Friday, November 22, 2019

Something to Look At

I'm gonna ask a question after this picture. Just blurt out your impression, don't go digging around for clues. Do that too, if you want, but make a note of what your first impression was.

Here's the question: How big is that piece of paper?

I suspect that most people assume that the paper is more or less a letter-size page (A4 for you in the cheap seats). There are some pretty clear tells, though, that it is not, it is a small notepad of the sort that one finds in a hotel room. 5 inches by 6 inches, perhaps.

There is a fair bit of discussion of this thing, which is a set of notes Donald Trump was holding at some point recently. The discussion, at least from anti-Trump people, tends to talk about how someone needs to take Trump's sharpies away, and that sort of thing. The general conceit is that these are huge letters rudely scrawled on a large sheet of paper.

In fact, they are fairly small notes, written in a moderately neat hand, and with a pen of somewhat finer point than what we normally thing of as a sharpie (Sharpie, to be fair, makes a vast array of different pens). Not, I think, an especially fine tipped pen. I experimented with a 4 x 4.5 inch sheet of paper, and a Micron #08 pen, which is a 0.5mm tip, and the results were close.

The photo lends itself to being mis-seen, being shot with a long lens and cropped tightly, the way the paper curves, the angle the paper is held at, and so on. But so what? Who cares about how big the paper is?

If we are permitted to imagine a large sheet of paper, we are also permitted to imagine a furious fat man scrawling rudely away with a big fat clumsy marker, which is a very attractive image for many many people (including me.)

If the reality is a small pad of paper, it quite changes the character of the thing. Language molds to fit the container in which you put it. In a small container like a hotel room pad language tightens up and tends toward short notes, bullet points, and so on (note that this pad is branded "Aboard Air Force One" which possibly angers me more than anything else, since I am buying these goddamned things.)

What looks childish and stupid on an A4 sheet makes more sense on a notepad. What reads sensibly on a blackboard would look foolish on a letter-sized sheet.

Photography can subtly shape perception, in ways that are not always 100% obvious.


  1. Given the size of the owner's hand... postit note.

  2. To me it looks like what I have to do to my Kindle if I don't wear my glasses.

  3. I've been using a Strathmore Sketch pad lately for doodling and brilliant ideas, and it is 5.5" x 8.5", half of an A4, and that looked about right, as I compared thumbs (mine and that person's). And if I were to give a short talk that's the kind of notes I'd probably use: large enough to see easily and with just a few key points I wanted to make. No need for a big piece of paper.

  4. I thought 5x7. Then I thought "why do this guy need notes to remind him what to say if it's the truth?"

    1. I believe the note contains the exact wording of a quotation. To be perfectly honest, I find attacks which boil down to "why would he even write anything down? He must be evil/dumb/sick!" to be absurd.

      We all write stuff down. That in and of itself is meaningless.

    2. It is, I gather, the exact text of a quotation. Which someone wrote down, as one does, presumably for reference.

      Seriously, mocking the contents of a random scrap of paper without any context is beneath all of us. I am happy to believe my president is an imbecile, but this note does not appear to evidence of that.

    3. I do not see the point to write twice "I want nothing", but anyway, indeed it does not prove anything per se. But seriously, do we still need any kind of additional proof that this guy is not only unfit for such a position, but that he is also a very dangerous guy, with a psychopathic personality ? This drives me mad.

  5. The second page (which we can't see) is a list of honorable people to be smeared by Devin Nunes.

  6. Ah, but you mean the piece of paper behind the notebook, don't you?