Night, The Young Unicorns, Arm of the Starfish, A Ring of Endless Light, Troubling a Star, A House Like a Lotus, and An Acceptable Time. I don’t have Meet the Austins or Dragons in the Waters.)

It turns out this is harder than I expected. If I were to go solely by story, I would get rid of The Moon by Night, The Young Unicorns, Arm of the Starfish, and Troubling a Star. But if I were to consider the whole book, the only title I’m still willing to give away is The Young Unicorns. It’s because the other titles have characters connected to the books I’m not giving away. Argh! Me and my sentimentality!

A bit of likely unnecessary backstory: the books I’m considering disposing of I’ve read only once or twice before this winter (except Troubling a Star, which I’ve read a few times), and probably bought only to read more about Ms. L’Engle’s characters. For the most part, I find them somewhat dry and dragging. Possibly because of the printing. If it looks like it came from the ’90s, I tend to read the story as dry.

Seriously, newspaper-quality paper and thick type? Come on! How much money were these publishers trying to save here? How much money did they really make in the long run? Especially A House Like a Lotus. I don’t know what typeface was used, but it looks like a modern typeface. In a book? Yuck.

Back to the original topic. If I take into account the characters in the books, I really want to keep Arm of the Starfish because it has Polly (Poly?) O’Keefe in it. Don’t really care for the story (never liked mysteries; once I read it the first time, the re-read value goes down by about 95%), but I like seeing how different she is from in AHLaL. I see growth, change, damage from your average high school setting.

Since I’m keeping Adam Eddington’s story before ARoEL, I feel like I should keep TMbN for Vicky. Zachary Gray is also in TMbN, who’s also in ARoEL and AAT. (Ooh, even longer period of development!) After that, I begin to think I should keep TaS just to wrap up the whole Adam/Vicky story, although I figure I can just remember that they stay connected. (One time I tried reading TaS again and I couldn’t even finish it. Do you know how rare an occurance that is?)

So I end up giving away only TYU and TaS. TaS is a fairly thick book; I’ll gain lots of bookshelf space giving that book away. Which is the main reason I’m reading through the books. (Mum made me a new bookshelf last summer for the foot of my bed where I can put my comics and some DVDs and CDs, and already I’ve got a stack of books about two feet tall with no place to go!)

AotS and TMbN are thin books, they won’t take up much shelf space. But it bugs me that these books are sitting on my shelf that I never ever ever plan to read ever again! Unless I’m really bored with whatever else I have. *twitch*

A comment about the two later Polly books: I know the two fit into two different series (does AHLaL go in with the Chronos books? it does have Zachary … but then he shows up in a Kairos book as well…), one is more grounded in reality and the other is more of a fantasy. But still. Does Polly feel like a completely different character in each book? Or is it just my mind yet again getting influenced by appearances (this time the covers), so AHLaL feels more dry (the type doesn’t help either :P) and AAT is rich and fun?

I know in AHLaL she’s recovering from a deep hurt, and she’s around people who aren’t her grandparents (everyone cleans up for their loving grandparents, right?), but still. The AAT Polly seems younger. And some other stuff that would come to mind better if I weren’t writing this at 1:30 in the morning. Wow, I typed a lot. Why do I always do that? And writing school papers just sucks hardcore! I’m lucky if I come up with the bare minimum required.