Category Archives: Alphabets of Desire

Alphabets of Desire: Chakra Kabbalah Eight-Circuit Reality Creators Anonymous.

alphabetsofdesire

(Alphabets of Desire copyright Todd Klein and Alan Moore.)

Today’s nugget of wisdom from Alphabets of Desire is solid alchemical gold. Whether you study Kabballah or tune your Chakras or practice the Karma Mechanics of the Eight-Circuit model, you can create your own reality.

Here is the next serving of Alan Moore’s actual words, as lettered by Todd Klein:

A is derived from the Greek alpha, with the modern capital adapted from the earlier North Semitic aleph, said to have been winged in its initial form. A is for Alexandria where at the hinges of the first millennium were Hebrew scholars blowing dust from brittle scrolls, Phythagorean parchments that described creation in ten spheres which corresponded with their base-ten system of arithmetic. By adding twenty-two lines to connect the numbered globes with one another, one line for each letter in the Hebrew alphabet, they could combine all the components of their world, its numbers and its letters, in a single memorable symbol called the Tree of Life that would provide a basis for all the all-inclusive knowledge system known as the Kabbalah. Centuries thereafter, in Prague, lived two fabled rabbis who maintained that by manipulation of the kabbalistic lexicon they’d conjured a lamb dinner with full trimmings, every night for many years.

Arranging letters in a certain order they’d evoked the minted sizzle of the tender flesh, a slight resistance in the roasted skin of vegetables that yields to a serrated edge, exposes steaming fluff within. A slippery marbling on the meniscus of the gravy and the scent of hot bread rolls cracked open. Every forkful of the lean and flaking meat glazes the lips with grease and next a warming slither in the gullet that’s suffused throughout our grateful centre. Recombining letters, they had entered the pure magic of creation. Spelling, they had cast a savoury and aromatic spell in words so delicately seasoned they were edible. 

 And here is the explanation:

kabbalahchakra8circuitmap

Magical systems such as Kabbalah distill the creative potential of life into its basic structures. The tower of  human potential can be built all the way up. Alan Moore’s incomparable riff goes way beyond any ability I have to explain these powers. He condensed two centuries into two paragraphs while making the reader’s mouth water for emphasis. I am humbled.

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Alphabets of Desire: The Words Get In The Way.

promethea20

promethea

(Promethea copyright DC Comics.)

Welcome to the third portion of the extended study of Alphabets of Desire by Todd Klein and Alan Moore, who also happen to be two of Promethea’s real parents. Our introduction has the full image and ordering information, this section has a knife.

These are Alan Moore’s next six sentences:

We are living in a code. We feel the apple resting in our palm, its weight, the waxen texture of its skin. We see the highlights rolling on its dimpled contours and the point at which leaf-green becomes lustrous red. Lifting it to our lips we catch its perfume, redolent of rural mornings, urban dinnertimes, our mother’s pastry and the way she had her hair. Our bite is audible, the crunch of tooth enamel in the crisp wet flesh, cell splitting violently from cell and a sweet aerosol of juice sprayed from the fissure as microscopic dew upon our taste buds. The familiar flavor is infused in our saliva, its initial sharpness rounding to a sumptuous curve there in the mouth’s dark privacy and rivulets of juice uncurl in sticky ribbons on our chins, but our experience of the apple can be only an experience of those words used to contain the raw phenomenon: red, green, sweet, crisp, round, and the way she had her hair.

Do you remember the last time something felt really good? Well, while you were actually experiencing it you weren’t putting it into words. Direct connections don’t have soundtracks. Or narration. Or storyboards.

The human brain gets trained to explain. That sack of meat in the skull is ideally suited to specific translation and categorization. Once it is schooled, it is too late.

The exquisite apple eating doesn’t happen to you. It just happens. In order for you to know what you went through, you need to use code. Identifying yourself with the bliss is a separation process. The words get in the way.

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Alphabets of Desire: Playing Tag.

alphabetsofdesire

(Alphabets of Desire copyright Alan Moore and Todd Klein.)

Welcome to the second chunk of examined text from Alphabets of DesireOur introduction gives the details of its creation, now we are trying to understand the meaning of the piece. Today’s three Alan Moore sentences go like this:

Using sounds or scrawled marks we distinguish between fire and water, earth and sky, divide the world up into self and other, man and woman, good and evil, black and white and fish and fowl and sheep and goat. The whole of our experience is broken down into roughly two dozen minimal phonetic glyphs that can be recombined in almost endless permutations, can be called upon to conjure the imaginable universe and all that it conceivably contains. The world of our perceptions, the one planet we can ever truly know, is made of nothing except language, having words instead of molecules and letters in the place of atoms.

Upon birth, the human being feels the world directly through its senses. As it grows, the brain begins the process of differentiation. Raw experience is translated into language. The seamless whole universe gets chopped into bite-sized pieces. Easier to digest that way.

Unfortunately, the words create as many obstacles as pathways. Pretty soon the human cannot feel the world directly any longer. A skull full of language colors everything around it.

The Matrix movies did a good job of showing the basic theory here. After language takes over completely, the brain is helpless to know, for sure, what reality is. We think ourselves into a corner, and the walls are made of words.

Is this prison of phonics inescapable? Perhaps. And yet, with the very words that shackle, the poet patterns wings of fancy and flies to the stars, with readers in tow. We may not be able to shake the spell of language, but we can simultaneously celebrate its wonders.

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Alphabets of Desire: Sorting It Out.

Promethea

(Promethea copyright DC Comics.)

Welcome to the first installment of our extended analysis of Alphabets of Desire. Yesterday we broke ground with a thorough introduction, which includes the full glory of the piece. Today we take on the first chunk of text. The illustration above is a page from another Todd Klein collaboration with Alan Moore. Promethea is so good that I will never get enough, and that particular page leads into the concept we will be exploring. Hang on to your hat, your head is going to be in question.

A is for apple, first fruit from the Tree of Knowledge whereby we discover that we cannot know the apple. We cannot perceive reality directly, are aware of nothing save our own awareness, an unending storm of information roaring in the ganglia, the retina and the tympanum, washed across the cobbles of the tongue and gusting in the cilia.  Attempting to construe a habitable cosmos from this chaos of sensation we evolve some form of language, words that will define distinct, recurring elements in the surrounding landscape and will separate one concept from another.

When Todd Klein asked Alan Moore to write something suitable for exquisite lettering, language was an obviously perfect choice. The result is a rambling romp through a wordsmith’s wallowing in what words really are. It starts at the top, with the letter “A”. Then it starts twisting. Why cannot we know the apple?

The Tree of Knowledge is a metaphor for the roving mind that each of us pilots through life. That slippery little self is rather clever, and it will not stop until it is convinced. There is one big problem with that. Pretty soon the mind knows that there are many things that it will never really know. Science knows how to prove, and in the case of the behavior and characteristics of subatomic particles it has already proven itself completely inadequate to explain the reality of the situation.

Don’t even get me started on the big questions. We cannot prove that we are not brains in a jar on the table of some mad doctor. We cannot prove how this all started. We cannot even begin to think about how to prove why things are.

As Alan Moore points out, the only thing we ever experience directly is our own personal array of sensory information. He uses technically poetic terms for thinking, seeing, hearing, tasting, and smelling. We feel the world. That’s all we ever do for sure.

As social animals, we then look to share our sensations with each other. Before I could explain Alan Moore’s first three sentences to you, I first needed to understand them for myself. That demands categories. Sorting the swirling input calms things down. Dividing the raw feed into boxes of thought is something that uses words as tools. We build a house of flashcards to soothe the roving mind, and then we take pictures to show our friends.

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Alphabets of Desire: An Introduction.

alphabetsofdesire

(Alphabets of Desire copyright Alan Moore and Todd Klein.)

Alan Moore is one of the loudest bulbs in the human lightshow. Todd Klein gets my vote for Best Comic Book Lettering of All Time.

Together, they are sublime.

The series of myths called Promethea has never been surpassed, and it was the first time I was exposed to the collaboration of these two masters. It is a spectacular tome of magick written by Alan Moore. Promethea was fleshed by the drawings of J.H. Williams III, the ink of Mick Gray, the colors of Jeremy Cox, and the lettering of Todd Klein.

(Promethea copyright DC Comics.)

Promethea completed her mission in 32 issues and quit while she was ahead. Still glowing with appreciation, I figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Then, yesterday, I stumbled upon a gem of equal brilliance. Two of her mad genius creators joined forces again last year for more. 

It is called Alphabets of Desire. That is a term spelled out by Austin Osman Spare himself. It is a poster, written by Alan Moore and lettered by Todd Klein. It is amazing.

I will be expanding each sentence of the piece here on the blog in the coming weeks. The words are deep and dense and hard to digest, so I would like to break them down and clarify the broth. For myself, and for you.

For now, I will leave you with the full story of the creation of Alphabets of Desire in Todd Klein’s own words. Click the link in his first paragraph to purchase a print for your very own, enjoy the photograph of Todd and Alan following his incredible tale, and tune in tomorrow for the first three sentences dissected.

This apple bites back.alphabetsofdesiredetail

Behind the scenes for the birth of a masterpiece, from Todd Klein’s blog:

I’m proud to announce the publication of ALPHABETS OF DESIRE, an 11 by 17 inch print, with newly written text by Alan Moore, design and lettering by me. This is the secret project that I’ve been working on for the last few months, and it’s now on sale exclusively on this website HERE. How did it come to be? You’re about to read the complete story.

I launched my website and blog on July 3rd of this year, and as part of it I included some items for sale: two prints I produced in the 1990s, the book I co-authored on lettering and coloring, some original lettering on overlays, and two music CDs. The first week sales were brisk, and I made enough to recover most of my setup costs for the site, so I was very pleased. The second week sales were pretty good, the third week so-so. By the middle of August, they’d trailed off to almost none. Obviously the old stuff had reached everyone who wanted it. I began to think about producing something new to sell. But, what? Another Lettering Sampler? I’d done that, and a variation didn’t seem likely to be a big success. Then the thought came: what if I asked one of the writers I work with to write something for me to letter? Call in a favor, so to speak. The most obvious choices were Neil Gaiman or Alan Moore, but Neil is always so busy, and usually gallivanting around the globe on promotional or signing tours. Alan seemed like the one to approach first. He’s usually home, he usually answers the phone when I call him. The worst that could happen was that he’d say no.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Alan Moore is one of the most acclaimed writiers in comics history, for titles such as WATCHMEN, V FOR VENDETTA, FROM HELL, PROMETHEA, and THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN. Alan and I have only met in person twice, the second time at his wedding to Melinda Gebbie this past May, photo above, but we’ve had a great working relationship for many years. Still, it took me a few weeks to get up the nerve to call him about writing something for me. I finally did in mid September, and his reaction was very encouraging. He thought it sounded like a great idea.

“You may have to call me a few times and remind me about it,” he said. He was busy working on his new novel and another project. But when I explained that I wanted something new to sell on my site, he volunteered, “If we both sign it, I’m sure it will do well.” That made me very happy indeed, as I wasn’t sure if he’d be willing to do that. I began to think this might actually work!

I’d told him about my Lettering Sampler print, and Alan asked, “Did you want something like that, with a lot of lettering styles, or…?”

“No,” I said. “Anything you want, really — a story, poem, fiction, non-fiction. Just something you think would look good hand-lettered. About a thousand words.”

“Right,” he said. “Perhaps something about letters and magic. Let me think on it.”

That night I told Ellen, “I believe he’s really going to write something for me!” I was over the moon.

I called Alan a few more times, as he’d suggested, to remind him. The third time, in early October, he surprised me by saying, “I’ve just started working on it,” and read me the first paragraph, the one that begins with “A is for Apple.” I thought it sounded wonderful.

“Can you get it to me by the end of October?” I asked. “I’d like to have it ready to sell in December, and that should give me enough time.” Alan said he should be able to do that.

About another week later, in mid October, my fax machine spit out a few pages.

From: Alan

Subject: Alphabets of Desire.

Memo: Hi, Todd. Here it is. A little earlier than anticipated and exactly a thousand words. Hope you like it. All the best. Alan

As I read through it, I began to smile and then laugh with amazement. It was perfect, much better than anything I’d imagined. I called him, and he said he’d just been reading it to Melinda. I told him how thrilled and pleased I was.

“What does Melinda think?” I asked.

“She’s on tenterhooks, waiting for the finish,” he said with his usual dry wit. I thanked him profusely and said I’d get to work.

So, now I had the text, and the rest was up to me. Over the next week I laid it out on an 11 by 17 inch piece of art paper. I knew I wanted a decorative title and credits at the top, and to begin, a large letter A. Putting an apple there was an obvious choice, and allowed me to enliven the text with a small bit of art that I later hand-painted red on each print. Around the outside, as I had mentioned to Alan, I thought a border using various old alphabets would look good. But rather than just random letters, I wanted them to say something. I drew elements from Alan’s text for that. I hasten to add that I didn’t translate them into other languages, just copied them out in other alphabets. So don’t email me about the Greek, please, I know it’s not Greek words. (But in old manuscripts from the middle ages, this sort of thing was sometimes done, so I think I have a precedent.) All those elements, the titles and border, I pencilled, then inked with my smallest-point technical drawing pen.

For the text itself, I chose a wedge-tipped Speedball dip-pen and thought I’d use my calligraphic style of lettering. That seemed the best way to go. It took several attempts to lay it all out in pencil before I was happy, then I went on to ink. I worked on it over several days, between other jobs. When I’d done the best I could, I scanned the result at high resolution, made small corrections where needed, and reversed the outer border so that the black letters became white letters on black.

It was time to order paper, and I found a good source online for that. I wanted something thicker than regular copy paper, but not so thick it’d be hard to roll, as I planned to ship the prints in mailing tubes. I settled on a 67 pound Bristol Vellum, and hoped it was the right choice, as I had to buy it sight unseen. Alan had agreed to sign 500 copies, but I bought 1000 sheets, to allow for printing damage and so on. I wanted to try to print them myself on my own 11 by 17 laser printer, but I wasn’t sure if that would work, as it doesn’t always handle large paper well. I might need to have it printed elsewhere.

The paper arrived, and it was just what I wanted, the perfect thickness, and an attractive cream color. I set up the art file and paper for printing, and gave it a go. Amazingly, my printer hardly messed up at all, I was able to print the entire run with barely a hiccup, though I did have to hand-feed each sheet into the printer.

Now I had the prints, and needed to color the apples, the big one at upper left, and a small part of the apple core at lower right. I found a cherry red acrylic ink that seemed right for the job, and spent parts of another few days painting apples. This proved very relaxing and therapeutic, though I kept thinking of that scene in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” where the cards are “painting the roses red,” and hoping I wasn’t ruining the whole project. In the end, I think the red works fine. Another day or two spent signing my name to the lower right with a wedge-tipped marker, and I was ready to send them to Alan.

This was the most nerve-racking part of the job. I packed the prints well, wrapping them in bubble-wrap, then in the original paper box, then in a larger box around that. I thought that would work, but if the prints were lost or damaged in transit to Alan, or worse yet, back to me after he’d signed them, I’d have to start over. I couldn’t afford the time to carry them to England myself, so shipping them was the only alternative. I sent them off, letting Alan know they were on the way.

I put off calling for almost two weeks, not wanting to bug him, but when I did call, Alan told me they’d arrived safely, he’d finished signing them, and would mail them back to me the following day. “I signed with a red Biro, thought that would look good,” he told me. Anything he wants, I thought to myself, anything at all. Another week and a few days went by, with me worrying, and then, finally, the package was here.

A little worse for the two trips, but when I opened it, the prints were fine, and oh, so delightfully added to in red Biro! All that remained was to write my press release, prepare some prints for mailing, write this blog entry, and then sit back and wait for orders.

I’m excited about this venture, the first time I’ve tried something quite like this. I have no idea how the print will sell or be received, but I’m hopeful. If it does well, perhaps I’ll do more. Egad, would that make me a publisher?! In a small way, yes, I suppose it would. Please don’t hold it against me, okay?

alanmooretoddklein

(Todd Klein and Alan Moore. Our heroes.)

Examination of text Part One.

Examination of text Part Two.

Examination of text Part Three.

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