Released today! Beverly – Six intertwined stories that show the underside of suburban life

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See sample pages at Wink.

Nick Drnaso’s Beverly, released today, is a brilliant set of six intertwined stories that show the underside of suburban life. Each story starts off with a smile, while pretty pastel colors and manicured lawns are plentiful. The art is crisp, geometric, simple and orderly. But scratch just a bit underneath the astroturf and horrific, heart-breaking details emerge. Broken-down parents cut their family vacation short after walking in on their sexually-repressed son in the middle of a cringe-inducing act. A teen girl who disappears from the diner she works at isn’t as innocent as her xenophobic town first thinks. A lonely housewife has stars in her eyes when she takes part in a sitcom focus group, only to find out she’s been duped.

With a structure like Richard Linklater’s Slacker and the temperament of Daniel Clowes’ Ghost World, each story of bored, angst-filled teens and desperate adults features at least one character from one of the other stories, and yet each is its own separate tale. I was completely taken in, thinking at times that I was right there sharing the same stifled air as these folks, and now they exist in my mind as memories, rather than pieces of a graphic narrative.

Beverly by Nick Drnaso Drawn & Quarterly 2016, 136 pages, 7.5 x 9.5 x 0.4 inches (softcover) $17 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Japanese in Mangaland – Study the language with manga

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

If you’re like me when it comes to speaking Japanese – extremely clunky with with a limited conversational vocabulary but can read the two syllabaries (katakana and hiragana), this book is a fantastic supplement to further study. Besides the high fun factor of studying with manga (which teaches you to speak like a Japanese person rather than a formal text-book-taught foreigner), it’s the first book I’ve read that clearly explains the grammar (such as when and where to use particles like wa, ga and o), the complicated number systems, conjugating verbs, telling time, etc. I’m also learning some basic kanji as well as silly things you find in manga like exclamations and swear words. Each chapter gives you exercises to do on separate paper with answers in the back of the book. This lesson book is packed with great info on how the Japanese language works, and it’s presented in an interesting way that makes me look forward to picking up the book. I'm really loving it.

However, I have to say that the title of this book is a bit misleading. Yes, we are studying Japanese using manga, but Learning the Basics is a bit of a stretch. The book does touch on the basics but it moves quickly, and if you’re brand new to Japanese, I would hold off on reading this book until you actually have learned the basics.

Japanese in Mangaland: Learning the Basics by Marc Bernabe Japan Publications Trading 2004, 269 pages, 6.8 x 10.3 x 0.9 inches (softcover) $17 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Female teacher in Turkey sentenced to prison for making rude hand gesture

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A female teacher in Turkey was sentenced to almost a year in prison today for hurting President Tayyip Erdogan’s feelings. She made an “ugly gesture” with her hand towards the leader at a political rally in 2014, and in Turkey it’s against the law to criticize official leaders, even if it’s with a quick hand movement.

The teacher isn’t the first to be under fire by Turkey’s sensitive leader. Last February BloombergBusiness reported that Erdogan had charged 67 people for insulting him – including Miss Turkey, who’d written a satirical poem about the president – which was an average of one person for every three days since he’d been elected president in 2014. Read the rest

Plane passenger snaps photo of shadowy humanoid walking on cloud

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This incredible photo, shot from a plane at 30,000 feet, captures what looks like a silhouette of the Iron Giant strutting across a cloud. When passenger Nick O’Donoghue, who was on his way back to Ireland from Austria, first saw the image, he thought he was hallucinating. But his two colleagues, sitting next to him, saw it too, so he whipped out his camera and caught these cool images.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t really the Iron Giant (damn!), but more likely an optical illusion known as Fata Morgana, or a mirage, according to weather experts. Thanks Daily Mail! Read the rest

Airlines with the highest –and lowest – safety ratings

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They say that flying is safer than driving. In fact, according to travel statistics, the odds of dying in a car crash is 1 in 98 in a lifetime, while the odds of dying in a plane wreck is 1 in 7,178 in a lifetime. Still, when plane accidents do occur, they’re usually catastrophic, and it doesn’t hurt to know your airline’s track record before climbing on board.

So let’s start with the good news. Australia’s Qantas has never had a fatality and is considered the safest airline to fly according to AirlineRatings.com. Other airlines on their top twenty list of safest airlines include (alphabetically):

Air New Zealand, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Etihad Airways, EVA Air, Finnair, Hawaiian Airlines, Japan Airlines, KLM, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airline System, Singapore Airlines, Swiss, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Australia.

Now for the bad news. There are 38 airlines that got a rating of 3 or lower (with 7 being the highest, 1 being the lowest). That means 38 airlines that are wobbly when it comes to safety standards. The 10 airlines with a rating of only 1 include (alphabetically):

Batik Air, Citilink, KalStar Aviataion, Lion Air, Nepal Airlines, Sriwijaya Air and Nam Air, Tara Air, TransNusa, Wings Air and Xpress Air.

Click here for the rest of the airlines that landed at the bottom of the list. Read the rest

U.S. states that allow you to keep tigers, monkeys and bears as pets

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Why anyone would want to keep a wild animal like a tiger, monkey or bear as a pet is beyond me. But in the U.S. it’s not a federal crime to own exotic animals – it’s up to the states to decide which animals are legal – with or without permits – to keep as pets. The six U.S. states that have no restrictions on keeping large cats, primates and bears include Nevada, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina. Other states allow primates but not bears and tigers, such as Virginia and Tennessee. Even more states allow all three of these exotic animals to be kept as pets once a permit is obtained. The Humane Society lays it all out for you here: Thanks Tech Insider! Read the rest

Patterns of the Universe: A Coloring Adventure in Math and Beauty

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

I’ve already reviewed a few adult coloring books for Wink and thought I had moved on, but then Patterns of the Universe came my way and I couldn’t resist. When I was editor of Craft Magazine we used to cover projects that involved mathematical crafting, such as crocheting a hyperbolic reef. Although mathematical coloring is a lot simpler, it’s just as fun to see what kind of beauty will emerge when you play with patterns, numbers, and chance.

This coloring book is split into two sections: Coloring and Creating. The first offers your basic color-in-the-lines patterns, but they’re all math based and come with a short description to help you appreciate what you’re beautifying. The second Creating section includes simple instructions on how to create patterns, mostly through randomness, such as Coin Hex, which asks you to choose for your hexagon pattern only two colors (but I chose three). Then you must toss a coin (or number generator in my case) to determine the color for each hexagon. The point of an activity like this? Even though your colored pattern is random, “stare at it and you will see patterns. It’s a reminder that we find randomness very difficult to comprehend.” Very difficult indeed. I'm only one-quarter of the way through Coin Hex and already I see all kinds of patterns popping out of the page.

Patterns of the Universe: A Coloring Adventure in Math and Beauty by Alex Bellos and Edmund Harriss The Experiment 2015, 144 pages, 8.4 x 8.4 x 0.5 inches (softcover) $11 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Listen: David Bowie's little known video game soundtrack

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Here’s some great music from David Bowie that I didn’t know about until today. Even though it was created over 15 years ago it would fit in perfectly alongside his newly released Blackstar.

Released around 2000 for PC and the ill-fated Sega Dreamcast, Omikron was a strange hybrid game that let players do a bit of body snatching around the titular science fiction city…

Bowie is said to have had some input into the storyline, but his most memorable contributions are to the soundtrack and of course his in-game cameos. 'Hours...', the 1999 album Bowie released just prior to the debut of the game, featured a number of songs that had been written just for the game, but were slightly reworked so that they were not so specific to the sci-fi world. They would appear on the Omikron soundtrack in more tribal, remixed forms alongside original instrumentals Bowie also composed for the game.

Read more on Atlas Obscura. Read the rest

IKEA's secret passageways and other behind-the-scenes surprises

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IKEA isn’t just the largest furniture store in the world. It’s also the amusement park of shopping malls – or a claustrophobic shoppers’ hell, depending on both your mood and how mobbed the winding labyrinth of Swedish goods happens to be on any given day.

But did you know that there are secret shortcuts for those who just want to get in and out? The public is allowed to use the shortcuts, but there is no map on where they are. In fact, the shortcuts frequently change so that savvy customers don’t get used to them and bypass the megastore’s intended walkway.

The walkway, by the way, has a code name: Long Natural Way, aka Long Natural Path. Speaking of codes, if you hear an employee announcing “Code 99!” there’s a lost kid roaming the path. If you hear an urgent “Code 22!” blasting through the speakers there are long lines at the registers and help is needed.

If you’re a confused customer there isn’t a code – you’ll have to find an employee and ask for help. Employees are told not to approach customers to see if they need anything (this is the Swedish way).

After hours IKEA actually does become an amusement park, with employees moving the walls (yes, the walls move) to play hide-and-seek and compete in pallet jack races. To add to the merriment, at the end of the year employees receive awesome holiday gifts including electronics and even plane tickets.

Many more Behind the Scenes Secrets of IKEA Employees can be found here. Read the rest

Top 15 bedbug-infested cities in the U.S.

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Terminix has just released its annual list of the top 15 U.S. cities most infested with bedbugs, determined by the most S.O.S. phone calls the company receives about the stealthy blood-suckers. And the winning city for most bedbugs in 2015 goes to… (drumroll) … Detroit! Ohio wins for the state on the list with the most bedbug infested cities (five!).

The rest of the list:

Philadelphia, MI Cleveland-Akron, OH Los Angeles, CA Dayton, OH Chicago, IL Columbus, OH Cincinnati, OH Dallas-Forth Worth, TX San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, CA Denver, CO Toledo, OH Oklahoma City, OK Baltimore, MD New York, NY

No need for hysterics, but if traveling to one of these cities (or any city for that matter!) check out today’s Surefire Way to Spot Bedbugs in the Huffington Post. Their tips include:

1. Setting your luggage down in the bathroom (unless your room has tile flooring) 2. Pulling the bed sheets off the mattress 3. Using your flashlight app on your smartphone to inspect the mattress – including the seams – for bugs as well as small dark blood stains (from the bug’s excrement, if you must know) 4. Inspect the furniture and wall art

A little know-how in spotting these luggage-hopping pests might save you a call to your local bug buster and possibly months of your life trying to eradicate them. Read the rest

Defrost your windshield in half the time with a science-backed method

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You’d think hitting the defrost button in your car on a chilly morning would be the quickest way to defrost your windshield. But not necessarily so, according to ex-Nasa engineer Mark Rober, who has come up with a way to defrost car windows in half the normal time. In his video, he explains how to speed-defrost our car windows, along with a peppy science lesson that backs his method. In a nutshell, here are the four steps:

 1. Blast the heater 2. Blast the AC 3. Turn OFF the air circulation 4. Crack open the windows a bit.

He also offers tips that involve cat litter and shaving cream so that you, too, can become a defrosting ninja.   Thanks Gizmodo! Read the rest

Bite into a pastry, find a diamond

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Tomorrow, buying a puff pastry in a French boulangerie will be as exciting as buying a chocolate Wonka Bar. Almost. But rather than looking for a golden ticket to win a magical chocolate factory, pastry lovers will have the chance of finding a faux diamond hidden in the almond cream of one of 800 galettes, which they can then exchange at a local boutique for a .20 carat diamond worth 600 euros.

On January 6, French bakers Nicolas and Julie Lelut will be holding their treasure hunt at two locations – one in their Paris shop, Delices de Belleville, where a pastry will reward someone with a white diamond. The second hunt will take place at their L’Amandine shop in Custines, where the winning pastry will offer a blue diamond. No word on whether or not they’ll pay the dentist bill in case of a chipped tooth.

Thanks Oddity Central! Read the rest

Picturepedia – Fun facts, trivia and eye candy on every page

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Picturepedia is a highly visual, engaging reference book for kids. Broken up into six sections (Science and technology, Nature, Geography, Culture, Sports and hobbies, and History), this graphic-heavy encyclopedia is jam-packed with nuggets of info on over 150 topics, including electricity, muscles, fossils, gems, Antarctica, great buildings, world languages, cycling, Medieval Europe, Greek myths, castles and spies. Each topic gets two pages, and the book contains over 10,000 photos. I’m a sucker for reference books like these – fun facts, trivia and eye candy on every single page.

Picturepedia: An Encyclopedia on Every Page by DK Publishing Ages 7-12 2015, 360 pages, 10.2 x 12.1 x 1.1 inches $16 Buy a copy on Amazon Read the rest

Wink 2015 Holiday Gift Guide: What Kids Want

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It’s mid-December folks. Like a bullet train. White knuckle time. With parties in motion and merry children abound, it’s time to jump on the fast track with those holiday gifts. And Wink’s gift guide is your golden ticket. The fun stuff on this week’s list focuses on the kiddos in your life. (For grown-ups, check out Gareth Branwyn’s Picks and Cheapies But Goodies Under $20.)

Juxtabo Ages 6 and up $30 Buy on AmazonFull review and more images

Much like a colorful, 3D version of dominoes, Juxtabo has simple rules that allow children as young as six years old to play. The strategy encourages development of quick pattern recognition, but also flexibility as you plan, since the "board" changes with every turn… Juxtabo is the recipient of the 2015 Academics' Choice Brain Toy Award …avid puzzlers beware – Juxtabo just may prove addictive! – Chloe Quimby

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling (author) and Jim Kay (illustrator) (Arthur A. Levine Books) $24 Buy on AmazonFull review and more images

You may have read Harry Potter before, but you've never read it like this. Almost every page features some kind of full-color illustration by artist Jim Kay. Illustrations come in a wide variety of forms, ranging from small page ornamentations to whole page spreads. The full-page illustrations have a ton of detail and color and will likely make you stop mid-page to appreciate them. It never occurred to me that Harry Potter required illustrations, but after reading this it's clear why someone thought they would make for a good experience. Read the rest

Wink 2015 Holiday Gift Guide: Cheapies but goodies under $20

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Already into our first week of December, the holiday month flies by about as fast as the bills spill out of our wallets. But fear not! Wink Books and Wink Fun have some extraordinary gift ideas ($3-$19!) that won’t bust your budget. (For less budget-minded ideas, you can also check out Gareth Branwyn’s 2015 gift list.) Read the rest

A story of a building in Paris that's stood since the Crusades

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See more photos at Wink Fun.

750 Years in Paris is a historical graphic novel sans words as well as a stunning coffee table art book. Paris-based artist Vincent Mahé (aka Mr. Bidon) illustrates 60 snapshots of the same building in Paris, spanning from the year 1265 with cows grazing in front of its humbler beginnings to 2015 in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. With the smallest of details, from words of storefront signs to the clothing of people to the state of the building itself, Mahé is able to subtly and masterfully inject humor, horror, nostalgia, historical facts and pride into his various images.

The back of the book has a timeline to help decipher some of the historical events revolving around the images. For instance, directly quoted from the book (and images shown above):

1515 – Francis I is crowned king and enters the city in a lavish procession. 1804 – Napoleon’s enthronement and imperial troops procession. 1915 – World War 1. 2015 – 4 million in the streets defending freedom of speech.

As I began to write this review, the horror of Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris unfolded before the world, making this newly-released book all the more poignant and significant.

750 Years in Paris by Vincent Mahé Nobrow 2015, 120 pages, 8.4 x 13 x 0.7 inches $18 Buy a copy on Amazon

Read the rest

The Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People Volume 2

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

The Mindfulness Coloring Book came out last January by London-based illustrator Emma Farrarons, and it immediately sold out and became a national bestseller. I think any book with the word “anti-stress” in the subtitle has an excellent shot at success, but Farrarons’ coloring book for adults is also appealing for its pleasing, just-simple-enough modern designs as well as its smaller size, which makes it less daunting than a lot of the other popular adult coloring books out there. Last month Ferrarons came out with a second volume to her book – same size, seem feel, different designs. I’ve spent a couple of family nights coloring while my daughter crafted and my husband read, and I have to say, Farraron is right about the anti-stress angle. Plus it’s been a lot of fun.

The Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People Volume 2

The Mindfulness Coloring Book: Anti-Stress Art Therapy for Busy People by Emma Farrarons The Experiment 2015, 112 pages, 5 x 6.9 x 0.5 inches $8 Buy a copy of Volume 2 on Amazon $7 Buy a copy of Volume 1 on Amazon Read the rest

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