08 May 2008

The Perfect Notebook

It is one of those personal, secret blessings of my work as an actor/"creactor" that the work necessitates the use of notebooks. By secret blessing, I mean a requirement that makes me very happy for somewhat irrelevant reasons. I love notebooks. Something about their organization, informality, yet relative physical permanence satisfies me in a very personal way. (See the manila-folder sequence in Stranger than Fiction for a nice illustration of a secret blessing of one's work.) I find this a bit odd, this affection for notebooks, since I generally detest hand-writing when I could be typing. It is, however, undeniable.

I would like to design my own notebook. Not just design it, mind you, but get it made, so I can use it. Maybe I could turn this into a profitable enterprise (imagine funding my acting career with notebooks--I'm giddy at the thought) but primarily I'm simply interested in making something that helps me work. I have favorite notebooks as it is, mind you. Moleskine(R) is and always will be a classic, and they produce an impressive variety of sizes and custom uses. I also use the "Katebook" quite a lot for shows. They come in a variety of sizes as well, and are easy to paste script pages into; their best feature by far, though, is the colored page edges that neatly pre-divide them into 3 or 5 sections.

Neither of these brands satisfy completely, however. There are very particular aspects to working on the kinds of shows that I do, which require special considerations. It is a simple matter to answer these demands -- it's just that no one's done it yet, as far as I know. Someone, please, let me know if my answer is out there somewhere. In the meantime, what follows is a kind of verbal illustration of my dream-notebook.

  • Size. A critical aspect. THE critical aspect, in many ways. I at once need something that fits easily into all of the bags I practically live in, and with the capacity to hold a lot of information in an organized fashion, and something that can be comfortably held in one hand. Because I'm often acting with it, see, and taking notes. A good size for me has been the 6"x8" Katebook; it's perfect for pasting standard script pages in, and not too cumbersome to hold (though a little thick/heavy when approaching the end of a rehearsal period). I might go with something more 7"x8", however, for various reasons to be further explained. And a little thinner; say, 1/2" to 3/4"?

  • Durability. It must withstand the worst atrocities you may imagine, for not only will it be dropped, it will be thrown. And it will get wet. It may even be exposed to a Meisner exercise gone wrong.

  • Binding. A tricksy question, my precious. I dig the hardcore durability of the Moleskine(R), but the notebook must be able to be folded in half, for hand-holding. Plus, with items added to it, it need to be able to expand a bit without turning into an effective doorstop. Which leads me to believe good ol' spiral binding is still the way to go. However, it should be with a thick strand that's very resistant to flattening or uncoiling, and that spiral needs to have a covering. Fabric, maybe. Something that saves it from the various abuses that taking a notebook in and out of containers invariably inflicts upon ye olde spiral binding.

  • Cover. One of the best things about a Moleskine(R) is one of its most subtle features -- the cover. It's lightweight and pliable, yet coated with a material (formerly leather, not sure what now) that makes it extremely durable. The only fault I find with it is the color. It makes the outside fairly useless for titling or what-you-will. So in my world, the cover is the same stuff, only a lighter color. Not white, but perhaps a nice tan or beige. Rounded corners.

  • Paper. Durable, yet fairly thin. Not so much so that ink bleeds through, but often the extra weight of a notebook has to do with using a kissing cousin of cardstock for the paper. The paper needs to have those color gradations on the edges that the Katebook has. And most importantly, it should be graph paper. GRAPH. PAPER. Why? It's the best. You can write neatly portrait or landscape, make neat columns and such, and drawings look fancy-fied by it. Rounded corners.

  • Features. The elastic strap on Moleskine(R)s (it closes the book by wrapping around the right lateral edge) is perfect as container and place-holder. Most of these also have some sort of expanding wallet attached to the inner back cover for scraps of paper. In my notebook, there will be one such on the front cover, just big enough for one or two sheets (contact sheet, schedule) and a larger, compartmentalized one on the back. Both will fit an 8 1/2 x 11 sized paper, folded in half along the horizontal. Finally, within the spiral binding, there will be a place to hold a pencil. This will be a special design, as it will need to be suspended in such a way that it doesn't interfere overmuch with the opening and closing of the notebook.

  • What it won't have. A spring clip -- too cumbersome, and ultimately non-useful. Other pockets -- huge increase on bulk. Removable paper -- unavoidably comes loose (this is a problem with the Katebook) and it's spiral anyway; torn edges be damned. Zipper closure -- notebooks were intended to be opened faster than that, douche. Pre-printed pages -- if I want a calendar or metric-conversion table in there, I'll use paste. Anything that juts -- why would you do that to us? It's like some kind of sick, Nazi, social experiment, watching people fumble getting things in and out of pockets and bags.

The only thing left is what to call it. And, you know, actually diagramming it, producing and distributing it. Marketing it. Legal action when I get sued by both Moleskine(R) and Kate's Paperie. Aw, forget it! Who needs the aggravation?

Anything is worth the realization of the perfect notebook...

Update 3 June 2008: Ask, and the good people at MAKE shall provide!

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