Posts Tagged ‘occupy’
by aragorn in LBC
This year we did this 10 week death march where we published eight new titles in about 10 weeks. We’ve gotten rather good at all the wrangling, negotiating, and logistics necessary to do such an amount of work but that doesn’t mean it comes free. In a capitalist economy there are always costs and with our project is costs are usually human costs.
So for at least three months I have been teetering on the edge of total burn out. I’m not giving enough positive reinforcement for the things I’m doing to make up for the drudgery and the dealing with jerks all the time. I’m not saying this is a plea for positive feedback. Far back in my head I know that LBC is doing interesting work. I feel like our timing is off, and there would’ve been more of an audience for this project if we started it two, or five, years earlier than we did, but it took a long time to figure out how to publish aggressively and inexpensively.
Some teetering on the edge of total burnout and now comes eight days of anarchy. On the one hand this is a great time of year, many friends come into town, I do get to have inspiring conversations nearly every day, but this year I learned what the limits of human capacity is. I’ve suspected for a few years that aging was going to catch up to me at some point and this is that point.
This is very frustrating for me because I strongly believe that this is a worthwhile project and this is the time to do more with it and not less. It also should go without saying I have a fantastic group of people who help make the LBC project possible. But it’s not enough. At least today, at least by the measure of my current capacity, at least when I am feeling lowest. Today the trolls and ennui make me question the context in which this project exists. The project is worthwhile but the milieu might not be. I don’t know. Ask me in a week. Maybe I’ll have changed my mind by then.
The logic of the ad hominem
In a humorous recent thread I was accused of being the scion of riches. It’s hard to tell if the commenter is an actual enemy, a frenemy (that glorious combination of friend when they see you and whatever when they don’t), or just an educated troll the accusation is very interesting.
On one hand we (at LBC) are criticized fairly frequently for being a capitalist project, charging too much for our books, and basically just sucking because we are legal and Bloom-esque. This is the other side of that criticism. This says that our problem is some sort of “bad faith” due to our familial resources. Take this a step further and the accusation is that if you come from bad (aka money) then what you produce, what you make, is bad.
This right here, this impossible choice between being judged for failure and judged for success, is why anarchists never grow old. Why would they? Even a modicum of success (which I wouldn’t even say we’ve achieved) gets strangers to authoritatively declare you whenever, why succeed? Spend a couple years being a rebel, take some scalps, and walk the fuck away cleanly.
I used to think a lot about the origins of the people who are around. What the demographic story was of our scene. What the class composition of the people around me were and how it was a predictor of future behavior. But it was all bullshit. There are valid reasons for everyone to walk away. Those of us who stay behind aren’t particularly noble. We are just stubborn.
If I were accused of something I was not 20 years ago I would be in the trenches right now. I would not stand for the truth to not be told. I would not put up with something being wrong. I laugh at that person today. Things are wrong on the place, and nicer people are accused of worse things all the time.
Now I just think of the consequences, or the environment in which ad hominem attacks are honestly substituted for critical thinking, conversation, or dare I say it relationships.
Stomping out ashes
I think it’s safe to say that we are now in a moment of decline for the anarchist space. This is not due to failure of the Beautiful Idea but the failure of our imagination today. Naturally we have the extreme disadvantage of having zero resources and an impossible project but that didn’t stop the makers of nightmares from bringing this world into being and it shouldn’t stop us.
I am known, probably fairly, for being a naysayer of many projects. I am always mentioning the but of them rather than the heart of them. But that is not how I really feel. I more or less accept the nihilist should be someone whose heart has been broken one time too many and if it hasn’t been then it’s probably a shallow nihilism indeed. Which is to say that I am hopeful for new beginnings and projects over time. I continue to be doubtful about that thing that I call activism or right answers or solutions but I’m more inclined to shut my mouth about them than ever before.
Occupy was a fresh beginning. Clearly it doesn’t take much in the American context but the taking of space was a big deal. None of the rest of it matters all that much in my opinion. The rest of it easily falls within the spectrum of what a new radical can expect: meetings, romances, boredom, and maybe a little smashy smashy. But the taking of space, as bleak and mediocre as that space was, current something mundane into something fantastic, something worth repeating (over and over), something to crave.
But in the bizarre world of addiction you can’t really trust your instincts. Once it’s taken away and you have to live with absence is as if it never happened at all. There was never a moment where everything seemed possible. It was always emptiness and lack. It was always like today.
So it’s a moment of decline and that raises the question of what’s next. The Occupy Generation is now here and it’s different than the post-Seattle generation, the punks, or the New(ish) Left. It’s getting up to speed on identity politics, insurrectionary rhetoric, and all of the required reading of the 21st century but probably will not care all that much about what came before. This generation has its own orbits and logic.
So what’s next has to address the oldness and the newness in equal measure and without fixating on past correct answers (which weren’t either). Sure it involves the Internet but also has to involve some way to connect with people on a personal level, without irony or sarcasm or snarkiness. This personal connection is a lot of what people experienced that sticks with them after the occupations were done and it’s the thing that is impossible to maintain without that face-to-face interaction.
It’s also the thing that is damn near impossible for my generation to do. Generation X damn near invented survival sarcasm and I can’t imagine going back even now I know it’s killing the anarchist space and all social space. This isn’t just an (self) accusation of hipsterism but an assessment that Occupy demonstrated a flaw in my generations approach. If we want to take the Beautiful Idea seriously we have to leave space for the new earnest people to find their own way. Our jaundiced view, based in too much experience, is preventing the wide-eyed future from coming.
And frankly I think that this lesson comes to late. I think that the decline in the anarchist space is our own fault, it’s related to these attitude problems and others, and is probably not repairable. Instead we would do as we’ve done several times before (in my 20 odd years of experience) which is do as we do and wait for a complete cycle of new people to come around and stake their claim in the space. Perhaps our generation, or the attitude of our generation, will weaken enough to let them in.
by aragorn in LBC
I am not writing very much right now. I wish I was.
I am so entirely mired in the day-to-day workflow of LBC that it has become nearly impossible to keep track of all the details or to look past them. I want to keep a record of this work (both types) though so I am going to try to do a monthly “report back” on the status of the project for your (and my) enjoyment.
I’ll talk about our setup and our February title to start this out…
I have been publishing stuff for a while now. I wrote my first pro-situ zine about twenty years ago now (wow) and it’s been about nine years since I started my involvement with Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed (and two since ending it). We published (as Ardent Press) our first book almost five years ago.
I guess I have decided that anarchist publishing is what I have decided I am going to do with my time and energy but how? On the basest level I have been concerned (to put it lightly) that with print dying that the publishing of anarchist material was going to lose all corporality. Obviously I am on top of that too but there is something not replaceable about print. Moreover the Internet has shown itself to be a poor mechanism to weaponizing ideas. It is great for the lulz and the information churn but it isn’t a place to geologically layer the knowledge, discussions, and style that forms awesome (aka peers).
Moreover the book we published in 2011 was expensive. So expensive that it made be very nervous about doing another like it. I believe it’ll make back the money spent on it over time but the lesson (perhaps wrong) I took away from that book is that obscure anarchist material will not sell well quickly led me to reconsider the project of anarchist publishing. Sidebar: While Enemies hasn’t been an incredible seller it has been an unqualified success on every other measure.
How do we publish interesting things (aggressively) while not losing our shirts (financially)? The short and long answer is that we bought the equipment to make future books (for about the cost of three Enemies). Obviously this wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t work a shitty office job for three years but I did and it was. Add to the mix another member to the LBC team who was willing to “take ownership” (which refers to PRDM which I’ll talk about another time) of the LBC print shop and we were off to the races (figuratively).
On the plus side: We can now publish interesting things.
On the minus side: We are now operating a print shop in addition to trying to publish books.
Here are some details.
First Book – Occupy Everything
I am not going to go into too much detail about Occupy Everything: Anarchists in the Occupy Movement 2009-2011. I decided in early December to edit a book by the end of January. It was very challenging work to make something that was balanced and (I believe) will stand the test of time while being interesting to a non-anarchist audience.
The book did immediately vindicate the LBC printing project in that we made a variety of mistakes that we were able to repair in a short period of time. We can now practice iterative publishing and printing which makes me nearly giddy. It wasn’t until March that I feel I became a pro but January was the start of learning pre-press the hard way.
I should mention another thing? With the equipment in hand it is our intention to publish one anarchist* book a month in 2012 (and maybe beyond). Occupy Everything was the first book.
Second Book – Queer Ultraviolence: A Bash Back! Anthology
I’ll give more detail to this project because it was a monster.
Final page count: 430.
This includes over 250 pages of Communiques (a sizable portion being so insider as to be indecipherable outside of the particular people being talked about), 150 pages of theory, and a new introduction and conclusion. But the content (text on page) wasn’t the difficult part of this project. Everything else was.
In a moment of insanity I agreed to let the book be design heavy (designed by the same lunatic behind Politics is not a Banana) which meant a two sided color cover (With the gloss on the inside. More on this later.), color inserts, and a color timeline of events.
This turned out to be the easy part (or at least until we tried to bind a book to it) as the (outsourced) printer just treated the inside of the book (the glossy part) as the outside of the book.
Here is the matte outside cover (pretty, no?)
The real difficulty came when we tried to glue the book bloc to the cover. Glossy (inside) cover + paper = cover + paper (in a pile on the floor). Not good!
This means that we ended up having to sandpaper the inside spine of every single book we put together. Insane!
Here is an unlucky grinder of gloss
Another issue with the cover is that due to the aesthetics of the full color inside cover a simple crease on the corner of the book bloc would not do. We ended up having to do a special crease (I forget the term, but basically a hinge an 1/8th of an inch from the edge of the book corner) to preserve the inside image. This wasn’t as frustration (by a long shot) as the sandpapering.
You can see the inserts here (although they’ve changed to full color porn on the left side)
The inserts obviously make this book “more special” and pretty and whatnot but have added intensity to the production process. For starters they have to be manually inserting INTO the book bloc (prior to binding… obviously) but the more challenging (especially for the persnickity people) issue has been that the printing surface has been offset compared to the usual page because of the way that the “full bleed” and printing process plays out.
It is hard to visualize this but in our usual pre-press process we rotate and flip our text so that the paper cut that creates a binding surface ALSO is the hidden cut. This is good for aesthetics and paper conservation but not applicable to the color spreads (although it could be and perhaps will be on the next run).
Mostly the timeline was a requirement of the editing process (without it the pile of Communiques are harder to contextualize) but ended up being a bit of an albatross on the project. At some point (when we decided not to bind it to the book) I contemplated blowing it up to a more proper poster size, but that quickly passed (mostly because it wasn’t going to be wise $).
Doing stuff is hard
I’ll try to do this once a month, just to give people who are book/print nerds a little insight into our world. There are tons of topics to cover but obvious the QU:BB! book represents the high point of design, volume, and insanity. I doubt we’ll do another book nearly this crazy this year. Perhaps never.
I am not going to focus on big lessons or negatives because, basically, there aren’t any. I love anarchists, I love the creative process, and I want others to share in this love. I am getting to do very hard work to make more sharing possible. I hope this loving work makes the best weapons ever. I hope I live long enough to see these weapons used against those I hate.