December 01, 2008

Wicked Awesome I Wish it Was ME

Awesome video. I'm sure all you hipsters have seen it already, but check it anyway:

I wish I could do that as my job. I mean, drawing whatever you want is cool, but drawing it to music is AWESOME.

Did I tell you that one of the jobs we (as Idiots'Books) have lined up is the album art for the next disc by Bombadil? Yes, this rocks. I just hope we can deliver.

Posted by ribbu at 08:03 PM

November 07, 2008

What's Happenin't

Well, hello all. There's a lot going on these days, though you probably wouldn't know it because this blog has been *crickets... crickets...*. I will make no excuses. I will just plunge headlong into the news.

Volume 17 went out last week (pre-election) and seems to have been a big hit. It originally was not meant to be a book, but rather a series of paintings I did for the Wassaic Project.. I wasn't able to make it to the opening, but Eve and Bowie sent photos, and hey diddely, those paintings looked pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

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I admit, though, that the location and the photographer helped them out quite a bit. That show has been extended through this weekend, so if anyone happens to be up anywhere near Wassaic, NY, stop by and have a look.

In other news, I was reminded today from a guy I met at SPX that they would like to have a piece of art to auction off at the Pittsburgh ToonSeum, for some sort of benefit. I think the ToonSeum is trying to move out of the Children's Museum and into its own space, because, evidently, they just hate children. So I got out the pen today and had the rare pleasure of just plunking out a drawing (haven't done that in a while...). Of course, I don't really know what it's about, but luckily, I don't need to explain myself.

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I'm in the process of working on Volume 18, which is going to be similar in style to 10,000 Stories, which was our big gimmicky coup. This means I have to do lots of thinking about execution, which I usually don't do (meaning: I just sit down and draw, normally, and now I kind of have to plan out where things are going to happen - drag-o-la!). The interesting thing is that there was a dispute this weekend over whether or not there are really 10,000 stories in that book or 1,048,576.

!!!

Yes, during our studio tour, the local high school math teacher came in and got all wiggedy about 10,000 Stories (as math teachers seem to do). She bought it, went home, and the next day wrote me the following email:

Of course as a lunatic math teacher and more importantly, a lover of creative arts such as your books, I couldn't let go of thinking about how many stories you really have in one of your wonderful books.

The more I pondered it, the more I became convinced that I'd done the "wrong math". (This very much differs from doing the "math wrong", which we definitely did not).

If you and your husband ("you") had written/illustrated a 4-page book, with 10 options per page, you would have created 10,000 stories. (10 to the 4th power)

Instead you produced a 10 page book with 4 options per page. The "combinations" this produces is 4 to the 10th power which equals 1,048,576 different stories!

I don't have the patience to show the different variations, but I just thought of a simpler problem of the same nature, flipping coins. The coin is the "event" (just like a page in your book) and heads/tails are the possible outcomes per event, (just like the sections on a page in your book). Flip one coin and there are two outcomes, (HT), represented mathematically as 2 to the 1st power. (Not 1 to the 2nd power). Flip two coins and there are four possible outcomes, (HH, HT, TH, TT), represented mathematically as 2 to the 2nd power. Flip three coins and there are 8 possible outcomes (HHH, HHT, HTH, HTT, THH, THT, TTH, TTT). This is represented mathematically as 2 to the third power, not 3 to the 2nd power.

The algorithm to follow is find the product (multiply) of all the outcomes from each independent event. (The events must be independent, i.e. not influence each other, like flipping coins).

I think your book satisfies these "requirements" so I think the real number of stories is over a million, but I think Ten-thousand stories is a much catchier and "believable" name.


To this I say: Wow. I'm 1,038,576 more of a genius than I thought I was! Life is grand!

As far as I can tell, her logic holds. But, as you all know, I'm a totally flaky artist, so I don't have a whole lot of credibility. I was the one who thought I could actually count all the stories - AAAA, ABAA, AABA, AAAB, etc. (I only got to 17 before I gave up. That might have been the smartest thing I've ever done in my hapless math career.) If any of you smart math types can weigh in, I would appreciate it. The lady teaches stats, so if you are just a third grade math expert, be forewarned. She can bust out the imaginary numbers and all that.

And, finally, if you're in town this weekend, we are open again on Saturday and Sunday from 10-5 for studio tours. Stop in and see what I've really been up to.

Or just come see me scowl.

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Posted by ribbu at 12:17 AM

May 25, 2008

Spidey's Got a Brand New Bag

So we're driving through Middletown, Delaware the other day on our way to Lowe's to buy some home improvement items. Middletown, Delaware isn't much of a mecca, unless you happen to be in the market for some tax-free merchandise from superstores like Lowe's, Home Depot, Kohl's, or the Super Auto Mall. The point is, Middletown, Delaware is certainly no New York City. Which is why it was doubly puzzling to see this as we were cruising along at 25 miles per hour:

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In case you can't really see what's going on, here's a closer look:

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Yes. There he was. Spidey. In Middletown, Delaware. Waving to us. To US! Ok, in that photo he's not actually waving to us, but that's because I made matthew go around the block again so I could get a picture of him. It looks like Spidey has fled the great metropolis to battle the many hoodlums of Middletown, Delaware. Or, at least to make nice with all of us trying to save 5% on sales tax. He's so good, that Spidey. So decent, and good.

Posted by ribbu at 10:01 PM

May 01, 2008

The Sad Truth

People always tell you that you won't have the time or energy to do anything after your baby is born. I figured this was probably a lot more true for people who had to return to 9 to 5ers after a few weeks of baby time. Which, in my infinite wisdom, I think is probably still true. I get to wake up, feed the baby, and snooze until 10, whilst others only get to snooze until 8 and then head off to work. That being said, it's sure hard to get anything done with one foot rocking the baby bjorn, or while an antsy baby is strapped on to your chest (the current state of affairs).

Add to this the shenanigans of redoing office/living space (part of the reason there is so much dedicated to alden these days is that the rest of our lives are consumed with top-secret remodeling (dad thinks there are spies out to get us on the internet) and our living space is turned completely upside-down - if you live anywhere near chestertown and want to get the low-down, swing by the barn and see what we're really up to - or for the obscenely curious, just email me and I'll send you some pix) and not actually having an office at the moment (computers hidden under sheets to keep from getting congested with wallboard dust etc) and you'll see why I haven't posted in a longish time.

So, that's what's been going on. In the meantime, we are planning to totally upgrade our idiotsbooks website, step one of which is for me to learn how to do some programming. I like how this is step one, because that means that we probably won't be doing a big reveal until like 2012, when all the programming I learn becomes outdated. I'm not even really sure what I need to learn, but I'm thinking javascript and mySQL are sort of at the top of the list. We want for the website to have an easily updateable front page and store, which I think probably means it needs to be database-driven. If there are any geeks out there who can give me some advice, it would be much appreciated. Because I really have no idea what I'm talking about.

Mom and Dad are currently hiking the Inca Trail, which is totally nutso, considering they've never really hiked anything before and they're both pushing 70 (or, in once case, has already pushed 70 and is now pushing 71). I'm just hoping they manage to have fun in spite of the altitude sickness, damp socks, chafing underwear and monkey assaults. After the Inca Trail they're off whitewater rafting on class 5 rapids, which is equally nutso, considering that they've only been rafting once before on a calm and happy little riverlet in west virginia with a short spell of class 1 rapids. I'm just hoping they manage to have fun in spite of the rocky waters, wet socks, piranhas, and mom's natural inclination to fling herself from the raft if it gets tippy. All this is to say that we are still habitating chez bob and seiko, and thus am I updating from their computer, which doesn't have any of our photos on it, which is the reason for the very dry and hard-to-swallow content of this post.

Posted by ribbu at 12:04 PM

March 29, 2008

Signed, Sealed and Delivered

So, in case you haven't been keeping up over on theBarnstorming, I have been awfully busy this week. You see, Monday, along with going shopping, getting things squared away at the bank, and completing our taxes, I went into labor and had a baby girl. It turns out I needn't have worried about having a blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby (3 out of 4 grandparents are super fair and nordic-looking, and I have this theory that all blonde children, no matter how funny-looking, are universally believed to be cute. And there's nothing worse than someone growing up thinking that they're really cute) - mom's genes pulled through. In a major way. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd think little Alden was full-blown chinese. There are moments when she looks like Matthew, but the prevailing opinion is that he had nothing to do with the making of this baby.

So, even though I didn't set the 5 minute 43 second labor record of my dream, I really got off pretty easy, labor-wise. After walking around all morning, we went back into the hospital around 3:00 because the contractions were getting a little too hard to handle on the streets of Chestertown, and Alden was born at 6:30. In fact, labor was so fast that at one point the nurses were all saying, "hold it, hold it! The doctor's not here yet! You just have to hold the baby right where it is" - which, if you've ever been in labor, is nearly impossible to do (or at least it seemed that way to me). It was like my uterus had its own agenda, and it certainly didn't involve waiting around for anyone. I just said, "Uh, okay" and hoped that my uterus would consider my vote along with the nurses' demands.

Anyway - it's been fun so far. Generally speaking, Alden is a good baby. There's plenty of time for her to become a troublemaker, but for now, she takes after me - she just wants to sleep and eat (in that order). I can totally dig that. No high octane activity, and screaming fits are only limited to those times when she can't get what she wants (sleep or food) - just like me. People have come out of the woodwork to offer best wishes, and it's just been really nice to be a part of humanity lately (not my usual stance, I know). So thanks to everyone for all the support - it is much appreciated.

And, the illustration/response project matthew and I had going is obviously on hold, but I hope not for long. Believe it or not, I am tiring of lying around in bed waiting for my nether regions to mend.

Also, I refrained from posting a thousand pictures of my child here, since someone else is already doing it elsewhere (matthew). If you're anxious to hear someone getting endlessly swoony about their child, go over to his blog. I mean, she's alright and all that, but jeez.

Posted by ribbu at 02:14 PM

March 24, 2008

Dream on...

So I had a dream the other night that I was in labor for 5 minutes and 43 seconds. I was congratulated all around on an efficient and record-breaking labor.

Unfortunately, this looks not to be the case. My water broke this morning at 5am, we went to the hospital, got hooked up to machines, and though this baby will be born sometime today or tomorrow, we got sent home because I'm just in "latent labor", which, apparently, means exactly the opposite of what it sounds (I never could get that one straight on the SATs). So, my job for the day is walking and walking and waiting for this to get to be as uncomfortable as it can get before returning to the hospital this afternoon. If I haven't moved things along by tonight, they might have to induce. And so walking is a better alternative.

So, we're off to the bank to deposit some checks, off to the supermarket to buy some diapers and maybe a pacifier (yes, because this is a week early, we are totally unprepared, since I'm never early for anything), and off to the accountants to sign some tax forms. And then, hopefully, off to the hospital to endure some excruciating pain while squeezing a baby out of my, well, you know the drill.

Matthew will likely be updating maniacally over on thebarnstorming, so check in there.

Please, expect much less of me.

Posted by ribbu at 12:09 PM

March 21, 2008

Idiots'Fest 2008: Day 2

Okay -
I know, I know, I know. Idiots'Fest already seems like so long ago now that it hardly seems time to continue writing about it. I mean, the time to continue writing about it was weeks ago. Nevertheless, I think the event was definitely documentary-worthy. And so, better late than never, as the saying goes.

First off, BookPlate was prepared for the masses with multiple copies of Jim's and Brian's books, featured prominently in the front window.
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We also had Victor's book on hand, which didn't really fit in the bookshelf slots, so ended up on top (a short person must have taken the above picture, where Victor's book is nearly cropped out - hm. I wonder who that could be...). Apparently Tom and Sarah (bookstore owners extraordinnaire) also thought that the books "Byrd's Great Adventure", "Facing Death", and "Fruits & Nuts" were somehow appropriate to the Fest. I will not argue. They really know how to sell books.

For some people, Day 2 of Idiots'Fest started at about 5 in the morning. By "some people" I mean Sam and Bill, who had to start up the smoker for the blowout barbecue bonanza that wasn't actually happening until 6 in the pm. People who take their barbecue seriously get up at 5 in the morning. These guys look serious, now, don't they?
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This is what was going on in the rest of the Idiots'Fest venue at 5 in the morning:
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Not much happening. We took this opportunity to go out to breakfast with all of the featured performers. Well, not at 5 in the morning. We came together at the more civilized hour of 10. It occurred to me at 6:30 in the morning that with a party of 15, we probably should have made a reservation. So, I called The Village Bakery, and luckily, being bakers, they were up at 6:30, and happily complied with my request.

Being super pregnant has given me free license to make demands like a double side of bacon without anyone giving me flack (other than matthew). Though you can't see it in this photo, the most excellent Rich Flynn was sitting to the other side of me, gazing at me in unabashed admiration. He's a bacon man.
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I also volunteered to eat the mini donuts that were really more party sprinkles than anything else. I have to admit, this wasn't such a great idea after the bacon bonanza.
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After filling our bellies with all kinds of goodness, we headed over to BookPlate to get folks to sign posters, assembly-line style. Everyone proved to have adequate enough writing skills for the task (if not the appropriate attention span - matthew's signature was conspicuously absent on a number of posters, and he had to be tracked down later to finish the job).
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At this point in the game, Aidan needed to start preparing himself for his upcoming coolness. Apparently, hanging out in the corner behind a drumset is a natural entree into cool, so he was done with that after about two seconds.
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He was wildly successful at being cool all afternoon and all evening, with the help of the drum set and some wicked good drumming skills.

So, the festivities were set to commence at 2:30 pm. Circa 2:23 pm there was not a soul in the room who was not directly affiliated with Idiots'Fest (performers, BookPlate employees, WC students available to help with catering and moving chairs and tables, Bob and Seiko). I must admit, I began to fret. We had asked Pete at Play it Again Sam's next door to stay open late and be an aperitifs vendor and I was starting to worry that we'd personally have to start boozing it up to make his time worthwhile. And, if that were the case, then I was relieved that there were only 12 people in the room to watch the performance. However, at 2:30 exactly, people began to flood the room. And flood. And FLOOD! I was so excited that apparently I forgot to take pictures for the next hour and a half.

So there are no pictures here of Josh Shenk's eloquent introduction, of Matthew's breathlessly excited and twitchy yet remarkably coherent introduction, of Victor's hilarious stand-up routine, of our reading/slideshow accompanied by music, or of Brian Slattery's awesome and compelling reading/singing/sideshow. Slattery ended his set with readings of random books off of the shelves, which were a real coup - "Strange Animals" to 80s synth was especially gratifying, though the biggest hit was the speed metal rendition of "Little House on the Prairie" - the shock and horror in the room was nearly as palpable as the wild delight.

I also neglected to take any pictures of the intermission that followed.

I finally came to my senses during Wecht's string theory lecture, perhaps because he made audience members do ridiculous things to support his arguments, and I was so happy to see that every single person who was called upon to act embraced the task with great aplomb.

See, for example, Victor, best friend Stella, and my very first art instructor Marcy Dunn Ramsey pretending to be subatomic particles cozying up to each other.
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Or best friend Stella's little bro, California Joe, behaving like a very powerful and well-toned *insert name of relevant subatomic particle here*.
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Or this gentleman, who shall remain anonymous (I'm sure he would so prefer) being reduced to nothing by Wecht's almighty hand.
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Wecht didn't want to let that one go, and insisted on mocking him as well.
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Then Matthew introduced our star speaker, Jim Shepard.
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Jim's reading was so wonderful and funny and moving and sad that I once again promptly forgot my duties to record this great event and instead sat in the dark alternately smiling and dabbing at my weepy eyes. I would blame my great emotional swings during the reading on preggo hormones, but the truth of the matter is, I saw some other folks going through the same. So I guess we'll have to chalk it up to a stellar reading.

I came back to my senses when the food arrived - I cannot tell you how frickin' good this brisket was. And the ribs! And the sauce! And the veggies! (Actually, I really can't tell you how good the veggies were because I was collecting money at the door, and by the time I got to eat, the veggies were all gone). But Sam and Wild Bill sure put on a lovely display - there are better pictures of the whole spread, but I was so in love with the brisket that I just took a picture of that. Sorry.
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Matthew and I also received some baby items from our friends JT and Stacey. Look closely at the embroidered endearments on the front.
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Actually, I realize you probably can't read them no matter how closely you look at them. Sorry to mislead you and make you go through all the trouble. The one on the left says "motherplucker" and the one on the right says "joonyer idiot". And so we brim with pride.

After that, it was time for rockin' the house. Textual Healing (the somewhat impromptu band in its premiere performance) was awesome. They even played a remarkably convincing version of Everything in its Right Place by Radiohead. Complete with the "bleeyb-blyee blyee-yib yb-bleee-bleeeb-yb-bleehhh"s that sound all electronica, but apparently flow forth from the mouth of the great Rich Flynn like, um, I don't know, put your own simile in here. That was one of my personal faves, though I think the crowd was most smitten with Don't Stop Believing by Journey. You should have seen the old hippies swarm. Drew's very own Beaver Song and I Don't Wanna Brush My Teeth were also a big hits.
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Of course, everything had to stop for Brian to sign one of his books. For Mom. She literally stood up and stopped the show and said, "Us old folks need to get home. Can you sign this for me now please?" The life of a rock star is just so plagued. Have you no shame, Seiko?
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Apparently not.
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Once mom had gotten her outrageous demands out of the way, the show was able to go on. Matthew stepped in on a number of songs with some wicked harp playing (that's harmonica, for those of you who are wondering where in the world matthew learned to play one of those string instrument-type harps) (if I had only had to live through him learning how to play the string instrument, I would probably love him just a little more than I do now. As it is, Iggy and I both have suffered through the heartbreak of intensive harmonica practice. I hate to say it, but you just love someone less when they've made you go through that) (though, I have to say, the payoff was worth it. He ROCKED.).
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At one point I was even asked to come up and do a reading from a book off the shelves. I chose John Barth's Letters, in part because he's a Chestertonian, and in part because he is an honorary subscriber that rocks. Yes, he gets our silly little books and even sent us a nice postcard telling us he couldn't make the Fest. How awesome is that? Anyway, he was honored with a reading to some improvised soft jazz. I think it came out pretty well, but I was on the other side of the microphone, so who knows. I won't bring it up here, but there were all kinds of arrangements made to make sound recordings of this event, and we found out at the end of it all that none of them worked. So it's all in the ether. No album to be cut. Which is a real shame. But don't talk to Matthew or Drew about it, or you might make them cry.
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Just look how much fun was had. I have no idea what Wecht was doing here, but he sure captured the apathetic rocker pose. Rich Flynn, not so much. That's what I would call JOLLY. The jolly bassist.
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So, the festivities wrapped up around 10:30. Amazingly, a number of people stuck around for the whole event. Play it Again Sam's was packed for a good portion of the evening, allaying my fears that enough booze would be consumed to make staying open worthwhile for them. I think there was one old lady there who probably made it worthwhile all own her own. Once it was all over, we packed up and cleaned up with the help of a lot of really nice people. It was amazing how quickly it went from Fest to empty back room. Those folks at Woodstock hardly left such a light footprint. We obviously had a much more civilized festival than they did.

Once we were all finished, us young folks thought we should do some hanging out and being cool rockers ourselves. We searched all over for an open liquor store, but didn't have any luck. We scraped together some beers that were leftover from the barbecue boys' stash, and headed over to the temporary headquarters of the band (supplied by WC, thank you thank you). Hijinx ensued.
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But only for about 20 minutes, after which we all realized we're getting old and mostly just wanted to go to bed. How pathetic is that?

And so ended Day 2 of Idiots'Fest.

Day 3 was all about recovery and return. We gathered at the barn for brunch (I bought like 4 gallons of coffee from Dunkin' Donuts and there wasn't a drop left) before everyone headed out in their respective directions. Here's the only decent group shot we got:
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I know, I know, I look like a snorking little hunchback, but everyone else looked good, so I did the right thing.

And finally, I got a picture of my two favorite writers. Look how happy Matthew is to be in the company of Jim Shepard. I mean, the boy doesn't glow any brighter than that.
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And then notice how Jim looks like he's a little concerned for his personal safety. Don't worry, Jim. Part of the maniacal grin is due to the fact that two of those gallons of coffee were consumed by Matthew alone. And the rest of it is the glee in knowing that he pulled off this whole event without a single casualty or flesh wound. It really is too bad he accidentally elbowed you in the face right after this picture was taken.

A small price to pay for such a fan-frickin'-tastic event. You honor us with your sacrifice.

Posted by ribbu at 07:06 PM

March 19, 2008

Baby Predictions

So, in case it hasn't been mentioned anywhere else (like here, here, or here), you should all know that in a couple short weeks, I will (hopefully) be having a baby. I am big and fat and if you don't believe me, well, look here:

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Okay, so now that that's established, you should also know that we didn't find out the gender of the baby, for which we have been called both crazy and great (I'm not really sure why this behavior constitutes grounds for such strong reactions, but people seem to have them regardless). I figure that if it was something like a scratch off lottery ticket, where unless I scratched everything off I would never know whether I could have won or not, then I would totally find out. But since all I have to do is wait a while, I figure I can wait. I'm in no particular rush. It's not like we have a nursery or even a small corner to decorate. This baby's going in the laundry basket.

Anyway - because we have opted not to find out the sex, everyone is ready with a guess based on old-time wives' tales. About 95% of people think it's going to be a boy (I'm carrying it all in front, like a basketball) and 3 people think it's going to be a girl (Mom, Matthew, and DunkyB, who admits that she's always wrong when she has a gut feeling about baby gender). I have no clue, but I'm going to say boy, so that either Matthew or I will be right, which will make at least one of us feel good on those dark nights when baby is crying and we're feeling like we had no idea what we were getting into ("Well, at least I figured out it was going to be a boy...")

So, at the Flower Show, Roji told me about the Chinese baby forecasting horoscope. So I looked it up online. The first one that I did asked me for my DOB, my birth time zone, and the baby's likely date of conception. This one said I was definitely having a girl. Then I found another one, that asked for my age and baby's likely date of conception. That one said I was definitely having a boy. Then I looked at baby odds for my age (31) at conception based on this ancient Chinese chart. It said I had a 50/50% chance of girl vs. boy.

So - things are all clear now. It looks like it is likely going to be either a girl or a boy, which is a real relief.

Posted by ribbu at 02:07 PM | Comments (1)

March 17, 2008

New Experiment

So, since we don't have anything else to do with our lives, we decided to start a new project. I had been lamenting the fact that I don't do much plain old illustration anymore. That my days are wrapped up in the anxiety of producing the next Idiots'Book, which seems to require a lot of headwork on my part. I spend lots and lots of time mulling over ideas, trying to figure out what the stories are all about, trying to figure out what style is most suited to the general concept, and then hoping hoping hoping that when I put pen to paper it all comes out the way I wanted it to. Matthew does too, but he is energized by it rather than exhausted. I'm not complaining, though - I realize that most people don't get to just sit around and think about silly little stories and then draw draw draw all day long. But I have to admit to some amount of performance anxiety. If only there were a little purple pill for THAT.

At any rate, we decided that it would be good for me to just have a no-strings-attached sort of illustration exercise every day. And on the days that I really am feeling uninspired, I can just scribble on a post-it and call it a day. So - on the odd days, matthew will send me a written prompt and I'll respond to it. On the even days, I'll send him an illustration and he'll respond to it. My allotted amount of time daily is fifteen minutes, unless I get totally into it, in which case I'm allowed to spend as much time as I want on it. In three days we'll probably get behind and never do it again. But for the time being, Day 1 happened, and I ended up spending a joyful afternoon on it, without any anxiety at all.

Don't expect me to post them all (you see what a miserably inconsistent blogger I've been of late). And also don't expect them to necessarily make any sense or be relevant or anything. Just free association. But here's Day 1.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Boneman Travis cut a stark profile among the pretty girls of Evars Street. He was thick as a tree and mean like two snakes. He ate daydreams and laughed. He coughed and favorite teacups flew from narrow shelves and shattered. He was a big man in a small space and that was how he liked it.

Sally "Frito" Jones saw his game from across the river. She bribed a man to get a boat, put on a red mask to make herself seem dangerous, and set out to sell the Boneman some swampland. The years away from the old neighborhood had changed her such that he could not now recognize the crumpled features of the girl he had once ruined.

It was a crooked tango that they danced.

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Posted by ribbu at 06:05 PM

February 24, 2008

Idiots'Fest 2008: Day 1

Okay, it's been over a week now since the big shindigenanigans, and neither of us has yet to post about it. We are very good about posting about little nothings, like our dog and my increasing girth, but when something REALLY important comes along, we're just unable to put it all to paper/pixels. The reason here is that Idiots'Fest was so great and awesome that it totally blows my mind to even think about. So many things went JUST RIGHT and there were so many great moments and there was so much that just flew by because we were both running around like crazies that it's hard to even know where to start.

That being said, I think it makes at least nominal sense to start with Day 1. (btw, I just looked up "nominal" to make sure it meant what I thought it did (it only kind of did, but whatever) and the fourth definition listed was this: 4 informal (chiefly in the context of space travel) functioning normally or acceptably. What the...? I wonder how often THAT definition comes up...) So, Day 1 was the kick-off event at the Rose O'Neill Literary House at WC. Matthew and I did a reading with Drew and Brian underscoring us. We read Unattractive and Inadequate and debuted Volume 14 (can you believe it? It's already written and drawn - even though Vol. 13 has yet to be sent out! Thanks, baby, for making me have to do advance work!). If you're at all intrigued, Volume 14 is called "The Vast Sahara". Brian and Drew rocked it with some crazy middle-eastern influenced jazz or something (can you tell I'm not a musician?) - trust me, it sounded awesome. We actually got a recording of it, so someday once it's mixed down, I'll post it (apparently matthew was yelling into the mic so drew needs to pull him back a little bit on the recording). There was a fair turnout of the college crowd and some community members, and the rest of the performers for Saturday trickled in throughout the evening.

During the break between sets, there was a demo in the press room showing how the broadsides were made. I got to crank one of the suckers through - Emma and Mac had already printed the black plate and most of the yellow plates, but left a few of the yellows for the demo. Check out my mad letterpress skillz:

How cool is that? I love printing. There's something so gratifying about the fact that you can just crank out as many of those things as you want, if you have enough paper and ink. There's something about multiplicity that I'm a real sucker for. I don't care what someone's doing, if they do lots of it, it's just plain impressive. Yeah, okay, it's a lame way to pass judgement, but what can I say, I have no standards. Quantity over quality, every day. Isn't that how the world goes 'round, anyway?

Some other folks got to print their own broadsides too:

Can you tell we're related?

Anyway. They turned out beautifully, and I only wish we had sold lots and lots more of them. We did our best to hype them up:

And then matthew and I tried our best to match talent with brian and drew, but they totally rocked us out:

From the looks of this picture, they're being very casual about their rockittude, but trust me, they were amazing. It was all improvised (they had never even seen or read The Vast Sahara and hadn't really played with each other in years) and they really did a stellar job. I keep thinking to myself how excruciating this whole event could have been if the (self-proclaimed impromptu) musical talent had been mediocre, or even talented but unable to mesh. I wasn't worried, but the greatness that was evidenced really brought into focus the potential for it to have been really really bad. If one cog had been off, it really could have sucked. But it didn't. Thank goodness, because then next year we might have had to call the festival Subscribers That Suck. It just doesn't have the same ring to it.

We finished off the evening by setting things up for the band over at Bookplate. There were still some random things in the back room, which Matthew put to good use.

There were lots of shenanigans, some pizza and some belly shots, and we got to hang out a little with Bren, who is officially our most dedicated subscriber, bringing in some dozens of new subscribers from her home state of Iowa. There have never been so many idiots in the great midwest.

There was also lots of fiddling and faddling with sound equipment that left the ladies glazed and irritable. But I suppose it was all necessary. We parted ways for the night around midnight, abuzz with anticipation for the main event.

And by "abuzz with anticipation" I mean "completely physically and mentally exhausted".

Posted by ribbu at 11:52 AM

February 13, 2008

Barbecue on the Horizon

For those of you who are not already aware of this, Idiots'Fest 2008: Subscribers That Rock is happening this weekend. THIS WEEKEND! Which means that Matthew is getting twitchier by the minute, and I am falling into the stupor of denial (some might blame it on pregnancy).

Now, this weekend's events will include all kinds of awesomeness, most notably Jim Shepard (National Book Award finalist and all-around great guy) and Brian Slattery (first-time novelist and full-time rocker), but I'm going to reveal to you, here on this blog, the secret recipe for the C-town coup:

Alright, now, this isn't the most flattering picture ever, and you might be thinking, "Holy Shit! Is Hall & Oates going to be there?! Are they even still alive?? And did they totally get haircuts???" unless, of course, you're big fans, in which case you know that they are still alive, didn't get haircuts, and will be (gently) rocking Atlantic City come April. For those of you who aren't big fans of Hall & Oates, I guess it wouldn't be such a big draw, then, to imply that they might be coming to C-Town. So - the truth of the matter is, these guys are going to be catering Idiots'Fest. And they aren't small-time caterers who just throw a pig on a stick and turn it while getting themselves equally baked. No no no - Sam (on the right) has catered for the stars, year after year, at Wolf Trap, which is, for those of you who don't know, a huge music venue outside of DC. He is putting together a menu for us that is just unbelievable - including barbecue ribs, brisket, slow-cooked chicken breast, stir-fried veggies, sesame noodles and some kind of tofu dish that includes almonds and mandarin oranges, which automatically makes it an A++ in my book. They came last week and showed us some pix from past events - I had no idea we were dealing with such hotshots. Wild Bill (on the left) is sort of like the honorary crazy uncle to the Behr family - he has come up to Alaska with us many a summer, and works the Philadelphia Flower Show with us every year. So, he's only a hotshot-by-association. I imagine he could probably turn a pig and get baked with the best of them, though. But Sam's the real deal. And to top it all off, they are both just the nicest damn guys you'll ever meet.

All this is to say if you aren't tempted by great literature and music, at least be tempted by a cheap meal ($10, all you can eat!) that promises to be delectable, and prepared by capable and kind hands.

Posted by ribbu at 12:36 PM | Comments (1)

February 11, 2008

A Fistful of Oscars

So, I have this cat. He's fat. He's golden. His name is Oscar. (I also have another cat who is also fat, but who is black and pissy and not named Oscar, and therefore, not what this entry is about). He's a handsome and noble fellow, but willingly gives up the spotlight when needed.

This is Oscar.

But he's not the Oscar who this entry is about. This entry is about Oscar, the other golden one, who is handsome and noble and may not be fat, but is definitely very, very heavy, and willingly shares the spotlight with the stars on Oscar Night. Since the Academy Awards show is on the horizon, I thought I'd write about my run-in with Oscar. I've never been a big follower of the awards shows, but my mom used to be a real devotee - she would watch every year, with the commercials and everything, as the show went longer and longer into the night as the years went by. Until, one year, she accidentally set the barn on fire because of her Oscar devotion. It didn't burn down, but there was a lot of damage. In her rush to get home to watch the Oscars, she had forgotten to turn off her hotplate, thus setting her tea kettle alight, thus catching the numerous pieces of dried flora, dusty towels and other flammable detritus about on fire, thus eventually burning up a bunch of stuff in her studio (or so legend has it). Luckily, a good friend of ours was walking by because he was not at home watching the Oscars, and noticed that there was smoke pouring out of the bottom of the barn. The proper authorities were called, and now mom makes yearly donations to the volunteer fire department and gets all tense on Oscar night.

But this entry really isn't about my mom and Oscar either.

This entry is about me and Oscar. Yes, I have been fortunate enough to have a real life Oscar in my hot little hands. He was heavy but polite, and didn't seem to mind my gripping him firmly by the legs and caressing his buns.

I won this Oscar for my good work being Matthew's dialect coach in A Matter of Justice - yes, look on down the list and you'll see that he starred as "Matt". That's really him. He had to master a true Alabama accent. And, you know how I am with the accents. The Academy was so impressed with his metamorphosis from suburban Kansan to Alabama country boy in four short lines that they gave me the Oscar. It was their one shining moment of really recognizing true talent.

Ok. Actually, that's a lie. That's why you shouldn't believe anything that you read on a blog. I have no one to stop me. This particular Oscar was actually awarded to Sidney Glazier, producer of The Eleanor Roosevelt Story. I just happened to be at his daughter Karen's house, was snooping around, found it, and was wondering why they had a fake Oscar sitting around. "What's the gag?" I thought. No gag. It was real. I was humbled in his presence. So asked if I could have my picture taken with him. Karen was kind enough to let me, but just to add to the authenticity, I asked for another picture with her in it too.

Just in case you don't believe I'm friends with a swank novelist whose father won an Oscar.

FYI, you also shouldn't believe everything you see on a blog. I'm a real whiz with Photoshop.

Posted by ribbu at 12:19 PM

February 06, 2008

Some People Just Shouldn't be Allowed to Have Babies

So, yesterday I had to go in and pre-register at the hospital for delivering this big fat baby of ours. I had a bunch of paperwork I was supposed to fill out beforehand, so I diligently went ahead and started working on it. It was asking for all kinds of information, like your medical history, how often you drink alcohol, "Mother's Maiden Name" "Mother's Married Name" "Mother's Date of Birth". So I'm filling this thing out answering the questions and putting my mom's information in all the places they ask for it. The farther down the form I got, I started to wonder - why the hell do they need to know my mom's level of education? Or her social security number? Why aren't they asking anything about my dad???

Silly me. I'M the mother in question. Not MY mother. I had to scribble everything out like a moron who didn't know her own name.

Fit for parenting? You decide.

Posted by ribbu at 11:50 AM | Comments (1)

February 04, 2008

Explorer Experiments

So, we are putting together a pre-Idiots'Fest program that will be happening up at the Lit House at WC on Thursday afternoon (4:30, if anyone's interested in dropping by). It's basically a talk about the kind of collaboration we do (the kind that makes books, not babies) - and so we've been going through old projects and seeing the different paths we've taken to get them to their finished states. Matthew has kept a box full of old papers and whatnot (which we all know I would have thrown away in a heartbeat), that have proven to be of great archaeological interest.

We found some failed initial attempts at the French Explorers, which must have been so bad in my estimation that Matthew claims never to have seen them before (though somebody must have dug them out of the trash). I remember drawing them and falling into a profound funk for a couple of days, because they didn't come out all magically like things sometimes do.

I think the magic of the final explorers lay in the paper - although, ultimately I think it was the combination of the paper and the gouache... the difference between the black and white versions and the color versions is pretty remarkable.

There's just something about adding the color that makes it pop. I learned in school that an illustration that isn't legible in black and white isn't going to be successful in color, but I have to say that the way I draw seems to always be greatly improved (legibility-wise) with color.

Anyway. It all goes to show that sometimes the right tools make a project. And that sometimes, when you're not feeling it, you're just not feeling it. And that you should just go into a funk for a couple of days and try again later.

Posted by ribbu at 01:56 PM

January 30, 2008

Marriage does WHAT?!

Ok. Prepare yourselves for a rant.
Have any of you seen this billboard around?
CFOC2440_WED_2-Shts_Blk.02.jpg

We used to pass this billboard every day on the way in to work (back in the good old Baltimore days) and it used to make me fall into an apoplectic rage every time. First off, I'd like to know who it is that is sponsoring this nonsense. I sure hope it's not my tax dollars. Actually, I just looked it up. I have no idea who supports it, but luckily it's not inadvertently me. It's the same people who are promoting abstinence, which I don't have a problem with (having been a teen who had no luck bagging a man, promoting abstinence just makes me feel like I was principled and unattractive instead of just unattractive). Anyway. What gets my goat is that someone actually thinks that if they write that on a billboard, some kid is going to walk by and be like, "Oh? WELL then. I guess I'll get married, instead of, like, getting out of this fucked up relationship." Marriage only works if the RELATIONSHIP works. And it's a really really REALLY bad idea if the relationship doesn't work (how many women do I know who are like, "If I can just get him to marry me, everything will be great!" - or how many men who are like "Well, maybe if I finally get her the ring, she'll stop being a total bitch" WRONG WRONG WRONG, PEOPLE!!) Oh, boy, my blood pressure is rising just thinking about it. But I guess if you're stupid enough to think, unequivocally, that "marriage works" just because a billboard tells you so, then you deserve to get married and find out the truth. I'm not saying marriage doesn't work, but if you're in doubt, you probably shouldn't be thinking about it, or doing it just because a billboard said so. Oy. Idiots.
But then, on Monday, we were in Baltimore again and I spotted THIS billboard. The top of my head nearly popped off I was so crazy with rage:
CFOC2440_WED_2-Shts_Blk.01.jpg

WTF?????????????
So... if you're not going to fall for the "Marriage Works" line, well, shit, DO IT FOR THE MONEY. What the hell kind of message is THAT sending???

HOLY CRAP I almost burned it to the ground right there. I nearly drove off the road. My body temperature went from 98.6 to 175 in like a nanosecond. I looked like one of those cartoons with steam coming out of my ears and my eyes popped out of my head. It was ugly.

Matthew tried his best to calm me down, but since I'm married to him, I just ignored him.

Posted by ribbu at 02:35 PM | Comments (5)