One week down, fourteen to go in the semester; 84 commutes left of 90.  Eleven letters of reference to write this weekend; yesterday, an entire day spent working by e-mail. Eight solid hours.  My at-work office is now two thumb drives and a backpack, paper files stored in one location, two shelves of pitifully pared-down sample materials in another location, and an empty toxic cubicle in another building. My throat and eyes begin to burn within moments of entering that building; it’s permeated by the chemical stench of brand-new all-synthetic materials. Fortunately, my only obligation to be in there is an allegedly bi-weekly two-hour meeting. (Lip-reading seven people who all talk at once was hard enough; doing it while my eyes are burning is just one of the intensified delights in store for me).

At home, we are dealing with ominous, threatening medical complications on the part of a beloved elderly family member, the heartbreaking sort involving intensive care, nursing homes, power of attorney, literally having to consider life-or-death decisions for another. I’m trying to be fully supportive to my loved ones in pain, while dealing with my own emotions for our elder. Our lives are hitched to our phones, to text messages for me.

And oh, yeah, tomorrow brings February.

I truly don’t want another season of morose blogs like the ones I’ve been writing from September on, so I’ve been thinking how I might handle Blahg for the next few months, while I’m navigating the dregs of some frankly awful situations. I’m not much liking my right-now, so why solidify it even more with words?

I’m thinking, maybe, about more time travel, about mining stories from my odd past.  For some completely unknown reason, all this week bits of my life in South Dakota in the early 70s have been surfacing, in dreams and in the void of my el commute (I’ve had to carry in so much stuff in the office/backpack that I haven’t wanted to add on the extra few ounces of a novel).  Maybe time travel is the way to negotiate the now. It’s what my brain’s doing when it has a wee bit of time to itself, anyways. 


So It Goes


I’m a zombie. I’ve just spent the last two and a half days glued to my computer, preparing for the semester that begins Monday (coordinating guest artists, events, writing syllabae, setting up multiple meetings, building new course web sites, adding new info, making new handouts; the last time I taught my spring classes was 2007, so a lot of updating was required).  In addition, I’ve been finishing an app and the paperwork for an upcoming show and residency, booking plane tickets for a visiting artist spot in March.  My butt actually hurts from sitting (and has probably spread a few more inches as well). But, I’m essentially done, except for one class that will be finalized in meetings. So what am I doing now that I can take a break?

Oh, well, it’s too late at night to begin anything else, and I wanted to post a blog, so that I can have tomorrow, my final free day, for me. After running to a Kinko’s in the morning to print out the app and paperwork,  and dropping those into the FedEx box (I still haven’t gotten a new printer, mine is dead), I’ll take some apples that have gotten too soft to the forest preserve for my deer friends, and then the rest of the day, I’ll be in the studio.

Here’s a nice link, if you have a printer.  Have fun with this, and maybe some good or at least interesting things will occur that I can actually blog about while I’m in the void for the next sixteen weeks.  Maybe.

Now I’m going to sleep and spend tomorrow clearing my head, trying to make things all lush, peaceful and calm in there, hoping to keep them that way.


Mass Aspiration

onwardI got sucked into the telly on a grand scale during Obama’s inauguration yesterday.  (I can say ‘telly’ because I watched the BBC’s coverage). The last time this sort of almost-involuntary viewing trance happened for me was on 9/11.  I now realize I was terrified that something horrible would happen.

When I was sixteen, I fell asleep at night in a car my boyfriend was driving, and woke covered in blood, with a broken jaw, my lower teeth piercing completely through the skin well below my shredded lower lip.  He’d dozed off and hit a freeway bridge abutment. I still have scars. For years and years afterward, if I was in a moving vehicle at night, I could not sleep, no matter how tired I was.  I had to stare at the road, pulling the car forward with my eyes and will.

That’s similar to how it was for me yesterday; on one level, I was enjoying it all very much, but on another, I had to watch so that I could will nothing bad to happen.  My heart rate went up and my breath was shortened for the entire time Michelle and Barack Obama were out of the limousine, walking openly on Pennsylvania Avenue in the procession to the White House.  I heaved a huge sigh of relief when they got back in the car.

I am wondering if other Americans my age felt the same; I suspect so.  Maybe I do relate to my entire generation, in this way, at least.  I was twelve when JFK was shot (America’s first mass media disaster event), followed, momentarily it seemed, by Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.  It seems that we, or at least I, almost expect that anything or anyone representing hope, enlightenment and progress for the country will be brought to a swift and ugly end. This is incredibly sad. One of my largest desires is that this is a chapter in our mindset that will be brought to a close during this administration, that we can, indeed move forward, become a better, humanitarian nation.

That said, those very strong feelings coexisted with immense hope and pride as I took it all in, particularly Obama’s speech.

A few details I liked:

  • Malia Obama taking photos with her digital camera.
  • Aretha Franklin’s hat.  She’s The Queen; she deserves a crown.
  • The end of the final benediction. “when brown can stick around, etc.”
  • Watching that helicopter actually, finally take Bush away.
  • Seeing a large organized contingent with professionally printed ARREST BUSH signs in the crowds along Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • The BBC’s captioning errors, particularly “shat own” for “shadow”.
  • Mention of celebrations around the world, particularly in Moneygall, Ireland, which claims Obama’s great-great-great grandfather.  (This video is hilariously silly)

The Audacity Of…


The excitement and high hopes for the Obama administration are palpable here in the states, and I think, around the world.  There are going to be public streaming videocasts of the inauguration in a great many locations here in Chicago, something I do not remember ever occurring previously.  I plan to watch Obama’s speech live on (captioned) TV myself, which is a hugely uncharacteristic desire on my part. It’s all that good.

So, I share in the excitement, in this surging widespread aura of hope; yet I am concerned that corporate machinations, the fascist-like actions and methods of the for-profit private sector, are too entrenched and too readily accepted by the bludgeoned, dulled American public as the incontrovertible status quo, for any one administration to be able to turn this country around.

It’s beyond ironic that, precisely in the middle of this season of nearly-universal high optimism, an old friend has become embroiled in a xenophobic persecution, for daring to (rather mildly) posit an opinion within a closed, members-only group. A couple of entrenched corporate toadies sought the comment out, informed their superiors about it, and sent overt threats to my friend; one of them even sanctimoniously touted these actions as justifiable, because the situation is taking place in ‘the private sector’.

Most incongruously, these people wholeheartedly consider themselves to be liberals, and the organization they represent proclaims itself to be an exemplary bastion of progress, originality and forward thinking!  

This is precisely where my hope takes a nose-dive.  No matter what innovations a government might put forth, if the private sector remains the same, keeping its employees in the current, ongoing wage-and-health-insurance-slavery, then no real change can occur.

Positive Change begins on a personal level, then moves on to grass-roots, hopefully to burgeon into fruitfulness, much as Obama’s campaign evolved. Implementing Positive Change involves a huge risk. Beginning Positive Change can be painful, discouraging, even threatening.  Achieving Positive Change involves re-writing the rulebook, beginning by re-examining your own motives. How can you demand from your government what you – and I do mean you personally – are not willing to extend to others in your daily life?

It’s not a question of labeling or ‘spin’ (things like factory-produced ‘all-natural pizza’ come to mind here). It’s a question of willfully working to improve your immediate environment, and that change always begins, small and large, with free speech, with daring to name things. If you have nothing to hide, if your actions are honest and honorable, then you have nothing to fear from dissenting opinion.

I’m afraid that money and power (even wee tiny increments of power) are far too seductive to the majority, and the change we are throwing all our hopes into will remain an unattainable goal, simply a stimulus for our imagination.  Perhaps, however, even that is important to maintain: a belief in a future, however remote from the present, when humans may evolve beyond today’s hypocrisy.

Martin Luther King day seems a good day for this post…


Lastly, I am saddened to say farewell to another audacious friend and exemplary mentor-like figure, Judith Hoffberg: a writer, curator and publisher under whose Umbrella the book arts in all their manifestations (as well as an enormous amount of tangential information) came to an entire generation of us.  She left on January 16th. I will truly miss her popping up in my inbox with her uncannily-timed, exquisite words of encouragement and support. Here is her farewell, in her own words.  I hope she’s happily hanging out with Marilyn at that big eternal party…these are two people who, however temporarily, did achieve things for which people were willing to work beyond greed, beyond the pursuit of power, for a true, inclusive community.

Frozen Trivialities


Neighbor performing time-honored winter ritual

I am in Application Land, crankin’ ‘em out. They still take forever, always longer than I want, and I wish to hell some sort of image standardization could be implemented for the residencies, at least. (Though happily, and finally, this is the first year on record I have been able to send digital images everywhere; last year, there were still places that required slides). But everyone wants different formatting, different numbers of images; today, yet another PowerPoint…

Chicago was -5 Fahrenheit, with a -40 degree windchill yesterday (-12 overnight); yep, I was out in it, getting stuff printed and mailed by the mid-month postmark deadline. It’s better today (+8). I’m trying to wrap these up in time for tomorrow’s balmy 26 degrees, when I can comfortably return to my way-too-freakin’-cold-right-now basement studio.

So, being still so self-involved, and having nothing interesting to update Blahg with, I remembered how much I used to like reading Smith’s lists of the weird search engine terms people used to find his web site. I don’t have the capability to see those on my site, but I can here. By far, most people are actually looking for me, and secondarily for specific subjects I’ve written about. They’re nowhere near as funny as Smith’s, but here are some of the odder phrases people have used to find Blahg in the past few months:

  • Trees on hills
  • cross ness
  • Riverness
  • trains mist
  • train mist
  • mist train
  • Missour forests
  • Farm Land flickr
  • fun alcoholic
  • Art of a Bard
  • De Composed Art
  • Small and Narrow galley kitchens
  • Lewsi isalnd Scotalnd
  • What is Oddiology?
  • crinkle for church windows
  • Badlands Wow
  • oakey jay and melissa …….and my favorite:
  • my virgin won’t work

The Hermit’s Nine Days


I finally, finally finished my gorgeous ‘new’ upstairs studio/ bindery last night.  It took nine days, though those days also included working hard on some time-consuming apps and some highly unwelcome e-intrusions, with attendant emotional baggage.  There was also a day when I got completely knocked out by citra-solv fumes; I was rendered useless. It was necessary to soften and scrape years of ancient adhesive and tape off of the now-gorgeous drafting table top;  two entire yogurt cups filled with sticky sludge. Bleah!

All my teaching stuff is now fully incorporated into my home studio stuff, except for two shelves of samples and some files that are in shared offices where I teach. (My first-floor home office is Another Story best left for later; that involves re-vamping the tech and another excruciating sorting process that will involve digitizing great quantities of material). For the first time in seventeen years, my teaching tool kit is even emptied; I will now select specific tools for certain days, and carry them in as needed.

Still to come in the bindery: repairing the slides for the large drawer on the drafting table and resolving a protective surface for the top, the arrival of a new drafting chair on wheels, and the fun of moving around and selecting the art for the walls, which I’ll keep for a day when I need a lift in mood.  But, I’ll begin working in here immediately, and it will never, ever be this clean and organized again, so I wanted to post photos.

I’ve been enjoying being a hermit and selfishly focusing on my own needs. I think that’s another reason I like residencies; my immediate social circle is mostly limited to the pleasure of getting to know a few fellow residents.  I feel absolutely no desire to go out, and even (OK, slightly guiltily) missed two lovely annual parties…but those were also the citra-solv day, and the day after.

Now, back to three more I–want-these apps, and (S)Edition.  I’m ready for them all. What I’m not ready for is to have this all end in 12 more days.

Here’s my virtual circular tour:










Ugh.  I am and have been slogging through the improvements in my upstairs studio/ bindery; the cheapo white shelving/ drawer unit that you see in the top photo is one of them.  It will replace the dresser on the right, which has to go so I can move a much-needed large drafting table in. Also being moved to accommodate that are the cutter (with the old drawing table as a new, better support for it), the nipping press, the Kwikprint with its stand and drawers of type. The studio’s an intricate puzzle box, and any addition to it requires a total make-over. Meanwhile, books and art from my old office are being moved in, up here and in my home office/ library on the first floor. Stuff stuff stuff stuff stuff, all stuffed into two jigsaw-puzzle type spaces.

As with the old work office, it’s the sorting that’s the worst.  I’m throwing a lot out, and planning a GIANT art-garage sale sometime during the warmer months. Too…much…stuff.  I’m a hermit while this is happening because it’s got to be done by the time I head back into the semester.  Because of that, I am sooo looking forward to a friend’s bash this weekend.  And then, back to it, and (finally) back to the art.

Still, the sorting, while essentially making room for the future, is an amusing trip through my past as well.  I don’t generally keep non-digital photos around, but I ran across these, and scanned them.  Kind of a hoot:


19 (gulp) 50s


1970s (with my sister, Laurie)






In Residence


Paul admired my outfit so much that he thought you should see it too:  long underwear, two shirts, hooded sweatshirt, plastic apron, padded vest, baggy green polarfleece sweatpants, and tartan wellies, and properly shrunken test sheets.

Now, post-holidaze, I’ve been working on my own work, at last. I’d re-beaten the fiber (that I found to have been underbeaten in August while I was at Jentel) around Thanksgiving, and then had no more time to even think about it till now.  That’s the teaching life. However, I’d stored the bucket o’ pulp just inside the back door of the basement, and that’s a cool enough spot to keep it refrigerated and fresh; it was.  No stank at all.



On the first, I finished clearing up the studio, which was still partially packed from Jentel (that’s also the teaching life), set up for papermaking, and made test sheets.  I had, at last, the right shrinkage, so I finished making the final cover sheets for (S)Edition yesterday, while still getting out to the woods and still getting some work done on various apps each day.  Today, I’ll continue to reconfigure my bindery/ clean studio so that it can receive the furniture from my old school office, which we’ll move on Monday, while the cover sheets dry.  My goal is to have all the production finished (dyeing, casting and embellishing the covers, casting the remaining stems, and beating the fiber for and making the rest of the final text sheets), and to get the new improved bindery set up by the time the semester starts.  Then, I’ll be able to assemble the final books in the warm bindery space a few at a time during the early part of the semester. That’s my plan (along with all the apps, syllabae, etc.)…it does seem do-able, even with a few parties thrown in.



My studios at home are small and cramped, and I need to spend a lot of extra time reconfiguring them for each task, each phase of any given project.  But they do work for me, more efficiently all the time, though I think longingly of all the residency studios, and back to the days of 3,000 square feet in Cleveland the entire time I work in them. 

A friend told me how lucky I was to have them…and that made me wonder: is it luck if it’s by design? I can’t live without studios, so I make damn sure I have them; I give up a lot to equip them and to have time to work.  Is that luck? Or determination?

In any case, it’s good to be reminded that I can effectively be in residence in my residence.  (Will somebody hit me over the head with that fact when it gets rough during the coming semester, please?  Thanks).