The New York Times had yet another of its delightful "Room for Debate" sessions, in which various experts throw quick-take opinions on a subject past one another. The subject: Was the College Board right to have decided to make the essay portion of future SAT tests optional? Or, more broadly, "Can Writing Be Assessed?" Although Gawker was not specifically invited to participate, below is our contribution to the conversation.
A massive infographic formulated from an array of handwriting studies claims to show that over 5,000 personality traits are reflected by the words we write onto paper. Too bad we don't do that anymore, too bad the study of handwriting (graphology) is disregarded in most circles as probably bullshit, and too bad that this study still analyzes cursive.
Christmas cards—if they possess any utility other than excuses for networking or sleeves for staged photos and obnoxious form-letters about little Allen's success on the soccer field and getting over his chronic butt cyst—act as a kind of benchmark. Buying a box and sending some out makes you feel like you've stepped into an adult world. You have an address book. You buy stamps in bulk. You now acknowledge calendar events days before they happen.
Let us take a break, now, from our daily diet of sarcasm and filth for a heartwarming tale: Nicholas Maxim, a boy born with arms that end at the elbow, won educational publisher Zaner-Bloser's annual National Handwriting Contest this year. A fifth grader at Readfield Elementary School in Readfield, Maine, he beat out 200,000 other grade schoolers for the quality of penmanship he produces by pinching a writing utensil between his arms.
Last week, we learned from a bunch of facial readers that Bernie Madoff's shady tendencies should have been as obvious as night and day. (Or as obvious as a "thin lips" and "deep-set eyes," anyway.) Now it's the graphologists who are weighing in! And funnily enough, they, too, say the writing was on the wall. (Or pad of paper, at least.) Says Bart Baggett, a "personality profiler and forensic document examiner" who lives in California: "I would say he was seriously abused as a child because he has such trauma. The leftward leaning, backward strokes are an emotional withdrawn tendency, a lack of emotional connection with humans." In other words, not only were Sylvia and Ralph Madoff really shady, they were also bad parents. Could we now get them to focus their attention on Tim Geithner? Would be great to get a little advance notice this time!