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June 24, 2009

Gone Fishing

If you have come to these pages looking for fresh content or pictures of babies, I'm sorry to report that you will not be satisfied today. Robbi, Alden, and I are on the tundra near Bristol Bay, Alaska, fishing commercially for salmon with Robbi's family. If you want to picture us now, we are in all likelihood dressed in kneeboots, waders, rubber pants, raincoats, wool caps, and gloves that go up to our elbows. We probably smell bad from sweat and fish blood. We are probably tired and hungry, and yet pleased to be in such a strange, distant, beautiful place. Our Alaska is not the dramatic mountainous one you've seen in infomercials. We don't see icebergs floating by. We look out the window and see endless knobbly tundra, scrubby Alders, winding tundra streams, wildflowers, ptarmigan, caribou, and the occasional grizzly. We have no paved roads or public utilities. We drink rainwater that runs off the roof. We run a diesel generator when we need power. We play a lot of Pinochle.

If it is July 1 or after and if you want to see what we were up to before we left for Alaska, go to Tor.com and look for the various sections of Cory Doctorow's Makers, which is being released on Tor.com over the next six months. Every section of the book will feature an illustration conceived by Idiots'Books and drawn by Robbi. We are sorry to be missing the launch, but perhaps you can check it out on our behalf.

With that, we're truly off (this is being posted from the Anchorage airport, the last bastion of connectivity we'll find for the next three weeks). Be well. And enjoy your running water.

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Posted by bogenamp at 07:52 PM

June 23, 2009

Tundra or Bust

We are on the eve of departure for Alaska.

Tomorrow, we will be living here.

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We will be in pursuit of this.

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While trying to avoid being eaten by this.

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We will ride on one of these.

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And fish in one of these.

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There will be moments of triumph.

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Moments of manly fortitude (though few and far between).

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Moments of exhaustion.

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Moments of questionable parental oversight.

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And moments of rest.

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I'm guessing that Alden will be harder contain this time around.

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But we've decided to bring her nonetheless. But how best to get her there? Instead of suitcases, we travel with coolers full of produce (there are no stores in Coffee Point).

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But apparently, Alden finds the cooler not to her liking.

And so we are off. Here's the sad news (for you). I have decided to go off the grid while we are gone. No email, no internet. So no posts. The Barnstorming will be going dark for three weeks. We'll be tuning back in upon our return. Which is July 15 for those of you who might be keeping track. Send me an email if you want to be alerted upon our return.

For now, so long. And enjoy the summer, wherever you may be.

Posted by bogenamp at 03:19 PM

June 22, 2009

Father's Day

Yesterday was Father's Day. In honor of the occasion, Alden wore her favorite pair of pants.

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Take a closer look.

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I mean, these are extraordinary pants. The leg length is appropriate, but the distance from crotch to waistband is staggering. For whom were they designed? I'd love to see the child that fits them properly. Or perhaps that child would be terrifying.

Because it was Father's Day, my good friend and fellow father Christian was in town (with his wife and child).

It seemed appropriate to document the occasion.

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Here is a closer look at Iris, who is coming along nicely.

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And here's another look at Alden in her remarkable pants.

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I mean, what is it with these pants? There is no way that any part of her pants should be visible in this photo.

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I mean, they are horrible, these pants. Just awful. So grotesque as to demand a long stare. I feel like a rubbernecking driver, slowing down to see the grisly carnage on the other side of the highway.

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The humanity! The horror! I cannot tear my eyes away.

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And yet she seems to take it all in stride, comfortable and secure in herself and in her pants. If only we could bottle this moment and hand it off to her when she hits seventh grade. Who knows? These pants might well still fit her then, at least from the crotch to the waistband.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:49 PM

June 20, 2009

Idiots'Books in Urbanite Magazine

In the third of three consecutive emails not centered around endearing photos of my child, I am happy to announce that Idiots'Books will have a piece featured in the August issue of Baltimore's Urbanite magazine.

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Urbanite is a free Baltimore magazine that focuses on "the issues affecting the relationship between the city and those who live there." It prizes strong writing, an independent perspective, and really nice design. The August issue has a literary theme, and we have been asked to contribute.

The piece we have been working on is difficult to describe. It is part story, part illustration, and is perhaps most akin to the One-Page Wonders we published on tor.com. The piece consists of three circles of narrative and illustration that recombine with one another to create a seemingly endless number of new stories, but this time, the words and pictures are featured on both sides of the piece of paper. The reader makes a series of folds and an "X"-shaped cut in the middle of the page to assemble the thing, and the number of possible permutations is many. Unlike Ten Thousand Stories, there is no straightforward mathematical formula one can apply to compute the number of different stories one can assemble. Or perhaps there is, and I simply do not know it.

We will post word when the magazine is out on the shelves and available for distribution. And eventually we'll post a version on the site for you to download and assemble at home. For now, though, it's back to work. We need to finish putting this together before we leave for Alaska. Exactly 96 hours from now, we will be en route to Seattle with baby and dog in tow.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:52 AM

June 17, 2009

Cory Doctorow and Idiots'Books

So we've been sitting on some exciting news for the past few weeks and are finally ready to share it with you all. We got a call from the folks at Tor.com a few weeks back asking whether or not we might be interested in a challenging project. We said yes.

Here's the scoop. The great and accomplished Cory Doctorow (journalist, author, activist, and BoingBoing co-editor) is coming out with a new book in the fall. The book, called Makers, is about a couple of guys who invent things out of discarded stuff. They have many adventures with disgruntled goths, kindly squatters, and lawyers from the Disney Corporation.

In addition to the hardback version of Makers, Tor.com is going to release the entire book on its website in 81 sections, starting in early July. Every three days for about six months a new section will be released for your reading enjoyment. And each of the 81 sections is going to be imagined and illustrated by Idiots'Books.

This gets more exciting, though. The folks at Tor thought of us, in part, because of the work we've done with recombining image and narrative in Ten Thousand Stories and the One-Page Wonders series. They were interested in seeing if it would be possible to construct the 81 illustrations in such a way that all 81 would come together to form one huge illustration, like pieces of a gigantic puzzle.

Robbi and I put our heads together and decided that it could be done. And we decided to take it one step further. Each of the 81 illustrations functions as one piece of a 9x9 grid that forms a huge, complex illustration when assembled, but each also functions as a "tile" that is drawn so as to be completely interchangeable with any of the other 80 illustrations. Any side of any tile can line up against any side of any other tile without loss of visual coherence. This means that a person with a printout of all 81 "tiles" could arrange them side-by-side in any configuration (and with the tiles turned in any direction) and create an entirely new illustration each time.

It's difficult to describe this in writing, but in a few short weeks you will be able to go to Tor.com and start reading the story and downloading the illustrations every three days. Additionally, the folks at Tor.com are in the process of developing an online game that will enable you to move and rotate the "tiles" in virtual space, creating new configurations and new illustrations each time you play.

Here is Cory Doctorow. You can learn more about him by reading his blog, Craphound.

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Getting the opportunity to work with him is a genuine thrill.

Here he is in goggles and a cape. If you read his Wikipedia article, you'll understand why.

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Much more on this to come. For now, we're just excited to get the word out.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:28 PM

June 16, 2009

Congratulations from Xerox!

We were having this sort of afternoon.

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Sluggish, lackluster, laconic.

And then I received the following email, and things took a sudden turn.

Dear Matthew Swanson of Idiots'Books,

You recently submitted an entry into the Xerox Solid Ink Print Sample Contest and I am happy to inform you that your entry has been chosen as the winner for the Entry Category of "Professional Graphic Arts!" You have 5 business days to decide if you would like to receive your prize. You have the choice of either a Phaser 8560N Solid Ink Color Printer with 2 months worth of Solid Ink OR a 2GHz Aluminum 13" Apple MacBook.

Congratulations from Xerox!

Sincerely,

Xerox Dude

We had won?! We had to pinch ourselves.

It has been a long time since either Robbi or I won a prize, and we were elated. Especially Robbi.

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I was elated.

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Alden was elated.

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Iggy was still depressed, but had to go through the motions nonetheless.

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To explain, we use Xerox solid ink to print our books. Instead of laser toner, which is a fine powder that is affixed to the page in the printing process, solid ink is a waxy chunk that kind of feels like a crayon. The "ink" is melted onto the page as the printing occurs. The resulting images are rich and high-quality, which is one of the reasons we use this technology. Xerox hosted a competition for all materials printed using solid ink. We submitted a handful of books and an essay explaining what we do.

We hadn't had much in the way of expectations, but now we're awfully glad we decided to enter. Now, apparently, we have five days to decide whether we want to receive our prize. I'm trying to think of a scenario in which someone would not want a free printer or a free laptop, but have so far come up dry.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:31 PM

June 14, 2009

Virus and Funk

It has been a bleak week in the barn, with all three of us suffering from various aliments and mishaps. I will start with the child, who is on day four of some sort of meddlesome illness. She has been feverish and irksome and has spent most of recent days asleep. She has looked a lot like this for most of the weekend.

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As if to compound the insult of her illness, we decided to try on Alden's new rain gear in advance of our trip to Alaska. She was not amused.

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But she will be dry as the cold, wet tundra winds do blow.

Notice the coordinated green pants.

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No one dresses this nice up there.

So the baby has been sick. Robbi and I have just been heartsick. Both of us had computer data snafus in the last few days. Mine resulted in losing more than a year of my writing files. Robbi's computer decided to purge a few weeks of photos. I cite these difficulties by way of explanation for the silence here of late.

In more cheerful news, Volume 21 was mailed out on Saturday. Titled The Last of the Real Small Farmers, the book represents a departure from our usual fare on several fronts. On one hand, we decided to widen the collaboration. Friend and fellow writer Brian Francis Slattery joined us in putting the thing together. Also, Volume 21 is not fiction. It is, in fact, an illustrated oral history of sorts. Brian and I edited an interview with a guy named Bill and Robbi illustrated it. I'll post some images in a few days.

We did have one particularly nice moment this week. A few nights ago, Robbi happened to look out the window just as the sun was setting. The sky was gorgeous, and so we went outside for a better view. It had just stopped raining and everything was glistening.

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We feared the camera wouldn't be able to do justice to the sky, and it didn't, but even this faint approximation of how things looked that night, with everything in profile, gives a sense of how lovely things can be, even in the middle of a bad week.

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Robbi is so good at noticing the small, important things in life. It's why I like her so much.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:13 PM

June 08, 2009

There and Back Again

Robbi and I (and Alden) spent the weekend sitting behind the Idiots'Books table at the 2009 Museum of Comic and Cartoon Arts show. This year, it was housed in an armory on Lexington Avenue (apparently the building was used as the exterior shot of the place where Toby Maguire wrestles in the first Spiderman movie).

Here, the expectant crowds wait for the show to open.

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Alden helped Robbi set up our booth.

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Slowly but surely...

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...everything came together.

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Eventually, we were all set up.

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Her work complete, Alden tried to escape into the city. As I chased her, I heard her muttering, "Broadway, here I come..."

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Eventually, I convinced her to stay, citing such fun things as puppets.

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She was utterly unimpressed.

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Eventually, she fell asleep in the middle of the floor behind our table.

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We used her as an object lesson to the folks who stopped by, citing her as the inspiration for The Baby is Disappointing.

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While she was asleep, Robbi considered trading her for this less disappointing baby, the property of our friend Shawn Cheng of Partyka fame.

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Ultimately, Shawn decided to keep his baby, so we nudged Alden further under the table and resolved to wait for her to grow up.

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Posted by bogenamp at 11:10 AM

June 05, 2009

Idiots'Books at MoCCA

This weekend Robbi, Alden, and I will be standing behind the Idiots'Books table at the 2009 Museum of Comic and Cartoon Arts Festival in New York City. MoCCA is a huge gathering of people who make independent comics and publishing houses who produce high-end comics and graphic novels. It is, according to The Village Voice, ""the best small-press nexus (anywhere!)" In addition to its hundreds of exhibitors, MoCCA offers panels, lectures, and a chance to have books signed by various well-known comic artists.

If you enjoy this sort of thing, the show is open from 11am-6pm Saturday and Sunday (June 6-7). The show is at the 69th Regiment Armory (68 Lexington Avenue, between 25th and 26th Streets). We can be found at table 432, which appears to be pretty much in the center of the room. It costs $10 to get in the door.

Here's the poster.

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As for our booth, we'll have all 27 of our titles for sale, plus our very first item of Idiots'Books apparel, a baby onesie that Robbi dreamed up in the middle of the night last week, designed at 4:00am, and had printed later the following day.

If you happen to be in the city or near enough to come in for the day, we'd love to see you. We'll trade books for babysitting.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:49 PM

June 01, 2009

Ice Custard Happiness

Alden has been emboldened by her recent encounter with the strawberries. Today she demanded that we take her to the frozen ice stand, where she ordered a mini-cone of ice custard.

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The promised happiness soon followed.

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Posted by bogenamp at 11:29 PM

Strawberries

Just outside of town is Lockbriar Farms, a place that encourages the pick-your-own approach. And it happens to be strawberry season. My longstanding aversion to gardening extends to berry picking (proximity to dirt; sticky fingers), and so Robbi and Alden have been making the trek to fill pint containers with juicy red berries. Alden's enthusiasm for strawberries has recently been complicated by her insistence on using a fork. Here's what happens when the two forces combine.

First, the skewering (fun, but difficult).

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Followed by the approach.

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Which sometimes goes awry.

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But she is determined and persistent.

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And has a truly enormous mouth.

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She is developing some specialized techniques. For example, the front-facing.

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The backhand.

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And the ally-oop (fork to fist to mouth).

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As far as Alden is concerned, the only problem with strawberries is that, eventually, they all get eaten.

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Posted by bogenamp at 08:36 AM