Brattleboro Days, Yuggoth Nights

What an amazing artifact! It's the kind of artifact that a character in a Lovecraft story might come across while settling the affairs of a mysteriously-deceased, crazed uncle.

"The Mi-Go are greater beings than we, but then again, who ain't?"

After the story was published in Weird Tales, Goodenough sent Lovecraft a congratulatory card, and also asked the author a couple of questions. Rather than responding with a card or letter of his own, Lovecraft wrote the answers in a tiny hand and then apparently gave the card to Vrest Orton -- a bookman and eventual founder of The Vermont County Store -- who returned the card to Goodenough personally during a trip to the Green Mountain State. Then Goodenough sent the card back to Lovecraft again, with follow-up questions written in a nearly microscopic hand. I suppose he knew the local postmaster, and was able to get the card back into the mail system without a problem. Amazingly, Lovecraft managed to fit the answers to the questions on the postcard in an even smaller hand. Sherwood told me that he'd guessed that Lovecraft used a magnifying glass and a sewing needle dipped in ink. Here's an odd thing; Sherwood had found the postcard at an estate sale. It had been protected from the elements because it had been used as a bookmark in a 1935 number of The Revelator, and that number was a special issue dedicated to the "gothic tales" of Isak Dinesen.

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17 Responses:

  1. Pavel Lishin says:

    The past is completely opaque to me, because I cannot for the life of me read anything written in cursive prior to WW2.

  2. Man, there is some character set craziness in this post. Looks fine on the original page; I can't figure out why all the 'Â' characters are splattered where they are.

    • Chas. Owens says:

      I believe they are supposed to be soft-hyphens. Why they are preceded by ­, I can't tell yet.

      • Chas. Owens says:

        Okay, the UTF-8 enocoding of U+00AD (SOFT HYPHEN) is C2 AD. The source site delivers these bytes and it claims to be in UTF-8. If you treat the source as Latin-1 (or any 8-bit encoding), and then paste the resulting characters into a page that will be rendered as U+00C2 (LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A WITH CIRCUMFLEX) and U+00AD (which I believe is how it was rendering before it was fixed). So, the problem is most likely in whatever JWZ used to copy and then paste the text (likely Safari and then Emacs?). That is, the two programs did not agree on the encoding of the characters. This isn't normally a problem because most characters are in the ASCII set and they are the same in Latin-1 (and most, if not all, 8-bit encodings) and in UTF-8.

        • jwz says:

          I have my own script for composing my blog posts in a form in a browser that then tries to de-unicoddle things and mostly it works but really I have no idea what I'm doing.

          If ASCII was good enough for Jesus Christ, it's good enough for the children of Texas.

          • Chas. Owens says:

            Have you tried Text::Unidecode? It has a very good mapping of Unicode characters to ASCII (at least for Western languages).

            • jwz says:

              I have not. What I have is a flying fucking circus because I think sometimes I end up with Latin1 bytes and sometimes UTF-8 and I can't tell which, and then it has to pass through another POST and after that through /bin/sh and sometimes Japanese characters have NULLs in them and then Twitter does something else and oh my god I can taste colors and see time.

              If everything was entities always that would be nice.

              • Nick Lamb says:

                Well, one free bonus fact - if you've really found byte 0x00 in anything that wasn't supposed to have a literal NUL in it then it wasn't Latin-1 (or any of the Microsoft or Apple-inspired cousins) or UTF-8 because those all use 0x00 to mean NUL and nothing else.

                My preferred solution is to identify things that don't speak UTF-8 and kill them with fire. Since you're on a Mac that might end very badly, so I don't know what to suggest.

              • phuzz says:

                Why not use regular expressions!

                (I jest, although I never realised our sarcasticly cutting gracious host was the originator of the "Now you have two problems" quote)

    • jwz says:

      Fucking Unicrud! WTF!

    • kazerad says:

      Wouldn't put it past Jamie for that to be The Joke

  3. .asm says:

    I'd like to point out that this is fake. There are some pretty bad JPEG artifacts around the "Star Quality" logo (and no artifacts on any of the text), and all of the background is obviously upsampled. Entertainingly, the front of the card is of obviously higher resolution.

    Also, the "ink" has no increased density where it overlaps. Even though faded, it would still be darker.

    I wish people would put a bit more effort into getting the basics right.

    • mds says:

      So what you're saying is, this looks digitally altered? From your description of the JPEG artifacts and the resolution mismatch, you can apparently tell from the pixels. You must have seen quite a few digitally falsified images in your time.

    • gryazi says:

      Fake or not, that's an artifact of what a lot of scanners do when scanning to PDF (outline conversion and/or 'not actual outline conversion but flattening the color space anyway for some goddamn reason'), and he mentions the JPEGs were extracted from the PDF(s).

      I have no opinion on any of it but it's interesting to watch those appliances (Ricoh and Konica-Minolta, at least) take an original and make it 'look fake' complete with division into PDF objects/layers for the stuff it decided to just keep raster vs. the stuff it decided to screw with. And for working in legal, I will say that that sort of thing that makes a nerd wince bothers the courts not at all on everyday papers, because everything's valid and attested until someone raises a challenge.

      But by building that shit into the copier-scanners, the bar sure has been lowered for faking crap when everything real is processed into 'looking fake' anyway.

      • jwz says:

        I find this comment to be fascinating. And terrifying.

        • gryazi says:

          It's pretty messed up. Actually, if you want to see examples, a previous setup used an "eCopy" appliance (XP box in a cage with a hole to poke the reset button with) for the same thing for no particular reason, so searching for PDFs generated by that should give some idea of the 'look'. I don't have a full copy of Acrobat or an OS to run it on (which I am now smacking myself about) and PDFEdit for *NIX was unstable crap as of 2 years ago so no idea what exactly is going on inside the documents as far as the objects that eventually render into something resembling a printed page.

          Although it was relatively mild about color-flattening and saved the outliney stuff for obviously black or solid areas. It's the latest generation of stuff that 'smooths' things the way the ink looks here.

          After being stuck with a Konica-Minolta that does not do outlining in 1-bit mode, I am somewhat impressed at how much trouble it is to cram a page of print-resolution scanned text-image into <=300kb. Multiply this by 100 page documents that have to be emailed and it makes sense, except for the part where whether it will improve or balloon the filesize is a tossup and they didn't bother putting a 'just run it both ways and compare' algorithm in the embeddedware. (Is it 'firmware' when the appliance is big enough to boot from HD, like most copiers apparently do these days?)