Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mid-Semester Hump

Time, its such a funny thing. It feels like only a few weeks ago I packed up my Inter-Mountain life and found myself in this swampy little burg. Yet somehow, against all odds, the semester is halfway over and before I know it it will be time to pack up my Subi for winter break. Time moves quickly when you have none of it.

After two papers, three handmade books, and five no-sleep-until-1-am days, I'm taking a moment to relax and update this lonely soul I've cast out into the world with little attention. So rather than bore with mundane details I'll be brief and show off some of my wares from my bookbinding class.

Binding I

The Pamphlet:
Pretty straight forward, simple structure. Be wary though, not as simple as you might think.

Double Pamphlet:
Grade for both: A

Link Stitch:

These bad boys were covered in paste paper I made. My favorite...

This one!

Paste paper is tricky though. It can be a bit unruly after its painted and I had trouble getting my papers flat enough, and folded square.

Grade: A-

Long Stitch:
One of my favorite structures, but not without some drama.
The cover for these books is paste papered bristol paper. Because of the weight of the cover paper, our professor prefers tabs like this beautiful one. One afternoon, Tabs became the drama of my life.
Half an hour before class was to start and I was to turn in two of these books, I still had yet to cut a single tab. You learn very quickly nothing is more terrifying than folding and cutting in the bookmaking realm. Rushed and stressed, I was working on the green book in the stack above. The green book was to be my greatest work but quickly had turned to my greatest pain the night before when I had to remove the sewing THREE times in order to get it right. I should have known then it was never meant to be. As I rushed to get my tabs cut before class began I ended up cutting off my tab! No big right, you can just have the hole be closer to the fore edge, right? Except I had made the foolish mistake of cutting the hole before the tab. So I have a great big hole in the cover of this beautiful book with no tab. About to cry, one of my classmates offered a few words of comfort. "Oh, you know those aren't even due this week..." FML. Despite this ordeal, I have (mostly) conquered my fear of the tab and have persevered into loving the long stitch. I took the time and made two more to be turned in the following week.

Favorite Paste Paper!

Grade: A

Long and Link Stitch:

Again, the one I thought would be my shining achievment turned out to be an utter nightmare. Due to a slight obsession with sewing tension, I managed to turn Pinky here into my own little version of Hell. Because of the stiff spine and the complex sewing pattern of this structure it is nearly impossible to go back and tighten the sewing. Word to the wise, if it looks and feels ok, just leave it.

Grade: Just turned in, will know in about two weeks.

And the piece de resistance...

The Ethiopian Stitch:

This is the first structure where I had to cover boards and attach the text block. The boards are covered with fine artists decorated paper with a quarter of book cloth.

This is the last sewing structure for this semester, which is fitting as it is my absolute favorite.

Now that I've exposed all this beauty, I'll sign off with yet another classic Gorgas Elevator story:

Me: (very cold, wearing a scarf over my head to keep my ears warm)
New Bama Girl: Hey, why you wearin' a Burka?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Elevator: A History... And a little Print too

Setting: UA Amelia Gorgas Library.
The main library at the University of Alabama consists of seven floors. Seven. Due to the ridiculous numbering structure imposed upon this building, many believe there to only be five. My departments both live on the "fifth" floor which is actually the seventh. Why the confusion? There exist two "mezzanine" floors which happen to be numbered the same number as the previous level with a delightful M pulling up the rear. The levels are labeled as follows: 1, 2, 2M, 3, 4, 4M, 5. Confusing? Indeed, particularly when the expectations of the average freshman student exclude their ability to form an argument. The building consists of two public elevators and one staff elevator which will henceforth be the only elevator I occupy. What follows is the story of my day...

I arrive at school at 8:43am. Tired from the previous day where I had spent eight hours working the press for my first print from my Suicide Linoleum block, I lock up Lady and realize I have forgotten the plastic grocery bag I usually bring to cover her seat in the daily event of rain. Slightly perturbed but determined to be optimistic about my day, I walk into the library to find the elevators swamped with librarians with galleys and galleys of books to be shelved in different areas throughout the library. No Worries, I thought. I'll just take the stairs, a little more exercise won't hurt. After 103 stairs (I counted), I arrive in the Type Lab ready for my second print.

A little shop talk and off to the press. Luckily I jump at the chance and get to use class time to print. I can't find the color in the swatch I wanted to use yesterday, so I find another I don't like as much and get to mixing my ink. After a few minutes and some bating from my professor, I change the color mixture towards what I had originally wanted (he found the swatch in 3 seconds). After a moment later I realize I made a much better color than either and am not too discouraged about my day. Finding, mixing, blotting and warming up the ink has taken half an hour to forty-five minutes.

Next I clean the five rollers on the press to make sure there is no residual ink from who ever used the press last. The day before I skipped this step and had to clean off all the ink I had put on because my blue was coming out green. Always clean the rollers first! Wait fifteen minutes to let the rollers dry. Then I get the ink on my pallet knife, bead the ink onto the idle roller of the press, flip on the motor, knock the press into "Trip" position, and lower the idle roller and the oscillating roller onto the two rubber inking rollers and watch how the ink slowly covers the rollers. A couple more beadings of ink and I'm ready for my proofing. But before I can move on, I have to arrange my linoleum block.

The print I run must match perfectly with the print I ran the day before which can be tricky. Thankfully, I made a map of my furniture and quickly I can arrange the press bed just as I did the previous day. Soon I have all my furniture set up, the appropriate amount of packing under my block to get it type high, and have tightened the quoins so my block won't move. Another twenty minutes.

I "Trip" my block twice to get plenty of ink on there, place my newsprint paper in the paper guides, knock the press into "print," and roll out my first proof. I am ecstatic. The ink is beautiful. But I have a lot of work left before I can print. There is a lot of chatter in my proof. Chatter is the lines left on the block that are relief enough so they will print. Some of my cutting was not deep enough from the previous night. I take out my block, get my cutting tools and work out what chatter I want to keep and what I want to cut out. This takes another half an hour to forty-five minutes. I run another proof and decide I want to take out the very thinnest piece of packing. Another five minutes getting that out. Now I am ready. I print.

4 hours, 2 press cleanings, 50 prints drying. Not too shabby. I stick around, helping others carry their prints to drying racks, carve my block for the print I must do again in a few days and by 2:45pm I'm beat, sick of the Type Lab, and ready to go home to my Kiddo.

I go to the public elevators. Remember, I am on the fifth (seventh) floor. I get in and press 1 and silently hope that by some miracle it will not stop on any other floor. What is about to happen is not exceptional which is exactly why it is irritating. The elevator stops on floor 4M (the floor immediately below mine, also known as the true sixth floor). A girl gets in, goes to press 1, sees I have done so and stands in her respective opposite side of the elevator. The elevator stops on 3 (fourth). Bama girl walks in wearing Bama girl uniform (Nike Dri-Fit Tempo shorts, oversized T-Shirt almost as long as shorts) and confidently presses 2M (third). Immediatly, Bama girl realizes she doesn't know what the hell she's doing...

BG: Shit! Oh God! Shit y'all, what floor do I want?
Me: What do you want?
BG: Blank Stare
4M: What are you looking for?
BG: Blank Stare
4M: A book?
BG: Blank Stare
Me: Circulation?
BG: The desk. I need the desk.
BG: The big desk, you know, outside the elevator?
Me: The circulation desk. Its on 2.
BG: Laughs as she hits 2

The elevator doors close, we travel one floor down to 2M (third), the doors open, no one is there but a girl sitting at a table and we all avoid awkward glances. The doors close again. Down to 2 (actually the second floor now), BG gets out, the doors close again. 4M girl turns to me, "You just saw every floor, huh?" "Pretty much." "That probably happens to you every time, huh?" "Pretty much." We arrive at 1, the doors open and floods of people invade the elevator before 4M and I even have a chance to get out. 4M shoots me a glance which says That sucks, I'm sorry, and walks away.

I go out to Lady only to discover it has rained. Her seat is wet. I wipe it off as best I can. Get on and ride home with a wet bum, and find this waiting for me...
Caption: Here's a treat for my Bebe.

Moral of the story: Chocolate and boyfriends make everything better :)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

So What Have I Been Up To...

Two weeks of school down and what do I have to show for myself?

Here are some stats:

Days of the week I have class: 4
Additional hours required per week for studio work: 10
Number of rooms I occupy at the Library for class, studio and homework: 3
Number of pages read thus far: 401
Number of people in my largest class: 29
Number of people in my smallest class: 9
Number of stairs to the fifth floor of the Library: 106
Pieces of letter press sorted: 900+
Sandragraphs I've printed: 40
Paper Sections for books I've cut: 20
Single pamphlets I've made: 2
Double pamphlets I've made: 2
Money spent on tools and supplies: $98.49
Hilarious Drooling incidents in class: 1

Using these tools, I made...


I know it may not seem like much now, but just you wait. Bookbinding I will be making a new book every week. This doesn't mean I'm only making one book either. Several copies need to be made in order to turn in for my assignments. Practice makes perfect, right?

This is a print I made in my Printing class. Thick glue, scraps of fabric, thread and muslin glued onto a block of plywood and set to dry. Once dry, set it up in the bed of the press, ink it up and away you go! This picture is only a proof so the actual print has more detail and is not quite finished. Tomorrow I print them all again, but with text! Once I have the final product I'll put up a better picture.

My lecture classes, while not as physically fun, are equally interesting and stimulating. We talk of censorship and restoration, what makes a book a book, learn how to identify the format of a book, if it is made with handmade paper, and if a section or gathering of leaves is comprised of one piece of paper folded and cut. And we read read read.

So this is what I have been doing so far. I haven't even gotten dirty yet. Give me a couple more weeks and I'll be in the thick of it. So until I have more lovely hand-made goodness to show you I'll leave you with the deep thoughts of the trio sitting behind us at Jason's Deli...

*Imagine a soft, somber, reverent voice*

"I mean, I just don't think anyone really understands...understands what Alabama Football means to my life."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Food is a big part of every one's life. If they claim that it isn't they are either lying, or not enjoying life to its fullest. One of the quickest and easiest ways to bring a little more joy into your life, is enriching it with food.

I love to cook. Dan loves to cook. Perfect match, right? There is the occasional spat over one or the other of us taking over the kitchen, so we have devised the perfect system to compromise our equal love for the preparing of the meals: one chops and get all the ingredients together while the other does all the actual sweatin' (and believe me, in our kitchen, you are sweatin') by the stove. This plan is impeccable for the dual chef household.

So just what exactly have we made over the last couple weeks here in Alabama? Well, I won't go into detail regarding every single dish, but I will discuss a this weeks highlights:

With a some help from Paula Deen (who, according to REAL southern women, is not one) we made some delicious Buttery Tilapia with Lemon and Green Onions, served over rice with a side of asparagus. One think I like about fish it I don't get that weird "Ugh, I'm touching raw meat and I'm grossed out by it" thing. Sure it smells a little sour, but I much prefer sour to bloody...

Meatless Monday Excursions:
In order to be a little more Eco-friendly, and at the behest of dear Best Friend Mandy, Dan and I have agreed to participate in the Meatless Monday Movement. Rather than trying to explain and justify it myself, you can check it out ans decide for yourself:
Last Thursday we went to the ubertiny Farmer's Market they have on campus and got ourselves some fresh tomatoes and eggplant. Can you guess what we made on Monday?
That's right, Baked Eggplant Parmigiana with homemade, from scratch pasta sauce. I have never peeled tomatoes without boiling them ahead of time first. In the boiling method, the skin bursts and splits so its really easy to just peel away. Fresh, uncooked tomatoes don't peel quite so easily. I just used a potato peeler and with a little patience and a steady hand it worked out fine. I have no idea if there is a better way to do it, but it seemed to work out. I egged up the eggplant (ha!) coated it in the cheese and flour, fried it for a minute or two then tossed it in the baking dish, smothered away and tada! A most amazing dish. I've never cooked with eggplant before and was wary as to how this was going to work out but it was amazing. The eggplant was just the perfect flavor and texture with the sauce and mozzarella. And as a garnish on the side, drumroll please, we had super sweet Fatty Arbuckle, my first celebrity tomato! I was so proud of him!
And for desert Dan made a wonderful little dish called Banana Halva. Its an Indian desert where you mash up some bananas, fry them up until the mush turns into an almost toffee like consistency then you stir in chopped walnuts and pistachios. We didn't have the pistachios so we used almonds instead and it was still amazing! Get just a little plain yogurt on the side and the sweet and sour go together so perfectly.

Tuesday I was in orientation and was given *blah* pizza. But...

We went to our neighbor and fellow Creative Writing MFA Megan's for dinner. Anyone who doesn't like seafood should either stop reading so you don't feel left out or keep reading so you will learn to appreciate some of the most amazing food in the world. Megan made Crab Cole Slaw, Crab Linguine and Mussel Linguine! I have no idea what else she used to season them, but all three dishes were so delectable I went back for seconds on all three. The Mussel pasta even had the shells right in there and some of them you have to pick out the little guys inside. Such good food. Then, right when I thought I couldn't stuff myself anymore, she brought out a Semi-Sweet Chocolate Meringue with Whipped Cream, Raspberries and Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips. Heaven! Had it been sweet chocolate it would have been too much, but the semi-sweet was just enough to melt you away.

And for tonight... We're having left overs. Can only cram so much good food in a week... But we have grand plans, I assure you. I will try and get pictures for those of who who love to look at yummy food like I do.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Shadows, Saints and Pirl

Dear friend and fellow book nerd, Noelle, lent me this book before I left Good Ole SLC. What with all the packing, driving, unpacking and domestic bliss that has monopolized a good portion of the last month of my life, I was unable to start the book before I left. Intrigued though I was about the book, other distractions kept getting in the way and I found myself here in Bama a week already and still had not embarked upon the book.

I started the book rather voraciously and then tapered off a bit, slowly, reading bit here and there when I had a moment. The first chapter is perhaps the most interesting, thought provoking, exciting chapter in the whole book. The book is introduced by the revelation that in the city of Barcelona, there is a place, a basilica where the forgotten books of this world are kept, waiting to be discovered again. For any passionate reader this is perhaps the most exciting concept ever conceived. This palatial cemetery, winds and twists into your imagination, filled with endless possibilities of stories to be discovered. From this place, you are lead into the story of a boy and what he found there.

After the excitement aroused in the first chapter, it took me a little while to get invested in the story of the boy only because he was a boy and a slave to his passions, which is rather different from even a teenager being a slave to his passions. The story veers off from that which he discovered in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and into an obsessive childhood crush which, while altogether relevant for the remainder of the story, just isn't as interesting as what is to come. After the boy became more of a man and he focuses again on his discovery the story really picks up. I certainly do not wish to divulge any secrets or spoil any endings so my descriptions will end there. But I will say that the last week I have been consumed by this book and unable to put it down. The imagery is haunting and beautiful, the story twisting and compelling. It is very dark at times and I find myself wishing to learn more about the Spanish Civil War. Beautiful. Loved it. Recommend it to anyone looking for a good, exciting read. Disclaimer: There will be blood... (Ha!)

Meet W.C. Fields: American Comedian, Notorious Drinker, and Patron Saint of our Kitchen. Last year at some festival Dan came across this statue of the comedian and brought it home to live with him. He used to oversee Dan's desk, where he would bless the writer with his wit whilst Dan would wile away the hours working on homework and his various writing projects. Now he lives in our kitchen, overseeing the food prep and keeping watchful eye on our liquor. Dinner is always a little bit funnier now...

I promised I would keep everyone updated on the puppy. First of all, I must report that I have foolishly spelled the poor little girls name wrong. Her name is officially Steamboat Pirl (part Pig, part Squirrel). She is eating like a real puppy now and while still tiny, she is huge compared to how puny she was just a few days ago. Her spine, hip bones, and rib cage are no longer visible and her little belly is nice and swollen from eating. She has the energy of a real puppy now. Even tugging on a little pink rope...

That's all for now kids. Orientation tomorrow then school on Wednesday. I should have some interesting things to say then. In the mean time, a word of advice: Corn Whiskey Moonshine out of a Mason Jar should NOT be passed around like lemonade...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Textbook Nerdiness

I bought my text books today. I was flipping through and got excited about some of the illustrations.

For you nerds who are interested...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Destination: Alabama

A Brief Synopsis:
While we made the trip in the amount of time we allotted ourselves and I really don't know a better way we could have done it, I do not suggest to anyone a cross country move that could include a U-Haul and another vehicle. Moving is the biggest motivation for the Spartan lifestyle I have come across.

I will say the Wyoming sunrise was beautiful, only to be eclipsed by the Loaf N'Jug advertised on the Services sign immediately following. Nebraska seemed to go on forever with its rolling hills, or rather rolling flats of farmland. We got some free squash, courtesy of Steve and Charlene Dunbar. 18 long hours of driving and we made it to Kansas City only to be derailed by the incompetent clerk behind the plate glass cube at the illustrious EconoLodge Airport. This young lady wouldn't cut it at the UGH.

The next day we started off again after a lovely meal at Denny's where some poor soul seemed to be coughing up a lung and two people who shall remain nameless ordered their breakfast off the seniors only menu even though both are several years south of 65. *Ahem* For such a small state, Missouri took forever. Of course, we drove across it, then down along the state line so we pretty much drove it twice. I'm sure its a lovely town, but Memphis, from the freeway, sucks. How can you take a four lane highway, cut it down to one lane, with little to no warning and allow traffic to sit for about an hour, almost not moving? I know that sounds startlingly similar to I-80 in SLC but believe me, it's worse.This was about the time we all started hitting the wall. A few more hours, missed rest stop or two (it wouldn't be a road trip with Dad without one), a gas station with no food, a country road, and after two days of seemingly endless driving, Dan, my parents and I arrived in Tuscaloosa to a loud, rousing hello from Dan's friends and our new neighbors.

Our Home:

I promised I would provide pictures....

Here is our house!

Ha! If only...

Here is our actual house. Pretty ghetto and yet perfectly perfect. Of course its not really perfect but its about as close as we can get around here. Two bedrooms, three AC units, washer/dryer hookups... C'mon, you know that's pretty good.

The Living Room...

(Where our books live)

The Study/Office/Second Bedroom/Moderate Mess...

Dan's work station is there on the left and mine is on the right.

The Kitchen...

The Teeny Bathroom...

So that is our little home. It isn't the fanciest place, but then again, we aren't very fancy people. Just enough love to make it a home :)

Life thus far...

School hasn't started yet so I've actually had quite a bit of time on my hands and have used that time for mostly domestic endeavors. My grandmothers would be so proud. I've been arranging the house, cleaning that which must be cleaned, doing laundry, and managed to create the most amazing Spinach Quiche, courtesy some help from good ole Julia Child (Go see Julie&Julia, right now!! If you love food, love cooking food, or just love Stanley Tucci, get off your ass and go see it!)

I've started looking for a job. The University is a bit confusing regarding their application processes. I went to three different departments I was told on-line to refer to for student employment and was told at all three locations, to check the website. Anyway, I applied for a circulation job in the library so hopefully that pans out.

The humidity is kicking my ass. I was all cocky before, "Oh, don't you worry about ME. I'LL be fine. I KNOW what its like." Energy is a very difficult substance to come by in the oppressive weight of your own sweat that just never dries. Ok, enough melodrama. Its not that bad. It does take some getting used to and many, many, refrigerated Nalgenes at the ready to cool you down and keep you hydrated. You wouldn't think in such a wet place you could get dehydrated. You'd be wrong. The only real trouble I've had is at night. I had sleeping problems before I left SLC. I thought it was stress related and it easily still could be. I'm hoping once school starts I'll finally be able to relax enough. But as for now, it gets really hot at night in the house and I can't stay asleep. Dan got me some Melatonin supplements to try and help my body sleep, but to no avail so far.

The best part about living with Dan, is living with Dan. There is nothing better than waking up next to your best friend, going for a quick (albeit sweaty) run, and coming home to make yummy waffles and watch Buffy with best friend. I'm a happy girl.

The Parable of the Puppy and Crazy Towny Bud...

Emily is one of our neighbors and a fellow MFA in Dan's program. The Friday we arrived in Bama, she had gone for a bike ride in the country. She saw what she thought to be a squirrel, struggling by the side of the road. She stopped to see it and saw it was this...

A gentleman who was passing by said that the house just down the road breeds pitbulls and that's probably where she came from. Emily, knowing that a puppy that little wouldn't wander off that far without being noticed, brought her home to 15th court. Steamboat Pearl, as she has come to be called, is one sick puppy. After taking her to the vet we all found out she had worms and was really malnourished. Ashely and Nilo, our next door neighbors, decided to take over her care and got all the medications she needed. She puppy puked up a number of worms and dropped more weight and is now, at the ripe old age of seven weeks, a mere two and a half pounds. But she has started eating again and has more energy. She's gonna make it! I had the pleasure of some puppy sitting earlier today and yesterday and she is just the sweetest thing.

This weekend we 15th Courters took off for a lake close by to escape the heat and go for a swim. The lake was very beautiful and pretty close although down a rocky dirt road. Poor Midnight incurred a couple more bruises :C The water was, no kidding, the temperature of bath water. I'm used to Mountain lakes that on the hottest of hot summer day are still freezing.

It was a lovely, relaxing day. As we were preparing to leave a big ass truck followed by a white Mustang, blasting bad rap as loud as possible, pulled up by the spot where we were. This guy gets out of the Mustang with an open Budweiser Tall Boy in one hand, the uber classy Budweiser B complete with crown tattooed on his arm, and two boxer terriers. One boxer was over 100 lbs and solid as a rock. The other was ten weeks old and completely dwarfed poor little Steamboat Pearl. They smelled Pearl instantly and came over to where we were to investigate. So the Crazy Towny, lets call him Crazy Towny Bud, was clearly already pretty smashed and way too friendly. He came over, saying all kind of stuff about pitbulls, took Pearl's jaws in his meat hooks and proceeded to look at her teeth to see if she would be a good fightin dog, pointed out the second row of teeth in the back, for when they lock their jaws in a fight and told a lovely anecdote about how the big boxer was fighting a pitbull and won the fight but the pitbull locked its jaws on the boxers throat. As we all started to load up Midnight, he proceeded to tell us what we needed to do to get Pearl up to regular weight. As he drags the big boxer out of my car after it jumped in when I opened the door, he tells us we need to get her a "Beached Whale" shot at the vet and that will help her a lot. We leave the lake, grateful Crazy Towny Bud and his posse didn't bust out the banjos and invite us to reenact a scene from Deliverance. As we drove home, we were discussing just what the hell a "beached whale" shot is and why you would give it to a puppy. BJ, another neighbor, very astutely figured out that Crazy Towny Bud was saying "B12" but in his Crazy Towny Bud accent it sounded like "beached whale." Sound it out, folks. Its a fun game.

Well, that's my life in Alabama so far. I'll leave you with the stellar conversation I walked in on inadvertently at the grocery store...

Hiram, the Mormon bag boy: It's like football and wrestling... In the dark...