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November 29, 2006

First Friday

This Friday, December 1, Idiots'Books hits the big time. Thanks to the kind souls who have taken an interest in our project, we are being given a platform (a dangerous thing) to show and talk about our books. Tom Martin, proprietor of Chestertown's own Book Plate, is giving us the floor for December's First Friday, when the good citizens of our humble burg come out in force for various acts of perusing, shopping, gathering, wine-sipping, etc.

As pleased as we were with the Facial Features poster, our delight was compounded upon witnessing the Idiots'Books First Friday poster hanging in the window of Book Plate and in other windows about town. Penned by our new friend Ken Castelli, the poster makes us look far more interesting and established than we really are. But we are not complaining.


Be sure to click on the image to see all of the wonderful details. Ken did an amazing job. You can see more of his work at the Next Generation show, which opens Jan 13 at the Carla Massoni Gallery.

As for this Friday, we invite you all to attend. Apparently, we will be introduced by renowned Washington College art history Professor Aileen Tsui. She is so smart, she went to Harvard twice! In light of this introduction, I feel compelled to prepare comments of some substance. Which means I will be compelled to manufacture a backstory. In fact, we are making books because we have nothing better to do. I will have to come up with something weightier, deeper, I fear, to sate the hunger of the Chestertown elite. Or so I imagine. Likely we will blather on about nothing and sell no books. But in case we are able to inspire some interest, we will have six books for sale. Idiots'Books Volume III will debut, weeks before it is sent to the subscribership. If this is due inducement, please join us. If not, we will post photos of the triumph/debacle this weekend.

Apologies for being silent so long. I have recently driven to Denver and back and am still recovering. I even took a nap today. A rare event. More to come soon.

Posted by bogenamp at 07:40 PM

November 21, 2006

On the Road (Idiots'Books Vol II En Route)

As it turns out, my dad and his wife have installed a wireless network in their home, and so we are able to check in from the road. We left Chestertown at 10:00pm Saturday, drove through the night, and arrived here in Lee's Summit, MO (KC suburb) in time for dinner Sunday evening. I have been catching up with friends during the day and watching Duke play in the CBE Classic at night. Robbi has been in class all day yesterday and today learning about Web programming, her Christmas gift from Judy and my Dad.

Tomorrow morning we leave for Denver, another 11 hour drive. We will be welcoming my niece Kate home from two years in the Peace Corps. The entire family will be there. Does Kate welcome such a comprehensive homecoming? I'll let you know.

We left Chestertown so late Saturday in order to finish up production and envelope stuffing for Idiots'Books Volume Two, Death of Henry. We deposited the bulk of the mailing in the mailbox on the corner of High Street and Cross Saturday night and brought the non-standard mailings along in the car. In case you are wondering, if your postmark reads "Lee's Summit, MO", then we consider you nonstandard. A few people entered the IB craze midstream and were receiving two books, thus requiring additional postage. If you would like to be nonstandard next time around, feel free to order an additional book from the newly-revamped Idiots'Books site (PayPal ready), and you will be sure to receive a larger than usual package. Though it will not be mailed from Lee's Summit. That was a one-time deal.

Nothing more of note for now, other than that I returned to my high school this afternoon to visit with a few beloved teachers. The place looked good. New theater. The kids were young-looking and pimply. It was a little surreal.

Posted by bogenamp at 06:22 PM

November 18, 2006

Heading West

It is with heavy heart that I must sign off for the forseeable future. In less than an hour we will pile into the car and begin an 18 hour drive to visit my dad in Kansas. We will remain there for three days and then drive to Denver (another 10 hours) for Thanksgiving with all of my Dad's family. Many hours of driving. It is painful to contemplate. I'm tired just thinking of how tired I'm going to be. But driving is the only way to bring the dog. And she's awfully cute.

That's it. I'll try to find my way online over the next week, but if not, sorry for the stagnation. The entry about posed dead squirrels ought to tide you over.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:21 PM

November 17, 2006

Kind of Wonderful

This entry is not for people who love animals, support gun control, or lack a sense of humor. Everyone else is in for a treat. Our former colleague, the outrageously desirable Supi Loco recently shared some photos with me that really deserve a wider audience. Her father, resident of Buffalo, NY, is fond of his firearms (as is Supi, mind you), and occasionally takes aim at the squirrels in his yard. Supi's dad being an accomplished marksman, the squirrels often stop living. I'm not sure what most people do with dead squirrel carcasses, but when it is winter in Buffalo, Supi's dad usually stacks his in the garage.

No kidding.

Some people enjoy cross-stitch or fly fishing. Others play piano, collect stamps, or watch reality television. Susan's dad has a special hobby, little known and sorely underappreciated. I could explain, but the pictures speak far louder.

Did I mention he also shoots chipmunks? And the chipmunks have to pull the squirrels around in the toboggan, see?

Other days the mean old squirrels just stand around and taunt them.

Or ride on the squirrel bike.

You know, the squirrel bike.

Or just hug. Squirrels have a lot of love.

Sometimes they dress up like cowboys.

Or go to the squirrel cowboy saloon.

Squirrels celebrate the holidays.

And every year have a big contest to see which one gets to throw out the first pitch on opening day.

The contest is tiring, so the squirrels have a big cookout afterward.

Eventually though, the story turns tragic. Supi's dad gives them their come-uppance.

Why does he do it, I asked Supi Loco? Why does the sun shine, she said in reply. Why does the breeze blow?

And so we are each left to search for answers to the mystery of Supi's dad. When the weather is above freezing, he is forlorn, listless, waiting and dreaming of winter's return.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:49 AM | Comments (2)

November 14, 2006

Our New Best Friends

Much to our surprise, if not disbelief, the Idiots'Book venture has already started to transcend the mere making and sending of books to our friends. A few days ago we were visited by famous painter Marc Castelli, who asked us to sign his book and signed up for two subscriptions. Apparently he liked it. We had not sent a copy of Facial Features to Marc, but he had been shown a copy by Carla Massoni, who owns a very fine gallery in Chestertown, just around the corner from the Barn. Apparently Marc shared his copy with local bookseller Tom Martin, who also liked it, and who wanted to sell it in his very fine independent book shop, Book Plate.

We offered no firm resistance to the plan. We rushed home, made a handful of copies of Facial Features, and dropped them off at Book Plate. The next day we walked past the shop and had this pleasant surprise.

Our book! In the window!

A poster for our book!

In the window!

We might have died right then and died happy.

But there was more good news.

We stopped by Carla's gallery to thank her for sharing Facial Features with Marc. She said all sorts of nice things about the book then asked if we would consider showing the book as well as our past works and a few future volumes in an upcoming gallery show.

Again, we did not demure. Carla went on to say that she had always wanted to experiment with someone painting words on the gallery wall. Our style seemed to suggest a kinship with the scheme. We discussed an installation consisting of an illustrated story painted by Robbi on the gallery wall. We imagine a "story" beginning on the pages of an actual book and then trailing off the page and onto the wall, up the wall, perhaps even onto the ceiling, and back again, eventually, to the book from which it originated.

Here is the space we'd have to work with.

The inset ledge is where the books would be displayed. The space around the alcove is where the story would be painted. We're thrilled with the opportunity. I've already begun working on the story, which I imagine as a chain narrative with no real end point or beginning. If we can pull it off, the reader would be able to enter at any point without loss of coherence or meaning. Likely, for this to work, neither coherence nor meaning will be integral to the enjoyment of the piece.

The gallery opening is scheduled for January 19 or thereabouts. You are all invited. The show will feature the work of other young artists, all children (or husbands of children, in my case) of people who have showed work in Carla's gallery in the past. Robbi, who will also be showing some of her clay monoprint fine art pieces, qualifies because Seiko's Ikebana containers and arrangements are often featured in the gallery. I'm a lucky hanger on.

Yesterday we learned that Book Plate will be hosting us as Idiots'Books for the upcoming December First Friday, when all of the shops in Chestertown stay open late for general milling, shopping, and merriment. We are hoping that the December First Friday will be a frenzy of pre-holiday gift purchasing. In hopeful anticipation, we have begun massive production of multiple copies of our Idiots'Books and past volumes for sale. If we're lucky, we'll be able to attract some new subscribers from beyond our circle of friends and family. If unlucky, we'll have a huge pile of unpurchased books to return to our modest shelf space.

We're awash in the thrill of promise. This may be the pinnacle of Idiots'Books success in the public recognition sense, but we plan to ride the wave as far as it will take us.

Stay tuned.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:41 AM | Comments (1)

November 13, 2006


I am not a good speller. I am a terrible speller. In spite of being a person who writes a lot and even edits occasionally, I can't seem to remember how to build words out of letters in a manner that agrees with the prevailing dictionaries. Usually the spell-checking software in my word processing program usually masks this shortcoming, but the blogging software we use offers no such safety net. And so I am at the mercy of my own worst tendencies.

The other day Robbi was reading a recently posted entry and made some comment about my terrible spelling. She was shocked at my consistent butchering of commonplace words. "Were you really tired when you wrote this?" she asked. She was trying to be nice. We had a conversation and I admitted my solid lack of spelling chops. She smiled to herself and admitted that she took a certain glee in knowing of my deficiency. In our creative partnership, I am the word guy. She is an excellent speller. It pleased her to know that she has a leg up on me, word-wise, in this important way.

It would be as if I suddenly discovered that I could draw amazing caricatures, not one of Robbi's strengths.

Alas, I cannot even draw a plausible box.

I have been told that spelling is not linked to intelligence. And I cling to this theory, purposefully not seeking research that might prove otherwise. But sometimes I wonder...

This is all to say that I apologize in advance for the many errors that might plague these entries. If you, like Robbi, take a certain pleasure in knowing my achilles, I harbor not ill feelings. It is very late, after all. Perhaps that's it.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:30 AM

Back to Baltimore (a minor theme on duck pin bowling)

Each year we gather at Silk's, a bar on the east side of Baltimore, to watch the Ephs of Williams college take on the Amherst Lord Jeffs in a contest of American football. The bar purchases the game via satellite TV. Alumni of both schools gather and pretend to get along. Our friends Emily and Christian are alums of Williams, as are Robbi and I. We all had a good time in college, and enjoy manifesting our pride for the alma mater by cheering lustily for bad things to happen to the Amherst team. Interceptions of the Amherst quarterback's passes, for example, are great. Tackles of the Amherst running back are also welcome, especially when a loss of yardage results. Any Amherst player may fumble the ball at any time, especially when a Williams player recovers the ball and runs it in for a touchdown. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Emily's dad, George, is also a Williams alum. He is in charge of organizing the event for the Baltimore alumni association each year.

Here is George with Christian.

Emily's Uncle Art is part owner of Silk's. As such, he was present when we arrived, about 90 minutes before game time. We were there early to help set up. Art asked if we'd rake the leaves on the sidewalk outside the bar. Of course, we would do anything for Uncle Art.

We got to work.

Chris at one end of the sidwalk.

Robbi at the other.

Here are Christian, George, Uncle Art, and me.

And our female counterparts.

Our raking done, our photos taken, we went inside, sat at the bar, drank cokes, and waited for the game to begin. A few minutes before it started, our good friends Dahna and Sarah arrived from DC. Although another alumni gathering takes place down there, they were good enough to join our festivities. It seems they enjoy our company. And we theirs.

And so I took this group photo, to commemorate the festivities.

But was not satisfied to be left out.

The game began. A bit of background. The Williams/Amherst rivalry is really old. It's the 2nd oldest in college sports. Or something like that. Anyway, they first played in 1884. Williams leads the all-time series 67-48-5. The Ephs won in Williamstown last year, 34-23 and the Lord Jeffs won in Amherst in 2004, 13-10. The last time Williams won at Amherst came was 1998, 35-16.

There was a stretch of 13 years, I think, (during our time at Williams) in which Amherst never won a game against Williams. There was one notorious tie, the infamous "mud bowl," which was aired on ESPN. The conditions were so terrible that the game ended in a 0-0 draw. And ESPN hasn't come calling since.

The past 7-8 years, the home team has won each time. And today's game was to be played at Amherst. I was worried, in spite of our 7-0 record. In spite of their 5-2 record. In spite of their being a second-rate academic institution attended by the intellectually questionable and morally bankrupt.

The game began. We scored a quick touchdown. This was very good. Our good friend Lauren Singer arrived.

I hugged her immediately. I've learned from experience, if you want to hug Lauren, you'd better do it while you have the chance. She's a medical student and incredibly busy. We chatted for a while about a recent surgery she'd performed on a living pig. Apparently Hopkins is one of the few schools that maintains a "pig lab," in which real live pigs are anesthesized and operated upon by medical students. Better than practicing on a real live person, I suppose.

Anyway, I chatted with Lauren, catching up on the months since I've seen her. Still very interested in the progress of the game, I asked Dahna to let me know when something exciting was about to happen. Much to my chagrin, I kept learning about Williams' many touchdowns by a general roars of concurrent joy (from the Williams folks) and despair (from the Amherst people) instead of with my own two eyes. I chided Dahna. But try as I might to persuade her of the importance of letting me know BEFORE the big play happened, she seemd unable to predict the future.

The good news was that Williams was creaming Amherst. On Amherst's field.

Christian, who was watching the game attentively, was simply beside himself with joy.

Good things kept happening. There was little suspense after a while, the drubbing was so complete. But we tried to manufacture a sense of anticipation.

Just then, Emily noticed that Lauren was there and immediately hugged her. Like I said before, with Lauren it's catch as catch can.

After the game officially ended (it really was over about halftime), we drove a few blocks to the Patterson Bowling Center to see if we could parlay the Ephs' on-field successes into some luck on the lanes. We chose Patterson because of its proximity to Silk's, not because it is our preferred bowling venue. Our preferred bowling venue is in Timonium, because we like to say Timonium with a Baltimore accent. But Patterson Bowling Center is not favored because of the harassment we received at the hands of the ownershp/management last year. Apparently at Patterson it is not acceptable to leave "down wood" on tthe lanes between throws of the small heavy ball. For the uninitiated, I'll explain:

Patterson is a duckpin bowling place. A duck pin (apparetnly invented in Baltimore) is shaped like a regular bowling pin, but a lot smaller. One throws a small ball, about the size of a softball, at the pins. There are no holes in this ball. You hold the ball in your palm, which is pleasing, and roll it toward the pins. If you are lucky, you will hit a few. Duck pin bowing is much harder than big ball bowling on account of the balls being so small. To make up for this difficulty, you get to throw the balls three times each frame. A spare is only counted if you clear all ten pins with two throws. Sometimes knocked-over pins remain among the still-standing pins after a throw. In big ball bowling, a clever mechanized device lifts the still-standing pins up into the bowels of the bowling alley whlile a clever mechanized arm clears the knocked-over pins that remain. This is also supposed to happen in duck-pin bowling but often (perhaps due to the smallness of the pins) this doesn't happen, and knocked-over pins remain. It is extremely tempting to use them as a means to clear more of the still-standing pins on subsequent throws. In yet another type of bowling called candlepin, it is perfectly acceptable to use these knocked-over pins (called "dead wood") in such a manner. In duck pin bowling, apparently, this is unacceptable. And at Patterson Bowling Center, the management/ownership frowns mightily on this practice, apparently due to the tendency for minor chipping to occur when the knocked-over pins are violently struck. We know this because the ownership/management/fascists tore us a new piehole last year when we attempted to use the knocked-over pins/deadwood as a means to knock over more of the still-standing pins on subsequent throws. They spoke with harsh words and firm bile, in spite of our not knowing of the crime in advance. The cost of replacing a pin ($25) was referenced, and our imminent expulsion from Patterson Bowling Center were we to step out of line again made quite clear. We weighed these unpleasant memories when choosing to return to Patterson Bowling Center. Proximity ruled the day.

This year, we noticed an abundance of signage indicating that striking knocked-over pins was unacceptable. We were also informed by the management/ownership/surly/dour as we paid for our shoe rental of the severity of the crime. We behaved. But we were watched with the intensity of a celebrity stalker and felt uncomfortable throughout. We played but one game. And made our exit. And will not return to Patterson Bowling Center. Fun was had in spite.

We took no photographs of the bowling. We feared that taking pictures might result in personal injury. Ad the day was going so well...

After the bowling, we drove back to Christian and Emily's house to walk the dogs.

The dog's frisked and Dahna and Sarah shared a moment as the sun set.

After the walk, Dahna and Sarah said their farewells. They were expected at a swanky party that night. Christian, Emily, Robbi, and I drove to Emily's church for the annual Greek Festival. Greek food is quite tasty, and so the line was very long. At one point Robbi was struck in the head by a Greek prayer book that tumbled from the balcony above the waiting line. A Greek prayer book sale was in full swing, apparently. Some kind people in line in front of us shared some cheese pies.

It was quite pleasant, the waiting.

Eventually, we got to the front of the line. The food is prepared by real Greek women.

As a result, it was real Greek food.

Robbi had the lamb shank, which looked like something one might eat in Beowulf's mead hall after a long battle with Grendel. I had the moussaka. Oh, but it was good.

We capped it off with rice pudding. My favorite.

Greek food is not light. Basically, we got really full.

Somehow we found room for delicious deep-fried, honey-drenched, cinnamon-coated donut things.

They have a real Greek name, but I cannot now remember it. They are perhaps the most perfect thing that one could put in one's mouth. I lack the adjectives to do them justice.

And that was the day. We drove back to Chestertown and went to bed fulfilled. It's good to have friends. We are lucky to have so many.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:39 AM

November 09, 2006

Two Bricks Short

Well, hello everyone. I haven't been much of a contributer of late, since matthew has gone hog-wild on the updating at all hours of the night. My so-called ramblings have been limited to the other site, which isn't quite as maniacally updated. I just wanted to check in to let you all know that yes, I still do live in the barn.

Also, I discovered that we are well on our way to becoming Scientologists. I got some "literature" in the mail today, looked it over, and discovered that our new life here is just two bricks short of L. Ron Hubbard. Check it out:

All we have to do now is have some babies and brainwash them into being "happy, productive and motivated" (oy, I can already tell I won't like them) and we'll be full-blown!

That whole silent birth thing is really all that's holding me back.

Posted by ribbu at 10:27 PM

Calling all Subscribers

Idiots'Books Volume Two will be handed off to the USPS next Saturday, November 18. This leaves you just over one week to subscribe and recieve the much-anticipated follow-up to Facial Features of French Explorers by Turkey Day. If you are currently cash-strapped or hate books, we bear you no ill will. But anyone who is interested in joining the growing Idiots'Book craze and just hasn't gotten around to sending his check, now is the time to act! If you, like one of our subscribers, no longer maintain a checkbook thinking checks a medieval thing of the past, we will be adding a PayPal option to the Idiots'Books site early next week. If you would prefer to pay in postage stamps, we are not opposed. Remember that limited scholarship support is available to interested parties.

Enough blather. You are busy people. Click here to subscribe.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:45 PM

Idiots'Book Volume Two

Indeed we have been busy. Facial Features of French Explorers has hit the streets, but we had little time to rest on our laurels. The day after we sent Facial Features, we were busily at work on the follow-up volume. We chose a very short story I've been kicking around for a while as the framework. It has since undergone some revision to conform to our joint vision for how it will work as an illustrated piece. Though the writing delighted me, I never really understood what it was about. In the course of several informal sessions in which we talked through our ideas, Robbi and I have landed on an interpretation that pleases us both. The text was bent in a new direction, and I prefer the revised version to the original. It has been transformed by her images which, by design, do not merely illustrate the words, but offer an accompanying, somewhat independent narrative. Vital details central to the meaning are missing from the text. And vice versa. The two are inextricably entwined. Without its partner aspect, the meaning of both is lost.

Or so we flatter ourselves in believing.

We should finish up the illustrations and text layout in the next few days. Then the weekend and next week I'll return to the dining room table for production. I'll aim to be more cool-headed about it this time, learning from the harsh mistakes that proved so trying in the production of FFoFE.

We decided late last night on our nightly walk with Iggy in the park that the time has come to structure our days a bit more thoughtfully. Though we've gotten plenty accomplished over the past two months, the work has come in fits and starts. We have so many projects and plans and not much of a compass for keeping them straight. We've decided to try having twice weekly meetings (Robbi is loathe to call them "staff meetings, perhaps they are "creative meetings) during which we will discuss our various projects, set deadlines, allocate responsibilities, and make each other aware of what the other is up to.

We'll see how it goes. One of the ironic problems with days free of structure is the tendency to get nothing done. We've failed at previous attempts to live by a schedule, but we both think there is merit in approaching our open hours more purposefully. I haven't really buckled down in working on revisions to the handful of stories I'm hoping to finish. Robbi hasn't gotten around to setting up her printmaking space so that she can work on her fine art. We have the time but are struggling to find the will. But we're both getting frustrated, to point at which we're ready to impose a bit of discipline.

I'll report on the meeting tomorrow. For now, it's time to get some sleep.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:17 AM

November 07, 2006

The Barn Complete

For months I took pleasure in taking photographs of our barn as the construction progressed. I spent my weekends here in Chestertown, using my hands to build the new life while still living the old one. September came and we moved from one place to another. These postings have continued, but the focus has shifted from the space itself to the life we're living here. I realize, however, that although I wake each morning to the sight of what we've created, I've never really documented the finished work, waiting, I suppose until it really feels complete. Though there are still some boxes to unpack, I have to admit that the bulk of the work is behind us. And I owe it to our faithful readers to show what has become of our space.

Our section of the barn, which began as one big room approximately 20 by 40 feet in dimension, was divided into a great room/studio of about 20 by 30 feet and a small bedroom, about 8 by 8. The bedroom is pretty much a bedroom. It contains a bed and a bookcase that we use to store clothes. It has a small table with a single lamp.


The big room is where we live, and for the purposes of dividing the space for various purposes (and to find a way to keep as much of our furniture as possible), we created a number of "rooms" within it.

Robbi and I chose offices on opposite corners of the room. Interestingly enough, our initial scheme way back in April called for the orientation opposite to that upon which we actually arrived. Click here to see our original floorplan, an exercise launched on a day long ago when we were eagerly dreaming of times to come. Once we saw the finished space, however, it became clear that the layout of the windows dictated where things should be. Robbi needs more space than I do, and so she chose the roomy area that buts up against the wall between our bedroom and the big room.

Photos can't really do Robbi's space justice. Even when neat, it looks cluttered. Our space is full, but purposefully so. Here's another angle.

She has three desks: one for her computer, one to hold her stuff, and a glass-top table with recessed lightboxes for drawing. Every inch beneath her desks is filled with printers, cables, storage, etc. She has a seven drawer flat file for storage and a wonderful multi-nook cubbyhole container unit that must once have been a series of mailboxes somewhere.

The kitchen has been presented in another entry, but I'll show it again here. We have neither sink nor cooktop, but we have a variety of appliances for baking, toasting, warming, etc. We get by.

A closer look.

Moving on to the place where we eat, our dining room is defined by a jute rug and a table donated by my mother. Because we must be creative, it also houses our rickety old wardrobe/closet for our hanging clothes. It is defined on one side by the freestanding bookcase. There is a leaf we could use to make the table longer, but we have not yet hosted a large enough party to make it necessary.

Looking the other way, toward Robbi's office. Notice how a bowl of fruit adds a certain hominess.

The dining room window, with a stained glass window I made for Robbi a few years back.

The other part of the dining room, across the central open space between the door and my office, is defined by our standing hutch, purchased in anticipation of nostalgic feelings in our final days in Savannah. Here is where we store our dishes and cooking pots. We don't need many.

And let's take another look at Robbi's spectacular bookcase.

When we began, what you see above was a gaping hole between the two sides of the barn. Almost singlehandedly, Robbi designed and constructed these bookcases and the cabinet above. There was a moment when I was overcome with fatigue and impatience and suggested that we merely board the hole over. If she had not issued the executive veto, we would have had to get rid of a lot of books.

Continuing along the western wall, one comes to my office, tucked into the corner by a window facing Queen Street. The showpiece of my space is the enormous work of art featuring license plates from all 50 states. Like so many of our favorite things, this one was a donation. The benefactor is our good friend David Turner, currently touring as Sir Robin in Spamalot. If you're anywhere near St. Louis, you can see him there through the end of the month.

Another angle.

A view from my desk, looking toward Robbi's office.

Finally, we come to the living room, the other space that faces Queen Street.

The room is defined by a south-facing window and the east-facing sliding door that looks onto the street. Light floods in through both. The couch is a nice place to sit day or night. Iggy's bed is in the corner between the windows. She spends much of her time dreaming there.

The nook of the couch is a great place for lounging. So far there has been surprisingly little lounging.

The west wall of the living room, behind the couch, is defined by the other side of the freestanding bookcase.

We stacked books in both directions, increasing the amount of storage space available.

And there you have it. Here is a final view of the space from our front door.

Much of the beauty of the space is shaped by the light that flows in. There are no trees directly outside the barn, so there is little to block the light from flooding in throughout the day.

I want to take a moment to thank our friend Steve Haske, who balked at an early plan to cut costs by installing a drop ceiling. The prevailing logic was that the drop ceiling would have removed the expense of having to sheetrock the ceiling (a difficult task) and would have allowed for greater insulation above our heads (and resulting energy savings). Steve wrote a strongly worded email to Robbi letting us know in no uncertain terms that he disapproved of the drop ceiling plan. His outrage played no small part in giving us the courage to follow the original plan. Difficulty and expense bedamned, we were going to do the job right and preserve the barn-ness of the place by leaving the beams exposed.

I can't imagine what the place would look like without the exaggerated vertical dimension. Likely congested and dark. Some things are worth paying a little extra for.

I hope we've been able to provide a glimpse of our home as it has emerged, but as our visitors have attested, photos don't really do it justice. We've created small spaces within a big one, but the success of the space is how it functions as a whole.

Which is our way of saying, you are invited to visit. We are almost always here. Just throw stones at the windows when you arrive (small ones, please). We're almost always here.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:56 AM | Comments (1)

November 06, 2006

Supi Loco

It has been a long time since we've made new friends. Our time in Baltimore was great, in part, because of the people we met. You've read about the Westbrooks. Their qualifications as excellent people have been firmly established.

A few weeks ago we spent a very nice day with another good friend from Baltimore, Susan Marie Repko. I'm telling you her Christian name that you might know what to call her if you see her on the street. Now that she, Robbi, and I are good friends, we call her by another name. Supi Loco. Has a nice ring to it, huh?

Here' she is:

If curious, you may read about Susan's professional responsibilities here.

In addition to being smart, sassy, sexy, and easily startled, Susan travels in the company of a very fine cat named Scooter. Scooter has a reverse harelip (his bottom lip is missing), but Susan loves him anyway. Here's Scooter.

No, Scooter is not a Hasidic Jew. He just dressed up like one for Halloween this year. According to Susan, Scooter was a fairly good sport about it. Apparently, he was less sanguine about having to wear a Santa hat and matching sweater last Christmas.

In case any of you guys out there are wondering, Susan is available. But, being so incredibly desirable, is very picky. Those wishing to take her out on dates should submit a thoughtful five paragraph theme to me for review. I'll forward worthy candidates along to Scooter, who will make the final selection.

A few weeks ago, Susan came to visit our barn and see Chestertown. We had a pretty low-key day that involved sitting, eating, talking, and some walking. We took a walk in the local park and showed Susan the statue erected to Lucile, the beloved Chestertown goose who died earlier this year. The mayor presided over a funeral for Lucy and dedicated a sculpture to her memory. I'll take a picture and post it here at some point.

After a very fine lunch of pizza and salad from Proccolino's, we drove out to Eastern Neck Island, a nature preserve outside of Rock Hall, a town to the west of us on the Chesapeake Bay. There is a wooden boardwalk that leads across the wetlands to a small wooded island with a viewing platform.

I think the idea is that from the platform one should be able to view great flocks of birds. We've been there several times and have yet to see more than a few rather bored-looking birds. Nevertheless, Robbi and Susan did their best to view. The angle of the light was pleasing and we were not disappointed in spite of the lack of waterfowl.

After the non-viewing, we drove to another part of Eastern Neck and walked out on the long docks along the waterfront. We came upon a couple trying to catch crabs by dipping chicken necks on the end of ropes into the water along the pilings. They weren't having much luck, but seemed to be enjoying the glorious late afternoon as much as we were.

I tried to interest Iggy in the dock, but she was wary. She was more interested in standing on solid ground. She seemed agitated, like she had business to attend to elsewhere.

It sure was beautiful.


At one point, Susan thought she saw a ship full of pirates. She's awfully fond of pirates and is always hoping to see some.

What she thought was pirates turned out to be only Iggy.

Taking a dump.

So undignified. It's how she remains humble in spite of her noble bearing.

On the way home, Iggy contemplated the concurrent curses and blessings of being a dog.

When the sun fell, Susan headed home to Baltimore, promising to return again soon. Though she lives in the big city, Susan is drawn to the peacefulness of small town life. We've let her know that the couch in the barn is seldom occupied by anyone other than cats, which can be easily tossed aside in a pinch.

Why do we call her Supi Loco, you ask? Such is our fondness for Susan that we were anxious to demonstrate the depths of friendship by moving to the "nickname stage", the state of easy familiarity that usually takes years of struggle to achieve. These nicknames usually evolve from years of shared experience, banter, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, forgiveness, laughter, jealousy, screaming fits, deception, tearful reconciliations, etc. Having come late to our friendship with Susan, we are not willing to wade through all of this emotional flotsam just to arrive upon an organic nickname. We're ready to embrace the intimacy now. And so we set out to cultivate a proper moniker. What would we call her had we known her 15 years, we asked ourselves?

First we came up with Soup, an obvious derivative of Susan. Robbi and I debated its merits, found it adequate, and presented it to Susan for review. She was not entirely pleased, thinking the single syllable somewhat cursory and too likely to conjure images of Cambell's food products. The "y" was added to soften the clipped plosive of "Soup," but the problem of unwelcome eating associations were still a problem. It was Robbi who, in a fit of genius, decided to add the "Loco" and change the spelling of "Soupy" to "Supi." Though homonyms, the two words have very different implications when spelled out. We presented the revised version and Susan accepted. We haven't had the opportunity to use the new nickname in person yet, so the litmus of a live trial has yet to transpire. But I'm hopeful.

As for my nickhame? Susan calls me "Niles" due to my resemblance, so she claims, to the younger Doctor Crane on TV's Frasier.

I'm not sure that I see it, but the importance of a nickname is what it means to he who bestows it. Plus, given Susan's cheerful acceptance of Supi Loco, it would be unseemly of me to complain. Further, my resemblance to Niles, as far as Susan sees it, has more to do with my overall twitchiness. And my anal retentive, draconian management style. Most of Susan's experience with me was as a fellow manager at NCSDO, where I was known as an unyielding tyrant.

And to Susan, Robbi is Kato, which is her middle name and her Mother's maiden name. I'm not sure if there is greater significance in the Kato as far as Supi is concerned. I'll have to ask her.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:33 AM

November 05, 2006

Close Reading

First off, it feels really good to get money in the mail. On Wednesday, November 1, we recieved two envelopes containing full payment for a total of SEVEN subscriptions. It was a bona fide thrill not lessened by the fact that one of the envelopes was from my mother, who was buying subscriptions for herself, my three siblings, and my grandparents.

Later that same day we received cash payment for two more subscriptions (from Robbi's dad) and a check for one more (from my dad). Ok, so our parents practically HAVE to support our venture. That is a given. But did it lessen the legitimizing thrill of payment? Shall we let Robbi's face be the judge?

It has been exciting hearing from friends as they receive the book. Every day more subscriptions have come in. Robbi and I have placed bets on how many we think we'll have in hand by the time it comes to send out Volume 2 in a few weeks. I won't post our guesses now for fear of jinxing things, but I will come clean once the actual number is known.

I will tell you this, Robbi, not wanting to be disappointed, is cultivating extremely conservative expectations. I, however, as one who always wishes for the best, have settled on loftier hopes. If you want Robbi to win the bet, please don't subscribe. If you want to see me happy, please do. Now would be a great time. Isn't it a fine looking book?

As I was saying, people have been emailing us about FFoFE. In addition to expressions of kindness and support, I have recieved a few articulations of genuine puzzlement. "What exactly is going on in this book?" is the general timbre of the questions. "What are we meant to take away from this? Are we to take this seriously? Are these facial features genuine? Why are they important? How did you learn of them? Why French Explorers? Were there not many fine Spanish and Portuguese explorers? Is this some kind of trick?"

All good questions. FFoFE is a baffling work of tremendous complexity. I'll do my best to provide a readers' guide to those feeling adrift.

There are, as far as I can tell, four ways to read Facial Features of French Explorers.

1) Laugh at it. Either because you think it's funny or because you want to mock us for putting together a meaningless book with no real message.

2) Weep bitterly. Maybe you care about trees and consider FFoFE a terrible waste of paper. Maybe your second cousin is French. Maybe you just cut into an onion.

3) Mull and ponder. Indeed, FFoFE presents deep conundrums worth contemplation. Why was de La Salle's beard so full? Might a harelip have saved Brule?

4) Be shocked/appalled. Because basically there is nothing redeeming or enlightening about FFoFE. It is based on even less than sheer conjecture. It flaunts reality. It shrinks from scrutiny.

If you had struggled in approaching FFoFE, I hope this guide has helped. I'll try to provide similar avenues to exegesis in the weeks following each volume's release.

If my notes have yielded a sudden clarity of mind, an unswerving need to subscribe without delay, sobeit.


(and help Matthew win the bet)

Posted by bogenamp at 01:36 AM

November 04, 2006

Keeping Up with the Westbrooks

It was cold this morning. We were expecting guests, so we had to get out of bed. Last night we threw a bunch of ingredients in the crock pot in hopes of yielding chili. We had no idea what had happened to the chili during the night, how it had fared, whether or not it was now chili or something else entirely. Whether the contents of the pot had boiled away to nothing. Whether there was a huge mess that needed to be cleaned up. One of us had to go see. It was so cold. We drew straws. Robbi lost. But, really, she was in no shape to get out of bed.

I reached down deep. I got up. The chili was fine. It was still too watery and needed to boil off some more. Eight more hours would do the trick, we came to find out. The house was cold. Apparently, temperatures in the night had dipped below freezing. A big question has been whether we will be able to keep this space warm once real winter comes. We turned on the baseboard heaters for the first time and crossed our fingers. Two things happened. 1) The air inside the barn got pleasantly warm in a very short time. 2) The heaters, being new, put out a smell like burning rubber. This forced us to open the windows to air out the smell, which also caused all of our newly produced warm air to exit the premises. We seemed stuck with the choice of either foul air or cold air for our visitors. We chose cold air. Robbi is really sensitive to bad smells. Which makes it no small miracle that we're still married.

The day's visitors were our good friends the Wesbtrooks. Matt, the patriarch of the clan was our colleague when we worked at the North Charles Street Design Organization. Matt is a stellar fellow. In addition to being an outstanding writer, freakishly thorough proofreader, and skilled dartslinger, Matt is one of the finest fathers I've ever known. He and Barbara have done such a great job with their kids, Kira and Jennifer. They are models for us. When we have children, we will try and do what they do. Should we ever choose to have children. Which seems increasingly unlikely. Children are so loud.

This weekend is the annual Chestertown downrigging, which means that a bunch of tall ships with masts and sails converged on the port to join Chestertown's own Schooner Sultanta in a celebration of all things nautical. We've been wanting Matt and the family Westbrook to see the finished barn, and the downrigging seemed like a good excuse for a visit.

The downrigging poster:

The Westbrooks arrive. Westbrooks = Matt, Barbara, Kira, Jennifer.

Before they even came inside, we headed down to the waterfront, where each of the ships was taking on passengers for the first of two cruises of the day. We hung out by the largest of the ships, the Kalmar Nyckel. It is a recreation, made in 1991, I believe, of a 16th century Swedish ship. It's really big and grand. I wish I could give you interesting details that did the ship justice. I can't. But here are some nice pictures.

In dock:

On the water:

There were 11 ships total, three of which were really large. "Really large" is an actual nautical classification.

You might be tempted to believe that these three are the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

You would be wrong.

So we looked at the boats for a while. Then we headed back to the barn for a tour. Matt hadn't seen the place since the day he and Robbi made the cabinet doors together. It was the first visit to C-town for Barbara and the girls. I get a sense that they liked the place. After the tour we headed to the farmer's market and took a swing through town. Due to allergies, the family Westbrook cannot have pets. And so the girls take particular delight in opportunities to enjoy the pets of others. Jennifer did a fine job of shepherding Iggy through the treacherous streets of Chestertown.

We stopped at Vicco's woodworking shop. His stuff is incredibly beautiful and incredibly pricey. It's a good place to go visit and wish that you had a lot more money.

We went to the Old Mill for lunch. The food was delicious, but the girl behind the counter was wearing a ridiculous shirt. It was very distracting. I had difficulty ordering my food.

Once we got the food, we enjoyed it. It was tasty. We took a picture of the Wesbtrooks. Have a look. I want you to notice something.

It's a nice picture, right? Indeed. But notice how all of them are smiling. And genuinely so. No sulking, no attitude. The Westbrooks don't have time for that sort of thing. They enjoy their lives and aren't afraid to let the pearly whites show.

On the way back from lunch we looked at the sky. We saw a number of contrails, perfectly parallel, at seemingly similar altitudes. It was beautiful and surprising. I don't recall seeing any contrails over Chestertown previously, let alone seven at once.

As a housewarming gift the Westbrooks brought a bunch of apples, a tub of caramel, and a device that makes the slicing and coring (or is it de-coring?) of apples quite easy. See below.

And a closeup.

While we ate apples drenched in caramel, Iggy rested in the sunlight.

Matt and Jennifer made music with my hollow wooden treefrogs from Kuala Lampur.

Then Jen painted with water and wrestled with the ontological implications of impermenance as the water dried and her image faded.

She seemed to weather the potentially crippling angst with cheerful aplomb. A sign of good parenting to be sure.

We watched Wallace and Gromit shorts, did Sudoko, talked, rested, etc. Eventually the contents of the crock pot looked and smelled enough like chili to put it in bowls and call it dinner. From start to finish, the meal was about 20 hours in the making. As the winter sets in, we imagine that crock pot cooking would contribute in some way to the ongoing task of heating this space. No one was quite hungry yet, so we took Iggy and Tanker over to the college to run around like mad. We enjoyed the dogs' antics, threw the football and frisbee, walked on the new grass on the far end of the field, watched the sun set.

By then we were hungry.

Bob joined us for dinner. He regaled the girls with his stories. Bob's life has been full and interesting and he is always good for a story or several. It's always nice to be with him in the presence of new people because it gives me a chance to hear new stories or favorite old stories for a second time.

After dinner, we headed down to the water to see the ships again. By this time it was dark, but the ships were being lit by spotlights.

Very dramatic.

We talked with a few of the guys on the crew of the Kalmar Nyckel. Apparently they are all volunteers, but still have to do a tremendous amount of training and testing to be selected for the position. We learned about the mind-boggling weight of the horizontal mast that holds the top edge of the big square sails. Apparently it takes 50 men to carry it on and off the ship. After the downrigging weekend, the Kalmar Nyckel is going back to winter in Wilmington. The boat will remain in the water, but all of the masts and rigging will be removed and restored over the winter. The boat itself will be covered in shrink wrap for safekeeping.

Eventually Jennifer got cold, so I loaned her my Carhart jacket. It wasn't really her size, but I think it did the trick.

We came back to warm up with hot chocolate, tea, and brownies. Eventually the long fun day had to end. The girls were yawning. The Westbrooks had a long drive back to Baltimore ahead of them. We lined them up for a final picture and, for a lark, asked them not to smile. Just to see if they were capable of it.

We framed the shot. Took the picture.

Nope. Couldn't do it. Matt did a passable job, but Barbara and the girls either didn't understand the word "frown" (entirely possible), or don't actually know how to produce a frown because they've never done it before.

We tried again.

Again, failure. This time Barbara got a little closer. Kira succeeded in sort of frowning for just a moment as I framed the shot, but as my finger pressed the button, her face snapped back again into the beaming smile that is her mainstay. And Jennifer is hopeless. Doesn't know a thing in the world but smiles. We decided not to fight it. Gave hugs all around and sent them on their way.

We had a really wonderful day. It might sound mushy, but it's good to have friends. It's nice when they visit. It's great when the chili turns out. When the insulation you spent hours hanging seems to keep the big room warm all day. The Westbrooks are great folks and we're glad to know them.

And three cheers for big ships.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:36 PM

November 02, 2006

Getting the Word Out

The glamour of bookmaking declines with each successive step toward the finish line. The fun part is in developing the concept: what will the book be about? How will the writing work with the illustrations? What format will we choose? How will the book be bound? The writing process is enjoyable, if bumpy. Robbi seems to enjoy the process of developing her illustrations once she lands upon the style and tone for a given project. My favorite step is when we sit together at the table, hashing out our concepts for each spread, trying to come up with ways to tell two separate, yet interdependent stories through the dual avenues of word and image. Her drawings are not literal illustrations of my words, but pieces that serve to advance additional ideas missing from the written narrative. My style is spare, leaving much unsaid. Robb's style is spare in its own light. She relies heavily on white space, establishing tone and important details but seldom filling the entire page. Together, our styles of incompletion work together to tell one complete story. At least this is our hope.

I have already devoted an entire entry to the production process and another to the pains of the production process. I have already described how much less fun the production process is than the creative process. Even less enjoyable than the production process is the mailing process, a necessary evil that must come between the production process and the arrival and being read part of things.

Now we know and like various people, but up until a week or so ago, we only knew where a few of them were. Consequently, we embarked upon a massive effort to track town our various friends and family members. The internet makes this much easier than it once was. Thank you whitepages.com. In addition to identifying the location of many old friends, I was offered the opportunity to purchase full criminal background reports on all of them. For $45 a pop. My various old friends are lucky that I'm currently more broke than curious.

Anyway, eventually all of the books were produced, the mailing list organized, the labels designed and printed, the cover letter proofed and printed. All that was left to do was stuff the envelopes, affix the labels, and attach the stamp. $.87 a pop.

Around 2:00am, we were ready to start. There were piles of letters, piles of books, piles of envelopes, and sheets of stamps. We dove in.

I remember arguing with Robbi about envelopes at Staples a few weeks back. "Let's get the kind you lick," I said. "I don't mind licking," I said. "I'd rather save the money," I said.

Robbi said something about how she'd go along with me this time but that I'd live to regret it. That some things were worth paying a little bit for, like peel-n-stick envelopes.

Robbi was right. I need to remember. Robbi is always right.

We folded, stuffed, licked, peeled, etc. for a really long time. Eventually, it stopped being late and started being early.

Robbi noted more than once that we probably would have been to bed at a reasonable hour had I not wasted so much time complaining about the horrible gluey taste in my mouth. She got surly around 5:00am.

Eventually, I think it was around 5:30am, we were down to our final envelope.

And then we were done.

This was last Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Just after noon on Thursday, October 28, 2006, the first Idiots'Books mailing went out. Early the next morning we left for Virginia, the gardening show in Reston, and the weekend at Wild Bill's place.

It felt good to send the mailing out. Not only was it the culmination of a tremendous amount of work but it was the first time that one of our books was going to be seen by a large number of people. I think a total of about 10 people in the world have seen each of our first three books.

Time to put an end to that foolishness. Life's too short.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:35 PM

November 01, 2006

The Art Fit

We were really feeling good about ourselves. Facial Features of French Explorers was well into production. Pages were flying off the printer and I was turning them into books. When approximately 50 of them were complete, we got a worrisome message from our printer. On the electronic readout panel, in capital letters, in unambigous terms, we were informed that our "maintenance kit" would run out in 57 pages. The "maintenance kit," I soon learned, is a tightly packed roll of paper/fabric substrate mounted on a rod deep in the bowels of the printer. It's role, as far as I can determine, is to clean off the printing heads as a document prints so that ink smears do not occur. An admirable function, to be sure. But the Xerox Phaser is programmed to allow only 10,000 sheets to be printed on each "maintenance kit," before the printer gets upppity and refuses to print until said kit is replaced.

Here it is. Notice the dinginess:

Chestertown is a humble village, quiet and peaceful, virtuous and quaint. Which is another way of saying that Xerox Phaser maintenance kits are not readily available. We immediately placed an online order, but were forced to halt production entirely until it arrived. Our mailing timeline was revised, much to my consternation, and we bided our time. On the day of projected maintenance kit arrival there were shenanigans involving UPS and their refusal to accept the barn as our residence. They have known it for so long as Seiko's pottery that the notion that the upper level now houses Idiots'Books is taking some getting used to.

Anyway, I called UPS, issued some harsh words, and the kit arrived.

We joyfully resumed printing:

And I joyfully resumed production. I got on a roll, the several days of rest energizing me for the long slog ahead. I folded, trimmed, and stapled throughout the day, and soon I had a pille of 100 new books. Robbi came over to inspect my work. She frowned.

What she said was something like, "Hey Knucklehead," but I don't remember the exact words because once she pointed out the source of her consternation, my heart was flooded with despair.

Which quickly turned to anger.

And then fury.

Things got no better for the next few minutes.


When I was done with my fit, Iggy seized the opportunity to finish the job I had started.

And then all was quiet.

And now I have delved deep into the realms of self-indulgent drama without even telling you what got me so upset. And such is the nature of the "art fit," a genre of behavior marked by wild overraction and disconsolate gloom. I came in frequent contact with the "art fit" in my former life in marketing communications, so I have first-hand knowledge of how it is to be done.

Anyway, the problem was this. All 100 of the books I had just produced had evident smears on about half of the pages, a product of some printing anomaly that was creating a ghosted image of the text block from the left hand side of the page over the clean white space below the illustration on the other.

Just thinking about it still makes me mad.

Ironically, the problem started when we replaced the maintenance kit, which was supposed to prevent such things from happening. We tried to figure out how to fix the problem. We failed. We despaired. We called Xerox. They told us about a function, hitherto unknown to us, that alerts the printer when one is printing on the opposite side of an already printed sheet. The problem was occuring upon a page's second trip through the printer. We tried it. The problem was fixed. Which was great. We were joyful. Until I realized that I still had 175 books to produce.

I got back to it, lesson learned.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:30 PM

Idiots'Books Begins

One of the things I enjoy most is collaborating with Robbi on making books. I do the writing, she draws the pictures, and somewhere in the middle we come up with the conceptual framework for how the two aspects interact. To date, we've produced two major books and one small one in addition to a handful of mini-books for gifts to family and friends. But we haven't yet spent the energy we could or should to get our works published. And who knows if the interest would even be there.

For some time we have talked about taking matters into our own hands and starting our own book publishing project. Now that we have the time to do it properly, we have launched Idiots'Books, a project in which we will produce one collaborative book every month or so. Ten books a year is the plan. Rather than molder on our personal bookshelf as past books have done, the Idiots'Books will be sent to any of our family and friends who are interested in the project. We sent out a mass mailing of 207 books last Thursday. Anyone who wants to sign up may do so for $50 a year, an amount that we hope will cover the cost of printing, binding, and mailing. To date, we've heard back from about 25 people who intend to subscribe. Which delights us to no end.

Anyone reading this who was not on our mailing list may visit the Idiots'Books Web site to learn more about the project and request a free copy of our first title, Facial Features of French Explorers.

More on FFoFE: The idea has been bouncing around in the back of our brains for some time. I don't remember the exact origin of the phrase "Facial Features of French Explorers", but it emerged from a conversation Robbi and I were having at some point. We were delighted at the way it sounded, and resolved that some day it would be the title of a book.

It seemed fitting to kick off the Idiots'Book project with FFoFE. The ball was in my court to begin. I engaged in intensive, backbreaking research of French explorers and their deeds. I engaged in grueling, soul-numbing research on facial charactersitics. Once I had a list of explorers and another of facial characteristics, I made arbitrary pairings, crafted some largely unilluminating paragraphs, and sent the copy to Robbi. She drew some nice pictures, painted them, and set the whole thing in Adobe InDesign. We tweaked and adjusted. We developed a graphic identity for Idiots'Books and created accompanying letterhead and mailing labels. We drafted some hopefully amusing front and back content for the book. We designed a cover. And were ready to produce the sucker.

By now you must be desperate for photos. I don't blame you. The part where we think about and write the book is not very interesting. I could have taken some photos of Robbi drawing, but I didn't. And so you will have to be content with photos of book production. Not the sexiest part of the process, perhaps, but important nonetheless.

Once the document's content is finalized, Robbi has to set it up to print for binding. This means that the pages must be arranged with the end result in mind. Since the pages that make up the book will be stacked and stapled in the middle, the only page that prints opposite its actual partner content is the one that makes up the book's middle spread. All other pages print opposite a page that will appear elsewhere in the book. The pages that make up a spread are joined only when the book is assembled. It's complex and if I'm not being clear, I apologize.

So Robbi wrangles with this complelxity, pushes print, and we wait a long time for the printer to spit out our pages. The complexity strains the printer's brain, as does the file size of the illustrations. We wait and wait and eventually there is a pile of pages ready to be bound.

This is where the photos come in.

First, I gather the seven pages that make up one copy of FFoFE from the tall stack of pages.

Then I jog the pages into a neat stack so that they all line up nicely when bound.

Next, the stack is folded carefully to make a 8.5" x 5.5" dimension booklet from the stack of 8.5" x 11" sheets. Whenever a stack of paper is thus folded, there is the problem of "push out," in which the sheets in the middle of the resulting booklet extend further than the sheets wrapped around it. This is due to the greater "spine" created as each additional sheet is wrapped around the ones closer to the center of the booklet. The outermost front and back page in a book made of seven sheets of paper extends a good eighth of an inch less than the middle sheet. This may seem like a small difference, but it's definitely noticable. Fancy book producing operations would finish the book by making a clean trim across the edge of the pages, thus evening them all out. We are not a fancy book producing operation. But as I folded, I made sure that the unevenness was consistent from front to back, that the end product might have as good a chance as possible of seeming deliberate.

After making the initial fold, I use an ingenious device called a bone folder to make a strong crease across the folded edge that would become the book's spine. The bone folder is, as it sounds, made of bone. It is polished smooth and is of such a texture and consistency as to make a nice crease without harming the paper stock. I do not know what sort of beast has given his bone to the Idiots'Book venture. Perhaps it is best that I don't.

Once the book has been folded, I move on to the trimming. Although we are too primitive to bother with trimming the edges of the pages, the design of FFoFE calls for us to trim 2 inches from the vertical axis to yield a finished size of 5.5" x 6.5". Robbi is a real snob about page size. She hates the 8.5" x 11.5" inch dimension or any obvious derivatives thereof. And so we're always doing spates of reckless trimming to keep her happy.

We are lucky to own the machine pictured above. It is a paper trimmer. The concept is not complex, yet the amount of time this sucker saves in putting together a book requiring trimming is breathtaking. Basically, a small cutting wheel moves along a track. There is an arm that clamps down to hold the stack of pages in place. The cutting wheel moves along its track, neatly trimming the page to the desired size. Easy as pie. The alternative is using a ruler and a razor blade. If we had used this latter route, I would no longer have fingers, and your copy of FFoFE would contain a good deal of my DNA.

The final step after trimming is binding. In the case of FFoFE, which is a relatively short book, we opted for a saddle stitch binding technique. This means binding the pages together across spreads by some means of fixing pages together along their central fold. Many thicker books are perfect bound, which means that individual pages are cut and stacked together and then bound to the spine with glue. (The "pushout" problem would be insurmountable if lengthy books were saddle stitch bound.) But FFoFE, consisting of only seven sheets and a cover, was a good candidate for binding with a stapler. Two staples did the trick. We have a a stapler with a really long "throat," which means that the top and bottom of the stapler attach much further away from one another than they would on a traditional stapler. The resulting "throat" acommodates the entire page of a book that is lying flat to acommodate a staple along its spine.

The bigass stapler (we refer to it as "the longie"):

In action:

After the stapling, there is an important step known as admiring, where one holds the finished product in one's hand and reflects upon the binding process with a bittersweet sentimentaility.

After admiring, there is stacking. Likely I don't need to explain the stacking.

Post-stacking is boxing.

And so on, and so on. Making 200+ books takes some doing, I have found. As much as we hope that some people will choose to subscribe to Idiots'Books, each additional subscriber represents another book that must be produced. And the production method behind FFoFE is about as basic as it gets. We are imagining some rather grand setups for future volumes.

Hopefully this expose of the sausage making that goes into book production hasn't taken too much of the magic out of your finished copy of FFoFE. Like a cook at the end of preparing a big meal, I had zero appetite for FFoFE after hours and days of production. I had lost any faith that what we had produced had the least modicum of value, interest, humor, charm, etc. It has been nice to hear a few positive comments trickle in from the ether.

There is much more to say about FFoFE, but you're probably stiff with boredom. Apologies.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:21 AM | Comments (1)