Rube Goldberg's marvelous machines

Cartoonist Rube Goldberg’s absurdly complex mechanisms for achieving easy results are so ingrained in popular culture that the artist/engineer’s name appears in the dictionary as an adjective. A new book highlights his happy mutant approach to engineering.

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Vintage color photos of the circus


Cover fp 25 circus 1212031651 id 641095The Circus Book: 1870-1950 is a big, bold, beautiful Taschen hardcover in a slipcase that features nearly 1,000 photos, illustrations, poster art, and other ephemera from the heyday of the big top. Flavorwire posted a selection of some of the nearly 200 of the earliest color circus photos included in the book.

Slow-mo video of dogs shaking, and photo book!

DoggggSHAKE is a new photo book by Carli Davidson collecting her photographs of dogs mid-shake. The photos (here) are fun but I really appreciate the full-motion silliness of the slow-mo video above. SHAKE by Carli Davidson

Star Wars: Frames, book set of Lucas's favorite film stills


First released several years ago, Star Wars: Frames was a lavish $3,000 limited-edition box set of books compiling George Lucas's favorite 1,400 images from all six Star Wars films. This month sees Star Wars: Frames reprinted in a much more affordable but still impressive package of two hardcover books, one for each of the two trilogies. The list price is $150 but you can pre-order from Amazon for $90. Star Wars: Frames

Chuck Palahniuk and the SF Cacophony Society, tonight in SF and streaming live

Cacophony LG Tales Book Cover

Did you know that one inspiration for Chuck Palahniuk’s novel Fight Club was the author's time in the Cacophony Society? You can hear about that this evening (9/23) at 7:30pm PT during "Chuck Palahniuk and the SF Cacophony Society: Creating Culture from Mayhem," a live event at San Francisco Castro Theatre that will also be streamed live here. What the hell is the Cacophony Society, you ask? Don't fret, you may already be a member. Launched in 1986, the Cacophony Society is a highly-influential, "randomly gathered network of free spirits united in the pursuit of experiences beyond the pale of mainstream society." This underground collective of pranksters, culture jammers, and thrill-seekers birthed Burning Man, pioneered urban exploration, and freaked out the squares with their proto-flash mobs of SantaCon. BB pal John Law, Carrie Galbraith, and Kevin Evans have finally revealed the hidden history of this (semi-)secret society in a beautiful new book, "Tales of the San Francisco Cacophony Society."

Tonight, join Palahniuk, Law, and Galbraith for a panel moderated by my old friend Brad Wieners, and plenty of other shenanigans.

Event details here at the Commonwealth Club site

Livestream will be here

Buy the book here

Mitch Horowitz on Rod Serling

As regular BB readers know, Mark and I are both lifelong fans of The Twilight Zone. Rod Serling and The Twilight Zone were a big influence on my own quest for strange stories, real and imagined. Serling was a champion of equal rights and social justice, and those themes frequently informed his plot lines. Mitch Horowitz, author of the excellent book Occult America and the forthcoming One Simple Idea: How Positive Thinking Reshaped Modern Life, is another BB contributor whose roots lie squarely… in the Twilight Zone. Mitch wrote a new essay for Huffington Post about "Why Rod Serling Still Matters":

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Proficient Motorcycling

Recently recommended to me by a good friend, I'd never heard of David L. Hough's well-regarded guide to safer riding, Proficient Motorcycling. A very fun read for a foggy Saturday afternoon.

Full of wonderful commonsense advice and examples, Hough never loses track of the one thing that always keeps my attention when riding: it is the things you can not see in time that kill you. I've learned some new things, like approaching a curb or curb-sized bump at a 45deg angle or greater provides for much greater stability. His descriptions of how a motorcycle balances, traction works and all the general physics are the clearest and simplest I've found.

It isn't a skills refresher course, but I'm glad to have read it.

David L. Hough's Proficient Motocycling (Second Edition)

H. Beam Piper's Space Viking

I must have read Space Viking over a hundred times. Since my youth, H. Beam Piper's Terro-Human histories, as well as his Paratime novels, have thrilled me.

Space Viking lays out Piper's Terro-Human universe several generations after the collapse of the Federation, a galaxy spanning human government. Civilization, across space, is slowly reverting to barbarism, except a few worlds that've held on.

The Sword Worlds struggle on but they are unwittingly watching their chances at a civilized future slip away. Pirating former colonized worlds for goods and treasure has left the Sword Worlds uncreative and culturally parasitical. Few realize the doom looming on the horizon but when a madman kills Lucas Trask's fiancé, Trask's quest for vengeance becomes instead a movement for hope.

I love H. Beam Piper and can't recommend Space Viking highly enough.

H. Beam Piper's Space Viking -- FREE in the Kindle Store

H. Beam Piper's Space Viking -- FREE on Project Gutenberg

Armageddon 2419 A.D., first appearance of "Buck Rogers"

As a kid I loved Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. What an incredible TV series! TWIKI, Buck, Wilma, Doctor Theopolis and some incredible dance moves (that NBC appears to have taken down from YouTube) grabbed my attention and promised an amazing future for a resilient human race.

In my 20s I discovered Philip Francis Nowlan's Armageddon 2419 A.D.

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Trash anthropology in NYC

Harpers june 22 1895For years, Robin Nagle was anthropologist-in-residence at the New York City Department of Sanitation. She's just published a book about trash and how we deal with it, or don't. It's titled Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City, and Collector's Weekly interviewed her about it.
Ows 13639680373191 (The department) was created as the Department of Street Cleaning in 1881, and renamed the Department of Sanitation in 1929. But it was actually made effective for the first time in 1895, in that the people who worked for the department actually collected garbage and swept the streets.

In its early days, the department didn’t really function at all. There are some photographs taken for Harper’s Weekly (above), before and after photos of street corners in New York in 1893 and then in 1895. And the before pictures are pretty astonishing, people were literally shin-high or knee-high in this muck that was a combination of street gunk, horse urine and manure, dead animals, food waste, and furniture crap.

Picking Up: On the Streets and Behind the Trucks with the Sanitation Workers of New York City (Amazon)

"A Filthy History: When New Yorkers Lived Knee-Deep in Trash" (Collector's Weekly)

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," animated and accelerated

Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" (the movie) on speed. Er, even more speed. From 1A4 Studio who have done this with a number of movies, including Star Wars, Back to the Future, and The Matrix.

Oral history of heavy metal

Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal is the shocking, insane, brutal, and fascinating story of heavy metal music told by those who lived it, from Black Sabbath (above), Anthrax, and Slayer, to Megadeth, Metallica, and Iron Maiden. Here's a taste:

NewImageROGER MIRET (Agnostic Front): In the mid-'80s, there wasn't much difference between metal and hardcore scenes. Everyone dressed in black, everyone was walking out of step with society, because whether you were a punk rocker, a skinhead, a hardcore kid, or a metal dude, you didn't fit in. You were a weirdo, and nobody's mother wanted their kids hanging out with you.

PETER STEELE: (Type O Negative, Carnivore): [Carnivore's second album, 1987's] Retaliation was extremely influenced by my discovery of hardcore music at CBGB in '85 and '86. What I strived to do was create an album that was half Black Sabbath and half Cro-Mags, Agnostic Front, Murphy's Law, Sheer Terror, Black Flag, stuff like that. I loved the heaviness, the slowness, the dirge of Sabbath. But at the same time, going to CBGB on Sundays for the matinee, there was so much unbelievable energy in there. It didn't even matter if bands were not in tune.

MIRET: All these bands like Anthrax and Metallica would come and see us at CBGB. It was like the welcoming home of all these bands, and I think meeting each other and seeing each other's bands really cemented the crossover scene...

SCOTT IAN (Anthrax, S.O.D.): I used to go to the CBGB hardcore matinees and that got me totally into Agnostic Front, C.O.C., and D.R.I. You'd have all these hardcore and metal kids coming together to see these bands and there were definitely fights, but at the same time you felt this sense of community.

HARLEY FLANAGAN (Cro-Mags): If it were not for Venom and Motörhead, the Cro-Mags would not have sounded the way we did. I was hanging out with violent skinheads with crazy pentagrams and swastikas tattooed all over them, listening to Venom and Discharge, huffing glue, trying to invoke demons.

Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal (Amazon)

The Oral History of NYC's Metal/Hardcore Crossover (book excerpt in the Village Voice)

Believe it or not, a new biography of Robert Ripley


The old Ripley's Believe it or Not newspaper comic had a huge and lasting impact on me as a youngster. Neal Thompson has just published his new biography of Ripley, titled "A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It Or Not!” Judging by Megan Abbot's lengthy review in the Los Angeles Review of Books, it sounds like terrific read!

NewImageAn intrepid, curious traveler, Ripley roamed not just to see renowned wonders and not just to drink and tomcat (though he would do both, vigorously, through his entire life), but to unearth the unusual, the hidden, the specific. His travel dispatches, laden with stereotypes of the day, reflect Ripley’s private obsessions — in particular, “the inexplicable things people did for their gods,” particularly if they appeared, to American eyes, grotesque, such as the man Ripley dubs the “Hanging Hindu,” an adherent dangling from a tree via a hook stuck in his back.

Ripley’s complicated relation to “the Other” is one Thompson explores in depth. He locates in Ripley a genuine desire to burrow into the cultures he explores and share the glories and mysteries of other places. But, in large part, the comic’s success hinged on Ripley’s expert skill not at penetration but at sensationalization.

"A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It Or Not!(Amazon)

"Megan Abbott on A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It Or Not!” Ripley" (Los Angeles Review of Books)

Camille Rose Garcia's Snow White

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NewImageAt last night's opening for Camille Rose Garcia's breathtaking "Down The Rabbit Hole" painting exhibition at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, I bought a copy of Camille's illustrated edition of Snow White. This is not Disney's delightful Snow White story though, but rather the darker, creepier tale collected by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. Camille's goth-inspired, phantasmagoric fine art bring the classic story to life once again. Snow White by the Brothers Grimm and Camille Rose Garcia (Amazon)

A train hopper's photos

NewImageNewImageWhen Mike Brodie was 17, he hopped his first train and instantly fell in love with the freedom of riding the rails, sans ticket. Shortly thereafter, in 2004, he came upon an old instant camera and quickly earned his nickname of The Polaroid Kidd. Eventually, he "upgraded" to a 1980s camera and 35 millimeter film but continued to ride the rails and document what he saw. The result is a raw, gritty, beautiful, and often inspiring collection of snapshots now compiled into a book, A Period of Juvenile Prosperity.

You can also see a selection of these photographs at Mike Brodie Photography. (via So Bad So Good, thanks Dave Gill!)