Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space


Osprey Publishing, the UK-based military history publisher beloved by wargamers and toy soldier nerds for their amazing Men at Arms series (which lovingly details the uniforms and accoutrements of war), has been expanding into gaming in a big way recently. They've been responsible for the increasingly popular skirmish-level dungeon-delving miniatures game, Frostgrave, the hugely popular Bolt Action (which they distribute through a publishing partnership with Warlord Games), and a growing number of excellent miniature rules sets covering everything from historicals to fantasy, sci-fi, and horror.

Another notable thing they've been doing is re-vamping existing games that had a lot of promise but had some rules problems, or component issues, or some other crippling flaw that limited their appeal on their first release. They've been re-doing these games in gorgeous new editions. One such game is Odin's Ravens, which I previously reviewed here. They also recently released a lovely, revamped edition of the very trippy The Ravens of Thri Sahashri, a Japanese cooperative card game where players enter the mind of a character and try and repair her memories and guide her to safety before she goes insane with ravens eating her mind. Another notable example of this revitalizing of a promising title is their recent "Ultimate Edition" of Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space.

The lovely and unusual components and packaging of Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space.

Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space is a card-based hidden movement, hidden identity game of deception and bluffing. Read the rest

What is a Witch – A poetic and visual conjuring of the witch archetype


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

What is a Witch by Pamela Grossman (author) and Tin Can Forest (artists) Tin Can Forest 2016, 36 pages, 9.0 x 11.75 x 0.25 inches From $20 Buy a copy here

There are few ideas and words in the popular zeitgeist more mercurial than “witch.” Whether coming from the world’s mythologies, religions, folk tales, the realms of fiction, or from those who embrace it as a real-world religious identity, witch can mean myriad things. There are probably few archetypes more simultaneously romanticized and demonized.

This dizzying dream of character and identity is uniquely and creatively expressed in What is a Witch, a sort of comic book grimoire on the subject by witch and author Pamela Grossman and Canadian’s comic-art occultists, Tin Can Forest.

 In just under 40 pages of lush, saturated black art and text, What is a Witch serves as something of a witch’s manifesto. The dreamy, free-form text, interwoven amongst equally dreamy art, attempts to cast a spell over the reader, to bring this complex character more vividly to life. In doing so, it doesn’t really answer the question (note that it’s not posed as one) of what a witch is, but instead, plays with her mercurial identity, dipping in and out of fictional and real-world conceptions and how witches are experienced and self-identified.

 The art and production are really lovely and work to deepen the spell that the book is attempting to cast. The effect of Grossman’s free, often trance-like prose reminded me somewhat of Jack Parson’s famous “We are the Witchcraft” manifesto, another attempt at a poetic conjuring on the identity of the witch. Read the rest

A wonderful gallery of toy, prank, and novelty fun projects at Make: magazine

Make: recently posted a series of fun projects to their website that are also featured in Volume 52 of the magazine, their forthcoming DIY Virtual Reality issue. I really love some of these and wanted to share a few of my favorites here.

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Where's Warhol? – A visual needle-in-a-haystack picture book inspired by the Where's Waldo series


Where's Warhol? by Catherine Ingram and Andrew Rae Laurence King Publishing 2016, 32 pages, 9.8 x 13 x 0.5 inches $10 Buy a copy on Amazon

Andy Warhol was known for both “making the scene,” literally turning “scenes” into improvised art, and for being impressively awkward and shy within those scenes. So, there really is something fundamentally right about the concept of hiding Andy inside of iconic scenes from history, both art history and beyond.

In Where’s Warhol? art historian Catherine Ingram teams up with artist Andrew Rae to create a visual needle-in-a-haystack picture book inspired by the Where’s Waldo? series. In a series of two-page spreads, Andy, in his iconic striped shirt and shock of silver hair, is hidden within massive crowd scenes. The scenes range from actual places where Andy did hang out (e.g. Studio 54) to historical places and events such as the French Revolution and Germany’s Bauhaus art school. The fun is not only in finding Andy, but in trying to identity all of the other historical figures drawn into these scenes. In the back of the book, many of these characters are pointed out with little anecdotes. And other known people are there, but not identified (like Robert Mapplethorpe and Patti Smith). It’s fun to see just how many characters from history you can identity. There is also enough going on here to reward repeat scans of the pages.

This would be a fun gift book to get for anyone who’s a Warhol fan, a fan of art history, or who just enjoys these kinds of visual puzzle books. Read the rest

Listen to isolated vocals on "God Only Knows"

Need something to soothe your jangled soul today? Pop in the buds, sit back, close your eyes and have a listen to the isolated vocal tracks on the Beach Boys' "God Only Knows." There... that's better. Carl Wilson and the Boys at their finest.

[Via Playback FM]

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Ridiculously detailed typographical analysis of Blade Runner


If you love Ridley Scott's sci-fi masterpiece, Blade Runner, the minutia of film, and nerding out over typography, prepare to have your neck bolts blown. Dave Addey runs Typeset in the Future, a website dedicated to the typographic elements found in sci-fi films. He has previously examined the titling, signage, logotypes, text messaging, and visual displays found in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, and Alien. Here, he turns his typographical attentions to Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, Blade Runner.

In 5,000 words and hundreds of screen caps, Dave goes through every scrap of textual content seen in the film. What's equally amazing to the point of the piece-- typographic analysis--is how much you learn about every other aspect of the film. This one narrow skew of the movie reveals so many other angles and tangents. Blade Runner is a film I already know too much about and I still learned so much more and had numerous "ah-ha" moments.

The first time we meet Deckard, he’s sat in the Los Angeles rain, idly reading a newspaper. The headline of this newspaper is FARMING THE OCEANS, THE MOON AND ANTARCTICA, in what looks like Futura Demi: Here’s a close-up shot of that newspaper prop, from an on-set photo of Harrison Ford and Ridley Scott: The subtitle reads WORLD WIDE COMPUTER LINKUP PLANNED, in what looks like Optima Bold. While the idea of a World Wide Computer Linkup might seem passé as we approach 2019, it was still very much unusual in 1982 when Blade Runner was released.
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Stunning cyberpunky short film shows off Unity engine


This absolutely gorgeous under-six-minutes short film, called Adam, was rendered by the Unity team, in real-time, to show off the capabilities of the current Unity game engine. Here's what Unity Technologies has to say about the film.

The Unity Demo Team built Adam with beta versions of Unity 5.4 and our upcoming cinematic sequencer tool.

Adam also utilizes an experimental implementation of real-time area lights and makes extensive use of high fidelity physics simulation tool CaronteFX, which you can get from the Unity Asset Store right now.

To make Adam, the Demo Team developed custom tools and features on top of Unity including volumetric fog, a transparency shader and motion blur to cover specific production needs. We’ll make these freely available soon!

Adam runs at 1440p on a GeForce GTX980. Attendees at Unite Europe were able to play with it in real time, and we’ll make a playable available soon so everyone can check it out.

Open it to full-screen, HD, for maximum impact. It is quite impressive. Read the rest

The Monkees' impressive new album


"I Love the new Monkees record!," is something I thought I'd never hear my adult self saying, but I've heard myself saying it. The three surviving members of the 60s made-for-TV rock band (Davy Jones died of a heart attack in 2012) have recently released Good Times!, their 12th studio album and their first since 1996's Justus.

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Adam Savage announces the White House's upcoming National Week of Making


In a new video, Adam Savage celebrates the upcoming National Week of Making that the White House is hosting again this year. To kick off his week in the sort of unique way that only Adam Savage can, he has been asking his social media followers to tag pictures of their personal workspaces, the happy places where they go to create something from nothing.

In the video above, he shows off a number of these wonderfully diverse shops (see a few below) and talks passionately about the joys of making and how we should all yield to the hands-on imperative.

The National Week of Making kicks off on Friday and includes the second annual National Maker Faire, which will take place on Saturday and Sunday at the UDC-Van Ness campus in the District of Columbia. This is one of Maker Media's full-blown flagship events, joining the long-running Maker Faire Bay Area and World Maker Faire in New York. Unlike those events, the National Maker Faire is free to the public.

You can find out more about the National Week of Making and how to get involved on the event's official website.

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Sensors – The final volume in an impressive series of electronics guides for 21st-century makers


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Encyclopedia of Electronic Components Volume 3: Sensors by Charles Platt and Fredrik Jansson Maker Media 2016, 256 pages, 7.9 x 9.6 x 0.4 inches (softcover) $18 Buy a copy on Amazon

With this somewhat slim but jam-packed volume, Make: contributing editor and electronics columnist, Charles Platt (here joined by Fredrik Jansson), completes his detailed explorations of the modern, common electronics components most useful to today’s electronics hobbyists and other DIYers.

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Mick Rock: The Rise of David Bowie, 1972-1973 – An amazingly impressive object, even by Taschen standards


See sample pages at Wink.

Mick Rock: The Rise of David Bowie, 1972-1973 by Mick Rock (photographer) Taschen 2016, 300 pages, 10.8 x 15 x 1.2 inches $44 Buy a copy on Amazon

When I asked Taschen’s PR person for a review copy of the hardback edition of Mick Rock: The Rise of David Bowie, 1972-1973 (after sheepishly asking in vein for the $800 Limited Edition), she warned me that it was an amazingly impressive object, even by Taschen standards. Don’t laugh, but this intimidated me to the point where, after receiving the book, I waited over a week to look inside. I had damn-near passed out while first perusing the uncompromising art publisher’s recent Blake book.

Mick Rock: The Rise of David Bowie, 1972-1973 is about as woozying of a tome as you’re ever going to stick your nose into. And this “regular” edition, available at Amazon for the remainder-bin price of under $45, is anything but regular. Every single aspect of this book is elevated. The cover sports a lenticular panel which contains five iconic Mick Rock images of everyone’s favorite glam commander. This could have gone horribly wrong, too gimmicky or tacky, but this technology seems to have been invented to flash the ever-changing personas of David Bowie at the height of his (and Rock’s) artistic powers. There is no more perfect cover for this book.

And that’s just the cover. I was right to psych myself up. The first time I went through it, I got about 20 pages in and had to stop. Read the rest

The beautiful grotesques of Megahex are back with more tales of depravity and friendship


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam (and Other Stories) by Simon Hanselmann Fantagraphics 2016, 164 pages, 6.6 x 9.1 x 0.8 inches $14 Buy a copy on Amazon

The entire loveably dysfunctional freak family that stole our hearts in Megahex (and sold them on the black market for hookers and blow) are back in Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam (and Other Stories). Once again we enter the bizarre funhouse world of Megg the witch, her cat familiar/lover Mogg, and their coterie of hangers on: Owl, Werewolf Jones, Mike the Gnome, Booger (a boogey woman), Dracula, Jr., and others.

On the surface, little has changed. The revolving door of Megg and Mogg’s house still spins to let their drug-addled crew enter, hatch a series of ridiculous schemes, inhale all of the drugs and fast food, and then we get to watch as one nightmarish scenario after another plays out like a slow-motion train wreck. But there are deeper relationship themes that run through Megg and Mogg in Amsterdam. Over the course of the book, strips begin to introduce trouble in Megg and Mogg’s relationship, and Megg’s growing attraction to Booger. Werewolf Jones also is having trouble in his marriage and is fighting to retain custody of his two sons (while doing every boneheaded thing in the world to ensure that doesn’t happen). The title of the book refers to a trip that Megg and Mogg take to Amsterdam to try and patch up their failing relationship. Read the rest

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus – An exploration of prostitution as found in the Christian bible


See sample pages of this book at Wink.

Mary Wept Over the Feet of Jesus is a strange, effectively touching, and surprisingly rigorous exploration of prostitution as found in the Christian bible. After doing extensive research on the subject, Chester Brown offers his graphical reimagining of the prostitute stories from the bible. Besides the tales of Rahab, Tamar, Ruth, and Mary of Bethany, we also get scenes from the lives of Bathsheba, Mary, Mother of Jesus, Cain and Abel, and others. Some of these stories seem out of place with the rest of the collection (e.g. Cain and Able and Job), with no apparent link to prostitution. But with them, Brown is sharpening one of his main points about following the spirit versus the letter of the law of religious obedience, a theme which runs throughout the book.

The meticulously rendered stories, eleven in all, have a strange, disarming innocence about them. There are moments of truly felt compassion and generosity encoded in some of these panels. But the comics are really only half of the book. The second half, over a hundred pages, contains all of the notes from Brown’s research. I found it an absolutely fascinating look, not only into the academic research and religious texts that he cites, but into his own thinking, and his confirmation biases. The whole book feels more like a captured thought process, a research notebook, than a typical narrative or expositional work. That’s part of what makes this book so unique and interesting to me, but it may turn off others for the same reason. Read the rest

Feathers – A sublime meditation on the brilliance of the bird feather. Released today!


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

We live in a world of backgrounded miracles, entire worlds of wonder and beauty that we either can’t see or stopped noticing a long time ago. Look closely at the wings of a fly on your window sill, stare into a bisected piece of fruit, or look carefully at a growth of mold on a dish. Millions of such micro worlds surround us, breathtaking examples of design, engineering, and evolutionary artistry. When we bother to look.

Feathers is a photographic examination of one such overlooked natural wonder, the lowly bird feather. A single bird has thousands of feathers, of different types, and there are some ten-thousand species of birds. Feathers takes a broad view of the evolution of the bird and its feathers while focusing its lens on the plumage of 75 or so notable species. Each species gets a few pages, with one or two impressively photographed feather close-ups and a brief explanatory text.

This book reminded me a lot of Rose Lynn Fisher’s BEE (which I loved). Both books are minimal in content and feel, but that only helps to narrow and maintain your focus on the world under examination. The text in Feathers doesn’t try to tell you everything about the species of the bird and feather that you’re looking at, but the bits of fascinating science it does contain are probably far more memorable. Like BEE, I felt like I got to peer into a world I don’t normally see and came away greatly enriched by the experience. Read the rest

An inventor, maker, and toy designer shares his favorite projects


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

The first thing that struck me about Make Fun!, a collection of toy and game projects from former Mattel designer Bob Knetzger, was how many of my favorite projects from the pages of Make: magazine were his. Bob has contributed to the magazine for over nine years, and this collection represents a best-of from that run (with some original projects as well). WINK’s own Mark Frauenfelder (founding editor-in-chief of Make:) also contributes the book’s introduction.

Make: Fun! features full step-by-step instructions for some 40 projects. They range from the very simple, fun, and ephemeral, such as the actuated “Ouija Be Mine” Valentine’s Day card and “Gnome Holiday Hats” to a classic “Diving Spudmarine” bathtub toy to more elaborate builds, such as constructing your own “Kitchen Floor Vacuum Former” and building a “Desktop Foundry.” Some of my favorite projects include the “Monster Candy Snatch Game” (think: Operation), the “E-Z-Make Oven” (think: Mattel’s Thingmaker), and vacuum forming your own “Tiki Masks.”

Make: did a really nice job on the production of this book. The projects are well photographed, in full color, and the instructions are well laid out and easy to follow. And there are fun little “gimmicks” that serve the playful spirit of the book (a flip-book animation on the page edges, QR-code videos for some of the projects, and colorful templates and paper project components in the back). You can see the videos, view the templates, and find out more on the book’s companion website. Read the rest

An artist tours the spaces of 24 fellow artists, then makes art inspired by his visits


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

I’m a gigantic snoop. I love to peruse people’s bookshelves, rifle through the magazines on their toilet tank, look at their media Likes on Facebook, etc. I am endlessly fascinated by people and the media, tools, and ideas that inspire them. I also like workshops and the unique way in which people set up and use their spaces. These interests converge to great effect in artist and author Joe Fig’s Inside the Artist’s Studio.

Given my nosey proclivities, I have read a number of similar collections of artist studio tour books. This book has a slightly more satisfying weight to it. The questions Fig asks are more interesting and far ranging, from childhood memories to working techniques to each artist’s working “creed.” And the photographs he takes are especially lovely, artful, and create a distinct mood that reflects each artist.

The really special dimension to this book is Joe Fig’s artwork. Fig is known for being an artist whose subjects are often art, artists, and art spaces. In this book, after interviewing and photographing such artists as Ellen Altfest, Byron Kim, Laurie Simmons, Adam Cvijanovic, Tara Donovan, and Roxy Paine (24 artists in all), Fig creates a piece of art inspired by that artist, their studio, and their work. The subject of each piece is the artist’s studio. All of this works to create a surprisingly rich, intimate, and informative collection. Read the rest

A dark, psychedelic coming-of-age story by award-winning comic artist Michael DeForge


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Big Kids by Michael DeForge Drawn & Quarterly 2016, 96 pages, 5 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches $12 Buy a copy on Amazon

I have been fascinated by the work of Canadian comic artist Michael DeForge for a while now. If you like unvarnished explorations of the human psyche and the high weirdness that an unhinged mind and a free hand can render, check out Michael’s Lose series, Very Casual, and Dressing, all from Toronto-based comics publisher of note Koyama Press.

Big Kids is something of a departure for DeForge, or at least it starts off seeming that way. On the surface, Big Kids is a dark and mopey coming-of-age tale. It concerns a troubled teen boy who lives with his parents and a recalcitrant uncle in the basement and has awkward, restless sex with his best friend, in-between dangerous dares, bullying, bouts of petty vandalism, and other adolescent antics.

When the boy’s uncle gets kicked out of the house and a female college student moves in – a girl with a very different take on life who hangs with a group of more sophisticated, less juvenile delinquent friends – something extraordinary happens. Too many other reviews of this book spoil what comes next, which I think is a shame. I knew nothing of what was about to happen and was really stunned by the whole thing as a result. The book is obviously meant to be a meditation on the profound transformations we go through at different stages in our lives (especially in becoming a teen), and how strange, terrifying, and wondrous those changes can be. Read the rest

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