Archive for September, 2012

Quikscript–An English Alphabet for Everyone

September 29, 2012 3 comments

Proposing a new alphabet for the English-speaking world seems silly, if not outright foolish, these days. Just imagine the cost of changing all those keyboards, and why do we need a new alphabet, even if it is easier to use than the Roman letters? Computers are available to anyone with access to a public library, and of course people type faster than they could ever write by hand.

And then there is the most difficult problem–the way an alphabet forms connections between visual letters, sound, and thought in the developing brain. Our brains really seem capable of accommodating only one alphabet; teaching “learning” alphabets only confuses the student and makes it harder to learn the “adult” form of an alphabet.

This looks suspiciously like an argument against teaching handwriting at all, except in the most basic form; that is, for use  in notes and the composition of draft materials. This is not so much writing for communication as a private form of stenography. No one but the author need decipher the script, leading to an idiosyncratic style, of use to the author only. This is often what is meant by the term “shorthand.”

Quikscript is a dedicated calligrapher’s answer to all these problems and objections. To recapitulate: Kingsley Read won a competition to design an alphabet for English–the competition stipulated in Bernard Shaw’s will. The result, Shavian, represented an improvement over the Roman alphabet in many respects, but still had its problems. To further refine the script, Read circulated it to correspondents around the globe for their evaluation and feedback. Using their responses, he redesigned Shavian, calling  the new alphabet Quikscript.

Here are the reasons why Quikscript is a superior alphabet:

1) QS is specifically designed for the English language. This helps greatly in making QS more phonetic and easier to learn than our current alphabet. For instance, the English language has twenty-seven vowel sounds; the Roman alphabet has just five vowels. Quikscript has 15 vowels.

2) QS comes in Junior and Senior forms. The learning alphabet, Junior Quikscript, is conceived as part of the entire alphabet system, making the transition to adult writing easy; there are no contradictions/different letter forms for the same phonemes. And the Junior script (given in the chart at the left) is very easy to learn.

3) QS is an alphabet, not a shorthand. As with the roman letters, QS’s letterforms are fixed and can be learned by everyone. This is an alphabet that is easier to write and read than the Latin script–thus going far to solve the  problem of fluency and legibility.

4) The most common sounds have been given the easiest letterforms to write.

5) Similar sounds are represented by similar letterforms. That is, this is a featural script.

6) QS follows the one sound-one letter principal.

7) Senior QS features a plethora of shortcuts, such as half-letters, that make writing much easier.

8) Best of all, QS has a free online manual, available on the Quikscript page on Omniglot.

If we take a look at the history of writing, we can see a gradual movement from logographic systems that are difficult to learn and write to semi-phonetic alphabets, often reliant on the memorization of a word’s spelling. Quikscript represents a further step in simplification, efficiency, and beauty.     RT


Top: Quikscript Manual Cover. At Omniglot page. Public Domain. Bottom: Quikscript Alphabet; Wikipedia; Paul Tremblay; CC 3.0 Attribution, Share-Alike.


life, drawing class

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

superb work; enjoy!

Joyeux anniversaire, Claude Debussy!

September 27, 2012 Leave a comment


folks: on a happy note…!  RT

(reposted fr fellow-blogger x-ties)


Joyeux anniversaire, Claude Debussy!.

Such is true love

September 25, 2012 2 comments


The immortal Flamingo Dancer strikes again!

(reposted from Flamingo Dancer)



Such is true love.

Attaturk: Father of a Nation (Part 1)

September 24, 2012 4 comments

High on the list of RT’s dream destinations, Turkey has exercised a powerful fascination on him since shortly after college, when he ran across an old book on Turkish culture. Then he read Romilly Jenkin’s magisterial Byzantium: The Imperial Centuries and was completely hooked.

One could go on and on about the sights to be seen and the immense variety in landscape and culture encompassed by Asia Minor, but perhaps the most important fact to hold on to is the diversity in culture: Turkey is home both to 1) the great city Istanbul and the adjacent small but important section of European Turkey and 2) the deeply Middle Eastern region around Lake Van and the headwaters of the Euphrates-Tigris river system.  Gilgamesh and Herakles rolled into one (so to speak), and somehow the Turks have not only managed to hold the condominium together, but are actually enjoying a noticeable degree of prosperity.

How has Turkey been able to carry off this not-so-small political miracle? Surely Mustafa Kemal Attaturk, first President of the Republic of Turkey, deserves no small part of the credit.

Attaturk’s story is one of the more amazing (at a time filled with amazing stories). He was born in Salonika in 1881 to a middle-class family and served in the Turkish army during WWI. At the end of the war, with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, Attaturk led a revolution that modernized Turkish society in some of the most fundamental ways: not only did his party replace the old sultanate with a parliamentary republic modeled on western institutions, but the Turks also replaced the Arabic script with a modified Roman alphabet and replaced traditional garb with western dress.


By the time that Attaturk entered the fray, the Ottoman Empire was in steep decline. After the death of Suleiman the Magnificent (1566), the empire had begun to drift, at first gradually, then picking up speed during the 18th and 19th centuries. At its height, the empire stretched from the gates of Vienna in the west to Baku in the east, and from the Crimean Peninsula in the north to the border of Sudan. The Ottomans had gained control of the territories of their predecessors, the Byzantine Empire, adding some of their own along the way. But they soon found themselves facing the same problems that had led to the fall of the Byzantines: maintaining effective control over such a large area and dealing with the tensions that inevitably arose between the empire’s many ethnic minorities.

But doubtless the chief cause of the Ottoman’s decline was Europe’s rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes of  the Byzantine collapse and the fall of Constantinople (1453). The rise of imperial Spain, funded by a massive infusion of wealth from its new colonial empire, followed by the scientific, industrial, and democratic revolutions, proved more than the Ottomans could handle. Despite periods of reform–most notably, the Tanzimat (1839-1876) and the First Constitutional Era (1876-1878)–the Ottoman Sultanate was indeed the “Sick Man of Europe” at the end of the 19th century. Weak as it was, however, the sultanate retained most of its political authority on the eve of WWI.

It was onto this stage that Mustafa Kemal stepped in 1905. Notably, in his early years, he showed little interest in religious affairs, preferring a military career. After graduation from officer school, he served in Syria and Macedonia and took part in the Young Turk Revolution of 1908. Starting with the Italian-Turkish War (1911-1912), he saw action in the series of wars that cost the Ottomans control of Libya and most of the Balkans; he distinguished himself in the fighting and by 1913 had attained the rank of Colonel.

During WWI, Mustafa Kemal Bey continued his rise through the military ranks, ending with command of the 7th Army in Syria. The army was destroyed by aerial bombardment in September 1918, and this disaster was followed by the Armistice of Mudros, which took the Ottomans out of the war. Mustafa Kemal Pasha returned to an occupied Constantinople.

At this point, we confront the mystery behind Attaturk’s life–what compelled a senior military officer in a majority Muslim empire to embrace westernization and a democratic political life? 1) Part of the answer lies in the Turks’ political situation: though their fortunes had reached their nadir, a de facto power vacuum existed in Constantinople after the war. And power vacuums by their nature tend to draw out great leaders. 2) Part of the answer lies in Anatolia’s long history; it has always served as a bridge between cultures, and the influence of European culture has been significant. 3) And part of the answer lies in Attaturk himself. To begin with, Attaturk absorbed (and represented) elements of both European and Middle Eastern civilization; he was a polyglot, fluent in French and German, and with a knowledge of Arabic sufficient for him to understand and interpret the Quran. He was an autodidact who maintained a considerable library of books on technical subjects. He was a lover of nature who worked to establish a zoo in Ankara. And he was something of a bon vivant, enjoying waltzing, raki, and folk songs. To this we can add that Attaturk was married and adopted three children. Perhaps it can be said that he was open to the best in the many cultures he traveled through as a child and young man. While the Allied powers worked to partition the Turkish homeland (via the Treaty of Sevres), Attaturk had the vision and confidence to act.

One of the most remarkable aspects of the Turkish Revolution was the energy of its leaders. Starting in 1919, they signaled their resistance to foreign occupation and began to plan for a new national government with its seat in Ankara. The last Ottoman parliament, dominated by Attaturk’s party, met in Istanbul in the winter of 1920 and promulgated the National Pact, a declaration of six principals regarding the future of Ottoman territories, most important of which was the assertion of the Turkish homeland’s right to be a free and independent nation.

The Ottoman parliament was disbanded on March 16, 1920, when Constantinople was occupied by Allied forces; the first session of Turkey’s Grand National Assembly met on April 23 in Ankara, dominated by Attaturk’s Republican People’s Party.

By then, the Turkish War of Independence had broken out, a struggle which led to the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923.


Photos: Top: Mustafa Kemal Pasha, 1918. Middle: Ottoman Parliament. Bottom: Leaders of the Sivas Congress, 1919. All Photos: WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Ampersand Press

September 20, 2012 2 comments

Over the years, RT has dreamed of running a small press; no small feat, what with the cost of paper, distribution issues, marketing, and last but not least, production and printing. Of late, the e-publishing revolution on the net has taken care of many of these problems. And now, portions of Gilgamesh and A Daughter’s Song and Dance are very close to being print ready. And best of all, The Rag Tree itself is producing material that has print potential.

So, suppressing a small shiver of disbelief, RT announces the founding of Ampersand Press. The press currently has a WP blog and a Facebook page, and hopes to expand its net presence as opportunities crop up. The publications list is short right now, and AP is not accepting manuscripts until the three books currently awaiting publication are in print and on Kindle, but next year hopes to be reading new material.

RT is a bit breathless with it all, but in a good way. More updates to follow…    RT


changing landscape…

September 16, 2012 Leave a comment


Never say that B&W photography is dead…here’s a mystical image, reposted from t smith knowles.    RT

changing landscape….

Ken Crawford’s Knowing the Wind–A Book Review

September 15, 2012 6 comments

As hectic as RT’s existence has been this year, he hasn’t forgotten the promise he made (back in March!) to begin reviewing poetry collections by local authors.

And we have quite a collection to inaugurate this series of reviews: Knowing the Wind by Ken Crawford (illustrated by Tracy Herrmann).

Born and raised in Great Cacapon, West Virginia, Mr. Crawford fought in the South Pacific during WWII, then married and settled down in California, where he was a master mechanic at a chemical plant for 35 years. He started writing poetry on the long school-bus rides of his youth, and carried on the practice the rest of his life. KTW collects his poems from his middle years, 1965-1985.

The collection cites the early influence of King Arthur and the Round Table (perhaps the edition illustrated by Howard Pyle?).

Uh, oh, RT can feel some red flags going up: influenced by King Arthur, a book illustrated by a professional who worked at Hallmark Cards…is such poetry serious (at least by contemporary standards)? The answer is yes: Knowing the Wind is a collection of superior work.

There is nothing tricky or particularly technical about Mr. Crawford’s poetry–the poems are short, the diction is straightforward, the themes well known, the rhymes easily identifiable. If technique or the latest fads in poetry are what the reader seeks, he or she is directed elsewhere.

What we are dealing with here is broad life experience and wisdom; no hayseed is Mr. Crawford. Consider, for instance, the ending of “The Workplace”:

then think on it all (at least)

a year;

by then you may begin to know

that love, sweat, tears, and fears

and yes–

the workplace!

is built and measured

by the blood that

races hot within our hearts.

How seldom do we hear the workplace (and business) referred to in such frank terms! No quarterly profits, mega-mergers, stock quotes here, just the plain price of work laid out in terms that remind us of Winston Churchill and the perpetual war for survival. The line breaks and meter are varied in a subtle and satisfying way, the rhymes, unexpected and a little crafty, the themes seldom addressed (at least this cogently). And all in a tone that draws the reader in. Wisdom, indeed.

Drawing on its author’s early years, KTW has more than a few nature poems. This is a difficult genre to do right: maudlin sentimentality looms on one side of the poet, revulsion at physical reality (or the exploitation of natural resources), on the other. But nature is home to Mr. Crawford, and his fond memories of growing up in its midst are tempered by clear-sighted knowledge:

The stone wearied,

by roots,

by winter,

also knows the spring,

warmth, sun,

petals that touch

with love,

its crusty face.

(from “My Stone”)

or again:

Little acorn, how do you know

to be a great oak?

(from “Little Acorn”)

This is a god-bothered book, but this is the god of the vineyard, who creates beauty and love:

Love shall create oneness

where estrangement existed

(from “Alpha is Love”)

and again:

God don’t walk on people

with dirty feet,

I only thought he did,

(from “Living It”)

There is much more in Knowing the Wind: reflections on man and a newborn daughter, on mountains and mice tails. But what lingers is Mr. Ken Crawford, a life lived in wonder and wisdom, whether on a stone by the river, in a one-room schoolhouse, or in a chemical factory in California. It is a life worth revisiting, worth knowing.      RT

To order Knowing the Wind, fill out the order form at Anjali Online.

Photo: Chelidonium Majus; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

Introduction to a Daughter’s Song & Dance

September 10, 2012 Leave a comment


We are making progress on A Daughter’s Song and Dance; here is an excerpt:

Introduction to a Daughter’s Song & Dance.


How to Eat an Essay–Capers & Copy Style

September 8, 2012 5 comments

Copy style is a more mysterious thing than most people imagine. Closely related to copy-editing (the preparation of text for publication), copy style has to do with that most intangible editorial task: how to create the “overall feeling” of an article or book. It is the editor himself.

Given the roots of this particular art form, we should look at the goals of copy-editing, the five C’s: clear, correct, concise, complete, and consistent. All of this looks fairly straightforward (though untangling specific issues can be complex), and certainly necessary, but an editor (or writer) should consider the medium and audience: is the piece in question a poem, an essay, a  novel or short story, a newspaper article or a government report? Each form comes with certain expectations.

1) Newspaper articles and organizational reports. Here an editor needs the five C’s and not much else; the author provides the facts and a journalistic tone. For consistency, copy-editors rely on the newspaper’s style sheet or guide. In the Washington, D.C. area, that would be the Washington Post’s. As for reports in the DC area, (at least in RT’s experience), the U.S. Government Printing Office and University of Chicago style guides are most often used (though APA style has a considerable following, too). Accuracy and consistency are paramount in these fields, and the result (in terms of copy style) is a certain blandness; the news or findings must carry the excitement of the piece.

2) Fiction and essays. The CMS is king here; it gives a plain, unfussy look that doesn’t interrupt the reader. Often in book publishing, the feel of the finished work is tied to its appearance through book design.

3) Poetry. In theory, things are considerably more open here. A poet can use typography and punctuation as elements in his or her poems; think of e.e. cummings or Emily Dickinson. But it is helpful to remember that each of these poets was at bottom a formalist, using structure and repetition to shape the feeling of his or her work. And most poets today (once again, in RT’s experience) prefer a simple copy style, one that helps the reader focus on their words.

Plain is in; fancy is out–right? Well, maybe. In terms of *style,* we could start by considering spelling, that most standardized of compositional elements. The first thing that children learn (after the alphabet) is spelling–this gives writing and reading far greater consistency (and thereby far greater precision). And because it is one of the first things we learn, spelling is hardwired in our developing brains in a way that makes misspelling hard to ignore.

So much the better for the practicing poet. Want to jar your readers? How about referring to noodles as nudels? By using a phonetic spelling, the poet has brought to bear an entirely new range of connotations (and will perhaps affect the reader’s next encounter with meatballs and spaghetti). & with a single word, the poet has gone far to establish the poem’s copy style–misspellings (and puns) are fair game. & RT would add, why aren’t essays (which are the man himself) more prone to this kind of play? One of the most overlooked resources in current writing are the classic essays (and even the classic comic strips, which brought Dada to the American breakfast table).

& look at that ampersand!! goooolllly, gosh, and gee, what an elegant letterform it has. & what about letterform (i had to add the word to my dictionary to get rid of the red underlie-ning)…


it seems that with the net, even the cost of paper isn’t that big

••a consi

deration any more (or should tht be anymore?)

and I didn’t mention FoNTs,, did ieye?  



which brings us to the capers in this post’s title. RT is afraid he’s punning again…copy style is a caper, a way of breaking into the bank of good English style and diction and coming out with a hat riddled with bullet holes and a stash of the good green stuff–POETRY!!! && the other way to think of


is: you season lemon veal with salt and garlic powder (your punctuation)), and that’s fine…(BUt the main event is the capers, the copystyle).


Ya du whatcha gottta doooooo….. RT

••kazooah, kachooah!••

photo: Capers jar; author, Whitebox; WikiCmns; licence: CC 3.o Unported.