Squares

Shapes and Colors

Or rectangles, anyway

 

I don’t often talk about the strictly visual, but as an occasional graphic artist, there’s something that’s been grating on my sensibilities.

Is it just me, or is the general design aesthetic of software interfaces aggressively trending back toward blocky, bulky, high-contrast solid-color sterility?  Microsoft’s stuff is heading that way, so is Google’s, and even the Kindle update I got a few days ago turned everything big and square.

Things looked like this in the ’80s and ’90s because of low resolutions, simpler processors, and the fact that having any GUI at all was initially impressive, but have we not grown past this phase?

Did Photoshop disappear when I wasn’t looking, forcing designers to resort to MS Paint?

Does everything have to look like a social networking website?

But on the other end of the scale we have those that are pushing for cheesy skeuomorphism, which just adds a needless layer of nonsense between the user and the task.  I guess there’s no winning, is there?

I thought we had a nice middle ground of rounded corners, subtle gradients, and smooth translucencies.

So I wonder – who is this rectangular regression look appealing to?  It is ‘cleaner’, I’ll give you that, but so is plain text if that’s the only concern.  I suppose there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but the unavoidable contrast with the elegant designs of yesterday and resemblance to the restricted designs of yestercentury just make it scream “unpolished” to my subconscious.

Any thoughts?  Or am I just being persnickety?

 

Bene scribete.

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The Amber Ring – Now Available

The Amber Ring

At the age of ten, Sofia Corona saved the Fairwoods from the malevolent grasp of the Cedar Witch and her goblin army.

Two years later, she drowned unceremoniously in the lake behind her Oregon home.

In the months following the Heroine’s death, when the Fairwoods face a resurgence of goblin attacks, they are forced to turn to Sofia’s cynical twin sister, Maya, for help. Although she wants nothing more to do with her sister’s fanciful adventures, Maya comes to realize that this one last favor could give her the closure she needs to put Sofia’s memory to rest and move on with her life.

With her twin’s magic ring and faithful gryphon companion, Maya embarks on a reluctant journey of whimsical antics and unwitting self-discovery in this stark but humorous fairy tale.

 

My novella, The Amber Ring, came out last week.  If you’re interested, you can get it in good ol’ print direct, or on Amazon (US | UK).

Of course, it’s also available in digital form.  Amazon wants a dollar for the Kindle version, but you can download the book for free here – PDF | ePUB

Seriously, free.  So snag yourself a copy; what have you got to lose?  (>^-‘)>

For those who prefer Nook or iBooks, I understand it is soon to be released on those platforms as well.  In any case, if you give it a try, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

Bene scribete.

Bagel Guillotine

This is an actual thing that exists.

 

Bagel Guillotine?

For treacherous bagels

 

I guess it’s not so much strange that it exists, but strange how it’s presented.  For one, violently executing your breakfast is sort of grim imagery.  For two, it says “Slices Bagels Safely!”, which is really just telling you that it doesn’t trust you to use a knife like a normal human being without cutting your hand off in the process.  For three, bagels don’t have heads.

Anyway, here’s a poem:

 

“Guilty!” cried the piece of toast
(The one the bagel hated most)
And had a bacon friend of theirs
Escort the bagel up the stairs.

The English muffin wept and wept,
For promises she hadn’t kept.
She’d pleaded with the toast in vain;
He’d told her she deserved the pain.

The toast then strapped the bagel down
Upon the deck before the town
And wasted not a single breath
Before pronouncing bagel’s death.

“Have any last requests?” inquired
The egg whom he had once admired.
“Just one,” the breadly circle said,
“Regarding how I’m to be spread:
With cream cheese I go best, you’ll find,
But please, sir – not the salmon kind.”

 

Salmon cream cheese offends me.

And bagels don’t have heads.

 

Bene scribete.

Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den

A police cop

“Police police police police police police police.”
– Police

 

Oh, homonyms and homophones.  They let us construct statements such as the above (which, while a ridiculous thing to say, is a perfectly valid English sentence that could be rephrased as “Cops that are regulated by other officers regulate cops that are also regulated by other officers.”).  If you want some extra-specific vocabulary, the noun ‘police’ and the verb ‘police’ are polysemes.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find something inherently humorous about legitimately using the same word (and to a lesser extent, letter) too many times in a row.  You can almost feel the language glaring hatefully at you, like a cop (that may or may not be regulated by other cops) watching a criminal get away on a technicality.

One popular example used to demonstrate the importance of punctuation goes something like “John while I had had had had had had had had had had had proper grammatical structure.”  When we add some orthographic organization, this string of madness actually makes sense – “John, while I had had ‘had’, had had ‘had had’; ‘had had’ had had proper grammatical structure.”

Perhaps the craziest exercise in homophony, however, is the Chinese ‘poem’/riddle by linguist Yuen Ren Chao entitled 施氏食獅史 (usually called “Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den” in English).

In its written form, it’s understandable enough (if you know Chinese, anyway):

石室詩士施氏,嗜獅,誓食十獅。
氏時時適市視獅。
十時,適十獅適市。
是時,適施氏適市。
氏視是十獅,恃矢勢,使是十獅逝世。
氏拾是十獅屍,適石室。
石室濕,氏使侍拭石室。
石室拭,氏始試食是十獅。
食時,始識是十獅屍,實十石獅屍。
試釋是事。

 

It translates to something like:

In a stone den was a poet called Shi, who was a lion addict, and had resolved to eat ten lions.
He often went to the market to look for lions.
At ten o’clock, ten lions had just arrived at the market.
At that time, Shi had just arrived at the market.
He saw those ten lions, and using his trusty arrows, caused the ten lions to die.
He brought the corpses of the ten lions to the stone den.
The stone den was damp. He asked his servants to wipe it.
After the stone den was wiped, he tried to eat those ten lions.
When he ate, he realized that these ten lions were in fact ten stone lion corpses.
Try to explain this matter.

 

But, when read aloud in (or transliterated from) Mandarin, it becomes practically incomprehensible:

Shíshì shīshì Shī Shì, shì shī, shì shí shí shī.
Shì shíshí shì shì shì shī.
Shí shí, shì shí shī shì shì.
Shì shí, shì Shī Shì shì shì.
Shì shì shì shí shī, shì shǐ shì, shǐ shì shí shī shìshì.
Shì shí shì shí shī shī, shì shíshì.
Shíshì shī, Shì shǐ shì shì shíshì.
Shíshì shì, Shì shǐ shì shí shì shí shī.
Shí shí, shǐ shí shì shí shī shī, shí shí shí shī shī.
Shì shì shì shì.

 

It’s not perfectly homophonic because of tonal distinctions, but still.  (>^-‘)>  There’s a bit more variation when spoken in the other dialects that use the Chinese ideography (like Cantonese or Taiwanese), but either way, it’s really only followable in writing.

 

Languages are generally engineered to be as clear as possible, and where they fall short of that goal is something a writer should keep in mind – plus, abusing those problem areas can produce some entertaining results!

 

Bene scribete.

Font Squirrel

Squirrely

 

I’m not the biggest fan of squirrels, but…but I do like fonts.

Fonts are important in graphic design work, because writing text by hand is obnoxious and imprecise if you’re not a talented calligrapher.  If you are, then…well…good for you.  For the rest of us, looking for an appropriate typeface can sometimes be a tricky endeavor.

Font Squirrel makes it a little less tricky.  There are a lot of “free” font collection websites out there, but you have to be careful with most of them – a lot of the time what they’ll really indicate is “free for personal use”, which means go ahead and download and tinker around with them, but don’t get caught using them on anything in a professional capacity.  Font Squirrel, however, makes sure to stock only those typefaces which permit commercial usage for free, so you can browse their entire collection without worrying about licensing restrictions.

Fonts are organized by category, and each font has its own page with pertinent stuff, like its character set, example sentences, and even a tryout section to see how your own text looks in it before committing to the download.  For the handful of fonts that aren’t allowed to be re-hosted, a link to the font owner’s website is provided.

Anyway, it’s a handy resource for the budget-minded who get/want/need to design their own covers and promotional materials, and are looking (rightfully so) for a little more flair than the basic operating system defaults provide.  But, please, if you’re also handling the typesetting – for your readers’ sake, don’t get fancy with the interior font.  (>^-‘)>

 

Bene scribete.