Issue 16 : Spring 2009






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A Collector's Item


14 Mar 2009

Rubber stamps are ideal tools for repeating key ideas. Self-inking ones are particularly good for fast graffitiing. Every time I think of a new one I try to create something that can be effective in multiple environments.

I probably got my 1st rubber stamp made in 1979. It read:

My given name initials are "MT" & when I was a child a common practical joke was to tell someone to point to their head & to tell them to say the abbreviation for the word "mountain". In my case, the joke could be changed to my being told to say my 1st & last name initials. SO, an "M T Stamp of Approval" was not only my sign of liking something, it was also a self-subversion by way of saying that my approval was "empty" & not, therefore, something that anyone 'needed'. Even though it wasn't self-inking, I would carry it with me & stamp it next to various things - such as my friend Richard's stencil graffiti. We had a mutual tagger friend named "Revolt" who would put his tag next to everyone else's graffiti too. This annoyed Richard because he felt like Revolt was signing the graffiti he tagged & changing its meaning in a somewhat egomaniacal way. My M T Stamp of Approval didn't bother him though because it was unobtrusively small. I like to think that its self-subversion negated any apparent egomania.  

Richard made rubber stamps too. He made multiples for his friends to use. He gave me one with one of his favorite slogans on it:

In the '70s, Richard had founded a time travel society called the Chrononautic Society. The purpose of this group was to throw a party for people from the future on an astronomically significant date (during an alignment of the planets on March 9, 1982) & to try to generate enough enduring documentation of this event so that future time travellers would encounter the documentation & be intrigued enough to attend. Why go thru the trouble of learning to time-travel yourself when you can just attract time-travellers instead & ask them how to do it? Naturally, I joined the Chrononauts. Chrononauts became Krononauts & Society became Organism. By 1978 I founded the Nuclear Brain Physics Surgery School - a school that one had to sleep thru in order to get one's rather lavish ultimate status symbol diploma. By 1980, the Krononauts had allied with the neoists. By 1981 I was a saint in the Church of the SubGenius. In honor of these associations I had this address stamp made for stamping on my copious mailings:

Since I was using a type of language at the time where I was trying to turn words into laughter onomatopoeia, I turned "the" into "t he" (tee-hee) in the names of the organizations I was most closely affiliated with the founding of & the ones for which my post office box served as an address.   Hence "t he krono.." & "t he nuclear..".   "Krononautic Organism" became further enhanced as "krono n a u gh t ( t ) y orga(ni)sm" enabling it to be read as such things as "naughty time orgasm" & "nutty time organism" & such-like.   "Nuclear Brain Physics Surgery School" became "nuclear brain physics surgery's cool" - a bit of further self-promotion.   "P.O.Box" became "b o pox" - turning "post office box" into "body odor pox" thru a little dyslexic magic.   & "earth" was on the address just in case extra-terrestrials were receiving the mail.

By 1981, I had taken over Chris Mason's audio tape publishing company "Widemouth Tapes".   Chris had founded it a few years before as a mostly sound poetry label & had gotten a $3,000.00 National Endowment for the Arts grant for publishing 6 specific tapes which he had then failed to publish.   The 'company' was handed over to me just as the deadline was expiring.   A requirement of the grant was that the publications had to be marked:  

so my collaborator Patty & I had the stamp made.   When we tried to renew the grant it was denied us - presumably because of the lateness & other incompetences.   No matter, the stamp proved useful for putting on my ass in my peep show movie collaboration with Dick Hertz: "Balling Tim Ore is Best".  

Since 1980, I'd been using the name "Tim Ore" in order to make it obvious that the name of the city I lived in, BalTimOre, was a sex ad for myself.   Tim Ore was an identity that I allowed to be an "artist", a con artist that is.   In this context I could make paintings - an activity I was generally uninterested in otherwise.   Since Tim Ore was a famous artist, of course, & since that's what so many people wanted to be , he decided to make it obvious how simple it was to be so:

These sayings were laboriously rendered as a fairly large stencil too (thanks to a stencil cutting machine of Laure Drogoul's) so that I could graffiti this in such places as the B.T.O.U.C. (BalTimOre Underground Club).   Alas, this stencil joined the dear departed when the owner of a gallery where Tim Ore was having a show had dogs that pissed all over it & the gallery owner just threw it away without any consideration for how much work it had taken to create it.

Since Tim Ore was a con artist, he had to have some sort of crap to sell. Hence:

Around this time, I coined one of my favorite slogans: "Kill Normality Before It Kills You!"   Given that I wanted to spread this idea around internationally & not just be yet-another-English-centric-imperialist-scum, I had the slogan translated into Japanese:

Translation being, probably more often than not, a twisted affair, I wonder what concept a Japanese reader really gets out of this!

&, of course, those little rubber stamp kits that were once so common were marvelous. Many kids had them. Being a kid at heart I made this:

What could be more collectable, in a society where the rich thrive on the post-mortem vampirism on people like Vincent Van Gogh & where dog-eat-dog is the highest moral value of capitalism, than a death threat?   Sometime around 1982, perhaps not so long after the BalTimOre City Paper had felt free to print slander about me without the slightest concern of being sued by someone poor, they were also about to cut "The Dork Brothers" cartoon from the paper.   This was a locally produced product by 2 friends, John Ellsberry & Michael Gentile, a comic meant to be moronic.   They'd made a couple of Dork Brothers animations that I thought were pretty funny but I didn't really like the cartoon that much.   Nonetheless, when word of the impending axing reached me I decided to show a little community support by sending a post-card to the paper under a collective identity name that both John & I used:

Following this from-memory pseudo-facsimile of this pseudo death threat is the "David A. Bannister Typing Method" that I found in the same file.   It amuses me that I contrived such details. The   BalTimOre City Paper publisher knew that John used the Bannister moniker because he'd used it to identify himself as the photographer for a shot used in the paper's article about Tim Ore in the B.T.O.U.C. some months before.   The publisher did NOT find the pseudo death threat funny.   Initially thinking John had sent it, John informed him that I was the 'guilty' party.   I was henceforth banned from any mention in the City Paper for the next 8 years until the publisher/owner/editor sold it.   Then an article was printed about me as a "local hero" written by my friend Pam Purdy.   I write "pseudo death threat" because the fake gangster wording was meant to read as a self-negation when read literally - in other words, "if youse guys axe da Dork Brothers youse guys is gonna snuff it" translated to "If you cease to publish the Dork Brothers cartoon you will cease to publish the Dork Brothers cartoon."   An ambiguous tautology.   Since, as a blatant pervert, my life was considerably endangered by the oppressive social climate of the city, I was in the mood to make fun of death threats.   It would seem that the CP editor was living a somewhat different lifestyle where such desperate humor wasn't needed.

Here I was, living in a society fervently hostile to my existence in which my only acceptable role was to toil for someone else in pursuit of the Great American Dream of consumerism in the Company Store - otherwise known as the carrot-on-a-stick.   But I had a different idea.   If I was to pursue a carrot-on-a-stick it might as well be my carrot on my stick & I might as well use it to levitate with:

Rubber stamps are very handy for stamping on all sorts of surfaces - money being one of them.   If we're going to have money thrust so rudely into almost every aspect of our lives we may as well take advantage of its interesting circulatory possibilities.   After all, one simple piece of paper can pass thru thousands of hands & one message on that piece of paper can be read by thousands of minds.   & what better message to print on money than:

It's always fun to stamp "COUNTERFEIT" on one side of a bill & to then buy something with that side down - knowing that a certain dilemma would be passed on along with the money.   I tried to buy a sample issue of a magazine about expanded consciousness drug use with 2 such bills - thinking they'd appreciate the expanded consciousness humor:

Apparently not, eh?  

& while we're on the subject of money, I think it's about time that something that I have plenty of were worth something for a change:

The "X" is used here in its measurement sense of "by".

Some time around the early '80s, I started my own magazine entitled:

Why this abstruse title? Inside the leatherette National Geographic cover that wrapped issue 3 (the final one), the inside front cover explained:

In other words, since I intended the magazine to be unique I decided to categorize its contents under "Generalities Not Used Miscellany" (according to my spin on the Dewey Decimal Classification System).

I had to at least make some sort of concise statement about the Church of the SubGenius. After all, people were wondering what the fuck we believed in!   This one seemed to sum it up nicely:

In September of 1983, various SubGenii (prominent amongst whom was Sam Fitzsimmons) hosted the 3rd convention of the Church of the SubGenius in BalTimOre.   Part of the convention (the "14BX Sub-Par Con" as I like to think of it) were various activities that we knew would make mass media sensations if we were caught. Of these, my collaboration with Ron Cummings entitled "T he Poop & Pee Dog Copyright Violation Ceremony" was ripe for media vampirism.   Beating dead dogs & a replica of a human head on fire in a train tunnel while naked did, indeed, lead to my being arrested & becoming national news as a "cult leader". Of course, the media didn't bother to think this thru very well & certainly weren't concerned whether this "leader" had any "followers".   So what exactly was this "cult" that I was supposed to be the leader of?   I decided that since my shortened name is "tENT" & since I was beating "pup" corpses that I must be the leader of the "PUP TENT CULT".   Hence this stamp was born:

Many of my early writings began with an EG (the Latin abbreviation for "For Example") & ended with a question mark.   The idea was that I was trying to frame all my texts as examples rather than as something definitive & that these examples were all open to question.   In the early to mid '80s I had a haircut in which "EG" was on the back of my head - thusly making myself an EGghead.   & I had 2 haircuts with "?" on the back of my head - including when I was arrested for "T he Poop & Pee Dog Copyright Violation Ceremony".   Rubber stamps based on these haircuts were made to frame texts - as I've done with this one.

I wanted to use stamps on fliers too.   What type of stamp could I design that would get people's attention?   Why, an EYE-GRABBER of course!:

& let's not forget those stamps that people mark your hand with at shows to indicate that you've paid the admission.   What could I do with them?   A bruise seemed appropriate for something being banged on the hand:

Besides, it seemed only 'fair' to give people who couldn't afford the admission the opportunity to just smudge some ink on their hand to get in for free OR to actually bruise themselves if they wanted to be 'hard-core' about it.   I remember when the Dead Kennedys played in BalTimOre & people wrote the DK logo on their hand to get in for free the door people didn't think that was very funny.   One has to wonder about just how anarchist they were.  

In 1984, I met Pete Horobin aka Monty Cantsin at the 8th International Neoist Apartment festival that he organized in London.   He planned his life around decade-long projects.   In the '70s he was the "Principle Player", in the '90s he was "Marshall Anderson", & in the '80s he was a "DATA CELL" - obsessively logging data about his daily life.   I, too, became a cell when he sent me this stamp for me to identify myself with:

Oh! The joys of international cultural conspiracy!

& why stop at Japanese? The (not-so) United States were obsessed with being anti-Iranian at the time (even though the government was secretly & treacherously negotiating arms deals with them) because those damned upstarts had the nerve to overthrow the C.I.A. placed puppet Shah.   How dare the Iranian people try to run their own country?   SO, I just had to have my name translated into the Iranian language, Pharsee aka Farsi aka Persian:

Then I could say "Zenda Bud Betoor Ahzmayesh Rahetee!", my one Persian political slogan: "Long Live tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE!"   Try bemusing a Persian speaker with that one sometime.   It's worked for me.   In 1985 I advertised a screening of mine under that name & it attracted a Persian translator to the event who came just to try to figure out what the fuck it meant.   I seriously doubt he would've ever come to the screening otherwise.   It seems to've gotten me a free subscription to the Yippie magazine "Overthrow" too!   I guess they thought I was an Iranian revolutionary living in the U.S.

Somewhere along the line I at least had to actually make a stamp of mine on my own without having to resort to getting a business to realize my designs for me & without using a stamp kit:

This was an easily realizable design but what does it mean? An exclamation mark before an "i", it's the same thing turned upside-down. Or maybe it's some special equals sign when horizontal.   You figure it out.  

The 1st self-inking stamp I had made read:

This was designed to be stamped on parking tickets. I had a non-self-inking one made that I sent as a present to "Crowbar", the editor of "Popular Reality" - the magazine that "fucked with your mind 'til you came to your senses" (to paraphrase one of it's headings).   I was photoed by an unknown photographer who was tailing me (a cop?) while I wandered around downtown BalTimOre stamping this on the tickets I could find on cars.   I tried it on a ticket that a friend received too.   I hoped it might confuse the Motor Vehicle Administration enough to get the person out of paying the ticket.   It didn't work.

& then there was always the worry that I might write something in a letter or a publication that could be used against me or someone else in a court of 'law' (as they call it).   I wondered about what would happen if I specifically copyrighted all my writings exclusively to deny prosecutorial agencies from abusing my texts:

T he author does not grant t he right for
t he police, t he F.B.I., t he C.I.A., t he N.S.A.
or any other prosecuting agency
to quote from this residue from his mind.

The stamp is too deteriorated by now to be readable so I've typed it out more legibly below it.   The blank was left for a date to be hand-entered into it. As I recall, Popular Reality printed this one.  

In the mid '80s I noticed that a friend of mine who was fasting for a week appeared abnormally radiant, alert, & healthy.   I decided to give it a try.   1st for a week, then 2 weeks, then 3 weeks.   Hey!   Then I decided to really push the parameters:

Yeah, right. For a whole year I was going to decide whether or not to eat that day by tossing a coin.   Fat chance!   I'd toss the coin & if I was disappointed by the outcome, well, I'd toss it again until it 'allowed' me to eat that day.   So much for that idea.

1992, & Richard was planning a 10 year anniversary of the 1982 Krononautic Party.   He had 2 types of stamps made commemorating this & made multiples to give to key Kronos.   One used the word "RETURN" & one used the word "REUNION".   Both are shown below here but the 'REUNION" variation has long since fallen off its handle & been weathered by the ravages of time.   The middle rectangle is the impression of the handle mount without the stamp on it.

In 1994, I was a participant/collaborator in Herr Stilleto Studios' "TV Hospital" installation/tv show in Berlin.   One of the apprentices was a young British guy named Richard Millar.   Richard was a quiet fellow who was somewhat shy in front of the tv cameras.   One time, he sat on our 'talk show' couch, not saying anything, & playing with 2 cardboard tubes that he was holding the tops of while the bottoms rested on the floor.   He rocked them back & forth.   Inspired by this, I declared to the hypothetical tv (v)audience that he was "HOME SKIING" - saying that the couch potatoes could try this at home too!   Years later, this mutated into the explanation that: 

In 1995, I resided briefly in Buffalo, NY, where I faced the most vicious eviction I've ever endured at the hands of some young politically correct creeps who rendered me homeless at the beginning of one of the worst winters on record - apparently mainly because a confused & selfish young 'lesbian' got tired of flirting with me as an object of her budding bisexuality & decided that it was convenient to give me the boot now that I'd served my purpose.   After I was kicked out, this explanation occured to me:

I think that, to a major extent, they were fearful of my overwhelming creativity. Go ahead, call me an megalomaniac. Who knows what kind of lies they told about me afterward to justify this idiocy but it definitely reverberated in my life for awhile.   As such, I found myself once again having to be a:

"Fanatasy" being a portmanteau of "fanatical fantasy" - or what I otherwise call "stereotype projection" - a highly unpleasant process that the weak-minded use instead of perceptiveness.  

The 3rd stamp inspired by this eviction & my experiences with the Buffalo assholes was a variation on the old saw "Don't bite the hand that feeds you."   The meaning of that being, of course, that, if someone takes care of you, you both don't attack them out of gratitude - & out of fear that they'll cease to take care of you.   My variation:

poses the consideration that in some cases, something posing as generosity is, indeed, just a pose.   Take, eg, the robber barons who steal as much as possible from the public through depressed wages & such-like only to turn themselves magically into "philanthropists" by funding libraries & parks that they then name after themselves so that they can be rehistorified as "generous".   If they hadn't stolen the commons from us in the 1st place they wouldn't've been able to 'give' a small portion of it back to us (under government control of course) as a park.  

After a hiatus of a decade or more after my 1st self-inking stamp, I finally made another one:

This was meant to be stamped low down on doors, eg, so that depressed people who might have downcast eyes might see it & cheer up a bit.   I stamped it on the wall under a Joe Coleman painting at the Visionary Art Museum in BalTimOre.   I hope Joe wouldn't mind.

From then on I've been hooked on the self-inkers.   They're so handy for stamping in public toilets.

Here's another early one from this revival - particularly good for putting over doorways:

Sound familiar? Most people born not too long after the so-called "2nd World War" still remember what was written in wrought iron over the gates to the Auschwitz death camp: "Work Will Make You Free".   This slogan was used by the nazis to give the illusion that the camps were to make 'useless' citizens 'useful' again by putting them to work. Slave labor will make you free - classic NUSPEAK.   Nowadays, the maestros of greed & power have put a new spin on Auschwitz with their "free trade" NUSPEAK.   "Free Trade" (a euphemism if there ever was one) is supposed to stimulate the economy - in other words, it makes the rich richer & the poor poorer by allowing the greedy transnational corporations to seek out countries where labor conditions are most enslaving & to then work the people & their environment to death.   Same old, same old.


That's why it's high time for a game of:


For many years I've been preoccupied with the idea that information can be AND already is stored in EVERYTHING:

What we already have in nature in the form of DNA & such-like being so much more 'high-tech' than DVDs & I-pods & what-have-you.   A part of the idea being that a much more sophisticated 'technology' would involve being able to encode anything into anything .   Imagine being able to somehow leave a message encoded next to a door where you knew a friend of yours would pass (or in the air!) knowing that they would decode it the next time they went by.   Graffiti (&, in this case, rubber stamp graffiti) is a step in this direction &, as such, is much more "high-tech" than a lap-top.

In 2003, I entered a math phase.   I'd been a very good mathematician as a child but had decided to be an "artist" instead because I thought that would be more fun (I gave up being an "artist" in 1978 for being a "mad scientist" - a 'career' I had in mind at age 9).   I was thinking of getting a math tattoo & I thought of trying to express my motto: "Anything is Anything" in a non-English based (&, therefore, more international) math notation.   I tried consulting a logician friend, a mathematician acquaintance, & a friend of theirs who's a geometer.   The most elegant & satisfactory formula that was thought of was:

which can be read as: "For all 'x', 'x' equals: for all 'x', 'x'" or, to make it clearer: "Any possible version of something equals any possible version of a potentially different something."   This statement is good for riling up mathematicians & is an example of what I call "P.N.T." or Perverse Number Theory (after the "T.N.T" or Typographical Number Theory that I was introduced to during this time through reading Douglas Hofstadter's wonderful book Gödel, Escher, & Bach ).   I like this especially as toilet stall graffiti.

This lead to the even more oblique:

which I like to use as a show-&-tell thing in bars & other places where conversation lags.   What do you see?   Magnifying lenses is a common answer - but would magnifying lenses have the apparent object of scrutiny hanging over their top rims?   Eventually, I present the photograph that the stamp drawing is based on:

This is what I call the "Enough is Enough".   The Enough is Enough 'formula' is a sortof 'pinnacle' of my feeble PNT so far.   Why?   Perhaps because it combines pictures + math symbols in a way that's evocative & both sensical & nonsensical.   Perhaps because it's open-ended in a way that might catalyze the imagination in a direction that seems   to promise 'meaning' in a way that challenges the perceiver to attempt to resolve it in some way.   By being seemingly mathematical it potentially prompts the perceiver's inclination to try to understand it as somehow axiomatic.   By being imagistic it undermines the quasi-unambiguity of the math symbolism.   Even I'm not 'sure' what it 'means'.   I'm still thinking about it.   To quote from an e-mail that I sent to a friend about this:

"In English, there's the expression:
"Enough is Enough!"
which is said when a person is overwhelmed
by something that's too much.  
SO, it sortof means: "That's too much!"  
I've been trying to translate this statement
into a mathematical statement.  
The symbols that look like square brackets [ ]
without the bottom horizontals mean: "ceiling".
The symbol that looks like a sideways "V" with a line under it means: "greater than or equal to".  
SO, what you see in the picture is: on the left:
a bowl with a tea bag & sugar cubes forming the
mathematical symbols for: "the ceiling of x"
- followed by: "is greater than or equal to:"
(written in sugar cubes) -
& then the same bowl with hot water in it now
so that [the] tea bag is extruding its flavor
& [so that] the sugar cubes are melted
& with sugar cubes outside the bowl forming the
"ceiling of" symbol.  
How to interpret this?  
Let's start with it as:  
"The ceiling of x is greater than or equal to
the ceiling of the ceiling of x."  
This could be an attempt to state something like:  
"x has surpassed its own desirable maximum limit"
which leads us back to "Enough is Enough!"  
HOWEVER, I have made this more complicated
by using the tea & the sugar cubes, etc..  
Here's a quote from a book I'm reading called
Alan Turing: The Enigma that was the inspiration:  
"When the sugar has dissolved in the tea,
there remains no evidence, on the law of averages,
that it was ever in the form of a cube.   But in principle,
at a sufficiently detailed level of description,
the evidence would remain in the motion of the atoms."  
Now, I've taken this quote out of context,
but I'll make up a further interpretation
of my picture with that quote in mind:  
"The ceiling of x is greater than or equal to
the ceiling of an object in which the ceiling of x
may be reconstructed if analyzed in sufficient detail
& STOPPED at a certain point."  
I add "& STOPPED at a certain point" because
if the reconstruction analysis goes "too far"
it'll take the analyst PAST the state at which the sugar cubes represent the symbols & back to when the
sugar was still part of a plant
- & THEN we'd be really confused!  
Sound complicated?  
Really, I'm partially trying to be funny
but, in my perverse way, I am actually trying to
create a new branch of Number Theory."

Then there's what I call "IJAnagrams" or "Internal Jumbling Anagrams":

These exploit the tendency of the mind to resolve 'nonsense' words into words with pre-existing definitions on the basis of their 1st & last letters combined with resolved permutations of their interior letters.   Hence, "hdeas" can be read as "heads" or as "hades".   My spin on this technique is to use IJAnagrams that can be 'resolved' in at least 2 ways.   Hence every word in the above that has 4 or more letters can be perceived ambiguously.   The text can be read as: "Brain-Child: The brain of heads tired & slept 'til its child was in a weird space.   It craved the salty curd on its bread & in its dairy snak in the stain of the bran & the bran alkie." OR as something like "Brain-Child: The child of hell tried & spelt 'til its brain was in a wired scape.   It craved the slaty crud on its beard & in its diary sank in the satin of the barn & the bran alike." ETC..   The idea?   The more multi-purpose anything is, the more efficient minimal resources can be.   Every word is a multi-purpose tool.  

So-called 'nonsense' is just such a tool.   I had stamps that were designed by others that I liked but that served no purpose for me that was particularly satisfactory.   So I combined 3 of them by glueing them onto 1 stamping handle as:

After deluging friends with the preceding stamps replete with calculated meaning, this stamp is like a thunder storm clearing the air.   Like all so-called 'nonsense', it helps rid the mind of overly determinate 'reasonableness'.   In my opinion, 'nonsense' really is a danger to dictatorial thinking because it triggers thinking "outside the box".

Finally (?), I was invited to participate in a culture jamming / hactivist festival in Barcelona recently & I started fervently working on various projects specifically for it.   Another stamp for money (although it would work on other surfaces too) was made in Spanish [Castiliano] especially to take to the festival to use there:

The translation?   "Not valid unless used to undermine Capitalism - A public service message brought to you by Money Against Capitalism."   "Money Against Capitalism" being a group that my collaborator etta cetera & I conceived of.   The idea is that even money has gotten sick of capitalism & is revolting against it in favor of getting fairer distribution - & for use for more fun purposes than arms manufacturing & such-like shit.

Click here to download a PDF version with tENTATIVELY's original layout