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268: Democracy vs. Communism

About a month ago I came across a clutch of these great old anti-communist pamphlets at Book Thug Nation. Touted as the “Democracy versus Communism Series,” they are an amazing collection of anti-communist myths, conspiracies, and general cold war wackiness. And the covers are totally killer!
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269: Commie Round-Up

This week I thought I would just round up some of the cooler communist covers I’ve amassed over the past handful of years. It’s a nice collection, with material from a nice wide range of locales: Argentina, Israel, Italy, Poland, Portugal, UK, and the US.
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LA vs War: Art for Peace in the Hope Era

LA vs War: Art for Peace in the Hope Era

My friends out in Los Angeles are putting together another great LA vs WAR event this coming September. Growing out of the Yo! 


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Judging Books by Their Covers: 62

Judging Books by Their Covers: 62Posted June 13, 2011 by jmacphee in Justseeds & Member Projects

 Reposted:June 17, 2011

 In January 1994 I made my first visit to the UK and to London. At the time there were two functional anarchist spaces in town that were open to the public:

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Judging Books by Their Covers: 39

Posted January 3, 2011 by jmacphee in Justseeds & Member Projects

leinwand_prisons.jpgFor the next month of so I'm going to focus on the covers of books about U.S. prisons. Something uplifting for the new year! I first became involved in prison-related activism (including support for political prisoners, whose books will also be featured in the upcoming weeks) in the early 1990s, and slowly have amassed a large collection of books and publications on prison issues (in order to keep this manageable, I've pretty much stuck to books with spines, leaving out pamphlets, magazines, and chapbooks, as well as keeping it U.S focused). In addition, a couple friends have pretty large collections as well, so I've photographed some of theirs (thanks Dan Berger!), and pulled a select few off the web. This week we'll start with prison riots. And the daddy of the modern U.S. prison riot, Attica. Although it had begun to be an issue before, the Attica rebellion in 1971 awoke the American public to the fact that their were serious problems in the prison system, and a slew of both scholarship and sensational writing followed, including a series of reports like the ones to the right and below.

The top right is an attempt by the publisher to capture the sensationalization of Attica by the use of the single huge sans serif "PRISONS" and by placing front and center a close-up photo of prisoners (Black prisoners!) in the yard at Attica with their faces covered by t-shirts. For the NY Report book (below to the left), the strong stencil font is effective at implying militarization (we'll see this again in future weeks!), and the photo is successfully shocking (I can't remember the last time I saw a photo of penises on a non-pornographic book?!?), although the distance shot might not be as effective as if they had used a close up. My favorite of the Attica-related book covers is the Badillo, the simple red and white type on a black field is powerful, and the warping of the text implies that the contract between prisoners and society has been stretched, bent, and torn:


Probably the most well known book about Attica is Tom Wicker's A Time to Die. Wicker, a reporter for The New York Times, was asked by the prisoners to be a mediator, and got a first hand look at the riot and state's reaction to it. This book was a bestseller, and reproduced in a number of hardbacks, pocketbooks and trade paperback editions. Unfortunately none of them are that exciting! The British hardback (to the right) might have the nicest type-treatment, but it looks like it was published in 1956, not 1976. The U.S. hardback isn't worth much comment, The title crammed in the colored window is a bit visually confusing: if the black is the prison, and the color outside the window, is a time to die outside the prison as well?


As for the paperback, there were a number of versions, all of them variations on this weird sci-fi blast-off type style which looks like it was made for a George Lucas film, not a book about a prison riot. No designer is attributed on the paperbacks:


The prison riot that next captured the country's attention (although certainly not the only riot to take place since Attica) was in 1980 at the New Mexico State Penitentiary. I know very little about this riot, and the covers of the books about it don't give me much to go on. Colvin's academic volume defaults to a basic cryptogram, the state symbol of New Mexico being cracked. Saenz, a former prison guard at the NMSP, has a cover that is graphically more effective, but completely generic:


The cover of Morris' first edition is quite nice graphically, with the diagonal titles turning the prison bars into what I believe is meant to be hash marks representing years spent in prison. Unfortunately the type is unimaginative and drags down the simple graphic. The second edition is even worse, with stock american typewriter font and clip art barbed wire:


Here's a final New Mexico book, this one self-published by a G. Hirliman, a prisoner (or former prisoner) who was there during the riot. I don't know who did the design, but it seems a fair assumption that it is based on either Hirliman's art, or another prisoner's. Now let's jump to 1993, and the riot at the Lucasville State Correctional Facility in Ohio. This first book is the other end of the spectrum from Hirliman's, as Williams was a guard in the prison during the riot. Interestingly, both covers have a similar amateur look, with block-y fonts and smokey textures (I assume to convey a sense of dread or danger):


I haven't read William's book, but I have read Lynd's, and it's a great narrative and analysis of what happened at Lucasville. The original edition (to the left) came out in 2004 and I remember at the time being disappointed by the cover (which was designed by Robin West Morrow/Ox and Company). The photo in the background is one of the most important images of the riot, when the prisoner's hung their demands out a window on a sheet, but the brown photocopy effect on it makes the cover look washed out, and the clip-art-ish barbed wire laid on top isn't very convincing. Without any color, the cover instantly fades from memory. When I was asked to do the cover for the new edition of the book, I decided I wanted to honor that timeless image of prisoner communication via the sheet out the window, but make it really pop, so I stripped everything other than the sheet and the wall away, and hand drew the image, instead of relying on poor quality photos. I think it works, hopefully other people will too, because the book is a good read!


Finally for this week, a couple books that more generally discuss violence and riots in prisons. The Useem cover is one of my favorites this week. The stark black and white is used very effectively, as the gritty newspaper photo balances well with the bold sans-serif type. I used to have this book, but someone borrowed it and never returned it, so unfortunately I can't check the designer. The Montgomery book is a nice counterbalance, a complete desktop publishing disaster created by the prison industry itself:


Bibliography for this week's books:

Herman Badillo & Milton Haynes, A Bill of No Rights: Attica and the American Prison System (New York: Outerbridge & Lazard, 1972).

Mark Colvin, The Penitentiary in Crisis: From Accommodation to Riot in New Mexico (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992).

G. Hirliman, The Hate Factory: A First-Hand Account of the 1980 Riot at the Penitentiary of New Mexico (iUniverse, Inc., 2005).

Gerald Leinwand, ed., Prisons (New York: Pocket Books, 1972).

Staighton Lynd, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2011).

Staighton Lynd, Lucasville: The Untold Story of a Prison Uprising (Oakland: PM Press, 2011).

Reid H. Montgomery Jr. & Gordon A. Crews, A History of Correctional Violence: An Examination of Reported Causes of Riots and Disturbances (American Correctional Association, 1998)

Roger Morris, The Devil's Butcher Shop: The New Mexico Prison Uprising (Albequerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988).

Roger Morris, The Devil's Butcher Shop: The New Mexico Prison Uprising (Albequerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990/2nd printing).

New York State Special Commission on Attica, ATTICA: The Official Report of the New York State Special Commission on Attica (New York: Bantam, 1972)

Adolph Saenz, The Politics of a Prison Riot: The 1980 New Mexico Prison Riot—Its Causes and Aftermath (Rhombus Publishing Co., 1986).

Bert Useem & Peter Kimball, States of Siege: U.S. Prison Riots, 1971-1986 (Oxford University Press, 1991).

Tom Wicker, A Time to Die (New York: Times Books, 1975)

Tom Wicker, A Time to Die (New York: Ballantine, 1976)

Tom Wicker, A Time to Die (London: The Bodley Head, 1976)

Gary Williams, Siege in Lucasville Revised Edition: An Insider's Account and Critical Review of Ohio's Worst Prison Riot (Authorhouse, 2004)

Judging Books by Their Covers: 37

Posted December 20, 2010 by jmacphee in Justseeds & Member Projects

Orwell was lucky to be published in the UK by Penguin, one of the publishers with the best record of concern for, and investment, in their book covers. The cover to right isn't Homage to Catalonia, but a collection Penguin put together of Orwell's shorter writings on Spain. It carries the silver bottom bar of the 2000-2001 editions of Penguin's Modern Classics series, and one of a series of images/covers designed by Marion Deuchars for Orwell's books on Penguin. The montage of a POUM poster and the back of a man in casual dress carrying a rifle do a much better job at capturing the spirit of Orwell's writings on Spain than the cover I started off last week with (HBJ's American edition of Homage). The poster creates the sense of an urban wall, and the figure gives us more of the feeling of the struggle being more informal, not the rigid battle lines of conventional warfare.

The cover to the left is the earliest Penguin I could find, likely from the early 1960s based on the price and the use of the Marber grid (the cover grid formula designed by Romek Marber in 1961 and used on almost all Penguin titles from 1961-64). To the right is a Penguin edition from 1981:


Next is a 1987 Penguin edition with a nice illustration by Christopher Corr, which has a bit of a scruffy Sue Coe feel to it, it would fit right in with the late 80s RAW comics crowd. To the right is another Penguin edition, likely also from the late 80s based on the black and white box signaling the book as part of their "Modern Classics" series.


Below is another 2000s Modern Classics edition (later than the series Deuchars designed and discussed above. It has the silver band but the illustration is a re-purposing of Joàn Miró's famous 1937 print/poster calling for international aid to revolutionary Spain. Next to it is the most recent Penguin cover (as far as I can tell), the title superimposed in bold sans serif on a photo fof the International Brigades. The photo is by Robert Capa and originally ran in The Picture Post:


And finally, a staid cover from 1969, and to the left a book that must be from one of Penguin's far-ranging 90s cover design experiments. I'm not sure of the designer, but I know they did a whole suite of Orwell books, with different overlapping circles and big halftoned objects. In many ways this cover seems like a postmodern remake of the yellow HBJ cover. A striking gesture towards the content of the book, that although technically accurate, largely misses the point.


Judging Books by Their Covers: 36

Posted December 13

orwell_harvest01_1952.jpgThe book to the left is the copy of George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia that I grew up with (I think I first read it early on in high school). My guess is that a lot of people seeing this also read this copy, the U.S. mass market paperback published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich under its Harvest Books imprint. The cover was designed by Ken Braren (likely in the 1960s, though I'm not sure), and is strong and striking, yet oddly soulless and hollow feeling. The yellow pulls you in to the bleeding tip of the bayonet, but the best parts of Orwell's narrative are not about hand to hand combat, but the long boring days of waiting in trenches, or the vibrant culture of liberated Barcelona and political struggles between revolutionaries and the Stalinists.


Here are couple more American editions, both pretty unimaginative. To the left is an early Beacon edition, in which the flag floats somewhat awkwardly in the middle of the cover. It is the flag of republican Spain, which makes only partial sense politically. Although the POUM (with whom Orwell fought) and the CNT (with whom he sympathized) technically fought on the side of the Republic, they both envisioned and began enacting a new revolutionary society. By using this flag, the publishers align Orwell with a soft social democracy, instead of the revolution he describes in the book. To the right is the cover of the current Harvest American edition. It does the job while making sure no one looks at it twice. The title font appears to reference the modernist type of the Beacon cover, but in the most anaemic way possible:


To the left is the 1952 Harcourt Brace cover, and possibly the first American edition. I've had a hard time tracking down the exact chronology for this particular book; less attention is paid to it, maybe because its politics are less convenient for contemporary times than 1984 or Animal Farm. This cover is likely the source of the mass paperback cover with the bayonet and rose at the top. The blood is suggested by the magenta. While not the best cover, I like the overprint, and the text in the boxes, which give it a montage feel. To the right is the current edition, an odd omnibus with Down and Out in Paris and London, with an equally odd cover that seems to have little to do with either book under its wraps.


Here is the recent Mariner Books edition, better than the recent Harvest edition, but still pretty flat. The type is a mechanical sans serif, making the book appear contemporary, but Orwell's name is too small at the top to compete with the photo. His name may be conceptually equal to the image, but it just floats away graphically. To the right is a mystery dust jacket from a hardback; I haven't been able to track down what edition it comes from. My guess is British from the 70s, based on the heavy-handed illustration. This seems like a cover that would be produced by a Leftist press, the muscle-y fist a heroic graphic stand-in for the struggle of the Spanish Revolutionaries. Nice in theory, but carries none of the nuance of Orwell's much more complex reading of the situation.


In 1970, the London Folio Society put out a nice collection of Orwell's reportage; here's the cover of their version of Homage. The photo chosen nicely captures a sense of both the camaraderie and the isolation of fighting on the front.


The covers get much more interesting when we range further away from Anglo-editions. From the top, there are editions from Israel and Portugal, then Spain and Japan, and finally Sweden as well as a Russian edition from 1989. The Israeli cover is certainly compelling graphically, if a bit unclear (I suppose one interpretation is that the black arrow of the fascist Falange is killing the heart of Spain, but this certainly lets the Stalinists off the hook, which Orwell did not...). The illustration, design, and experimental type treatment of the Portuguese edition is right up my alley, creating a full and compelling cover. The Japanese design is very clean and effective, the Spanish one not really even worth comment. The Swedish cover awkwardly samples from an illustration taken off a Penguin edition of the book, which will be next weeks entry: all the paperback covers by Penguin for Homage to Catalonia over the past sixty years.




Judging Books by Their Covers: 32

Judging Books by Their Covers: 32. Posted November 15, 2010 by jmacphee in Justseeds & Member Projects.

heartfield_sinclair_100percent3.jpgOne of the main authors Malik-Verlag published was Upton Sinclair, and Heartfield designed ALL of Sinclair's covers. This week will do part one of Sinclair, next week the rest. Let's start chronologically: In 1921 Sinclair's 100% was published with a pretty clean and straightforward cover (below left). In 1924, it was reprinted with a new cover design, with the same city street image brought to bleed and a more adventurous and effective type treatment (below right). Then, in 1928, a completely different cover was produced with a montage and the nice effect of the leg kicking into the frame. This cover also shows an interesting Malik/Hearfield design device, which is the printing of the edition (in this case 50,000 copies) in handwriting on the cover (above right and below). You can also see the spine peeking out, which consists of a tall pile of thin horizontal lines and the title written horizontally. This was the standard style for many of the Sinclair books. The back cover of this edition (and the 1924 edition) is simply a photo of a Klan meeting.



In 1922, Man nennt mich Zimmermann was released, but the cover below is from the 1925 edition (the 1922 is similar to the early 100% design, with the cover image in a white box). In 1924, Der Sumpf was published, on which Heartfield uses 3D type to great effect.


Der Liebe Pilgerfahrt was also put out in 1924 (although this is a slightly different cover used on the 1928 edition, notice the horizontal lines on the spine). In 1925, Nach der Sintflut (After the Flood) was released. The image below right shows the cover in color, below that is a black and white image of the full wrap-around cover (which would have been in color, I just can't find a color picture of it...).



Two additional Sinclair novels were published in 1925, Die Weschler (with another great wrap-around cover, this time the type and montage printed right on top of stock readings from the newspaper, another visual effect which would later be recycled by punk rock) and Die Metropole. In 1927, Singende Galgenvogel was published, and I suspect the actual cover is quite impressive, but the faded photos I could find don't show us much.



1927 also saw the first printing of Sinclair's Petroleum, which would become Malik's best selling book (and the basis for the great movie There Will Be Blood). Petroleum had a number of different covers, all based on the same montage of oil towers and a man's face. I believe the green version is the first edition, and below you can see the back, with the dollar sign obscuring the woman's face (with strange echoes of the contemporary discourse of overworked, myopic, unhappy men and gold-digging women). The later editions were printed with gold as the spot color, and the editions once again scrawled by hand and printed on the cover. The 1931 copy was printed in an edition of 125,000, and the image below has a great peek at the spine, with its oil geyser.



Paper Politics Pittsburgh Press

Posted October 29, 2010 by jmacphee in Justseeds & Member Projects

The Paper Politics exhibition in Pittsburgh just came down, but it was a great success. There has been a bunch of positive press on the show, including these three articles here:

1) "Paper Politics shows there's more than one way to shout a message" in the Pittsburgh City Paper.
2) "'Paper Politics' exhibit takes ink-stained jabs at topics" in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
3) "SPACE wrapped up in ‘Paper Politics’" in The Globe, Point Park University's newspaper.

I also wanted to share some photos of the exhibition that Shaun and Mary took, it looked great! Click below to see more photos...






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