Sunday, May 24, 2009

Regarding the Screed

Self-publishing: a recent phrase; virtual buzzword now drained of fresh vigor, left to wither on the vine in the summer's heat, life's perennial distractions in ample supply. It's one thing to assemble the tools and mechanics of self-publishing, while it is quite another to actually write, with quality of word and content that would interest others enough to warrant a read, and print, bind and distribute such work.

I am reminded of countless revolutionaries (and wanna-bes) cranking out mimeographed handbills and manifestos, declaring the end to imperialism, capitalism, the war, any war or ism; Che hand-cranking the ditto machine. I must confess that the mechanics of self-publishing fascinate me at least as much as – okay, more than – the message being communicated. Perhaps I should strive to be a printer or bookbinder, rather than dabble at writing.

One local Albuquerque venue of note is Basement Films, a mobile, makeshift cinematic organization, who are noted for their Xerox art handbills and posters advertising their micro-cinema shows. I had an opportunity, a few years ago, to witness one of these being created, an advertisement for a seminar on low budget video production that I was fortunate to teach. Keif Henley, the front man of Basement Films at that time, and handbill-maker extraordinaire, accompanied me to the local copier store where he proceeded to assemble on the glass face of a copy machine a collage of typed text, using fonts of various sizes and styles, and appropriated graphical elements: a copier collage. He then had the store make a PMT master from the original copy, from which a run of handbills were printed. I loved the results, and Keif's work was great. I still love this style of self-publishing, and take note whenever I see a handbill posted to a wall or light pole or bulletin board. I felt privileged to have witnessed the creation of my seminar's handbills, by an artist such as Keif.

I've had an old HP-5L, black and white laser printer, for more than a decade. This printer didn't use ink-jet technology, rather xerography, and yielded a quality of font that was every bit professional in appearance. The feed-rollers, made of a rubber-like substance, finally dry-rotted and cracked after a decade of use, rendering the printer nonfunctional. I tried replacing it with another printer brand, of Korean extraction, but the quality of print was marginal, like a poorly working old copy machine. My wife recommended that I let the copier and printer repairman, who frequents her office, have a go at repairing the old HP-5L. Well, it's now back in my home office, and I'm happy to report printing as good as ever. Oh, did I not mention that in the decade I've used this great printer I've only replaced the print cartridge once? Yep. That's about 80 bucks for a decade's worth of professional quality printed text.

I recently bought an extended-reach stapler, the kind you can use to center-staple and bind a pamphlet. You can see where this is going, can't you? Printed at home screeds, manila card stock covers, center stapled, micro-published direct to the streets. Or the local bookstore, if they'll have me, assuming there are any locally-owned bookstores left in town (but that's the subject of another post.) This opens up a whole new world of possibilities. Now all I need is the artistic skill of both a writer and publisher. If it were only as easy to acquire those skills as purchasing a stapler or printer!

This also reminds me of the typecast blog of Strikethru's, where recently there has been interest in a micro-published typewritten journal. This fascination with publishing written works on paper continues to be an anachronism, given the fact that a decade or more ago we were dutifully informed that the paperless office had officially arrived, rendering the paper mills and document-stuffed filing cabinets of the world obsolete. I wonder if the fascination with paper-based documentation systems is in any way related to the fascination with film-based photography. Both have their basis in the physical realm of the tangibly real, where one's hands can hold and fondle and manipulate. I wonder if this isn't an important clue to the resurgence of interest in what has become known as “retro technology,” in that the new world of the virtual has left a void of forbidden desire for things tangibly physical.


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