Self-help meets real science

9780307474865 p0 v1 s260x420Richard Wiseman is the professor of Public Understanding of Psychology at the UK's University of Hertfordshire. He's the author of several books, including Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There, was about the psychology of so-called supernatural experiences. His previous book, 59 Seconds: Change Your Life In Under A Minute, draws from the psychology of persuasion to present a series of (oft-counterintuitive) techniques and life hacks to improve memory, negotiate better, reduce stress, etc. It's a self-help book based on entertaining and fascinating scientific research. Above is one of many videos from Wiseman's fun "In 59 Seconds" YouTube channel.

59 Seconds: Change Your Life In Under A Minute (Amazon)

'Rivethead' by Ben Hamper

I've long considered Ben Hamper's Rivethead to be one of the most important books I've read. Hamper, the product of generations of GM motors "shoprats" recounts his 10 torturous but incredibly hilarious years on the GM Truck and Bus line.

Hamper does all he can to avoid dedicating his life to GM's rivet line, but fails. Ride along as he experiences, and then masters, the art of slacking off at a dangerous job, while trying to maintain his sanity in a world of ridiculous policies, colorful co-workers and Howie Makem, GM's minister of Quality in a giant cat costume.

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Incurable Disorder: the creepy creatures of artist Liz McGrath

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Freakishly talented Los Angeles artist Elizabeth McGrath, creator of delightfully creepy and strange faux taxidermy beasties, has a beautiful new monograph just out from Last Gasp Books. The hardcover book, titled Incurable Disorder, contains 160 pages (and 200 full-color images) of Liz's dioramas, sculptures, and paintings from 2005 to 2012. If you're in San Francisco this evening (12/18), Liz is doing a book signing from 7pm to 9pm at Loved To Death! And on Saturday (12/21), she'll be at Oakland's Cakeland for another signing from 7:30pm - 9:30pm. Below, several more images from the book and our classic Boing Boing Video interview with Liz from 2008.

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The Exploratorium's Tinkering Studio and new book!





When I was eleven, my three primary interests were science, art, and magic. That hasn't changed. In 1981, I visited San Francisco for the first time and my big brother took me to the Exploratorium, a pioneering museum that exists at the intersection of science, art, and magic. It blew my mind wide open. And more than three decades later, it's become a very special place for my children, aged 7 and 4. Part of the Exploratorium's stated mission is to ignite curiosity about human perception. But the Exploratorium doesn't just teach people about human perception. Like the best science, art, and magic, the museum experience actually changes your perception of reality.

Earlier this year, the Exploratorium moved from its vast warehouse space near the Golden Gate Bridge into new digs on a pier overlooking the Bay. The massive new space retains the raw, inviting "rustic" warmth of the original location but with better amenities and, most importantly, far more room to showcase classic and new exhibits and also inject even more of the DIY spirit that fuels the museum's creators. This motivation is made tangible in the exposed workshops (just like the old facility) where staff prototypes new exhibits, and in the new Tinkering Studio, a bustling workshop where every guest is encouraged to "learn by doing." And if you need inspiration, just look around at the permanent and temporary exhibits like Scott Weaver's "Rolling Through The Bay," made from 100,000 toothpicks and seen in action above.

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'The Amber Chronicles' by Roger Zelazny, a classic fantasy series

I've re-read Roger Zelazny's 'The Amber Chronicles' series more times than I can recall. I've worn out two copies of this complete collection, and lost countless individual copies of the component books. This fantasy series begins with Nine Princes in Amber, and is one of my favorite fantasy series.

When the story opens neither we nor our hero, Corwin, know what's going on. He is lost in a coma and awakens with amnesia, which we are led to understand is the result of a recent car accident that should have left him dead. Corwin goes on to discover who he is by threatening pretty much everyone he meets. It works.

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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

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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

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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)