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November 30, 2009

So Many Ways to Die

As subscribers know well, we recently collaborated with the rock band Bombadil, creating the album art for their most recent record, Tarpits and Canyonlands.


Robbi also illustrated the lyrics to each song, which we bound together in a small book (which you can also get in PDF form when you download the album from iTunes).


Just today, Bombadil released a new video for one of my favorite songs from the album, So Many Ways to Die.

The clip is worth watching just to hear the song, but it also contains all sorts of fantastic footage of people doing inadvisable, perilous, disastrous things--a history of bad ideas: roller skating on the edge of tall buildings, throwing knives at little girls, plunging over waterfalls in barrels, fighting bulls, attempting to use a homemade jetpack, etc. It's beautiful and tragic and rife with the futile, reckless hope that makes us human.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:16 PM

November 29, 2009

Four-Day Weekend

On Thanksgiving, we rested. For the first time in 12 weeks, we spent an entire day without thinking about Idiots'Books. We slept in. We baked bread. We ate a lot of food. We played Nintendo. We went for a walk. We watched TV. No writing. No drawing. No scheming. It was nice.

Our turkey weighed 18 pounds. Alden weighs 18.2 pounds. In spite of this slight edge, she was wary.


When the time came to eat, she trembled with anticipation.


But when her plate arrived, heaped with turkey and other delicious things, her protest resumed.


I had no such reservations.


After stuffing ourselves, we crashed profoundly for a number of hours. When we emerged from our collective stupor, we decided a walk was in order.

Lately, Alden has been quite interested in ducks. In fact, her favorite word is probably "quack," a thing she says with great conviction whenever any duck-like object presents itself. Living on the Eastern Shore, we see lots of ducks about: real ducks, duck decoys in shop windows, and rubber ducks in the nightly bath.

This weekend, we went to see the real ducks, which gather in abundance near the town pier. We have a tendency of forgetting to finish our bread before it turns dry and unchewable. And so we decided to unload it on the ducks.


Alden took her task seriously.


She dug deep into the bag of bread, pulled back her arm to launch some crumbs toward the waiting waterfoul...


...and managed to throw her handful approximately four inches. Poor kid lacks technique. Takes after her old man, it seems.


But the ducks were not to be denied. It seems their interest in the bread outweighed their fear of the 27-inch dynamo. Alden convened with the ducks, proclaiming "quack" repeatedly as the feast continued.

And then, all of a sudden, she lost interest in the ducks and the bread and ran in a new direction.


Which is what kids do, I guess.

It was getting to be nighttime, anyway.


We got back home and Alden crashed.


All that quacking takes it out of a girl.

Once Alden had gone to bed, Robbi and I downloaded Super Mario Brothers 2 from the Wii website. Robbi and I had both loved the game when we were kids and had all sorts of shared memories about playing it. Once upon a time, I was uncommonly good at earning extra lives in the slot-machine style bonus game at the end of each level. As it turns out, I haven't lost my touch.


Yesterday was cold and crisp, but it was also the Chestertown Christmas parade, and so we bundled Alden in her cold weather finery and headed out to see the spectacle. She stood in the middle of the street as the parade approached, completely unprepared for what was coming her way.


With each passing float and marching band, she grew more incredulous.


What in the heck were these people up to?


She is a small town girl with small town sensibilities. She responded with a grim pragmatism, keeping her emotions in check.


But later in the privacy of her own home, she took out her fears and frustrations on her pancakes.


Last night, seeking food comfort in a futile attempt to ward off the reality of the coming end to the holiday weekend, I drove to New Castle, Delaware (about an hour away) for some quality pork ribs.


Seeing the feast, Alden told us she was ready to partake. We decided to let her try, wondering to ourselves how it was going to go. She may throw breadcrumbs like her sissy dad, but the kid can eat smoked pork like a champion.


When not eating and resting, we have been working dutifully on readying the new Idiots'Books web site for its upcoming debut. We don't have a firm date in mind, but we're hoping to launch in the next week or so. We'll let you know when the time comes. For now, enjoy the waning moments of your weekend. I take heart in knowing that the next batch of days off is not so far distant.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:19 PM | Comments (7)

November 24, 2009

Help from the Masses

Hello everyone - Robbi here. We are currently in the process of revamping our Idiots'Books website (spoiler alert! - theBarnstorming will soon be subsumed under the new Idiots'Blog. No worries, though - it will still include pictures of babies, pancakes, ice cream, jumping, etc). One of the exciting new things we plan to offer other than books (and pictures of babies, pancakes, ice cream, jumping, etc.) will be t-shirts. But since we don't really know what we are doing, we thought we'd post some of our ideas here and see what you think of them.

I am even turning on comments so you can have your say. Here's hoping V!agara2339 and Russ!an_Lady don't keep coming back and posting lewd (but compelling) comments. Matthew just can't help but click those links.

Here they are, in no particular order:













Oh, and I forgot - we might also carry these, though we're still trying to decide whether I should draw the binkie instead of having the vector art. And whether anyone would possibly buy them:


I mean, we know we would, but you all know in what low regard we hold our child.


Any suggestions, likes, dislikes, requests, etc are welcome. You are also welcome to include comments about our fantastic hot models (compliments of American Apparel). Apparently, according to Alden, the gent with the fair hair looks like Mama. Maybe it's the skeptical sidelong glance that is fooling her.

But basically, do you like these shirts and would you buy any of them?

Posted by ribbu at 09:47 AM | Comments (31)

November 22, 2009

Art for Breakfast

This morning Matthew cooked up some apple pancakes for breakfast. I was happily munching away when I heard a gasp over at the stovetop. I rushed over to tend to the inevitable wound/burn/broken glass/disfigurement that generally occurs when Matthew is involved with anything.

This is what he gestured to, breathlessly:


I have to say, I was both unimpressed and relieved. No broken glass? No freely flowing blood? It looked like the pancake-making was actually going remarkably well. Then Matthew grasped my arm, and said, "Look! Look at the one on the right! It looks just like that drawing you did, of the fat guy, with the baggy eyes, and the droopy nose!" I have to say, this didn't really narrow things down. "The guy with the money and the accounting paper glued on it, you know."

Oh. Right.

And, wow, it kind of did.

moneybags_pancake.jpg moneybagscolor.jpg

He didn't get the nose quite right, and I probably could have mentioned how his application of color left something to be desired, but all told, I think he did a decent job, given the materials at hand and the entirely inadvertent nature of its creation. It's not every day you get to eat art for breakfast. And even rarer that it's so delicious. Nice work, Matthew, nice work.

Posted by ribbu at 08:31 PM

November 16, 2009


As she continues to grow, learn, develop, etc., Alden has two favorite activities. One is climbing onto the dining room table and strutting around like a lunatic. The other is dressing herself in whatever bits of clothing she can find.

We often use the dining room table to fold the laundry, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by Alden. Yesterday we caught her in the act of combining her two favorite hobbies.


Note: Robbi's pride was only marginally damaged in the posting of this photo.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:41 PM

November 15, 2009

In the Books

The first annual Chestertown Book Festival has come and gone. By all accounts, it was a resounding success. Some highlights include a Saturday morning brunch in which we learned about making gingerbread houses from a father/son duo who had written a book on the subject. Here is a gingerbread version of Chestertown's Imperial Hotel, the building in which the brunch was taking place.


Alden expressed her keen desire to eat the gingerbread hotel. Fortunately, she was adequately restrained (if not a bit contrite).


After brunch, we headed over to Bookplate to get ready for our panel discussion. While we were getting ready to speak, we watched a letterpress demonstration.


The panel (with various people who run small presses) went well and lots of people came. Because we were busy being on the panel, we took no pictures of it. We have no good excuse for taking no pictures of the next event, an enjoyable talk by Fresh Air book reviewer Maureen Corrigan.

At 3:00 it was time for our reading. I did manage to snap this shot of Robbi regaling the crowd as they gathered.


At the appointed hour, we began. Local art patron Carla Massoni gave us a wonderful introduction, and then we read from The Baby is Disappointing, Dawn of the Fats, For the Love of God (excerpts), and Nasty Chipmunk. After reading, we answered questions and ended up having a nice discussion of what we do and why we do it.

In addition to the many Chestertonians present, friends and subscribers drove in from DC, Baltimore, and southern PA. Thanks to all who made the trek to support us.

Apparently, it has already been decided that there will be a second annual Chestertown Book Festival, to take place the weekend of October 9-10, if I remember correctly. Rest assured, I will remind you of the date at some point between now and then--but quite possibly not until moments before it begins.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:50 PM

November 13, 2009

Chestertown Book Festival This Weekend

When the time comes to make my resolutions this year, I will add to the long list of pressing imperfections my consistent failure to give you all sufficient notice of coming events.

Today is yet another example. This evening marks the start of the first annual Chestertown Book Festival. Former poet laureate of Maryland Michael Collier will be reading at Bookplate at 7:00 tonight. I'm sure that all you Collier fans out there would have appreciated more than 90 minutes notice.


Tomorrow's lineup is an ambitious affair of more than 30 events and more than 50 authors, poets, printers, and critics--giving readings, hosting demonstrations, sitting on panels, and hosting lunches. Here's the Festival web site should you want to have a look at what's in the offing.

Robbi and I are directly involved in two events, as described below.

Small and Independent Press Panel
12:00-1:30 p.m.

Jim Dissette, small-press author of Fierce Blessings, from Chester River Press; Dawn L.C. Miller, self-published author of A Feather From A Winged Horse; The Moon, The Menhir, and The Memory; and Champagne Dawn, under Blue Kettle Books; Matthew Swanson and Robbi Behr, author-illustrator duo of Idiots’Books; Emily Kalwaitis and Lindsay Lusby, painter-poet duo of Thread Lock Press
Back Room, Bookplate, 112 S. Cross St.

Idiots’Books Presents: Nasty Chipmunks, Funnel Cakes, and Disappointing Babies

3:00-4:00 p.m.

Robbi Behr and Matthew Swanson of Idiots’Books, introduced by Carla Massoni
Back Room, Bookplate, 112 S. Cross St.

In this latter event, we'll be reading from a number of books, including our latest, Nasty Chipmunk, and then answering questions and talking about what we do. Our friend and mentor Carla Massoni will be introducing us and helping to moderate discussion.

I'm sure your now well-formed weekend plans preclude your coming to the Festival, but if you happen to be available interested, I know we'd all appreciate the audience.

Posted by bogenamp at 04:57 PM

November 11, 2009

The Bathroom Complete

It has been some time now since I first wrote about our bathroom renovations. If you wish to refresh yourself on the early stages of our efforts, you may read posts about painting, building cabinets, and hanging cabinets (thrill rides all).

In the weeks since then, a number of delays involving plumbing, ductwork, knob mounting, and track light installation have kept us from feeling truly done with the bathroom. But all that is behind us now.

I had a doozy of a time taking good pictures of the bathroom, so here are some bad ones.



Have another look at that hand towel/houseplant/pottery tableaux. Yes, that is a Seiko Behr original.


And here, at long last, are the new washer and dryer in their glory (shown next to a six-foot adult man for scale).


Alden is convinced that the bathroom exists specifically for her amusement.

After all, it has buttons to push.


Caves to explore.


Sumptuous, loungeworthy surfaces to lounge upon sumptuously.


A nice little bench to sit upon (that happens to get quite warm in the winter months).


Even a pool!


I love the new paint, shower curtain, cabinets, and drawer pulls, but by far my favorite thing about the new bathroom is the instrument panel of the new washer. It's many colorful lights dazzle and delight me.


A pleasing cascade of electronic beeps results when each button is pushed. I find myself selecting highly customized settings just to have the chance to bask in the spectacle of light and sound.

If you have visited us once but not a second time because you were distressed by our formerly uncivilized bathroom, rest assured, you will have a very different experience this time around.

Posted by bogenamp at 10:08 PM

November 09, 2009


Alden went to visit Cannon today for the first time in months. He and his mom returned from an extended trip last weekend, and so we drove over this afternoon to say hello.

At first, Alden wasn't sure what to think of Cannon. He is taller than he used to be.


But as soon as she figured out that he had acquired a set of wheels, she was good to go.


Alden sat in the back while Cannon drove. Basically, he treated her like an overstuffed recliner. But she didn't seem to mind.


Neither did she seem to notice that they were holding up traffic.


When we got to the playground, both seemed loath to get out of the wagon.


But eventually the lure of the slide proved too powerful.


Bored with the slide, they moved on to the swings.


Disenchanted with the swings, they decided to tackle the big kid slide.

To the top.


And down again.


After the excitement of the big kid slide, Alden needed a few moments to sit and collect herself.


Suddenly, she was ready to go. She let us know by going and sitting by herself in the wagon.


I figured that she'd get bored of sitting by herself and would come back to the playground after a few minutes. I was wrong.


It was a good reunion all around. No one got hurt. Polite cheek-peck kisses were exchanged at the end.

Later tonight, Alden threw a total fit right at the top of the stairs. Perhaps she was lovesick?


Or maybe just tired from all the swinging.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:15 PM

November 08, 2009

A Day in the Barn

Today was the final day of the two-weekend, four-day studio tour. I got up early for some reason, and took some photos of the barn while I was waiting for my coffee to brew.




After a while Alden got up, and Iggy. We opened the shades and let the light in.


Eventually 10:00 rolled around, and we opened the doors.


The crowds failed to roll in, so we sat at our desks catching up on projects.


Robbi asked me to change a lightbulb, which required a ladder. The view from up high was interesting, so I took a few photos.

Some of the original beams.


Our usually-concealed bedroom.


Robbi meddling with my computer.


Eventually there was some commerce.


I wouldn't describe today's business as "brisk," but we were competing with absolutely beautiful weather.

Six years ago today Robbi and I got married not far from the beach just outside of Savannah. Our friends were there, and our families. It was pretty nice. Back then we had not an inkling that six years later we'd be sitting in a studio in a barn in Chestertown selling books we'd made together. I don't even want to guess what we'll be doing six years from now.

This thing, for example, will be almost eight.



Posted by bogenamp at 08:49 PM

November 07, 2009

Open Studio Today and Tomorrow

I should have said it yesterday, of course, or the day before, even, when you were making your weekend plans, but the Idiots'Books studio is open for business or browsing today (Saturday) and tomorrow from 10-5. We will be here not enjoying the sunshine. Please come not enjoy it with us.

Note: The photo below, wholly irrelevant to this post, is meant to manipulate you emotionally. This baby has nothing to do with the acquisition of books. I can't guarantee that she will be on hand when you arrive. I can offer no promise that she will be looking cute or in a good mood. But seeing her there with sour cream on her lips does make you want to climb our spiral staircase and have a cup of hot tea and pull all the money out of your wallet to buy Christmas presents. Doesn't it? I mean, doesn't it?


Posted by bogenamp at 08:07 AM

November 05, 2009

Nasty Unleashed

After an unprecedented three-month gap between volumes, Idiots'Books Volume 23, Nasty Chipmunk, hit the US Mail today. Subscribers everywhere should brace for its arrival. (Non-subscribers everywhere should shudder with regret.)

Continuing our ongoing mission to have as many of our books as possible printed by professionals, we worked with some very nice folks in Columbia, MD to produce a sleek, glossy-covered, perfect-bound version of Nasty. We drove over there at the end of last week to pick it up.


Alden tried--and failed--to be helpful.


But she did get in a little exercise while we were there.


The books in hand at long last, we tackled what is perhaps my least favorite aspect of our entire enterprise: the mailing.

First, there is the matter of writing the letter, a thing I enjoy, at least at first. For those of you who are not subscribers, each book is accompanied by an earnest letter, which informs the subscribership of various news and updates and sometimes poses essay questions and offers prizes. The problem with the letters is Robbi. As soon as I finish writing each letter, Robbi grabs it, takes it over to her desk, and changes many (if not most) of the words. She crosses out, edits, adds, mocks, scribbles, and adds awful little pictures. It's humiliating. But this is just the beginning of the horror that is assembling the mailing.

There are also the mundane tasks of folding all the letters, stuffing the letters and the books in the envelopes, putting stamps on the envelopes, etc. I don't mind these tasks because they are mindless and can be done while watching network television. The thing that kills me about the mailings is the part where we have to go through the list of subscribers and pay very close attention to a whole lot of details, such who gets international postage, who needs a "your subscription is going to lapse and you'd better do something about it pronto," letter, who needs a special note of congratulations upon successful completion of a new kitchen appliance or kidney transplant, etc...

Robbi is very sanguine about the mailing. She is a patient and careful soul.


But I am not sanguine. Quite the opposite. Assembling a mailing requires the two things that I loathe most in the entire world:

1) sitting still
2) paying attention

But I try. What choice do I have?


And yet eventually we get through it. And in retrospect it never seems quite as painful as it did at the time (but still pretty painful).

Usually I have a full 6-7 weeks to recover between mailings, but just tonight, I had yet another round of mailing to attend to, this brought on by the recent surge of interest in After Everafter, a brilliant yet lowbrow work, apparently.


But I will not complain. Mailing is a fact of our lives. And more mailings mean more of our books in the world. I just wish I didn't have to lick all of the envelopes.

I'm waiting for the willing army of unpaid interns to arrive at the doorstep and demand to oversee the next mailing. So far, we've only had two applicants.


Their credentials are thin, and still I'm tempted...

Posted by bogenamp at 11:22 PM

November 04, 2009

Let Her Eat Cake

Bob and Seiko have a friend in Washington, D.C. who cooks a mighty fine pound cake. Every time they go to visit her, they come back home with a fresh-baked cake in tow. Lately, they have been generously sharing with Alden.


Even at her relatively young age, Alden seems to understand the importance and specialness of the pound cake.


What she does not seem to grasp is the decorum that typically surrounds cake consumption, especially when dining in mixed company. The way she sees it, if cake is present and it's not in her mouth, there's a big problem, and the best way to address said problem is to reach out and grab a fistful.


She is lucky that such things are so endearing when done by one so small. I'm guessing that Bob would not take as kindly to me trying to pull the same move.


I wonder what day, precisely, it suddenly becomes unacceptable, uncute, unwelcome to reach into a cake with eager fingers.


Alden, I think, still has some time left to enjoy this sort of thing.

Posted by bogenamp at 11:17 PM

November 02, 2009

Brilliant and Lowbrow

We were surprised (and rather pleased) to learn today that we have been included in this week's New York magazine Approval Matrix. Apparently, every issue of this esteemed publication contains a grid that serves as a "deliberately oversimplified guide to who falls where on [their] taste hierarchies."

Here is the Approval Matrix (you can click to make it bigger or link to it directly here.)


After we were finished being excited and surprised at the sheer fact of having been noticed by a swanky, national magazine, we took a closer look to see what sort of things they had to say about us. The Approval Matrix plots items in a two-dimensional grid, from "despicable" to "brilliant" along the X-axis and from "lowbrow" to "highbrow" along the Y.

Apparently, we have been deemed "brilliant" and "lowbrow".


We can live with that, I think.


In fact, I now have a far firmer grasp now on how our work stacks up against other notable cultural contributions. I had no idea, for example, that we were higher brow (though slightly less brilliant than) than the next generation of DVDs (which will, apparently, be made using technology derived from shrimp eyes). Nor did I realize that we were not quite as brilliant as (though considerably higher brow than) Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, who (apparently) ate a hot dog while his team was running up the scoreboard on the Raiders last Sunday.

A man likes to be understood, firmly situated, and precisely located on a grid so that he knows where he stands in relation to Maria Carey's performance in Precious (37 grid units more brilliant and 66 grid units less highbrow).

The Approval Matrix appears in the print version of New York, too, apparently. If you want to do something nice for us and happen to see a copy somewhere in the world, please buy us one and send it to us with a note that says, "Hey, Losers, maybe someday you'll be as highbrow as the American Girl collection's homeless doll (retail $95). Good luck with that."

Or something else along those lines.

Note: If you are suddenly inspired to own a copy of the brilliant and lowbrow After Everafter, you may order it here.

Posted by bogenamp at 09:25 PM

November 01, 2009

Which came first?

Because it is Halloween, Robbi decided to dress up as a chicken sitting on an egg.


Given the unavoidable problem of a larger-than-usual midsection, she decided to work with the bulge and not against it. First she put on a white undershirt. Then she took a black shirt and cut an egg-shaped hole. A bunch of craft paper formed the "nest", and Seiko's chicken hat completed the ensemble.

She was gratified by her costume but felt that something was missing.

Alden was happy to oblige.


Here they are together. It's a poignant of the real-life drama currently unfolding unbeknownst to Alden, who has no concept of what manner of life-changing calamity is waiting in that innocent-seeming egg.


We spent a few minutes debating timeless questions regarding eggs and chickens, but didn't really get anywhere. And so Robbi and Alden headed for the Halloween parade while I readied the studio for the madding crowds.


We'll be here from 10-5 tomorrow (Sunday) for the second day of the Artworks Open Studio Tour, so feel free to swing by for hot tea and some early Christmas shopping.

Posted by bogenamp at 12:06 AM