‘Twas the Night Before Deadline
by Bruce E. Stoker 2002

‘Twas the night before deadline, when all through the plant
Not a sound was there heard, save the desperate rant
Of editors scrambling to find photos and text,
In hopes, come next cutback, they would not be next.

The presses were sitting all prepped for the run,
Of course that’s assuming the layout is done.
And the pressmen were sleeping, the platemakers, too.
Knowing, come morning, it would just be a zoo.

When down in typesetting there arose fluent cursing,
I ran down the hall, my apologies rehearsing.
Away from his computer he arose with great spite.
I could see over his shoulder that the page was still white.

“The text that you sent me,” he began, at first slow,
“Was nothing but gibberish.” I thought he might blow.
“And then,” he continued, prolonging his snit,
“I found, in amazement, the illustrations won’t fit.”

“Relax,” I responded, wiping spit from my face.
“You don’t have to worry, we have plenty of space.”
“The specs were all changed at a last minute meeting,”
“But I’m sure you can fix it, even if time is fleeting.

“Get Arial, Helvetica,
Times Roman and Goudy.
Shift margins. Add white space.
It’s easy, stop pouting.
Drag the photos up here.
Split the column right there.
If you do as I say,
We’ll have time to spare.”

As the mouse flew on-screen, dragging stuff ’round the page.
I could suddenly sense his diminishing rage.
So back to the layout, the typesetter slumped.
And into the column, the text he just dumped.

And then in an hour, I had my first proof
Just dropped on my desk, the designer aloof.
As I sat down to check it, to make marks in red,
He gave me one warning: “If you change it, you’re dead.”

From the look on his face, I could tell he wasn’t jokin’
I knew right away that my fingers would be broken.
So I quickly responded, “Hey, it’s great! I sure love it.”
“Just sign it,” he barked, “And while you’re at it, just shove it.”

His eyes were all bloodshot. His lips he was licking.
I knew he was dreaming about my butt and its kicking.
His quivering hands grabbed the proofs with a jerk.
And he stalked down the hallway and went back to work.

The sweat that was pouring, as I sat with clenched teeth,
Encircled the collar of my shirt like a wreath.
I began to relax and took a deep breath,
Knowing full well I had just escaped death.

As I paused for a moment, regaining composure,
I saw that the photos suffered from over exposure.
A blink of my eye and a twist of my head,
Soon gave me to know this is just what we dread.

He spoke not a word, as I crept up behind him.
Perhaps I should call Maintenance to come down and bind him?
But laying the proof sheet down on the table,
I started to speak, my voice barely stable.

“I sure hate to bug you,” I started to say.
“Then don’t,” he responded, “And you’ll live through the day.”
So I nodded quite meekly, then started to sprint,
Shouting over my shoulder, “We’ll wait till reprint!”

The Redaction of Edgar Lee
by Bruce E. Stoker, c. 2003

There are strange things done ‘fore the presses run
by the folks who edit text.
And none dare tell why the words fit well
Lest our authors in turn be vexed.
The proofing lights have seen queer sights
but the queerest they ever did see,
was that time with great rage I rattled a cage
when I redacted old Edgar Lee.

Now Edgar Lee was from about ’63
an editor of great renown.
Why you’d think to correct any text that he’d checked
even once, God only knows.
He was always right and the prose always tight.
It just fit; you could tell.
Though he’d often say in his erudite way,
“Bad prose I can easily smell.”

On a typical day I was editing my way
through a bland manuscript.
Talk of bad prose, a stench there arose;
through the verbiage it practically dripped.
Then I jumped to my toes, as my eyes jerked and froze
on an image I hated to see.
There on the last page, I saw in horror, then rage,
were the initials of old Edgar Lee.

I knew right away, with growing dismay,
he’d finally dropped the ball.
But I also knew, as my consternation grew,
I’d be blamed for it all.
“He’s been here for years,” would ring in my ears.
“There’s nothing that he couldn’t edit.”
Try to complain? I thought with disdain.
If I did I’d lose any credit.

Well, I thought for a second, what I’ll lose can’t be reckoned.
So why not give it a shot?
If I have to lose face and take his disgrace,
I might as well build it up hot.
Taking up my red pen, giving pause once again,
I gutted the poor thing.
Removing all tone, stripped it right to the bone.
That’s when the phone started to ring.

“Hey, Bud, It’s just me. Would you check for me
to see if I left a book there?
I was in ’till real late with a job I just hate.
About two I gave up in despair.
I’ll be up right away, and I’ll cart it away
before the boss can see.”
Then standing bereft, I glanced to see what was left
of the work done by Edgar Lee.

The old guy strode in, with a slight, sheepish grin
and he asked, “Is it still here?”
And as my heart raced, I turned and I faced
the music I surely would hear.
“What’s this?” he muttered then suddenly sputtered
“You edited me, you miserable hack?
I promise you now… don’t know when or just how
I’ll get you! Watch your back!”

And every day I continued to pray
that Edgar would leave me alone.
But I could tell from his rant, that my chances were scant,
and I began to feel “accident prone.”
Throughout the next week, my life growing bleak,
I swore I would not give in.
I checked all my food and looked under my hood.
Then it came to my box marked “In.”

An envelope, non-descript, overnight it was slipped
into my cubicle next to my chair.
It was stuffed, overflowing, a single flag showing,
to mark that an error was there.
I looked at it, and I thought a bit,
then I grabbed it with a sigh,
“If that’s what I’m thinking,” my hope suddenly sinking,
“I’m surely about to die!”

Opening it wide, I glanced quick inside
to confirm my horrible fears.
There it was, plain as day, just a quick note to say,
from the most irritated of peers,
“I got you, you jerk, now everyone at work
can see what a slacker you be.
I found a mistake, you cheap little snake.”
Signed simply, “Edgar Lee.”

Then I turned to the spot, to see what he got,
wondering about what he found.
The page was white, saving one small blight,
a mark Edgar made in red.
A caret was there, placed with great care,
a single missed comma to mark.
Was this all there was, all that harping and buzz,
to come from Edgar, the nark?

I scratched at my head, nothing to dread,
not more than a snotty retort.
How silly was I, to think I would die,
to think I had feared his report.
I pulled off the note and ignored what he wrote.
“The guy’s losing his mind.
He’s nothing but wind, and I’m sure he’ll rescind,
unless he’s also blind.”

At the next editors meeting, his glance was not fleeting,
I think he wanted to shout.
I shut him down quick, just to savor the lick
of pointing his error out.
“Edgar, my friend, this has just got to end.
You’re starting to sound like a kook.
Serial commas are out; please check it out.
It’s in the new house-style book.”

There are strange things done ‘fore the presses run
by the folks who edit text.
And none dare tell why the words fit well
Lest our authors in turn be vexed.
The proofing lights have seen queer sights
but the queerest they ever did see,
was that time with great rage I rattled a cage
when I redacted old Edgar Lee.

The Fonts
by Bruce E. Stoker, c. 2003

See the pages with the fonts–
Many fonts!
What a cutting edge world of layout their foundries foretell!
How they glimmer, glimmer, glimmer,
On the flat-panel screens of Macs!
While the color-corrected lights that shimmer
Overhead, never dimmer,
While the designer tracks,
Running lines, lines, lines,
In a sort of Gen-X design,
To the phantasmagorical effects that visually taunts
From the fonts, fonts, fonts, fonts,
Fonts, fonts, fonts ?
From the shimmering and the glimmering of the fonts.

See the basic portfolio of fonts–
Approved fonts!
What a world of standardization their similarity foretells!
Through the ease of layout of stock designs
How the columns twist and wind!
From the serif and sans serif sets
and all in bold,
What homogenous templates
Float from the printer, while designers gloat
over the old!
Oh, from height of ease she vaunts,
What sublimely simple workflow taunts!
Production Wants!
Artist flaunts!
Oh the future, how it daunts!
Giving cause for increased jaunts
To seek the easing and the pleasing
Found in the fonts, fonts, fonts ?
Of the fonts, fonts, fonts, fonts,
Fonts, fonts, fonts ?
Promised pleasure and leisure found in the fonts!

See the clutter of the fonts–
Too many fonts!
What a tale of confusion their legions tell!
In the screens of ATM,
How can one track all of them?
Scads of overwrought eye candy
Vie for notice but blandly, blandly,
All for naught.
In unfulfilled promise of improved legibility,
In vain hopes of increased document portability,
Realizing pure futility, futility, futility,
With lessened profitability,
And a saddened resolution
Now–now to purge and never
Forget this expensive lesson taught.
Oh, the fonts, fonts, fonts!
What a tale their overuse taunts
Of Despair!
How they rant and rave and boast!
Exulting that you have the most
Of any studio common or rare!
Yet the eye, it fully knows,
By the clutter,
And the flutter,
How the layout weakness shows.
And the mind distinctly taunts,
In the leering,
And the jeering,
How the print time shrinks and grows
By the shrinking or growing of the roster of the fonts
Of the fonts–
Of the fonts, fonts, fonts, fonts,
Fonts, fonts, fonts–
In the clutter and the clamor of the fonts!

See the rasterizing of the fonts–
Cheap fonts!
What a world of ripping nightmares their algorithm compels!
In the pause to PDF
How we wince to see what’s left
Of the layout; days and weeks we spent!
For with every whir and click
From the spooler that may stick
Is a cent.
And the cost–ah, the cost–
The measure by which the jobs are lost,
Is rent.
And is growing, growing, growing,
The budget it is sure to vent,
All the wiggle room it is blowing;
On the down time it is spent.
It is neither man nor woman,
And does not come from press or pressman,
It is inherent;
The source is apparent.
And it deepens, deepens, deepens,
A death knell from the fonts!
And their slick appearance taunts
To build dependence on the fonts!
Drawn to websites nonchalant
Selling more, more, more,
In an all-out graphic war,
To designers who don’t need fonts,
More fonts,
Buying more, more, more,
Victims of decisions poor,
Of the destitution caused by fonts–
Of the fonts, fonts, fonts–
Prostitution to the fonts.
Buying more, more, more,
Skill becomes gaunt, gaunt, gaunt,
Aesthetics lack a special roar,
Due to the dependence upon fonts–
Upon fonts, fonts, fonts–
Upon the arrogance of the fonts–
Of the fonts, fonts, fonts, fonts,
Fonts, fonts, fonts,
To the prevalence and the malevolence of the fonts.