October 31st is my New Year’s Eve, and fortunately not an on-campus work day; this was an exhausting week. I’m in a reflective mood, thinking of what a long strange time of extremes it’s been since I made a post of the same title. Though I’m still stuck in retrograde, still surrounded by the walls of ennui that have settled around me since September (making for some pretty dull blogs, I know), I’m quite pleased to find myself thinking almost exclusively of the high points.  I simply haven’t got the energy to go out to a couple of excellent Halloween parties, but tonight, when I have my annual ceremony, perhaps the negativity of The Year of the Weird can be put to rest, and I can take the richness of the high points into myself, and use that to walk through walls, toward the future.

Happy Halloween!


 Header: Some of the Calanais Stones, Isle of Lewis.  Carvings from gravestones in Inverness.




…for the election.

…for the money.

…for decisions.

…for some peace.

…for clarity.

…for my own time.

…for the Next Big Thing.

…to be able to finally say it.

…to exhale.

Poor Banal Bloggers


Fall over.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself involved in repeated conversations relating to blogging.  In each instance, some variation on this theme is stated: bloggers are pathetic, lonely people who “have no friends,” who are compelled to “spew their mundane thoughts out into the universe” in order to feel that their existence is validated. Hmmm.

Other than to have initially (and mildly) stated, “Well, I have a blog,” I haven’t offered up another viewpoint, since the above observations themselves are not germane to the specific objectives of these (formal) conversations. No one else has, either, until Thursday night, when a friend, new to the conversation, said slowly: “I have a blog…and I have friends”.

It’s interesting that it’s almost always academics who posit the negative view.  I think of the blogs I regularly read: political, personal, travel and deaf-related, all of which are lively ongoing conversations that keep far-flung participants (and even, ya know, friends) in touch. And, yet again, I simply shake my head with a mixture of amusement and pity at the academics’ closed and presumptuous certitude.

Fall under.

Myself, I’m having difficulty finding time to add to blahg lately.  I’m currently pursuing so many lines of inquiry that it feels like I now am dealing with a day job and two additional careers.  I’m wishing I had more time to spew my thoughts out into the universe, perhaps helping in a small way to undermine some ivory-tower hubris.


Traveling to the ghost world. 

In any case: I’ll cheerily add the banality of commuting to my nonblogging temporal mix. All last week, whether in the car or on the el, my roundtrip commute averaged four and a half hours to travel about 21 miles total…a little over ten miles each way. I think of the single-track roads on Orkney and Lewis; I think of telling people on the isles of daily encountering 10 lanes of stalled traffic, and watching them actually shudder at the thought.  And that fuels more of my inquiries.  (And even, sometimes, a desire for a drink, with or without corporeally present friends.  Slainté, cyberpals).

Organic foot warmer.  

(Combines nicely with a wee dram when you don’t want to venture back out into traffic.)

Le Livre de Toronto a Tourbillonné / Toronto Book Whirled

The obligatory Toronto shot..

So, I can be in a plane for roughly as long as my usual el ride and *poof* I’m in another country that doesn’t feel like another country, except the money changes to “loonies and toonies” and colorful bills, and the signs speak French and BritEnglish.  The combined conference of the Guild of BookWorkers and the Canadian Bookbinders’ and Book Artists Guild was enormous, informative fun.  CBBAG (that’s “cabbage, not seebag”) were fabulous hosts (thank you all!).  It was a total whirlwind, resulting in that ol’ familiar pleased exhaustion. There was no internet access in my off-site hotel room above a giant Chinese/ Vietnamese mall, resulting in a three-day blog hiatus and unbelievably packed inboxes today. 

Nonetheless, it was absolutely great.  See for yourself, while I go deal with the mail.

Don Etherington’s 15th-16th century alum-tawed binding, “cooking”.

  A wee caterpillar binding Betsy Palmer Eldridge brought along for her presentation.

Spadina streetcar sky web.

Beautiful, beautiful handmade brushes at the trade fair…I can’t find the card with the name of the woman who made them.  But I loved these, coveted several, and could afford none, alas.

Michael Wilcox’s handmade rooster finishing tool, one of his simpler demonstrations!

Martha  Cole’s embroidered and paste-dyed handmade book cloth, just one of hundreds of variations she presented.

Gorgeous medieval remains Betsy Palmer Eldridge brought to show (pen for scale).

Above, a detail of Linda Cunningham’s hand-felted sleeve for her book of the same title; and below, medieval shoes made for, um…crushing nuts.

The presentations were excellent and I wanted to see them all; but I cut out of Betsy Palmer Eldridge’s Sixty Stitches on Friday afternoon, because I had taken her workshop of the same title years ago and I really, really wanted some time to get out into Toronto.  Then, when I snuck in between sessions, I was sorry, because she’d brought along some fascinating objects I hadn’t seen before. Likewise, I’d planned on attending Claire Van Vliet’s presentation on some new woven structures she’s been working with, but I switched into Michael Wilcox’s  demonstration on making hand finishing tools after no less than twenty people said, “You really need to see that, it’s your kind of thing!” – and they were absolutely right, it was. I just wanted to do it all and couldn’t.  Add to it all two lavish receptions and four book shows and, well, you get the picture.

During my six hours stolen from Betsy’s session, I walked and walked and walked around downtown, checking out anything and everything, and I visited the Bata Shoe Museum, which was fascinating.  The walnut crushing shoes were my favorites.  Turn the soles upside down, and add Linda’s unintended caption, and you have the picture of my post-Toronto feet.


Revue Review

I’ve tended to think that since I am so very old, and have been to so very many exhibitions over the years, containing every possible permutation of performance and visual work, that there can be no more firsts; I’ve seen it all.  But, at the reception for Rock, Paper, Scissors on Saturday, shortly after Michael Montenegro’s nuanced marionette performance, I was approached by a short, slim, grey-bearded, tweed-clad man who introduced himself as a professor of something-I-did-not-hear. He talked about a study he was participating in on “ecstatic rituals” involving Amanita Muscaria and other mushrooms. Then, in a sudden switch, he said, “May I have your permission to spontaneously compose and deliver a song about your work?”

I said, “Um…of course” and he did, keeping time with his foot, bellowing out a bluesy riff about my installation and Pam Paulsrud’s beautiful Braille poem made of tiny pebbles affixed to the wall.  I wish I’d have been able to decipher all his lyrics (or that I had heard his name) but the sound in the space was impossible for me. I did catch the rhythm, and registered the delightful fact that he was utterly un-self-conscious. Throughout the reception, he moved through the gallery and performed a few times, literally singing out his response to the art. It was fun, and definitely a new, different way to participate in the work. So: now I know there’s always another first.  Thanks, professor whoever-you-are.

For its Gallery Guide intro page, the Chicago Reader has chosen an image of a work by Zina Castanuela, a current Book & Paper grad working in sculptural paper, and one of mine.  Not bad, two paper art images out of five representing what’s currently on view in town, I say.

Next Blahg: Toronto.

Fried Day Night

Superdawg One (A Chicago landmark, near our house, shot about an hour ago.)

Last night’s thesis class ran over a wee bit; I had some work to finish in my office afterwards, before I could leave.  I stopped to talk with a good friend on the street and didn’t get home till past midnight.  Paul was gone overnight to a conference.  During the night, somehow, the vibrating disc of my deaf alarm clock (the vibrations wake me, rather than sound) worked its way out of my pillowcase and onto the floor.  The dog woke me with her cold nose, almost two hours late; I fed her, threw on clothes and dashed out the door with a cup of coffee for breakfast and juuuust made it to my once-every-three weeks Friday class (which is six hours long) on time.  One of my colleagues stopped in, I blurted out this story, and he kindly bought me another cup of coffee and a banana.  Amazingly, the class went rather well; I caught up on the morning prep I’d missed as it went on.  Ten and a half hours after I woke, I finally got a meal.

As I left the school building a pale, skinny, black-haired man, all dressed in black, went cruising by on the busy sidewalk, a loaf of bread in one hand and a gallon of milk in the other, on a unicycle.  Just another work day.

Superdawg 2 (My alarm clock) 

Raining, not Pouring

Chicago has been and currently is dark, grey and wet.  I’m submerged in relentless, tediously exacting triviality, trying to drum up a semblance of (or at least the ability to project the appearance of) enthusiasm, waiting for the next actual and metaphoric glimpse of sunlight.  It will come, eventually.

If you’re having your own grey days, with time to escape, I’d like to direct you to Audrey Niffenegger’s “The Night Bookmobile”, a graphic novel currently being serialized in the London Guardian.  (Scroll down to May 31, open, click the magnifying glass, close the enlargement after reading, and click ‘next’ to read in sequence).

Events: Today is Doug Stapleton’s curator’s presentation at The Leaf and The Page.  Bookish opens tonight in San Francisco.  Saturday afternoon is the reception for Rock, Scissors, Paper. (Links to all at right).  And soon, it will stop raining.


Fall Forward

The trees are turning. Despite my best efforts to the contrary, I am back to the all-too familiar feeling that I’m at least five days behind on everything. This morning, technology added to the mix as it so often does; I had to spend a good chunk of time re-sending material that I thought had been crossed off my endless list, thanks to cyberspace glitches. So, I had to rearrange today’s list, which made me further re-arrange next week’s heavy schedule, which has already been altered at least six times. In-semester time is like a line of dominoes standing on end; knock one over and the whole row collapses, and has to be rebuilt; but doing that causes another to fall over, and so on. I’m back to the full-tilt rake-in-the-face method of operation that has been too much a feature of life for, lo, these many years.

At least I’m not the only one; while I was writing the above paragraph, today’s snail mail brought an official signed rejection letter for a faculty position I had never applied for nor even heard of; nor have I ever applied for anything in that particular department. I’ve no idea at all how my name and address got mixed into the applicant pool, but the letter made me laugh and shook me out of my mood.

I hereby resolve to schedule in a couple of visits to Fall, especially at the height of its color, that will be inviolate and completely rake-proof.

(Not Very) Retiring, and Bookish

Paul’s first official day of retirement was October 1st.  I made it to his party at work, or rather where he worked,  on Monday, but got there too late for all the speeches and great bad jokes (dang). It’s strange to be the non-spouse partner of an ol’ retired guy, especially since he’s a wee lad who’s three years younger than me.  I talked him into not setting his alarm clock last night, for what might well be the first time in 35 years. 

(Me, I’ll never be able to retire, I’ll only be able to decide when I’ve freakin’ had enough. Not long ago, three people I knew sat in a room and deliberately decided not to allow me to have a pension.  When I objected to this, one of them had the gall to say, “Oh, the pension’s not that good anyway.”  She, however, failed to clarify in any way how “bad pension” might be better than “jack shit”).

Whatever. Paul’s not actually retiring, either; he will still teach. He also has some other things lined up, and is planning some further future ventures.  Most Americans can’t really afford to retire anymore, especially in the current economic climate, even when their employers do acknowledge their contributions, past and present. But, he’s planning to enjoy the month of October off, and that’s just grand. So:

Congratulations, Paul!

I found and shot this in Austin, and I love it.  Yes, I will be using it as a book-object cover, at some point soon.

I shipped the work off to the San Francisco show; here’s the info:

The exhibition Bookish will open October 8 at 6pm.  It will be the launch event for ODC Theater’s festival of dance/performance works inspired by the written word entitled: Off Book, Stories that Move. The festival includes a collaboration with LitQuake, San Francisco’s premiere literary festival along with local and national dance/literary luminaries.

Curated by Julie Caffey, the Bookish exhibition will include steamroller prints provided by San Francisco’s Center for the Book, select artists from Chicago who make artwork inspired by the book, and selected work by CCA Graduate students.

ODC is in residence at Artaud Gallery and Loading Dock Theater, 450 Florida Street, San Francisco, CA, where the exhibition and performances will take place.

It’s great to be showing in San Francisco. The gallery space looks magnificent – 30 foot ceilings! – but I was only able to send two small works.  I’d love to do an installation in such a space.