n. infantile pattern of suckle-swallow movement in which the tongue is placed between incisor teeth or between alveolar ridges during initial stage of swallowing (if persistent can lead to various dental abnormalities) v. [content removed due to Bush campaign to clean up the internet] n. act of nyah-nyah v. pursuing with relentless abandon the need to masticate and thrust the world into every bodily incarnation in order to transform it, via the act of salivation, into nutritive agency

Thursday, May 18, 2006

drag queen on the wall

Q on the street has been “where the hell are you?” and the answer comes in three parts:

1) Letterpress is a long, long practice. I’ve been meaning to go into the intricacies of letterpressing because I’ve done a few projects and have posted the results on here, so shouldn’t I be forced to explain what all the big fuss is about? Anyhow, I was going to do a very very long version, but I think I’ll just try to condense it (very un-letterpressian of me).

Letterpress book-making is like film production in that it consists of pre- and post- production with a lot of action in between. In the pre-production stages, you basically decide both what you want to “say,” and what form of words, binding, layout, paper, etc would best hold or create what it is you decide you want to say.

One of the most valuable lessons I learned in this class is that most people have come to view language as the content generated by a systemized production of words. That is, we tend to read novels without looking at the cover, and try to believe the maxim that “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” because the author usually has no say in the cover image, and little say over the layout, both of which are handed over to graphic design artists and marketers in order to maximize customer appeal and thus $$$$.

In contrast, the book made in letterpress is completely and totally in the hands of the author-artist or a democratic collaboration of author-artists. In this modus operundi, you can judge a book by its cover because the cover is as much a part of the book as the words are. And the words are not just words themselves (the content they generate via translated signification), but also images arranged both typographically (placement) but also in the choice of fonts, each of which has its own history and reverberation.

So the author-artist has a lot to think about in the pre-production stages, because the book has expanded immensely from the arena of writing. Beyond this, there are also the thoughts of what will work best on the presses… what fonts are available in sufficient bulk, what size leading you need, etc. The above picture shows the California cases that hold all the different fonts. You choose from these drawers and then start hand-setting all the individual letters into a mini-tray that holds them.

For me, setting is the step that takes the longest because one has to get the words just right (and backwards, so I learned to read backwards and now I’m convinced that d’s and b’s are really sliced-apart siamese twins with their hearts mirrored). Then you have to hand-set all the spacing between words, and between lines and so forth. Lots of little pieces of metal that you try not to drop or let shift around or put upside down.

As I’m working on this, I tend to proof on the proofing beds several times, making sure I don’t have the letters upside down, or I didn’t grab a g with it’s tail shaved off, and so forth. Once it’s set though, one shoves the lines off onto a galley tray and ties them up with a little piece of string. When you have enough, you then stir up your ink, get it just right, line it into little ridges on the print rollers, get it evenly distributed, line up your tied-off lines on the printing bed, hold it all in place with block of wood that’s called “furniture,” use clamps to tighten everything, arrange the paper just right, and then, spin:


After printing, which by the end I got down to about 3 hours for 200 pieces of paper and a few different pages, the ink needs to dry for a while and then ya just keep on printing (each color gets its own run, and also some of the different elements might be run separately rather than all at once. For example, the ornamentation at the bottom of my pages I printed on a separate run). When you’re done with the action, you move right on into post-production, which as you might expect, involves making the covers, folding paper, and binding everything up. But it also involves cleaning up the mess you made… putting all the letters back in their spots in the drawers, cleaning up the ink, etc.

All in all, I think I was putting about 40hrs a week *at least* into letterpress for those last three weeks, and by the end I was getting dizzy and my eyes were blurred. I *am* happy with the result though, especially as it was the first book that I’ve done… and I will have to take pictures soon (I haven’t done so) of how it turned out in post it up. But that’s part 1 of where I’ve been. And I think it was a darn good place to be… right smack in the middle of being all the way inside a book, from the guts to the type to the motion to the glory…

2) Internet has been cut off at home, so I just haven’t been on the internet. Which also means that email has ceased to be the best way to get ahold of me.

3) School’s oooooooooooooooooooooout. Hallelujah and praise the lord, not that I dislike Chicago or am ungrateful for the opportunity to be attending an art school, but I got myself all tired out and am happy that the summer months are about to be shaking their leaves at me.

Which means I’ve been spending a lot of time sitting by my neglected window in the kitchen. Amazed by how spring landed and scraped things up like a meteorite coming down from the sky.

All the leaves are back on my window tree, and all the other trees, and Chicago looks so different that it takes my breath away sometimes, not with its beauty, although there is that, but because I forget where I am and have the sense that I’m in a book somewhere, in someone else’s book, in a tree grows in Brooklyn, or a place where Jazz walked sassy, or a Paretsky novel, or someplace else. I just didn’t really realize but without all its trees, Chicago is like a pile of tiles that have been laid out but not really paved together yet. The leaves make this place, and I’m riding along on the el sometimes and feel all gaspy and amazed… people live here, this is a lived-in place, and not just a business/artist hive that resembles a building made out of a spine and a nervous system.

Outside my window, I’ve been watching all those little helo-seeds sent spinning from the maple trees. I ended up thinking about a biology experiment we had in undergrad where we climbed a ladder and dropped a whole bunch of those helo’s and then measured how far they traveled, made a chart, and did some kind of discussion or another on seed distributions in a forest populace. But I realized what exactly was missing from the assignment when I watched the Chicago winds reef those seeds along at maybe 10mph, both dropping them down *and* lifting them up; and I realized I bet those seeds can travel miles and miles in that kind of wind. I couldn’t help rooting for them as the spiraled and shuttered and rattled like ufo’s entering a new atmosphere and hunting around for a good landing zone.

Aside from spending much time at my window, I’ve gone to a few galleries, eaten good grub with friends, watched some of said friends try on new summer dresses, had gin and tonics with b, had rum and cokes with my roomie (who just turned 22 yesterday, little babe that she is), packed up lots of boxes, walked and walked around, decided to buy new shoes pretty soon, read four or five trashy novels, and most importantly: I bought myself a hoorah-you-finished-up the-year present. See the entry below.

ash accuracy

Kerrol hooked herself up with the professional etch-a-sketch artisan job after she flew into a post-breakup rage and etched her ex-boyfriend’s genitalia into the fine dust of her childhood drawing tool.

When she was a kid, Kerrol would get angry at her parents with a kind of tantrumy regularity they came to expect and batten down for. During some of these moments, she exercised her limited artistic skill and rolled the details of her fury across a grey sheet, which she would leave on the kitchen table until everyone had a good look. Usually it was her sister who would reach over, tip the toy upside down, and give things a good shake, as if flattening the layers of grey silt might neaten her sister's rough moods.

[Actually, and she had never shared this fact with anyone, Kerrol had experimented for three weeks when she was eight by doing handstands against the crayoned wall of her bedroom and shaking her head at the same time… she could do this for three minutes before falling over, dizzy and red-faced. But it didn’t work and she still could remember things, some even greater than traces, from as far back as two years ago. Kerrol finally shed that experiment, although she wrote it up in her diary as worthy of having tried.

Worse yet, and this was something she had likewise never told anyone, but she had repeated the experiment 20 years later after an extended kiss from a boss who populated her memory with poor performance reports.]

At the following ages, Kerrol sketched the following:

(5 years) – The beautiful house where they would adopt her when she ran away. Sunflowers under the window.

(6 years) – The gristled teeth and fat zits that were sprouting all over her sister’s face.

(8 years) – The family she had been accidentally severed from when hospital bassinettes had been swapped at her birth. Her lost family's mean, ugly child, who was supposed to have gone to her present family.

(9 years) – Dragon that would rip limbs from torsos.

(11 years) – A mock-up of a page from her sister’s diary--the page that confessed who she liked. This sketch did not remain within their childhood home.

(13 year) – Portraits plus 100lbs.

And so forth. By the time she got around to etch-a-sketching Gerald’s penis—which she would photograph and post on the internet at both the etch-a-sketch open submission website and an anonymous blog she had created for the dual purpose of trash-talking all her ex’s and humiliating them with the juicy details of her current sex life—she had actually built up a fair amount of skill in capturing the “little moments,” as she liked to call them.

Just to make sure that Gerald understood her annoyance, Kerrol sent him a fewer-KB version of his dick via email and then ignored the message informing her that she would now be blocked out of his email account. She knew she got him; everything was far too accurate for him not to be smarting for a few years over that one.

The president of the etch-n-sketch company informed her that they would prefer her to rethink content, but ample application of feist would be acceptable. When she changed her professional focus to politics, she still posted the xxx’s on her blog though.


some theory

[Animals referred to are from Zanatonia, continent written about profusely by SAIC writing class]


Bio: The theories of the great Zanatonian animal-psychoanalyst, Androgena Breton, have arguably had the greatest impact of any Big Ideas since Zano’s study of landscape ephemera-politics. Born in 1888 on a dairy farm in the region near Factory City, Breton attended Hops University with the aim of becoming a zoologist. On the fateful day of June 12, 1909, Breton draped a flag reading “this is all bunk” out of her window. From this moment onwards, she radically shifted the direction of her studies and went on to eventually create a new field that specialized in examining the issues of the animal psyche. Ever afterwards, Breton carried a largish grudge towards all biologists and was known to be particularly hard on zoologist-adventurer, Harriet Kendricks, going to the point of even saying, “I never met an animal that woman wasn’t willing to find a dissecting tray for.” Still, the enmity seemed to prove productive for both women, and considering that the great treatise “On the Multiplicity of the Mongrel Squawk” was produced during Breton’s long convalescence, Kendricks can perhaps be forgiven for having challenged Breton to a duel that left Androgena with a piece of harpoon shrapnel in her left butt-cheek. Androgena’s most oft-quoted reason for developing her field was that “Any human endeavor that does not seek to preserve the great mysteries of the universe even as it probes them is not worth a phratumlet’s watermelon seed.” As her works are far too voluminous for this particular anthology, we have chosen a few important excerpts from Breton’s lesser-known and highly unedited works: Animoporphism / Botopomorphism, Beyond Survival: the Animal Raison D'existence, and Abnormal Junglisms.

on moving from biology to animal-psychiatry:
Why, we might ask, would I want to pick up a scalpel and rip a creature from anus to Adam’s apple, when I might understand the great anima-mechanization of a creature’s shifting mind without dependence on those easily confused creatures that I will call the senses? The animal’s um, a portion of the self I believe lies outside the realm of the material, is partially based in, but extends much further than the grey matter that holds it.

We do not call a “boat” its own captain, and indeed the very generation of these two distinct terms (boat/captain) suggests an understanding that structure is not given to guiding itself. We are very keen on acknowledging that fiberglass and wooden plank may be set out upon the ocean but is not likely to find its way into a harbor without the assistance of several deckhands and one, or perhaps more, captains who work in a variety of fashions—from anarchic randomness to fascist dictation—to land the subtle creature that lifts it distinctly away from the inanimate flotsam that drifts unthinkingly upon that great and mysteries of entities, the ocean. So, why do we refrain from acknowledging the um’s distinctness from body, and studying it in a way that is more, shall I say, scientific in nature than religion or philosophy are prone to.

To make the metaphor clearer, I think, I must emphasize that I understand the um is carried within body, within flesh, and it is within the flesh that each is differentiated in border. However, I do not agree with certain biologists that the meticulous decimation of chemical conflagrations will get us one iota closer to understanding the um, or the vague shifting entities that we might shout “ahoy, ahoy” to from our individuated crow’s nest on a particularly sunny day. Studying the struts of a ship, the keel, its sail, and perhaps even sinking the ship as we prod our thousand little holes into its bung, will not help in the endeavor to trace the formation of the boat’s path. It is path that I am interested in studying; the generation of direction; the motion that finds respite from storm. And this path is marked by the um, the psyche, and not the fleshy shell that gently rocks it atop the water.


“Why not the human?” many people have asked me. And to them I reply, “What could be more boring than a human? It cannot be denied that still waters often run deeply, and I find the psychological intrigues of our more soft-spoken counterparts, the animals, far more exciting and illuminating than the disappointing thoughts and emotions that skate us along the surface of our human docudramas.”

on anthropomorphism:
Twitter mrp xnt, rrrrrrrrrrhr mew sqk, blbblbblb nnnph woof erp erp erp erhhhp screeeeeeeeee huf.

[manifesto as translated by Lazy Eye Wilkins: “We have feelings too, you know.” Signed by Many Zanatonians of the animal disposition.]

on the advent of awareness:
At birth, the um of all creatures (except the mongrel squawk) is voiceless and some may argue, not entirely present. So how does it come to be? The lifesaver is perhaps the most intriguing of animals to consider when examining the initiation of the um into awareness of itself.

Young lifesavers, grown from a kind of green flagellate spore, do not resemble their adult counterparts except in their reflective qualities. However, their initiation into the realm of self-awareness actually seems to coincide with the moment they cease using their flagella to whip subatomic particles and microscopic sea plants into their entrails and instead generate energy via their solar panel system. This is the moment when a lifesaver bumbles into another fellow lifesaver, from which community they are not included in upon birth (being spewed as they are from the adult lifesaver’s liquid-solid “thigh” muscles).

The first time the lifesaver reflects the surface of their brethren, they appear to grow agitated and confused, as it is indeed their own reflective surface they are confronting. Thus, meeting with other lifesavers is an experience in time, and the eternal nature of the reflection within reflection within reflection (etc) tends to poise the lifesaver on the brink of new awareness.

The um is born at the moment of suffering when the lifesaver has no knowledge of which direction is north/south, which reflection “real,” which and how it is that their motions magnify the eternal upon moving closer to the reflection’s reflection, and elongate the eternal upon the creation of distance. The young lifesaver tends to spend months dancing a slow dance with its new buddy, attempting to distinguish the temporary from that which does not shift in the field of reflection.

This question is never actually resolved and the um does not find itself until another object is insinuated between the two shiny young bodies. It is this third, this other, perhaps a mere unicellular ameba on an ocean-binging rampage, that breaks the hypnotic oneness of the lifesaver, ruptures the um from unfiltered time, and sometimes splinters the mind of the young lifesaver, as it attempts to reconcile itself to the reverse mirror-effect of an object inserted between two reflective versions of body. After all, the left-hand side of an ameba rarely resembles its right-hand side, and it is a mind-boggling phenomenon to view both simultaneously. Thus the um of the lifesaver is born, and it is this awareness of the fleeting moment, the shifting second (the path of an ameba), as an entity squished between two eternal voids that is perhaps at the bottom of the lifesaver’s infinite wisdom.

on abnormalities as normalities:
The Salapian Danteller has long been a rabid curiosity for that particular zoologist who will go unnamed, and even as I strain to remove myself from her particular field of obsession, I cannot help but note with interest upon the danteller’s oft-pondered habit of not sleeping.

Sleep, as we have discussed elsewhere, most likely serves to re-align the poles of the um’s guidance system via exploration of alternative universes, within each of which north tends to be a few degrees off of our own. This system of dreaming is akin to turning off a radar system in order to give the machine that few extra seconds upon re-start to more thoroughly explore new positioning and reef-like structures. Initiation into and abrupt removal from chaos thus serves to “re-awaken” the um to its tenuous position within time, and give it new coordinates to consider for harbor. But it’s this very system of re-alignment that the danteller can do without. Upon contemplation, several possibilities assert themselves: either the danteller is overly-capable of determining its directional energies and is born with a conscious um recognition of multiplicity, or perhaps the danteller is a genetic throwback that will eventually run itself into extinction by not being able to re-orient itself and thus casting itself into deep melancholia (see my notes on the lorgnette bittern).

My field research tends to suggest an impossible merging of these two theories. Originally, I tended to think the former a far more likely possibility, and I find my evidence within the very fruit for which the danteller is prized. The wound-fruit is known for its ability to help with night terrors, which thus suggests a capacity to reach into the ephemeral dream worlds and re-align any polarities that are too far afield from our own Zanatonian experience. Thus the poison of the danteller would serve as an auto-correction that might, under different chemical diffusions, help with the sleep deprivation caused by the danteller’s unusual genetic make-up.

However, the danteller tends to be a bit cranky and prone to melancholia as well, which suggests the possibility that the danteller is not as well-adjusted as we might like to believe.


For animals, as opposed to their sorrier brethren (I do not speak only of mathematicians), sheer decadent gluttony seems to be the safest way to achieve the Rest of the Just. See my notes in Beyond Survival regarding the bipolar hyanerus, mongrel squawks, huffingers, archeoceratops, and phratumlets.


How do the wings of the marscerephim work? The notes of Dudley Norton and his lover Norbert Lonesomeback of the Animal Trafficking Foundation, suggest that, as the wings do not function to move the marscerephim, and they have no discernible biological function, it is plausible that their enchantment functions entirely on the level of the internal guidance system. It’s as if the wings are calling “come back, come back” just as the dead are entering the re-uming cycle, without which our beloved Zanatonian world and Universe has been known to stagnate and grown entirely too Republican for anyone’s liking.

Yet, the dead creatures awakened by the marscerephim’s touch have been said to exude a wind of kindness and a particular sparkle of the eye. My current theory, which will be tested very soon as my boat falls off the flat edges of our world to the um whirlwind, is that the wings are so vestigial and unexpected that they awaken us to the possibility of re-creation and imagination, without which the deckhands/captains of our drifting structures grow quite entirely sad.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

good ideas!

um. yeah. oh, and as boxxo already noted, here is a moment of awesome colbert.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

holy moly

As in, wow, I've been busy. Today I: had my critique with non-writing faculty, went to a Japanese paper store on Belmont, went to an Art paper store on Chicago, went to the letterpress studio, sprouted tons of new zits under the muck and grime of things, spent nine hours ripping paper and setting pages, and then went and bled all over my pants (girls, surely you got my back on this, right? unlike the giggling girls who walked behind me up the stairs in the subway and tittered about "does she know?").

That's a day for you.

Critique went good-o, by the way. I had a pretty interesting group of folks: Claire Pentacost (my favorite), Candida Alvarez, Mike Nourse, Rebecca Dalvesco, David Phimlee, and two other students, one of whom I knew. They were all overwhelmingly positive while still voicing why they thought I had "copped out on the ending" of one piece, and underdeveloped the other. They were somewhat right in both accounts, not that I had copped out, but that the ending isn't yet working how I want it, which means I need to earn the pathway there. And the other piece is just composed of short blips of something that could be much much longer. In fact, I got the impression that my panel thought I had a novel project on the sly... I've been thinking this as well, and it's one that might do me better than the "novel attempt" I've been working on this semester.

Claire was really strong at seeing potential conceptual moves that I could make, and also voicing her perspective that I was doing ok by being a little distanced sometimes in the writing of these pieces. Her most avid devil's advocate in the group was Rebecca, who was actually quite hard on me... went through and actually circled all the times the pronoun "I" showed up in my short pieces. But um, they're in first person. And unlike in my novel-attempt piece, the narration is almost never reporting about the narrator.

I think I'm heading over to Beth Nugent's first-person short story right now and counting the I's on the first page. Um...: 19. And on my first single-spaced page: 19. Eerie. (I didn't count before I did the test; that would be cheating.)

R also said, several times, that I need to "pay more attention to [my] words / language / prose" than I'm doing. This was a little snarky for the first of the two pieces I gave them because it's a short prose piece that's much more about language than the second one, and while there are a few things I'd change, I have gone over it and over it in terms of language. But the second piece could use quite a bit of language racheting, I have to admit...

Other than bristling ever so slightly over most of the things Rebecca said, and basking whenever Claire or David said anything, admiring the sharp directness of Candida (don't try to put anything by her!), and being quite taken with the others as well... all of whom had obviously read my work and were really helpful... it was just a nice feedback session and not a moment over the rack. I hope actually that I can meet enough people to keep this up after school. I felt embarressed that I didn't attend all day and see other people's critiques like we were supposed to, but there is still time and that time did not include today!

Anyhow, I've included pictures of the suffering I'm doing as a result: messy-messy house with no cleaning up in site, eggs for dinner at 11pm, and cranky face. Roaaaaahr. Oh, and speaking of cranky, haha, Bush is planning on trying to push through tax cuts! Um... in school, ten-to-one he was always that stupid arse who was messily trying to do his homework on his lockers two minutes before class. It may have worked every once in a while (I know), but keep doing it, baby, and it catches up to you, especially when it involves a nation. In other words, just try to drive up your goddamn 36% approval by poor-babying us over gas prices and taxes for a year until the sonofabitch of a semi-truck deficit slams into us. WHAAAAAM! Do your math before watching television, dumbass.

more evidence

Here are four more proof pages for my letterpress project (along with the first one I've already posted - for context)... and then you'll just have to wait until I'm done with the whooooooole shebang!