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Carved crayons -- now with color!


Both Mark and I have sung the praises of Hoang Tran's hand-carved pop-culture crayons (I have one in my office!).

But Tran has really gone to a new level, adding detail and sparing color not seen in the earlier works. These new pieces are on display in a Tumblr called Wax Nostalgic, and they're magnificent.

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Bookshelf masking-tape


Etsy seller Light Life makes this book-spine masking tape for sealing up your boxes and making them look like they're libraries for tiny flatlanders. The Taiwanese seller has lots of other notable designs, too. It's all $6.78/roll, plus shipping from Taiwan. (via Tor Books Tumblr)

Pop culture pencils

Glasgow's Popculturepencils makes custom pencils that come in threesomes which spell out fannish messages, For example: "He's dead Jim," "Beam me up Scotty" and "Live long and prosper." Or: "Sedagive?" "What hump?" and "Put the candle back." Very nice: now, put 'em on rebooted Blackwings. (via Geekymerch)

Werkhaus: flat-pack housewares and accessories skinned with photos of scuffed, worn-in real-world stuff


I was in Berlin for the day yesterday to speak at a World Consumer Rights Day, and before I headed back to the airport, I dropped in at Werkhaus, a retail outlet that sells innovative, made-in-Germany flat-pack housewares that are skinned with beautiful photos of decayed, wabi-sabi surfaces from street furniture, antiques, and industrial apparatus. I bought one of their "Telefonstation" shelving units, designed to hold and charge your phones and mobile devices while disguising the charge-cables; the one I bought is skinned with the exterior of a scuffed and beaten Soviet pay-phone, with stenciled Cyrillic lettering.

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New old-timey Twilight Zone action figures announced


Zack sez, "Submitted for your approval -- Bif Bang Pow! has a new line of action figures inspired by the classic TV series done in the scale and style of such 1980s figure lines as Star Wars. Personal favorites include the Invader from 'The Invaders' and Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis in 'Time Enough at Last,' who is getting a permanent space on my bookshelf where he can finally enjoy some good literature without worrying about breaking his glasses."

These are in addition to the existing line of Bif Bam Pow Twilight Zone toys which include some real standouts like the Mystic Seer bobble-head and the Eye of the Beholder Nurse.

Bif Bang Pow! Enters a New Dimension (Thanks, Zack!)

DJs plunder Raymond Scott's archives and remix rarities: Raymond Scott Rewired!


The Raymond Scott estate turned over 50 years' worth of the composer's archives to three DJs -- The Bran Flakes, The Evolution Control Committee, and Go Home Productions. The archives contained "jazz, orchestral, electronic, experimental, studio chatter, never-heard rarities," which the DJs remixed into six tracks each, as well as a collaborative remix of Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse," perhaps his best known work (and much beloved of classic Warner Brothers' cartoons fans).

The Raymond Scott Rewired CD came out on Feb 18, and there's also an MP3 version.

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Get a signed, inscribed copy of "In Real Life" delivered to your door, courtesy of WORD Books


As previously mentioned, Jen Wang and I have adapted my short story "Anda's Game" as a full-length, young adult graphic novel called "In Real Life," which comes out next October. Brooklyn's excellent WORD bookstore has generously offered to take pre-orders for signed copies; I'll drop by the store during New York Comic-Con and sign and personalize a copy for you and they'll ship it to you straightaway.

Dual-chambered beer-glasses for mixing the perfect black-and-tan


Etsy seller Matthew Cummings of Kentucky's Pretentious Beer Glass Company created a set of four cylindrical, dual-chambered beer glasses, which allows you to mix any two beers without regard to their specific gravities and without a lot of mucking around with jigs. He also takes custom orders. A set of four is $125.

Dual Beer Glass, Set of 4 (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Free to Be...You and Me is 40

It's the fortieth anniversary of the release of Free to Be...You and Me, the groundbreaking movie/record/book that encouraged kids and their grownups to break out of gender stereotypes and shame and be whomever they were. This was hugely influential for me (I registered freetobeyouandme.com to keep it away from squatters and gave it to the nonprofit foundation that continues the project's work), and I'm incredibly pleased to discover that it resonates with my six-year-old daughter, too.

The thing is that Free to Be... is not only right-on in its politics and message -- it's also fabulous: funny, catchy, sweet and smart. It features an all-star cast that includes Michael Jackson, Mel Brooks, Marlo Thomas, Harry Belafonte, Rosie Greer, Carol Channing, Carl Reiner, Alan Alda, Diana Ross, and more. My daughter can't get enough of Boy Meets Girl and we sing William's Doll at bedtime all the time. Unfortunately, the theme of gender stereotypes is just as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. But the good news is that Marlo Thomas and her friends gave us parents a tool for helping our kids understand and break through these stereotypes that is just as powerful today as it was then.

CNN's Jamie Gumbrecht celebrates Free to Be...'s anniversary with a look at When We Were Free to Be, a 2012 book that looks at the project's history and impact:

As a kid on Long Island in the 1970s, Miriam Peskowitz was a frustrated "Free to Be" fan. She wrote in "When We Were Free to Be" about her feminist mom's righteous letters and calls demanding her daughter be able take wood and mechanical shop, or that girls need not wait for boys to ask them to square dance. (Square dancing, of course, being one way that schools satisfied Title IX requirements.) To Peskowitz's dismay, she had the same arguments at her child's school decades later. Peskowitz watched in the mornings as her daughter settled down to draw bubble letters with her gal pals while boys raced each other to the chessboards. The teacher said it wasn't a problem; it's just what the kids chose. "After I nudged again and again, the teacher eventually taught all the children in the classroom how to play chess. Some girls started to choose that as their morning activity," wrote Peskowitz, the author of "The Daring Book for Girls." "Very often," Peskowitz wrote, "all it takes to outsmart gender stereotypes is a little creative thinking and a little gumption.

Free to Be...You and Me [Soundtrack]

Free to Be...You and Me [DVD]

Free to Be...You and Me [35th anniversary edition book]

When We Were Free to Be [Book]

Remembering 'Free to Be... You and Me,' 40 years later [Jamie Gumbrecht/CNN]

Randall "XKCD" Munroe is doing a What If? book!

XKCD creator Randall Munroe has announced that Houghton Mifflin will collect his amazing What If? science columns into a book called What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, to be published in September 2014. It will include in-depth answers to questions that he hasn't yet answered online, as well as expanded and updated versions of his previous columns.

What If? is one of my Internet must-reads, and I look forward to each new installment, and always read it with delight.

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How Disney movies gave an autistic boy his voice


In Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism , Pulitzer-winning writer Ron Suskind tells the incredible story of how his son Owen disappeared into "regressive autism" at the age of three, losing the ability to speak or understand speech and developmentally degenerating across a variety of metrics, only to reemerge a few years later, able to communicate through references and dialog from the Disney movies he obsessively watches.

A long excerpt in the New York Times, generously illustrated with Owen's expressive fan-art, hints at a book that is wrenching and inspirational by turns. It reminds me of 3500, Ron Miles's memoir of raising a son with autism who was able to engage with the world through thousands of re-rides of Snow White's Scary Adventures at Walt Disney World.

Suskind is a brilliant writer, and the excerpt is deeply moving. I've pre-ordered my copy.

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Kickstarting an Arduino-based Enigma machine

ST Geotronics have exanded their Instructables project for building your own Arduino-based Enigma and turned it into a Kickstarter. $40 gets you some boards you can kit-bash with; $125 gets you the full kit; $300 gets you the whole thing, beautifully made and fully assembled.

The Open Enigma Project (Thanks, Tina!)

On the 25th anniversary of the magnificent, enduring novel "Geek Love"


Caitlin Roper's 25th anniversary appreciation of Katherine Dunn's magnificent novel Geek Love manages the improbable trick of doing the book justice. Geek Love is a one-of-a-kind wonder of a novel, unique in voice, subject matter and emotional affect. Nothing I've ever read or done has made me feel the way Geek Love makes me feel every time I re-read it (it's a book I've loved since my teens). The feeling isn't entirely pleasant, but it's an important feeling, and one I need to get in touch with every couple of years.

Roper's piece features a rundown of all the amazing things that Geek Love has inspired in its quarter century, from the Jim Rose Sideshow Circus to mountains of weird and amazing fan-art. It also gives a glimpse of Dunn herself and the events that led her to write her wonderful masterpiece. I bought my wife a copy of Geek Love when we started courting. I couldn't imagine spending my life with someone who hadn't read it.

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Tauntaun hoodie with guts lining

Thinkgeek's Tauntaun Costume Hoodie not only has horns and ears, but its lining includes line-art innards and gore, to really bring home the feeling of climbing inside your trusty steed's guts to be shielded from the elements.

Tauntaun Costume Hoodie (via The Disney Blog)

MC Chris's "Foreverrr" - porny, Ghostbusters-y nerdcore

MC Chris, creator of such immortal nerdcore classics as Fett's Vette and Aqua Teen Hunger Force, has a new double album out: Foreverrr.

Foreverrr is an insane, lewd, lacivious, profane and obscene delight of a concept album about the romance between a lonely ghost and a grandmotherly sexbot who's taken up residence in a haunted house. It features songs about all five Ghostbusters (including Tully), as well as nods to Wednesday Addams and The Shining (it's also got a ton of silliness about Luigi, french fries, and dating woes).

Ultimately, though, as the liner notes say, "it's also about letting go of the past, letting go of your anger, letting go of people you love." Amid all the supernatural sex-jokes and fat beats, MC Chris slides a lot of poignant, autobiographical material about coming to grips with his alcoholic father, and learning how to cope with his anger rather than taking it out on hecklers at his shows.

One of the Ghostbusters tracks, 58.9, was released early as a memorial to Harold Ramis, and a fan made a rather good video for it.

The album ships on Tuesday: $25 gets you two CDs in sleeves; $45 gets you a tri-fold CD case and a t-shirt; and $65 gets you the tri-fold case, a hoodie, stickers, a poster, a tote and a button.

"Foreverrr" - MC Chris