Monday, June 14, 2010

Nietzsche is Pietzsche

Favorite graffiti ever.

Which of course brings to mind this:
And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.
I am only familiar with the line because I just got around to reading a piece in the Sunday Times by Randy Kennedy titled "The Ahab Parallax". It can be viewed in its completeness here.

Lovely piece of writing. One of the reasons one buys The Times. Just the sort of Mr. Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo to make me feel good about The Times again, particularly after staring long and hard at their new subway (check it out on the 2 and 3 lines) advertising campaign aimed at potential Times-to-Journal switchers. The lamest, most embarrassing ad campaign in the history of The Times. Here's a pic:



Here's another:



I didn't want to freak everybody out by using my flash, so these were taken hand-held, no-flash, halfway under the East River going, let's say, 45 mph (who knows how fast those trains really go anyway). To make your life easier, they read, respectively:

"Front Row. Every Show." and "Not Just Wall Street. Every Street."

I tried, for a moment, to transcribe them in a way that illustrates what is actually going on in the ad copy (specifically the typographical conflict of large font vs. small font; large font vs. small, underlined font; and small font vs. small underlined font) but it defies Blogger's font management controls. But the more I sat on that subway car, old friend, the angrier I got.

If you believe, as I do, that the battle between The Times and the newly expanded, New York edition Wall Street Journal is, in fact, part of the war between Good and Evil, and that the stakes for journalism (as we once commonly knew it and now barely do) are excruciatingly high, then you look at these lame ads and shake your head in anger.
Memo to The Times: Step it up, please.
Look at that ad copy and tell me you wouldn't have used two, not three fonts and the first one would have read "FIRST row. EVERY show." ????

Or "Not Just WALL Street. EVERY Street." Or, possibly, "Not JUST Wall Street. EVERY Street."

If typography is, to some extent, a way to provide emphasis on certain words or phrases--a guide to how you might read something out loud, if you will--then I ask you, dear reader, how would you read those ads out loud?

The truth? The truth is that some asshole art director took control of the project and came up with something that's gonna look interesting in his portfolio but which is, in the end, confusing and ineffective advertising. I wonder how many Times employees, people whose job it is to consider how type looks on a page, have sat on that train and wondered something along the lines of "WTF? I could do better than that!"

One man's opinion. Now, before we go back to our regular programming, if you are not familiar with Mr. Mulliner's Buck-U-Uppo, Wikipedia (which, believe me, dear reader, has its uses) offers this:
Augustine Mulliner, a meek and mild young curate, arrives in Lower-Briskett-in-the-Midden to assist the vicar, the Rev. Stanley Brandon and falls in love with the vicar's daughter, Jane Brandon. The young lovers wonder how to approach the fierce vicar about their love when a package arrives from Augustine Mulliner's aunt containing a tonic, Buck-U-Uppo (it works directly on the corpuscles) arrives. Mulliner takes a tablespoonful as recommended by his aunt and becomes more confident and assertive. The next morning, after another tablespoonful, he rescues a visiting bishop chased up a tree by a dog and firmly ends a quarrel between the bishop and the vicar, receives the vicar's blessings for his love for Jane, saves the bishop from being forced to wear thick winter woolies, and becomes the bishop's secretary. On returning to his rooms, he finds a letter from his cousin Wilfred Mulliner explaining that the tonic, mistakenly sent to Augustine, is meant for steeling the nerves of elephants in India ("too often elephants, on sighting the tiger, have turned and galloped home," he writes). Augustine promptly writes for three cases of Buck-U-Uppo!
P. G. Wodehouse should be managing the ad campaign for The Times. There is no typographical ambiguity in the phrase "Buck-U-Uppo".

Anyway, all that aside, the piece discussed parallels between the whaling industry back in the day (the purpose of which was to harvest oil from whales) and the modern petroleum industry (the purpose of which is to harvest oil from the Earth) and taps into some Melville scholars for some Moby Dick-related insight. I'll let you read it yourself, but let me just remind you that Moby Dick does not end happily.

Me? I save my Moby Dick analogies for macro-, not micro-, economics. Reaganomics, specifically. For, in the crisis on Wall Street and the crisis in the Gulf, we are surely reaping what that man sowed.

"And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee."

Note to self: Nietzsche is pietzsche ... if not overused.

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