Archive for July, 2023

Daring Fireball on Microsoft's New Fonts

John Gruber of tech/Apple blog Daring Fireball has a nice rundown of Aptos, Microsoft’s upcoming default font for its Office apps.

What I find weird about the whole thing is that Microsoft still hasn’t really shown any of these new fonts. They’ve provided glimpses of them, but mostly at large display sizes, not text sizes, which is where they really matter in the context of Office documents. I’m not the only one to find this curious.

So I took matters into my own hands, and created rudimentary specimens for each of Microsoft’s five new typefaces

All are better than Arial. I don’t use office, but as Gruber says:

it’s impossible not to encounter documents created with Office, whether you personally use it or not. Thus, Microsoft’s typographic choices affect us all.

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Live Laugh Love

Paste-up by unknown artist found in a railway underpass.

Yámana-English Dictionary

The Yámana or Yahgan language of Tierra del Fuego is an extinct language with an absolutely massive and wonderfully expressive vocabulary. The 1933 dictionary of translations from this language is seriously delightful, and insightful, to read. Every single page contains numerous examples of words for which English fails to produce comparatively evocative equivalents. Some favourites, with regretfully slightly improper accents:

Usip-isin: a man who has no proper place of abode, or acts as though he had none, being at home equally among strangers as at home; who lives anywhere and everywhere.

Uspi: to lie with the back to the fire.

Cilagagöna: to be overtaken by night when out anywhere, or in doing anything. To he out doing anything at the close of day.

Ciyoida-g: Not to feel, or much regret, the loss of near relatives.

Amun-ata: To draw up, shrink together, as any part of the body when hurt, as snails when touched

Ösik-agu: to call out from a distance for news. To inquire from a distance.

Gala-iela: to act as tho not hurt when severely hurt. To make light of severe falls and other hurts.

Access the whole dictionary in PDF →

Parc Avenue Sunset

A Radical Distrust in Certainty

I’m a bit too snowed-under these past few days to post much. So here is something from the archives, a quote from Carlo Rovelli’s Reality Is Not What It Seems, a book about quantum gravity, which I thought was a great summary of science:

Though rooted in previous knowledge, science is an adventure based on continuous change. The story I have told reaches back over millennia, tracing a narrative of science that has treasured good ideas, but hasn’t hesitated to throw ideas away when something was found that worked better. The nature of scientific thinking is critical, rebellious, and dissatisfied with a priori conceptions, reverence, and sacred or untouchable truth. The search for knowledge is not nourished by certainty: it is nourished by a radical distrust in certainty.


Book: Uses and Abuses of History

A snappy history book from 2008 which I picked up on a whim based on the quality of the author’s stellar Paris 1919. This book is about how history is used, mostly by states and governments to justify actions. Think, for example, of Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea and war against Ukraine based on their claims that Ukraine was historically a part of the Russian motherland.

The timely theme of History being used to bolster nationalism is repeated again and again in the book. Take here, for example, MacMillan’s take on how Western democracies looked back at the Second World War:

Victorian historians too often depicted the past as an inevitable progress leading to the glorious present when Britain ruled the world. And French and German and Russian and American historians did much the same thing for their nations’ stories… Such histories, says Michael Howard, the eminent British historian, sustain us in difficult times, but they are “nursery history.”

The proper role for historians, Howard rightly says, is to challenge and even explode national myths: “Such disillusion is a necessary part of growing up in and belonging to an adult society; and a good definition of the difference between a Western liberal society and a totalitarian one-whether it is Communist, Fascist, or Catholic authoritarian is that in the former the government treats its citizens as responsible adults and in the latter it cannot.” After World War II, most Western democracies made the difficult but wise decision to commission proper military histories of the conflict. In other words, they hired professional historians and gave them unrestricted access to the archives. The results were histories which did not gloss over Allied mistakes and failures but which strove to give as full a picture as possible of a great and complicated struggle.

In short, history is incredibly complex, and we should resist attempts to oversimplify it. These oversimplifications are often done to help bolster political agendas or even injustices.

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A further piece in my series of abstract videos. In 4K with no audio.

Song: Condition of Us

Condition of Us by Montréal-based band La Force.

On Adapting Manga for Western Audiences

Like many houses with preteens, my house has been increasingly inundated with more and more manga. One of my 10 year old son’s favourite activities is going to the library or manga store and reading for hours.

The New York Times has a beautifully rendered take on how manga are translated for western audiences. There are many subtle aspects, line onomatopoeia being different, and non-subtle ones like the structure of the books, which read right-to-left. Earlier books like Akira, pictured above, were flipped for Western audiences.

Since manga was first introduced to the U.S. in the 1980s, American companies have wrestled with how to adapt the genre for their readers. It requires taking into account not only art and visual concepts that are unique to Japanese, but also an entirely different system of reading.

Today manga is enormously popular in the U.S. and is published in something close to its original form: in black and white, on inexpensive paper stock, to be read in the Japanese style. But this wasn’t always the case.

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