Facebook Fatigue

James Temple

The Melbourne Age quotes San Francisco journalist James Temple (photo, top) on Facebook’s massive growth and uncertain future:

…there is also the issue of Facebook fatigue. I hear more and more people express reservations about the site, including concerns over privacy, aggressive app ads or a social graph that is increasingly cluttered with distant relatives and people you met once at a wedding.

ZuckerbergA survey… found that 51 per cent of Facebook users were “worried” about Facebook’s new timeline feature, which effectively resurfaces years of a person’s posts and comments. More than 32 per cent went further… “I don’t know why I’m still on Facebook.”

So far, the network effects of Facebook are so strong that it doesn’t much matter. You’re locked in unless you’re willing to cut off digital access to your social circle… Facebook’s lawyers… [note] “If people do not perceive our products to be useful, reliable and trustworthy, we may not be able to attract or retain users.”

Have you sold your soul to the millionaire in the T-shirt?

Fegato a la Veneziana

In Australian: Lamb’s fry (lamb’s liver) with onion and polenta. In Lyn’s version for dinner recently, no polenta, and the lamb’s fry was accompanied by onions and mushroom and mashed potato. An odd but workable mix.

Liver is offal, and offal is also called, especially in the United States, ‘variety meats’ or ‘organ meats’, according to the useful Wikipedia. Sounds nicer, doesn’t it? It has always been inexpensive (read ‘cheap’) and is so unfashionable now that a half kilo of lamb’s fry, one pound weight, costs only a couple of dollars from Glenfield Butchers in Glebe, Sydney. Good quality lamb cutlets can cost up to $42 per kilo, or ten times as much. Liver is high in iron.

Lyn and I recalled that while working in London in 1966 we (separately) were given a ‘luncheon voucher’ every day, a green, black and white slip of printed paper, a hangover from the food rationing of the war years. Worth five shillings and sixpence, a fiftieth of my weekly wage, it bought you a cup of tea and a dish of lamb’s fry and bacon, a filling lunch, at the local café.
Luncheon Vouchers
The vouchers were famously used as a form of payment in Cynthia Payne’s brothel in London during the 1970s. (Wikipedia) If only I had known!

I was in Venice for a month or so back in 1984 – did I have Fegato? I can’t remember. The bottled wine I bought I can remember: the light red, slightly sweet vino dei fragoli, ‘strawberry wine’, so called because it’s made from ‘strawberry’ grapes, which ripen unevenly and need to be plucked from the bunch one by one, leaving the green grapes behind. Or so my Sydney barber Sam Volpe says. That’s why there is no commercially available version of the wine, he opines: it is usually made from the grapes grown in someone’s backyard, and to obtain it outside the Veneto, you need to have some Italian friends who know an Italian neighbour who makes it. Ask around.

Show you care!


Show you care! When you find a chapbook you like, why leave the cheap staples there to eventually rust and stain the lovely creamy paper? You don’t believe that you’re going to be around in ten or twenty years’ time? Come on… It doesn’t take much to remove the staples and replace them with linen thread. Or any kind of thread. Then the chapbook will look nice and clean for future readers.

Tuxedo JacketAnd if you’re really picky, learn how to enclose your books in their own protective and elegant Tuxedo Jacket… I did.

Though maybe that’s going too far.

For the curious, here is Wikipedia’s article on bookbinding.

Jacket 5

Mina Loy, Paris c.1905
Mina Loy, Paris c.1905

Jacket 5: bubbling with poetry and more!

Mina Loy feature:

Introductory Chapter to “Becoming Modern — the Life of Mina Loy”, by Carolyn Burke

Unpublished Epilogue to “Becoming Modern”

Excerpts from reviews of “Becoming Modern”

Carolyn Burke interviewed by Pam Brown

Marjorie Perloff on ENGLISH AS A “SECOND” LANGUAGE : Mina Loy’s “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose”

Keith Tuma reviews Mina Loy, “The Lost Lunar Bædeker”

Kenneth Koch — Very Rapid Acceleration — an interview with Kenneth Koch. You can hear an 18-minute edited audio recording of this interview.

Feature: Yasusada: simple hoax, or something far more complex?

On YASUSADA : Eliot Weinberger’s original “exposé”, with a postscript

On YASUSADA : Kent Johnson : letter to «American Book Review»

On Larsen and YASUSADA : Kent Johnson interviewed by Norbert Francis

… and lots more.

The Gray and Lehmann Death Star

Some notes on the Robert Gray and Geoffrey Lehmann anthology «Australian Poetry Since 1788» (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2011.) Peter Minter addressed the 2011 poetry symposium (1 October 2011) in Newcastle, Australia, as follows:

Australian Poetry Symposium. Peter Minter will speak on the exclusion of modern Aboriginal poetry from “Australian Poetry Since 1788”, the new poetry anthology edited by Geoffrey Lehmann and Robert Gray. He will examine how Lehmann and Gray’s marooned neo-colonialism (circa 1988) whitewashes the rich tapestry of Aboriginal poetry from its so-called “landmark” vision. As such, and alongside the editorial sanitisation of many other non-Anglo poetries from its pages, the anthology will undoubtedly be viewed historically as one of the last gasps of white-Australian conservatism.

You can see a video of the talk.

Aboriginal poetry

As Peter Minter has noted in detail, Aboriginal poetry is treated with condescension and contempt in this book. Lionel Fogarty’s poetry is powerful, angry and not easy to read, which is exactly as he intends; nonetheless his is widely regarded as a major Australian voice. But in this book he simply doesn’t exist, along with half a dozen other worthwhile black voices. (You can see a 20-page interview with Lionel Fogarty here.)

But there’s plenty more bad news; read on.

Continue reading “The Gray and Lehmann Death Star”

Fake Computer Products

Apple Puts New Engineers On Fake Products Until It Can Trust Them

Apple is so obsessed with secrecy, it sometimes puts new hires (newly hired employees) on fake products until they can be trusted. Adam Lashinsky reported this tidbit in his new book «Inside Apple», and a former Apple employee confirmed it when Lashinsky spoke at LinkedIn, part of the Ars Technica site the other day. Here’s what the engineer said:

A friend of mine who’s a senior engineer at Apple, he works on — or did work on — fake products I’m sure for the first part of his career, and interviewed [faced employment interviews] for 9 months. It’s intense.

Names of horses and yachts


“These devices can be used for any moniker…”

The linguistic field of horses’ names in English is replete with bizarre combinations and unlikely conjunctions. There’s a reason for this, or rather several reasons. There are millions of horses in the world, mostly bred for racing, so each horse must have a fixed and unique name to enable fair and scrupulous gambling.

Fixed Names

The fixed side of things is strictly governed, to prevent the kind of fraudulent substitutions that are tempting to the professional gambler. Here is one of the Australian Rules of Racing: the rules allow “the managing owner to apply in writing to the Registrar of Racehorses (ROR) for permission to change the name of a registered horse. If the horse’s name is changed, the horse will not be permitted to run under the new name until the Document of Description or Thoroughbred Identification Card, detailing the new name, has been issued.” (Courtesy of RISA, Racing Information Services Australia Pty Ltd., a proprietary company limited by shares.)

Continue reading “Names of horses and yachts”

The black art of hinting type

In his online series of articles, type expert Beat Stamm* gives a wonderfully detailed introduction to the black art of “hinting” type, the arcane algebraic process that makes type on a computer screen look more like type, and less like children’s blocks. Warning: the article is not for the innumerate nor for the faint-hearted. It helps to have a degree in higher mathematics, which is probably why I found it entrancing and baffling at the same time: I failed General Pure Mathematics I at the University of Sydney in 1961. Boo hoo. Here it is: «The Raster Tragedy at Low-Resolution Revisited: Opportunities and Challenges beyond “Delta-Hinting”»
Here is the Introduction:

Rendering fonts on digital devices harbors the potential for incredible flexibility and convenience. Gone is the burden of carving individual letterforms out of heavy metals that are hazardous to the environment. At the push of a mouse button, the highly creative oeuvre of a seasoned type designer can be rendered at any type size and device resolution and on any digital output device—just because it’s digital.

Or so it seems. What tends to get lost in this MP3 generation of irrational digital exuberance is that font design, like playing a violin, is an analog process[1]. Fonts first have to be converted to digital. Now, modern recording devices can choose to convert analog to digital at an incredibly high rate of precision. By contrast, fonts have to be converted to very few pixels. There is no choice. The rate of precision is dictated by the rate of pixels on today’s screens.

Around 1990 the first scalable font formats appeared on the market trying to address this limitation. At the time, fonts were rendered mostly in “black-and-white.” Rendering seemed simple: Pixels were either “on” or “off,” for better or for worse. Fonts had to be “super-hinted” or “delta-hinted” to make them look “nice.” Since then, various “font smoothing” methods have been introduced, promising progressively “nicer” fonts thanks to “gray-scaling” or “anti-aliasing” and eventually “ClearType,” “CoolType,” or “Quartz.”

All these methods offer opportunities at making fonts look “nicer” on screen. At the same time they come with their own sets of challenges. Some opportunities or challenges are closely related, some are different, and some are mutually exclusive. One method may be better than another method in some aspects but not in others, and vice-versa. On today’s screens, I won’t qualify any method as “the single best on-screen font rendering method.” For sufficiently small type sizes on low-resolution screens, every method represents a compromise of some sort.

This website illustrates various methods for rendering fonts on low-resolution screens, along with their opportunities and challenges. It is not a “manual” or a “textbook” on how to “hint” in software ‘x’ for method ‘y’ on device ‘z.’ Rather, it illuminates various aspects of font rendering in different contexts. It is not all-encompassing, but hopefully comprehensive enough to show what the compromises are, which ones are avoidable, and which ones aren’t. With this insight, and with the implementation proposed in 6.3, understanding font rendering on low-resolution screens hopefully becomes choosing your own compromises.

© Copyright 2009-2012 by Beat Stamm. All Rights Reserved.

Peon of Praise

Christina Stead
Christina Stead

I had lunch one day last year in a café-restaurant in midtown Manhattan. I was used to being stared at by security cameras, but this place — one large room painted white — had sixteen of the things, all focussed on me, it seemed. Ugh!

Did they really need that many, I wondered; and did they need to hire sixteen people to monitor them? And what exactly were they looking for? Was I going to be tempted to steal — not an ashtray, they don’t have ashtrays any more — a knife or fork, perhaps?

A pepper-grinder would be a useful souvenir: good ones are expensive. I have one at home with steel grinding gears made by Peugeot, the French motor-car manufacturer. I use it every day: it is thirty years old, a bit rusty, but as good as new.

Of course restaurant pepper-grinders are not like the domestic article: they are deliberately gigantic, to discourage such thoughts, and if you tried to sneak out with one of those in your trousers pocket you’d be as conspicuous as Sir Les Patterson on a nudist beach.

I also noticed, not for the first time, that the staff were divided into two very distinct classes. There were the waiters — all men — who were young, Anglo-Saxon more or less, and talkatively polite. Then there were the bus-boys, so called: also all men, but slightly older, slightly shorter, slightly less thin, with black hair — rather more Hispanic in appearance, in fact — and completely silent, who simply cleared away the debris from the tables. I wondered what proportion of the compulsory 20% tips in the tip jar made it to the bus-boys. Australian egalitarianism and freedom from compulsory tipping had never seemed so admirable.

It seems that the Hispanics of New York City have added another string to their bow. In “Letter from New York” in «The [Melbourne] Age» one Saturday last year, a writer mentions author Jonathan Franzen’s “peon of praise to Christina Stead’s long-neglected masterpiece, «The Man Who Loved Children».”

I had a mental image of a peon — a Spanish-American day labourer or unskilled farm worker — hired by an unusually generous Jonathan Franzen, walking up and down Fifth Avenue wearing a billboard advertising Christina Stead’s book. Like a GorillaGram, or a StripperGram, only with a peon: HispanoGram, perhaps.

I hope the idea catches on with US publishers; we need more variety and more literature on the streets of Manhattan.

Drink, drank, was drunk

Today’s «Weekend Australian Magazine» features a story about Australia’s under-recognised naval heroes. It’s a good story, but one of the photographs carries a caption which reads, in part: “…the warship under his command, HMS Yarra, which sunk in 1942.”

Of course it should read “which sank in 1942” or “which was sunk in 1942.”

Americans sometimes use “sunk” as the past tense of “sink”, though they leave “drink, drank, was drunk” alone.

Perhaps it’s creeping Americanisation, like “cotton candy” for the older Australian “fairy floss” (though few American men would risk asking for “fairy floss”). Or “sidewalk” for “footpath” or “pavement”, and “suspenders” for “braces”… but who wears braces any more?

Or perhaps it’s the astonishing rise of the Internet, which took millions of dollars from the advertising revenue of our great newspapers, and impoverished them.

I’d like to, but I can’t blame the newspaper owners for sacking half their staff, including the trained sub-editors who would have corrected this blunder, and filling what used to be called “the color supplements” with recipes for Devilled Frog’s Eggs, advertisements for watches that cost ten thousand dollars apiece flaunted by “celebrities”, respectful articles about sportspeople and even tradespeople who once were mere servants (cooks, waiters, sommeliers), lists of “Tasmania’s one hundred most important movers and shakers” and other journalistic drivel.

I can’t blame them, but I wish it hadn’t happened. Then again, spending my weekend hours criticising grammatical errors in a newspaper is hardly a sensible way to employ my analytical faculties, when they could be invested more usefully in tending to the bees in my villa at Fulworth, on the southern slope of the Sussex Downs, commanding a wonderful view of the English Channel (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) or checking the correct metrical interpretation — translated to accentual-syllabic verse — of the Adonic fourth line in the classic Sapphic stanza. Dum-da-da Dum-da… dactyl and trochee… that’s it!

Dan Dactyl and the Mad Jungle Doctor

Dan Dactyl
Available on my homepage: A 95-frame black and white comic strip that traces the adventures of adventurer Dan Dactyl and his pals as they explore the South American jungles in search of the mysterious French poet Doctor Verlaine.

In late 2000 I began experimenting with cartoon narratives. My drawing skills are primitive, so I searched for raw material which I could adapt. I settled on a one-volume compilation of daily comic strips (1 June 1945 to 16 May 1946) featuring “Johnny Hazard”, written and illustrated by Frank Robbins [see note]. The volume is 60 pages long; the material I purloined came to 12 pages. I threw away the original story with its dialogue (a tangled Second World War tale of fighting the Japanese and later the Vichy French in the tropics) and constructed my own story with new dialogue. I also chose the panels I needed from different places in the original volume, and altered all of the drawings with an image-editing program. The result has nothing in it of the original save the brilliant chiaroscuro ink drawings of the original artist, Frank Robbins, and a handful of the characters — their appearance, but not their names, identities, relationships or dialogue, all of which I reinvented.

Paul Muldoon: the cuffs!


So what do you think of Irish poet Paul Muldoon, migrant to the USA, teacher of Creative Writing, and poetry editor of a weekly journal, flaunting cuffs whiter than his hosts’ teeth (tactical error!) on a visit to Washington to mingle with the crème de la crème of the political shark pool? For some strange reason this photo opportunity reminds me of my poem “The Duck Abandons Hollywood” (the poem is related to Ashbery’s “Daffy Duck in Hollywood”, though distantly, and the title is meant to remind you of the title of Cavafy’s poem “The God Abandons Antony”, though the poem is largely borrowed from — I think — Wordsworth’s “Daffodils”) as follows:

I flew my long uphill glide to immortality
solo, on flammable celluloid. O idle frenzy,
stockpiling cans of cartoons – and what splashy
comeback glitters next week? Fat chance!
this taunt from a gaggle of my dusky betters
dabbling around the lagoon – better? because
more ‘natural’! My siblings babbling scuttlebutt –
me, guilty? of what betrayal? Human gestures
dignify my tribe, those phantoms in the chalky beam
heal while they gyp and flim-flam. Past tense! –
yes, radical as any Method stratagem, my hackery
deified suburban angst, bum gigs, tantrums.
Steering thus through fits and suffering,
I grew complex – a troubadour could not but be
bisexual, I reckon, in such a wiggle rig. Vain
fakery, stars mutter, swapping their knacks
back and forth amid the smoke and buzz in Lindy’s.
I’m still chipper – no, those soul-sisters flapped
and cackled in my bad dream; they damned me, then
gulped their bubbly gush, and giggled – puzzling mirth…

I’m a chronic dope, sure thing, fondling this enigmatic image – oh, whacked out in my den I drivel, in spent or flaky vein. Up there my horrid flocks dis­robe upon that indifferent retina which is the paradise of quarantine – what’s each verbal mouthful worth, what are dreams patched up from – water-colours in a box? And when I tally up what booty this greed for godhood got me – numbers flicker, blank screen – my feathered bulk chokes on misery, and nods off with the spirits – mayhap in our 3-D Cinerama Hunting-Ground we’ll reminisce and chortle – crystal spirits in a jug of hooch.

Bucky Works


R. Buckminster Fuller called himself “the world’s most successful failure”. He hardly slept, and he drove himself like a steam engine from 1927, when he was in his early thirties, until his death at the age of nearly ninety. His patient and long-suffering wife died the next day.
In his youth he dropped out of university (he didn’t ever take a degree) but in his old age he was showered with honorary doctorates, and left behind a string of complicated patents and an archive full of drawings, plans and notes that weighed forty-four tonnes.
He coined the phrase “Spaceship Earth”. He wrote dozens of books and gave hundreds of lectures, many of which lasted ten or more hours. Generations of young people became enthusiastic converts to his belief in the need to build a better world.
He was charismatic, sly, pig-headed, and, in the view of many, as crazy as a loon.

Continue reading “Bucky Works”