Boing Boing 

Kevin Kelly


Stream Machine water cannon - high pressure fun

The genius of these Stream Machine water cannons is their simplicity. A single moving part — a big fat piston with handle grip — squeezes a wide stream of water down and out their large diameter tubes. Filling them you reverse, sucking in water via the same orifice. When loaded (takes about 2 seconds) they gush water at least 30 feet. Impossible to clog, and nearly unbreakable, both kids and adults can operate them around pools, lakes, rafts, canoes and boats. These are the regulation-issued weapons at our place.

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Brock Magiscope is a rugged microscope for everyday use

The trouble with most optical equipment is that it won’t get used unless it is out of the case, opened up, and powered on. But if it is opened and lying around, it will get highly abused. I buy my cameras, spectacles, binocs, etc. assuming that they’ll be dropped and splattered, and they should hold up to this misuse. But until now I haven’t been able to find a microscope strong enough to do its job yet sturdy enough to be left on the kitchen table ready for inspections by toddlers and teenagers.

Now after several years of looking for an everyday microscope suitable for a busy family I found one: The Brock Magiscope #70 is exactly what I had wanted. It has a single-moving part that my 5-year-old son could handle. He could put a leaf in and focus it right. Rubber bands hold the slide. For light the scope uses a fat fiber optic bent pipe which channels ambient room light to the underside of the objective lens (no electricity). There is no fussing, no adjustments. The viewing field is amazingly bright and clear, good enough for high school work.

or smart phone to its eyepiece, and get pretty good microphotography shots. And best of all it is practically indestructible. The thing is simple and rugged as a hammer. In fact, it was built for the abuse of K-12 classrooms, which is probably as grating as a war. I know one educational sailing company that keeps several on its boat – probably the most challenging environment anywhere for optics. Brock offers a “lifetime replacement warranty, including accidents.” If it breaks, ever, they replace it. And they do. (Some visiting kids managed to break the light optic – I have no idea how – but Brock replaced it with no questions asked. This tool is always on, always out (it sits next to the fruit bowl); we use it.

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Fun with el-wire - flexible portable DIY neon

Do-it-yourself neon. This thin electroluminescent wire (el-wire) glows very brightly. You can bend it easily and tie it to anything. It produces essentially no heat. Best of all it runs on batteries, meaning you can wear it or use it on your bicycle. We make signs with it and, of course, some wild costumes. El-wire (also called Live Wire) has been used to great effect in the night at parades at Burning Man. It comes in various lengths from .5 m to 10 m (you can cut it if you know what you are doing) and in eight colors. You can make it strobe. The coolest thing to do is weave it. It is the world’s most flexible light. It is very cool stuff.

Get a starter kit on Amazon for $19

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Old Kathmandu – what was lost

As you can see from these photographs I took in 1976, the medieval town is delicate. Not all has been destroyed, and I am sure the Nepalis will rebuild as they have in the past. Still, the earthquake shook more than just buildings. Read the rest

Artist Andy Goldsworthy builds amazing arrangements from leaves, twigs, flowers, icicles and dirt

I’m a big fan of the nature artist Andy Goldsworthy. In his art he only uses found natural materials: leaves, twigs, flowers, icicles, dirt. From these natural bits he builds amazing temporary arrangements outdoors in the natural settings he finds the material. He photographs their brief existence as a new order and then lets the elements unravel them. For a moment, his fanciful designs capture some invisible spirit that is both completely wild and completely Andy Goldsworthy. Once you see one of his natural sculptures, they seem to be inevitable. A rainbow row of leaves sorted by color. Of course! You can’t forget them. Again and again he seems to summon archetypes – an icicle arch – that ought to occur in the wild. But we don’t see them until he unveils them. Goldsworthy is a prolific maker, with many books of his stunning works. If I had to select only one volume, I think his Collaboration with Nature has the best summary of his early work (up to 1990). I take these as visual poems. If they ring a bell in you, proceed to his later work.

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

The photos in Earth is My Witness are like bullets

Earth is My Witness is a classic coffee table book. Huge, weighty, colorful, and visually pleasing to almost everyone.

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Habibi, a strange, beautiful graphic novel

There is no way around it. Habibi is a strange graphic novel. Not strange as in surreal, or ugly, or weird, but strange as in stranger, different. It is beautifully drawn. The writing is poetic. But the story is… odd. It takes place in an indefinite time in a place where Islam and Christianity meet. It wrestles with myth, status, slavery, love and transcendence.There’s horrific sin and redeeming grace. There’s an exotic multi-generational saga. It also serves a tutorial on how arabic calligraphy works. See, strange like that. This big fat book is a true work of art.

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Cartoonist Roz Chast talks about death and dying

Roz Chast draws a comic about her parents getting old and dying. Sometimes her account is funny, sometimes it’s poignant; always it’s memorable, even though her parent’s life and death were ordinary in most respects.

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An intense barrage of images from modern Shanghai

Shanghai Blink. No words, no captions, no white space. Only an intense barrage of images from modern Shanghai, in endless variation.

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Art Out of Time – Strange and now-forgotten cartoonists

When comics in newspapers (“funnies”) were first invented in the 1900s, a thousand crazy ideas were tried in every local newspaper in the country. Most of these local attempts at this new media were awful, but many of these earliest comic strips and later comic books were truly innovative, original, and bizarre.

There was nothing like them before – or since. Even the underground comix in the 1970s were not as strange and unusual as these now-forgotten visionaries. Art Out of Time: Unknown Comics Visionaries, 1900-1969 presents a sampling of overlooked fantastic and fantastical comics harvested from small town papers, yellowing zines, and short-lived strips. Like many other types of first-attempts, there is still much to be learned from these odd pioneers.

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Images of nearly extinct tribal dress, customs and celebrations in Africa

One of my favorite books for reference and inspiration remains the two-volume visual feast entitled African Ceremonies. But it is huge and expensive. Faces of Africa is smaller one-volume digest version by the same two photographers delivers much of the impact in a more affordable package.

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A work of art that reproduces 100 woodblock prints of Edo by artist Hiroshige

Without question, Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo is the bookiest book I own. It is a museum-quality artifact, which in a few more years will cease to be made, or at least made affordably. It is a work of art that reproduces the famous 100 Japanese woodblock prints that the artist Hiroshige created of Edo.

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Sacred Journey – The trippiest travel photo book you will ever see

Sacred Journey: The Ganges to the Himalayas is the trippiest travel photo book I have ever seen, and I’ve seen them all. David Howard took a spiritual trip to India and Nepal, hanging out with the naked sadhus and poor pilgrims at the holy sites along the way. He photographed his subjects and then photoshopped them into hallucinogenic collages. The images are hyper real, their sharpness too sharp, the scales of subjects mixed, with no distinction between background and foreground. They vibrate on the page, almost hurting your eyes. But your retina compels you to study the multi-dimensional pictures, and dive into the disorientation. Howard captures the feeling of being on a trip in India and Nepal better than anything else I’ve seen or read. These are postcards from the edge of coherence. It is a deeply personal journal, and for that reason one of my favorites, even though I am glad I was not on his bus.

See sample pages of Sacred Journey: The Ganges to the Himalayas at Wink.

Atlas of Cities – Dissecting the anatomy of cities from around the world

The Atlas of Cities does not graph the usual geographic shapes of cities, but tries to diagram the many other dimensions within cities around the world. Taking example from many specific cities (such as Istanbul, or Cairo) it tries to dissect, almost like an x-ray, the many organs, tissues, cells, and anatomy of a typical city. In fact a better title for the book would have been Anatomical Atlas of Cities. It uses charts and graphs to show how cities remain healthy, or how they get sick. Since 50% of the humans alive today live in an urban neighborhood, this book will likely illuminate your world.

See sample pages of Atlas of Cities at Wink.

Photos of colorful Tokyo

Kevin Kelly searches for maximum vibrancy in TokyoRead the rest

Experiments in mapping the intangible

I never tire of the conceptual trick of applying the metaphor of a map onto something non-geographical.

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Magnificent structures built by architects from the animal kingdom

If you can photograph the architecture of the original builders in the animal kingdom with the same professional clarity and precision used to photograph human architecture, you’ll see that the work of animals stands up to anything we’ve made in our cities. The mud skyscrapers engineered by termites, and the woven houses of birds, as well as the ceramic mansions of the underworld are utterly magnificent. Behold the spring source of art! Nests, shells, webs, hives, etc. could each have their own book, but only a few of each types are featured here. Each is captured in an impeccable, perfect image, an iconographic representation of an entire museum of examples you’ll be inspired to seek out.

Animal Architecture
by Ingo Arndt
Harry N. Abrams
2014, 160 pages, 8.6 x 10.1 x 0.8 inches
$20 Buy a copy on Amazon

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