Sol Yurick, author of The Warriors (1965), has died. The novel -- which in 1979 led to the classic cult film of the same name -- was inspired by Yurick's experiences working in the New York City Department of Welfare.
“Some of the children of these families were what was then called juvenile delinquents,” Mr. Yurick wrote in an introduction to an edition of “The Warriors” published in 2003. “Many of them belonged to fighting gangs. Some of these gangs numbered in the hundreds; they were veritable armies. This social phenomenon was viewed, on the one hand, as the invasion of the barbarians, only this time they came from the inside rather than from the outside.”
I was killing time in a used bookstore last week and ran across a copy of Billy Collins' Picnic, Lightning that became an instant purchase.
Collins' poetry presents images so strong I can only describe them as photography. As that photographer, Collins is a member of your family, your best friend, sharing everyday moments and feelings so vividly they become your memories as well.
The title poem is a clever examination of two words from Nabakov's Lolita and packed with Collins' charming wit. My favorite, however, is This Much I Do Remember, a simple story of a memory being made.
Reminiscing with an old friend last night brought tears to my eyes. It is amazing how this tale of youth and discovery holds me. Walter's terrible boredom at Ghengis Khan High? Sneaking out to see classic films with Winston Bongo? Beers at Beanbenders? I still want to do these things! My imagination is permanently warped in the most wonderful ways.
I had a lot of time on my hands this holiday season and decided to get an arduino kit (I have solar panels I want to aim for max efficiency during the day, on a VW van.) A lot of intro titles seemed interesting but Simon Monk's 30 Arduino Projects for the Evil Genius grabbed my attention. Good title!
Sadly, this is no guide to building shark-mountable lasers. There are however a lot of simple, short projects that help you understand building with an arduino controller. Monk uses very clear pictures and schematics to show what needs doing. His text is precise and understandable. The steps are easy to follow and the thing you should learn from an exercise is blatantly obvious. Most importantly these projects are fun! I'm not just making an LED blink or a speaker chirp when I work with this book. Projects like the temperature monitor and computer controlled fan are giving me the foundation I need to aim my solar panels. The results and functions are easy to apply to the types of things I want to do with an arduino.
If the only new author I'd been introduced to in 2012 was Hugh Howey, then 2012 would have been a fantastic year. His series Wool is the best set of kindle shorts I've read, bar none.
To avoid spoilers, Wool is a tale of discovery that shines through the open holes in its backstory. Howey takes advantage of the short form to create an amazing and full world, skillfully letting you imagine huge swaths of history. Parts 6 & 7 represent a prequel trilogy, First Shift and Second Shift tell part of the story, the beginning.
Trapped is the fifth novel in Kevin Hearne's Iron Druid Chronicles. A Harry Dresden-esque story of Atticus, the last remaining druid.
Atticus largely spends his time hanging out, loving the earth and being all druid-y. This is how he has stayed alive when all the other druids were killed off! The series, however, shows how events unfold to lead Atticus in bringing the magic back and training an apprentice, a hot one. In book five it appears Granuaile, said apprentice, is ready to be sworn in or, conveniently "bound," when everything goes awry.
I really enjoy these books. They are clever, fast paced and a good escape. Hounded is the first in the series.
San Francisco is certainly a quirky place and Cecelia Holland's Vigilante Wars sheds a lot of light on how we got there! The inner-workings and many of the social mores that today are common-place were founded in some crazy times.
Holland recounts the lawlessness, mob rule and colorful characters that the 1849 Gold Rush brought to San Francisco. Tales of gangs like "the Hounds" wandering the streets, the massive in-flux of wealth seekers and the poverty that followed. You can easily see how today's San Francisco evolved.
I am addicted to Jim Butcher's tales of Harry Dresden, Chicago's wizard PI. With the film noir touches, the old VW bug and a Fu dog of his very own, how could I not love Harry Dresden?
Cold Days is the latest installment in Butcher's series about the politics and antics of the magical realm and how they cross over into ours. The entire quirky cast is back and Harry isn't even dead! I'll hold off on other spoilers and suffice to say I loved it.
Mark Ernest Pothier's The First Light of Evening explores the life of Jim, who would rather not have it explored. Marriage over and retired Jim has spent the last few years reading all the books he said he would, and then his daughter sets him up on a date.
An elegantly written Kindle Single, Pothier makes every word count without creating the rushed or crammed feeling the format can often take. I'll be looking for additional works by this author!
Mark and I are both big fans of Timothy Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body. Many things that Tim says about fitness, diet, work, and life-hacking have really resonated with me over the years. But beyond the subjects Tim writes about, it's his approach to learning that truly inspires me whenever we see each other or I read his stuff. Like many people I know (including me), Tim is a novelty addict. He's curious about most everything and when he wants to know something, or know how to do something -- like cook, salsa dance, kick-box, speak Japanese, or hold your breath for crazy lengths of time -- he seeks out the experts and immerses himself utterly and completely in the subject matter. That's why I'm excited to read Tim's new book The 4-Hour Chef, due out in a few weeks. I'm sure it has lots of great information about how to cook, but according to Tim it's really a book about how to learn anything. That's perfect because there's a lot I've got to learn. Listen for Tim on a coming episode of our Gweek podcast. Congrats, Tim!
Six years ago, a group of hyper-creative old-school punks from Orange County unleashed the psychedelic kids insanity of Yo Gabba Gabba! on the world. The moment that Boing Boing first discovered the show pilot before it was even picked up for TV, the surreal antics of DJ Lance and his mutant pals infiltrated my home. My son is almost 7 and (temporarily) a bit old for the show, but my 3-year-old daughter has become a passionate fan. To her mind, the show depicts some sort of classroom and DJ Lance is the "teacher." I only wish I attended a pre-school where Brobee was a classmate!
Now, for children who have just outgrown Yo Gabba Gabba!, the show's creators have created a new alternate (and equally-strange/fun) narrative in the form of a book titled The Goon Holler Guidebook. Penned by YGG! art director Parker Jacobs, the slim hardback is a guide to a magical place called Goon Holler that is filled with mischief, jokes, comics, and, yes, ukulele. The first character you'll meet is Tooba, a Bigfoot (yay!), who stumbled through a waterfall portal into Goon Holler where he meets a wizard, an alien, and, of course the goons. You can imagine the rest, or at least your kids can.
Blue Skies is a great start to Matthew Mather's Atopia Chronicles. In just a few pages he introduces you to believable future and a character I immediately identified with.
Olympia is an advertising exec run out of steam, but she can't admit it. She is past the edge of a nervous breakdown and needs to find some control. She doesn't like to use drugs but agrees to test a new technology, nanobots embed 'smaticles' into her nervous system and give complete control over the reality she perceives -- bots aren't drugs! With the help of her new poly-synthetic sensory interface, or "pssi," Olympia learns one of those "be careful what you wish for" lessons.
Warm Moonlight is the second Kindle Single I've read by Joseph Wurtenbaugh. I really like his style!
Warm Moonlight reveals a former 20's gun moll turned grandmother, sharing a supernatural story of their family past with her granddaughter. While the story isn't the most original and you've heard it before, Wurtenbaugh does a wonderful job of drawing you in. Do not, however, expect a repeat of Old Soul, which was told from the pov of a microscopic parasite/symbiote, this story is very different.
Unicorn Mountain is a collective of Pittsburgh artists that publishes anthologies of local art, comics, music and literature. Their third anthology, The Black Forest, takes a different tack from their previous collections by exploring much darker, stranger themes. My friend Tara Helfer did the layout and supplementary illustrations for The Black Forest and sent me a copy to check out.
The collection covers a broad range of styles, and is packed with more than twenty different artists' work. Some parts are creepy and scribbly. Others are intricate and mysterious. I've picked some samples of a few of my favorites here.