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kyle cassidy

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This is the Story of my Autograph [Dec. 17th, 2008|07:26 am]
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[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Roswell eating something she found under the sofa]

My autograph is a practiced and accomplished entity.

Years ago, when I was in the first grade, my father rode a bicycle in a parade and got his picture in the local paper. I was certain that the next morning, due to my father's newfound mind boggling fame I would obviously be asked to sign autographs for my peers. In fact, I was so expecting to be besieged by psychophants, and not wanting to let anyone down, I spent the evening pre-signing my name so that in the crush I could just hand them out and there would be no weeping. After all, he was riding a bicycle.

Well, imagine my disappointment when the next day passed as any other with the exception of my having 50 copies of my own signature on bits of scrap paper in my pocket. Ah vanity.

My mother chanced to get me a Mcguffey's Reader for Christmas two years later -- this was a reproduction of a 19th century school book that taught the Spencerian method of penmanship (you can click here for a look at what Spencerian penmanship looks like). I adopted characters from this and my signature was complete by the fourth grade. All I lacked was notoriety.

Some time in the sixth grade my teacher, Miss Duggan, called me aside to discuss a paper I'd handed in. Pointing to the upper left hand corner where my practiced, ornate, and completely illegible autograph existed in its fully formed glory, she said "When I say write your name in the upper left hand corner -- this isn't writing your name, this is your signature. When you write a book and get famous, I'll want your signature, but in class, I just want you to write your name." (Miss Duggan, unlike many of my teachers, believed in me with a passion, which I am grateful for to this day.)

Frustrated that no one wanted my autograph, I at least now realized what I needed to do in order to get to sign autographs. I needed to write a book and get famous.

There followed many years of writing, submitting, and publishing and eventually a number of books which were more or less successful in their own ways and I autographed stuff and it was swell. Usually when I have a book signing I sign fifty books, or twenty books. People come up, they talk about something, I sign their book, they say something like "I love Roswell" or "the first time I saw one of your photographs it was in Gothic Beauty" or "I heard you on the radio" or some other lovely thing, then the next person comes up and this repeats -- it's very nice. It might have been this way too for the Amanda Palmer / Neil Gaiman thingie -- I expected I might autograph 50 copies at a few events and I'd meet people and talk about cameras (as usually happens). Well, the Amanda Palmer / Neil Gaiman book fell behind schedule due to some printing mishaps and when it became obvious that it wouldn't be ready for Christmas, Amanda sagely decided to send an autographed card to everybody who pre-ordered the book. This is why her fans love her, because she loves them first.

So while I was in Louisiana for the gallery show, Amanda freaking Palmer and Neil Freaking Gaiman got together in Neil's kitchen for a few days and autographed about nine billion cards for the people who pre-ordered The Big Book of Who Killed Amanda Palmer -- Amanda posted this photo in her blog (I don't know who took it)



They FedExed these to me and last week I began the daunting task of adding my own signature to them all. I took my three most favorite pens, and sat down to see if I could run them completely out of ink.

This was autographing on a massive scale. No matter how many I put my name on, the pile never seemed to get smaller. Every moment I wasn't eating or sleeping, I was writing my name. I did it while watching television, I did it while Roswell sat on my lap, I did it while listening to the radio. And it was different than book signings because people weren't standing there telling me how much they loved Roswell or how they found my photographs of Romanian Orphans inspirational and now they work for the Peace Corps. This was more like making those autographs in my living room in first grade except I couldn't stop when I got tired. I began to feel Neil and Amanda's daily pain -- when you'd rather be doing something else, but there's a huge stack of stuff that needs your name on it still in front of you. It's a good pain though. It's pain made of dreams come true.



Photographers don't usually autograph things. They sign stuff. You make a print, you frame the print, you sign the print, it hangs on a wall, someone pays you half a months rent for it, they take it away, and you do it again. You write your name a hundred times a year, and you're very grateful each time. "Hey!" you say to yourself, "check out my Spencerian script!" -- it's very fulfilling. Rock stars and novelists make thousands of books or CD's and they sell for less money and part of the dynamic for the buyer is often trying to get the artist to autograph it. Consequently, Neil and Amanda autograph stuff all the time. For hours and hours, there are long lines of people fanning out behind them. Typically you don't rip a photo out of a magazine and track the photographer down to put his name on it. I'm not sure if this is good or bad.

So this is how the first ten sibbulian cards looked:


(sibbulian is a number that I just invented that is exactly equal to the number of cards that looked like this. Note Spencerian script.)

Well, a funny thing happens when you've been signing your name for a long time. Occasionally you realize you're signing your name and you start to think about how to sign your name AND YOU FORGET HOW TO SIGN YOUR NAME. Sometimes this happens mid signature and you stop and look at the paper and you've no idea where to go from where you are or what letters are or how a pen works. You end up with something that doesn't look like your signature at all but more like someone taped a sharpie to a spastic rat and let it go. And you feel bad about it. So you want to do a little something to make up for it. So whenever I messed up a signature, I'd draw a little dead Amanda Palmer next to it. Eventually I realized that the drawing of Dead Amanda was cool and I should put it on all of them -- this tripled the amount of time each card took, but it looked more personal and hey, are we talking about time? i think not:



Or sometimes I'd write a little note. Neil, I noticed, would break the monotony by sometimes writing little jokes on the cards:



or these:



It's one of the many reasons that I love Neil Gaiman.

Another of the reasons that I love Neil Gaiman, and Amanda Palmer, is they made up for all the disappointment I had that day in first grade, I got three days in the life of a rock star and my pens all ran dry.

Hope your day is swell. And I hope, if you pre-ordered The Big Book of Who Killed Amanda Palmer, that you get one of the cards with a drawing of Dead Amanda on it.



Last 50 cards photographed with Roswell to enhance value.
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Comments:
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[User Picture]From: lillyflowers
2008-12-17 01:48 pm (UTC)

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I enjoyed this post so much, I read it twice.
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 01:55 pm (UTC)

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I'm glad. I was wondering if there would be five anonymous posts saying "Like we care, you dork."
[User Picture]From: niamh_sage
2008-12-17 01:50 pm (UTC)

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That was lovely. I'm so glad I've got you on my friends page! Maybe one day I'll get the chance to tell you in person how much I enjoy your photos and commentary. (Oh and of course, also get an autograph :D )

ps did you see on that page about Spencerian handwriting that mention is made of the Palmer method, which appeared in the 1920s? *inspects Amanda's freaking signature* Hmmm...
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 01:54 pm (UTC)

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I actually have a textbook and five workbooks on the Palmer method -- which is still taught. It's not nearly as ornate as the Spencerian, though it is probably more practical.
[User Picture]From: bloodcicle
2008-12-17 01:51 pm (UTC)

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It looks like you used those scented markers to sign your name instead of a sharpie. :)
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 01:53 pm (UTC)

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I actually did not. I used three fountain pens and I found it very satisfying. In this world where I don't get much of a chance to write by hand anymore it was wonderful to do.
[User Picture]From: catbear
2008-12-17 02:06 pm (UTC)

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Celebrity suits you, and well deserved.
[User Picture]From: trillian_stars
2008-12-17 02:09 pm (UTC)

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Oh, great! Now there will be so many tears shed by people who do not get a personalized Gaiman/Cassidy photo!!!
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 02:17 pm (UTC)

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you should have pre-ordered the book and taken your chances, baby.
[User Picture]From: gandryyne
2008-12-17 02:10 pm (UTC)

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Kewl! I totally understand your stokedness!!! Man, and who wouldn't be stoked to have their name among that collection! You have a really interesting signature, btw.

I sold some prints to people for Christmas presents this year and got some very cute emails about folks being excited that I signed them. :? That's such a great feeling. :)
[User Picture]From: niamh_sage
2008-12-17 02:38 pm (UTC)

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Believe me, it's just as great a feeling for the recipient to have something lovely that a friend has created, with their signature on it :D
From: andy_adams
2008-12-17 02:12 pm (UTC)

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This post is awesome :D Makes me wish I pre-ordered the book (which I just found out existed since reading this post, good marketing job guys!) I'll certainly have to get it in the future though
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 02:20 pm (UTC)

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amanda, neil, and i have been blogging furiously about it for months now! (if you haven't read the posts back from the "making of" you should go back and find them, there's a link in my lj a couple of days back when i posted the video of amanda singing with the ukulele), there's some pretty cool stuff in there.
[User Picture]From: instantdharma
2008-12-17 02:26 pm (UTC)

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You get to hang out with the coolest people, ever. Can you please kiss Neil for me?

I'm not a fan girl. :(

PS: I understand what you mean with your autograph. While I don't have people who would accept a signed card in lieu of anything, I do feel like much of my day is spent signing papers. I too forget how to sign my name.
[User Picture]From: peregrin8
2008-12-17 02:28 pm (UTC)

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So fuckin' cool!

I loved the whole story. And the photos. (I preordered the book, but haven't gotten a card yet. Now I am excited!)

I used to practice my signature and get lectured by the teacher too...
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 02:34 pm (UTC)

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let me know if you get a card with a little dead amanda on it!
[User Picture]From: petitbout
2008-12-17 02:34 pm (UTC)

Loved the Story - Kicking Myself Like Everyone

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who didn't pre-order.

BTW - pschophant! I LOVED it!!!!
[User Picture]From: sassy_54
2008-12-17 02:35 pm (UTC)

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I certainly hope I get a personalized card! I can't wait for the book, though. I read every blog entry about the "making of" and it made it much more personal and special. A lot of love and care and fun seemed to have gone into it and that makes it priceless!
[User Picture]From: anmorata
2008-12-17 02:41 pm (UTC)

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I pre-ordered the big fancy package, and I've been waiting on pins and needles! I didn't order it in time to get the signed editions of everything, so I don't know that I'll get a card. I hope I do, though. :)
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 06:37 pm (UTC)

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you'll probably get one. i think it's going to everyone who pre-ordered the book. but let me know, i'm curious.
[User Picture]From: sandykidd
2008-12-17 02:50 pm (UTC)

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Wow, I thought I was the only person of my generation who grew up with that Mcguffey's Reader... My script still resembles my grandmother's as a result (when I don't take care to omit the swirls, that is). :)

Also, you're a riot, and I love your work. Just saying.
[User Picture]From: lawbabeak
2008-12-17 02:51 pm (UTC)

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The summer of 1996, I was working in a coffee shop/micro-roastery owned and run by one of Newt Gingrich's daughters. Papa ordered up god knows how many pounds of 2 oz bags of "Gingrich Blend" to give out to conventioneers at the RNC. I had the pleasure of writing the cards that went with those little bags of coffee, welcoming people to the 1996 RNC on behalf of his current wife and Newt. And then signed Newt's name to it. I think I have autographed more things as "Newt Gingrich" than I have as me.
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 03:13 pm (UTC)

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When I was covering the 2004 RNC for Silicon Alley they gave all the journalists a "welcome to the RNC" bag -- there was coffee in it from someone, and REPUBLICAN MACARONI AND CHEESE made out of little elephants. i traded my coffee for another mac and cheese. i still have both of them. i also photographed newt gingrich there. and g. gordon liddy, which was cooler, because i'd read Will years before....
[User Picture]From: madcaptenor
2008-12-17 02:51 pm (UTC)

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Can I print out this post, bring it by your house, and have you sign it?
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 03:11 pm (UTC)

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you may. i'll even draw a dead amanda on it.
[User Picture]From: karenleigh
2008-12-17 03:00 pm (UTC)

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In addition to being an amazing photographer, you are a great writer.
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 03:11 pm (UTC)

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One of my reviews, years back, said "Kyle Cassidy is a mediocre photographer, but a great writer."

I was actually pretty happy with that review.
[User Picture]From: niamh_sage
2008-12-17 03:18 pm (UTC)

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Well, a funny thing happens when you've been signing your name for a long time. Occasionally you realize you're signing your name and you start to think about how to sign your name AND YOU FORGET HOW TO SIGN YOUR NAME. Sometimes this happens mid signature and you stop and look at the paper and you've no idea where to go from where you are or what letters are or how a pen works. You end up with something that doesn't look like your signature at all but more like someone taped a sharpie to a spastic rat and let it go.

In re-reading your post, I had to laugh out loud at this part because I do exactly the same thing, and it's the reason why my married name signature now has a hiccup in it. The night before getting married, I was practicing my new signature, as you do, and after a few attempts my brain went *glitch* and suddenly I had a capital letter B with three loops. I've never been able to undo it, no matter how much I try, so every time I have to sign my name now, I have this little spasm where I have to wrestle my brain to the ground to prevent it writing Bbbbb...
[User Picture]From: alumiere
2008-12-17 03:36 pm (UTC)

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and the above story is one many of the reasons why we love all of you (including trilian_stars) - brilliant writing about all sorts of things, many of which we'll never get to experience as we're not you...

so bummed i am sick and couldn't make amanda's show in la last night; this made me happy (and gives me something to look forward to in 2009 - new art ftw)
[User Picture]From: pandorasfox
2008-12-17 04:16 pm (UTC)

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this was an awesome warm fuzzy post this morning. and made me scamper off and order a package for myself! as i type this i'm even listening to my instant download of the album. can't wait to see the book!
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 04:47 pm (UTC)

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woohoo! my marketing scheme works!
[User Picture]From: wroughtirony
2008-12-17 04:17 pm (UTC)

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Awesome post.

I'm in the fantastically awesome position of having to devise a new signature (I'm getting married!) and your post is further inspiration to go old-school.

As an added bonus, I think my fiance might have gotten me the big whiz-bang Who Killed Amanda Palmer Extravaganza Package for Christmas, so I might be the proud owner of one of those nifty autographed cards of yours!
[User Picture]From: wishme
2008-12-17 05:26 pm (UTC)

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i'm so excited for the book to come

now, granted, i was at the show last night and i got both neil and amanda to sign my poster (fangirlsquee) so all it's missing is yours. it was lovely that they seemed to still genuinely care for each person who walked by, even though there were a lot of us.

wish you had been there!
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 06:38 pm (UTC)

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i hope you were all like dropping my name and shiznit.
[User Picture]From: mostlybent
2008-12-17 05:50 pm (UTC)

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This post rocked my morning. I love reading your blog.
[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2008-12-17 08:41 pm (UTC)

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thanks so much -- that's right nice to hear!
[User Picture]From: divaluxe
2008-12-17 06:08 pm (UTC)

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Absolutely hilarious. Thanks!
[User Picture]From: thepinkhobbit
2008-12-17 06:48 pm (UTC)

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EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now I've really excited!
[User Picture]From: maladroital
2008-12-17 06:54 pm (UTC)

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I did pre-order the book and promptly listened to the CD about 142 times the day it arrived.I'm not sure if I'll get one of the cards, but will be extremely pleased if I do.
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