Saturday, May 29, 2004

(puzzle) unfortunately supportive of the maxim proscribing judging books by their cover

Of the six books I bought last night, Word Craft was the one that I started reading. It's literally a book that I bought because of its cover (above); meaning that if I hadn't thought the cover was so fun and clever, I probably would not have added to my armload of books. How many covers do you see that have "[answers on back]" on the front of the jacket? The puzzle, of course, is to identify what 9 brands are associated with the font and color of the individual letters of the title on the cover.

Rather than making you go to a bookstore to look up the answers to any you don't know, I'll type the answers below. But, so you don't see the answers inadvertently and have your fun spoiled, I'll make sure to put a couple of footnotes first, and then I will also type the answers in a secret code of my own impromptu design: I'll type all the answers below, but I will move my hands one key to the right before I touch-type them, meaning that the answers can be decoded by looking to see what letter is to the left of each letter on one's keyboard.*

Anyway, as fitting the cover, Word Craft is about the highly specialized sector of the marketing industry whose job it is to come up with new product/brand names. The five names that each get a chapter are BlackBerry, Accenture, Viagra, Porsche Cayenne, and IBM e-business (the last one seeming surprisingly obvious and uninspired for a book that was going to look at five names in-depth to select). I think this a great premise for a book and that a great book could probably be written on the topic, but, at least so far, the author (Alex Frankel) does not seem up to his So far, at least it reads kind of like a long, disappointing Salon article--everything covered with a thin patina of superficial and anecdote-laden enthusiasm that is valiantly trying to cover up for an absence of many specific interesting insights.** Maybe it will get better. Although there are so many good books out there--or, rather, in here, in the RV stacked up waiting to be read--that I don't have the patience to finish one that I'm not finding compelling.

* I like this idea; encoded text that can be written as fast as one can type. Indeed, in this moment of New Idea Enthusiasm, it seems like the Internet-age equivalent of Leonardo Da Vinci's backwards writing.

** Incidentally, another book that I started to read in the last month that was not up to its premise was this book Apocalypse Pretty Soon, by Alex Heard, that was about contemporary millennial (i.e., the world-is-going-to-end) organizations. Maybe I should go back and read The Autobiography of Malcolm X to be reminded that there are people named Alex who can write great books.***

*** It occurs to me that the last sentence may be confused for those unfamiliar with The Autobiography of Malcolm X. How can an autobiography of someone with the first name "Malcolm" be written by someone with the first name "Alex"? When he changed his first name from whatever it was to X, did he also change his name from Alex to Malcolm for some obscure Black-Prideish or Muslimist reason? No, Malcolm X was born Malcolm Little (born in Omaha, of all places). The Autobiography of Malcolm X is listed as authored by Malcolm X "as told to" Alex Haley, meaning that the beautifully-beautifully written book was written by Haley from interviews with Malcolm X (Haley also includes a moving post-assassination afterword of his own).

Answers: W = ermfyd O = ptnoyx R = tp;;omh dypmr D = fimlom fpmiyd C = vs,[nr;;d dpi[ R = tvs A = snv F = gotrdypmr T = yi,d

Update, 5:30pm: Ick, I see now that apparently a hair was on the scanner, right by the "t". I wonder where that came from. Too long for my nose, presumably. My arm?

Update, 11:00pm: (contains spoilers, or at least hints) A fellow Madison blogger attributes her good performance on the Word Craft quiz to her TV watching. At first, I thought, "Well, I don't watch TV, and I also knew 6 right off the bat." Then I remembered that many of these logos have been around a long time, and I watched an unbelievable amount of television prior to age 18 (when you grow up on a farm, people think you are going to know all kinds of outdoors stuff, but, for me, it was a lot of reading--the same books over and over again until I was like a sophomore and figured out how to use our local library's interlibrary loan system--and even more television. Dear God. And only four channels, so there was no avoiding the mainstream. And no remote control, which now seems unfathomable. I attribute my not knowing "A" to my subsequent flight from television; my recognizing but not being able to put my finger on "O" to the efficacy of the Google toolbar pop-up blocker; and my slowness at getting "T" to my placid stoicism in the face of indigestion.

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