The case for cursive handwriting

I’ve been meaning to do a video about cursive handwriting for a while, and I’ve also been asked by a few of my viewers on YouTube to do it.

Before you watch the video, I want you to know some of the benefits of handwriting:

  • It works the brain in ways that typing cannot achieve. Every little movement of the fingers and the pen as they form letters on the paper requires many neurons to fire, whereas typing requires much less effort once you learn where the keys are. This article explains it in more detail.
  • You put more emotion, more feeling into handwriting, and this can be seen in the strokes, the thickness of the lines, the size of the letters and so on. When you type, none of that can be seen, unless you say it with words.
  • All of this mental exercise that is required for regular handwriting helps to develop children’s brains and also staves off conditions such as dementia in the elderly.
  • Beautiful handwriting and calligraphy can be admired as art, and they can also be read. A page typed on the computer and printed out is just that: a printed page.
  • Studies suggest that taking notes by hand improves retention of the subject matter.
  • There is a feeling of charm that occurs when one handwrites. I can’t put into words the satisfaction that I get when I put a fountain pen to paper and form beautiful letters. It’s almost hypnotic.

Here’s the video. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it’ll inspire you to write by hand more often!

A comparison of watch designs

Remember my video on watch bands? I intended to create a guide to watch designs and I got around to it last week. This video’s even longer than the last one; it’s almost 30 minutes! Get a cup of tea, sit down and get comfortable, because it’s going to take a bit of time to get through it!

Let me sum up my thoughts on watch design:

  • Elegant, classy
  • Simple, fulfilling its purpose as a watch, which is to tell the time and the date
  • Refined features that hint at the intricacies inside the case without flaunting them
  • Easy to use, easy to read: proper color contrast in the lettering and numbering
  • A joy to look at, makes you fall in love with it every time you see it
  • Sturdy, quality-built, lasts a long time (a lifetime even)

Watch the video for the rest of my thoughts and I hope you enjoy it and it’s of use to you!

More details

I love macro photographs and I’m glad to see that you do as well, judging by the wild success of my last published set of photographs on this subject. So why don’t I give you more of what you want? 🙂

I love Morgan Cars

Did I ever profess my love for Morgan Cars publicly? It’s time I did. I love them!

For years, I decried the ugly design of modern cars and I wondered where old design went. I looked at cars made in the 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s and wondered when cars were going to get beautiful again. About a year ago, I found out there’s a car company that never abandoned the old design principles and has been making gorgeous cars by hand in their factory in Malvern, in the UK, since 1909.

Skilled craftsmen bend the sheet metal laboriously into its iconic shapes and carpenters carefully assemble the wood frame of the car by hand. (Yes, you read that right, the frame is wooden.)

Not only are the cars made by hand and bespoke, but they’re also affordable. Would you believe prices start at £32,000 for a car made to your desires? That’s awesome.

I just plain love the design. I can’t explain why. It simply appeals to me. It feels like it’s meant to be, it fits in with my soul and it fits in with the environment. It’s so seldom that a machine, an artificial construct, feels natural in the middle of nature, but in the case of a Morgan, it’s a match made in heaven.

I’m planning a trip to their factory. I plan to test drive a few models and see which one Ligia and I like best and then… we’ll see! 🙂

Photos used courtesy of Morgan Motor Company

Details, details, details

I love photographing details. It allows for so much creative freedom — much more than when photographing whole subjects.

Fun with shadows

You can get wonderful photographs by playing with shadows. They’re used to great effect in portraiture (which is a subject for another post) and you can use them to the same effect when photographing objects or shapes, in effect sculpting the image with light. Here are a few examples.

Fun with blur

There are all sorts of blurring effects you can create, either when you take photos (when they can be intentional or not — but hey, sometimes they’re happy accidents) or after the fact, in processing. When you press the shutter, you can create movement blur or zoom blur. Or you can take a perfectly normal photo and blur it in Photoshop, which can also make it look amazing. Here are a few examples.

This one’s rotational blur, done by slightly overexposing to get a longer shutter time and rotating the camera on the X axis (the line of the long corridor).

This one’s zoom blur, which is where you pull the zoom in or out really fast while pressing the shutter. Zoom blur is fun!

This one’s what I call directional blur (I don’t know the official name for it, if there is one). Move the camera forward while the shutter button is pressed.

And finally, this blur is done in Photoshop. It’s a movement blur to make it seem as if the wall shadows are growing.

Have fun!

What can you do with corners?

Say you’re stuck inside but you’d love to use your camera and take some creative photos. What can you do? How about a play on lines and colors? You can use your very own walls and corners, and then you can manipulate the photos in editing to make them even more interesting. It’s a wonderful exercise in creativity. Here are some photos I took at home one evening, where I did this very thing.

Mel Blanc: the man of a thousand voices

I found and watched a documentary about Mel Blanc today, entitled “Mel Blanc, Man of a Thousand Voices“, and I wanted to share it with you as well. This one man has given me and countless other people so much joy over the years, that I can’t thank him enough. He’s gone, but knowing the kind of person he was, I’m sure he would have appreciated my thanks and would have been glad to say hi to me, if we’d have met, just as he did with all his fans.

Photos used courtesy of Mel Blanc and Warner Brothers. 

Shaving: art versus design versus profit

Where’s the art?

When I think of shaving razors currently on the market, I think of cartoon fights where everyone pulls out a bigger gun. Razor companies are constantly trying to outdo each other with more blades. If it’s not the blades, then it’s a “microcomb”, or a vibrating handle… which brings all sorts of other imagery to mind, the kind that has nothing to do with shaving, unless you’re into weird fetishes.

It’s the same kind of approach that software companies use these days. Their code gets so bloated, because they never take the time to clean it up, that all they can hope for is that hardware manufacturers can throw more RAM and MHz at the problem so they don’t have to optimize their code. Apple took a different approach with the Snow Leopard operating system: they took almost a year to clean it up, throwing out the junk. That’s why I admire Apple.

Made better through improved design? Not really.

On the other hand, companies like Gillette and their competitors lost sight of the art of shaving and figured everyone was a nitwit who couldn’t learn to shave properly and couldn’t take care of their razor, so they overdesigned their razors for the lowest common denominator. In the process, the razor became a plastic toy, not a tool, a crappy little thing you throw away instead of something you respect and maintain, because it keeps you looking civilized.

Designed for profit? Thank you sir, may I have another?

Because it became a throw-away toy, their profit margins increased. Because the razors no longer lasted a lifetime, they could sell more of them. You just look down the line of razor models from the Gillette over the years, and you’ll see they get more and more plasticky, with less metal parts. If they have metal in them, it’s not in the head (certainly not where the cartridges attach to the handle); that part needs to be plastic so it breaks after a while.

Don't let its flashy looks fool you. It just can't compare to a good safety razor.

The cartridges have started to cost more as well. A pack of eight cartridges for the Gillette Fusion ProGlide razor (the latest flashy gimmick from Gillette) runs about $30 at Amazon. That’s $3.75 per cartridge, and from my experience, they last about 3-4 shaves. By contrast, a pack of 60 assorted safety razor blades costs $18. That’s 30 cents per blade, and they last about 6-7 shaves. (By the way, I’d recommend that pack for those learning to shave with a safety razor, because it’ll let you try different brands to see which blades work best for your face.)

The real deal.

Wait, it gets worse

They also polluted the environment with all that disposable plastic crap. Now you throw away the razor, not just the blades. And the blades aren’t just steel, which is perfectly recyclable, but they’re plastic and metal, which is annoyingly difficult to recycle, because you need to separate the two materials from each other, and it’s just not worth the trouble.

It’s such a shame. I used to admire Gillette about 10 years ago, before I got disappointed with all the stuff they’re doing these days. I still shave with a classic Gillette Safety Razor, pictured below. I still keep my grandfather’s Gillette Heavy Duty Safety Razor, and plan to use that when my own breaks down. Things used to be simple and beautiful. Where did they go wrong?

The classic Gillette safety razor.

If you’d like to learn how to shave properly, check out my wet shaving guide. And there’s also a video, embedded below.

Image of ProGlide Razor courtesy of Gillette. Image of Merkur Heavy Duty Safety Razor courtesy of Wikipedia.

Quilling – The Art of Paper Filigree – Episode 2

In this episode, you will learn how to put together various design elements in order to create a veritable paper filigree (quilling) greeting card. It uses techniques taught in the first episode, plus it introduces some new ones. You’ll really like the result!

English subtitles available directly on YouTube. Click on the video itself to be taken to its page on YouTube, where you’ll be able to turn on/off the subtitles using the CC button.

Episode QARH-002-RO-HD
Released 2/25/11

Do you want to learn quilling?

In addition to Ligia’s Kitchen, we’ve just launched a new show today called Quilling – Arta de a Rula Hartia (The Art of Paper Filigree), with my wife as the host and me as the producer (and everything else inbetween).

The show is in Romanian, but we’ve got English subtitles for all you wonderful English speakers out there. And of course we’re filming in HD, so you can see all the little intricacies of the art, as my wife demonstrates them for you.

This won’t be a weekly show — we’re thinking something along the lines of monthly or sometimes twice a month — but we’ll do our best to make it a more or less regular show.

Stay tuned, I plan to launch a show of my own as soon as I can dig myself out from under all this work I’ve made for myself…

Enjoy!