Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I Want to Believe

Is Britney Spears an X-Files fan? As per her most recent lyric video.

Britney Spears' "Perfume" Lyric Video

Poster hanging in Mulder's office.
That also explains why whenever I hear the whistle noises in I Wanna Go it sounds like the X-Files theme. Ha ha ha. -Liz

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Allow Me to Indulgently & Obnoxiously Complain About All the Free Music at My Fingertips and Having to Listen to an Occasional Comercial

You would think that working at a job where you can play the music you want would be awesome. And of course, it is nice to be able to control what you hear, as opposed to other jobs where the employees have no say in the music and it sucks. But the problem is that when you can play whatever you want for 8 hours a day, you listen to CDs or playlists you like over and over, and then you actually get sick of them really quickly. When I'm working I'm already expending so much mental energy doing work-y things that I am not even really paying attention to the music. My main concern in terms of music in the bookstore where I work is just that there should be music playing all the time, because otherwise it gets so quiet it sounds like a library. So when it comes time to put on more music, when the album or playlist ends, it's actually annoying that I have to quit what I'm concentrating on and expend the energy to decide what to put on. This is why I sometimes make work-friendly playlists at home of music on my iPod. I don't mean "work-friendly" as in like, songs without swears. Fuck no. I just mean, stuff that won't make me crazy at work. It turns out Jandek, well, not so listenable in a work environment…Even if it's a cool weirdo bookstore like the one where I work. So I've curated playlists that are specific to my work environment, with titles like, "Music I Can Deal With At Work" or "Post Punk That Will Fly On a Judgmental Audience," or even "Songs Most Music Snobs and Normal People Would Agree Is Innocuously Tolerable In a Sort of Cool Retail Atmosphere." A playlist that would not fly where I work but would fly with the same people I normally encounter at work (just not WHEN I see them at this particular workplace) are playlists with names like "Novelty Songs And Other Music That Appeals to the Songs In the Key of Z Outsider Incredibly Strange Music Crowd" or "Admit It You Like It."

It stands to reason that sometimes my co-workers and I just play the same things over and over because we know that they go over well, or at the very least, nonjudgementally from coworkers or customers. Music that goes over well at work includes canonical punk/post-punk/new wave/ska, selected classic metal like Maiden or Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, both volumes of the compilation "Music For TV Dinners" and strangely, any number of remixes songs by the Gorillas. There's a certain ratio of characteristics that need to come together to create the right type of music for tolerability in a retail atmosphere, but the main one is "Can I hear this album one more time without it driving me OUT OF MY MIND?"

Sometimes music choice at work devolves into the lowest common emotional denominator. By this I mean, everybody might be super sick of the album, but it's something we all liked at one point, and there was an unspoken group consensus that whatever album it was, it was one we all liked. Even if its the same album we've been listening to for ages, it's still more convenient to pick that one in a pinch, and its still better then having to think super hard every 40 minutes what to listen to, using the few brain cells you have left for musical curation when you need those brain cells to deal with any number of store tasks requiring your attention, such as consignment paperwork, accounting, negotiating a consignor's or customer's emotional meltdown, as well as whatever other fires we have to put out that accompany a high profile but also highly stressful, understaffed and overworked bookstore job.

The upshot is that, if a customer spends enough time in the store, they come to understand which albums and playlists are in heavy rotation. A former co-worker at the bookstore who loved the Television album Marquee Moon played it every time he worked, and finally, a customer complained, begging him to change the album, pretty much engaging in a live interactive performance of a Yelp review: "Oh my god! This album is on every single time I'm here! I can't take it any more!"

In spite of the redundancy of music in heavy rotation at the bookstore, it is also true that I seek out new music to in my spare time, and I read articles on the internet as well as books and magazines about music. So when I hear of a band, artist or song I think I might like, I make a Spotify playlist of the album, that which I wait until I'm at work to listen to. This comes in handy at those moments when I don't want to think hard about what to play (and I want to explore something new). However, because I am a fickle listener, I am also not shy about deleting a playlist less then 3 or 4 songs in (and only 30 seconds in to each of those songs) and announcing, "BOO! Bah! OUT!" It is the sad truth that music, along with any type of art form, there is more crap then good stuff of it so you have to go through a lot of it to find the gems.

At work the computer (with Spotify on it) as well as the stereo, tuner and receiver are all hooked into the same speakers. This means that the entire store can hear if I'm flippantly skimming through songs and crankily announcing things like, "The Savages? The lead singer doesn't sound like Siouxsie, she sounds like Geddy Lee." Amazingly, I may not have enough brain power to run the store and decide what to listen to, but I certainly have enough brain power to run the store while making play by play MST3K-style commentary on the music we're already listening to. I don't know how snarky commentary came to be a skill at which I excel (and it has done me more harm then good), but I'd much rather be skilled at something that's helpful in the workplace, like, not pissing off people around around me in a customer-service related environment.

Also running on the computer and therefore through the speakers at work, is an interval timer from the internet. For every 20 minutes of sitting, it makes a noise and then we stand for two minutes. The idea is that its better for your circulation or health or calorie burning or some such a thing, if you're not sitting for long stretches like that. When the timers go off, we're either supposed to stand up or sit down, which we all do in mass and it looks kind of preposterous because there's a noise and then the entire staff Pavlovianially stands up or sits down in unison. The noises are supposed to be submarine sounds but they really sound like ping pong balls being launched out of an uzi.

Anyway, so I was saying that I make album playlists to listen to on Spotify. The problem is though, that I'm too cheap to pay for a fancy Spotify account, so I just have one of the free accounts which means you have to listen to the commercials. When they come on, I turn the volume down really low, which means it gets really quiet int he store, and everybody feels all uncomfortable. Anybody who uses Spotify knows that you can't turn the volume off to block out a commercial, because doing that, stops the commercial in such a way that when you turn the volume back on, the commercial just resumes where you left off. It's like a Spotify version of the little guy in the cartoon refrigerator that turns the light on and off when you open and close the door. A song ends, and then it's like someone is shouting at you about Hulu Plus. You turn the sound off like the closing of a tupperware lid, and then when you turn the sound back up just a nibble, it's like you're pulling up a corner of the tupperware lid, and the announcer comes pushing themselves out of the container, a fat loud genie blob in your face with a megaphone "HULU PLUS"sing in your face. I also liken it to someone shouting at you, and then you put them in a closet where they turn themselves off, but then when you open the closet door, they turn themselves back on shouting "THE SAMSUNG NEW GALEXY TAB 3!!!!" Or maybe it's a little like that phenomenon of particles acting differently when they know they're being watched?


I suppose it's my own damn fault for being so cheap. What I want to know is, how do they decide what commercials to play? Because it seems to me that the commercials and banner ads are really out of sync with what the music you're listening to. While I was thinking about my former co-worker and his love for Marquee Moon, I recently revisited the album on Spotify to play in the store, many years later. What would have been hilarious is if that same person who complained about its overplay years ago would also be in the store as I listened to the album. Lucky for me, nobody complained, but what got me complaning was the interruption of irrelevant ads popping up for things like Wal Mart (the name of which, incidentally, in my mind somewhere, when mixed with the title of the album Marquee Moon, became Marky Wal-Mart Mark, in a sort of amusing but intentional post-modern linguistic miscalculation). I couldn't help but think that the type of people who listen to this band are clearly not the target audience for the ads that popped up. There was a banner ad that said, "The Drop: Countdown to Krewella's New Album," which was really a link to some shitty playlist curated by this Skrillex-style technobore "band" called Krewella sponsored by McDonald's. Who did the Spotify marketing team think would give a shit if a handwritten lyric sheet for some auto-tuned track is "dropping" tomorrow? Anybody? Raise your hand if you give a shit…Yeah, I didn't think so.

I know it seems kind of spoiled to complain about the fact that I get to listen to what I want at work. Not everybody gets that luxury. Oh, you poor thing! Too many things to choose from! Life is so hard! My answer to you is that if you want to continue liking the music that you like, you might want to keep it out of the work atmosphere. The surest way to start disliking the music you've liked in the past is to listen to it. Now continue listening to it, over and over. Eight hours a day. Then interupt with constant ads that inform you solemnly "It's a pain only a woman can know. It aches, it throbs, and it goes on and on. It's endometriosis."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

More Names For Cats

Yeah you, Chublin Checker. 
The post-it on the fridge is full! That means it is time to post the list of how I have, as of late, been addressing my cats. As I type this, Mr. FATTYAPUSS (his real name is Tamago, today he is code name: Count Porkula) is purring on the chair with me, and I am loving it. His sister (Oshinko) is around somewhere, being all petite and cute and dainty but I don't know where. So based on the fact that you know Tamago is a fatty and Oshinko is not, you can probably hazard a guess which of these names is for which. Also, some of them make no sense, but then, terms of endearment are not known for their logic.

Sir Fatrick
McConaghy Platypus
Piddle Paddle
Chub of the Month Club
Charlie Chublin
Peter Chub Gerassey
Your Plumpness
Prince Charming
Mister ClamClam
Esteemed Dinner Guest

Bonus Addition From My Husband Joe:
Fudsey Wudgey Pudjekin
Tummy Power
Hey There Fatty Fat (to the tune of "Georgie Girl")


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Update on Long Arm Stapler First Aid Exhibit and Zine

This post is relating to the Long Arm Stapler First Aid: Self-Care In Zines and Mini Comics Exhibition at the Spudnik Press Annex opening April 20th that I'm co-curating.

After selecting what pieces we were going to use in the exhibit the real motifs emerged; I joked that what we really should have called the exhibit was "Cats, Coffee and Grief," because those topics seemed so inadvertantly prevalent in the pieces selected. In spite of the fact that I didn't want this exhibit to be so cutesy, it was apparent that zinesters do love their cats and coffee.

Actually though, there are bigger themes in zines and comics too. I thought the exhibit was going to be about body maintenace and grooming, but somehow a whole lot of the exhibit moved out of the corporeal world and into the ethereal world of emotion and mental states. And that was how it came to be that we decided to hang the show; pieces with likeminded themes would be grouped together within one hand-drawn frame per categorey (designed and drawn by my co-curator Neil Brideau). Each of the pieces fell into one of seven different categories (no, not seven deadly sins, silly goose!). Serendipitously, I realized after the fact, that seven is also the same amount of major chakras in the human body, as suggested by components of eastern metaphysical tradition. Chakras are central points of life-force-y energy in the body. They start at the bottom of your spine (where you digest in the earthly realm of bodily processes) and the chakras go up your body, the top one being your spot of pure consciousness (what we mean when we talk about our "third eye."). The body elevates in spiritualness as you move up from the lowest to the highest chakras.

Although the categories we came up with weren't exact correspondances to the chakra forces, what was similar is that a narrative was created of the physical through the mental and beyond; we started with the physical earthy stuff in the beginning, and then as the narrative continues (just as chakra energy moves higher in the body), we move into more of an emotional and then mental and then spiritual capacity. The categories of the exhibit start at the beginning with food, then move onto the corporeal world, then loss, then recovery, then growth, on to fulfillment, and then finally to jubilation.

Although the categories don't match chakra forces exactly, I do love the inadvertent parallel of how the exhibit is in some way an illustration of the kundalini-like force of movement from the bottom earth-y physical chakra stuff up to fulfillment of female kundalini Shakti energy rising to unite with the male Shiva energy in such a way that samadhi (enlightenment) is attained.

Also totally inadvertant was that I included Danielle Chenette's amazing illustration from the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

At first we had no idea what order to put the categories in. Then once we looked at the categories, we realized that there could be (couldn't help but be) a very definite narrative of the categories in that order. Spudnik Press executive director Angee Lennard (the catalyst for this exhibit, and without whom this exhibit would never have happened) exclaimed something to the effect of, "It's hard to believe that we were so stumped on the order of these categories at first. Clearly this has to be the order."

Some people can't get beyond the physical world, and then there are others who spend too much time in their heads, neglecting our physical selves. Ever neglect eating (or healthy eating) because you're busy doing stuff? Get lost in your thoughts or doing stuff in front of a computer and then realize once you turn the device off that your legs are numb and then realize you've had to pee the whole time? Neglect exercising for staying in bed to avoid the world, lost in depression and anxiety? I have been guilty of all of these things at various points.

Although I don't always follow the advice, I love the heady process of enjoying art about suggested self-help activity rather than doing the actual self-help activity. That is to say, I love art about the ways we take care of ourselves, even though I might not actually listen to the wisdom shared. It's appropriate then, that I love eating and reading zines about food, but I hate cooking. I love zines about gardening and botanical illustrations, even going as far as getting tattoos of healthy green vines on my arms, but I've accidentally killed every plant that's ever come into my possession. It's rare that I ever actually use a first-aid kit, but I can certainly appreciate a line-drawing diagram of directions of how to build one. 

Some of us spend too much time in our heads and some of us spend too much time outside our heads, but one thing we all have in common is that in order to be a well-balanced person physically, emotionally and psychically, we have to practice various forms of self-care.

I feel like I have more to say about the stuff I didn't include. There are so many good zines with wonderful pieces about sexuality, gender issues, body image, trauma recovery, but at some point we had to just say "OK, this is the deadline, the pieces have been selected, no more!" Otherwise we'd just never finish curating, and it would just go on forever, not to mention that there is limited wall space. I am constantly coming across more great illustrations in zines and fabulous comics. After all, I work in a bookstore that sells many of these hand made items. And since self-care is a topic that interests me, I will always be tuned in to the matter, especially based on my own medical history (cancer survivor, family history of mental illness, weirdo potential diagnosis of fibromyalgia, allergies etceterfuckinga).

I love a good line drawing, one that communicates so much with so little. Beth Barnett's salt and pepper shakers with a heart, Liz Prince's heart being mawled by a cat, Raleigh Briggs' elegant anatomy of a first aid kit -- these are simple drawings, but they communicate perfectly. When I look at these images, I feel like there's a very definite "You've had the power in yourself this whole time" element to them, which is exactly what publishing zines and mini comics is all about: you most likely already have all the rersources you already need to publish your work: a pen, some paper, a long-arm stapler to bind the work, some opinions. Sometimes the illustrations arent even art you've made yourself but the mere inclusion of it (or appropriated use of it) is what makes it arty and compelling; Erick Lyle's use of royalty free Dover clip art of an ambulance (the very same illustration, that I've seen in tons of zines, everything from David Rees' My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable to an issue of Cul-de-sac a friend and I published in the late 90s. (Dover clip art is like the slut of the design world; it gets AROUND if you know what I'm saying...and I LOVE IT.)

I know I'm making referances to some of the art pieces in the show I've discussed above without the accompanying illustration. Guess you'll just have to come to the exhibit!!!

Something I didn't notice until after looking at the spreadsheet of artists is that a majority of the pieces we'd selected were by women. This was not intentional. But it did give me pause. I'm uncomfortable saying that it is unsurprsing that many of the pieces about self-care are by women because of the traditional role of women as caretakers and the stereotypical propensity to associate the feminine with the private sphere. But I certainly feel like women are significantly better than men at taking care of themselves. A-hem! Who lives longer? (And statisically, I have heard it said that when spouses pass away or divorce, men are more likely than women to look for someone to remarry, and I have also heard it said that it is because men are looking for someone to take care of them (or at least, men from a certain generation). Where is this stastic from? I don't remember. It's not my own personal theory, just one that I've heard. And certainly I do not begrudge anybody for wanting to find a companion in their life. Even Doctor Who, the world's (arguably) loneliest male time traveller is perpetually looking for companions. And yes, I realized what I haven't mentioned in this discussion of gender is gender queer or queer companion preference in the world outside of  the hetero continuum. I am aware of this.

Of course, I feel like there are certain things I'm taking for granted, that I feel like are unsaid about this exhibit, that are not my points to make but are implicit in their understanding of this show. I feel that these points are cheesy but worth mentioning:

*Zines and comics, they ARE ART!!
*We spend so much of every single day on self-care and maintenance, surely we can make art about it!
*Can't art be useful? Shouldn't directions for how to do things look arty and that makes them fun?!

Yeah yeah, I know, cheesy. 

There are a number of pieces I wanted to include but I was unsuccessful in getting a response from the publisher or the creator. There were also a number of pieces that I loved but they didn't lend themselves to a gallery setting. I am reminded of what Jessica Abel and Matt Madden wrote in one of the forwards of one of the years Best American Comics (what year? I have no idea-- and to make matters worse I don't even know the exact quote), and that is this: there are a lot of comics that are really great and deserve to be recognized, but that doesn't mean they have sound bite-able moments that can be separated out from the entire work (specifically I think they were referring to Dan Clowes' Mister Wonderful). Also, the fact that the pieces of the show are hung on the wall does necessistate this logistical consideration: the piece has to be visually striking. Too much text makes it more writing then visual art (the zine Dwelling Portably for example, which I love, but unfortunately it didn't make the cut). Now, that's not to say that text can't be art; the use of artful text is beautifully illustrated with selections from by Dina Kelberman's "Relax" that hangs in the show (and is pictured below, because it is the image we're using to promote the show), where she uses differnt types of hand drawn fonts mixed with illustration.

The zine I'm making to go with the show will have a few extra pieces that aren't in the show , maybe becuase the pieces unveiled themselves known to my world so late in the process or that got ruled out for logisitcal considerations regarding hanging. And there is so much good zine-writing that's mostly text that it would be nice to include (things akin to the aforementioned Dwelling Portably). Maybe I'll do an additional zine later? Or maybe devote an issue of Caboose to it? Of course, I don't want my zine to be a not-my-zine-but-an-anthology type of situation. I suppose I could feature people's work and then comment on it. After all, I do reviews of stuff and make plenty of refereances to other media in my own zine, but I don't actually reprint the entire book that I'm doing the review of, etc. I'll have to let this marinate! Maybe someone out there is interested in this? There's all sorts of websites devoted to radical (and zine-y) self-care, I know I'm not the first person to be interested in this.

On a semi-related note! Here's a picture of the Spudnik Annex with the previous show. This is the space where Long-Arm Stapler exhibit will be, which we worked on super late yesterday measuring and sanding and hanging and printing and what have you.

The Spudnik Press Annex hosts a gallery and classroom, independent studios, and shared work space for writers, bookmakers, artists, students, and others.

See you Saturday!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Long-Arm Stapler First Aid: Self-Care In Zines and Mini Comics

Come to the art show I'm curating!

Long-Arm Stapler First Aid: Self-Care In Zines and Mini Comics

Curated by Liz Mason and Neil Brideau
4/20/13 – 5/31/13

Opening Reception: April 20, 2013 6:00 – 9:00pm
The Annex @ Spudnik Press Cooperative,
1821 W Hubbard, Suite 303, Chicago, IL

Whether we’re soothing, grooming or creating major life changes, we’re always involved in some sort of self-care, no matter how big or trivial. Drinking coffee, petting animals, getting stuff off our chests, confronting personal and societal demons, we are perpetually creating a space for our own personal world to exist healthfully in the bigger world. Indeed, the personal is social.
Instead of relying on professional services, one can create change using a DIY mentality, often with the help of some sort of reference. At their core, the pieces in this group show suggest we must be our own proponents for health and well-being.

The exhibit "Long-Arm Stapler First Aid" features pieces by a variety of zinesters and comics artists. The pieces discuss and/or illustrate self-care topics that both help themselves and inspire the reader to be their own advocate in self-improvement. In honor of self-publishing as a means to foster well-being, Spudnik Press is proud to host this exhibition featuring dozens of zine makers from across the country, including Edie Fake, Rinko Endo, Kathleen McIntyre, Ramsey Beyer, Liz Prince, Dina Kelberman, Sara McHenry, Maris Wicks, Beth Barnett, Nate Beaty, Raleigh Briggs, Danielle Chenette, Emilja Frances, Turtel Onli, Trubble Club, Caroline Paquita, Sarah McNeil, Milo Miller, Corinne Mucha, Kitari Sporrong, Missy Kulik, Cathy Leamy, Erick Lyle and more.

Long Arm Stapler First Aid will also include a limited edition exhibition zine, compiled by Liz Mason, encompassing relevant self-care themes in zines and mini-comics such as: healing, grief, fitness, and medical issues. The exhibit will also feature a limited edition screenprint by Ramsey Beyer, published by Spudnik Press.

This show brings together an assortment of zines and comics that address health-related issues ranging from mental to physical, personal to societal, and preventative to regenerative, including such specifics as grooming, food preparation, self-defense, coping strategies, defense mechanisms, mental or spiritual development and even soul enrichment. These largely self-published works address, at times, incredibly personal experiences, usually with a large dose of wit.

Unlike a film or a painting, readers of zines and comics are able to engage with these works at their own pace, choosing when they are ready to confront the next page. Perhaps this is what allows authors to broach difficult, and often very personal, topics with great breadth of emotion, honesty, and clarity. Through the combination of words and images, artists are able to rely on multiple modes of communication to bring together the tangible and the cerebral.
Why the long-arm stapler? It’s the symbol of home-stapled periodicals, the best kind of stapler to use for getting to the center of the page that a normal stapler can’t reach. And the very act of making a zine and mini comic (and reading) is considered a therapeutic caring action.

Long live (and maintain, groom and sooth) the long-arm stapler!

About the curators:
Liz Mason is the manager of Quimby’s Bookstore, known for selling a variety of self-published works, as well as the editor and publisher for the zine Caboose.

Neil Brideau is comics artist and comics sommelier at Quimby’s Bookstore, as well as an organizer of CAKE, Chicago’s Alternative Comics Expo.

*Image Credit to Dina Kelbermann