Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy


Today sees the publication of Bonnie Burton's (previously) long-awaited new book, Crafting with Feminism: 25 Girl-Powered Projects to Smash the Patriarchy. Read the rest

The Attention Merchants: a deep dive into the origins of the surveillance economy

Tim Wu is a multiple threat: the originator of the term "net neutrality"; a copyfighting lawyer who cares about creator's rights; a fair use theorist; Zephyr Teachout's running mate in the NY gubernatorial race; an anti-monopolist who joined the NY Attorney General and used open source to catch Time Warner in the act; a lifelong deep nerd who was outraged by the persecution of Aaron Swartz, and the author of one of the seminal books on telcoms policy and human rights.

Now, he's back with his best book yet: The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, an erudite, energizing, outraging, funny and thorough history of one of humanity's core undertakings -- getting other people to care about stuff that matters to you.

"Incentivized" shill reviews now banned on Amazon


Following complaints and a scathing exposé by Review Meta (previously) Amazon announced it will now ban incentivized reviews, a form of shill review written in exchange for free or reduced-cost products. Read the rest

Ghosts: Raina Telgemeier's upbeat tale of death, assimilation and cystic fibrosis

YA graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier is a force of nature; her Babysitters Club graphic novels are witty and smart and snappy; her standalone graphic novels are even better, but her latest, Ghosts, is her best to date: an improbably upbeat story about death, assimilation and cystic fibrosis.

The Doonesbury Trump retrospective proves that Garry Trudeau had Drumpf's number all along

On September 14, 1987, Garry B Trudeau ran the first Doonesbury strip that mentioned Donald Trump, in which his characters marvel that New York's "loudest and most visible asshole" had floated a political trial balloon, hinting that he would run for president; thus began 30 years of marveling at, mocking, and skewering Der Drumpf, so rattling the Short-Fingered Vulgarian that he felt the need to issue a series of wounded denunciations. Now, just in time for the election, Trudeau has released a collection of his Trump-themed strips, Yuge: 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump, just the thing to put the Republican nominee on tilt.

Phoebe and her unicorn are back in Razzle Dazzle Unicorn!

Since 2015, our family has been in love with Dana Simpson's Phoebe and Her Unicorn books, a kind of modern take on Calvin and Hobbes, only Calvin is an awesome little girl, Hobbes is a unicorn, and the parental figures can see and interact with the unicorn, but are not freaked out because she generates a SHIELD OF BORINGNESS. Now, the insanely prolific Simpson has released the fourth collection in the series: Razzle Dazzle Unicorn: Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure.

Making Conversation: 59 lively and delightful essays from Teresa Nielsen Hayden

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It's been more than 20 years since the publication of Making Book, Teresa Nielsen Hayden's collection of essays, mostly drawn from the pre-online days of fanzines and letters columns; this year, in honor of Teresa's stint as Fan Guest of Honor at Midamericon II, the 74th World Science Fiction Convention, NESFA Press has published a second volume: Making Conversation, a collection of essays drawn from the online world on subjects as varied as moderation and trolling, cooking, hamster-rearing, fanfic, narcolepsy, the engineering marvels of the IBM Selectric, and more.

High bias found in Amazon reviews of low-cost or free samples


Review Meta has published an in-depth analysis of 7 million Amazon reviews and found that "incentivized reviews," those with a disclaimer that the reviewer got the product free or discounted, skew substantially higher than non-incentivized reviews. Read the rest

Mighty Jack: a new series from Ben "Zita the Spacegirl" Hatke

Ben Hatke's Zita the Spacegirl trilogy was one of the best kids' comics of the new century (and it's headed to TV!), and he's been very productive in the years since, but his new series, Mighty Jack feels like the true successor to Zita: a meaty volume one that promises and delivers all the buckle you can shake a swash at, with more to come.

Mysteries Revealed and The Curios Exposed

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The Mysterious Package Company’s (previously) audience is bifurcated into two groups which seem to overlap only slightly. The first group buys one or more of the six (soon to be seven) “experiences” and sends it either to themselves, or more likely to an unsuspecting victim … and then waits for the fun or horror to start. The second group subscribes to a quarterly newspaper called Curios & Conundrums (more about that in a moment). If an experience is sent to yourself, it’s a collectible rather than a mystery; but if sent to someone who has no clue what it is or what’s coming next, then it becomes the unexpected and thus unsettling occurrence the folks at the Mysterious Package Company have in mind. Here is their video for “The Century B*e*a*s*t,” their first Kickstarter project sold last summer.

In the end, "The Century B*e*a*s*t" seemed too scattered and drawn out, with 10 mailings sent out over almost a year. The older experiences are more compact with fewer mailings, a lower price, and have more impact. If you’ve never done anything like this before, and wish more immediate satisfaction, I would become a member of the Mysterious Package Company and send either “R*i*s*e*n” or “The K*i*n*g in Yellow” to yourself or a friend—they will begin shipping with 30 days of your order and are both creepy.

Costing only $99 is the least expensive experience which consists of a single mailing, “The W*e*e*p*i*n*g Book,” which is genuinely dark stuff and prompted at least one terrified recipient to call the police. Read the rest

More Mysterious, In Which We Slide into a Dark Place and See Yellow


SPOILERS BELOW: YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. (previously) Read the rest

Starve #2: Brian Wood lands the tale in a screaming dive and a perfect touchdown

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Brian Wood's Starve, Volume One (collecting issues 1-5) was the best, meanest new graphic novel debut since Transmetropolitan; now, with Starve, Volume Two (issues 6-10), Wood brings the story in for a conclusion that is triumphant and wicked and eminently satisfying, without being pat.

The 13 Clocks: Grimm's Fairytales meet The Phantom Tollbooth

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I discovered The 13 Clocks by reading Neil Gaiman's introduction to the 2008 New York Review of Books edition (which I found in The View from the Cheap Seats, a massive collection of Gaiman's nonfiction), where he calls it "Probably the best book in the world" -- how could I resist?

Neil Gaiman's nonfiction: what makes everything so great

The View from the Cheap Seats, Neil Gaiman's mammoth collection of nonfiction essays, introductions, and speeches, is a remarkable explanatory volume in which Gaiman explains not just why he loves the things he loves, but also what makes them great.

Review: Dasani Sparkling Bread Mold water


As a longtime fan of sparkling, zero-carb flavored water beverages, I thought I'd check out the new offerings from Dasani, whose own unsweetened slim-can drinks come in a range of popular flavors—and a lighter price tag than Perrier and La Croix.

I decided to try Dasani's Sparkling Bread Mold flavor first, and I must say that I'm delighted with the results.

Floral, moldy and yet delicately balanced, it only hints at a full taste of unseen mycobiomes, with crisp fungal notes hitting the nose moreso than the tongue. These mildew whispers gather to a full-throated sporal experience as the flavor settles in.

If at first it seems a slow way to acquire a taste for gulping clumps of algae in polluted lakes, or standing rainwater from brownfield reclamation sites, remember that the key to these fashionable sparkling waters is subtlety, a careful naturalism that's hard to crack without the crutches of sugar or lead-acid battery slime.

Complex notes of penicillin and petrichor are augmented by tertiary aromas of flower petals and basement dust, leading to a satisfying, sustained mildew finish.

All in all, I can't recommend Dasani Sparkling Bread Mold water enough, especially to fans of organic matter that has putrefied then dried out to leave only a vaguely acrid scent of death.

Garnish with an old crouton and enjoy over ice on an oppressively humid day, in a swamp-cooled shed with wet carpet.

Note: Oddly, the cans I tested were subject to a misprint whereby each was stamped "Raspberry Lemonade" instead of "Bread Mold." This had no effect on the flavor whatsoever. Read the rest

Nightwork: the extraordinary, exuberant history of rulebreaking at MIT

MIT has a complicated relationship with disobedience. On the one hand, the university has spent more than a century cultivating and celebrating a "hacker culture" that involves huge, ambitious, thoughtful and delightful pranks undertaken with the tacit approval of the university. On the other hand -- well, on the other hand: Star Simpson, Bunnie Huang, and Aaron Swartz. In Nightwork, first published in 2003 and updated in 2011, MIT Historian T. F. Peterson explores this contradictory relationship and celebrates the very best, while suggesting a path for getting rid of the very worst.

The new Lumberjanes book is sweet and badass, with a hell of a monster

Books one and two of Lumberjanes introduced us to the characters and setting of the awesome, women-run, girl-positive comics: the girls of Roanoke cabin at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's Camp for Hardcore Lady Types are Lumberjanes, being trained in the badass arts. Book three -- collecting comics from a kind of victory lap of the title after its amazing success -- turned the series' reins over to some of the best writers and illustrators in comics-dom for a series of vignettes. Now, with Out of Time, the fourth book, the original creative team are back at the helm, telling a long-form story that illuminates the Lumberjane backstory and introduces one of the best, scariest monsters of cryptozoologica.

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