austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

My baby just wrote me a letter

Cursive handwriting has a long and storied history dating back to the late eighth century, when it was discovered storying one's history allowed it to keep better though the winter months and not spoil so obviously during the heat of summer. Handwriting took off during the Carolingian Renaissance when, owing to Charlemagne's influence, people finally stopped poking their hands out the school bus window so often.

With more people making it to adulthood with one or more hands, there was the need to do something with them, and writing seemed harmless enough. Cursive was added as Charlemagne himself discovered it made his annual family letters the more exciting for his friends, who sat up nights trying to work out what he wrote. It would be the late 12th century before anyone worked out ``the suzeranity of Grimoald'', and it's still come out like that.

Cursive handwriting is threatened with being lost. Cursive has been lost before, during the time of the Black Death, in the reforms of the Zollverein, or most seriously when it was left in an unlatched briefcase on the Sixth Avenue El train during 1943. Most of it was recovered by quick-acting FBI agents aided by New York City police and their talking dog Mister Wuffles. The only permanent loss was of the capital Q, forcing the Allies to use an ersatz ``Victory Q'' made of chicory and recycled J's. The normal pre-war Q would not be produced again until 1956 and even then people insist it's nothing like the old, which had a banana flavor.

Let's consider some common cursive problems and their solutions.

Figure 1
In Figure 1 shows the classic problem of a ``wandering baseline'', with no attention paid to where the bottoms of letters should go. They start off low, rise in the middle, then pop out for lunch and to get the car tires rotated, come back to claim they don't know who called this meeting, and finally going off to the stage right (left), chasing down Merovingian recidivists. A wandering baseline is best handled by strengthening the drum and waiting for the British Invasion to revitalize rock and roll, though in severe cases one may just sit up all night watching Eddie and the Cruisers.

Figure 2
The flaw in Figure 2 is the effort to write the word ``zygotic''. To write this word requires multiple descenders. This produces a risk of decompression sickness, the bends, or caisson disease (select one; may substitute cole slaw). The cross strokes further can aggravate dueling scars. The alert writer would rephrase, using a safer word like ``helium'' or ``banana'' (Figure 3).
Figure 3

Figure 4
Figure 4 shows an attempt at the capital ``G''. This letter has always been problematic. In the 1500s the doge of Venice promulgated an order of G-crafters who, through years of apprenticing and the aid of laser-cut stencils, could insert the letters to any manuscript with space left. Such leaving of space was mandated by papal decree in 1633, 1684, 1712, 1714, 1715, and twice in 1716 before the Pope got angry that nobody was listening and he went inside to sulk and the order was left to decay. The last known properly made ``G'' was lost aboard the Titanic, under its original name of RMS Titangic. Try Genoa.

Figure 5
Figure 5 is the Gemini IX spacecraft, from which astronaut Gene Cernan made his physically demanding ``around the world'' spacewalk, during which his visor repeatedly fogged and his heart rate exceeded 150 beats per minute. During this time he should not have been practicing his lowercase ``z'', and did not.

Figure 6
Figure 6 shows a classic problem in kerning, as the uniform flow of letters gives way to a sketch of a cute little doggie. This disrupts the flow of one's composition, as the reader naturally wants to toss a ball or a piece of popcorn at the doggie. The resolution is to draw a little doghouse (6A) so the doggie has somewhere to go until the reader's work is done.
Figure 6A

It will take time to fix your handwriting problems. Time may be applied for during any part of the 8th, 15th, and 17th centuries in Aix-la-Chapelle or Milan. Call ahead.

Trivia: Between 1945 and 1946 France's army dropped in size from 1,300,000 to 460,000; at the later date, only 110,000 served in the metropole with the rest dispersed through the territories. Source: The Vulnerability Of Empire, Charles A Kupchan.

Currently Reading: Great North Road, Peter E Hamilton.

Tags: humor
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