The Centre of the Universe

Watching House, Erin objects to Global’s hyping of the (yawn) returning National Hockey League.


Erin (shouts): No one cares!

Me: Actually, a fair number of people do care.

Erin: But I’m pregnant! That makes me the centre of the universe, and I don’t care!

Me: That’s more accurate.

Erin (stands and points at her belly): See? I’m round, just like the universe. (Pulls up shirt to expose belly) And this is my centre! And it doesn’t care!

Technology. Is There Anything It Can’t Do?

Well, fortunately, it can’t create stories from scratch. Yet.

I’m typing this inside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, attending a free presentation mounted by Apple, Adobe and Magazines Canada. It’s supposedly a training session, but in reality it’s an attempt to sell attendees on the joys of Adobe Creative Suite 2.

In designing the layout of The New Quarterly, I use Creative Suite 1. The :Trenchcoat Farewell Project: was created using Adobe InDesign 2.0, which is a further step back from CS1. I know that Dave at Blogography has had problems with CS2 and has cursed its name, but the demonstration seems to be going off without a hitch. Give the thing some high-powered Mac laptops, and there’s not much the program can’t do.

It’s a technical presentation and advertising seminar. I got up at 5 a.m. to attend it. So, yes, I’m fighting sleep. But one part of the presentation did make me sit up and take notice. In the new Adobe Illustrator, there’s apparently an ability to transform bitmapped line drawings into vector drawings, which theoretically makes them scalable, and reduces file size. When creating the :Trenchcoat Farewell Project:, I toyed with this idea for Martin’s drawings. He creates artwork that can scan and photocopy well, but at 600 dots per inch, the pictures can be very large, and I still find them somewhat pixelated, when I peer at them up close.

Back when I was still using InDesign 2, I tried an Adobe vectorizer called Streamline, which everyone at the seminar recalled with a collective shudder. The result took ages to produce and wasn’t usable. However, with CS2, Adobe demonstrated a new tool which converted a bitmap into a usable line-drawing in about five seconds flat, with clean, crisp lines. Everyone was impressed, and I was left staring at the display wondering just where these guys were two years ago. The PDF I took to the printer could have been megabytes smaller.

As I see a demonstration of what desktop publishing is capable of these days, I am struck by the realization of how much my ambition exceeded what was technically feasible when I started the :Trenchcoat Farewell Project: five years ago, and how much the technology caught up with me as I worked at things. I started scanning in artwork on an IBM scanner whose upper limit was 600 dots per inch — today the lower limit of professionally published photographs. Scanning in art at 600 dpi took several minutes per drawing and chewed up CPU time, rendering my computer unusable while I waited. Todays scanners laugh at 600 dpi, can comfortably handle 2400 dpi, and scans in photographs in seconds flat.

I even started work on the :Trenchcoat Farewell Project: using Adobe PageMaker 6.5, which didn’t even have the capability of doing dropcaps without a special plugin!

All of this happened in the last five years. One wonders where we’ll be in the next five.

The major reason why I’m in Toronto today is that I’m able to piggyback a visit to the Dundurn Group’s offices after this presentation is over. Although Barry will have, at most, rudimentary comments on where we’ll go in editing Rosemary and Time, I’m still looking forward to the visit. It will be fun to see the offices, be introduced to others I hope I’ll be in contact with, and talk over some ideas about promoting the novel.

I’m working on a website to promote Rosemary and Time, inspired heavily by Kenneth Oppel’s excellent website and the work I did for Susan Fish. I’ll be able to debut it once the cover is in hand, and I have something more concrete to promote.

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