A Progress Report—”It Is What It Is”: All the Cards Issued to Donald Trump, January 2017 – January 2021

Affinities, News, News Section

September 28th, 2020

We’re reporting our progress here as we prepare the five-volume, 1600-page “It Is What It Is” on press! If you supported this project on Kickstarter, we’ll also send you the most pertinent updates via email.

June 14: RE: BELOW—NOT REALLY A REAL THING YET. ALAS. As these things happen, there’s a (big) bump in the road. We got a set of the sewn book blocks (not just pictures, as below), and there were a plethora dust and fiber marks throughout all five volumes. This is really an unacceptable outcome (I’ve never seen anything like this in thirteen years of publishing art/artist’s books). As this printer (KOPA) seemed to think dust and fiber marks are unavoidable (which they are not), we’ve had to move production to another printer. There will be a delay, but not by too much, I hope. More soon. And, wow, it would be nice for the stars to align occasionally…

May 26: IT’S ALMOST A REAL THING! The actual printing is done, and it’s stunning (see pics below of the printed sheets at KOPA in Lithuania). Now comes the very long process of sewing and binding the books, making the cases and slipcases, and then shipping them overseas. If everything goes well, then books will be at the Siglio warehouse toward the end of September (the official pub date is October 26). Yes, fourth months (I know, egads), but everything is taking longer now (two months are just for shipping and customs which has become burdensome worldwide). Stay tuned here for more updates!

May 5: CHECKLIST COMPLETE! We have uploaded the files to Kopa Printing House in Lithuania! Whew! Final card count: 10,820. Final page count: 1622.

April 26: We are one week away from going on press! The indices are finished, the proofreading is complete. It’s now time to enter the last corrections and go through the very long checklist before sending the files off. We’ve also moved production from China to Lithuania, so here’s one last wet proof we’re pulling to check color before we go on press next week. It’s the last quarter-mile of the ultra (barefoot) marathon!

April 8: All of the books are typeset—that’s over 1500 pages! We’re doing a final proofread, making sure the indices are correct, and ticking off the boxes in the checklist before we go to press at the end of the month. It’s really the last mile! p.s. Richard received a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship!

March 1: Almost done editing and proofing October 2020—which is just brutal. And November, December and January (at least until Twitter kicked Trump off) will be even worse—a firehose of lies, conspiracy theories, craven abuses of power, and brazen attempts to undermine democracy. As I work on this project, and I read the news now, I am reminded of what Richard said often as he was assigning daily cards: there is no bottom. And this does not feel over, either.

Hear more of Richard’s thoughts on the project in his conversation with poet Mónica de la Torre at the Brooklyn Rail’s New Social Environment series. Their February 26 conversation is archived here.

February 18: If you peruse the updates below, you’ll see that what we thought would be 1000 pages turned into 1500, mostly because Trump behaved exponentially worse in the last four months of his term than at any other time in office. Now that the impeachment trial is over, Richard is also adding a short afterword to 2020. He ceased assigning Trump cards after he left office on January 20, but there are some post-presidency transgressions that cannot be ignored, not least of which is his continuing assertion that he won the election. So now “It Is What It Is” will be five books instead of four, 1500 pages instead of 1000, slip-cased instead of belly-banded, fore-worded and after-worded, and indexed! A herculean effort!

p.s. Don’t miss Richard in conversation with poet Mónica de la Torre at The Brooklyn Rail’s New Social Environment on Friday, February 26, live at 1 p.m. EST. It’s free but do register here.

January 30: Just a quick update—because we haven’t posted in awhile, as we’ve been hunkered down and getting it done! 2017, 2018, and 2019 have been edited and indexed, and we’re now typesetting the first three books. Next up on our to-do list: 2020 which is now two volumes (so five volumes total). In the meantime, we’ve started color proofing and have dummies in hand too! Next week, we’ll send out the first round of Kickstarter rewards (the little sets of cards, and the prints) to supporters.

January 8: I haven’t updated here in awhile, but it’s not because there isn’t anything to report. In fact, as we all know, the last two months have been a roller coaster of upheaval and insanity as Trump promulgated his election fraud conspiracy theories so relentlessly that a riotous mob ransacked the Capitol two days ago while Congress was attempting to certify the Electoral College votes. In the meantime, Trump has earned not only a record number of cards, but Richard is considering whether he needs to institute a new color for the events of January 6. For the moment, there are the first forty cards for that day below.

We’ve now done a count through December 29, and there are now 10,293 cards, and we’ve hit half a million words. So, this project will now be five books instead of four, with 1500 pages instead of 1000. We’re working very hard on editing, proofing, typesetting, and preparing files for production, but now, with the additional fifth book, it’s going to take a little more time than we predicted to get on press. The indefatigable Elizabeth Zuba has also volunteered to create an index for each book, so that’s in the works as well. We had hoped to send books to our Kickstarter supporters in May. It looks like it will be early summer now, with an official release later in the summer, likely August. If you are a Kickstarter supporter or pre-ordered the books (or edition), we’ll keep you in the loop. In the meantime, fortitude! Let’s hope impeachment proceedings begin soon.

November 7: Just seconds after the announcement that Biden had won, CNN commentator Van Jones said this, fighting back tears:

“It’s easier to be a dad. It’s easier to tell your kids character matters. It matters; telling the truth matters, being a good person matters, and it’s easier for a whole lot of people. If you’re Muslim in this country, you don’t have to worry that the president doesn’t want you here. If you’re an immigrant, you don’t have to worry that the president is going to be happy to have babies snatched away, or to send Dreamers back for no reason. It’s a vindication for a lot of people who have really suffered, you know, “I can’t breathe.” That wasn’t just George Floyd; that was a lot of people who have felt that they couldn’t breathe.

Every day you’re waking up, and you just don’t know. And you’re going to the store, and people who have been afraid to show their racism are nastier and nastier to you, and you’re worried about your kids, and you’re worried about your sister, and can she just go to Walmart without somebody saying something to her? And you spent so much of your life energy just trying to hold it together, and this is a big deal for us just to be able to get some peace and have a chance for a reset.

And the character of the country matters and being a good man matters, you know, I just want my sons to look at this, look at this, you know, it’s easy to do it the cheap way and get away with stuff, but it comes back around. It comes back around. And it’s a good day for this country. I’m sorry for the people that lost. For them it’s not a good day. But for a whole lot of people, it’s a good day.”

This is a “resistance” card for Van Jones from @acts_and_facts “It Is What It Is”. Richard’s also given a teal card to (so far) 74,940,040 voters who elected Biden and thus have thrown Trump out of office.

November 7: Biden/Harris declared the winners! As I was writing this update, the news came in! But we’ve still got 72 days left of this venal and craven administration—it’s not over until Trump is escorted out. So Richard is, as ever, toiling in the lowest astral realm of Trump’s Twitter feed while glued to the news, and taking notes. On November 5, Trump earned over forty cards, including twelve crimson—the absolute worst of the worst.

Earlier this week, our Kickstarter campaign not only crossed the finish line, but we made it to our stretch goal to publish the books as hardcovers. A big thank you to everyone who contributed!

We’ll keep posting here. In the meantime, check out this great interview with Richard at BBCRadio London:

If you follow @sigliopress on Instagram and Twitter, there will be periodic updates there too. Onward—much work still to be done (let’s get the Senate, too).

November 4: My inbox this morning was filled with emails from all the campaigns and get-out-the-vote efforts I contributed to saying some variation of “be patient / we were prepared for this / we’re gonna win it.” Maybe. I’d really like to think so. I think we’re all very concerned that it will ultimately end up in the Supreme Court.

But even if Biden does ultimately win, and even if he runs up the margins in the popular vote (which supposedly is more than any other candidate has won), we’re still faced with something I cannot comprehend: a vast number of people in this country believe what Donald Trump says, even after he’s lied to them, after he’s shredded every norm, after he clearly acts only in his self-interest in matters of life and death for millions of us.

@acts_and_facts has been in the trenches, every day, watching Trump’s rallies, reading his Twitter feed, (his rough draft of October’s transgressions for “It Is What Is” in a video above), and he has been warning me that Trump’s ridiculous, lie-saturated, self-serving, venal message, repeated often enough, begins to sound like truth simply through the force of repetition. My response has been (sometimes impatiently), but who could believe him but his base? Clearly, an insane number of people in this country do.

You may be asking—like I am—how is this even possible? Is it some intractable part of human nature or American culture that wants to believe what the salesman is selling, even when it’s obviously too good to be true—when all evidence tells you it’s simply not true? How is it possible that hope and decency is in such a tight race with fear and racism? How is it possible that people cannot recognize the bizarre looking glass: that everything Trump says about everyone else (how corrupt, how divisive, how greedy, how hateful, how racist) is really about him?

I’m sure some of you would say, yes, of course, it’s ALL possible. Haven’t you seen this all along? But I didn’t. I hoped for a clear repudiation of everything Trump stands for. That we didn’t get this, whatever the final results, is what I’m left thinking about today while we wait. —LP

p.s. Below, a scroll through of Richard’s rough draft of the last month or so of cards. There are so many things that each on their own would be—in normal times—disqualifying…

November 3: OK. It’s election day. Finally. I think we’ve all left it on the table and done everything we can do (unless you haven’t voted yet!). And now all we can do is worry—for who knows how long. As this is truly existential, the waiting, the prospect of waiting more than a day or two, feels almost impossible. (Texas, please save us! Turn blue and make it a short evening!) 

Meanwhile, tomorrow (Wednesday, 11/4) at midnight, this Kickstarter ends. We’ve raised $18,500 so far from more than 175 supporters which is kind of astonishing—THANK YOU! 

We’re tantalizingly close to turning the paperbacks into hard cover. If we get another 40-45 supporters (pledging for the books or higher), we’ll be able to pull this off. It seems like a lot, and god knows we’re all exhausted, but if you do know someone whom you think would really be into the project, will you let them know? 

Or, if you want to just get an extra set for someone else (and it ships to the same address) add $70 to your pledge and send me a message to let me know. Or, if you wanted some other reward and aren’t sure what to add to your pledge, just ask. What am I doing today anyway? Twiddling my thumbs, sweating, stress-eating, and very happy to hear from you!

Richard has been working on this project for 1382 days. If things go well today/tomorrow/this week, he’s got just another 78 days left. His vigilance, his unflagging outrage is emblematic of all the work that has been done to resist this presidency for the last four years. Thank you again for supporting it. I am immensely proud to be publishing it.  —LP

October 28: Fascinating and beautiful conversation about the state of the world, the power of art, hope and despair, and more between Richard and poet Patrick Howell at The Believer Logger.

October 26: We’re 105% funded! We’re taking “It Is What It Is” to press! (We’re also hoping to raise an extra $7500 to turn the paperbacks into hardbacks, so if you haven’t supported the project yet, now’s the time! You can get the set of books at a very special early supporter price. We’ve got — you’ve got — only until November 4.

There’s also a great article about “It Is What It Is” at Lithub that came out last Friday.

Oh, and there’s other news too, now that we’re just a week and one day away from the election. Last Thursday, when Trump released his raw footage of his interview with Lesley Stahl, and then later that night, debated Biden, he earned a record-breaking 70 cards, including a handful of crimsons. To date there are now over 8500 cards (Below Richard’s preparing a lot more new, pristine cards to be painted.) Let’s get out the vote and get Trump out of office!

October 18: We’re 96% funded! Just $572 to go! Help us get there!

In the meantime, since this Kickstarter campaign has started Trump has received 424 more cards, breaking his September 29 record on October 7 with 52 cards transgressions. On September 30, Richard devised a crimson card, and Trump has “earned” three more since then. Below are test colors for this new card and Richard’s notations.

October 17: He praises the manner in which law enforcement broke up protests in Minneapolis after the murder of George Floyd: “There’s something about that, when you’re watching everybody get pushed around, there’s something very beautiful about it.”

October 6: Trump downplays the Coronavirus (again): “Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” (In fact, he was recorded speaking privately to Bob Woodward saying that Covid is much more dangerous than the flu and yet he has consistently downplayed the seriousness of the virus.

October 5: Trump returns to the White House and immediately goes for a photo opportunity on the Truman Balcony. After holding an absurdly long salute he removes his facemask puts it in his pocket and then turns and walks indoors where there are photographers and staffers present. He then comes back out, apparently to reshoot the picture. He is still contagious and has put the health of all of these people at risk. Numerous health professionals are enraged and point out that his own CDC guidelines say he should remain in isolation for at least ten days after being diagnosed.

September 30: At a campaign rally in Minnesota, Trump launces into a xenophobic attack on refugees and Ilhan Omar: “Another massive issue for Minnesota is the election of Joe Biden’s plan to inundate your state with a historic flood of refugees. Biden and Crazy Bernie Sanders have agreed on a manifesto, did you see last night, “I didn’t agree, I didn’t agree, after the show they said, actually he did, they fact checked, they found out he made a mistake, slight mistake, it’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen but they pledged a 700% increase in refugees, seven hundred percent. Congratulations Minnesota, congratulations, no, and what about Omar, where she gets caught harvesting. What the hell is going on? I hope the U.S. Attorney is involved. What, what is going on with Omar? I’ve been reading these reports for two years about how corrupt and crooked she is. Let’s get with it. Let’s get with it. I mean frankly harvesting is terrible but it’s the least of the things that she has done. How the hell, then she tells us how to run our country. Can you believe it? How the hell did Minnestota elect her? What the hell is wrong with you people? What the hell happened?    

October 11: We’re almost 75% to our goal! Over $10,000! Just $4500 to go by November 4. You can help us get there!

In the meantime, Richard devised another color—crimson—to top the pyramid of red, magenta, and purple when Trump said a couple of weeks ago that he would not commit to a peaceful transfer of power. He’s earned a few of those since then. And last week, after returning home from the hospital he broke his September 29 record with 50 on October 7. Richard’s also considering adding another color to give a card for each person Trump may have infected with COVID-19. For the moment these are the colors, but I’ll update as soon as the crimson has been perfected!

October 4: This was a record-breaking week. The spread below is a rough draft of all the cards Trump earned just on September 29, mostly during the debate—a single day’s record of forty-eight. Since then, Trump—even while in the hospital and off Twitter for a day—earned another ten. “Will you just shut up, man?”

And by the way, just four days in, we’re almost half-way to our goal!

October 1, 2020: Siglio has launched its first Kickstarter campaign to put a substantial down payment on the biggest expenses of publishing—pre-press, paper, printing, binding and freight—for this highly unconventional, unwieldy, and important project by Richard Kraft: “It Is What It Is”: All the Cards Issued to Donald Trump, January 2017 – January 2021. We got a lot of help from designer Martha Ormiston who transformed our layouts into these beautiful 3D renderings (some samples below)! Thanks, Martha!