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What's in a cryptic, one-sentence note? A lot, if it's penned by Bay Guardian Publisher Bruce Brugmann.

Wednesday, Aug 24 2005
A few weeks ago, our music editor, Garrett Kamps, received the following letter from Bay Guardian Publisher and regular SF Weekly pen pal Bruce Brugmann. The note -- which we think reads, "How can anybody trust Clear Channel/BGP/New Times awards?" -- was accompanied by a thick packet of information that wasn't all that different from the 652,232 other thick packets of information we got from Brugmann that week. But just who is the man behind that furiously scribbling pen? To get an idea, we sent the letter to handwriting expert Diana Hall, chairman of the Graphological Society of San Francisco and a self-professed "lay psychologist" (who said she initially wondered, upon reading the letter, "Who is Cleo Chanel?"). From her analysis, we learned that Brugmann is ...

1) Respectful: "When the salutation is quite large -- in fact larger than the signature of the writer -- that shows a respect for the recipient. But keep in mind, respect can mean either fear or admiration, or a combination. Considering what's going on here, I would guess it's a combination."

2) Impulsive, not fanatic: "Ego, true ego, a satisfied ego, can be seen in the size of the capital letters -- and they're big. But notice how much larger the 'H' is than other capitals. That's because he's kind of impulsive. He's picked up the pen and dashed this off. The fact that [the flourish on the bar of the 'H'] is all connected shows speed, and whenever you have speed in writing and you can still read it, it's positive. It means someone isn't contrived; they're spontaneous. And it loops up -- it's not just a straight line -- and moves toward the upper zone.* Sort of like [how] a flower bends toward the sun because there is a yearning for the warmth it provides. He has a decent imagination, because the upper zone shows a real inflation. [The strokes in the upper zone] are not ultra-long, so he's not a fanatic."

3) Not kinky: "Looks like he has a pretty decent sex drive. It doesn't look frustrated. The loop is pretty long. It's strongly dipping into the physical area, and the downstroke is quite long. It's not quirky. It's not a tight little loop at the bottom. It's not a nasty triangle. It's pretty conventional, [which means] he's not hung up or anything. He's an old hippie. I don't think this is showing materialism: It has more to do with the physical state. When it's more material, the loop is a lot more inflated -- imagine moneybags. This is traditionally formed. He probably has a healthy, traditional sex life. He's not too kinky."

4) Standoffish: "Notice how much space there is between words? That's indicative of how close he lets people get to him. He does hold people at arm's length. He doesn't function well with people really close to him, though he probably works with people around him all the time."

5) Reserved: "Do you see these very tight little formations in the body, the little 'a' in 'Channel' and 'awards'? He's [otherwise] very out there, and then suddenly he's withdrawn. That is of a personal nature, rather than professional. There's a good deal of repression. He's not very expressive personally. He keeps his own counsel on things. He's careful. He's not terribly socially adept, because he would rather be planning or acting on things, rather than taking care of the routine matters in life, including personal relationships. For the most part, he's quite broad-minded, but the occasional little tight configurations in the middle zone show if the matter hits close to home, he's not going to budge."

6) Pissed: "He certainly has a temper, and he certainly has a prickly personality. He's not a person who's going to be pushed around, and he can retaliate with a vengeance when he's crossed. He's impatient, irritable. Things annoy him. That's demonstrated by the barbs on some of the upstrokes -- those are prickly gestures -- and the slashing nature of the bars and slashes. They're not just slashes to divide; they're heavy downstrokes. He's ticked off when he's writing this letter."

7) Smart, yearning for approval: "The guy's no dummy. Simplification, which you see a lot of, does show intelligence in writing. He's not writing Palmer [script] anymore, not hanging on to every tiny little stroke. But there are strokes that are kind of archaic: the 'T' on the 'Times,' for example. That's a very old-fashioned stroke. Also, the upstroke on 'trust' -- he doesn't really need that. If I were doing an analysis face-to-face, I'd say, 'You wanna gain 10 IQ points? Drop that initial stroke.' Despite his being a 1960s-style liberal, there are certain conventions and traditions he grew up with that he keeps today. It may also show that any breakdown in his self-assurance is rooted in his childhood experience -- [for example] he may not have had the full support of his family so [he] still has a subconscious yearning for their approval."

8) Unsure: "The 'H' was when his energy was at its peak, as with the 'GK.' It dwindles down until you get to 'awards,' and then it's all convoluted. Maybe his subconscious is saying, 'Wait a minute, pull yourself back a little.' You could interpret this as he's a little unsure that what he's saying or doing is valid, or that maybe he shouldn't be seen as [letting] it bother him as much."

9) Work-directed: "The height of a letter denotes ego, and how the person sees themselves. The 'B''s [in his signature] are not really high -- broad, but not high. Because he has this very amorphous signature, unless you knew who it was, there's no way you'd guess whose initials these were. Because the rest of the writing is a lot more clear, and even the salutation is a lot clearer, it shows that he relies for his own self-satisfaction and pride more on what he does than who he is. On the other hand, this could show he doesn't feel the need to project his personality, because the [reader] already knows or should know who he is."

10) Brutish?: "The heaviest pressure on the page is the underscore and you can kind of equate this to something we call the 'de Gaulle Dot.' After de Gaulle would write his name, he'd put a strong dot, like a period. It meant, essentially, 'I have spoken.' It's kind of the same way with this graphic gesture. If someone has self-esteem problems, self-confidence problems, from a graphotherapy perspective, we say, 'Why don't you start underlining your name?' It's a self-affirming gesture. When you feel under his name, especially before the pen caught, it's heaviest in the first half. If he had been writing that with a pencil, I know the lead would've broken. Breaking the pencil would really denote a brute."

11) Resistant: "If you think of the page as how we move through life, the left-hand margin represents the past, tradition, safety. The right-hand margin represents risk-taking, reaching out to others, moving on. When you've got a wider right-hand margin, it means there's an avoidance. In the first line, he could've put 'trust' after 'anybody,' but he didn't. This shows he's resisting something in the future. He's reticent -- either reticent to move on and make a decision, or struggling with a decision, or fearful to venture into new territory. Or he feels a reticence toward the recipient."

12) Content: "Considering the size of the writing, I don't see huge control issues. He's very much in control of himself and is confident in how he impresses himself upon his environment. He doesn't feel the need to dominate those around him -- present company excluded, perhaps. There is good rhythm in his writing, which shows someone who knows himself well. He likes himself just fine, the way he is. His [handwriting] is flamboyant and bombastic. It's just that he's got these two things going on -- this big surface personality, but internally and in personal relationships, I think he has difficulties. Large writing also denotes a degree of generosity. I think with anything he cares about he is generous. He doesn't just have a narrow mind and only think in one track. He's willing to consider other people's viewpoints. But he's not willing to change easily to their viewpoints. A vertical slant [to the writing], which I realize is an oxymoron, indicates objectivity, but also independence. So if he thinks he's right, he sees no reason to change his mind."

*Graphology divides handwriting into three zones: the upper, the middle, and the lower, which correspond to Freud's superego, ego, and id. The upper, Hall says, "is the intellectual and spiritual zone," while the lower represents "the material or physical world," which she says "includes any kind of sexual or physical activity."

About The Author

Tommy Craggs


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