Monday, September 21, 2009

Curiouser and Curiouser

I got an email this morning from a friend on the East Coast, Waltham, to be more exact, saying "hey, there's this dude from Waltham doing a pictorial dictionary booksigning in LA tonight, are you close enough to go?" And I was close enough and interested enough. I've been keeping my Webster's out on top of the scrabble box these days, close at hand. I love me a good booksigning with author presentation. (I am sad that there are no Cakewrecks signings in LA that I know of.) Almost every time I go to a signing of an unknown to me author, I get suckered into buying their book by the tale they tell.

Tonight was no different, in that I bought signed books, except the author is more of a graphic artist/bookbinder. He became fascinated with an old family dictionary that had all the pictures placed in a supplement, then became obsessed. I think anyone who produces a piece of art requiring 10 years of dedication to that project is a little out of their mind. Or rather a little too much in their mind. But standing in a beautiful bookstore devoted to graphics, I realized that most of the work in there was produced by driven, crazy people. The ones that don't become divorced from reality (or have a good support staff) actually manage get their works published. Such is the case with John Carrera who produced expensive handbound, hand published copes of his book, but managed to find a mass producing printer to print decent copes for 100X less.
the book the book
Pictorial Webster is the work he spent 10 years on. He got the engravings from Yale, catalogued them, sorted them, found funky connections, designed the pages for them to go on, and printed it up. Tonight, he gave a quirky and delightful presentation to his family, a bunch of designers and moi, a booksigning junkie. The way he put some iamges together can be linked directly to classic rock and surreal art. I'm looking forward to paging through my mass market copy to see if I can find stories, or music, in the images too. I especially wanted to see if he put in an image of "arms akimbo" since I have such a hard time finding that. Even my dictionary is pretty non-specific about what that means.

Just before the presentation started, I realized that instead of focusing on all the beautiful design books (I covet the small $60 Shepard Fairey with the cutout cover of Andre), I should have been mingling, mixing. But I can be dumb about social opportunities. Luckily, after asking a softball question - "was this a full time endeavor?" answer, "It became one, and involved a lot of childcare. Here's me printing with my daughter in a Snugli." - his sister invited me to an afterparty where I got to chat with perfect strangers and had a wonderful time. We discussed my developing midlife crisis, the effect of the 20th Maine on the civil war, favorite oddball sandwiches (ham and hummus, yam-avocado and other good stuff, ham and jelly), San Diego bakeries, east coast/west coast, university jobs and so on. At the end of the evening, I brought up the "akimbo" question only to find that his sister's company is "Akimbo" something or other.

Turns out that "arms akimbo" is standing with your hands on hips, elbows cocked out, usually with an attitude. Hands can be forward or back. I snapped a picture of people rocking the akimbo pose and made my way home. Strangely the traffic couldn't have been better coming and going, and I had just a delightful time.

So go buy a copy of this (or the flashcards or the stamp set!) and find your own fun. Like the page with a "galosh" next to another "galosh". Or the series of pages headed: FISH, MORE FISH, ONE FISH, TWO FISH,.... SMALL FISH, SMART FISH, BIG FISH, GO FISH...DEAD FISH. Tee hee!

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