Monthly Archives: February 2010

An Orbit of Spudnik: A Photo Essay

The Artifice Editors visited the studio of Spudnik Press last Wednesday to pick up the prints for the Artifice Issue 1 Special Edition.  The editors had a wonderful time, took many pictures, and later asked Issue 1 Author Andy Farkas, who was not present, to write the following Photo Essay.

You can find out more about Spudnik Press and their awesome screenprinting work here.


The tale of the journey to Spudnik Press is one I can tell, should I be interested, because I was never there.  Here I am pictured in the Spudnik Press offices surrounded by Spudnik Press artists, all smiles of course because they have been waiting so long for me to visit.  “We are overjoyed you are finally here,” their faces appear to say.  The fact that I was not actually visiting doesn’t seem to bother them.  They were just happy to see me, even though they weren’t seeing me. 

Of course there were rules that had to be followed, even for those of us not present.  When I asked what the rules were, the Spudniki, being artists, put together a quick poster.  I informed them, in no uncertain terms, that I would follow their rules to the best of my ability, but only if they were rearranged thusly: 4, 1, 2, 3, 5, since I have an overwhelming fear of ordinals in their correct order.  I also mentioned that Rule #6 probably necessitated the First Aid kit, so all chopping activities should perhaps be reevaluated.  As can be seen here, the Spudniki want to complain that an outsider perhaps shouldn’t come in and rearrange the rules, but since the outsider hadn’t come in…

The courteous Spudniki even gave me a mailbox, slot #13.  It was oh so kind of them, even though I hadn’t had any correspondence forwarded to their offices.  I admit, even now, I am nostalgic for the days of delivering my outgoing mail to that bank of metal cubbies, of checking my #13 for postcards, letters from long lost pen pals, messages from home, requests for assistance from foreign dignitaries, missives from despondent ingénues desperately awaiting word from me.  

Here you see the Spudniki who wanted to show me that, much like the Yetti, when you take his picture, it appears blurry. 

His twin told me, “I hate when my Yetti brother shows off like that,” and promptly bent up the picture.  But as he did, the rest of the world went blurry.

This sympathetic Spudniki informed me that the world was often blurry, that things weren’t as clear as they seemed, that only at Spudnik Press did the universe acknowledge, accept, and display this inherent haziness.  I looked at myself.  I looked at the sympathetic Spudniki.  I tried to remember exactly what she looked like, tried to use her as my cynosure in this indistinct world, and began to wonder if maybe I really was in the confines of Spudnik Press.  Maybe I’m always in Spudnik Press. 

I informed the Spudniki that it was obvious they didn’t follow their own rules.  “You call this clean?”  They said, “No, but we do call this paint ‘fire’ because it is fire in paint form.  We could paint you with it.  It would burn.”  They menaced me with a paintbrush of fire.  I responded merely by pointing to myself.  I am not sure if they saw me.

At one point they showed me the door.  “This is how you get out,” they told me.  “But I am not here.”  They thought about this.  “It could also be the way you get in,” they said.  “Is it the way to get in?” I asked.  “No,” they said.  “It is the way you get out.” 

“We have come for you,” the magical glowing balls of light told me.  “But why?  Where will you take me?” I asked, my eyes, as is apparent, full of marvel.  “Away from here,” said the magical glowing balls of light.  “But I am already away from here,” I said.  “Then we will take you to where you already are,” the magical glowing balls of light told me.  “But I don’t want to be where I already am,” I said.  “I want to be somewhere else.  Please, please take me somewhere else,” I said.  “What do we look like, your freakin’ taxi service?” said the magically surly glowing balls of light.  They continued to shine in their resplendence.  They shined and shined.  And then, as I am told, they were gone.

One Spudniki throughout was particularly nice to me, but I knew it wasn’t going to work out between us because she refused to show me her right eye.  When I complained she said, “Why should I show you my right eye when you won’t show me your anything-at-all, no, not even an ear or a knee cap?”  After our pleasant exchange she turned around and pushed her way through the door.

And then, at one point, gravity got tired of forcing everything down, and instead forced everything … to the side.  “To the side,” said gravity, “is much cooler.  It’s hip.  It’s funky.  Before, like The Man, I was holding everything and everyone down.  Down, down, down.  I’m holding you down.  But now I go … to the side.”  I shook my head.  “Sorry, gravity,” I said, patting gravity on the shoulder, “you will never be cool.”  “Were you just talking to gravity?” asked one of the Spudniki.  “Why yes I was,” I said.  “And whom, may I inquire, are you talking to?”

In front of this door is a table.  I demanded to be shown what was behind the door.  The Spudniki said, “No, never.  We will never show you what’s behind the door behind the table.”  “Ah-ha!  I knew it!  You’re hiding something from me.”  They paused.  “No, we just really don’t want to have to move the table.”

Here is where I finally realized that I was in Spudnik Press, that I was actually there, that I am actually here, that I always was here.  Although they took this picture of me alone, sitting in the semi-dark of the end of the day, they told me I shouldn’t despair, that Spudnik Press was a good and decent place.  “I thought I knew where I was.”  Where?  “Somewhere else.”  That’s not very specific.  “But it’s where I was.”  Is this place so bad?  “No, but it reminds me nothing of home.”  Where was home?  “I have no idea.”  Then it should remind you precisely of home. 

When I entered Spudnik Press, I never expected to get lost amongst its artist supplies, its lights, its residents, its hallways.  But at the end of my stay, instead of the door they showed me earlier, the Spudniki directed me to a hall, a hall that appeared to be simple to follow, a hall with an exit sign at the end of it, a hall that was not a labyrinth.  I walk toward that exit sign still, still the haze returns, still the Yetti’s picture is blurry, still the twin gets pissed, still the girl will not show me her right eye, still there is no mail.  Only, in these hallways, I am not alone.  There is you now.  You tell about the time you didn’t go to Spudnik Press.  You tell about how you were somewhere else.  You tell me many things for which, really, there is no evidence.  And even now, you wander along this never-ending hallway alone with me.  

Author Dossier #10: Gregory Lawless

Dossier Series Now At a Dirty Ten/Twelfths Dozen! Issue 1 Release Party Imminently Becoming Imminent!

Gregory Lawless’ Piece “Apples, Crosses” Discoverable Only in Artifice!

Name: Greg(ory) Lawless

Other Known or Desired Aliases: The Man with Two Feet, Big Guy, Little Guy, oso.

Arch-Nemesis: My doppelgänger, named Leg Grawless, who lives in Malden, Massachusetts, sells insurance, is slightly better looking than I am and keeps a blog about Alan Greenspan.  

Lair: Buffalo Wildwings; roller-skating rinks; Pacific Sunwear; Kafka’s Prague.

Sidekick: My cat, Mr. Sparkles.

Four Things He Keeps on His Person at All Times, in Order of Importance: Wind-up chattering teeth, nunchucks, Pop Rocks, “liter of cola.”

The Manhattan Project Scientist He’s Always Seen Himself As: John Cusack as Michael Merriman.

Favorite Extinct Country: Alderaan or the Kingdom of Ostgoths.

If He had the Power to Defy Any Newtonian Law of Physics it Would Be (And Why): 1) Sleepiness, b/c 2) very sleepy.

Summation of Aesthetic Philosophy: Michael Lash, Roadhouse, The Lice, My Own Private Idaho, my wife, Jonas Bendiksen, William Kennedy, The Steamtown Mall in Scranton.

Exclusive Issue 1 Excerpt

Tim Jones Yelvington
My Mother’s Funeral

My call home on Sunday brought bad news about my mother. Grunting
in the stall. Ambulances, firetrucks, paramedics. A teacup out there
somewhere is missing its tempest.

At one point I felt a little bit like crying. That was true in a literal sense for
a very short period of time. Tried to figure out, at 2:45 a.m., whether
it made sense to go back to sleep or make some coffee. Some of us see
beauty in Drano. A type of low-down bottle of drink. Requires slow
imbibing for maximal pleasure.

We’re seeing the old boring event with a monotone reading, a few
questions, and people standing around staring at the floor. There are
some pretty odd characters here: the woman who works as a stand-in
grandmother, the recent graduate who lives underground, the guy who
calculates worst-case scenarios. I felt like I was part of their tableau
and the conclusions they were drawing made me deeply uncomfortable,
even alienated.

My family is very flawed in ways you cannot see. It’s all about the
hyperbole and the carefully constructed propaganda. In typical domestic
fashion, here’s a lady who set her man up for failure. They chose to
honeymoon in the wrong place. They did not get very far, nor accomplish
much in the big picture, but they felt superior in their epic failure. They
share at least a part of the blame for their situation.

I am accused, on the regular, of being a hater, and of spending all of my
time complaining about things and of not complimenting good things
when they happen. When one feels hate (as with the first blush of love)
the senses are acutely active.

I don’t celebrate Mother’s Day much since my mom died. What a
lot of faith you need to start with nothing and believe you can create
something good and important. A familiar set of circumstances:
attachment to a new place, a new way of defining oneself. You detach
and enlarge the Self simultaneously. It’s majorly hot, an asteroid with
great hair.

Author Dossier #9: Joel Patton

Joel Patton’s piece “Questionnaire” can only be found strategically occupying page 67 in Artifice Issue 1

Name:  Joel Patton

Other Known or Desired Aliases:  I’ve never had an alias.  My online
names are just variations on my original name.

Arch-Nemesis:  No nemeses, either.  I try to live an antagonist-free
lifestyle.  Maybe that’s self-defeating; maybe I’m an

Sidekick:  I think that I am perhaps more the sidekick type.

Do You Consider the Arch-Nemesis of Your Arch-Nemesis to be Your
Arch-Nemesis or Your Arch-Friend?:  The prefix arch- is an interesting
one.  The OED says that it comes more or less unchanged from
ecclesiastical Greek into ecclesiastical Latin into ecclesiastical
English, and then non-ecclesiastical English (and lots of other
languages more or less the same way, though not necessarily with the
same connotations).  Arch-enemy or -nemesis sounds more natural than
arch-friend.  Other words work the other way, though.  Language is a
constant moil.
      What’s interesting to me is that like so much else, the word was
originally partly translated, so that the Old English archbishop would
be the high-bishop.  But bishop is a borrow.  Bishop is Greek for seer
or watcher or overseer.  (None of this is original scholarship, and I
don’t read Greek anyway.  This whole section is me leaning on the
OED.)  Head seer has a rather different tone than archbishop, but
things might be different, had the term been adopted.

If He Were to Perform a Monologue to WWII Soldiers While Standing in
Front of an American Flag He Would Say:  Which of my grandfathers is
in the crowd?

If He Was a Celebrity Chef In the Post-Apocalypse His Catchphrase
Would Be:  “But it’s protein, right?”

Summation of Aesthetic Philosophy:  See etymology above, and pottery

Author Dossier #8: Jefferson Navicky

Jefferson Navicky’s piece “Collagists’ Biography” can only be found in the pensive minds of futuristic children and on pages 73-77 in Artifice Issue 1

Name: Jefferson Navicky

Other Known or Desired Aliases: Daniel Johns, William Bolzebados, Assistant Curator of Special Collections

Arch-Nemesis: Cormac McCarthy

Sidekick: Hah-hah (childhood ((and current)) blanket)

Lair: sunporch

If Leading a Group of States into a War of Secession He Would First: channel Robert E. Lee, and my grandfather Tata.

The “Bloodless” Aroostook War resulted in one casualty.  Mr. Navicky, do you know who it was?: Yes, Private Hiram T. Smith.

If He Could Grant Any ANIMAL the Power of Speech, He Would Bestow It Upon: Squirrels.

Summation of Aesthetic Philosophy: Tin ceilings, my lover’s foot hanging off the sunlit edge of the bed, and Heaven as Library.

Monopoly: A Photo Essay

This photo essay was commissioned by Artifice editors from Roxane Gay, an Issue 1 contributor. As you can see, Roxane collects Monopoly sets…

I collect Monopoly sets. I am not, I don’t think, a creepy collector.  TV crews from A & E won’t be descending upon my apartment any time soon to film an episode of Hoarders. I am also not the kind of collector who gets frothy at the mouth about keeping her collection in pristine or “mint” condition. I keep it stored in a closet and I even play with some of the Monopoly sets. I am mostly interested in fancy Monopoly sets with unique designs and Monopoly sets from far flung places. The less I can understand the game board, the happier I am.

Did you know there’s an Express Monopoly game? It’s great for the Monopoly lover on  the go and it comes in a tidy little canister. I must admit it mostly sucks as a Monopoly game but it’s unique so I keep it around for kicks. I like to look at the canister which is cute.

These are my boring Monopoly sets–the original game, a couple updated Here & Now editions, and a sweet electronic banking edition which is great for those days when you’re feeling too lazy to have to deal with all that Monopoly money and arguing over who’s going to be the banker and so on. What’s pretty charming about these sets is how happy the Monopoly man is. Look at his arms eagerly outstretched? Look how zippy he is? I love the Monopoly man. We’re totally May December.

Please note that I do not connect branded Monopoly sets like the Harry Potter game or the Harley Davidson game or Texasopoly and other abominations. Those versions make me sad. To be honest, they offend me deeply. We don’t really need a Simpsons Monopoly game, do we?

The International Euro edition is a curious set. It tries to offer a bit of each country in the EU but it’s a super compact game board–very efficient, much like Europeans themselves.

Target is the most amazing store in the world and from time to time they sell super sexy Monopoly sets. This set, designed by Michael Graves, who I only know was the awesome Target designer, is so sexy it requires the use of a condom. I actually had to cut the condom open to get the set out. It was clinging to the Monopoly set for dear life.

One of the many reasons I love shopping in Target is that they give some real thought to the aesthetics of the shopping experience. You’re in a discount department store, certainly but there’s no reason to not feel chic about the whole thing. The best part of this set are the houses in blue and red, made out of a soft rubbery material. The board is shiny in the middle and could substitute as one of those sun tan reflectors in a pinch.

Apartheid is over thank goodness so I don’t feel guilty about owning a Monopoly set from South Africa. One of the most interesting things about Monopoly sets from around the world is that you can start to get a sense, in a small way, of what that culture values. It’s also really interesting to see how the Monopoly pieces and houses and Chance/Community chest and property cards differ from one country to the next.

This set is from Hong Kong. It has never been opened. It’s like a fortune cookie. I’m hoping that if I leave the box sealed for long enough, the Monopoly money will become real money and then I will be rich.

In London, the Monopoly franchise is published by Waddington’s. That sounds so British, doesn’t it? It also makes me think of Paddington Bear. I love Paddington Bear.

I love Spanish. I love the way it sounds. I love Univision and how the announcer on Sabado Gigante is always so excited. When I speak Spanish, I do so very slowly and when I’m around Spanish speaking people I mostly pretend I don’t speak Spanish so they don’t think I’m simple. Doing that also makes me feel like I’m an undercover spy, I’m Sydney Bristow with a sassy pink wig, because I can understand them and they don’t know it. It feels like the best secret. One of the best things about Alias was how Jennifer Garner faked speaking 20 different languages so well. *That* is acting. This Monopoly set is from a Spanish-speaking country but I cannot remember which. I think it might be from Spain. That’s the kind of collector I am, too, casual and disorganized. There’s also a little sadness in this box because, the game pieces are like the Sorry pieces, just little pieces of brightly colored plastic. That’s kind of discriminatory, isn’t it? Like what, Spanish-speaking people don’t deserve the little metal thimbles and wheelbarrows and roller skates and whatnot? La libertad para los descamisados!

Parker Brothers knows how to make money and keep on making money. Every five years or so they release nostalgia editions and suckers like me buy them. This is a reproduction of the 1935 edition with little wooden houses and such. It’s all very quaint.

I became obsessed with collecting Monopoly sets because as a kid, I would often play the French version of Monopoly when I was visiting family in Haiti. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world that this game I played in the States was the same game people were playing all around the world. We had this one, great thing in common, this adoration of capitalism. Yes, I was exceptionally mature and insightful. I have two French sets–one I play and one I keep in creepy collector pristine condition. The French also get screwed in terms of game pieces. It’s not fair.

Ebay is a vicious, cutthroat place and I get most of my Monopoly sets via auction where Monopoly sellers are a nefarious lot, charging relatively exorbitant amounts of money for a game that costs $12. I cringe whenever I reflect upon how much money I’ve spent on my collection. This set is from the Middle East. I think of it as my firstborn’s college education. I don’t have a firstborn yet so it basically sucks to be that kid but hey, you can get a great education at a community college these days. Not all is lost. The writing on the board is so pretty even if I don’t have a damn clue what any of it means.

Like I said, Target is awesome. This wooden marvel is another Michael Graves design. It is sleek and sexy. This is my primary Monopoly set. When I play it, I feel sophisticated and fancy just like when I shop at Target.

As a child, I was pretty impressed by the Franklin Mint monopoly set. Gold! Fancy wood! Awesome infomercial! I dated someone once who owned the Franklin Mint set and playing with it was one of the bigger disappointments of my life–all that money for a Monopoly set decorated like a tacky High Roller suite in Atlantic City. Though I wouldn’t mind owning one, I would mind paying $495 (at the time) for the privilege so I was ecstatic when Parker Brothers released their 70th anniversary (I think, that kind of collector) limited edition, a poor man’s Franklin Mint set with an art deco aesthetic. Gold plastic flourishes! Fake gold and silver hotels and houses! Cheap wood! $75! Reno! Every time I play this version, I feel quite smug, like I’ve gotten an excellent bargain. Smug is also how I feel when I shop at DSW or when I get Mediterranean and Baltic Aves, Boardwalk and Park Place and North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Pacific Avenues and you’re forced to run through a gauntlet of properties I own each and every time you make your way around the board. Suckas!

Author Dossier #7: Jessica Bozek

Jessica Bozek’s piece “Sketch for the Fantasist’s Tale” can be found in Artifice Issue 1

Name: Jessica Bozek

Other Known or Desired Aliases: J-Boz (while bowling or lighting matches)

Secret Identity: Hamster (though I doubt I’ll ever be called upon to solve the world’s energy problems)

Arch-Nemesis: Right big toe

Lair: cyan study, dog park, grocery store

Do You Consider the Arch-Nemesis of Your Arch-Nemesis to be Your Arch-Nemesis or Your Arch-Friend?: The left big toe is a friend, but only by default

Favorite Flightless Bird: Where did they find the birds to do that?

The World’s Last Passenger Pigeon Died on September 1, 1914, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Their Extinction was Brought About by Many Causes. Were You Involved in Any?: On that day, I was married at the Cincinnati Zoo. Till death or the dangerously room temperature chicken dish does us part, we pledged. Flash bulbs burst forth. One of these may have stunned the poor pigeon.

Summation of Aesthetic Philosophy: I like small animals with questionable behavior.