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December 31, 2008

Call Me Biff

I wrote an email to a friend of mine today, telling her how excited I was about my recent acquisition, a BOB Ironman jogging stroller.


The Bob Ironman jogging stroller is not the point of this entry (in spite of its being an exquisite, appealing, and altogether useful piece of parenting equipment), but you may click here to see an animation of it spinning provocatively 360 degrees along its vertical axis.

The point of this entry is that, upon hearing about my enthusiasm for the BOB, my friend wrote back with unkind words: "BTW, you do realize you're becoming a yuppie, don't you? First the minivan, then the super, duper jogging stroller. It's just a matter of time before you start showing up in chinos, Izods, and penny loafers. Can I call you Biff?"

I'm not much of an Izod man, and I don't think I'd know a pair of chinos from your standard khaki. I do have a ten-year-old pair of woebegone penny loafers Robbi will only let me wear indoors. But I must confess to truly loving my minivan. (It's so spacious, so convenient.) And though the BOB is still en route from the factory, I anticipate loving it very much. With its adjustable tracking, quick-release wheels, one-handed easy-folding design, adjustable suspension system capable of three inches-travel, near flat reclining seat, stainless-steel spokes, aluminum hubs and rims, high pressure 16" road tires, 5-point safety harness, fixed front wheel, 1-step folding, alloy hubs, and footbrake, how could it fail to delight?

If my minivan and BOB make me a yuppie, I suppose I'll have to embrace the mantle. Call me Biff, if you must, but when you see me out running along Water Street with my baby in tow, try your hardest not to stare.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:54 PM

December 30, 2008

Christmas Recap

Having already enjoyed five Christmases, we drove north to Andover, north of Boston, for Christmas proper. My mother lives there with Dean, and each of my three siblings flew in from points distant to share in the holiday cheer. Things were festive in the expected ways.

There was a large, well-decorated tree.


Beneath which were presents.


Next year Alden might understand the concept of opening presents. This year, her chosen approach was climbing on top and trying to intimidate them.


One of the presents retaliated.


When Iggy saw this, she resolved not to open hers, in spite of being very, very tempted.


We had Christmas cookies.


Which were, apparently, very delicious.


And traditional Christmas Eve spaghetti and meatballs.


And Christmas Day cinnamon rolls. My mother only made two plates of them. And yet, as it turns out, I was expected to share.


My sister Andy, home from Haiti, where she lives and teaches, gave Alden this hat that resembles an old-time football helmet.


Alden, who is accustomed to being able to grab her ears at will, was unnerved by the hat.


My sister Lindsay, visiting from Portland, showed up the day after Christmas with my nephew Orin in tow.


Orie is a good little man, about seven-and-a-half months old.


Alden loves Orie. To demonstrate her affection, she beat the crap out of him.


Despite being two months younger, Orie outweighs her by a good six pounds. But she's quick. And mean.


The cousins made amends at mealtime.


Alden was so relieved to have her ears back that she forgot her conquest to dominate Orie and make him cry. Isn't that, at essence, what Christmas is all about?


Posted by bogenamp at 11:27 PM

December 29, 2008


I accidentally closed the Barnstorming admin window without saving the blog entry I had been working on for the past hour, and so I have nothing for you but a mighty heaping of self-pity. I will leave you with this photo I likely would have posted on some other day. It is the first documented evidence of Alden's teeth. You can see them when she yells. Here she is dismayed because someone has taken the liberty of rubber banding her favorite drawers shut.


I will try to recreate the lost narrative of holiday cheer if and when I can summon the energy. For now, I will say that we are home and determined to enjoy the last few days of the year before the new one arrives and asks us to be better, try harder, etc.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:40 AM

December 23, 2008

Five Christmases

I have lots of family in many different places. Which means that Christmas is not so much a calendar date as it is a series of events. So far we've had one Christmas in Flowery Branch, Georgia and three in Chestertown. In a few days, we'll have another one in Andover, Massachusetts.

We're about to head out now to drive there, but I've been remiss the last few days and so will post a photo of Alden hanging her first Christmas ornament (a sugar cookie) on the grapefruit tree, with help from Auntie Maiko.


Here's hoping that all of you will have a safe and happy holidays.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:09 AM

December 19, 2008

Distinctively Different and New

We were pleased tonight to come across an article In ForeWord Magazine, a publication devoted to reviewing independently published books.


If you are so inclined, click on this link to read "Literary Treasures from the Small Press Book Fair" and scroll down to hear what Editor at Large Eugene Schwartz had to say about Idiots'Books.

The fair in question was the 21st Annual Independent and Small Press Expo, which happened a few weekends ago in NYC.


Robbi and I decided to make an appearance and see if we could meet some new people. As is always the case at fairs like these, we were allotted a six-foot table in a row of other six-foot tables. The lay of the land looks something like this.


The Idiots'Books table looked something like this.


The weekend consists of standing behind our table while people wander by. Some stop to read our books. Some even buy them. Others walk on by. Occasionally we meet people who are truly interested in what we're up to and have long, encouraging conversations. We met a number of wonderful folks at the fair, including one kindred spirit from Connecticut who invited us to come spend a week in artists' retreat at her guest home in the woods.

Although it is engaging and enjoyable to talk to people about our books, it is somewhat taxing to do so while entertaining a baby who has recently discovered how to yell and kick, and so Robbi and I took turns exercising her in an unoccupied corner. Eventually the baby grew weary, but we lacked an adequate place to put her down for a nap.


And so we improvised.


Yes, Alden snoozed in her plush blue lion suit for the better part of two hours as the bustle of the book fair continued above and around her.


The underside of a table doesn't really qualify as a container, I suppose, but it served as a more than adequate crib.

If you aren't the sort that tends to go to book fairs, I recommend giving one a try. The world is full of books beyond those that may be economically shelved at the local Barnes and Noble and equally teeming with people whose devotion to books and publishing borders on the eccentric. I proudly count Robbi and myself among them.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:35 PM

December 18, 2008

My Favorite Birthday Card

Reflecting back on the first day of my 35th year, two moments stand out as particularly wonderful. The first happened not long after I got up and dressed for my day at the office. Robbi presented me with a warm bowl of macaroni and cheese made as a birthday breakfast by my pal Christian, at whose home we spent last night.


There is no better way to kickstart one's birthday. I blew out the candle. And went to work.


The second moment happened not an hour ago, when I opened my email and found this photo attached to a birthday message from my sister Lindsay.


My nephew Orin in his birthday suit.

At the risk of stepping away from the birthday theme for a moment, I'll share a few pictures from last night. Here are Christian and me with our babies in front of the Christmas tree.


And here are Alden and Iris sharing the limitless pleasure of the Exersaucer.


A friendship is brewing, I think.

A third moment of this day that bears mention is my extraordinary gift from Bob and Seiko: The Amazing Nose Whistle. It is, as the name suggests, a musical instrument powered by air expelled from one's nose. I was incredulous at first, but after a few extravagant failures to make the thing work, I was, in a few minutes time, able to toot out the tune of Oh Susana (no thanks to the sheet music provided in the box). When time permits, I will post photos of The Amazing Nose Whistle in action.

But for now I am off to celebrate the waning moments of this birthday by going to sleep.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:21 PM

December 14, 2008

On the Road Again

We are minutes shy of embarking for Atlanta, where we will visit my grandparents on my mother's side and introduce them to Alden for the first time. It will be our first long foray with the minivan, whom we have recently named Pepe Steve II, or PS2 for short. The benefits of a roomy interior have already been realized in the packing phase. Instead of the frustrating cramming that has accompanied every attempt to pack for a trip since this wretched child came upon the scene, I tossed our various suitcases, pillows (I travel with six), and assorted articles of baby accessory into the back with careless aplomb. Basically, we can bring everything we own and never have to worry that we might have forgotten anything.

In case this is the last chance I have to post before we get back to town next Thursday, I'll leave you with the latest installment of the baby wars.

Here is the latest from Orin, who is almost a dead ringer for a piece of china.


And Garcia. Apparently Gina didn't want to spring for the extra plane ticket.


She swears she poked some holes in it.

And, to make sure Garcia was taken care of en route, Diego came along as well.


And here is Alden, doing her best imitation of a flower arrangement.


Or is it performance art?

Remember that if the prospects of Christmas shopping are getting you down, there is no gift that says I love you (or that requires as little personal energy to bestow) like a subscription to Idiots'Books.

Or a diamond. That works, too.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:23 AM

December 11, 2008

A Dark and Stormy Night

It is stormy tonight in Chestertown, as it is up and down the entire eastern seaboard. We went to a party that was literally across the street tonight and were soaked by the time we arrived. I love rain, but can't help but thinking how nice it would be if the temperature was below freezing...

I have discovered an entirely new application for Facebook today, that of facilitating collaborative authorship. I sat down to try and write a new story this morning and didn't get very far. I lamented to the void via my Facebook "status." Moments later, I received encouragement and prompts from a number of my online "friends." I decided to change my status to the following:

Matthew wants any interested party to contribute to a collaborative story.

I then commented on my status with "It was a dark and stormy night..."

And then something wonderful happened.

Over the next twelve hours, thirteen authors contributed to the story in 42 separate segments. An amazing narrative unfolded. I'll share it for you below:

A Dark and Stormy Night
By Matthew Swanson, Sam Sommers, Jessica Ralston, JA Chong, Beth Duncan, Don Schulz, Natasha Stanley, Maria Plantilla, Maggie Adler, Aidan Shepard, Sarah Altschuller, Michelle Crouse Needham, and Jeff Zeeman, Matthew Rouse, and Dahna Goldstein (so far)

It was a dark and stormy night...

But then again, this is a story, and story nights always seem to start off dark and stormy. Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. It was a Mexican burro-seller . . . and why is someone always knocking on the door in those dark and stormy nights? I don't ever recall getting a knock on my door when it was storming.

"I have a secret to tell you," he said (in Spanish).

I said, "I'm sorry, but I don't speak Spanish." So the Mexican burro seller took out a notepad and began to write out his story in broken English.

"Esta noche, how do you say, dark and muy stormy..."

Then his pencil broke and we stood there. In the dark. And the storm. Staring at one another for what felt like eternity. Until suddenly the Mexican burro seller reached into his pocket, and pulled out a jar so dirty and rusty that it looked as though it had been through quite a bit of adventure.

Looking closely, I could see something moving inside. In the background, I noticed the burro beginning to back away, whining, visibly disturbed by the contents of the jar. The smell. The smell was just awful. And Mexican fear has a distinct smell. Was it Mexican jumping beans? The burro seller began to whisper under his breath, caressing the jar, and passing his hand over the opening.

Right then I began to wish I hadn't been so lazy about replacing the burnt out porch light or fixing the rusty hinges on the trap door. At that moment, either one would have been helpful. I thought of stepping back and closing the door, but didn't want to offend the man standing before me. That, and I was growing curious despite my unease.

The burro seller began to speak: "Before I show you the contents of the jar, you must be aware of three rules: The first rule: Never double down against an Ace," he said. "The second: never mix whites and reds. The third: Do not feed it after midnight."

The Mexican burrito seller looked fearful as he uttered the third rule. His eyes darted from side to side, as if at any moment a terrifying transformation could take place.

Just then the burro snorted and bellowed. It was a hideous sound. I didn't know what to make of it, so I tried to shut the door, but the old Mexican was too quick and darted in behind me. In a panic, I threw a judo chop, which launched the mysterious jar into the air!

Out of the blue, there was a flash of light, and I found myself flat on my back, staring up at a very ticked-off burro seller.

"Que paso?! Are you loco?" he exclaimed. Suddenly a John Williams soundtrack approached from the distance, signifying impending bowel movement. John Williams always, inexplicably, caused the runs. I rolled over on my side, struggling to sit up, and it was then I saw the shattered jar.

More importantly, I saw what had been inside, and was now set free. I couldn't believe what I saw. At first, I thought maybe my young daughter had left one of her toys out on the floor, but then when I saw it moving, I realized that it was . . .


It seems to me that this story is not yet complete. If you are inspired to contribute, please go to Facebook and do so. I trust that someone will know when the story is finished and will inform the rest of us.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:31 PM

December 10, 2008

After Everafter

Idiots'Books Volume 18, After Everafter, was mailed out to the subscribership yesterday.

Those of you who have been with Idiots'Books for the long haul will recognize the format as a reprise of the one used in Volume 3, Ten Thousand Stories.

Like Ten Thousand Stories, After Everafter is wire-bound, and each page is cut into four horizontal sections. The content consists of ten full-page illustrations corresponding to ten related narratives. By flipping the sections of each story/illustration, the illustrations and stories can be recombined without loss of visual or grammatical continuity. The pleasure (hopefully) comes from the resulting loss of visual and narrative sense. According to at least three mathematicians we know, there are ten thousand possible combinations.

Ten Thousand Stories consisted of ten unrelated episodes. After Everafter consists of ten stories that pick up where the major fairy tales leave off. What happens after Cinderella finds her prince? What is the fate of the Seven Dwarves after Snow White finds true love?

Here are a few sample spreads, but this is one book that really can't be appreciated online. Lucky for you, we made a few extras that we might be willing to part with.




Here is Alden demonstrating how the pages divide into four equal strips while also providing an object lesson into what happens when you drop a huge stack of said strips on the floor before successfully binding them together.


If you happen to be in or near Chestertown this weekend, swing by Book Plate on Friday evening around 6:00pm. Robbi and I will be doing a reading of After Everafter and other books from the vault.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:28 PM

December 09, 2008

Baby Olympics

There has been a recent flurry of interest among the readership in placing their babies inside of various containers and photographing them. Apparently, people are not content to let Alden and Garcia duke it out alone. There is, in fact, a great deal of competition.

Our friends Cathy and Neil, whose child Emily is little more than a month old, decided to enter the soup tureen category.


Apparently, Cathy and Neil then looked around their house for other things to put wee Emily inside of and settled upon this plastic bin before noticing the label.


Apparently it is not safe to put a baby in a plastic tote. I'm not sure if I believe it.


Here is Alden's new boyfriend Cannon. His parents took a more liberal approach to defining "container" for the purposes of this contest.


It is hard to deny that Cannon is "contained" by the walls of his baby prison.


Our friend Brian didn't really understand the way this competition works, I think, as only a tiny part of his child Leo is "contained" by the object with which he appears.


Nevertheless, the photo, titled "sausage making", wins major style points in my book.

Here is the latest contribution from Gina, a photo of Garcia in a guitar case.


I will respond to Gina's feeble attempt by quoting Paul Hogan in his great film Crocodile Dundee, "That's not a photo of a baby in a guitar case. That's a photo of a baby in a guitar case."


Frankly, Gina, I had expected stiffer competition.


Posted by bogenamp at 11:44 PM

December 08, 2008

Letterpress Obama

As we speak, Robbi is over at the Washington College Literary House printing a limited-edition version of one of our books on the College's antique Vandercook press. Robbi will post actual pictures of the actual press and the actual printing soon, but for the time being, here is what a Vandercook looks like.


The book in question is a joint project between Idiots'Books and the Lit House Press. It is being produced in an edition of 75, and will be bound at Campbell-Logan bindery in Minnesota. If all goes according to plan, it will be a beautiful, dare I say exquisite piece. My only hope is that the presentation doesn't wholly overshadow the contents. The book is titled Jericho, and will be produced in much less grand fashion for general distribution to subscribers as Volume 20. I'll post when the limited-edition version is available to let you know, in case any of you out there want to shell out the big bucks for some serious craft.

On the subject of letterpress, when we were down in Savannah for Robbi's grad school years, we went to a presentation by the good folks at Yee Haw Industries, a letterpress outfit out of Knoxville, TN, who do incredible, funny, spirited work that you should definitely have a look at.


Here are a few recent works.


You can buy this poster on this Etsy page.

This one shows their range of skill as humorists as well as printers.


You can buy it here.

Although I haven't spent much time here talking about the technique of letterpress, it is a fascinating process that produces a result not possible on any other printing technology. Robbi will do some explaining when she posts on her progress with our book.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:06 AM

Home Again

This weekend Robbi, Alden, and I took New York City by storm. We caught up with old friends, walked many blocks in Alden's first snowstorm, met an octegenarian rapper, and spent many hours manning our booth at the 21st Annual Indie and Small Press Expo. More on all of this to come when the hour is not so late.

For now, here's a sad photo of Alden at the restaurant where we went with friends to eat piles of Texas barbeque on Saturday night. Alden's fare: a Japanese soy cracker.


It's so hard to be a baby.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:08 AM

December 04, 2008

Alden's Ice Cream

Given Robbi's love of ice cream, I'm a bit hesitant to show her the following photo, which might blur the important line between her child and her vice with unfortunate consequences.


I'm sharing this photo in part because it is in the paternal fiber to be excited by products that bear the name of one's child, especially when said child has a relatively uncommon name not often found printed on commercial food products.

But I'm sharing this photo also because of the unusual nature of its delivery to me. That is, it was posted on my Facebook page. As many of you already know, I took the plunge a few weeks ago and joined Facebook. My life since then has been a whirlwind of reconnection with people from my past. I have always been somewhat skeptical of Facebook, embracing the Luddite's sense that I was already too old for such newfangled things. But it has been genuinely fun to glimpse into lives that have been going on without me for ten or fifteen years.

Anyway, the Alden's ice cream package was posted on my Facebook page by my friend Jessica Ralston, who, long before her name was changed from White, was my eight grade earth sciences lab partner back at Indian Woods Middle School in Overland Park, Kansas.

Although I have been having fun catching up with friends long-forgotten and far-flung, the reason I joined facebook in the first place was to create a fan page for Idiots'Books. If you are a Facebook user, and if you want to be kept in the know about what we are up to, just do a search for Idiots'Books and become a fan.

Join the 58 people who have already made the plunge.

And here's a photo to compensate you for that uninterrupted flood of words.


Posted by bogenamp at 11:10 PM

Another Hat in the Ring

Apparently inspired by the spirit of competition, my sister Lindsay sent me a few photos last night, expressing her desire to join the fray of the Cute Pictures of Babies in Containers competition recently launched between Gina and me.

Here is Lindsay's first contribution: Orin in a pot.


Apparently, he is a very critical cook, and kept tasting the broth as he simmered, suggesting new ingredients to the consternation of the chef.


At some point, we'll resolve this competition with a proper vote, but for the time being, I invite those of you with small, defenseless children to join us in sharing pictures of them in preposterous situations with the world.

Think how very useful photos like these will be some day when we need blackmail material to rein in wayward teen behavior.

This morning's contribution from our camp is Alden in Bob and Seiko's new pug mill, a machine used to reconstitute old, dried-up clay.


Apparently, Alden didn't want to be reconstituted.


Kids today...

Posted by bogenamp at 08:16 AM

December 03, 2008

This Weekend in New York

First off, a bit of business. This coming Saturday and Sunday (December 6 and 7, Robbi and I will be standing behind a table at the 21st Annual Independent & Small Press Book Fair, selling and signing books and engaging in other related activity.


Here's how the folks who run the Fair describe it:

"Celebrate publishing's independent spirit with over 100 indie publishers from around the world, all under one roof, selling books you can't get at your big box bookstore. The Indie and Small Press Book is one of New York City's favorite annual literary events. It's free, open to all, and packed with an exciting line-up of public events. Donations encouraged."

And here is the relevant information, should you be in the NYC area and interested in stopping by.

Book Fair Date/Time: Saturday, December 6, 2008, 10 AM to 6 PM and
Sunday, December 7, 2008, 11 AM to 5 PM
Book Fair Location: The New York Center for Independent Publishing
in the General Society for Mechanics & Tradesmen Building
20 West 44th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues
New York, NY 10036
Telephone: 212.764.7021 Fax: 212.840.2046

On to other business, Robbi and I have been trying periodically to recreate the iconic shot of my dad and me lounging in bed when I was but a wee thing.


Here's our most recent attempt.


Still not quite right, compositionally and otherwise, but I like the shot. Alden is turning into a bit of a ham. When she's in a good mood. When she's in a bad mood, she's turning into something of a terror.

As demonstrated in this shot, taken a few minutes later. Am I wrong, or does it look as if she was aiming to knock me out?


We'd love to see you in NYC this weekend. The child will be with us, most likely driving us, and other exhibitors in our vicinity, up a wall. Anyone interested in spending QT with Alden may come claim her and take her on long, exhausting walks around the city. We'll provide the baby carrier, binkie, and freeze-dried yogurt snacks. And gratitude in no small quantity.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:27 PM

December 01, 2008

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

Tomorrow morning I am heading to Williamstown, Massachusetts, a place I called home for almost ten years. Today I called up my good friend Gina Coleman to let her know that I was coming to town. In the course of our conversation, she informed me that she and her husband Michael (proud parents of Garcia, who is just a week or two younger than Alden) had decided to do battle the Robbi and me. Apparently, they are convinced that they can take more and better pictures of their baby inside of containers than we can.

I took offense to the suggestion and immediately started talking smack. As those of you who have read these pages in weeks past well know, we are unafraid to put Alden inside of any container we come across, be it recycling bin, Priority Mail box, or water pitcher.

Needless to say, I was notably shaken when I received this photo via email just now. Apparently the battle has begun, and these people mean business.


Game on.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:07 PM

First Date

A few weeks ago we were having brunch with my mom at the Village Bakery here in Chestertown. We were eating and talking and trying to have a good time, but Alden was obviously distracted by someone sitting at the next table. It was this dashing young man, name of Cannon, who happens to have been born this past March 20, exactly four days before Alden.


Such was the extent of the Alden/Cannon attraction that Robbi and I exchanged phone numbers with the young man's parents, vowing to get together for another brunch soon.

This morning we made good on those plans. We seated the youngsters next to one another that they might get to know one another better.

Cannon was clearly a smooth operator. He was like, "Hey, baby."


Alden thought he was aiming to hold her hand and, not wanting to be the kind to play hard to get, decided to go along with it.


Little did she realize that Cannon had ulterior motives.


Clearly, his plan from the start was to grab her binkie and have a taste. Alden was so deeply offended as to be struck speechless. But then, by way of making things right, Cannon's mom shared some of his freeze-dried yogurt bits with Alden. And all sins were quickly forgiven.


They sat there for a while in lopsided equilibrium, Alden munching on Cannon's snacks and Cannon snacking on her binkie.

It was kind of like the baby equivalent of getting to first base. Or maybe even second?

A second date is in the offing, though the when and the where are yet to be set.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:13 AM