I used to live in an apartment building where the manager subscribed to a bizarre theory of written communication. The manager would post notices above the mail boxes that used an unusual combination of all caps, underlines and quotation marks that made me wonder if there was some secret meaning buried within the text. He sometimes used 2 different colors of pens, writing some words in red and some words in blue or black and switching between longhand and block letters. So a note from him might look like this:
Dear TENANTS —
As you know, “WINTER” will soon be here. WE will be bringing in a crew on THURSDAY between 1:00 o’clock pm & 4:00 o’clock pm to “install” Weatherstripping and Stormwindows!!!
There will be “NO CHARGE” for this Service!!!
— the “management”
I wondered if words in quotes or red were intended to be read sarcastically, i.e.: if he wrote “NO CHARGE” instead of just ‘no charge’ (without quotes or underlines), did that mean he was being sarcastic and there would be a charge?
I would try decoding the messages by just reading those parts that were in cursive or underlines, reading just those parts that were in red, etc., and trying to break the cipher but usually got messages that said things like “TENANTS WINTER WE THURSDAY NO CHARGE.” I thought one day I might decode one of the messages about leaving the front door open or a mess in the laundry room and buried in among the quotes and underlines find a phrase like, “THE VOICES SAID TO KILL YOU ALL; GET OUT WHILE YOU CAN!!!”
Here is one of my favorite paintings from the artist Max Ernst:
The painting is entitled, “Europe after the Rain” (click on the image for an enlargement) and employs Ernst’s famous ‘frottage’ technique in which Ernst would lay weathered wood, rough stone, etc., under his canvas while painting, which would create textures in the paint. He would then continue on with glazes and layers — the end effect is satonishing, especially in the originals (which I was lucky enough to see several years ago).
Great, really evocative and haunting stuff.