Category Archives: Writing

On the Road (original scroll edition) by Jack Kerouac: paper versus oblivion

What was Kerouac trying to do by typing this early version of his classic novel on 120 feet of long strips of paper joined together with tape? How and why does this strange writing technique change what we feel about … Continue reading

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Science, publishing and writing style

Two examples of each today, and some ideas about outreach, power and sustainability: 1. Cambridge, UK,  home of Propagandum Towers and a university or two, every year hosts an excellent science festival. For two weeks thousands of people teaching and learning heavy-duty … Continue reading

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‘Only superficial people do not judge by appearances’: type, design and the spirit of the age #1

Wandering round Hereford Cathedral last week during a welcome few days away from Propagandum Towers, I found a display case of fine ancient books. They weren’t hidden in any way, but it wasn’t obvious what these books do for the … Continue reading

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Have you tried the new reduced whiches and thats diet?

You don’t have to be a professional writer to benefit from making your writing sound more natural. The words which or that are often stodgy and unnecessary. Following Strunk and White’s helpful suggestion – under their banner ‘Omit needless words’ – … Continue reading

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Leonardo da Vinci: Philosopher and scientist? #2, People in landscapes

What does ‘philosophy’ mean when we look at paintings? Perhaps it’s a way of making sense of our place in the world – I’m thinking about places and worlds as painters might, specifically as landscapes. I’ve assumed painters see (literally) … Continue reading

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What is synaesthesia? Why is it important?

Crikey – the online Random House dictionary says synaesthesia (synesthesia in more search-friendly US English) ‘is a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization … Continue reading

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Inventing the future – the earliest mention of the word ‘wordpress’?

Two ifs: if there was a search engine that filtered on the earliest mention of, and if we then looked up ‘WordPress’, we would find this, by James Joyce, from 1939: A bone, a pebble, a ramskin; chip them, chap … Continue reading

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What is the value of words? The euro crisis, Shakespeare and the 2012 Olympics

The current Greece-led euro crisis – #Grexit – may get a lot worse after the second national Greek election on 17 June. A lot (billions of euros) depends on a little (very small percentage differences in voter responses). (I leave … Continue reading

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Gramophone, Film, Typewriter by Friedrich Kittler (book review)

Friedrich Kittler’s spiky and complex masterpiece of multimodal media archaeology (published by Stanford University Press in 1986) was our first book for the Cambridge books-about-books group. Not an obvious choice: it’s not about books, but there again, books aren’t necessarily codexes any more. … Continue reading

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On being a bit deaf

If you are not deaf, you might know someone who is. The admirable Gallaudet Research Institute gives some statistics: ‘if everyone who has any kind of “trouble” with their hearing is included then anywhere from 37 to 140 out of every 1,000 people … … Continue reading

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