fawny: le «blog personnel»


2003.12.30a – How to dig yourself out of a backlog of 14 accessible movie reviews: Triage. Do almost nothing but transcribe captioning and description errors and “issues.” Then blow the time saved by revamping the entire front page, redoing the header graphic, recoding metadata, and uploading everything four different times.

And still two more movies are playing this week. What have I gotten myself into?

(I will ultimately and at my leisure revisit them and write impressions, not that they are well-heeded. And my Smarter Cinéaste concept, which interested readers may look up, may finally take off in ’04.)

Nonetheless, at 62 films viewed, nobody has seen more movies with captioning and/or description than I have. Nobody. But what’s that? You drop in to watch such a movie now and then? ’Tis... to... laugh.  

2003.12.30b – The local Eye won’t publish me (bit of an odyssey there, most of it innocent, other parts not), but Eye, the $35-a-copy graphic-design magazine, will. Note the propagandizing of Web standards.

I only found out that the issue had made it to these shores when I saw a fellow on the streetcar reading it. Yet again impossibly unlikely, but that’s the sort of thing that happens to me. (How many linguists have I met at the Black Eagle, for example? Or blind guys wearing Bad Religion T-shirts – not, in this case, at the Eagle? How many sexy red-haired boys with brand-new titanium wheelchairs do I know?) I chatted the fellow up and it was delightfully strange, if entirely chaste.

Naturally, I gave him the blue card.  

2003.12.28 – Finally one reads Queer Pulp by the improbably-named Susan Stryker. (Reminiscent of Fifth Column–style lesbianised Tom of Finland drawings.) I love the priceless reproductions of now-ancient pulp novels.

Dig the copywriting on the cover of Peter Sinnott’s Young Danny. It’s typeset in white against a painting – design that on a Web site and WCAG arseholes will be on your case – of two sissies measuring the chest of another sissy. They’re all surprisingly muscular, but, in a new twist, only one of them wears leather gloves that extend past the wrist and terminate in web-like points. And mid-thigh boots. And a red leopard-print posing pouch. And a silver medal on a ribbon around his neck. And a general Batmanlike air.

A HOTEL HEALTH CLUB FOR THE GAY SET. You can sign any name in the register of this New York health club and steam bath combo. Just pay up. Once you’re inside, anything goes. The real lowdown on the gay hotel catering to queers and perverts. Everybody’s gay – from the muscle boy bellhops, down to the smooth-cheeked porters. Ring for Room Service and boys in black leather boots come up to your room to take care of your needs. Want ROUGH TRADE? Need a SWISH? How about SHE-BOYS? These are some of the services available for a price. HUSTLING BELL HOPS WILLING TO DO ANYTHING. THE “WAY OUT” QUEER SET.

This kind of pregnant purple prose is more joy-inducingly juicy than anything I could ever come up with.

Or is it?  

2003.12.23 – We have now identified our project for ’04.  

I take unhealthy pride in my unique skill set.

John Kusch

2003.12.22aHere we go again.

4 for "personal facts about joe clark"
What do you want to know? Grow a backbone and ask.  

2003.12.22b – The police have these semi-unmarked Crown Vics, with full police markings in dark bronze-green against navy paint. The markings are in some kind of retroreflective decal (no doubt an expensive 3M® product) and are difficult to see even in broad daylight standing right next to the car. The purpose, I recall reading many years ago, is to enable sneaking up on suspects while keeping the car nominally “marked.”

Of course, the fact that the car’s a Crown Vic with a slightly-lowered suspension, blackwall tires, hubcaps, ærials, and a cowcatcher up front gives the game away in any event. (Then there’s the driver, whose police uniform, including cap, may be indicative.) By chance (including the entrained chance that flash was on in my first shot), I captured the stealth nature of such cars. These are difficult, puma-elusive photo subjects.

Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser. Flash photo ‘illuminates’ decals showing car number [6002], police insignia, telephone icon and ‘9-1-1,’ ‘To Serve and Protect’ slogan, and body-side stripes. In daylight photo, no markings are visible save for vestigial insignia

Note they’re still using Helvetica. That deed speaks too, people. (It speaks to the availability of Letrasign.)

So why aren’t hotshot guys ricing out IS300 Lexi with decals like these? (Oh, wait. Somebody’s halfway there.)  

2003.12.19 – I revel in the annual Vanity Fair articles by (inevitably) David Kamp, (usually) Steven Daly, (once) Marion Rosenfeld, and (twice) Bob Mack entitled “The X Snob’s Dictionary.” X has varied among the set {Rock {1,2,3}, Film, Food}. I nearly squealed manfully with pleasure at the first “Rock Snob’s Dictionary.”

But am I really such tough shit after all? How many entries did I recognize and could I define at a glance?

~ Snob’s Dictionary Yes No Misses
Rock 1 35 17 Big Star; Fender Rhodes; Nuggets
2 24 21 Delaney and Bonnie; Dion; Technics SL-1200 Mark 2
3 16 27 Dobro; Hipgnosis; Stanley Brothers, the
Film 19 12 Argento, Dario; Falconetti, Maria; Mitchell, [“Not John”] Cameron
Food 8 22 cardoon; Escoffier; purslane

(In order, the Dictionaries appeared in the 2000–11, 2001–11, 2002–11, 2003–4, and 2003–12 issues.)

Next? “The Font Snob’s Dictionary,” of course!  

2003.12.16 – In furtherance of my not-exactly-active KEEP YOUR DIRTY SITES CLEAN Challenge, I chatted up young Noel D. Jackson (business site) and we decided, on our own and for demonstration purposes, to recode Fleshbot in CSS, just to prove it could be done. (He did essentially all the work. His first log entry, and a later one.)

Only afterward did it occur to me that this is the sort of thing that Noel could get paid for. Remaking the three Nick Denton sites – Gawker, Fleshbot, Gizmodo – in compliant code would probably save money, would represent good authoring, would actually add accessibility for the first time, and would prove that gossip/porno/gadget blogs are perfectly viable environments for standards compliance. Blogs don’t have to use 1995-era HTML.

So I sent a snatchmail to Denton on 2003.11.14 (text file) explaining what we did, why it’s important, and why Noel’s reasonable (but unestimated) fees for recoding the three sites would pay themselves back.

Separately and throughout those weeks, I had some perfectly pleasant instant messaging with Denton and the other Nick, Aster, the site administrator. Aster said “saw your CSS design, looks great” and “well, I’m going to talk this over with Nick [Denton], you do have some very good points about this!” (2003.11.11).

The only response I got from Denton was a snatchmail on 2003.12.02 saying:

Nick A tried to make the sites as full[y] compliant as possible. There were still issues with some browsers we need to support. I think Nick A has been in correspondence with Noel on these points. Do let me know if you have any additional suggestions, but I feel you’ve been too generous already with your time, and I’m hesitant to ask for further help. I’d love to commissi[o]n Noel at some point. But, like you said, at the moment we couldn’t afford you! Maybe on some other project, or down the line.

I explained again that I was pitching Noel, not me. (All I would do is provide moral support and the occasional tip here and there.) Noel and I could not figure out what browsers could still possibly need supporting, since Noel’s CSS supported Netscape 4 for the first time (correctly – by giving the browser largely-unstyled content), and it worked in everything Noel, Matt Müllenweg, and I could throw at it.

At any rate, while Denton was claiming to be too poor to afford Noel, Gizmodo and Gawker redesigned, using, curiously enough, a CSS file that was identical to Noel’s in all significant respects, even down to telltale rel="bookmark" attributes on links. (My idea, by the way.)

But it wasn’t even a competent appropriation.

We did not undertake this exercise as a means of levering work out of Denton. I was never gonna make any money off it anyway. We did it on spec. But “on spec” is not a free gift. We were not “generous” to Denton in the way he seems to think. The CSS was and is Noel’s intellectual property. Believe it or not, intellectual property still exists online.

Nor is Denton actually poor.

In any event, a standards-compliant redesign would quite likely pay for itself in bandwidth reductions, particularly at the Dentonist sites’ high volumes. (A million page hits at a 26% reduction each adds up pretty fast. For the record and on this topic, I agree that the cost savings foreseen in a compliant Slashdot redesign are hugely underestimated.)

I did all this because I am a very big fan indeed of Choire and Jonno, the Gawker and Fleshbot writers. (I’ve been Gawked and Fleshbotted several times each, and nothing pleases me more.) I love the sites; I just want them to use 2003-era coding practices. For that to happen, we would need competent technical staff and something vaguely resembling honourable business practices.

I will make the point that entrepreneurs starting up Web sites cannot gloss over the issue of code. Code is the instrument of your properties. You don’t have to know how to code yourself, but you have to know the right ways to do it. Entire books, including mine, have been written on the subject. If your eyes glaze over when thinking about HTML and CSS, you need to be in a different business. You also need managerial ability. You need to recognize up-to-date talent. That means, in Denton’s case, that relying on Aster (and, earlier, Kottke) for Web development is not apt to produce industry-standard results.

Denton’s sites need reworking. They require immediate upgrades for standards compliance and accessibility. But after this episode, few developers skilled in compliant redesigns are apt to be interested.  

2003.12.14 – Sneaking in just before witching hour comes the absolute bestest music video of 2003, “Get You High” by the Chemical Brothers, who are generally reliable in this respect anyway.

‘Get You High’ screenshots

Watch it: Select uncaptioned format, or just fire up RealPlayer.  

Me among blue-LED Christmas lights and four Macintoshes

2003.12.12 – So these will eventually get dealt with (yo, Hyatt!), here’s a list of my fave HTML deficiencies in Safari.

Extensive numbering

In ordered lists, the HTML spec does not tell us what to do when enumerating more than 26 items using ol type="a" or ol type="A". Nor does it take internationalization into account – you’d be surprised what the last letters of the Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, and Norwegian alphabets are. (Even Spanish is different, canonically.) In any event, my testing shows that browsers handle long lists in the following manner:

x, y, z, aa, ab, ac, ..., az, ba, bb, bc
IE on Windows and Macintosh, Opera on Windows, Lynx, Mozilla, iCab
x, y, z, a', b', c', ..., z', a'', b'', c''
Safari. Worse yet, the prime marks aren’t even actual prime marks (′ or ´), and in any event, double-, triple-, and quadruple-prime characters are defined already (PDF):
Prime characters in Unicode
Unicode Name Literal Hex Renderings
U+02032 PRIME ′ ′ ′  ′
U+02033 DOUBLE PRIME ″ ″ ″  ″
U+02034 TRIPLE PRIME ‴ (deemed invalid in XHTML Transitional) ‴
U+02057 QUADRUPLE PRIME ⁗ (deemed invalid in XHTML Transitional) ⁗

Ultimately you run out of prime marks anyway. Inadvisable.

I slightly re-coded an old article with an ordered list of 392 items.
  1. Original: ol type="1"
  2. Alternate: ol type="a"
  3. Alternate: ol type="A"

longdesc on img

Poorly-supported, and nobody has a really good interface for it. Safari could give you a different cursor when hovering over an image with long description, and such an image should be present in the tab order and selectable that way.

Ultimately, Safari is gonna have to implement something like the Mozilla Properties and View Frame Info commands (in contextual menus – try Ctrl- or right-clicking any such object). Anything that’s a link in such resulting windows – cite on blockquote, long descriptions – should be a real hotlink, with title attribute available. (Mozilla makes you copy and paste the link text, except on Windows, where it apparently is a real ready-made link.)

All the images in last month’s log page now have long descriptions (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

longdesc on frame, iframe

Completely useless and misguided. Who gives a shit what a frame or iframe looks like? A “non-visual browser” (that is, a blind person) wants to simply use the frame or iframe. Nonetheless, they are part of the spec.

  1. Mozilla iframe and frame.
  2. The Linklist iframe on this page now has a longdesc, for no reason other than testing.

cite on blockquote, q

Another ill-supported attribute. Some people use CSS to style cite on blockquote [producing invalidity in the process (the citation must be a URL, not literal text)], but those are nearly the only visible renderings of cite. (Cf. Willison.) The obvious interface is again a different cursor plus a Properties contextual menu.

Every block quotation I use that has a citable URL gives one, as, for instance, the many available in last month’s log page (1, 2, 3, inter alia).

summary on table

The only browser I know that supports this attribute is iCab, which reads it out loud when you request the page be read out loud. That is a permissible rendering. What is impermissible is displaying it visually. (In principle you could render it in Braille.)

For Safari to render this properly, Safari would have to be able to talk. Only iCab does that, to my knowledge. And all iCab can do is dumbly begin reading from the top of the page. Speech settings might or might not interfere with the Apple screen-reader project.

A table from an old log page has a summary, which table is also available separately.

Attributes on a

As it turns out, there are way too many possible attributes on a (the hyperlink) to possibly keep straight, but two are useful.

  1. type. You can specify that the link leads to a file of a certain type, which is rather useful in warning people that you’re linking to a PDF. The list of filetypes has been frozen in amber to a certain extent and is not easy to find (Part One, Part Two; listing). You can’t add your own as new filetypes are invented. Useful nonetheless.
  2. hreflang. You can warn the visitor when the page you’re linking to is in another language.

In both cases, yet again, a different cursor could be displayed. I dunno. Something’s gotta be possible.

Any link to a PDF I’ve recently made, including the Unicode links on this page (1, 2).

Default accessibility features in multimedia

This is not going to be particularly easy to code, but it is obviously possible. On my recommendation, Acrobat 6 now features a preference setting for accessibility features in multimedia:

Acrobat multimedia accessibility preferences

You can set subtitles, dubbing, captioning (“supplemental text captions” – a Windows malapropism), or audio descriptions to play automatically in the language of your choice. How this would work in a browser is not immediately obvious; the browser might have to check the multimedia file for a SMIL, SAMI, QTtext, or RealText stream and take a guess. Certainly, if a SMIL file were loaded specifically, that sort of check could be made. I do not have all the answers on how to implement this one. (It does not even work particularly well on DVD players, where “subpicture” and description streams can be explicitly coded and language-tagged.)

Apparently this would bring Safari into compliance with UAAG 2.5, “Make captions, transcripts, audio descriptions available.” (Obey UAAG!)

Odds ’n’ ends of the odds ’n’ ends

I think enough people are already familiar with the other smallish deficiencies in Safari:

I already like Safari a lot, especially its character rendering. I want to like it more.  

I did not realize until it was finally possible to write them just how dearly I always wanted to write the following words:

2003.12.09a – One returns superexecutively – packed like artichoke hearts in oil aboard the Boeing aircraft with the offputtingly generic and peppy name of Super 80 that Ærolineas Amerikanskas seems to prefer – from Dallas (“<slash>Fort Worth”), where in fact nothing ever happens and where I was unable to spot even a single Starbucks.

One presented on “Low Vision and Web Accessibility” at the American Academy of Optometry conference, whose official hotel, the Hyatt Regency, offered 1999-era “data ports” on its telephones as a pretend form of Internet access. (The AAO also, at great expense, forced the Hyatt to set up a dismal room full of tables festooned with stapled-on bunting, power bars, and apple-green Ethernet cables. This was not at all the fun, convivial, happy-as-a-pig-in-shit atmosphere we enjoyed in the ATypI computer room.)

The panel was not uninteresting, with moderator Aries Arditi (he pronounces his first name to rhyme with heiress) also running through Roger Morrell’s presentation, as he could not be present.

Aries Arditi

Mike Fischer and Bill O’Connell, also from Aries’s outfit the Lighthouse, gave a useful explanation of adaptive technologies available to low-vision computer users, including a few that almost nobody knows about. There was a rather considerable flub in running a video of an outdated version of Jaws, operated by a neophyte, chugging through a couple of sites, where the default settings were presented as flaws in the program. That-all will apparently be remedied before the next such presentation. The point was that low-vision adaptive technology is easier to run than the overcomplex software blind people are stuck with, which is indisputably true.

And I just loved how the Woman’s Intuition was not speaking quite loudly and clearly enough as I stared at the sleeping PowerBook wondering... something. It turned out I still had ’er in power-saver mode rather than presentations mode, resulting in hi-larious dropouts with the LCD projector once I got up to the John Houseman-in–The Paper Chase–style podium.

Audience at the American Academy of Optometry

I did quite a bit of research into the sole leather bar in the metropolis, inevitably named the Dallas Eagle, but decided the rather extensive cab rides were kind of not worth it. I might have soldiered on had my disco nap not morphed into half a night’s sleep. As it is, the AAO presentation will be the last out-of-town gig I do for mere payment of expenses. I always end up losing money. From now on, it’s gonna be: You want me, you pay me. I do, after all, have an actual track record.  

2003.12.09b – Actually, I can’t hear the word “Dallas” without thinking back to the Roy Blount, Jr.–ism ten years ago in Spy:

[W]hen I served for two weeks as a guest columnist for the San Francisco Examiner a couple of years ago, I took it upon myself as a person from Georgia, whence came the case that led to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 1986 sodomy-affirming decision... well, I shouldn’t say “sodomy-affirming.” You will have to bear with me. I hate to introduce into this puzzle a personal note, especially one that may smack of special pleading, but the truth is that I am writing these notes on a computer. I have never worked on a computer before. And my sentences seem strange to me. But that is not your problem. What I was saying is that when I was writing a column in San Francisco, I felt it incumbent upon me to go into the whole matter of sodomy, because I am from Georgia. Which is where Bowers v. Hardwick, the big sodomy case, originated. And here is what I concluded: Sodomy is whatever practice the law considers loathsome. Sodomy is a loathsome-sounding word. Whereas rape has a racy sort of ring to it. So we ought to call rape sodomy, and rename various between-consenting-adults practices after cities other than Sodom. Some possibilities: new yorkery, dallasm, philadelphia, friscolity.  

2003.12.09c – An alarmingly straight-up and unsatiric magazine is, moreover, typeset in remarkably large fonts. Spiekermann’s redesign of the Economist? Nay, merely a trip through a latterly example from Ten Years Ago in Spy. Learn to write rock criticism the Rolling Stone/Spin/Village Voice way, and learn, moreover, how to fell a cheapskate millionaire through the mechanism of the initialed change order.

Hilarious, isn’t it? Like screwing up your laptop’s video settings.  

2003.12.02 – In an ongoing quest to push the typographic envelope here at fawny.blog, «le blog personnel,» I’m trying out a complete waste of time: f-ligatures.

There’s very little need for them in onscreen display. But with improved Unicode fonts on OS X and (theoretically) Win2K and XP, it should be possible to display them.

But first, where the hell are they?

Ligatures, renderings, and Unicode character positions
Components Ligature Code Word
ffi &#xfb03;fluffing
ffl &#xfb04;piffling
ff &#xfb00;puffery
fi &#xfb01;selfimage
fl &#xfb02;flouncing
st &#xfb06;pilaster

ct ligature is not readily available. The whole range is documented in Unicode FB00 (PDF).

Test file

I did a search-and-replace on last month’s Weblog posting, adding ligatures. I altered the default font to Hoefler Text. Your font mileage may vary, particularly on Windows. Admittedly I could have created a smaller test page. Maybe somebody else would like to do that.

Search-and-replace is not straightforward. You must limit the search to lower case, and you will inevitably clobber some HTML (either fragment identifiers, or attributes like hreflang, or Dublin Core terms like DC.Identifier).

Need examples to look at?

I didn’t use the st ligature.


Lynx renders all five as component letters. Amazing as ever.

No doubt screen readers will choke, as will Google. Plus find-within-page breaks pretty badly.

Just an experiment, people. But do please post or send in screenshots and reports.  

2003.12.01a – All right, I will go along with the trend for once. It’s December 1 (already), World AIDS Day. Here’s what Harvey Fierstein had to say in an op-ed piece on In the Life, the soporific and (as we shall soon see) Web-clueless PBS television series.

Take it away, Harvey. (From the rerun of last week sometime, maybe November 24. Love the dress, by the way!)

There are too many positive gay role models.... [W]e produced advertising, created enlightenment programs, spent endless hours making certain that having AIDS or being HIV-positive was nothing to be ashamed of.... [W]e now have a generation embracing AIDS as their gay birthright.... Many see HIV as a rite of passage, an inevitable coming of age in their lives.... seroconverting by choice as an entrée into the cool queer inner circle....

Is the message “You’re going to be OK,” which is terrific, or is the message “You want to be special? Get AIDS. HIV equals popularity and acceptance,” which would be tragic? [...] In my viewpoint, the messages the drug companies are now spreading are lies.... AIDS is not manageable. AIDS is a progressive, aggressive, debilitating, deforming, and still-terminal disease....

And even if the drugs worked as well as they are selling them, should we be creating a community of drug dependency? Dear listeners, we have done a terrific job removing the stigma of having AIDS from the general culture, but in doing so we’ve become failures at removing the disease from our community....

But instead we’re selling our next generation into drug slavery and their destiny to medical researchers all because we’d rather treat each other as sexual objects than family.... We have created an industry of disease that would crumble if AIDS was cured or wiped out of our community....

I’m calling for us to stop minimizing the infection with cute little names like “the gift” or “the bug.” I want to see an ad campaign showing a hot sexy man saying “I don’t have AIDS. I don’t want to waste my life and my resources on drugs. I am taking charge of my body, my health, and my destiny. I am a negative role model.”

Dan Savage:

While only a tiny percentage of the roughly 17,000 new HIV infections in gay and bi men every year can be attributed to active bug-chasing (less than 1%, according to a study conducted by the UCSF AIDS Health Project), that means the other 99% can be attributed to – let me put this as nicely as I possibly can – gay male stupidity, recklessness, naïveté, and bad luck. And isn’t that a scandal in and of itself? [...]

Perhaps we should get used to a certain level of HIV infection. Gay men are not going to stop having sex, after all, and sex can never be risk-free. What I can’t get used to – what appalls me – is gay men re-creating the kind of sex culture that opened the door for AIDS in the first place.... Today a small subset of gay men is busily re-creating those disease settings in backrooms, through chatrooms, and in sex clubs. The only difference between gay men in the whoring ’70s and gay men today is that we can’t claim to be “unwitting” about the potential consequences. HIV may be less scary today than it once was, but if and/or when the next terrifying and/or deadly STD emerges (and my money’s on when, not if), well, let’s just say that there won’t be a tremendous amount of sympathy for gay men this time around.

I wish for a couple of things on World AIDS Day, and if you support the conventional wisdom on how to deal with AIDS (deferential, fearful, and sooky), you’re not gonna like them. Then again, if that describes you, you’re a problem already.

More money for the other health issues gay men face

Specifically gay men. And specifically, mental illness and drug addiction. If it means firing a few career AIDS bureaucrats to free up some money, well, I’ll buy them each a really nice box in which to pack up their desk contents and I’ll hold their vente lattes for them as they take the elevator downstairs. In fact, I would be OK with reducing AIDS services, which are already lavish and overfunded in Toronto, if it meant increased services for other maladies. You know, health is not all about keeping us from contracting one specific fatal disease.

Accessible AIDS information

Yes, there was the notorious AIDS Committee of Toronto fistfucking video that a querulous (inevitably female) captioneer captioned, but I’m talking about the whole megillah. Please let me know if, after my quite extensive library searches came up with nothing current or gay-related, I am wrong to say there essentially is no HIV and AIDS information that’s accessible to people with disabilities, as in Braille, audiotape, DAISY, or even accessible Web formats. You see deaf gay guys out all the time. When was the last time you saw a gay blind person? Who’s really in the closet, and aren’t things made worse by a lack of information in a format they can understand?

The truth about barebackers

I can see a few cases where there is no harm in unsafe sex – long-term monogamous partners, or two guys who are already poz – but I’m sorry, the myriad personal ads advising safe-sex options as “no preference” or “member has not updated” are billboards for fratricide. We need a well-written book by a truthful and unafraid investigative journalist (not a Canadian Alliance MP or a Christian evangelist with an axe to grind) that documents the truth about barebackers. I am not advertising myself for that job.

Ending the appeasement

To beat barebackers, you have to call a spade a spade. You also have to deal with mental illness and addiction. (As Fierstein put it in a delightful PDF, “[H]appy people don’t hang themselves, do they?”) But to do all that, AIDS counselors are gonna have to quit pretending every “choice” is equal. In AIDS, not every action has “complex reasons,” and not every “choice” made by a fag with a death wish needs to be indulged. There is no reason whatsoever for the AIDS Committee of Toronto to warn participants in a forum on barebacking to “be respectful of other people’s opinions and the choices that they make.” Barebacking isn’t a “choice” that merits “respect.” To paraphrase Robin Williams, it’s gonna take us out as a species.  

2003.12.01b – Harvey Fierstein’s editorials for the In the Life TV show (carrying the hilariously original name “Out Takes”) should be available online. Why not, right?

Well, if you hit Harvey’s picture on the show’s hideous and hideously-noncompliant homepage, you are suddenly faced with a signup screen. It asks for your name and address, though the only required fields are a ZIP code and a snatchmail address. (Suggested inputs: 90210 and hideous-homepage@yahoo.com. Note the American bias: In the Life reruns air on PrideVision, and hostess Katherine Linton is seen in a promo for them on this Canadian network.) You also have to ensure you don’t mistakenly opt into In the Life’s spam.

Are we done yet? Nope. We are warned thus:

In the Life transcripts, including but not limited to Harvey Fierstein’s “Out Takes” text, audio, and video material, shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication, or redistributed directly or indirectly without prior written consent from In the Life Media, Inc. Neither these In the Life Media, Inc. materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer, except for personal and noncommercial use.... By retaining any copy of this aforementioned material, electronic or otherwise, you agree to these terms and conditions.

Actually, I agree only to the terms and conditions provided for under the Copyright Act, which permits insubstantial quotation for the purposes of criticism and review (fair dealing).

Are we done yet? Nope!

The resulting “Out Takes” transcripts page links to PDF files with 40-bit security enabled. You cannot (easily) copy text or print from them, and – extra-special bonus! – screen readers won’t work with them, either. (128-bit encryption solves that problem. Did they even know it exists?)

Are we done yet? Not hardly!

Are these the kind of really spiffy PDFs that indicate a lot of care on the part of the author and designer? Nope. They rather resemble ineptly-typeset Microsoft Word documents (which they originally were), complete with telltale characteristics like marathon line lengths, the eternal sacrilege of Arial type, and double spacing between paragraphs. (Works onscreen, all wrong for graphic design.) The copy could easily fit on a single page if typeset well. Maybe two if you wanted to be expansive.

These are not PDFs that seem more “real” than Web pages. They are merely PDFs created by a clueless and paranoid organization (in concert with Fierstein’s managers, I presume) that misunderstands the nature of Web publishing.

None of the steps In the Life has taken will reduce whatever piracy or republication they seem to fear, nor do they have any effect on our legal rights to review and criticize dear Harvey’s epistles.

Essentially, In the Life’s presentation of Harvey Fierstein’s work is a kind of drag that’s far worse than anything he’s carried out in his own career. The transcripts are goateed linebackers in a wedding dress, rouge smeared all over their cheeks, who stomp up and down the street on Hallowe’en.  


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