ars libertatis


Meals & Ambience

Meals are highly multisensory events and thus there’s much more to consider than only the food, though the food itself should be multisensorily optimized. Its most important aspect is its taste, but its smell, its appearance, its temperature, its texture, and its sound (when cut, bitten into and chewed) should all be aesthetically pleasing. Not only should each food item be aesthetic, the combination of all foods that are served during a meal should be aesthetic as well, since not all tastes and smells, colours and shapes harmonize well, and the foods need to be arranged in a suitable fashion. Then there are the plates, glasses, and cutlery that need to be chosen carefully, so as to suit the food in colour and shape, the knives need to be sharp, the forks and spoons should have a good shape that is not weirdly conspicuous in your mouth. The table decorations should adhere to the meal’s theme and not conflict with the food, and some amount of decoration is desirable if you don’t deliberately aim for a minimalist look. Whatever odors surround the table should be less strong than the food’s smell and strictly pleasant, but depending on the circumstances the scent of a fire, a grill, an ocean, a blooming tree, a flower bouquet, or a perfume, can be appropriate, just not all at the same time. The lighting should not be glaring but be strong enough that all details of the food are visible and that no deficiencies can be hidden by darkness. Generally it’s better if the lamps are above the table so that there are no objects between the lamps and the table’s surface that can block the light from illuminating the food. The room’s temperature should not be noticeably cold or hot. Outdoors or in hotter climes this can be difficult to achieve, but no person should feel cold or hot. Unfortunately the temperature preferences of different people can be highly divergent and there might not be a single temperature that satisfies everyone, but if there’s a temperature gradient in the room due to a fireplace or an open window it’s perhaps possible to arrange the seating in a way that takes advantage of this.

Self-censored Words

Self-censorship, or simply the attempt of not using expletives and not being vulgar, by substituting letters with typographical symbols like punctuation marks (e.g. f**k, s.., or d_mn) is stylistically bad. It visually interrupts the text because the symbols are not normally used in this way and also because some of those symbols, like the asterisk, are very rare in normal texts. Usually it’s very easy to guess which word is meant (especially if the replacement glyphs exactly match the number of original letters) and many people mentally, automatically and unintentionally substitute the censored word with the real word, which means that the readers are not spared from having to experience and process expletives. Even if the swearwords are unrecognizable because they are wholly replaced with grawlixes, the reader still knows that they stand for profanity and they are visually very conspicuous which increases their impact and can make them stronger than uncensored swearwords. The writer can’t avoid the accusation of using obscenities since ciphered obscenities are still obscenities. Many inferences that can be drawn from this kind of word substitution don’t reflect well upon the writer: Either he does it deliberately which means he wants to strengthen the effect of the profanity or he wants to exploit the gap between the displayed text and the text’s signification to appear more polite than the meaning of the text allows. Or he does it because he lacks the necessary non-profane vocabulary or can’t control his emotions enough to completely abstain from using swearwords.