Letterpress List No. 24: Old Yeller

It is said that women’s eyes are more perceptive to color; men’s to light. Something about women having more “cone cells” in their eyes while men have more “rod cells.” Which makes a certain biological sense.

From the earliest days of humans, men have been able to find things to kill, even in the dark. And women have been able to look over the carcass in the light of day and decide by its color whether members of the tribe should be putting it in their mouths.

Both handy abilities.

Mary also uses this scientific knowledge on press checks, during which clients requesting an early look get to sign off on the quality of the work before Typecast Press begins the full printing run. Mary has also done plenty of press checks over the years on her design jobs that were printed offset. Anyway, if it’s a female customer, she and Mary tend to concur quickly on the color, then move on. Guy customer or offset printer? “Trust me, buddy,” Mary says, “I see it better than you do.” Mary then moves on.

Shop Boy’s learned the hard way to keep whatever few cones he does have to himself.

For instance, Sunday night we were having a discussion about a color. Brown shade: Pantone 4625 U, the “U” representing how the color appears on “uncoated” paper. (Yes, that’s key.) Mary’s got three Pantone books for different types of paper. These are like paint store “chips” gone crazy. The fan-like books spread out into long, thin fingers, panels that cover the color spectrum and give you the recipe for creating each shade from the basic ink colors. You know, CMYK stands for cyan, magenta (better known as blue and red), yellow and black. Don’t get Shop Boy started on something called “opaque white.”

Well, responding to the light in the room, Mary’s cone cells were reading “too much yellow.” Responding to the clock, which was ticking toward midnight, Shop Boy’s cone cells were reading the color as “spot on.” Knowing his visual handicap, however, Shop Boy shrugged and said nothing. (OK, his complete lack of experience with inks and his desire not to make Mary angry might have had something to do with that, too. Whatever.)

Mary reasoned out loud that adding black would simply darken the color, not subdue the yellow. Maybe some cyan, she decided. A little magenta, too.

Shop Boy wonders sometimes if Mary doesn’t simply like playing with ink. She arranges ink knives all around the glass mixing plate, adds dabs of different colors — like a painter’s palette — then builds a mound of goo at the center that keeps growing and spreading as she adds pigment, tests, adds, tests, adds and tests.

“Yo, c’mon, it’s midnight. Stop fooling around, let’s roll! This is ridiculous! Jeez!” Shop Boy yelled (silently … to himself).

Mary blithely noodled on, the Benihana of ink mixing. (Might add here that Shop Boy does the cleanup on all of this.) Finally, she held aloft a test strip for approval.

“See? I knew it just needed a little bit of something.”

“Oh, yeah. Um. Uh-huh,” Shop Boy nodded, glancing at his wristwatch instead. “I see now.”

Clear as daybreak.


Letterpress List No. 24

So why is Shop Boy humming?

Hey … it’s my birthday!

And even if I’m stuck at work — I wrote this ahead of time, boss … honest — nobody can take away the fact that Shop Boy has cheated the devil for another 365 big ones. Old Beelzebub’s just chillin’, I’m sure, knowing that Typecast Press will be bringing two automated presses and a hydraulic paper cutter online this year. Gulp.

To celebrate, let’s throw on about an hour’s worth of music to plan a party by. Most of these tunes should be available in the usual places. Videos are from YouTube.

Now pass the devil’s food cake.

Birthdaythe Beatles (A lot of the Fab Four lately. Is it getting old?)
BeelzStephen Lynch (Laugh now, pay later.)
All I Wanna DoSheryl Crow (The a.m. beer buzz. Ah, college.)
Let’s Get It StartedBlack Eyed Peas (Get Stupid.)
Bad to the BoneGeorge Thorogood (They could tell right away.)
VacationGo-Gos (Speaking of bad … these girls!)
Sixteen TonsTennessee Ernie Ford (Another day older and deeper in debt.)
Good Old World WaltzTom Waits (For the melancholy that comes with some birthdays.)
Gin and Juice Snoop Dogg (One way to beat the melancholy.)
I Gotta Be MeIggy Pop (Better him than me.)
Rock and Roll Part 2Gary Glitter (A guy who might spend a birthday or two in custody.)
Rock and Roll All Night
Kiss (Wild and crazy.)
Never ThereCake (With vanilla frosting.)
Shout at the Devil — Motley Crue (Hair of the dog … and apparently a few other household pets.)
If I Knew You Were Coming, I’d Have Baked a Cake
Eileen Barton (Hah!)
Happy Birthday
— Marilyn Monroe (So hot you could have baked a cake on her forehead.)
HappySister Hazel (The ride’s been pretty cool.)

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