Carla Sinclair

Carla Sinclair is the co-founder of bOING bOING, the founding editor-in-chief of CRAFT magazine, and editor-in-chief of Wink. She has written several books, including Net Chick, The Happy Mutant Handbook, Signal to Noise, and Braid Crazy.

Unbored – A zillion ways for kids to keep busy and engage with life

I’m always amazed when one of my daughter’s friends comes to me and says she’s bored. As if I’m supposed to put on a pair of tap shoes and dance a jig for her. My daughter knows better than to say the B-word, but I can always tell when she’s at a loss for something to do by the way she lies limply across the arm of the couch, her head dangling towards the floor, her voice depleted of emotion. Next time this happens I will suggest Unbored (which, when she picked it up for the first time yesterday, didn’t put it down for almost an hour).

A collection of inspiring activities, projects, and articles on freeing up your creativity (by the authors as well as many other DIY experts, including an introduction by my husband Mark), Unbored offers a zillion ways to keep busy, stay engaged, and connect with the outside world. Start a band, make a zine, teach “your grown-ups” how to geocache, trick your friends into saving the planet, tell your politicians what you think, build a backyard fort, make a pet robot controller… The book is fun, instructional, edgy (create different colors of fire, take an adventurous gap year between high school and college, spray paint your bedroom walls, read banned books), and has insightful lessons on how to engage with life rather than allowing life to pass by like a boring television commercial. And as a parent, it’s nice to be reminded not to fall into the trap of smothering helicopter parenting, passive parenting (screens!), over-scheduled parenting, and all the other pitfalls of modern life that turn our kids into lethargic, helpless, unthinking slugs. Unbored belongs in every kid’s – and parent’s – library.

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films

I saw the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes over the weekend and was amazed by its greatness. I applauded at the end with the rest of the audience. The acting, by both the humans and the “apes,” was superb. The revolutionary special effects – using “performance capture” cgi technology in ways never used before, created the most realistic digitalized characters I’ve ever seen. And the engaging and moving storyline with its themes on war, trust and humanity tied it all together into a perfect package. I love the rare science fiction film that surpasses expectations on every level, and this one hits every mark with incredible precision. So it was with great interest that I opened up Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films, a book that looks behind the scenes and explains the incredible ingenuity and talent that went behind the two latest movies in the Planet of the Apes franchise. With tons of photos that show how the effects were created along with a fascinating narrative that tells the journey of creating these films, this is a behind-the-scenes book that any Planet of the Apes or special effects fan will thoroughly enjoy.

See high-res sample pages from the book at Wink.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Rise of the Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films by Sharon Gosling, Matt Hurwitz, and Adam Newell

What's it like to be hypnotized?

When Carla Sinclair was offered a free hypnotism session, she jumped at the chance. “I wanted to see if a hypnotherapist could actually put me in an altered state of some kind. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but romanticized about meeting a bearded man in a white lab coat swinging a pendulum in front of my face.”

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How to make squash soup [a recipe for kids]

squash-soup
(click image to embiggen) This wonderfully cute yet sophisticated cookbook for children reminds me of when I took my picky 3-year-old to Paris. She lived on bread and butter for a week while I noticed with astonishment that the French children ate whatever exotic dish was put in front of them. American “kid menus” of white mac and cheese and white buttery pasta trains children to fear food that has any real taste or texture to it. The antidote to this is Big Meals for Little Hands, filled with recipes created by French Michelin chef Sébastien Guénard. The book, which has a slick waterproof cover, is divided into seasons, offering dishes such as cold cucumber soup in the summer, a mushroom omelette in the fall, banana fondue in the winter, and deviled eggs in the spring. While these recipes would work beautifully at any adult party, they are also simple, fun, slightly exotic, and will expand your child’s palate beyond chicken nuggets and cheese pizza. (See more pages from this book at Wink.)

The oldest living things in the world

The Oldest Living Things in the World is an amazing hybrid,” says Carla Sinclair, “part traditional coffee table book displaying gorgeous photographs, and part memoir of Rachel Sussman’s journey trekking around the world to photograph the oldest living things that she could find.”

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Incredible Game of Thrones pop-up book folds out to 3D Westeros map

As a big fan of Game of Thrones, I was happy to get my hands on this Westeros pop-up book. But oh my goodness, I had no idea how amazing a pop-up book could be! With five spreads and 33 pops, the book is fun enough as a beautiful pop-up. But then I noticed a mysterious sheet of paper – titled “Unfolding the Map” – taped to the back of the book with illos that looked like origami instructions. Huh? I figured there was a pull-out map inside the book that I missed. But as I followed the somewhat complicated steps (okay, I had to call Mark into the office to help me out, and it took us over five minutes to properly unfold the thing), I realized this wasn’t just your typical paper map we were dealing with – we were unfolding the actual book (almost as tricky to do as one of those intricate puzzle boxes from Japan) until it turned into a very large, interactive, three-dimensional atlas of the Seven Kingdoms.

More photos of Game of Thrones: A Pop-Up Guide to Westeros

TED2013: Takeaway roundup

Every talk this week had a message that could help us shape our personal lives as well as the bigger world around us. I want to conclude my TED coverage with four talks that resonated most with me. The over-arching takeaway here was that obstacles give us the opportunity to think, problem-solve, and create something amazing.

Amanda Palmer: Asking is connecting

Before Amanda Palmer got her alt-rock band Dresden Dolls off the ground, she was an 8-foot living statue for five years. She says her work as a street performer gave her the ability to directly connect with her music fans, which she did by hanging out with them, inviting them up on the stage with her, and getting to know them on a personal level. This unconventional relationship between performer and audience allowed her to turn the music industry's business model on its head. She decided to give her music away for free, and in exchange, she would receive things she needed - a piano, food, a place to crash - just by asking. When she asked for $100,000 on kickstarter, she received $1.2million. By asking people, you connect with them, and by connecting with them, they want to help you. "When we really see each other, we want to help each other. People have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, 'How do we make people pay for music?' What if we started asking, 'How do we let people pay for music."

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TED2013: Bluebrain's location-aware albums

Imagine strolling through New York's Central Park with earbuds, listening to music that changes its melody and emotion as you pass each statue, monument, pond, and play area. For instance, if you are walking towards Bethesda Fountain, the orchestral instruments might build to a dramatic crescendo as you approach the water, and walking past a pond might sound the way a Zen monastery feels. This is the kind of experience TED Fellow Ryan Holladay creates with his "location-aware albums," music apps that use GPS to accompany specific landscapes such as The National Mall and Central Park.

Living between Washington DC and California, Ryan, 31, works with his brother Hays, 29, as the duo BLUEBRAIN, where they experiment with interactive music in big ways. After a few busy days at TED we finally connected for a Q&A.

Do you and your brother write the music for your "location-aware albums?" If so, do you walk around the spaces that the music is intended for before writing it? I guess what I really want to know is how the process works between creating the music and figuring out the space that it will fit into.

Yes, all of the music is written and produced by Hays and me. Although we've had a number of great collaborators, from string players and drummers to opera singers and software engineers. The process of writing music for a park like the National Mall is kind of a strange one. The walls of our recording studio are covered with giant maps that we use to sort of plan out the various ways the music can unfold. It helps to visualize it as we're writing. But then a lot of the process is spending time in the park itself, walking back and fourth testing both the accuracy of the GPS in addition to mapping out the music.

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TED2013: My Top 3 Wednesday TED Talks

Today's TED2013 line-up was once again filled with amazing people with super-charged ideas and skills. I really can’t pick any bests out of the bunch, but here are three talks that stood out for me.

Black: Yo-Yo Performance Artist

Wow! Never has yoyo-ing seemed so elegant, exciting, and dare I say, beautiful. Black is a cross between an amazing yo-yo champion, graceful gymnast, and gasp-inducing magician. He got his first yo-yo when he was 14 and spent hours with it every day. By age 18, after 10,000 hours of practice, he became the world’s yo-yo champion in 2001. But then he quit and became an engineer, thinking that taking the title of World Champ was as far as he could go. He couldn’t, however, squash the yo-yo passion that lived inside him, and by 2007 he was back at it, this time winning World Champion in the Artistic Performance category.

When Black performs, the yo-yo goes from being a toy to a spectacular prop. Wearing black sensei garments, he is precise with his choreography, dramatically moving his yo-yo in time with music that combines percussions with sounds of nature. Later he shoots his yo-yo out towards a nearby table, and suddenly the yo-yo grabs and holds a white cloth napkin, which he reels in with one quick snap. Later the yo-yo is spinning while Black is contorted into a backbend that makes his body seem hardly human.

This video is from the 2011 TEDx Tokyo and only shows a fraction of what he did today. But at least it will give you a peek.

Stewart Brand: Animal De-Extinction

Stewart Brand began his TED talk today with the statement, “Biotechnology is about to liberate conservation.” Before I had a chance to process what that meant, he went on to list a number of birds and mammals that have become extinct in the last few centuries, including the passenger pigeon, which was killed off by hunters in the 1930s. For a moment my mood plunged, as it always does with conversations of human-caused animal extinction. And then he asked the question, “What if DNA could be used to bring a species back?” I felt a tsunami of awe and excitement barrel through the audience. This was as exciting as his declaration about the digital world in 1984 when he said, “Information wants to be free.”

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TED2013: Interview with creators of Romo iPhone robot

One of the biggest charmers at TED2013 so far has been Romo the Robot, who rolled and whizzed around the stage with one of his creators, Keller Rinaudo. With large bubbly eyes, four fang-like teeth, and a happy alien voice, it's easy to forget that this animated robot is actually just an iPhone mounted on a rolling platform.

"We wanted to build a robot that anyone can use, whether you're eight or eighty," Rinaudo told the audience. So he and his two friends - Peter Sodd and Phu Nguyen - all from Phoenix, created Romo, who you can control from an iPad, computer, or another iPhone after downloading its free app. The three twenty-somethings then started their company, Romotive, where you can purchase Romo for $150. I spoke to them after the talk.

What's the purpose of Romo?

Rinaudo: He's just a robot that anyone can program and hack. He's also just fun to play with. You can invite anyone to control Romo from anywhere in the world. We think of him as a robot, but a lot of people buy him for kids, especially because when kids create behaviors for him and they try to train Robo how to do things, they are actually learning about computer science. It's a really cool way to get kids excited about technology and robotics and coding.

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Video of "invisibility cloak" at TED

Yesterday I linked to a video of Baile Zhang's "invisibility cloak," which was demoed at TED2013. The video was hosted by Dropbox, which killed the link (too much traffic). Here's a YouTube version of the same video, courtesy of Ben Kellogg.

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Invisibility Cloak demoed at TED2013

I'm here at TED2013 in Long Beach, jacked up on amazing coffee and mind-blowing ideas from today's 4-minute TED fellow talks (the longer 18-minute talks start tomorrow).

I was only part-way through the first day when I had to take a moment to track down Baile Zhang, an assistant professor of physics at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, who had demonstrated his "invisibility cloak." Now I'll admit, when I first heard of Zhang's invention, I pictured - against common sense - an invisibility cloak similar to the one Professor Dumbledore gave to Harry Potter. So I was a little surprised when the cloak looked more like a tiny clear plastic box just a few inches high, reminding me of a magic trick prop my 9-year-old daughter might have. Nevertheless, the cloak's ability to conceal an object so that both the cloak and the object become invisible was astonishing. Zhang placed the cloak over a bright pink Post-it note and voila! Nothing! The pink paper disappeared. And the cloak itself wasn't really visible in the first place.

I found 31-year-old Zhang in the auditorium, watching other TED Fellows talk. He told me the cloak is made out of two pieces of calcite, or optical crystals - found in nature - that are cemented together. The calcite bends light and suppresses shadows, creating the effect of, well, nothingness. When I asked him what his big plans were with this reality-bending invention, he said it had no purpose. He just created it for fun. He does, however, plan to make it bigger. How big? "As large as possible." The idea came to him in 2010, and today was the first time he's shown it to a live audience.

Above: a video of the invisibility cloak taken before today. I have to say, today's demonstration was even more spectacular, but this is still pretty amazing.

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