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October 30, 2009

Open Studio this Weekend (and Next)

October 30, 2009
Open Studio this Weekend (and Next)

If you have been itching to see the barn in it's glory, this or next weekend offers a prime opportunity. Of course, we are almost always willing to open our doors to you whenever you might find yourself in Chestertown, but this weekend (and next) is the Artworks Studio Tour, when we and 51 other artists from the area will be hanging out in our studios from 10-5 Saturday and Sunday waiting for people to drop by.


According to the Artworks web site, this is "the most enjoyable studio tour in Maryland." Perhaps you are aware of another extremely enjoyable Maryland-based studio tour and think that Artworks might be overstating things? There's only one way to find out.

The other reason you might want to consider a trip to Chestertown this weekend is that some of the most spectacular tall ships from ports up and down the East coast will be gathering here for the yearly downrigging.


You can look at tall ships, walk on tall ships, sail on tall ships, eat stuff, listen to smart people talk about tall ships, and visit our studio. Here's the schedule.

Oh, and the Chestertown Halloween Parade kicks off at 10:00 tomorrow morning. Alden will not be dressed up as Charlie Brown.


In preparation for the likely hundreds of people who will be forcing their way up our tight spiral staircase and into our studio, Robbi decided to do some interior decorating. In a rare fit of domestic inspiration, she pulled out the Bernina and the long-neglected bolts of cloth from Ikea and started feverishly measuring, cutting, pinning, etc.


What was she up to, I wondered. She would not say.


Alden and I played in the other room while Robbi worked. When she was done, she called us over for a look.


The result was surprisingly competent (in case you don't know Robbi is not known for being a canny seamstress). But what were these things?


No, you are not seeing things. And yes, it is ok to shake your head. It's true. Robbi made printer cozies. I blame it on the pregnancy. I blame a lot of things on the pregnancy.


So there you have it. We invite you to Chestertown this weekend to gaze at art, bask in the glory of tall ships, gawk at the cuteness of costumed youth, and to shake your head in bemusement at the remarkable, unlikely sight of Robbi's striped printer cozies.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:41 PM

October 28, 2009


This past summer, a very nice young woman named Tilly spent some time with Alden while Robbi and I worked. Tilly frequently wore a red bandanna. When she returned to college in the fall, the bandanna remained behind and has been sitting on a table in our barn for several months now.

The other day, Alden chanced to notice the bandanna, and wasted no time in using it to craft a new identity.


At first I thought it cute, this tiny child in her bandanna, but when she made the two-hand "Westside," I began to worry.


Yesterday, Alden spent all afternoon with Robbi, who I have always suspected might be somehow involved in gang activity. What they might have discussed, I cannot say, but the evidence of Alden's precipitous moral decline has begun to mount.

Beyond the bandanna, I cite her recent interest in hip hop music.


She just can't seem to get enough of the stuff.






Youth today...

The peaceful streets of Chestertown beware.

Posted by bogenamp at 08:21 AM

October 26, 2009

The Looming Issue

I'm fairly convinced that Alden is blissfully unaware of the impending arrival of Tarzan and the utter chaos it will exact upon her heretofore idyllic life. As far as she knows, she lives in a barn with her mom and dad, and that's the way it's always going to be.


But she also seems to be an observant child. When a plane flies by, she points to the sky and says something that vaguely sounds like "plane." How could she help but notice the dramatic overhaul to her mother's abdominal landscape?


Perhaps she has pet theories involving cupcakes and ice cream? At times she is caught off guard, looking suddenly at Robbi as if to say, "What the...?"


We have been occasionally pointing to the bulge, introducing the concept of "baby," one of Alden's favorite words.


But the concept is probably confusing, given that Robbi's bulging midsection bears little resemblance to the smiling, curly-headed cherubs that so delight Alden when we stroll down the diaper aisle at Target.

At times, she has attempted to investigate the source of the uncanny protrusion.


But so far as we know, the mystery remains unsolved. Whether she understands on some level the looming consequence or is merely humoring us, Alden has adopted an affectionate relationship with the bulge.


And how could she not? It's awfully cute.

According to the folks at babycenter.com, Tarzan is looking something like this these days.


Robbi has just entered her eighth month of the current campaign. 198 days down, 82 to go. She continues to be continually pummeled, leading her to believe that she is growing some kind of vigorous giant. But the doctor tells us that Robbi is, in fact, two pounds lighter than she was at this time in her first pregnancy, so perhaps we're in line for another small dynamo.

I'm not sure we can handle another.


But it would appear that there's no turning back now.


Posted by bogenamp at 05:37 PM

October 22, 2009

The Dangers of Oatmeal

As a mid-thirties male with a love of bacon cheeseburgers and a family history of high cholesterol, I have been eating a bowl of medicinal oatmeal each morning. To make consumption of the awful gluey sludge somewhat less demoralizing, I have been adding frozen blueberries (which also, apparently, have a positive effect on one's cholesterol levels).

I was blithely going about my oatmeal preparation efforts yesterday morning when suddenly this came out of the frozen blueberry bag.


If you think it looks like a green pepper, than we are of the same mind.

I took a closer look.


My suspicions confirmed, I flew into a paranoid rage.

Conclusion: someone in the food service industry is trying to kill me slowly by denying me access to the powerful antioxidants locked inside each blueberry. I thought I was safe from this sort of thing in Chestertown, a kindly burg where, you might have heard, we care enough to keep one another's lips moist.


Posted by bogenamp at 08:18 AM

October 20, 2009

Important Lessons

Alden and I were hanging tonight before bed. It was nice, very relaxing. Low key.


We identified our elbows.


We tried on our glasses.


We shared conspiratorial whispers.


And then, without warning, Alden reached over to my bedside table and found a tube of cherry flavored Chap Stick. Clearly she was intrigued, confused, curious, and desperate for answers.


I looked at the clock. It was almost bedtime. It didn't seem like the proper setting or time of day for imparting paternal wisdom, but I decided to step up and try my best.

When I explained to Alden that Chap Stick is basically one of the most important items in the world and that maintaining well-moistened lips is one of the central tenets of basic happiness, she seemed incredulous. When I told her that there might be no greater pleasure in life than sharing Chap Stick with someone else, she decided to give it a try.


I went on to explain the many virtues of Chap Stick: its flavor variety, its handy tube, its reasonable price...and its ability to revive the dead.

I explained the fundamentals of this latter point (rub Chap Stick on lips of recently deceased), and then we ran a simulation.





Once I had been successfully revived, Alden became a true believer. We spent a few enjoyable minutes together moisturizing our lips.


It was awesome.

Before long, though, Alden started to wonder about the horizons of Chap Stick's usefulness and the flexibility of its applications. Could it, for example, be applied to one's nose? And to what end?


The experiment went horribly awry.


For some reason, Alden lost interest in the Chap Stick after that.


Then suddenly I lost interest just as Alden got interested once again. It was a real roller coaster.


It's an incredibly complex thing emotionally, the relationship between humans and Chap Stick. On one hand, I'm glad that Alden is getting a head start in the lifelong struggle to come to terms with lip balm, but on the other hand, I wonder if she's too young to really grasp these slippery issues.

So overwhelmed were we with our Chap Stick-related emotions, that we decided to cry.


It felt good, but once we got started, we could not stop.


Through the tears and lament, we took some comfort in knowing that our lips were in no danger of drying out.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:05 PM

October 19, 2009

Pictures and Words

One of the blogs I frequent (this is Robbi again, btw) recently posted a collection of sketches by Van Gogh paired with excerpts from the letters he sent accompanying the sketches. I've always loved looking at sketches because you can track the process of the artist pulling together what he sees in a much more immediate way than you are usually able to see in a finished work. I remember visiting a museum once with a (non-artist) friend and getting all excited about an unfinished painting, because some of the pencil marks and underpainting were visible in one corner. She, on the other hand, was exasperated that the museum had the nerve to frame and hang a painting that the artist hadn't even finished. I'm kind of a fan of process, I guess. I find this to be true in life as well - the biggest difference between me and Matthew is that he is ultimately very goal oriented (let's get there in 8 hours if it says it takes 8 hours!) and I'm more process oriented (let's take the scenic route and stop at every farm stand to buy fruit we can't possibly finish before it rots!)*. Anyway - this entry is a real treat into seeing not only what Van Gogh was sketching, but what he was thinking about at the time. If you're at all interested in process, please have a look. It's extensive and well worth the time.

And because I know you like pictures, here's my version of Van Gogh's room at Arles to compare with his:


* it should be noted, however, that Matthew's goal-orientedness is what keeps us in business, instead of eating chocolates in bed all day.

Posted by ribbu at 11:54 PM

October 18, 2009


On Easter Day of 2008, Robbi and I drove west across the Bay Bridge to visit our friends the Westbrooks for egg dyeing and camaraderie...and to bury a copy of the Norton Anthology of Poetry in the Westbrook family vegetable garden. I did a post that day, so have a read if you want the entire story, but in short, our friend Matt, lover and writer of poetry, asked us to join him in laying to rest a ruined collection of the greatest poems of Western literature.

In any case, the plan was to return to the garden with our shovels one year later to see how the Norton had fared during its year in the soil. And so we reconvened in March of 2009.

Our party consisted of Matt, Alden, and me. Robbi pledged to stay safely behind the camera lens.


Matt was in charge of excavation. First he had to find the grave.


And then he dug.


Matt found the Norton, and we took a closer look.


It was not in prime shape.


As Matt and I examined our treasure, Alden sat in silent judgment. Although she could not yet articulate her thoughts, she seemed to realize that something strange was afoot and that this was not how grownup men were supposed to behave.


We took a closer look at the Norton. Quite a number of worms or boring insects seemed to have worked their way through its pages.


At some length, Matt found a few intact pages and did a commemorative reading. Appropriately, the passage was Surprised by Joy by William Wordsworth.


So inspired was Alden that she asked if she might read from the Norton as well.


It might have been a beautiful moment if only she were not illiterate.

Our curiosity sated and our respects paid, we returned the sad tome to the earth.


We will dig again next Easter, to gauge the Norton's fate after a second year of interment.


The Norton was originally buried on March 23, 2008. Robbi and I went to bed that night expecting a full night's rest. It wasn't to be. She woke up at 5:30am on the 24th with some startling discomfort. Later that day, this happened.


It makes me wonder what sort of monumental event might directly precede Tarzan's arrival in this world. Unless the baby is two-and-a-half-months late, his/her arrival will not coincide with our next visit with the Norton. I suspect Robbi would not mind if he or she decided to show up 10 days early. She's already starting to get mighty uncomfortable.

Apparently, this child is a real kicker.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:24 PM

October 15, 2009

The Untold Story

It has been one of those weeks. Tomorrow morning I will drive across the Bay Bridge for the fourth time in seven days. My days of late have been long and stimulating. And long. I am grateful to Robbi for so ably telling the story of our weekend at the Baltimore Comic Con. But I must quibble with a few of the things that she did not include.

For example, she did not share our encounter with Mini Batman.


Or our serendipitous sighting of Mario and his brother Luigi.


For baffling reasons, she chose not to show you this photo of Predator and Guy Who Tries to Kill Predator.


Also, you would have had no way of knowing that we ran into this superhero with a mace whose name I should know but somehow can't remember.


And this greenish girl superhero with white stripe in hair whose name I'm also supposed to know and also somehow can't remember.


And, of course, the Joker (even I cannot forget the Joker).


And the ever-terrifying Powdered Toast Man.


And the ever lovable, roly-poly (yet still quite terrifying) Great Big Butterfly Guy.


Perhaps most conspicuous among the many omissions to Robbi's post was the following shot of a rather compelling hero.


Neither heroic nor awe-inspiring, nor physically impressive nor agile nor able to fly nor capable of shooting beams from his eyes nor armed in any obvious way, the hero nevertheless knows how to pose. (And jump, though admittedly the photo provides no evidence of it.)


Here he is with others from his fearsome band of evil-fighting black-leather green-haired hero people.


Inspiring, no? It's why we go to Comic Con, for sights like these.

Can you believe that Robbi had the gall to omit these images from her post? I can only attribute it to an utter lack of vision, an intractable refusal to dream, a prudish unwillingness to dress up in lycra, wield a rubber weapon, and harness her inner superhero.

At least this small-mindedness has not been passed along to Alden, who shows no qualms about dressing up as her hero.


Posted by bogenamp at 10:00 PM

October 14, 2009

... and There We Go ...

Well, Comic-Con has come and gone, and Matthew and I are still working on a full recovery. In fact, Matthew is so demoralized he's asked me to write an entry, just to keep those of you who are rabid for news at bay. I know, I know, it's not a fair substitute, but it will just have to do.

So - for those of you who don't know what Comic-Con is all about, I'm afraid I'm not really the right person to ask. Sorry. Though I occasionally read a comic book here and there growing up, I have to say I was mostly interested in the artwork, and it really got on my nerves when artists would switch up and suddenly Wolverine would go from looking like this:


to this:

Call me shallow, but I just can't love a guy whose bicep is bigger than my entire gluteus maximus. So anyway, my interest in comic books was spotty at best, and I never really got into following actual storylines. This is not so for 99.99% of Comic-Con attendees. Much like baseball fans, they know the stats on all the players at all stages of their careers, and fiendishly collect associated memorabilia. Needless to say, Idiots'Books has not yet stimulated such an adoring fan base (I blame it in part on my inability to adequately draw these, and instead can only draw these). Though the following photo would suggest that we did a brisk business this past weekend


please take note of the gentleman on the far left.


That's what most attendees looked like when they passed by our booth. I think this poor guy got suckered in because his girlfriend was excited about 10,000 Stories, and its alluring flip-bookish ways. Luckily, in a crowd of 12,000, there are a few odd girlfriends and moms and dads who are willing to stop and chat, so it wasn't a complete bust. And, at the very least, we got to watch a passing parade of the disguised and famous:


though at times it was suggested we were watching at our own risk:


and sometimes the disguise was almost not there at all:


The highlight of the whole Con was that I finally found Waldo. He is a tricky little SOB. I've been searching for him ever since Christmas of 1993. My search, amongst the 12,000 Comic-Con attendees, finally reached its extremely gratifying and long overdue conclusion.


Thank god I can finally put that one to rest.

We divided the happy-go-lucky comic-mania with a very highbrow evening with Ira Glass, host and creator of my very very favorite This American Life, and a bunch of other NPR listeners. I cannot tell you how much I love This American Life, and, by extension, Ira Glass. This, however, did not stop me from calling him a "puppetmaster" to his FACE in the Q&A session. What is my problem? I could blame it on giddy fan nerves, but really. You could see the poor man visibly flinch at the suggestion that all of his carefully crafted work was just manipulation. I immediately ran home and wrote him an apology, which, if it weren't for damned Columbus Day weekend, would already be well on its way into his mailbox. Luckily he can't block my ISP from receiving his podcast, or I would be in dire dire straits.

Or - can he?

The man looks like he could hold a grudge:


Posted by ribbu at 12:05 PM

October 09, 2009

Comic-Con, Here We Come!

Hello all - it's Robbi. In Matthew's long VACATION in Kansas City (only Matthew would think to vacation in Kansas City) he was so busy eating bonbons/ribs and getting his nails done/watching football that he forgot to let you all know that we will have a booth at the Baltimore Comic-Con this weekend.
So, if you happen to be in the Baltimore area, and are undaunted by 12,000 people who look like this guy or another 22,000 people who look like this, please come on down. No one ever said it was a bad idea to mix comic geeks and marathoners. I imagine there couldn't be a more unrevealing Venn Diagram.

Hope to see you there.

And the only pictures I have to post are of me, passed out on my keyboard in a pool of drool. Not quite what you're looking for, I'm sure. Charming and attractive is right.


Posted by ribbu at 08:48 PM

October 08, 2009

Charming and Attractive?

We were floored yesterday to receive an email from award-winning, New Yorker-appearing, illustratrix/cartoonista extraordinaire Emily Flake, who was letting us know that she had recently been blogging for Print magazine about the things she saw and admired at this year's Small Press Expo.


We are honored to have been mentioned in the same breath as a comic book about oral herpes, a comicbookification of Wuthering Heights, and a newly released retrospective of Gahan Wilson's 50 years of Playboy cartoons.

Here's what Emily had to say about Idiots'Books.

Charming, attractive married couple Matthew Swanson (writer) and Robbi Behr (illustrator) offer a subscription service to their self-published, spiral-bound books (they also indulge in letterpress, but it costs more. Lead's not free, pal). The funniest selection: The Baby is Disappointing, a lament of dashed expectations: "It's worse than last year's bankruptcy, this baby. It's worse than when the basement flooded. Our shame is blazoned on our brows, chronicled in our ravaged check register." The thread of Swanson's black humor and Behr's delightfully scribbly work runs through all the couple's output, including, one hopes, their own disappointing baby (Ms. Behr is expecting another. Hope springs eternal).

Print magazine, whose tagline is "design for curious minds", is a fairly shmancy publication, with no small degree of prominence and credibility in the world of design. As a result, we are feeling rather shmancy this morning and more tempted then we might otherwise be to believe the nice things Emily had to say about us (except for the bald-faced lies about our appearance and demeanor, which we cannot abide).

Posted by bogenamp at 09:40 AM

October 06, 2009


Imagine our surprise when our Google Alerts let us know that we had been mentioned on Game Culture, a blog devoted to writing about all things game-related, including video games, sports, movies (based on games)--and novel-inspired, illustration-based recombining tile projects, it seems.


Follow this link to the most comprehensive, satisfying write-up to date on the Makers project and the associated tile game.

The post reminded me that I have been woefully remiss in sharing the latest Makers tiles with you. Without further delay, here are tiles 29-40.













And there you have it. 40 tiles may be a lot, but in this project is still one tile shy of halfway there--a fact of which Robbi is painfully aware.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:44 PM

Big in Deutschland

We wonder about you, Barnstorming reader. Who are you? Where do you live? What are your hopes and dreams? How often do you bathe? What deficiency compels you to waste your time with us?

As we puzzle through these ineluctable questions, we peer periodically at the network statistics, which provide such useful information as which sites refer people to The Barnstorming. Several times of late, I have discovered posts in a strange and baffling language beyond my comprehension. Luckily, Robbi lived in Germany for a year and retains a workable (read "barely literate") proficiency with its mother tongue.

She was therefore able to read this post.


And translated it for me thusly (with full acknowledgment of halting, flawed understanding of the language):

The Blog for Unbelievable and Unique Books, Films and Music

"Handkerchief Books"

About two weeks ago, Tor.com and the independent publisher IdiotsBooks presented an excellent project: One Page Wonders. In it, umpteen stories are "hidden" in a single A4-sized piece of paper... a scissor-cut in the right spot, a little folding and you've got lots and lots of colorful mini-picture books.

It began with "Captain A-OK Fight Blug-Glub-Glub" on March 11, and yesterday "Revenge of the Moonmen" was posted. All of the stories are available on the Collection Page as pdfs.

For the right cut, there are instructions - but it's easier to figure out after the How-To video.

Without this post, I would never have thought to refer to the One Page Wonders as "handkerchief books". Ah, the virtues of globalism!

Just last week, we discovered the following post, again on a German blog. Here is a screenshot of the accompanying comment.


Robbi tells me that the main post is written from a baby's perspective of discovering itself in a mirror (she did not bother to translate it since it has nothing to do with us and she is firmly opposed to doing any translating that is not motivated by narcissism).

Here's a rough (flawed, imperfect, terrible, etc.) translation of the comment from the husband of Nina, who was Robbi's host sister during Robbi's exchange year in Germany.

"Hallo Eike -
here's the correct link: http://www.thebarnstorming.com/

Originally only Nina read it, because they are friends of hers, but at some point I also became a regular reader, because Matthew writes in a really entertaining way and has really wonderful "out there" ideas. Plus, I think that he pretty much could pass as the brother of the lead singer of the Eels, lookswise.

I especially like the Idiots'Books that he and Robbi make, and think that you should definitely take the opportunity to search for "The Baby is Disappointing" - or just go to the site listed here - to get yourself a copy, since we love it so much."

I was, of course, gratified to learn that not only do Germans think my writing is entertaining, but that I look like a pop star.

What say the American masses? You be the judge:

eels.jpg 100_9233.jpg

It's uncanny. Other than the fact that he accessorizes with a stogie and I with a baby, we're practically the same person. Which has to explain our appeal among the Germans.

Posted by bogenamp at 01:01 PM

October 05, 2009

A Weekend in Kansas City

After the debacle with the inside-out shirt, our visit with Grandpa John and Grandma Judy has gone much more smoothly. I think it's even fair to say that we've been having fun.

Went out to breakfast.


Waited for a table.


Tried the new menu items.


And hung out with Great-Grandma Alma.


We went to the dump to do recycling.


Threw bottles.


And had to recover by taking a nap.


We ate breakfast on the patio.


And hung out with Grandma Judy.


After breakfast, we went to Powell Gardens and got lost in a maze of hay bales.


Met a scarecrow.


And totally dissed it.


We played in fountains.


Observed bananas in the act of growing.


Met a terrifying clown.


Walked right by Whistler's Mummy without saying hi.


Reflected on the subtle majesty of nature.


Stole strawberries from the horticultural exhibit and ate them in spite of the rules.


Rode a horse.


Primed the pump.


Watered the plants.


Got Gothic with Grandpa John.


Climbed into the chicken coop.


And climbed back out again.


We took a ride on the barrel train.


Down a big hill and back again.


Back home again, we grilled.


Ate lemon meringue pie.


Tried on Grandpa John's glasses.


And wracked our brains trying to figure out what he was thinking when he dressed Alden inside out on Friday morning.


To cap it all off, we had a bath.


And now we are in bed, where anyone should be at 12:30 on a Sunday night. Except for Robbi, who in all likelihood is just getting started with her day.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:54 AM

October 02, 2009

Grandpa Dressed Me This Morning

It's morning in Lee's Summit, Missouri. On surface, everything seems to be fine. The sun is out. The coffee is brewing. There are Mardi Gras beads to play with.


But beneath the pleasant, calm veneer, trouble is afoot. A closer look at Alden reveals a tag and backwards-facing seams.


Indeed, this child was dressed inside-out this morning.

But I'm not complaining. While I slept in, Grandpa John fetched an early-rising Alden from her crib, bathed her, dressed her, and sat her down for breakfast. We can forgive a bit of mishap. In fact, I am impressed that he was able to get the neck snaps to attach inside out.

But it does make me wonder how often I must have gone to preschool dressed in similar disarray. Perhaps this morning's episode sheds some light on the social difficulties that plagued my elementary school years.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:21 AM