So now I finally get a chance (have made myself a chance) to sit down and write about the film Proceed and Be Bold, (trailer below, or here). The film is a documentary about the letterpress printer Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr., about the challenges that he’s faced in his career and life, and how he has met them—aggressively, intelligently, and with a sense of humor and play. This film knocked something loose in my head.

(Aside: the whole experience of seeing the film was wrapped up in an amazing convergence of events. The movie was playing as part of the SF Doc Fest, and my friend James and I were talking about going to see it. Then an hour or two later, Amos himself randomly walked through our studio door. It seems he was walking down the street, saw the presses in the window, and decided to stop in and say hello. A great surprise on an otherwise regular day. We showed him around the studio, and chatted about presses and other printerly things for a bit. He gave us some gorgeous posters. We went to see the film on its opening night at the Fest, and he and two of the filmmakers (editor and director) were there, and they answered questions afterwards, which was every bit as incredible as the film itself. I am grateful that things proceeded the way they did, to put me in that theater at that moment in time.)

(A loop back to the beginning: So now I finally get a chance (have made myself a chance) to sit down and write…. It’s amazing when you see or hear or read something that fires you up, that gets your mind going quickly, that makes you expand, and it’s amazing how the quickly the stone fingers of “real life” (the ever-solidifying movement of fear through our minds) get a hold of you again, and hold you down until all of those wonderful things that you thought and dreamed are as distant as the film itself now, flickering images, only dimly remembered, abstract. This is the constant struggle of those of us who refuse to give in. This relates to the film.)

It doesn’t seem appropriate to write out a full synopsis of the film, of Kennedy’s life. What’s important about it to me, at this moment, is how, through the example of Kennedy’s work and career, it challenged some ideas that I’ve held, that I’ve felt myself slipping into, about art and what it does and how it works and how one can get it made.

Kennedy did not discover printing until he was in his forties. He left a “good” programming job to pursue this new thing that he felt so strongly about. He worked hard, went to school, taught for a bit, and moved his studio many times. He currently lives in Gordo, Alabama. He sells his posters, printed in many runs from handset lead and wood type on chipboard, for $15 for one, $20 for two. Twice a year he packs up his Vandercook, puts it in his pickup, and drives it to a festival where he shows people how to print. He lets interested people come and work in his studio. After the film he talked about generosity, about how it makes us human.

(At least a few times I have written about the shape that art makes out in the world. Here is one such tracing of one such shape, in one in which it has rendered deeply.)

[I wanted to put the link to the film site here, but it doesn't seem to be working at the moment. My apologies. I will check back and hopefully update that later.]



The editors of the journal Mimeo Mimeo, Jed Birmingham and Kyle Schlesinger, have begun to post to the Mimeo Mimeo blog on a regular basis. (Prior to this it just had ordering information for the first two issues.) What is Mimeo Mimeo? The text from the site:
Mimeo Mimeo is a forum for critical and cultural perspectives on artists' books, fine press printing and the mimeograph revolution. This periodical features essays, interviews, artifacts, and reflections on the graphic, material and textual conditions of contemporary poetry and language arts.
There are already some pretty interesting posts up there. Add it to the list!



Figure 10.09.05
An excerpt from the essay-insert currently in production. An example of (mostly) analog disruption.
But the two of you are not so easy to separate these days.

Figure 10.09.06
An excerpt from the essay-insert currently in production. An example of (mostly) digital disruption. But the two of you are not so easy to separate these days. But the two of you break apart in the same language.



Hey letterpress and book people, all art people, really (in San Francisco). Go see this movie tonight at the Roxie. I saw it on Saturday and it was really great. There will be a longer post about it tomorrow….


w00t, &, ETC.

A series of things, sparked by conversational collision. [Citations at the end]:
W00t: W00t is a Leet corruption of the exclamation "Woot!", meaning "Hooray." The term rose to popularity sometime during the 1990s and is popular on the Internet, especially in MMORPGS. Both the exclamation and the Leet spelling are of uncertain origin.

Leetspeak: A form of chatspeak characterized most strongly by its alphanumeric substitutions.

Chatspeak: The blend of informal language, conventional abbreviations and emoticons typical of chatrooms. [1]
These questions have relevance to an interesting test case: Bill Bissett’s special attention to the spelling of words. Bissett’s idiosyncratic orthography and the resultant effects on that minutest level of reading—the single word—has already enjoyed a large influence inside Canada. Yet the writers who have gone on to orthographic modifications in their own work have been judged as mere copiers of Bissett, rather than valourized as individuals adapting to their own purposes Bissett’s singular insight: that spelling should be an individual decision and not an imposed norm. Accordingly, the work of these writers is in danger of being ignored through the effects of an attitude that sees formal innovation as a novelty and, by extension, as unrepeatable. In the background of such an attitude lurks the hulking form of traditional literature as a pre-established, easily subsumed and hence “safe” finite number of technical solutions. [2]
Poetry that circulated in manuscript, of course, shared with printed books the current freedom from the standardized orthography. Shakespeare, for instance, spelled his own name half a dozen different ways. In “The Good-Morrow,” John Donne could render the word “be” three different ways (bee, beest, be) on the same sheet of paper. For Shakespeare and Donne and most of their contemporaries a written word was not confined to a single orthographic form: it could change according to the writer’s intuitive sense of how it should look or sound, showing shades of emphasis, intonation, color, perhaps even pitch in his own pronunciation. Written language maintained the fluidity, even volatility, of speech: a phrase or line was something a poet created with his mouth, not an arrangement of standardized parts that could be precisely interchanged. [3]
on Ellophants head with the teeth In it very large
on River horses head of the Bigest kind that can be
on Seabulles head with horns
All sorts of Serpents and Snakes Skines & Espectially of
that sort that hathe a Combe on his head Lyke
a Cock
All sorts of Shining Stones or of Any Strange Shapes


Any thing that Is strang.


1. These definitions are from Wiktionary.
w00t: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/w00t
Leetspeak: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/leetspeak
Chatspeak: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/chatspeak

2. Steve McCaffery and bpNichol, “The Book as Machine,” Rational Geomancy, (Vancouver: Talon Books, 1992); reprinted in A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections About the Book & Writing, eds. Steven Clay and Jerome Rothenberg (New York: Granary Books, 2000), 24.

3. Young, Karl, “Notation and the Art of Reading,” Open Letter, (Spring 1984); reprinted in A Book of the Book: Some Works & Projections About the Book & Writing, eds. Steven Clay and Jerome Rothenberg (New York: Granary Books, 2000), 37.

4. A transcription of part of letter written by Tradescant the Elder to Edward Nichols, the Secretary of the Navy, in 1625. Tradescant was making a list of things to be gathered for his “cabinet of curiosities.” Excised from: Lawrence Weschler, Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, (New York: Vintage Books, 1995), 95.



Fig. 10.09.04
A photo of the wall in front of my desk, with inspirational signage.

The year is not officially upon us, but it’s best to prepare for these things before they happen….



Fig. 10.09.03
Photographer unknown. A view of the “Exposition Internationale,” Paris, 1937. On the left is the German pavilion by Albert Speer and on the right is the Soviet pavilion by Boris Iofan (sculpture by Vera Mukhina). Hitler's Germany facing off against Stalin's Soviet Union: the two ultimate ends of the left vs. right political spectrum, right before the war that would tear them both to pieces.

Whenever I see myself thinking, speaking, acting in a way that pits “Accepted Idea #1” vs. “the Opposite, Accepted Idea #2,” where both of those ideas are unchanging, oversimplified, locked in steel, and poised to destroy each other, I meditate on the photograph above. The way we think, the structure of how we frame, represent, and articulate ideas, has severe and disastrous consequences in the really real world.
In the end, the differences between the two sides are arbitrary, because their effect in the world is the same. From George Orwell’s 1984:
[…] Unless he is suffering, how can you be sure that he is obeying your will and not his own? Power is in inflicting pain and humiliation. Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing. Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating? It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself. Progress in our world will be progress toward more pain. […] always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—forever. […]



A strange excerpt from a new piece in and on process:

Here, like this, now.

In that image that you once had. In that image that you once had swallowed. Somewhere the world grows. Our objects fall from our hands. We swallow things, we drop things, thus they mean. The constructed book-objects of the world are the spaces that hold it together. Books are emptiness, not form. They are channels, moving time and moving through time. Impossible places. Shabby apartments in which we blink slowly with tremendous headaches. All the lights are on. Terrible places to live, terrible places to sleep, the spaces in which we speak and write. In the dark all of these ghosts of the Book cough at once. One thousand hands with one thousand fingers. No way to stop. It is under these lights that we labor.

There are those that would preserve the book forever in the silently singing crypt of authority and stability. And there are those would establish a new authority by burning the books in the pulsing tides of digital technology. But the Book will not rest and it will not die. The Book is the object that we cherish and the metaphor that guides the construction of its technological rivals. The Book is continuously between, it draws the past up to the present and flows out into the future. It is our job to be sure that no force manages to close the Book. Now is perhaps the best time yet to be making books, to be engaged with books, because their future, and the future of the culture at large, is so uncertain. There is more at stake here then just the preservations of traditions and/or the development of new technologies. What is at stake is the flow of information, the flow of power, and the construction of new, radical languages of objects, whatever objects, that we are engaged in, from which we constitute our images of ourselves and of others.



A long weekend looms. In the meantime, this is kind of interesting:


It’s a collection of artists’ versions of the “black page” of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, an ur-artists’ book and/or postmodern text, however one wants to see it (though elements like the black page help to make the case for “artists’ book," but is it even worth worrying about?).

It’s a pretty good example of variations on a theme, and of some hand-mechanical processes. Many of the descriptions are underwhelming, but there are some interesting ones as well.



I don’t know if I’ve said this before. I’ve been preoccupied with economics lately, with trying to make this thing go, however slowly. Part of that plan has been a move toward placing some of the larger books with libraries around the country. And that is part of it, an important part, and I think that maybe public collections are the best place for the unique books. But I will do my best to archive them digitally and make those archives as widely available as possible (anyone want to host that party?). And I will make, make a concerted effort to make sure that I am always making NewLights books that you can make your own for $20 or less. From here to the end. There are several on-deck right now.


Figure 10.09.02
The NewLights Press Inspection Slip, shown front and back. Another free gift with every purchase.

Another cancerous extension of the Bureaucracy of One: the NewLights Press Inspection Slips. They are digitally printed forms that are cut down by hand and rubber stamped on the back. Before a book is packaged for shipping the slips are filled out and put inside the pages of the books, to be discovered by the owner/reader. The slips are a kind of social hand-mechanics, bringing that classic human-as-machine element back into these anonymous transactions.



Andrea Kirsh, a contributor to Philadelphia’s Artblog, visited the Poem Posters exhibition and reception last week and she wrote a nice review/description, which can be found here. During that reception, I was stationed next to Megan O’Connell of Dead Skin Press in Portland, ME. She had some really nice work, and was really nice too, which is the fun of these things. (She gave me a copy of her manifesto, which is sitting on the desk next to me, waiting. The world needs more printer/press manifestos.)

The exhibition itself looked great, spread throughout the rooms of the Kelly Writers House (a historic building where they can’t pierce or adhere anything to the walls, but they’ve come up with a good system) but still easy to see and appreciate. My favorite piece was a Charles Bernstein broadside by Jeremy James Thompson of Auto Types Press. Hot.



This morning I put together and emailed a receipt for a recent purchase. Like the IDE(A/O)LOG(Y/UE) forms, the receipts/invoices are an integrated part of what the press does; they are functional-aesthetic objects that provide a record of the life and reach of the press. They are pre-designed forms that are filled out digitally and emailed and/or sent with books.

Fig. 10.09.01
The NewLights Press
Purchase Record/Invoice, bringing a subtle disruption into even the most mundane interactions. Get one absolutely free with any purchase.

I definitely get a perverse enjoyment out of making these forms for myself. But there is more to it than that: A) It becomes a way of “performing” the role of publisher (the NewLights Press is a self-deconstructing institution) and B) as I get further and further into this thing, as more and more books are made and sent out into the world, it seems more urgent to somehow keep track of and preserve all of this information. When it all began, I sold pretty much all of the books directly (except a handful placed at the local bookstore), but now a fair amount are sold through this website, and they go off, faceless to a faceless destination.

I prefer to say thank you directly to the people who buy my books. These forms are a multi-threaded attempt to do that.



Found this (for the second time) while reading on the plane ride home last night. From Edmond Jabes's The Book of Questions:

"Where is the way? The way is always to be found. A white sheet of paper is full of ways.... We will go over the same way ten times, a hundred times...."