I'm at Blip Festival in New York this weekend checking out all the bleeps and bloops people are making. Blip Festival itself starts tonight, but last night NY Pulsewave had an open mic night and I decided to grab a few of the artists to photograph their instruments: mostly custom modified Game Boys. I've included a few highlights here, and the full set is on my Flickr.
Pictured above is Andrew Gould's (AKA andaruGO) GBM1 Game Boy Classic. It's a great example of the two most popular mods: He's got a custom backlit screen that helps him see the music in the dark, and a wiring modification called Prosound which bypasses the standard headphone jack and wires directly into the device's audio chip for better quality sound. He's using the LSDJ cartridge, pretty much the standard for the Game Boy Classic performers. There's also a custom blue screen protector he received as a gift from an internet friend.
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Daniel Pinkwater, a much-loved living treasure of children's literature, has a new book out today. It's called Mrs Noodlekugel and it is a simple, silly pleasure that feels like the end-product of a lifetime of telling children's stories, carefully removing all the elements that are extraneous to young readers' enjoyment until nothing but the essentials remain. I like to think of Pinkwater's books that way, a kind of skeletal Jenga tower, every extraneous block removed and used to make the structure taller.
Nick and Maxine live in a high-rise apartment building, and one day they discover that one window overlooks a tiny, old fashioned cottage in a small green between their tower and several others. The building's janitor tells them that this is Mrs Noodlekugel's house, and when they quiz their parents about it, they are forbidden to go there.
So they go there. And Mrs Noodlekugel is a sweet old lady who has a talking cat and four nearly-blind mice who get the crumbs from their tea-parties, and she is perfectly pleasant and tells them they're welcome the next day for a gingerbread baking project that the talking cat is undertaking. When the kids tell their parents about this, their parents reveal that they knew all about her, and that she is their new babysitter, and the kids realize they've been tricked.
But they don't mind. They've got Mrs Noodlekugel and the baking. The mice help. And the gingerbread mice -- which the real mice roll around on -- come to life when they come out of the oven. Everyone's delighted by this, and then the crows eat them. But that's OK. They were only gingerbread. And besides, it would be unsanitary to eat cookies that the nearly blind mice rolled around on.
Adam Stower's illustrations are just a little old fashioned, enough to make them seem, you know, a bit classy, but without losing any of their kid appeal. And Pinkwater is, as always, the Fred Astaire of weird, making the fantastic seem effortless. Reading Pinkwater as a boy made me the happy mutant I am today. Reading Pinkwater today keeps me happily mutated in the face of the world's relentless insistence on normalcy.
Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre's Giants Beware is an absolutely delightful kids' graphic novel about a brave young girl who dragoons her friends into going off in search of giants to hunt. Claudette and her friends live in the fortress town of Mont Petit Pierre, whose most famous story is of how the old marquis vanquished a horrible giant who terrorized the town by feasting on babies' toes, chasing it back to its mountain lair and then building the walls around the town to keep it out (and the people in) forever. Claudette can't fathom how the old marquis could have been so irresponsible as to leave the giant alive and still a threat to Mont Petit Pierre, and she is determined to hunt the giant down and kill it. She enlists the aid of her little brother, a timid boy called Gaston (who yearns to be a pastry chef) and her pal Marie, the current marquis's daughter, who plans to become a princess some day, and trains for it by lying on piles of mattresses with peas beneath them and suchlike.
Claudette and Gaston's father is the town blacksmith and a former hero himself, until a misadventure with a dragon cost him his legs and one arm. Now he works with a stoic (but kindly) assistant, and is gruff and fierce, and somewhat disapproving of his son's lack of machismo. The kids conspire to distract him so they can get into his secret stash and raid his hero supplies and equip themselves to stalk and kill the giant of the mountain. The smith's assistant catches them at it, and gives them a bag of magic to help with their quest. Only he takes them seriously -- everyone else assumes they're only playing when they say they're setting off to find the giant, until it's too late, and everyone realizes the kids have gone outside the town walls. The smith and his assistant set off after them, as does the current marquis, a fat bourgeois who promises the local farmers a daily stipend to help him.
What follows is an utterly charming, action-packed quest story with loads of surprises, and high and low comedy, and bravery and tension. The kids are really likable, and the action and humor are both broad enough to amuse even small children and witty and sly enough to keep their parents laughing and gasping too. I read Giants Beware aloud to my four year old, along with her nine-year-old friend, and they demanded a re-read. I was only too happy to oblige -- there was plenty more to enjoy in a second look at the terrific art and the joke-packed layouts.
The story pays off in lots of ways. There's a nice little moral about the dangers of provincialism, a good message about living up to one's fears, and a lot of hints at a broader story about Claudette's father's tragedy and the loss of her mother that make it clear that this story doesn't inhabit a vacuum, but rather is situated in a big, thought-through world. As a graphic novel, Giants Beware fires on every cylinder: comedy and story, art and layout, surprise and characterization. It's one of those rare books that kids and grownups can fully enjoy together -- a real treat.
You can get a taste for the book at the Chronicles of Claudette blog.
Step Gently Out is children's picture book in which poet Helen Frost's verse accompanies the incredible garden insect photographs of artist/photographer Rick Lieder. I've written here many times about Rick's Bugdreams photos, and they never fail to impress and move me. Lieder's photographic portraits of bugs are all the sweeter for his method, which is to patiently crouch in his Michigan back-yard for hours and hours, waiting for the shot; it's a wonderful alternative to the traditional dead-bug-on-a-pin photos I grew up with.
Frost's poem is a sweet accompaniment to Lieder's pictures, a very light narration for photos that really speak for themselves. We got this book this week, and it's a real favorite with me and my four-year-old, and has sparked many conversations and bug-watching expeditions on the way home from day-care. To this end, there's a nice entomological appendix with interesting facts about all the bugs featured in the book.
Stunning close-up photography and a lyrical text invite us to look more closely at the world and prepare to be amazed.
What would happen if you walked very, very quietly and looked ever so carefully at the natural world outside? You might see a cricket leap, a moth spread her wings, or a spider step across a silken web.
In simple, evocative language, Helen Frost offers a hint at the many tiny creatures around us.
And in astonishing photographs, Rick Lieder captures the glint of a katydid’s eye, the glow of a firefly, and many more living wonders just awaiting discovery.
For our Michigander readers, Rick and Helen will have a gallery show at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art featuring the photos, and including a signing on April 6.
Today marks the publication of Fantagraphics' magnificent archaeological comicsology, The Sincerest Form of Parody: The Best 1950s MAD Inspired Satirical Comics.Read the rest
As reviewed in Gweek - Tom Gauld's tragic, darkly funny retelling of David and Goliath from Goliath's perspective. Gauld's work is always quietly powerful and emotionally grabbing. Here's a seven-page taste of the new graphic novel, which is presented in a beautiful hardcover format from Drawn & Quarterly
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The Dead Sea's salinity of 33.7 percent makes it 8.6 times saltier than the ocean. Bordering Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, it is 423m below sea level, making it the lowest place on land on Earth. A tourist hotspot for millennia, more than 1m visitors a year visit on the Israeli & Palestinian side alone. The view from the shore is one thing, but from the air, the sheer strangeness of the salt formations in and around the lake become readily apparent. Photos by Baz Ratner, of Reuters, and others.
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Photos: Rob Beschizza / Boing Boing — CC BY 3.0, allowing commercial use with attribution.
Demonstrations inspired by Occupy Wall Street spread worldwide today, with marches across the U.S and Asia. According to Reuters, most large cities in Europe saw protests, with tens of thousands in Rome and London. Here in Pittsburgh, a column of marchers, chanting slogans and songs, snaked through downtown to gather at Market Square; organizers expect 1000-3000 to gather peacefully in the city center this afternoon. Reuters is liveblogging events in other capitals.
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For more than 20 years, the Tevatron reigned as the gold standard in particle accelerators. Under a berm outside Batavia, Illinois, the machine pushed protons and antiprotons to high energies around circular tracks before crashing them into each other.Read the rest
Problem: Until they're captured, alleged hackers don't make for stories with good art. But readers won't look at words unless they are immediately adjacent to pictures. Solution: stock art! I am delighted to report that there is an abundance of stock art geared toward illustrating news stories about cybercrime.
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