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The New Kid

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ve seen this gigantic head and the kid that comes with it.

I’ve come to know him by his hair, which is unsubtle and magnificent.

So when Robbi suggested that the time had come to cut the hair (presumably to make it easier to wash, brush, and generally care for, etc.), I was understandably concerned.

As was August.

His objections were many. What if I don’t look like me without my hair? What if people don’t like me? What if I can no longer produce piercing noises that irritate everyone?

August and I lobbied and pleaded and pleaded some more.

But if you’ve ever met Robbi, you will know that she has an iron will and that when she decrees, that this or that will come to pass, you don’t just agree with her, you agree with her cheerfully.

August is a quick sketch.

Robbi returned to her sketching, issuing the sentence and then leaving me to do the awful deed. 

It was over in moments.

The result was less awful than predicted.

He still looks like himself (if somewhat less so).

People still like him.

And he is still more than capable of making those awful noises.

For a long time, I’m not sure he even realized his hair was gone, but then, last night, in the middle of our third and final book of the evening, it seemed to suddenly hit him.

“Oh man! My hair is gone.”

And with it, a little piece of my heart.

Bobbledy in Reisterstown

Last fall at the Baltimore Book Festival, we met two librarians by the name of Lisa and Rachel. We liked them and they liked us. One thing led to another, and we decided to take things to the next level. By which I mean, we signed up to do a reading and children’s book making workshop at the library where they work.

That would be the Reisterstown Library. I wish that I had taken a photo of its lovely brick exterior.

Alas, I was more preoccupied with documenting my lunch, which transpired at a little deli a few blocks away.

Once we arrived, there was the matter of setting up. The Reisterstown library had a special events room for us, with various tables and chairs to configure exactly as we pleased.

While we were setting up, Robbi noted that my shirt was full of holes and not up to her lofty standards.

I took offense to this, of course.

But did I disagree? I did not. Fortunately, the kind librarians of Reisterstown were prepared for such a contingency, providing me with a Summer Reading Program 2014 t-shirt. It is green and remarkable. You will see it in the pictures that follow.

Once the program began, the first order of business was reading some of our books to the kids.

They were generally attentive and appreciative, etc.

Next up was the book making. Robbi explained how it worked.

And the kids dived right in.

 

While Lisa the librarian looked on enthusiastically.

Check out their amazing work.

  

Once again, the kids got the concept right away.

While they were working. Kato did his best to plug our books. I swear we didn’t put him up to it.

I swear.

But the kids were too busy to notice.

They were illustrating their very own mix-and-match books and could not be distracted.

Some took bold, experimental leaps.

  

Others took a more traditional approach.

It was incredibly fun to see what the kids came up with.

And, of course, I felt doubly great to be wearing my brand-new, bright green, Summer Reading Club 2014 t-shirt with no holes in it.

FIZZ BOOM READ!, indeed.

Robbi paused to take a careful look at one girl’s work.

Check out the combinations as we flip through the pages.

New shirt.

New head.

New legs.

New head (with two extra arms).

   

So much good cheer! So much amazing work. It was immensely gratifying.

One young man threw form and structure to the wind and drew this dragon on the title page.

And an excellent dragon it was.

While we signed books for a few young fans…

Kato kept trying to push our products. (I later found out that he was laboring under the false impression that he was working on commission).

We had a fantastic time sharing our work, making books, and hanging out with the families of Reisterstown. Thanks to everyone who came out to spend the afternoon with us. And thanks especially to Rachel Medina and Lisa Dibbern of Reisterstown Library, quite possibly the two greatest librarians (who are not my mother, who is, of course the greatest librarian) in the world.

Go support the Reisterstown Library. They have amazing programing all the time, including great events for kids (apparently, there was recently a rocket making workshop, I kid you not).

If you missed this event and are glum about it, keep in mind that we’ll be giving two more reading/workshops this spring, one at the North Point Library on May 10 and another at the Hereford Library on May 17.

North Point Library
Saturday, May 10, 2014
2:00-4:00pm
Space is limited to 20
Call 410-887-7255 to register

Hereford LIbrary
Saturday, May 17, 2014
3:00-4:00pm
Space is limited to 20
Call 410-887-1919 to register

Though, as Rachel and Lisa have pointed out, it’s basically impossible that these events will be as good since they aren’t happening in Reisterstown.

 

Easter in the Barn

Actually, we spent not much of Easter in the Barn. We woke here, to be sure, and discovered that the Easter Bunny had decided to continue the long-held Behr family tradition of filling baskets with supersized bags of Doritos.

Log ago, before she had any clear concept of how Easter was supposed to work, Robbi’s mom Seiko (who immigrated from Japan in her mid-20s, if you don’t know) learned from a friend of hers that you’re supposed to “fill baskets with treats” and present them to your children on Easter morning. Seiko went to the grocery store, looked around, and grabbed the best treats she could find. Hence, the Dorito tradition was born.

The kids were pleased with their haul. But Doritos were not the only Easter treat. Grandpa John showed up with a box of pastries from Evergrain.

After stuffing ourselves with sun buns, muffins, and the like, we headed over to Bob’s yard for an egg hunt. For some reason, the Easter Bunny had decided to hide our loot there. Perhaps it had something to do with our lack of a yard.

The kids fanned out and set to work.

Many delightful discoveries followed.

As did various Easter-motivated photography.

After we had liberated all colorful plastic objects from Bob’s yard, we continued our tour of Queen Street, heading a few blocks further to my mom’s house, where we proceeded to plant the sprouts we’ve been growing in the window box for the past few weeks. And by “we,” I mean Robbi and the kids. My thumbs are not green. I do not understand the horticultural impulse.

Robbi, on the other hand, is all about it.

Later, we packed some sandwiches and headed to the “rainbow” playground of Centerville. The kids love it for its multi-colored slides and wooden train.

The day was sunny (if somewhat crisp), so we took out the football and tried to teach August a thing or two.

But he seemed to already know how it worked.

Grip the ball while running wildly toward your opponent, doing everything possible to keep him from taking it away from you.

I didn’t say he was any good at it.

Easter culminated with a salmon feast followed by popsicles on the back deck. Alden and Kato used the occasion to conspire about something or other.

Easter is in the books for another year. The children have just gone to bed, so now we will go through their baskets and throw away all but a few small pieces of candy. When they inquire, we will feign ignorance, smile sweetly, and remind them that Halloween is just six months away.

Matthew Draws - The Answers

It’s the Friday. It’s a time of revelation. By which I mean, I’m going to reveal who I was trying to draw and your reaction will likely be deep insights into the nature of human error.

Here is my first unwitting subject.  

Many of you mistook this person for a woman, which will be hilarious to you when you see the source photo. This is a man. A very masculine man.

But first, your lady guesses.

  • A severe and humorless European autocrat (female) – OR Gabriel Byrne. 
  • Annette Benning
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Ann Bancroft
  • Dame Judi Dench (but a terrible likeness) 
  • Ellen!
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: title character
  • Suze Orman
  • My grandmother
  • Stern old lady…Hillary Clinton, maybe? 
  • Wow…probably a woman? 
  • Gertrude Stein (“A rose is a rose is a…my god, has my right eye always been higher than my left?”) 

And for the men:

  • Christopher Walken 
  • Andy Rooney, circa 1985 (in his finest pearls) 
  • Dracula
  • Michael Douglas
  • And my favorite answer: “I don’t usually enter online contests. But when I do, I prefer ‘Matthew Draws’ (the most interesting man in the world, sans goatee, if he were played by Christopher Walken)

And for the answers that defy gender classification:

  • Thanks for fueling my nightmares. 
  • I thought this was an old rockstar dude. My boyfriend thought it was a woman. We are confused. 
  • The closest thing to a correct answer: “Al Pacino…as a woman…so, Alice Pacino?” 

Alas, this is not Alice Pacino, but good old Al himself. God help me if he ever sees my drawing . I might end up swimming with the fishes.

Next up, then, is the drawing I’m most proud of.

 

And no fewer than six of you rewarded me by correctly guessing the identity.

However, we still had a good deal of gender confusion in the works.

Here are the man guesses:

  • Conan O’Brien
  • Craig Fergeson 
  • Jason Segel
  • Jimmy Fallon
  • John Lithgow
  • Jonah Hill, circa 2017 (in his new ad for Weight Watchers) 
  • Mr. Friendly Pointynose
  • That guy from Friends!
  • Tom Hiddleston or Benedict Cumberbatch
  • I want to say Aaron Paul, but he wouldn’t wear a collared shirt

And the gender-nonspecific guesses:

  • A Zombie? Like the undead variety. Not the Rob variety. 
  • No clue – but I admire your unflagging determination
  • Definitely either Ellen Degeneres or Michael Phelps. Definitely.
  • Clay Aiken

And, finally,  the lady guessses:

  • Oh, wait. There were no incorrect lady guesses.

Which brings us to the right guesses.

  • ELLEN DEGENERES DUH GOOD JOB MAFFEW!
  • Ellen DeGeneres (though, again, we had a gender debate, but with Ellen that makes more sense) 
  • Ellen! Ellen! Ellen! (Or post-surgery Clay Aiken?)
  • Ellen (Totally got this one on my own. No internet searching. My wife cheated.)
  • Ellen?

What I love is that everyone thought I’d drawn a man except for the people who recognized Ellen. For the record, I think the zombie guess is not entirely unfair. I’m also flattered (and a little concerned) that Matthew Draws is now a forum for confession of cheating wives.

Here we go. Once in every version of Matthew Draws something goes horribly wrong. And that horrible thing usually happens to the fetching young thing of smooth skin and delicate features.

This time, the gender of my subject was not in question. But her identity eluded all but two of you.

She is not “a very startled Shannon Dougherty” or “another plastic surgery victim (the emotions are all gone).”

She is not Bertha or Janine Garafolo or Joan Jett or Katy Perry or Lana Turner or Rosanna Arquette or “one of the Olsen Twins.”

She is not Cat Power and Suzanne Vega’s love child.

She is not “dat gurl whose husband died…and her husband was batman.”

Not “that chick who plays Donna from Dr. Who.”

Not Christine Baranksi on a bad hair day

Not “Debby Harry? Love IS so confusing.”

She might be “Scared, happy, and confused,” but that is not the right answer.  

Not “that woman from the real housewives of somewhere”

Not “Lindsay Lohan getting mugshotted yet again”

Nope, this is Zooey Deschanel, or, as one of you even more accurately put it “Zooey Deschanel about to be hit by a bus.”

She does take vacancy to a whole new level, doesn’t she?

Which brings us to my final drawing, which I selected thinking it would be a no-miss affair.

This person’s face is so distinctive, so idiosyncratic, and so full of ridiculous features to draw on, I was certain that each and every one of you would guess it right.

But that was before I did the drawing.

Not Bones, Dan Rather, Eugene Levy, Lewis Black, Robert De Niro, Marv Albert,  Sam Donaldson, or Mr. Spock.

Not “cigarette smoking man from the X Files.

Not Gilbert Gottfried (based solely on the space between his eyes).

Not “some smarmy politician”

Not “Putin, wondering if there are enough ethnic Russians in Kent Co to annex it as well”

Delightfully, five of you got it right, This is Mr. Bean, AKA Rowan Atkinson.

And NONE of you thought I’d drawn a woman. Thanks for that.

Onward, then, to the bonus question, which is always my favorite part of Matthew Draws.

BONUS: Which one of these people seems most qualified to perform an emergency appendectomy, and why?

  • Christopher Walken. He may not know “how” to do an appendectomy. But he has connections
  • Probably some smarmy politician. They steal from us already
  • That #4 looks like he wants to cut somebody. 
  • The gold chain on person #1 says “I’m a surgeon, baby.” I’m going with him.
  • Ellen becasue even in a near-death scenario, shed have you ROTFL-ing, and maybe in the midst of that ROTFL, you would L your appendix right out. (Translation for the unhip: ROTFL = rolling on the floor laughing)
  • Andy Rooney in pearls, because I’m pretty sure he knows a thing or two about useless organs. 
  • Ellen would seamlessly weave the emergency appendectomy into her Oscar hosting, probably call on actors who play doctors, and make it funny. 
  • #1 probably performs them by ripping them out with his/her hands. But then probably eats them, so I”ll go with #4, who looks like he could at least concentrate long enough to do it,
  • Since I have zero confidence in the accuracy of any of my guesses, I’m gonna have to extrapolate from facial expressions. #4 seems way too nefarious and #2 far too happy, so I’m ruling them out. #1 looks serious enough for the job, but her unaligned eyeballs make me doubt whether she could visually differentiate between my appendix and my vas deferens, so I’m gonna go with #3, who at least seems very AWAKE, always a plus in a surgeon. 
Thanks, as always, to all of you who dived right in and put it all on the line, braving certain calamity for the sake of something that is not quite art.
I’m off to draw another batch. If there’s someone you’d like to see me draw, drop me a line. Otherwise, I’ll scour the rosters of the famous for more innocents.

 

 

Nice Props from USA Today

Whitney Matheson of USA Today’s Pop Candy blog was the first person of note in the national media to write about us Idiots back in 2007, when she listed us above her “personal faves” in the independent comics world (alas, that link seems no longer to be available). Not long after, she wrote a piece about the series of One Page Wonders DIY recombinables we did for Tor.com. (Feel free to download, print, and make these free, single-page comic/book/whatsits).

Back then, we were thrilled to be counted among pop cultures “hip and hidden treasures,” and were not just a little grateful for Whitney’s help in becoming slightly less hidden.

It’s been a few years since we’ve heard from her, but yesterday Whitney paid us the compliment of sharing our TEDx talk with her readers, as well as linking to several of our titles and filling them in on the past few years of our creative evolution. It’s a nice little piece if you care to read it. Now, instead of being hip and hidden, we are “charming,” which seems like a fair substitute. 

Pop Candy has a new look now, but it’s the same old fun, interesting, timely content. Plus, the new format gives us the ultimate thrill of being included in a grid that includes Nic Cage.

Thank you, Whitney! Hello, world.

 

Auction: Oven Robot

In honor of the Bobbledy robot week, here is the latest auction.

Buy it to fuel your dreams of conquest or buy it to frighten your children. It is an extremely versatile illustration.

Here are some process pics.

The initial sketch (which doubles nicely as a print-your-own coloring book sheet (for frightened children to color, of course).

Here is the pen-and-ink version before Robbi added color.

Here is Robbi painting the clouds and the sky.

Here is the chicken slowly roasting in the oven. 

I can almost taste the bubbling, crispy goodness.

And here is an up-close glimpse of the terror-stricken bird.

If you are still among the camp that thinks that Robbi is “cheerful,” “sweet,” and “nice,” I’m sorry to tell you, but this is a more accurate portrait of her inner landscape.

I rather like it.

Here’s that link again. Bid away, friends. Bid away.

 

Behold, the Chicken Smoothie

A month or so ago, I got my dream blender, and if that sounds like a silly sentiment, then you’ve never met a Vitamix. The Vitamix is an extraordinary machine that probably deserves its own post. But know this: it can turn anything into pure, undifferentiated liquid. Anything. Put in an entire, unpeeled pineapple and the Vitamix reduces it to delicious (if slightly more fibrous) pineapple juice. Tired of peeling ginger? Don’t bother. The Vitamix can even mill grain. It is not a blender. It is a wonder.

I have been using it to make fantastic smoothies in the mornings. Blueberries, strawberries, cacao, goji berries, hemp, chia, honey, cinnamon, ginger, lemon, yogurt, milk, and a bit of protein. Just the thing to jump-start a day.

Admiring the prowess of the vitamix, I’ve been wondering if I might also use it at noontime. Often I have a chicken breast and various leftover as sides. What would happen, I wondered, if I put it all in the Vitamix and made a chicken smoothie. Robbi contended that it was a horrible idea. Which made me all the more anxious to try.

Given that I was making a chicken smoothie, I started with a grilled chicken breast. I did not take a photo of the chicken breast, a thing I now regret .

I did, however, photograph the leftover brussels sprouts.

And the leftover ziti.

There were only a few tablespoons of minced garlic left in the rather large plastic tub, so I decided to throw them in.

Ditto the various pickled vegetables.

I found half a head of old Romaine, and decided it might harmonize well with the other ingredients.

Which included a not-unsubstantial portion of chopped spinach.

And a bit of pickled eggplant.

I put it all in the Vitamix and added some milk.

And a lot of Frank’s hot sauce. A lot.

I flipped the switch and watched the magic happen.

I was so excited about the chicken smoothie that I forgot to photograph it when the glass was full.

So here it is with the glass half empty.

Which in this case is not the reflection of a pessimistic attitude, but rather, an indication of a most delicious lunch.

I persuaded Robbi to take a sip, which she did not enjoy. She did, however, admit that if I put it in a bowl, warmed it up, and called it “soup,” she might be able to get behind it. For some reason, drinking it out of  glass and calling it a “smoothie” was not welcome.

Where’s her sense of adventure, I say?

 

TEDx!

Here at last is the video of our TEDx talk of a few weeks back! We’re super excited to share it with you, in spite of the fact that it has taken us this long to get it up on the site. Believe it or not, as excited as one can be to have done a TEDx talk, it’s actually kind of excruciating to have to watch yourself give the talk. It has taken us this long to try to watch the entire thing, and, frankly, neither of us has made it through yet. And not because we think it’s a bad talk, mind you. It’s just that since we already pretty thoroughly know what it’s about, all that’s left to do is nitpick about how many times we stumbled or coughed or waved our arms around in weird ways (ahem, me). And so we kept putting off posting it until finally it seemed ridiculous that we hadn’t shared it with you all yet. So if something dramatic or embarrassing happens in the final eight minutes, please let us know.

Anyway. Judge for yourselves.

Also, if you will bear with us through the first few minutes, Matthew eventually moves his microphone a bit further from his mouth, thank god.

And so, without further ado… OUR TEDx TALK, IN ALL OF ITS GLORY!!!!

Let us know what you think. Or, don’t. And if you enjoy it, by all means share the link.

Special thanks to all of the folks who helped put this event together and invited us to talk in the first place. We had a great time and enjoyed ourselves immensely, in spite of the butterflies. And also thanks so much to those of you who showed up in person to support us. We couldn’t do any of these things we do without you.

Matthew Draws XXIV

It’s Matthew Draws 24! Give it your best shot!
Um, seriously. Good luck with this one. I think Matthew went into a trance and, well, went blind? Broke both of his hands? I don’t know. Something terrible happened.

I applaud your for your willingness to partake in this monumentally pointless task. Heroes, all. Check back next Friday for the answers. Brace yourselves for disappointment.

To the Winner Goes the Spoils

Apologies for failing to check in after the rounds of 16 and 8. Apologies for letting three full days pass before announcing the results of this year’s Idiots’Hoopla Bracket Challenge.

My passion for this tournament faded hard when my Blue Devils made their dispiriting first-round exit to unheralded Mercer. But you deserve better than my blunted enthusiasm.

And so I will rise up and share the results. Here are the top ten finishers.

Alas, none of you guessed that the eventual champion would be the Huskies of Connecticut, though the seven highest point earners each chose either Arizona, Florida, or Wisconsin to cut down the nets.

Our champion, Topology Kate, chose Arizona, and eked out a narrow victory over rower97bu, who, in addition to needing a tutorial on naming conventions, also chose Arizona to win it all.

But what else can I offer by way of insightful comments? I’m grasping to make sense of it all, that I might not do so horribly next year. Can logic ever overcome emotion? Can we, as a people, learn from our mistakes? History suggests that the answer is no.

Case in point: those of us who chose Duke as champion finished near the bottom of the standings. Note: I am related to exactly all of these people.

Though Tillyhp, bold in her prediction that Louisiana Lafayette would win it all, did even worse.

The tournament is over. I can only take solace in the fact that each of the nine 2014 preseason top-25 polls that I have so far read considers Duke among the top 2-3 teams in the country. Which is to say, my hopes are sufficiently high that the insult of an early-round exit will be all the more crushing next year.

Thanks, all of you, for making your picks and joining the fun.

And congratulations again to TopologyKate, who has earned a free year of Idiots’Books.

Until the Madness returns again next March…