I believe in Helvetica

For Daniel Brooks, Helvetica doesn’t even exist.

{ via FFFFOUND! }

For me, this artwork is like lettuce. Mostly it’s just dots (or water, if we’re talking about the lettuce). Only a very small percentage of it has any meaningful substance.  And in both cases, it’s that little bit of something that makes it more than just nothing.

I believe in Helvetica.

(I also really like lettuce).

What do you believe in?

New Year, New Words

The new year is upon us, and a new year calls for new words. Well, new to me, and new for now. Though I expect the recency illusion will do its magic soon enough.

1: Banjaxed

Official definition:

Wiki definition: Broken, ruined, shattered. Tired, sleepy, and cream crackered (which, it turns out, is Cockney rhyming slang for ‘knackered’. Thank you, Wiktionary).

My definition: Scattered, spent, shagged out after a long squawk.

First encountered: When used by a jetlagged and tweeting Stephen Fry: “I’m wandering about in a spaced-out daze, still banjaxed by the loss of Monday”. I’m going to borrow that, soon, and in the same context. I have a feeling that banjaxed is the perfect way to describe the state of one’s mind, having flown to the other side of the planet, arriving several hours before the departure time.

Liked because: As a word it is apt, yet somewhat goofy. Banjaxed. It rings with the stereotypical 1930s era from whence it came (streetcars, zoot suits and speakeasy slang).

2:  Tephra

Official definition:

Wiki definition: Solid material thrown into the air by volcanic eruption. An uncountable noun — like fish, sheep, etcetera (not fishes, sheeps, etceteras).

My definition: Not the liquid hot magma bit. More than just the ash, and not just the rock. Rather, all the rock and ash and pumice and dust and silt and ‘stuff’. Tephra is all the dangerous, damaging bits. Just ask Pompeii.

First encountered: In National Geographic Magazine, ‘Reuniting a River’, published December 2008, regarding the eruption of Mount Mazama, in Oregon, USA, 7700 years ago.

Liked because: Phoenetically, tephra is an airy word, with the swish of smoother-than-smooth teflon. But it is also homonymously affected by the potential gore of  ‘nephrology’ (regarding the kidney); the ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti; and Nephrite Jade (used by the ancients as jewellerey, and by the Maoris for making fierce weapons). Tephra therefore sounds light and whimsical, exotic and dangerous all at the same time. It is strange, and therefore interesting.

3. Apricity

Official definition:

Wiki definition: The warmth of the sun in winter.

My definition: If a word hasn’t been altered in any momentous manner since 1623, it must be because the definition was perfect from the beginning, and remains so. I’ll stick with “the warmness of the sun in winter”.

First encountered: Reading Reading The OED, by Ammon Shea. A book that I instantly lusted after, and instantly needed to buy. How could I resist this blurb?:

“I’m reading the OED so you don’t have to. If you are interested in vocabulary that is both spectacularly useful and beautifully useless, read on…”

So far, however, I have only found time to read as far as ‘A’. But it is at the top of my books-to-go list when I leave for the US/Canada on the 8th of January. I couldn’t possibly fit the entire Oxford English Dictionary in my carry-on luggage (20 volumes, weighing a total of 62.6 kilos might overburden the overhead compartment), but one tiny hardcover couldn’t hurt.

Liked because: Apricity sounds like ‘apricots’, and apricots provide the downy, blushing, coral-coloured tint to all my childhood summers. Also, while I confess to sclathing* under Sydney’s searing summer sol, the glowing warmth of a winter sun is infinitely rarer, and therefore far more appreciated. When it is -25°C in Banff, and the inside of my ski boots is icier than a fine martini, I will yearn for the tingle of some mid-winter apricity (with a snowstorm chaser, please).

* Can you BELIEVE that the word ‘sclathe’ turns up only 81 google hits, none of which contain the actual definition‽ ‘Define: Sclathe’ = zilch! Something must be done!

Helmer (n.)?

In my mind, ‘helm‘ is a noun: most basically, the steering wheel of a ship. Hence, to take the helm. The person who does so is “at the helm”, and is called a helmsman (or helmsperson, blah blah blah). This applies literally, when talking about ships (avast!), and also idiomatically, with regard to controlling the direction of something tangible (like a car) or abstract (like a strategy).

But then I saw this:

Apparently the person at the helm is not a helmsman/person, but a helmer. A HELMER? Helmer: Noun. No, really? Considering that this was the Greater Union cinema timetable, I was willing to accept it as a grammatical anomaly unless a reliable second opinion could prove otherwise, so I turned to the most reliable second opinion in existence: the OED. And I was shocked:

Apparently, helmer IS a noun, and a specific one at that: a person who directs a film (etc). But note also, that it is only colloquial, and only in the United States, and the first recorded appearance was only 1974 (to me, half a century at the very least is a good indicator of a well-entrenched word) AND it’s still only a draft entry.

So I say ‘helmer’ is a dumb, made-up, superfluous word. Who says ‘helmer’ anyway? No-one. Because there is no need to.

A movie director is a movie director:

{ Tim Burton via OvationTV }

And a person at the helm can just be called a helmsman/person… er, or a Captain…

{ Captain Jack Sparrow via imdb }

‘Nuff said*, at least on my part.

NB. No honestly, I was inspired by the terribly worded movie timetable. The Tim Burton/Johnny Depp joint appearance came later, and as a complete fluke, which I can attribute partly to coincidence, and partly to a penchant for my favourite director and his favourite leading man.

* Not surprisingly, the phrase ’nuff said’ originated not with Stan Lee, nor with Frank ‘Nuff Said’ Catton in Ocean’s Thirteen, but on the stage of a 19th-century theatre. See true/interesting etymology about halfway down this article.

Reading: books (and into this image)

{ via Inspire me, now!, via Dark Roasted Blend (original unknown) }

Have the words fallen, or are they still in the process of coalescing on the page?

This could be the carelessly-written tale: the story that falls apart in your lap*, completely devoid of structure and theme. Maybe it’s a truly irritating story, and the little imps are in fact beginning to swarm at the reader, like a plague of literary ants. Or maybe this is what happens if you dawdle when reading: the words get bored with your dilly-dallying, and go off in search of a more captive audience. Maybe the tale itself is so dull that the words have given up trying to sound interesting, and are heading off for tea and/or a new place to hang out (preferably a fresh grid-lined Moleskine, or maybe one of these pretty hand-printed ones by shoofly).
Contrariwise, maybe those little letters are coming to life and jumping off the page, so animated is the tale they tell.

This could be one of those exciting, unpredictable stories, where the next sentence only comes into being a split-second before you read it, until which time the words just sort of mull about at the bottom of the page, waiting to form the next line. It might also be a sly strategy to stop the overly-keen flipping to the back page to find out the ending: if the words aren’t there yet, what’s the point? Have patience, young grasshopper!

* Have you ever tried to read a cheap, glue-bound paperback while lying on your back under a summer sun, using the flimsy pages as a face-sized sunshade? The result is truly Yeatsian: “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold”. Pages everywhere. Glue/wax doesn’t hold up under solar heating. Just ask Icarus.

At least it’s not a hanging chad

…The dangling preposition has just started to bother me. I’m preeeetty certain that all this time it should have been “Change In Which We Can Believe”.

…But I also think we should all just let it slide, because I’m NOT going to share the same grammatical bandwagon as McCan’t/Failin’ supporters.

ALSO, re: This letter on Salon

@ Blueflash
Damn snappy, dawg.
PS. I am not saying Obama is stupid. Obviously “Change in which we can believe” would just add to his uppity-elitist-arugula-eating image in a way that would not benefit his campaign.
I’m just saying that his platform is not exceptionally complex and his campaign style has not been particularly intellectual.

— Rosenkavalier, 11 August 2008
(my emphasis)

I hope this is sarcasm, or if not, that the humble pie is good at this time of year.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)

The Earworm of Change

This morning,
there is only one song doing circuits in my head…

Yes We Can
President-Elect Barack Obama
(feat. Will.I.Am)

By this afternoon (our time),
Will.I.Am will have released a new song, It’s A New Day,
in celebration of Obama’s election win
(see more on NME).

Of course,
Obama needs no melodic enhancement (see below),
but I’ll be listening anyway.

UPDATE: It’s A New Day here.
Nothing on Obama’s speech,
but heartfelt nonetheless.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)

America, you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House

 Democracy, News, Words, Wisdom

“A Pictorial Depiction of This Day In History.
Because sometimes, words fail.

Except that now words don’t fail, because President-Elect Barack Obama has the perfect ones. I am crying.

This is beautiful.

Part 1/2

Part 2/2

The Acceptance Speech of President-Elect Barack Obama

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It’s the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

It’s the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled –- Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of red states and blue states: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Sen. McCain.  [UPDATE: Complete text of Sen. John McCain’s concession speech available here.] He fought long and hard in this campaign, and he’s fought even longer and harder for the country he loves.  He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Gov. Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nation’s promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke…

…for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the vice president-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nation’s next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House. And while she’s no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics -– you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what you’ve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to -– it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington –- it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didn’t do this just to win an election and I know you didn’t do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime -– two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century.

Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how they’ll make the mortgage, or pay their doctor’s bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America –- I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there.  I promise you –- we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won’t agree with every decision or policy I make as president, and we know that government can’t solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face.

I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years –- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek -– it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it’s that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers -– in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House –- a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity.

Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.  As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, “We are not enemies, but friends…though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.” And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn -– I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your president too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world –- our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down –- we will defeat you.

To those who seek peace and security -– we support you. And to all those who have wondered if America’s beacon still burns as bright –- tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America -– that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one that’s on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing –- Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or Barack Obama family at his Grant Park speechplanes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons –- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she’s seen throughout her century in America –- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can’t, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes, we can.

At a time when women’s voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes, we can.

When there was despair in the Dust Bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes, we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes, we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that “We Shall Overcome.” Yes, we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change.  Yes, we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves –- if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time –- to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth –- that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can’t, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes, we can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America

(via Los Angeles Times)

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)

Nice graphs!

Feeling a last-minute pang of fear that it could all go horribly, horribly wrong? Here is a collection of pretty, pretty pre-election graphs to remind you that Everything Will Be Okay.

US Election Polltracker (Gallup) on BBC:

Gallup Poll on BBC US Election Polltracker

AFP via RealClearPolitics via Tolerance.ca:

US Election Poll on RealClearPolitics via Tolerance.ca

Today’s Polls on FiveThirtyEight:

Five Thirty Eight - Daily Poll, 3 November 2008

Percentage chance and (good-looking) odds at Betfair:

US Election on Betfair

Polling Electoral map from RealClearPolitics:

US Election Map on RealClearPolitics
Now we all know I’m terrible with numbers, but I’m pretty certain that 132 + 128 = less than 278. So even if McCain/Palin somehow manage to secure ALL of the ‘Toss Up’ states…

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)

The soles of his shoes…

From ‘Obama’ by Callie Shell for The Digital Journalist.

This photo essay is just incredible. Click-thru, and then ‘Show More Images’ until there are no more images to show. Then swoon. Feel the love for democracy and change and hope and Obama.

There is so much cool online and linguistic miscellany that I want to blog about right now…

… but it will have to wait until After The Election. I just can’t bring myself to post anything non-Obama right now.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)