Some design changes

Not many design changes, but a few. I started out thinking the post text size was too big, but then I decided to reduce the elements around it. That felt more comfortable. For now. Three other issues I’m thinking about:

–Blockquotes. I’ve tried them out for a few months now, but they feel like a lot of white space. I’d rather work the quotes into the posts, but sometimes lengthy quotes are necessary. Thus my indecision.

–General post width. The width, for some reason, still feels a little uncomfortable. I’ve tried lines around the posts; now I’ve turned those off. I don’t know. I need usability testing in my apartment.

–Italics. I go by USAT’s itals policy — and went by CNN’s when I worked there — just to keep in practice. So publication names, album names, song titles, etc are all in itals. But honestly, I’ve had some postmodern angst about this for a few years. In a media-soaked world, should media titles be treated any differently than regular proper nouns? The italics bring an extra level of emphasis that feels, to me, like it does too far. Same with the quote marks that the AP and plenty of other news groups use.

Consider it. Haven’t The Washington Post and How I Met Your Mother and My Love become as culturally common as Jim and Suzie and PNC Bank? The usual-italicized words do tend to use some lower-case separators that aren’t common to regular proper nouns, but is that really enough to justify the itals?

I haven’t totally convinced myself yet. But something’s there.

Helping out the smells

I don’t read too many fragance reviews. I don’t wear colognes, don’t sniff-browse at the department store, don’t even give a thought on the way past them. But I respect good writing about things I don’t use. Think of Dan Neil’s car columns or the annual New Yorker fashion issue.

So it was pleasant stumbling across Chandler Burr’s “Scent Notes” in The New York Times recently. I’d never buy or stop to smell what he was writing about, but as a fragrance columnist, he made me stop to read.

It was a December 3 story….

This strange time generates strange scents, though their strangeness is comforting, equal parts loneliness and love. I have spent certain Christmas Eves sitting on smooth, unfamiliar wood pews under the tall, chilled stone vaults of borrowed religions, and like everyone, I know the darker, private Christmas smells: thick candle wax, burned wick, cold, incense, smoke, fire.

Smoke fills many perfumes. Some are misfires; Yves Saint Laurent’s M7 might do better if it didn’t smell like a Renault engine in flames: burned rubber, seared chrome, frying polyethylene. It was as alarming as a flashing red light. But some smoke perfumes are as seductive as a kiss: Dzongkha. Here is an exquisite scent as mysterious — and as fragrant — as Orthodox icons covered in the sweet soot of a thousand years of devotional candles.

Read the rest on Burr’s site, and read his other Times columns.

The Dan Neil of scents?

Absolutely the most interesting fact I’ve read all week

So far. “Meatlifting is a grave problem for food retailers: According to the Food Marketing Institute, meat was the most shoplifted item in America’s grocery stores in 2005.” The rest.

There’s sadly no mention of the time Lucy and Ethel tried to sneak beef into a butcher shop and sell it in a baby carriage, only to be booted and later frozen in a meat locker.

A week later

January 15 New Yorker, in the listings–

The Holmes Brothers have been delivering blues, soul, gospel, and R&B for decades, and their time has been well spent. They remain capable of awesome achievements; they can even make Cheap Trick sound holy, as they do with their inspired cover of “I Want You to Want Me,” on their new album, “State of Grace.”

The trick of turning the profane holy aside, I don’t know if my radio dial has been spread more widely or if the area classic rockers are playing Cheap Trick less. Whatever the cause, I Want You to Want Me has seemed to take on a more epic quality in the winter. The transitions sound sharper, like the work of more American Who, which is ridiculous I know but you sit in Tysons’ night traffic and hope for motion.

The sentiment you’ve missed for the riffs and repetition the million times you’ve heard it doesn’t fit at all otherwise. “I’ll shine up the old brown shoes, put on a brand-new shirt, I’ll get home early from work if you say that you love me.” A reminder comes in the Holmes Brothers’ version, which puts all its weight there.