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April 25, 2007

Sweet Release

Last week was a marathon of creativity for Robbi. She painted nonstop for five days and nights. A week ago tonight things looked very bleak indeed for The Town that Somehow Fooled the British. But Robbi gave up sleep and sanity, and eventually the book was done. We printed out 25 copies, drove to St. Michaels, had our reading and felt content for about two days. The wonderful thing about The Town that Somehow Fooled the British is that the other 2,500 copies are going to be printed by someone else, very far away from here. The book we printed out for last Friday's reading was not yet perfect. Some images were poorly scanned, the cover design was not yet finalized, a few copy issues had yet to be resolved. Step by step this week we addressed these final details as we prepared the files to send to the folks in Hong Kong.

On Tuesday a set of color proofs arrived, sample images printed from Robbi's files on the actual paper stock on the actual printing press. The point was for us to see how the color translated from Robbi's screen to the Chinese printing press. We were pleased to see that the color reproduced beautifully. Though it was somewhat more subdued than the color that printed out for the limited edition books we produced last week (according to Robbi, that color was too garish).

Today we received the "dummy" book from the printers. That is, a completely blank, white sample book made of the exact materials that our book will be made from. So we basically had a chance to hold and feel a near facsimile of the finished product. It was awfully gratifying.

Today Robbi prepared the various things we had to send to the printer.

1) a black and white version of all of the "text" pages (that is all of the interior pages) of the book.

2) color print-outs of the endpapers (the page between the cover and the first "text" page) and of the covers.

3) a CD with the Adobe InDesign (the page layout program we use) file and high-resolution files for each of the illustrations and logos.

These things in tow, we drove to good old East Coast Storage (where all of our worldly posessions lived for those months between living in Baltimore and moving into the barn) to send the FedEx. East Coast Storage doubles as our local FedEx depot.

We were gleeful on the final leg of this long process.

Here is Robbi with the cover printout (note the glee).

And with the other stuff (Note the overly-enthusiastic documentation of mundane detail on my part).

Note my enthusiasm for FedEx--that even picks things up in Chestertown.

Now that the files are off, the waiting begins. In a few weeks we will get a set of "wet" proofs from China, that is a complete version of the book's contents for the purpose of final review of content, color, and placement of images. If all is well, we will give the green light and the printing will begin. In my albeit limited experience in the design and production world, it never, ever happens that all is well.

There will always be something amiss, in spite of the expert editorial services of Mr. Matthew Westbrook, the talisman we wield to ward off the dark forces of typographical mishap. His powers are vast and legendary.

If you find yourself in a dark alley with Matt and he's holding a red pen and he challenges you to a proofreading duel, please, in the name of all that is holy, refuse. The man will cut you down like the hollow sapling that you are. And then will laugh, standing over your bent and broken frame.

Posted by bogenamp at 07:59 PM

And the Winner Is

I realize I owe you readers something after yesterday's entry, which was, at base, about plumbing. It could also be read as a morality tale about the virtues of energy efficient Chinese laundry methodology. And no one wants to be preached at on a blog best known for jumping.

Today let's return to the question of the contest to decide whether I more closely resemble Niles from TV's Frasier or Dwight from The Office. The contestants: the pro-Niles Supi Loco and the Dwight-afficionado Beth Duncan. If you have not voted, it is too late, but you can still read the litany of comments offered by the voters and watch this very strange movie made by one of the technical advisors from the Duncan camp.

The votes have been tallied and the winner is known. But before we elevate one of these fine women to the sublime heights of winner status and dash the other helplessly to the jagged rocks below, let us take a moment to recognize their individual humanity. They may be mere combatants to you, contestants on the celebrity-look-alike circuit's answer to American Gladiators, but Supi and Beth are, in fact, both excellent people. And coincidentally, both have recently bought their first homes.

On Monday night Robbi and I drove to see the brand new Chez-Supi and Chez-Duncan and to help Beth move some boxes.

We arrived outside of Beths' rental unit. It was a sunny day, and so I was looking awesome.

Robbi, meanwhile, has not been eating well of late and has, as a result, begun to wither. Not only does malnutrition leave her with a perpetual scowl, but she has also shrunk and can no longer see over the steering wheel. I know I shouldn't let her drive in this condition, but I do.

Beth's boxes were really heavy and so Robbi and Beth got all macho.

So we moved some boxes from Beth's rental by the harbor up to her new house a bit north of downtown. Her house is on a beautiful tree-lined street, is incredibly cute, cozy, and flooded with natural light. I will not give you her address because I have it on good authority that a good percentage of my readership are of the perverted stalker mold. I was delighted to discover that Beth lives about three blocks from my favorite Chipotle in Baltimore. Which means I'll be much more likely to visit her. You may stalk Beth at the Chipotle, but nowhere else.

Of course, I forgot to take a picture of her house.

After the moving was done, we got some Chinese food (now that we have the single-unit high-efficiency washer/dryer thing, we're all about the Chinese) from the Number One Chinese Kitchen, my second-favorite restaurant in Baltimore (after the aforementioned Chipotle). The Number One Chinese Kitchen is just three blocks from Supi's house. Are you starting to recognize the trend? Supi and Beth value my friendship so highly that both took my eating preferences into account when choosing location.

With the number one Chinese food in Baltimore in tow, we went to Supi's house, which I also forgot to photograph but which is also incredibly cute and has the added virtue of being across from the cemetary (in case any guests pass away while visiting Supi's home). We ate the food and hung out with Scooter, Supi's cat who is great but also deformed. He has the cat version of a harelip.

Scooter and I bonded.

We sat around talking, any traces of animosity between Supi and Beth on the Niles/Dwight front safely under wraps.

What I am trying to say is this: though someone has to lose this contest, Supi and Beth are both winners. They are great people, dear friends, and owners of homes near great places to eat. I will continue to like them both (almost) the same once this whole contest thing has been forgotten.

But the votes have been tallied, and to the tune of 5 to 3, I will have to like Supi (Niles) just a tiny bit more.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:32 AM

April 24, 2007

Keeping Up with the Chinese

It is with some shame that we make the following confession: Robbi and I have purchased a washing machine. And a dryer. I know that the reading public looks to us to uphold the forthright technological ideals of the mid-1850s, and so we are ashamed to be letting you down. If we had a nearby running brook in which to wash our things, we would use it. Believe us. But we do not and therefore had to seek alternative avenues. Like a washing machine. And dryer. Rest assured that we still have no running water in our primary living space. We still need to use a long stick to turn on the lights by the utility sink. Weaving through the maze of buckets, toolboxes, and pottery on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night is still a harrowing ordeal. But we are now able to do laundry without leaving the barn. And this fact makes us happier than you would probably like.

When we first started contemplating this bold move, Robbi did a lot of online research. We needed a unit that would work within our limitations: 1) not much space and 2) no good place to vent the dryer. Apparently, while we Americans fill our homes with space-consuming washers AND driers, the rest of the world has been innovating new machines that combine both functions much more efficiently. That's right, you put your dirty clothes in the front-loading hole and come back later and remove completely dried clothes from the very same hole. Even more ideal, these units are self-condensing, which means that the dryer does not need to vent. The steam is turned back to water, which drains with the rest of the runoff. And the units are much more water, electricity, and detergent-efficient than traditional models.

There are many such units and many companies that produce them, especially in Europe. The one we chose, Haier, is produced in China, where space is clearly at a premium.

I'm sure you all are outraged, wondering what foul conspiracy has kept you from these lofty heights of clothes-washing happiness. The part I left out of the above equation was the time it takes to effect this wash-to-dry cycle. That would be about five hours. The online reviews we read were either wildly enthusiastic or downright angry. The difference seemed to have a lot to do with how one felt about a 5-hour laundry cycle.

Here is Bob with the machine.

Just obtaining the unit was an ordeal. The first one we ordered was completely demolished when we opened the box, as if it had been dropped from a great height. So we ordered another, which arrived some weeks later, apparently intact. We wheeled the thing into the bathroom and were gratified to find that it fit nicely betwen the wall and the bidet.

That's right, we have a bidet. The disenchantment continues on your part. "Who are these sanctimonioius jerks who gloat on and on about living in a barn when said barn has a fricking bidet!@$" you might be saying to yourself. If it is any consolation, I have not used the bidet, Robbi has not used the bidet, and we can't really explain why the bidet is there in the first place.

The important and relevant fact about the bidet is that its existence significantly eased the process of installing our new washer/dryer thing. We diverted the bidet intake pipe to the washer, and placed the drain hose in the bidet. The poor bidet, which probably began life with fantasies of being installed in a high-class French flat, heretofore will suffer the searing indignity of being our laundry drain. But such is the unpredictable life of the bathroom appliance.

Hooking up the plumbing was an ordeal.

I tried to stay out of the way while Bob and Robbi figured things out. We lacked the needed fittings and so Bob went to the hardware store. He went to the hardware store four times over the course of four hours. Retrofitting a bidet into a washing machine enabler is not as easy as you might think.

The process was occasionally demoralizing.

The first few times we tried to use the thing, there was significant leakage. But Robbi was persistant with the wrench, pipe dope, and electrical tape and eventually emerged triumphant.

In the past 48 hours we have done 5 loads of laundry. We pleased are like kids on Christmas, like trees on Arbor Day. We are willing to suffer whatever ratcheting down of esteem you may feel toward us. Because we no longer have to tote our laundry across High Street in the dead of night. Because we are keeping up with the Chinese.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:37 AM

April 21, 2007

The Book that (Almost) Killed the Robbi

It has been a bleak stretch of days in the barn. As of 7:00 last night when we arrived at Artiste Locale in St. Michaels with 30 copies of the newly-finished The Town that (Somehow) Fooled the British, Robbi had slept for about 4 of the previous 72 hours. The good news is that the book did not destroy Robbi. Robbi prevailed, and the reading went well, and now we will send the files for the book off to Hong Kong where someone ELSE will have to make the next 2,500 copies. But it was a bit touch-and-go around here for a while.

We've known about this reading (and associated "book-must-be-done-by-then" deadline) for a while, but a bunch of other projects kept happening, and we found ourselves a week away with a lot of work to do. So Robbi started painting:

And painting:

And painting:

At a certain point we realized that the usual cycle of sleep and wakefulness would have to be put on hold for the time being, in favor of a disproportionate amount of the latter and mere sprinklings of the former.

Robbi slogged on and on while I brought her occasional food, drink, and encouragement. But one can only paint so fast.

The illustrations for this book are considerably more complex than, say, Volume 6, Richard Nixon. Those are a series of line drawings (albiet, nicely rendered). The Town that (Somehow) Fooled the British is full of really complex, detailed, handpainted paintings like this, a send-up of the sort of village-merriment tableau that opens Beauty and the Beast, among other tales:

And thickly-painted mood-setting shots like this (in which the British, full of misanthropic impulses, sneak toward the innocent town of St. Michaels):

The book also contains several illustrations of recognizable, yet unnamed, celebrities, which put the onus squarely on Robbi to make sure that the caricatures worked. You may remember the contest Robbi sponsored on Idiotsbox a few weeks back, in which you readers were supposed to identify the subjects of the caricatures she was working on. Here, then, is one of the finished illustrations.

Here is another, in which Douglass, Cheney, and Rumsfeld are enjoying a lazy afternoon in the pool (while everyone else in town frets about how to thwart the impending British invasion (not the Beatles).

I'm going out on a limb to be sure, but I'm guessing that there are no other renderings of Frederick Douglass doing a cannonball into Dick Cheney's pool.

I think Robbi she does a nice job of capturing his hair in the course of the downward plunge.

We arrived in St. Michaels with 30 freshly-printed books in tow around 6:45 last night. At 8:00 we did a reading, showing the illustrations on my computer monitor while I read the text. We met a lot of very nice people and sold some books.

The books:

The nice people:

After the reading we had some dessert with our friends Jill Jasuta and Jim Duffy from Cambridge, MD, not far down the road from St. Michaels.

You may remember them as the folks who don't both like to have their eyes open at the same time.

I'm giving Robbi one day off to sleep and recover. Tomorrow we must begin work on Volume 7.

As for The Town that (Somehow) Fooled the British, limited edition handmade versions (edition of 50) are available for $25 at Artiste Locale. Hardbound copies will be available at Artiste Locale or through the Idiots'Books site mid-summer.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:48 AM

April 19, 2007

The Most Wonderful Thing I've Ever Seen

Who knew that a harmless little competition would yield such a firestorm? Those of you who have not read the fury of recent comments on the Supi/Duncan smackdown should do so here.

Those of you who know nothing of the competition but just can't wait to cast your vote, click here.

But even before clicking that link, please join me in slackjawed wonder as together we watch the following video.

Click here to be amazed.

What do you make of this? I rather suspect that this man is to blame. He is a surfboard assasin.

Or this man. He has a dog who will kill you if you look at him.

If you see either one, please apprehend him or question him, whichever is easier. Though neither is usually armed, both are dangerous, posessing mad ninja skillz and the like.

If you would please print this poster out and post it around your neighborhood, it would be much appreciated:

The "100 Gold" will be paid by Beth Duncan.


I have added the following citations from the Urban Dictionary as points of reference people who, like me, are unfamiliar with the parlance of cutting-edge urban hipsters.


A corruption of the word "Owned." This originated in an online game called Warcraft, where a map designer misspelled "owned." When the computer beat a player, it was supposed to say, so-and-so "has been owned."

Instead, it said, so-and-so "has been pwned."

It basically means "to own" or to be dominated by an opponent or situation, especially by some god-like or computer-like force.

"Man, I rock at my job, but I still got a bad evaluation. I was pwned."


"That team totally pwned us."


someone who is new to a game, or website, online game, or something.

lets go mess with the weak little noobs
(AKA, Matthew)

Posted by bogenamp at 03:10 PM

April 18, 2007

The Town That (somehow) Fooled the British

Hello folks. This is a commercial. And probably a late commercial, come to think of it.

This Friday, April 20, Robbi and I will be debuting our first major custom book, The Town that (somehow) Fooled the British, at St. Michaels' own Artiste Locale. The event will be from 7:00-9:00pm, and the first official reading of The Town that (somehow) Fooled the British will be around 8:00.

Artiste Locale is smack dab in the center of St. Michaels. The address is 112 N. Talbot St. The building looks like this.

When you show up, you will hardly be able to see the building, so swarming will it be with busloads of fans and admirers.

If you are fortunate enough to get inside, you will recognize Robbi and me by the unsightly black rings beneath our eyes. We have been getting not much sleep this week as we struggle to complete The Town that (somehow) Fooled the British before Friday at 7:00pm.

And yet we will complete The Town that (somehow) Fooled the British before Friday at 7:00pm.

Here is a recently-painted image from The Town that (somehow) Fooled the British. In this image, we see the fearsome British exercising some of that famous British bravado in the form of cannon fire.

And here we have a cup of tea.

Because the British love tea. Notice, however that this is very EXPENSIVE tea. That the tea is expensive is a pivotal part of the argument of the page on which the tea picture appears. This is a book of dizzying complexity. Those wishing to glean full meaning from the reading should exhaustively re-read the works of Chaucer, Milton, and Proust.

We hope to see you there.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:44 AM

April 17, 2007

You Be the Judge

I have mentioned previously that my former colleague, the infinitely bewitching Supi Loco thinks that I bear an uncanny resemblance, both in appearance and demeanor, to that lovable psychotherapist, TV's Niles Crane. I have graciously endured Supi's constant reminder of her feelings on this front in spite of not wholly agreeing with her. Because we are friends. Because friends endure, graciously as they can, when friends make potentially unkind comparisons with arguably irritating television characters.

To sate your curiosity, here is Supi.

But then I made a new friend, the alluring and remarkable Beth Duncan, who in most ways is pretty agreeable. But then she decided that I bore an uncanny resemblance, in appearance and demeanor, to the inimitable Dwight of TV's The Office. I have not seen the show, but have been told by people who love me that Dwight is an A#1 loser, and that I should be more than a little offended by Beth Duncan's position on the Dwight/me similarity thing.

And here is Beth:

Supi and Beth are friends and the subject of my relative similarity to Niles and Dwight is a matter of constant and fierce debate. In fact, I conjecture that the issue is the glue that binds them. But slowly, over months of the constant bickering, I am compelled to seek a way to resolve the conflict once and for all. And so I call on you, the readership, to weigh in and help us put the question to rest.

In order to make the contest fair and comprehensive, I afforded both Supi and Beth the opportunity to submit 150-word essays stating their case, along with a photo of their choosing in which the purported similarity was most pronounced.

Without further ado:


"I think Matthew reminds me of Niles Crane because they both have sort of the same shaped heads, even though Matthew's has that midwestern sphericality. Both excel at enunciation and the formation of complete sentences, no matter what they say, even when Matthew says "awesome," which, as everyone knows, hasn't been uttered by anyone except Ukranian Dungeons & Dragons aficianados or Canadians for about 6 years now.

Both Niles and Matthew are tallish and lean and have that 12-year-old boy/Labrador retriever puppy energy. They also share an inherent kindness and sensitivity to others.

But the most striking resemblance between Matthew and Niles is THE TWITCHINESS. They both TWITCH as though caffeine courses through their veins. Watch Matthew sometime. Watch him closely. He twitches. A lot. He simply can't keep still. He's got ants in his pants. Soon all you will notice about the man is his twitchiness.

Now that Matthew is no longer working at NCSDO, I miss watching him twitch. Most of all, I miss making him twitch by making some innocuous but loaded comment about his hair or wardrobe choices. So I stay up until 1:00 a.m. most weeknights, so I can watch back-to-back episodes of "Frasier" and wait for Niles' appearance so I can get my Matthew fix."



"Who needs 150 words? I think this says it all."



Hi all,,, I guess I should have submitted more of a "formal" essay. Matthew is still giving me a hard time for my lameness. But in my case, the resemblance between Matthew and Dwight is primarily physical. C'mon--the smile is nearly identical, the glasses, the hair color!? Can you see it? Even the voice is remarkably similar. However, that's where the likeness ends. I do not think Matthew is a bonehead. He certainly can be a bit quirky, but he is nowhere nearly as odd as Dwight. So, please, cast your votes for Dwight!


Now, friends, you be the judge. Do I bear compelling resemblance to either Niles or Dwight? Is the similarity stronger in one direction or another? Should I be offended by the persistent claims of similarity? Is friendship with Supi or Beth a prize equal to the indignity of these comparisons?

Please share your thoughts. And cast a vote. This is a bona fide competition, after all. Either Supi or Beth will win, and the outcome is in your hands. As a prize to the victor, she may costume me however she pleases and take my photo AS Niles or Dwight. A photo I will then post on these pages at some yet-undetermined date.

Help these two settle the score, and help me end the torment of not knowing the specific ways in which my self-esteem should suffer.

Posted by bogenamp at 07:02 PM

April 15, 2007

A Very Good Day

When Robbi told me a few weeks back that George Saunders would be visiting Washington College as part of the Humor and Satire Festival, it didn't immediately sink in that I might actually have the opportunity to talk to the person who has become one of my literary heroes. Saunders' blend of humor, critique, and humanity delights and inspires me. When I thought about going to graduate school, Syracuse rose to the top of my list because of the prospect of studying with him.

Alas, grad school was not meant to be (at least last year) and, in retrospect, there is probably no person more glad about NOT having gotten into graduate school than I, given the fun we've been having with Idiots'Books.

Anyway. Today was George's reading. We went. Matt Westbrook came over from Baltimore to join us. We sat in the third row and listened and admired as George read from In Persuasion Nation.

After he was done reading, there was a Q&A. I asked a few questions because, if I was not going to spend three years working on my MFA with George Saunders, I could, at least, take the opportunity to poll him on a few things I'd been wondering about. He answered my questions most satisfactorily. Then the thing ended.

A brass band showed up along with a woman in a strange costume. She was the performance artist Pat Oleszko, who asked us to form a procession and march behind her to the Washington College literary house where she had installed about 10 huge inflatable sculptures. The ensuing exodus allowed Robbi and me to corner George Saunders and gush enthusiatically about our intense admiration of his work. He was extraordinarily gracious, kind, and generous. A truly nice guy. The kind of guy you hope your literary hero will be, while knowing the statistical unliklihood of someone being both 1) hero-quality and 2) really nice.

But LO! George Saunders appears to be both.

And so I was glowing as he, Robbi, Matt, and I walked together over to the Literary House, making pleasant chit-chat along the way.

When we arrived, we encountered the enormous inflatables. Some of which were delightful in shape.

Though I am ashamed to admit it, I could not resist the temptation to pose provocatively in front of the inflatable called, "A Womb With a View." Matt posed for this photograph only after making me promise that I would not post it on the blog.

Seeing how much fun Matt and I had, Robbi and our friend Adam could not resist doing their best to outdo us.

Seeing that I had been bested, I was compelled to pose even more inappropriately with this inflatable, the name of which I cannot now recall, but which was basically a multi-nippled construct.

I do not understand this sculpture. Sometimes art is supposed to be beyond our grasp.

And sometimes squarely within it.

Here is Pat Oleszko, the woman behind the inflatables.

We had dinner with Pat later on in the day, and heard the story of the 60-foot rocketship inflatable she had to make one time. Her studio was not big enough to accommodate the thing, so she had to set it up in the park near her studio to see if it looked ok before installing it in its final destination. As she inflated the rocket in the park, the neighborhood kids gathered around and cheered like it was Christmas.

After molesting the inflatables, we went back to our place so that I could collect all five of the George Saunders books we own. We brought them back to the Literary House, where George was hanging out being nice to all sorts of people, and asked him to sign them. Not only did he sign them, but he talked to us some more while he signed them. We told him a bit about our venture and he offered kind, encouraging words. We gave him a couple of our books and he kindly and graciously accepted them and asked us to autograph them. At several times throughout this encounter I felt the way a young, impressionable girl might feel if Justin Timberlake were suddenly appear and ask for her to sign his washboard abs. You get what I'm saying, I think.

Over the next few hours, there were four more readings. Dan Kennedy, Sarah Payne Stuart, Jason Schneiderman, and Jonathan Ames each read from their work. All were masterful, but mostly I was just floating on the cloud of George Saunders and his kindness.

At the end of the evening, we found him, bid our farewells, thanked him, and cagily requested that he pose for this photo.

Anyone who hasn't yet should go out and buy a George Saunders book, taking satisfaction as they read in knowing that the brillant words within were written by an outstanding person, my literary hero, George Saunders.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:24 AM

April 14, 2007

Who Needs Robbi?

Emboldened by the flood of positive responses to the illustrations I posed in yesterday's entry (at least I assume this flood will soon be coming), I have decided to post my first two comics here.

The first was penned while sitting in Two Keys bar in Lexington a few weeks back. I cannot now recall why I was compelled to write a comic. As I remember, my system was straining to digest the mega ho triple. Perhaps sufficient blood had been diverted from my brain to aid the stomach in its monumental task. I cannot say. But here it is, a gripping modern parable titled The Problem Remains.

I wrote the second comic lying in bed a few nights back. I had not recently eaten, but it was about 3:00 in the morning, so I can blame fatigue for any fault you might find with this one. The title, though I did not realize it at the time, forms a nice bookend to comic #1. This one is called, The Problem is Solved. Looking forward to my comic writing and drawing career, I should pay heed to the fact that my impulse in conceiving comics seems to be problems and their resolution or lack thereof. Perhaps by waffling back and forth between these two extremes, I could keep my readers interested? The question reamins, would anyone ever tolerate my horribly rendered figures? Would anyone ever be able to read my tortured scrawl.

The Problem is Solved

I showed my comics to Robbi, hoping to demonstrate to her just how expendible she has become to me. I expected to see cold blue fear in her heart. Instead, there was something like pity.

In other news, the Satire and Comedy Festival here at Washington College is in full swing. Which means that I get to go to a reading by the amazing George Saunders today.

To promote the festival, the guy who organized the whole thing ordered a bunch of whoopie cushions printed with the festival logo. We lucked into a handful. Thinking it was probably time to educate Iggy on the virtues of practical jokes, we put a few under her "tuffet", the overstuffed round thing that sits by the front window.

Now, Iggy is such a gassy dog, that I wondered if she'd even notice when the things went off. To the contrary, she was quite terrified, sprang backward through space, leaving us wrenched with feelings of guilt and conflict. Would she ever love her tuffet again?

The answer was yes, though the next time she lay down upon it she was careful, canny. She gave us one of those long sideways admonitory glances. We felt contrite.

In moments, all was forgiven or maybe just forgotten.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:16 AM

April 13, 2007

Volume Seven, In progress

Hello all. I have been silent for a few days. I have been thinking very hard and deeply about Volume Seven, which is, you will be dismayed to hear, a scholarly paper on the subject of traffic theory. Those of you who are not subscribers can cheerfully rest easy knowing you will never have to be exposed to this misbegotten concept. To those of you who are subscribers, who have given us your trust and money, all I can do is apologize, shake my head, and say that you really should have known better.

As Understanding Traffic, as I call it, develops, I have been thinking about illustrations. Robbi is working night and day to finish up the illustrations for The Town that Fooled the British, and so she has not been available for the usual consultation. And so I have been doodling.

Occasionally people who see our books suggest that it would be "fun" and "neat" if Robbi and I were to switch roles, she taking on the writing for a book and I trying my hand at illustrations. Well, friends, I am about to show you how quickly a "neat" idea could spell doom for the future of our enterprise. If you are the type of person that enjoys watching carnage on highways, you will take some pleasure in beholding the horror of my illustration.

New Jersey is a problem.

A model we can all understand.

Ineluctable mystery: not for lack of effort.

So much to look at in the world.

Traffic even in Africa.

We do not deserve this.

All roads lead to Tucson.

See what I mean? I am not an illustrator. When next we cross paths, you may pretend not to know me.

Robbi, on the other hand, is an excellent writer, and could probably run Idiots'Books just fine without me if she doees happen to run off with her new crush.

By the time Robbi gets done with her versions of the illustrations I mangled above, they will likely bear no resemblance to their ungainly progenitors. In fact, her illustrations will be the only thing that people will like about Volume Seven. It's going to be an awful, unreadable book. If you want to throw it away without removing it from the envelope, we will not be angry.

In parting, I leave you with this enormous leg of ham. Why? Because my readers count on me for occasional glimpses of food horrors. I think this qualifies.

I did not get to eat the pictured ham. Though I very much wish I had.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:45 PM

April 10, 2007

Welcome, Ephs - Free Book for You

Welcome, any Ephs that may have found their way here via the EphBlog posting. Be forewarned, this blog contains all sorts of foolishness. Only keep reading if you're interested in that sort of thing. If our lives are of no interest to you, but you find yourself strangely curious about our books, have a look at the Idiots'Books site. If you find yourself tempted but not sure whether you're willing to fork over your hard-earned dollars sight unseen, we are prepared to woo your business with a bit of loss leader marketing. That's right, for a limited time, provided you have not wronged us in the past, we will send out a 100% free copy of Idiots'Books volume 6, Richard Nixon. All we ask is that you feel very, very guilty if, after reading this outstanding text, you give us no further business. The kind of guilt that keeps you up at night.

So send us your address or the address of your more intelligent, sophisticated friends. We aim to make a subscriber out of you (or them).

Even you, Pete Everett, can qualify for this one-time offer.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:51 PM

April 09, 2007

Almost Famous

Lookie here. Just now I saw that Idiots'Books has made it to the big time.


Well, maybe not the big time, but at least the medium time.

Thanks are due to David Nickerson '97, college classmate of Robbi's and mine, who wrote kind words on behalf of Idiots'Books to David Kane '88, creator and keeper of EphBlog. But I would be remiss in not also thanking Brian Slattery '97 for showing our books to David Nickerson. And it was Drew Bunting '97, who gave me Brian Slattery's new email address a few months back. And it was Alastair Moock '95 who created Williams Grassroots Music, the now-defunct entity that brought Drew and me together way back when. I suppose I should thank Colonel Ephriam Williams for donating the money to found Williams College shortly before being killed in battle at Lake George, NY.

It takes a village.

If anyone else is interested in contributing to this grand legacy, EphBlog is welcoming reviews of our books. Of course, this grand legacy is only open to those with positive things to say on the review front. Those with negative things to say on the review front should channel their frustrations into their Richard Nixon Essay Contest submisisons.

For which we have, to date, received two entries. Both are outstanding pieces of critical analysis. One is only 9 words long.

Don't know about the contest? Then you should subscribe. Really, everyone is doing it.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:26 AM

April 07, 2007

Some Really Good News

Recently a funny thing happened. Christian took the Maryland Bar. This is not the funny thing. This is the setup. Saying that Christian's taking the Maryland Bar is a funny thing would be like saying that clubbing baby seals is a funny thing. Much as Christian did not want to take the Maryland Bar, it was something that had to be done. In the same way that clubbing baby seals is sometimes necessary.

Anyway, so painful and protracted was the process of preparing for and actively dreading the Maryland Bar, that Christian and Emily decided to plan a trip to London immediately following Christian's completion of the exam. Anticipating the trip brought Christian a kind of joy, though of the subduded variety. Such was the awfulness of the Maryland Bar. Such was the reach of its reeking pall.

On the day of the test, Christian went to the testing site. He took the test. He left the testing site. He rejoiced as a thousand doves flew up from the surrounding bushes and made the sign of freedom in the sky. Kind, sympathetic girl that she is, Emily had secretly procured a Bar-completion gift, that coveted, difficult-to-obtain totem of lingering adolescence (one I badly crave, mind you), the Nintendo Wii. Christian and Emily played a few games of Wii Bowling and then headed off to the airport. And from there to London, where they walked the streets in a kind of childlike bliss, so happy was Christian to be done with the Maryland Bar and so happy was Emily to be done with living with someone under the crushing cruel weight of Maryland Bar dread-induced personality disorder.

They went out to dinner. Then back to their hotel room. Then Christian removed a box from his pocket and handed it to Emily. She opened it up. It contained a really nice ring.

She put it on, admired it while Christian shuffled his feet and looked at the floor.

And here's what happened next.

Emily: Oh wow, that's a great ring. In fact, I love it.

Christian: Cool. I got it for you.

Emily: Yeah. Thanks. Cool. What's for dinner?

Christian: Dinner?

Emily: Dinner.

Christian: Uhm, first off, that ring, you see. It's an engagement ring.

Emily: An engagema...wha?...OH! I see.

Christian: You get my meaning?

Emily: I think I do.

Christian: Well?

Emily: You're so sweet, really. Uhm. Thinking, thinking here.

Christian: (waiting with mute dread)

Emily: Ok, speaking hypothetically, do I have to say yes in order to get the ring? Like, can I say "no" or "maybe" and keep this sucker?

Christian: Not so much.

Emily: Well, that settles it. It's a really great ring, if you know what I mean.

Christian: I think I do.

Emily: Uh, there's just something I've got to get off my chest first.

Christian: Uh, ok. What?


Christian: Hmm...should I read anything into that?

Emily: Not at all. Kisses. What's for dinner?

Christian: We already ate dinner.

Emily: Right. Goodnight.

Christian: Goodnight.

And so ended the long day of Maryland Bar misery. Christian got a Wii and Emily got a pretty ring and they got to go to London.

In all seriousness, we are over the moon with the news. Christian and Emily are two of our dearest friends and we are so glad that they found each other. It makes hanging out with them less taxing to our busy schedules when they are generally in the same place.

Here are some pictures that suggest that they love each other and are really far better suited to wed than the dialogue above (which was recorded verbatim by a hotel stenographer) would suggest.

They love each other when Christian has no hair:

They love each other decorating cupcakes.

They love each other chopping at the counter of our old house in Baltimore.

They love each other when Christian flies into a rage and wields a sharp, huge knife.

Although I'll admit there is no evidence of love on Emily's part in that last photo. But trust me, I was there. She LOVES it when Chris is homicidal.

They love each other playing Sorry. Even though one of them has to lose. (Because they love each other so much, BOTH of them are winners.)

They love each other eating breakfast in the morning before either one has showered.

Now that's love.

If there's anyone out there who thinks these two should not join in happy matrimony, or whatever, that person should shove it.

Congratulations, you guys. We are so happy for you.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:27 PM

April 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, Barnstorming

I don't have the time to do this entry justice, but I must post before the clock strickes midnight, for today marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of the Barnstorming. One year ago we posted this entry, a sort of primer on the challenge that faced us as we contemplated the task of renovating the barn. It contains some startling pictures.

One year ago today I still had five months left at my job, the barn was full of junk, we had no idea how we were going to get the work done, how we were going to support ourselves once we did. No idea that Robbi would be teaching at Washington College, that we would be painting murals on gallery walls, that I would have to use a stick to turn on the light by the utility sink, and only a vague idea who Samuel de Champlain was, what he did, or what he looked like.

Come to think of it, I still have no idea what he looked like.

This is what he looks like to me.

Ok, curiosity got the best of me. Here's what he actually looked like.

How disappointing.

I've lost the thread, but looking back, It has been a nutty year, a good year, a surprising, good, nutty year.



Happy Birthday, Barnstorming. There is no cake, alas, but we have some apple pie.

Unless Robbi has already eaten it.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:44 PM

April 05, 2007

Home Again

Here, then, is the finished mural.

And here is the finished display, complete with bookshelf and books.

Apologies for making you wait. We finished around 3:00am Tuesday morning and didn't get home until almost 5. We've been in a daze for most of the past few days and are just now starting to feel human again.

To recap the waning moments of her work:

Robbi had saved the crowd of tiny screaming people for last.

She was so tired she could barely stand on the ladder.

But she kept painting.

And eventually, she was done.

There was no thunder clap, just a sigh of relief from Robbi and a gratified whimper from Iggy, who, by all accounts, was ready to go home.

Robbi looked like this:

And her favorite little paintbrush looked like this:

I, however, looked like this:

Which quickly turned into this:

Before I knew it, my resolve not to jump melted away. Forgetting the demoralizing Annapolis incident, I jumped.

And jumped.

And jumped.

And then suddenly stopped jumping, content that I had sufficiently demonstrated my joy at being done.


And from outside.

Though the date is not confirmed, we are going to be doing a reading/signing/talk/chitchat event at H&F Fine Arts some time in May. We will let you know the exact date and time as soon as it is set so that you, our screaming DC/Baltimore fanbase may choose to be in attendance (or not, as the case may be).

In closing, we would like to thank the underwriters of the mural, Dr. Casey Londergan and his good wife Anne D. Pitts for donating the $50 True Value Hardware gift certificate that made the paint we used cost $50 less than it would otherwise have cost. Thank you Pitts-Londergans. Bless you and your child(ren).

Posted by bogenamp at 02:28 PM

April 03, 2007

The Home Stretch

When we woke up this morning, I figured we'd be done around noon, 1:00pm at the latest. Robbi, being slightly less optimistic, suggested we'd probably be able to leave around three. I wondered if we'd have trouble with traffic at that hour.

Now it's 12:15am. On Tuesday. A full 11 hours and 45 minutes past my worst case scenario.

The good news is, the mural looks pretty good. The bad news? There really isn't any. I'm just a bad estimator.

Hours and hours ago now, Robbi started with the line work. She started with the odd faux-Japanese characters (being a faux-Japanese character herself).

She continued on, adding definition to the pagoda-thing.

And faces to the anguished (full-fledged) Japanese people.

Including her twin sister, Study in Despair, #2. Robbi admits that this drawing makes her think of Popeye.

As she worked, the afternoon sunshine came in:

And shone upon the wall:

Now, since this is an Idiots'Books venture and not a "Robbi Behr paints a wall" venture, there are some words. And hateful though it may be to Robbi to have to paint words, letter by careful letter, the time eventually came to do so.

Here's how we do it: Robbi prints out the words at 100 percent scale, on pieces of paper, which I tape together so that we can tape them on the wall for placement. Also, so that Robbi doesn't have to guess how wide and tall each character should be, we actually transfer the font onto the wall using an extremely clever technique. Basically, we put a lot of white chalk on the back side of the paper with the text. We tape the paper to the wall. And then some sorry sucker has to painstakingly trace each and every letter. Using a great deal of pressure, mind you. Without putting overmuch pressure on the rest of the paper, in order to keep smudges to a minimum, mind you...

Where was Robbi going to find a sucker at that tiime of day?

I was halfway through the exercise before I realized just how hateful it was.

I got a hand cramp. Do you hear me? A HAND CRAMP!!!

When I was done, we peeled the paper off the wall.

And revealed below were the words. My words.

I imagine that this must be what it feels like to give birth. The pain, the joy, the hand cramp.

Robbi took the transferred words as a cue and reproduced the font incredibly faithfully.

So much so that it almost looks like she stenciled it in. Even though she did the entire thing by hand.

It took an incredible amount of patience.

But at least she didn't get a hand cramp.

Folks, it's 12:38 now, and here's where we stand. This photo was taken just moments ago.

She's finishing with Kyle's ugly mug.

This is probably it for tonight. Once we're done, we're getting the heck out of Dodge without passing Go. We've got a barn to get back to.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:18 AM

April 02, 2007

Halfway There

Time-wise, we're probably well more halfway done, but in terms of dividing the work into two discrete phases, we have just finished the first. The coloring is done. Which means that very little white space remains on the wall.

Nevertheless, the mural is far from complete. Now comes the fun part, the part in which I have absolutely no role other than moving the ladder for Robbi, cleaning Robbi's brush, fetching Robbi's paint, getting candy for Robbi, praising Robbi, etc.

The second phase is painting in the lines.

The problem is this. This man has no face.

His friends are similarly faceless.

This panicked crowd of tiny running people are completely lacking in defining line structure.

Even Kyle, dark hero of our mural, lacks satisfying facial definition.

As does the plume of molten fury exiting his mouth. When Robbi is done with it, that fire will be lined with a thin black line. An expressive, artistic black line, mind you.

Phase two involves Robbi tackling this problem head on. With this tiny brush:

Posted by bogenamp at 04:17 PM

Getting Pretty Close

Ok, here's the very latest. The picture below was shot about 2:00. Robbi is feeling "positive" about the mural, and "hopeful." She no longer thinks that is going to be "unredeemably awful" but allows that the overall impact might yet be "overwhelming" or "ho-hum."

Most of the color has been painted in. Robbi is finishing the narrow strips of detail with which I cannot be trusted. My fat fumbling fingers are no match for the eyebrows of "Terrified Japanese Female Bystander #1." Within the hour, or so I predict, Robbi will be ready to begin the real "art" aspect of this mural, that is, the linework that will transform this garish jumble of color into a shrewd, intelligent, cutting Robbi Behr original.

Let's wind back the clock. Here is where we made our bed last night, amid the clutter of the storeroom/workshop space at H&F Fine Arts.

We got up at 6:00 yesterday morning in order to spend some time with my mom (visiting from Massachusetts for a library conference in Baltimore) before her flight back. So by the time we fell into our sleeping bags last night, it had been a 22-hour vigil. The sleep was profound. And short-lived. We got up around 7:00 to take the dog for a walk and start again.

Before going to bed, we went out front to gaze at the mural through the window. And to brush our teeth.

Today for lunch we had a picnic out back. H&F is a new building in a new arts district (the Gateway Arts District) being established in Mount Rainier, MD, just outside of DC. In addition to the gallery, there is an arts cafe on the ground level. The other stories are devoted to subsidized artist housing, so all day and night as we've been working on the mural, artists of various stripes have been walking in and out, stopping at the window to check out our progress, nod approvingly, give us the thumbs up. Either the mural is to their liking or they are being very kind. Anyway, there is a little playground behind the building, presumably for the children of artists. Or for Robbi's picnic.

Or for Syrup the Sharpei to not only look cute and wrinkled, but also to harass Iggy, who, at two years old, is apparently too cool to play with puppies.

But not too cool to eat her dinner on the sidewalk.

Posted by bogenamp at 02:13 PM

As of 4:00am

Here's how things stood as we admitted defeat in the wee-hour hinge of Sunday/Monday.

We unrolled our sleeping bags and crashed in the storage room. It was a deep, profound slumber. We're up and again painting on the wall, though with a decided sluggishness. I just ate half a cold Chipotle. It's helping.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:20 AM

April 01, 2007


Work here at H&F Artworks has continued. Below is a visual progress report. I'll keep my comments to a minimum because, as I said before, my contributions are VERY IMPORTANT to the success of this mural. Without my skill, expertise, prowess, agility, dexterity, eloquence, trenchant wit, etc., we would be getting nothing done.

In all humility, here are some photos of my work.

Yes, I painted those faux Japanese letter things. I sure did.

Out of sheer generosity of spirit, I let Robbi hold the paintbrush and pose for this picture, as if it was she that was painting in the faces of these terrified Japanese citizens.

Slowly, the wall is getting filled with color.

Here's what it looks like from outside, where I went recently. To get some Chipotle.

It is worth noting that I had three of my favorite meals today. Breakfast was breakfast quesadillas at the Golden West Cafe in Baltimore. Lunch was steak and butter tacos with Drew Bunting in DC. Dinner was my beloved carnitas burrito from Chipotle. I am fat and happy. And, as I said before, one of the world's leading mural artists.

In order to create the fire that spews from the mouth of young, reckless Kyle, Robbi used an extraordinary blend technique, the secrets behind which are available in elementary text books.

First paint two bands of color:

Using a sponge, blend them together:

Revel in the fulfillment of having a husband with such skillz.

I must get back to work. Robbi is tired of staring longingly at the wall, waiting for the greatness.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:16 PM

Work in Progress

It's 5:49pm on Sunday, Aprl 1, and we are painting on walls. If you happen to be in the vicinity of 3311 Rhode Island Avenue, Mt. Rainier, MD (just outside DC), by all means, come join in the fun. We got here just before 3:00 and have made the place our own.

I'll be brief, as Robbi needs my help much more than she needs her picture posted on the Web, but here are a few glimpses for the curious.

Moving the paint. One of the most complex steps in starting a mural.

Contemplating words. Robbi draws great inspiration from the ridiculous things I write. This is why I love her. Here she is, searching for the truth embedded in the langauge. (Please never tell her that there is none).

The mural, which draws its inspiration from a page of For the Love of God, is a send-up of the Godzilla movie poster. In order for this to read, it's fairly important that the people look Japanese. Robbi printed out this guy's face in order to use as reference, afraid that she would not be able to recapture his Japanese-ness when the time came to paint him large-scale. Her fears were realized. The first pass yielded nothing but a pasty white guy (in other words, he looked far too much like me). The printout was consulted. The Japanese-ness was restored.

Amazingly, I was allowed to help. To be clear, I was permitted to paint only with a roller in a large, uncomplicated section of the mural.

But this small contribution filled me with uncommon pride.

While I puff my chest and try to pretend that painting a big section of wall black is hot stuff, Robbi is perching on top of an 8 foot ladder meticulously sketching, translating a composition from an 8 by 8 inch page to a 13 by 7 foot wall.

In the wake of the Man Joe painting, she is extremely grateful that this installation does not involve painting on the ceiling. But still she feels the weight of challenge. She's been doing a lot of fretting thus far, worried that the thing will turn out horribly.

But I still think she's having fun.

That's enough for now. More to come.

Posted by bogenamp at 05:54 PM