What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor and proofreader, and occasional indexer. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Two Aryans

A quick story from the Land on Demand annals.

I was working for a typesetting and design firm in Atlanta (name forgotten) along with one of my all-time favorite typesetters, Jerry Ramsey. (Oh, god, once I get off on Jerry Ramsey, this story's not going to be so quick. One sentence into a freaking post, and I'm already off on a tangent.)

Tangent: Way back when, when I was essentially a kid (about 26 years old), I was writing and editing life and health insurance textbooks. One of the reasons I was hired into this company is that, unlike most English majors, I actually had worked in print production for about three years -- at a printing plant and at a typesetting shop. So I thought I knew a little more than my peers about typesetting. Maybe that's true, maybe not, but with the arrogance of youth, I cast about to find my own person to typeset the book that I'd been working on for the last two years.

I don't know how I found him, but into my life comes Jerry Ramsey. Jerry at the time was working for a typesetting firm that Coca-Cola had essentially bought (or rented) and brought in house. This is what Coca-Cola would do in those days: find a design firm, and bring them in to work on Coca-Cola's materials for a year or two, then replace them with someone else.

Jerry was, to put it mildly, a great typesetter, and a true character. He was extremely demanding of himself and of those around him, which meant we drove each other crazy, because I was at my all-time anal proofreading heights (or depths) at that time. At my freelance gigs, I'd point out leading problems that amounted to about 1/128th of an inch and keep sending 'em back to be corrected until they finally got fixed.

So, I hired Jerry to typeset my first professional work as an editor,
Accounting in Life and Health Insurance Companies (winner of the 1987 Elizur Wright award for the year's most outstanding contribution to the literature of risk and insurance). Well, as great a typesetter as Jerry was of advertising materials, he was not a typesetter of books. There is a difference. (There are so many potential tangents here; I'm really restraining myself.) So I'm beating my head against the wall trying to make Jerry make this damn thing look like a book, and Jerry's doing all he can to avoid beating the hell out of me, and he could do it if he wanted to.

Jerry was not a small man, but he had these stubby little fingers. I later came to find out that he was a very good jazz pianist, and some years later I was watching him work in utter amazement. These fat little sausages would hover above the keyboard -- you could hardly detect any motion at all -- and the freaking screen would just fill up with words, about as fast as you could read them. "Jerry, how fast do you type?" "Oh, about 120 words a minute."

Like my pal Tim Bentley, Jerry was an inveterate freelancer and wanderer, and we loved working together, because we both were perfectionists. Whenever Jerry would move from place to place, if he needed a proofreader, he'd call me.

Back to the story. Jerry was working for this company that had landed the contract to produce two Scholastic textbooks. I believe one was a 4th-grade English text and the other was a 7th-grade science book. No matter, really. But coming out of 10 or so years of developing curriculum, I thought this stuff was pretty groovy. Beautiful four-color work, multidisciplinary -- really state-of-the-art textbooks and curriculum. Very ambitious. I remember the English text getting into Walt Whitman -- for 4th-graders. The typesetting files were incredibly complex: links and layers and all kinds of stuff going on that I couldn't comprehend, but it took a master like Jerry to pull it off.

The other thing about these Scholastic books is that they were politically correct to the extreme. You could tell that the designers were working off a checklist: "OK, we've got a black girl, now we need the Asian in the wheelchair, and the Native with the eyeglasses, and the white boy looking confused." Typically I don't get too riled up about this stuff, but these texts were so consciously trying to be everything to everybody that it was just distracting.

One night (always at night with Jerry; I'm not sure, except for that first textbook, we ever saw each other when it wasn't about midnight, or later) I'm proofreading the pages against Scholastic's manuscript files, which were immense. It really took all your concentration just to get through a page. And lo and behold, there's a picture of a white boy and a white girl. And a stickinote attached to the file by one of Scholastic's editors that I will never, ever, ever forget:

"Why do we have two Aryans here?"

Now let me say that these two kids were hardly embodiments of Hitler Youth. They could have been two Jewish kids for all I know. And people who've read my blog or certainly seen my comments on, for example, Moi's blog know where I am, or can be, politically and socially. "Why do we have two Aryans here?" Just think about that.


sparringK9 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sparringK9 said...

grrrrrrrrehrhahahahahaha! so much to comment on here. well, scholastic was MY bread and butter in the 90's. politically correct in the extreme is an understatement. you wrote it - i illustrated it. there would be a picture that would eventually be shrunk down to about a 3" square. and say it was a grouping of children in the forest or something. the art director would have me change the ethnicity of a kid in the group that would be about 1/2 inch in the final with a spot of "brown face" that youd need a magnifying glass to see.

typesetters. the youngsters dont know about a time when type was set pre digital age. the words dropping out of a huge itek monster. i worked at creative loafing in the mid 80's. our typesetter marcia would come in in a ratty ass pink bathrobe and slippers with rollers in her hair and a cigarette in her mouth. oh yes, you could actually smoke in a business back then. pot too. she was a very bitchy girl and funny as hell. like she stepped off a sketch on the carol burnett show or something.

two aryans. because white people are the devil. its an easy short hand that effectively addresses all the world evils.

enjoyable read. im glad i came over. have a great weekend. er, whats left of it.

czar said...

If you were freelancing in Atlanta graphic design in the 80s and 90s, our paths had to have crossed at some point. Ever darken the halls of Type Designs, off 85 near Druid Hills? I was there off and on for about 10 years, I think. God, and so many other places, the names of which escape me now.

czar said...


PS: You'll enjoy this post:


sparringK9 said...

No, cause i was on the illustration end of it. i did what i did and handed it to the art directors and graphic designers and they took it from there. I did work briefly for Cinetron off Pleasantdale/85 access road doing animated film titling, then thumbprint an animation studio in the same neighborhood where i painted cels and in-betweened for the director.

will check your link~!

czar said...


Ah, two different worlds.

And I went back and looked at that post, and might need to revise slightly. Obviously, they had screens, just not ones that showed what they were working on. Only the keystrokes/codes, not the result of their programming.