Light Bulb Baking – The 50-year history of The Easy Bake Oven

The 1960s were a magical decade in the world of toys. Toy companies like Wham-O, Hasbro, Mattel and Kenner were churning out captivating toys faster than toy stores could keep them in stock. Toys like Lite-Brite, Etch A Sketch, Twister, Creepy Crawlers, Operation, Hippity Hop, Spirograph… and of course Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven (launched in 1963) were all the rage.

With an entertaining narrative, Light Bulb Baking explains how the miniature working oven got its start, dissects the oven, explains how a simple light bulb can bake a cake, and tells us loads of fun anecdotes and trivia about Easy Bake (such as the shelf life of Easy Bake mixes, the horrible burns caused by the 2006-2007 models, and the story of a 9-year-old Easy Bake Baker of the Year who won $5,000 for her Toffee Trifle Cake). The book, which is smartly designed with photos, diagrams and sidebars, ends with a bunch of award-winning recipes that make me want to dig out the old Easy Bake Oven I have somewhere in my garage.

Light Bulb Baking
by Todd Coopee
Sonderho Press
2013, 178 pages, 8.7 x 8.7 x 0.4 inches (paperback)

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Unusual childrens' books

darkmaster

Can't remember much after about 8pm last night, but just found these on my desktop, so it must have been a good evening.

Death-cults

cisrabbit

episcopalians

mother

WEAK

What's right with Hermione

14-year-old Naomi Horn says the heroine of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series remains a depressingly rare example of a fictional female respected for her education and intelligence. In Hermione’s world, being smart is what makes her important.

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Alan Moore's finished a one million word epic novel

The creator of Watchmen, From Hell, V for Vendetta; zinester; defender of libraries; wizard; battler of Big Comics and pornographer has finished the first draft of a novel set loosely in Northampton, a kind of fictionalized memoir of Moore's family -- no publication date yet, and it's likely to come out in three volumes. CAN'T WAIT.

(Image: Alan Moore, Nikki Tysoe, CC-BY)

A collection of gory and ghastly Creepy and Eerie magazines

It’s impossible to review the Dark Horse Comics collections of Creepy and Eerie without a few fond recollections. In the ’60s and ’70s, my father owned a men’s tailored clothing shop on Moody Street in Waltham, Massachusetts. It was a fine place to hang around as a kid. My dad knew all the other business people in the area and I would spend part of the day visiting nearby stores. It was in Mr. Big’s toy store where I first discovered Aurora models. Their “snap-tite” collection was perfect for the budding model builder, but it was the types of sets that really set my imagination on fire — dinosaurs, Universal Film monsters, and most importantly, the bizarre and sadistic sets that were part of their Monster Scenes line. There was Dr. Deadly and his lab, The Pendulum, and The Hanging Cage. Then there was Vampirella, a fairly X-rated kit, that was really special, because she had her own magazine, Vampirella, which was part of the Warren publications that also included Creepy and Eerie. These magazines became the foundation of my childhood love of fantasy and horror, but somewhere along the way my collection was lost. Rediscovering these magazines in the Dark Horse collections reminds me not only of the ghastly fun these stories were, but just how weird the 1970s really were.

Now up to volume 19 for Creepy (collecting up to issue #93) and volume 16 for Eerie (collecting up to issue #80), Dark Horse has done an outstanding job with these collections, capturing all that was vibrant and exciting of these magazines. Each volume contains five issues and includes reprints of the letter pages and some of the advertisements, which, to be honest, was a huge part of what made them so fun. At first dedicated to mostly horror, later issues showcased fantasy and science fiction. Eerie also offered serialized stories like the “The Mummy Walks” by Jaime Brocal and Steve Skeates, and in later issues “The Rook” by Bill DuBay.

Avoiding the heavy hand of the Comics Code, Creepy and Eerie enjoyed the freedom and there is fun “wink-wink” sensibility with all the nudity, gore, and occult scares. But these stories were not just meant to shock. Some of the stories are dated and their twisted versions of O Henry-like endings don’t chill like they used to, but their cleverness is never lost. It’s the artwork, however, that makes these volumes worth owning, both for the wonderful cover art by people like Frank Frazetta, and for the interiors, which feature some of the best in the day, including Berni Wrightson and Richard Corben. Unlike some the unwieldy comic omnibus editions, the Dark Horse collections are read comfortably, but contain enough great content to keep you poring over them wide-eyed, much like I did when I was kid.

Creepy Archives Volume 19
Dark Horse Books
Introduction by Jack Butterworth
2014, 280 pages, 8.7 x 11.1 x 0.9 inches
$35 Buy a copy on Amazon

Eerie Volume 16
Dark Horse Books
Foreword by Peter Bagge
2014, 288 pages, 8.7 x 11.1 x 0.9 inches
$35 Buy a copy on Amazon

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The Complete Zap Comix: a new boxed set

In November, our friends at Last Gasp will publish a sumptuous boxed set of The Complete Zap Comix, the series born in 1968 that launched the careers of R. Crumb, Robert Williams, S. Clay Wilson, Gilbert Shelton, Paul Mavrides, Victor Moscoso, Spain Rodriguez, and the entire culture of underground comix. Far fucking out.

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Kickstarting Skyliner; a graphic novel memoir about jazz behind the Iron Curtain


At 81, Polish illustrator Andre Krayewski has adapted his memoir about being a jazz fan in Stalinist Poland into a graphic novel, and his son Ed has translated it to English.

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Seconds, by Bryan Lee "Scott Pilgrim" O'Malley

What do you do for a followup after a triumph like the Scott Pilgrim series? If you’re Bryan Lee O’Malley, you do Seconds, a graphic novel that’s three notches less self-consciously clever, and six notches more heartfelt, smart, and sweet. Cory Doctorow reviews Seconds.

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Science fiction's Islamic roots


From Ibn Tufail's 12th century Hayy Ibn Yaqzan to Rokeya Sakhawat Hussain's 1905 feminist masterpiece Sultana's Dream, the Islamic world produced some of the earliest proto-sf, which IO9's Charlie Jane Anders rounds up in an excellent post.

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The Math Book: From Pythagoras to the 57th Dimension, 250 Milestones in the History of Mathematics

The astonishingly prolific author/scientist Clifford Pickover (see the review of his Book of Black for a list of some of his other books) is a math enthusiast with a talent for ferreting out fascinating anecdotes about math, and writing them in a way that inspires wonder.

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William Gibson reads Neuromancer

It's from the original audio edition of his seminal 1984 novel, which is sadly no longer available, though it's easy enough to find bootlegs online.

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Madeline Ashby's Hieroglyph story: "By the Time We Get To Arizona"


The Hieroglyph anthology was created by Neal Stephenson, challenging sf writers to imagine futures where ambitious technological projects improved the human condition.

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Amazon vs Hachette is nothing: just WAIT for the audiobook wars!


In my latest Locus column, Audible, Comixology, Amazon, and Doctorow’s First Law, I unpick the technological forces at work in the fight between Amazon and Hachette, one of the "big five" publishers, whose books have not been normally available through Amazon for months now, as the publisher and the bookseller go to war over the terms on which Amazon will sell books in the future.

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The Memory of an Elephant – A beautifully illustrated multi-layered picture book for all ages

This beautifully illustrated picture book takes more than one read to take in all of the delightfully layered pages. At its first level, it tells a sweet story about an old elephant named Marcel who has almost forgotten his birthday, until thoughtful friends and his own reminiscence about his colorful past spark his memory. But the book doesn’t end where the story ends. Inserted into most pages are “index cards” marked with an elephant symbol that have interesting elephant facts, such as listing the differences between Asian and African elephants, describing how they communicate over long distances, and giving us figures on how much they weigh, eat, and sleep.

As if jumping from story to elephant facts weren’t enough, the book is also saturated with yet another layer: miniature encyclopedias on certain topics mentioned in the story. For instance, when Marcel is reminiscing about his days at sea, we get a page of “On the Sea” related word entries. We learn about clipper sailboats, longships, a nautical mile, and more. While sitting with Memory, my attention span was constantly challenged by these fun extras that kept beckoning me away. I finally gave in and read all of the sidebars first, and then eventually went back and read the actual story from beginning to end. Unlike some children’s books, which are ready to be recycled after the first read, this is an illustrated book for all ages that has real staying power.

The Memory of an Elephant, by Sophie Strady (author) and Jean-François Martin (illustrator)

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Steven Gould's "Exo," a Jumper novel by way of Heinlein's "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel"

Steven Gould’s 1993 YA novel Jumper was a spectacular success (even if the film “adaptation” stank on ice), and each of the (all-too-infrequent) sequels have raised both the stakes and the bar for a must-read series. But with Exo, published today, Gould takes his game into orbit — literally.

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