Reg Remix: “Go to Italy, Be a Cobbler” by Camilla Neppl Huber

Camilla Neppl Huber has thrown down the gauntlet in the RegRemix contest with this fantastic cross-stitch of “Go to Italy, Be a Cobbler”. As she describes it:

I was able to find an Italian style of embroidery that was relatively simple and worked well for this project. It’s called Assisi embroidery, and this version is a bit modern, especially with the little shoe border. I went with stitching because the medium is about as quaint as the idea of escaping it all by cobbling in Italy.

So, don’t be shy– make something and send it in! Origami, crayon-on-construction-paper, sculptures made out of used wrapping paper, it doesn’t need to be as elaborate as Camilla’s creation. And in exchange, I’ll send you buttons, just for submitting something! The deadline is now January 1st. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s the full contest rules and description.

How not to remove graffiti

In the last couple years, winter break has been the time when Facilities has made their rounds through the stacks and cleaned the graffiti from the walls. But when I dropped by the stacks this morning, I saw that not only have they jumped the gun this year, they also seem to have failed at the very purpose of painting over graffiti, which I understand to be the following:

  1. Make the graffiti invisible
  2. Deter other would-be graffiti artists by removing the “primer” of previous graffiti– it takes a while for a blank wall to be written on the first time, but once there’s graffiti more is likely to follow

The timing alone is bad; it’s finals week, and wall-writing tends to increase during finals week. Even if they did a good job painting over pre-existing graffiti, they’d just have to go back next week. But painting over graffiti badly– to the point where the walls look like a woman with a zit who’s overdone it on the concealer, thereby only drawing attention to the blemish– is just asking for trouble. Indeed, supplemental graffiti has already sprung up next to the obviously painted-over graffiti (such as “farts”, above), there’s all-new graffiti (such as John Hancock and What is the good life?), and much of the original graffiti is still perfectly visible through the paint.

It’s worth noting, though, that T.S. Eliot was once again painted over, but this time with more care than before. The Arabic (or, at least, Arabic-script) graffiti was left alone, as was the smiley face. The elephant, on the other hand, received a hearty dose of white paint.

For the full collection of painted-over graffiti, see the Flickr set.

RegRemix: Pimp My Netbook

My contribution to the RegRemix contest comes in the form of a netbook. By the time I caught on to the sale, the only ones left were pink– my least favorite color. So, I went to Zazzle and made some Crescat Graffiti bumper stickers that I chopped up into pieces, adhered to the case and… voila! I expect it’ll make for a good conversation starter when I pull it out at the workshop I’m going to next week.

It’s a non-competing contest entry, of course, but I hope the actual contest entries blow it out of the water.

What do O-Chem, LOLCats and bad grades have in common?

Last night I got an e-mail from Daniel Choi, class of ’10, who got a copy of the book at Powell’s and recognized three pieces of graffiti he’d written– pieces I never would’ve thought were connected. The stories behind the graffiti, particularly the O-Chem one, are so heartwarmingly UChicago, and with his permission I’m happy to share them with you, in his own words:

Organic Chemistry is Voodoo Witchcraft

The story behind this is actually the story of how I became a physics major. As a first year, I worked under a particularly demanding chemistry professor with whom I had a rather unhealthy relationship. Over the summer before my second year, my friends were convinced that I was suffering battered wife syndrome as no matter how much abuse he threw at me, I could not but find him and his Russian accent extremely attractive. However, push came to shove (although our relationship did not have the opportunity to develop to that point, if you know what I mean) and I subsequently quit the lab early in the summer. Yet, come Autumn Quarter of second year, I learned to my dismay that he was my professor for organic chemistry, which took us through more of the awkward staring contests. Suffering enough abuse from both him and the damned course itself (I was never meant to be solving synthesis reactions), I withdrew from organic chemistry on the day of the final and became a physics major instead. Winter quarter came and I came across a Science article that explored how a canonical chemical reaction does not actually behave the way organic chemists described and this work was described by a physicist. I was so giddy for the next couple of days, but then I ran into my ex-boss/professor/something-unspecified in the elevator up the GCIS. It was a tense moment of silence. I broke it with, “So… did you read the new Science article about the SN2 reaction?” He stared stonily at me and said, “What of it?” “Well… it’s funny how my discipline pretty much just disproved your discipline.” The doors then opened and I walked out. That night, I celebrated by writing out my feelings in the bowels of the Reg.


The story behind this one is not as long, but it’s just as entertaining. A friend of mine and I were extremely sleep-deprived in the Reg and she had a linguistics presentation the next day. Her project was on lolcats and lolspeak, and being a big fan of Aristotle’s theory of function and rhetoric, we aptly named the PowerPoint Presentation. What started out as a serious outline quickly devolved into a free-for-all for the whiteboard. We then resorted to inside jokes. The “I’m a bottom” comment… I don’t think you’d like to know.

Bad grades

As to what inspired that witty aphorism, I haven’t the foggiest idea.

Chicago Weekly article

The latest issue of the “Chicago Weekly” has an article about Crescat Graffiti; I’d link to it, but it seems to be the one article that throws a 500 Internal Server Error, so I’ve copied it here.

The Writing on the Wall: Quinn Dombrowski documents the Regenstein Library’s graffiti

by Emilie Shumway, photo by Sam Bowman

<the photographer. her book and her subjectThe University of Chicago’s Joseph Regenstein Library is one of the largest research libraries in the world, with over 7.7 million volumes in its collection. But books aren’t the only worthwhile reading material in the building—anyone who walks the perimeter of the bookstacks can’t help but notice the scribbled musings, large and small, that find their way into the library’s private study areas.

While these complaints, pleas, and words of advice have been quietly appreciated by some before their inevitable whitewashing by the library’s janitorial staff, Quinn Dombrowski, a library staff member who graduated from the University in 2006 with a joint BA/MA, has been working hard since the summer of 2007 to document and preserve the quiet desperation of the university’s overworked students. Her prolific Flickr page is home to nearly eight hundred photos of Reg graffiti, which have caught the attention of the LA Times’ “Jacket Copy” book blog and Chicagoist, among others.

Dombrowski says she got the idea shortly after she was hired at the Reg. While wandering through the stacks with her camera and looking at the books, she began to pay more and more attention to the quirky words on the walls instead. “They’re really a window onto the authentic UofC culture,” she explained over coffee. “It’s very stereotypically geeky. There’s no attempt to gussy it up for prospective students.”

With exceptions, much of the graffiti is by turns amusing and touching. “I’m in love and it’s finals week,” someone has noted, expressing with simplicity a sweet and easily relatable complication. Someone else informs the reader plainly, “I dislike Frankenstein.” Many of the more interesting scrawls come from the interactions that blossom from one initial comment: “Why can’t I get higher than a B on a paper?” one exasperated student queries, and impatient advice balloons out beside it: “You should write better,” someone explains, and someone else offers the longer recommendation, “I got an A- once. Maybe you should concentrate more and not write on walls. It shows you’re distracted.”

There is something unique, Dombrowski says, about the UofC’s graffiti. Her project has brought her a new interest in library graffiti, and a recent peek inside the University of Michigan’s library revealed “a lot more love and sex and frats, but very little in the way of the charming graffiti the UofC is known for.”

Since her Flickr album began to receive more attention this year, Dombrowski has managed to present the graffiti in a number of new formats, from buttons to shirts to, more recently, a book—“Crescat Graffiti, Vita Excolatur: Confessions of the University of Chicago.” Signed copies are on sale throughout Hyde Park, from 57th Street Books to Powell’s. Dombrowski has also announced a RegRemix contest through her website, in which she is encouraging people to restructure a sample of graffiti in some new format, with graffitied paraphernalia going out as prizes for the winning entries.

At present, due partially to her sudden exposure and a need to issue “preemptive disclaimers” about not ruining university property, Dombrowski has put graffiti documentation on the back burner for a while. Still, being no stranger to a myriad of pet projects, she has continued to find ways of amusing herself with her camera. “I’m really inspired by the South Asian book covers on the fourth floor [of the Regenstein],” she explains, referencing the colorful and often trippy books written primarily in a number of Indian languages. For each image, she makes an amused guess at the title of the book, based on the cover. There are already over five hundred photos.


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