How to Publish a Book in 10 Easy Steps

Step 1: Wait for Gutenberg to invent the printing press, which kicks off centuries of progress in printing technology, culminating in fast, cheap laser printers.

Step 2: Wait for Donald Knuth to write LaTeX and METAFONT, which allows digital typesetting to be beautiful.

Step 3: Wait for the internet to be invented, allowing easy transfer of information, and the establishment of internet print-on-demand services like lulu.com.

Step 4: Have a friend publish a fantastic book using Lulu, so you can see a little from the outside how it works, and ask for advice.

Step 5: Have another friend with a complete book all typed up, ready to be published (her father’s memoir).

Step 6: Dump the Word docs to plain text; write perl to insert LaTeX formatting codes for chapters, blockquotes, leading verse for each chapter, etc.

Step 7: Follow advice for creating a Lulu-ready PDF (page sizes, embedded fonts, etc.).

Step 8: Upload the PDF to Lulu — boom, now it’s for sale!

Step 9: Use latex2html to generate a HTML version of the book; use Calibre to convert HTML into both .mobi (Kindle) and .epub (all other) e-book formats.

Step 10: Create a WordPress blog to advertise the book and disseminate e-books.

Roy G. B’v visits Narnia

I know, things have been quiet around here lately. Nowadays, I mostly post at The Confessional Outhouse, but this little tidbit I thought was cool enough to share, and not really aligned with the mission of the ‘house:

Young kids are often taught about Roy G. Biv, a hypothetical gentleman who helps them remember the seven colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Even kindergartners tend to rebel at the mysterious ‘I’ in Mr. Biv’s name, however. What the hell is indigo? It has to be explained to them that indigo, halfway between blue and purple, is actually a very different, super-important color, trust us.

In fact, indigo is a bit of a fraud. The other six “colors of the rainbow” are the long-enshrined primary and secondary colors of art theory. Indigo only got shoehorned into the rainbow because Isaac Newton, who originally saw five colors in the spectrum, decided decades later when he wrote his landmark treatise Opticks that seven would be a more elegant number. He believed the seven colors should harmonize somehow with the seven classical “planets” in the night sky and the seven notes on the diatonic scale. So he added orange, along with indigo, an important dark blue dye since ancient times. In reality, most observers have a hard time seeing indigo as a separate band of the spectrum, and it’s not usually included in modern color theory.

If indigo is iffy, how many colors are there really? Well, the human eye can distinguish between about a million different hues, but a real rainbow displays its shades in one continuous spectrum, not the neat stripes of a Care Bears cartoon. In the Iliad, Homer refers to a one-tone purple rainbow, because the ancient Greeks didn’t have words for the full spectrum of color. Later classical and medieval thinkers agreed with Aristotle that the rainbow had three shades; in Islamic thought, there are four, corresponding to the four elements. So it’s largely a cultural call. Many Asian languages, even today, use the same word for “blue” or “green” — someone in China might describe the rainbow very differently from someone in Finland, or Papua New Guinea. Let’s just say there’s a wide spectrum of possibilities.

Although this is cool and neat by itself, what really caught my eye was that we owe our 7-color rainbow to Newton’s dependence on the medieval seven-planets as an organizing principle for other (all?) areas of life.

Have you ever asked yourself why there are seven Narnia books, and what holds them together, though they all seem so very different? It turns out that C.S. Lewis scholars have been trying to answer that question for over 50 years, and after many unconvincing attempts to systematize Narnia (plays of Shakespeare, days of the week, …), Anglican priest and Lewis specialist Michael Ward had an epiphany that Lewis was (just like Newton) using the seven medieval “planets” (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Sun, Moon) to organize his creative vision — and even subversively using the Narnia series to attempt to re-interject awareness of the seven medieval planetary ideals into the modern consciousness.

For more information, you could go read Ward’s book for lay readers, The Narnia Code, or his academic book (Warning! English professors only beyond this point!) Planet Narnia, or listen to him talk about it on Mars Hill Audio Journal #90, or hear the extended discussion from Mars Hill Audio: Conversations. Or you could just go poke around the man’s website.

And while you’re doing so, you can be listening to this cute song from my favorite band, even though it is now obsolete (maybe they’ll write a new song, like they did when this song had to be corrected).

What’s The Word?

Glad you asked! The Word is a fantastic biblical graphic-design project by this dude Jim LePage, who has apparently been channeling Donald Knuth for almost two years! Why did he do it?

In the past, I’ve tried an approach like, “starting today, I’m going to read my Bible for 20 minutes every day.” While I may stick with it for a week or a month (sometimes even longer), inevitably I stop because I have no self-discipline for that sort of thing. I knew I didn’t want to try that approach again so I tried to come up with a new strategy that would work for me.

I began by thinking of things that I really like and want to do. One thing that kept coming up was design. So I decided to try and combine my love of design with my desire to read the Bible more. The result is a series called Word.

Basically, Word is a series where I create original designs for each book of the Bible. Before each design, I spend time researching the book, finding out the themes, historical context, weirdest stories, etc. I also scan through parts of the book looking for a passage or story that could translate into a cool design. Each design isn’t meant to completely represent the book, rather it is merely based on a passage from the book.

There are too many great designs in the project to try to link to here, but to inspire you to hop on over and check them all out for yourself, I’ll choose a few of the most “three-sixteeny”, i.e. those that most highlight words. Enjoy!

Another good way to browse them all is in his online shop, from which you can order prints. (And then you can hop over to his tumblr, Gettin’ Biblical [HT Pooka], where he shares great Christian graphic design from all sorts of books and such.)

Cruel Logic

While y’all wait for me to complete a new post on evanescent’s carrot & stick article, here’s a link to whet your appetite. (HT: Gene Cook, TNM #864)

Good Things

Without belaboring my obvious recent absence from the blogosphere, I’ll just provide a number of links that you might find interesting:

RiffTrax: Don’t you miss MST3K? Years ago, Forester had the idea to make his own MST3K-type spoofs, but the original MST3K guys ended up beating him to the punch. Now, for only $5.98, I’ll be able to watch the Star Wars Episode I and II DVDs that came packaged with Revenge of the Sith!

MythTV: One reason I’ve never plumped for a TiVo or other type of DVR is that I would rather buy a device, than buy a device AND pay a subscription fee. Turns out you can take any old Intel box, add a special card for converting cable signals into digital video, install Linux, and (voila!) MythTV turns your computer into an open-source DVR. Program information is free over the web (for instance, from zap2it), and the bigger the hard-drive, the more it can store (about 1 GB/hour of non-HD television).

Finale Notepad: As a musician, I’ve occasionally had the need to jot something simple down. For instance, when I got married, one of the hymns that I wanted as part of the service was not in the hymnal of the church we were using. I managed to enter and print the hymn as a leaflet inserted in the bulletin, using a 30-day evaluation copy of some software or other, but I wish there had been (or I had known about?) Finale’s Notepad back then! As the name implies, Notepad is a lightweight, free music composition software. I say lightweight because it is a limited version of Finale’s full software, but the limitations are surprisingly unrestrictive. You can have up to 8 staves, you can enter lyrics, you can have all manner of special notations (tuplets, slurs and ties, fermatas, repeats,…), you can perform transposition, there is MIDI playback, you can save and print — I really think Finale has gone overboard in their free offering, such that I might never have a need to pay for anything better!

On a more serious (and less geeky) note,

The PCA: Following the OPC (my church‘s previous denomination), my denomination has produced a report about Frank Valenti. The PCA report is smaller than the OPC’s report, probably because it narrowed its focus on standards rather than scripture. The report has not yet been adopted by GA, but it concludes quite clearly that all of the following hallmarks of FV are contrary to the Westminster Standards: monocovenantalism, temporary “covenantal” election, denial of ICAO, denial of merit, imputation subsumed in union, baptismal regeneration, saving graces without perseverance, and final justification partly based on works.

Good Grief: My sister recently wrote a very personal, very touching post about our sister that we both lost. If you have ever lost anyone, I think her post will be edifying for you.

Image vs. Word II

(If you haven’t read it yet, back up and read the previous post)

The second phase of the biblical relationship between Word and Image is Incarnation. Ellul states that “there is no true theophany.” Instances like these [Gen 18:1-16, Gen 32:22-32, Judges 13, Daniel 3:24-25] are all difficult to discern in terms of whether the apparent theophany is God himself, an angel, or pre-incarnate Christ. In any case, Ellul also asserts that the only possible Image of God is man — because this is the only vessel in which God himself placed his own image:

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Raising Arizona

Still not really back yet, but I thought maybe it could be more interesting to pose this question to Forester here, inviting others to discuss as well, rather than just sending him an email. T got me the DVD of Raising Arizona for my birthday, and we re-watched it for the first time in many years. Since I know Forester is also a Coen Bros. fan, and likes Raising Arizona specifically (although probably not as much as Barton Fink), I wanted to hear his (or your) take on the following question that T & I couldn’t come to a satisfactory answer on. What is the ‘lone biker of the apocalypse‘? With the same road-runner tattoo (although over his heart, not on his arm), the bronzed baby shoes, the “Mama didn’t love me” tattoo, is he (in some secular sense) H.I.’s original sin, his carnal nature? Or does Smalls represent righteous justice and unavoidable consequences? And what is the message of the movie, in terms of the fact that H.I. was able to destroy whatever is represented by Leonard Smalls?