Holiday Makies: careers & outfits for the dolls you design!

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Boing Boing readers already know about MakieLab, the startup where my friends and I make 3D printed, customizable dolls called Makies.

The Paradox: a secret history of magical London worthy of Tim Powers

In The Oversight, Charlie Fletcher introduced us to a secret history of London and the ancient order that defended it from the creatures of the dark. Now, with The Paradox, a sequel, Fletcher plunges the bedraggled heroes of the Oversight into danger that they may not be able to best.

READ: issue one of Mike "Hellboy" Mignola's Frankenstein Underground

The creator of Hellboy, Mike Mignola, has long been fascinated and inspired by Frankenstein’s monster. In 1991, Mignola illustrated scenes from Bride of Frankenstein for a Topps trading cards of Universal Studios horror films and last year he drew a limited edition Bride of Frankenstein Mondo print.

Meeting Cow Dog

In this telling short story, Boing Boing's Xeni Jardin meets a homeless neighbor and his big, rambunctious dog. When time is short, sometimes more can be found in companionship and reflection of a simple truth: that the now, in all its peace, beauty and suffering, will pass.

Why we enjoy stroking animals and popping bubblewrap


In Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, one of the central characters is Lennie, a man with some form of mental development disability who enjoys petting mice and puppies. Only he enjoys it so much he can’t stop and often ends up squashing them literally to death.

The thing is, evidence suggests that the mice and puppies were probably enjoying the petting before Lennie’s fat fingers squashed them. In 2013 researchers from the California Institute of Technology published the results of a study done on mice that showed there is a specific type of sensory cell in skin that responds to careful stroking. The lead researcher on the study suggested we could one day have a skin lotion that makes us feel better.

It’s all very well that mice enjoy being stroked, but why did Lennie -- and why do many other people -- derive pleasure from stroking soft animals? Numerous research studies suggest that during stroking, receptors in the skin send signals to various parts of the brain. This can be measured using MRI scans of the brain during stroking that show increased neuronal activity associated with increased blood flow. The affected areas of the brain light up even when the person involved is unconscious.

I think Lennie should have been given a stress ball or something to occupy him, although I’ve no idea if it would have been a sufficient alternative to petting mice. Sometimes such toys are not always what they seem:

As we know, there are plenty of materials that are lovely to touch. Read the rest

Never before published photos from Psychedelic Conference II in Santa Barbara, 1983

Albert Hofmann in the Cafe.

Photos by Cynthia Palmer. Read the rest

Randall "XCKD" Munroe's Thing Explainer: delightful exploded diagrams labelled with simple words

Randall "XKCD" Munroe's Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words arrives in stores today: it combines technical diagrams and wordplay in pure display of everything that makes XKCD brilliant and wonderful in every way.

A chess set that could teach aliens how to play


What if you could learn how to play chess simply by looking at the pieces? Read the rest

Blankets: New edition of Craig Thompson's graphic masterpiece

Craig Thompson's second graphic novel, the 582-page mammoth Blankets, swept the field's awards, taking three Harveys, two Eisners, and two Ignatzes. More than a decade later, and buoyed by his later successes (such as 2011's seminal Habibi), Drawn and Quarterly has produced a beautiful new edition.

The wallet that does nothing


Hammacher Schlemmer is a mostly mail-order company from which I’ve bought some lovely cashmere sweaters for my wife at Christmas. The company is renowned for its entertaining mail-order catalogue (and a great return policy) which has provided me with hours of fun reading over the years.

Often the cover features some incredibly outlandish extravagance designed solely for really wealthy folks, and which often costs a stratospheric amount of money. Top of the line at the moment is a “Five Person Exploration Submarine” which can descend to 656 feet, weighs over 7.7 tons and costs—take your seats, please—$2,700,000. As Dr. Evil used to say, “Almost three MILLION dollars.”

This year’s new and more reasonably priced money pit is a racing simulator for $185,000. It looks like a lot of fun, and my daughter says she rode something like it at Epcot at Walt Disney World, but something tells me that whoever receives it will lose interest ’ere long.

The exact prices are unimportant because they’re silly. As far as most of us are concerned, we’re far more likely to get hit by a bus than be given one of these gifts.

I genuinely enjoy Hammacher Schlemmer’s catalogue simply because it’s filled with incredibly weird things, like the remote-controlled flying shark mini-blimp for $40, and “The NASA Sleep Promoting Light Bulb” for $40.

There are also lots of handy things, like well-made flannel pjs, nice lined gloves, and so on. It’s a real 90-page potpourri and you should definitely call 1-800-543-3366 and request a free catalogue. Read the rest

The Harmony Cartridge

Every Atari 2600 game in the palm of your hand!

The final Pratchett: The Shepherd's Crown

I really tried to make this book last. It's the last Discworld novel, written by Terry Pratchett in the last days of his life, as his death from a tragic, unfair, ghastly early onset Alzheimer's stole up on him. But I couldn't help myself. I read it, read it all. I wept. Then I read it again.

Eerie lifelike sculpture of Harry Houdini


He's been dead since Halloween, 1926, but Harry Houdini just won’t die. The old bastard really won’t go away.

Read the rest

Our Generation Ships Will Sink

As noted in Cory's review, Kim Stanley Robinson's Aurora makes an undeniable case for ecological stewardship through a rigorous, gripping technological speculation about climate science, biology, space propulsion and sociodynamic factors. In this exclusive feature essay, Robinson explains the technology behind the best science fiction novel of 2015.

At least Turkey's tragic politics gives material to comics artists

Today, Firstsecond publishes Ozge Samanci's Dare to Disappoint, a graphic novel memoir of growing up in Turkey. Ms Samanci has favored us with an essay describing the tumultuous relationship between Turkey's authoritarian, thin-skinned president and her fellow cartoonists.

The Playing Card Design of MISC. GOODS CO.


When you think about it, the design of playing cards is ridiculously complicated and to create a truly unique deck could take many months. It’s one thing to take an existing template and alter it a bit and it’s another thing all together to rework each element from scratch.

Tyler Deeb of MISC. GOODS CO. has designed a deck of cards from the ground up and it has a whole lot to say. Every court card, every symbol and boarder has gotten as much attention as any deck I’ve ever seen.  It’s clear that this was a labor of love and will act as his calling card for years to come.

To me, this deck is just chock full of story and I wonder if anyone else is seeing what I’m seeing. 

There's so much to figure out when laying out a deck of cards and it all starts with the box that contains it. In this case, if you look closely, you’ll find some very thoughtful touches.

Firstly, besides the beautiful silver foil printing, there is an embossing of the message “Do nothing out of selfish ambition”. It’s a bible verse from Philippians 2:3-8 and the thing is, while this deck is one of the most ambitious ones I’ve ever seen, it certainly isn’t selfish. It’s a gift to us.

While I’m not going to go into every little detail of what I’m reading into here, I will share a playful contradiction that pops up when you look closely.

This contradiction sets the stage for what’s to come. Read the rest

When identity thieves targeted beloved open course teachers, Facebook sided with the crooks

Your account has been disabled for pretending to be someone else.

Teachers don't go into education to get rich. It's a great job, the rewards are awesome and although they're not financial, they are of value. They are socially valuable. It's why teachers are one of the "professional" people allowed to verify your passport photograph, to qualify that it really is a picture of you. Society recognises that they're more likely to value the long rigorous process of acquiring that trust above jeopardising it to earn a quick kick-back. We even trust them with our children.

And then you get open teachers, who make their classes available online for free, for any learner regardless of their ability to pay or personal circumstance. Open teachers naturally earn this trust, this social capital, very publicly and because they're often teaching at scale they potentially earn this social capital at scale too. It means they and people like them are great people to impersonate in order to steal, from the people who trust them (all of us).

It isn't just teachers who are "Catfished" (the process of having your online identity hijacked). It can happen to anyone of us but what's worrying is when someone as trusted, high profile and digitally literate as an open teacher is Catfished, and try as they might, can just do nothing about it, then what are the rest of us meant to do when it happens to us (assuming we ever find out)?

Alan Levine made my open classes possible and anyone in open education knows Alan as the open teacher's teacher, the go-to-guy for teachers as well as students. Read the rest

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