Posts filed under “Books & Literature”

PRINCIPLES OF MODERN WEB DESIGN.

Your site should be hand-coded in minified HTML, with minified CSS and as much use of JavaScript as possible for ordinary functions that could be done with HTML and CSS. This will guarantee your loyalty to your current Web designer.

Always separate content from presentation. Then throw the content away.

When you place a slider at the top of your home page, carefully time the animation so that the information in any one panel cannot be absorbed before it dashes off to the left. This drives engagement. Specifically, it drives engagement with Dr. Boli’s site, which does not use sliders. Thank you very much.

Advertisements should be targeted specifically to viewers who have just bought one of the thing being advertised and have no need of another one.

Words in paragraphs should be too small for the eye to read, and words in headings should be too big for the brain to process.

Make sure to buy expensive software to make your site meet accessibility criteria. Make sure the software is not written by anyone with a disability. When people with disabilities complain that they can’t use your site, dismiss them as cranks.

Images should be inserted with no dimensions specified, and there should be large numbers of them, so that as the page loads the text hops around like sparrows under a café table. This turns reading your pages into a sort of arcade game, and your visitors will thank you for the entertainment.

NEW FROM RUNCIBLE.

Teach Yourself North Frisian with a Saterland Frisian Accent, by the Foreign Tongues Department of the American University of West Frisia. Astonishingly, this is the only book of its kind for English-speaking students. Available now in paperback, hardcover, or printed on loose-leaf salami from Runcible Publishing & Finer Meats.

“For all students of Frisian languages who wish to be taken for students of other Frisian languages attempting to communicate in a language with which they are not wholly familiar, this book provides a solid foundation.” —Journal of the Academy of Shady Linguistics.

“The figured pronunciations will provide hours of amusement to the dozens of North Frisian speakers who know English and relish the subtle comedy of a funny accent in their own language.” —Humorous Mispronunciation Daily.

“Hey, this is just the kind of book for my Uncle Lou.” —Quarterly Compendium of Books My Uncle Lou Might Like.

AN OBSERVATION PROVOKED BY GOOGLE FONTS.

At last count, there were 221 font families in the “Handwriting” category in the Google Fonts collection. This betrays a certain assumption among graphic designers: that the way to produce text that looks as if it has been written by hand is to set it in type with a font that imitates handwriting. But can you think of any other way to produce text that looks as if it has been written by hand?

Anybody?

Oh well.

MEMORANDUM TO STUDENTS.

Hi! This is your friendly Freshman Literature professor, Dr. Threadneedle, and since we’re doing this class remotely I thought I’d send a memo to everyone to explain a little of what you’ll need to know to succeed.

First of all, I know a lot of you have had some exposure to “literature” in high school, but you should be aware that English teachers in high school are kind of dumb compared to college professors. I mean, there’s a reason they’re not teaching at the college level, you know? So a lot of your teachers in high school probably thought there was some sort of “canon” of literature, like a bunch of books that are more important than other books and you should know about them because they’re so important. What goobers! The first thing you have to know to succeed in my class is that there is no canon of literature. I don’t know where that idea came from, but it’s pretty obvious that it’s kept alive by the people at Penguin Classics, because their jobs depend on the idea that there’s such a thing as a “classic.” I mean, it stands to reason, doesn’t it? So anyway, if you had the idea in your head that there was such a thing as a “canon” of literature, then the first thing you need to do is get it out of there if you want to succeed in this course.

Second, please remember that the only text approved for this class is Approved Literature 14th Edition. I don’t want to hear about anything in the thirteenth edition or the ninth edition or whatever. Only the fourteenth edition has the correct selection of non-canonical texts that all enlightened professors of literature have agreed to teach. There ought to be a word for the list of literature that everyone agrees is worth teaching, and maybe there is, but I can’t think of it at the moment. But anyway, remember, fourteenth edition. The others have some of the wrong stuff in them. I don’t know how it got in there.

Anyway, that’s it for now. I think you can find the reading for tomorrow’s class on the class page on the college site. If you can, maybe one of you can email me and tell me what it is, because I could never figure that site out. See you all on screen tomorrow!

“OFF” FOR “ON.”

It must be opposite day, or opposite century. At some point in the not-very-distant past, Americans started to say “off” when they meant “on,” and Dr. Boli does not know why they began or how to make them stop.

An example: “Weevil’s study builds off the work of the scholar Sir Martinet Weedwhacker.” (Names have been changed to protect the innocent, but otherwise this is a direct quotation.)

Here is an example from the New York Times as quoted by Merriam Webster:

Diets at the time, for rich and poor alike, were based off the humoral science of the ancient Greeks…

Now, a base is a foundation, a thing to be built on. Clearly if you build off the foundation, it means that you are building somewhere else. If Weevil is building off Weedwhacker’s work, that would mean that his work has nothing to do with Weedwhacker’s. If something is based off the humoral science of the ancient Greeks, it has nothing to do with that humoral science. It is based on something else.

But obviously that is not what these writers mean. They say “based off” when they mean “based on.” They say “built off” when they mean “built on.”

Dr. Boli would not hire any of these people as architects.

It seems to Dr. Boli that many of these peculiar errors in English—and he has no qualms about calling “off” for “on” an error—spread through the pedantic instinct. In the beginning, they are picked up precisely because they are rare. Everybody says “based on”; we hear an authority figure say “based off,” and we assume that, because it is not what everybody says, it must be a more correct alternative to what everybody says. These innovations thus take root most firmly among the middlebrow population who have some college education and a desire to be correct in English, but do not feel very confident of their own understanding of what “correct” would mean. The little snowball rolls down the hill and becomes an avalanche, and pretty soon your average middlebrow will hear somebody say “based on” and smugly correct him: “You mean based off, don’t you?”

This particular example is also part of what may be a more disturbing trend in American English, which is the tendency to use a word or phrase to mean its opposite. More and more Dr. Boli runs across people who consistently write “would” or “could” when they mean “wouldn’t” or “couldn’t,” and if that ever becomes standard usage, verbal communication will be at an end, and we will be reduced to the level of grunting and whining animals.

There may be no way to stop “based off,” “built off,” and the like from becoming standard English. But that will mean that the architectural metaphor is completely lost, and thus those phrases will be fairly good indicators that the speaker is merely babbling and not saying anything worth listening to.