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Cover and summary for Lauren Beukes's next horror novel

Here's some good news: the next Lauren Beukes novel, Broken Monsters, is up for pre-order, and we've got a taste of the cover and the synopsis: "Detective Gabriella Versado has seen a lot of bodies. But this one is unique even by Detroit's standards: half boy, half deer, somehow fused together. As stranger and more disturbing bodies are discovered, how can the city hold on to a reality that is already tearing at its seams? If you're Detective Versado's geeky teenage daughter, Layla, you commence a dangerous flirtation with a potential predator online. If you're desperate freelance journalist Jonno, you do whatever it takes to get the exclusive on a horrific story. If you're Thomas Keen, known on the street as TK, you'll do what you can to keep your homeless family safe--and find the monster who is possessed by the dream of violently remaking the world."

I loved Beukes's earlier work -- see my reviews of The Shining Girls and Zoo City.

Broken Monsters (via Super Punch)

Cats of Tanglewood Forest: illustrated modern folktale from Charles de Lint and Charles Vess


For the past two months, my daughter's and my main bedtime reading has been The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a modern folktale written by Charles de Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess, a power duo if ever there was one. This is a story set on an American prairie farm sometime in the 20th century, about Lillian, a kind-hearted girl who sets out saucers of milk for the wild cats, scatters grain for the songbirds, and leaves a biscuit by the oldest, most gnarled apple tree in the orchard for the Apple Tree Man. And it's because of her good heart and her wild spirit that the cats of Tanglewood Forest defy the king of cats, and work cat-magic to rescue her when she is bitten by a snake and brought near to death. Now she has been reborn as a kitten, and she must find out how she can once again become a girl.

The book is lavishly illustrated with Charlie Vess's amazing art nouveau paintings (you may recognize these from his frequent collaborations with Neil Gaiman, such as the beautiful picture book Blueberry Girl). The paintings -- which appear as full pages, but are also worked into the margins, endpapers, and jacket -- are a wonderful and gripping accompaniment to the story. Although this story is too sophisticated for my six-year-old to have read to herself, the combination of the illustrations and my reading it aloud made it absolutely accessible to her. And these paintings are so gorgeous that she was more than happy to sit and thumb through the book, enjoying them on their own.

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The Abels Raise Cain - An excerpt from Kembrew McLeod's PRANKSTERS


[Ed: I'm a huge fan of Kembrew McLeod, a writer, nerdfighter, media theorist and hoopy frood. From epic pranks like Freedom of Expression (R) to genius analysis like Creative License, Kembrew always amazes. Here's an excerpt from his latest: Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World, with an introduction just for us -Cory]

Since I was a kid, I have been fixated on trickery, which played a role in why I grew up to be an occasional prankster (my dad recalls that, as an adolescent, I would surprise him by placing my Sesame Street Ernie doll in grim situations, such leaving him in a noose hanging from a shower head or pinned to the kitchen wall with a knife). Now that I am an adult, I spend most of my time as a teacher and professor being a bit more serious -- enough to take the subject of pranking seriously, which is why I wrote Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World, published by NYU Press on April 1 this year. The word prank is more often used today to describe stunts that make people look foolish and little more. I'm not interested in celebrating cruelty -- especially the sorts of mean-spirited practical jokes, hazing rituals, and reality television deceits that are all too common in today's popular culture. Although "good" pranks sometimes do ridicule their targets, they serve a higher purpose by sowing skepticism and speaking truth to power (or at least cracking jokes that expose fissures in power's facade). A prank a day keeps The Man away, I always say. Nevertheless, I should stress that this book is not solely about pranking. Many of the characters who populate its pages aren't driven by noble impulses, and even those who are more pure of heart can muddy the ethical waters with dubious tactics. With this in mind, Pranksters examines everything from political pranks, silly hoaxes, and con games to the sort of self-deception that fuels outlandish belief systems. The following is an excerpt from Chapter Nine of Pranksters, about the exploits of a married couple named Jeanne and Alan Abel who began as professional pranksters in the late 1950s, and are still at it today.

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Engagement ring with tiny slide and projection lens built in


This engagement ring with a built-in lens and slide is apparently a prototype produced by an unnamed Polish manufacturer. According to Technolog, who posted the images to Reddit, the publicity-shy manufacturer hasn't gone into production yet.

Update: Technolog has updated the post with the name of the maker: Marek Mazur of Gdansk

Engagement ring with little photo slide and lens in it (via Super Punch)

Geeky temporary tatts: TATTONOMY


Harry sez, "Tattoos are the best form of self expression, but let's face it, some of us don't want to get something permanent on our skin that we might regret for the rest of our lives. That's where TATTONOMY comes in. They've created temporary tattoos with geeky designs that you will never regret having. You put them on with water, they stay on for a few days and then you wave goodbye to your geeky design."

Harry's the CPU Wars guy -- a good egg.

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Michael Lewis's "Flash Boys": lifting the rock on crooked high-speed trading

Michael Lewis is the best finance writer in the business (see my reviews of The Big Short and Liar's Poker), a gifted storyteller with a firm grasp of his subject and real insider access and insight. He's got a new book out, Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt, which tells the story of the high-speed traders who turned the stock markets into (more of) a rigged game, and how the big incumbent banks fought back. The New York Times Magazine has adapted a long excerpt from the book and it's thrilling, shining a light on what New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman called "insider trading 2.0."

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Expiration Day: YA coming of age novel about robots and the end of the human race


Expiration Day is William Campbell Powell's debut YA novel, and it's an exciting start. The novel is set in a world in which human fertility has collapsed, taking the birth-rate virtually to zero, sparking riots and even a limited nuclear war as the human race realizes that it may be in its last days. Order is restored, but at the price of basic civil liberties. There's a little bit of Orwell (a heavily surveilled and censored Internet); but mostly, it's all about the Huxley. The major locus of control is a line of robotic children -- all but indistinguishable from flesh-and-bloods, even to themselves -- who are sold to desperate couples as surrogates for the children they can't have, calming the existential panic and creating a surface veneer of normalcy.

Expiration Day takes the form of a private diary of Tania, an 11 year old vicar's daughter in a small village outside of London. Tania's father's parishioners have found religion, searching for meaning in their dying world. He is counsellor and father-figure to them, though the family is still relatively poor. Tania is a young girl growing up in the midst of a new, catastrophic normal, the only normal she's ever known, and she's happy enough in it. But them she discovers that she, too, is a robot, and has to come to grips with the fact that her "parents" have been lying to her all her life. What's more, the fact that she's a robot means that she won't live past 18: all robots are property of a private corporation, and are merely leased to their "parents," and are recalled around their 18th birthday, turned into scrap.

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Hand-painted Haunted Mansion stretching portraits coasters on Italian marble


Etsy seller Breakeble Designs used to offer these hand-painted Italian marble coasters that depicted the stretching portraits from the Haunted Mansions from Disneyland/Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland. Alas, Breakeble Designs is on holiday, with no word of when or if the coasters will return. They'd make handsome decorative wall-tiles as well as coasters.

Haunted Mansion Stretching Portrait Italian Marble Coasters (via The Haunted Mansion)

Disney's Nine Old Men: box-set of flipbooks

In January 2013, Disney Animation Studios released a box-set of nine flip books that pay tribute to the "Nine Old Men" of Disney animation -- artists who pioneered the animation techniques that define the field even today. I only just found out about these today -- they're amazing. Each book shows the animation as line-art, really capturing the character and movement the animators imbued their creations with. This video does a good job of showing off the books. The box also includes a short explanatory book, but this isn't really about reading material -- the value is all in having the cel-by-cel line art to marvel upon.

Walt Disney Animation Studios The Archive Series Walt Disney's Nine Old Men: The Flipbooks

Lockstep: Karl Schroeder's first YA novel is a triumph of weird science, deep politics, and ultimate adventure


As I've written before, Karl Schroeder is one of the sharpest, canniest thinkers about technology and science fiction I know. In the nearly 30 years I've know him, he's introduced me to fractals, free software, Unix, listservers, SGML, augmented reality, the Singularity, and a host of other ideas -- generally 5-10 years before I heard about these ideas from anyone else. What's more, he's a dynamite novelist with a finely controlled sense of character and plot to go with all those Big Ideas.

Now he's written his first young adult novel, Lockstep, and it is a triumph.

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Exclusive excerpt: first three chapters of "The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza"

Yesterday, I reviewed James Kolchaka's new graphic novel for kids, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza, which made my six year old daughter laugh until she cried (I liked it too).

Today, I'm delighted to bring you the first three chapters of Glorkian Warrior, an exclusive courtesy of publishers FirstSecond.

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James Kochalka's "The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza"


I have never heard my daughter laugh as loud or as long as she did when I read her James Kochalka new kids' graphic novel, The Glorkian Warrior Delivers a Pizza. My six year old literally howled with laughter as I read this to her at bedtime, and kicked her legs in the air, and thumped the pillow -- tears of laughter rolled down her cheeks. After reading this to her twice at bedtime, I had to declare a moratorium on further bedtime reads because it wound her up too much to sleep.

I loved it too. The Glorkian Warrior is a dopey, destiny-seeking superhero who finds himself on a quest when he intercepts a wrong-number pizza-order and decides to deliver the leftover pizza in his fridge. His straight-man is his wisecracking, laser-zapping sentient backpack, which helps him fight off a giant mecha-suited doofus named Gonk, a mysterious pizza-snatching saucer-craft, and a magic robot in an impenetrable fortress.

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Ifixit's MacGyver toolkit


Ifixit is celebrating MacGyver's birthday with an Action Hero Toolkit in a Altos-tin-sized-tin. It includes a bobby pin, a match, a rubber band, bubble gum, a birthday candle, a paper clip (natch), a shoelace, a 1 cent stamp and duct-tape. $6.

Action Hero Toolkit (Thanks, Jeff!)

Blobfish plush


Thinkgeek bills their $40 Blobfish Plush as a "Grumpy Cat of the sea." While its true that the "world's ugliest animal" is actually pretty unremarkable looking when it is compressed by the awesome high-pressure environment of the sea, there's no denying that it looks like a newspaper caricature of a sad, downtrodden shlub when brought to the surface, which makes it the perfect gift...for that someone special in your life.

Blobfish Plush

Polygon-art Star Wars character cushion-covers

On Etsy, The Retro Inc sells a nice line of custom-sized cushion slips screened with polygon art renderings of Star Wars characters. They range from $34-$42 depending on size.

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