Boing Boing Gift Guide 2016
Here's this year's complete Boing Boing Gift Guide: more than a hundred great ideas for prezzies: technology, toys, books and more. Scroll down and buy things, mutants! Many of the items use Amazon Affiliate links that help us make ends meet at Boing Boing, the world's greatest neurozine.
Gadgets / Books / Toys and Trivia
Illuminated magnifierI bought this illuminated handheld magnifier on Amazon for $3 (free shipping) last year and I use it a lot. It's a great splinter and lice checker. I've gotten my $3 of value from it just looking at tiny bugs and skin abnormalities. It has two built in LEDs and uses two AA batteries.
Squatty PottySquatty Potty is a $28 footstool that slides away under your toilet; you use it to bring your knees up to a squatting position while you poop, which makes pooping much, much easier. The product was launched with the best viral ad campaign of all time, which threaded the seemingly impossible needle of making an ad about a poop-assistance product; I bought one and (without getting into detail) I can personally testify to its efficacy.
Nintendo NES Classic EditionWhat’s Christmas without price gouging on the hottest geek gift of the year! Don’t fret. Soon, the rationing will cease and a $60 NES Classic Edition will be just a click away. And then, Mario my old friend, we will ALL be playing with power.
Cuisinart 14-Cup Food ProcessorThe latest model of the best food processor for people who are serious about broadening their happy foodie horizons. Shove entire fruits and veggies into the giant feed tube. Listen to the 720-watt motor fill a 14-cup work bowl with steel slicing and shredding discs. It still comes with a free recipe book.
ArduboyBeautiful 1-bit graphics in your wallet! Arduboy is an open-source platform to create and share games and the hardware is made to the dimensions of a business card. Best of all, this tiny toy is only $50. Want more? The PocketChip, at $70, plays Pico-8 games with a dazzling 16 colors; the dev community is more mature and there are countless games already.
A Parker 51 Fountain PenThere is one Parker 51 available on Amazon, seems to be a re-issue with an Empire State cap. While the Parker 51 is my favorite pen ever, I do not know whom in New York I love enough to pay the near-patriotic price of $1775 to gift them one.
Star Wars tiki mugsSix 14 oz Star Wars tiki mugs, standing 6.5"-7.5" tall, with contrast-glazed interiors. They're $15 each or $73 for the set of six. They're not microwave- or dishwasher-safe.
StylophoneInvented in 1967, the Stylophone is a small analog synthesizer that you play with a stylus. The curious, inexpensive synth has been used by Kraftwerk, They Might Be Giants, Pulp, and the late great David Bowie who played it to great effect on “Space Oddity.”
Ease your bay area commute with a Sikorsky UH-34DPut this former Vietnam veteran to work! Available for a mere $80k this Skirorsky UH34D is a steal… imagine you, Face and BA riding in the back while Murdock pilots her. Typically, I’m pretty fixated on a G-21 Super Goose as the ultimate, practical gettin’ around town vehicle, but Platinum Fighters keeps turning my head.
Apple iPhone 7Still my entire creative studio and almost everything I need to do my work: it replaces my fancy camera, my audio gear and everything else I had to lug around. This thing really is everything. I go big on screen size and storage capacity, with that in mind: the Plus, and 128 GB.
LED headlamp with hands-free switch for $10The OxyLED LED Headlamp ($10 on Amazon) is a great deal for the price. The lamp is very bright (you can dim it, or make it strobe) and you can point the beam up or down. It's also got a motion activated switch so you don't gave to fumble for the button - just wave your hand in front of the beam to activate or deactivate it.
What I’m giving Mark this yearThis looks relaxing, and he can practice card tricks through those handy slots.
iPad Pro 9.7"The larger, pencil-equipped models are as close to being fit for heavy creative duty as tablets get, but the 12.9" model is so large it suffers by comparison to Apple's splendidly tiny 12" MacBook (and Microsoft's tablet PCs, to be plainly honest) for many tasks. But the 9.7" model is just perfect: big enough to paint on, small enough to not feel like you're carrying around a computer, but with all the power offered by its big sister.
Black & Decker CHV1410L 16-volt Lithium Cordless Dust Buster Hand VacStill the best selling hand vac for keeping your office, home, workshop or hackerspace tidy. CHV1410L has strong suction, and a bagless dirt bowl that's easy to see and empty. Holds a charge for up to 18 months when it's off the charger. High efficiency Lithium ion chargers protect it by automatically shutting off when the battery is charged, so you can store it on the charger.
Onzow Zerodust Stylus CleanerEvery vinyl collector needs this but just doesn’t know it. Dipping your stylus into this firm, gelatinous lump removes any dust or dirt without damaging the needle. It’s very satisfying. The plastic lid is a magnifier for a before and after view. Imported from Japan, complete with kanji on the packaging.
Surface BookThe best convertible tablet PC by a mile, Microsoft's Surface is beautiful, powerful and well-designed, especially the balance between keyboard and display. RAM is limited to 16GB, and the custom GPU from NVidia really isn't up to snuff for gaming, but it's the second-best tool for fat-walleted artists wanting to move on from Wacom. (The best is the Surface Studio Desktop, but they're not shipping until the new year)
Hand-crank LED lanternThis nifty collapsable lantern has a built-in lithium battery. You can charge it with a USB cable or by turning the crank. The manufacturer says you can also charge your phone in an emergency by turning the crank.
Polaroid ZIP Mobile PrinterThis pocket-size mobile printer connects to your iOS or Android device via Bluetooth and spits out 2 x 3” color prints. There are no ink cartridges to run out. Each print using the Polaroid ZINK photo paper runs about 50 cents and has a peelable sticker backing. No need to shake the prints when they come out either because, well, that never did anything anyway.
AeropressI bought my first Aeropress in 2010; since then, I've been an out-and-out evangelist for them. Nothing makes a better cup of coffee, and you can literally buy a hundred of these for the cost of a midrange espresso machine. Every Aeropress cup I've ever made has been perfect. I keep one in my suitcase. I buy spare ones to keep at the houses of people I stay with on the road. I gave one to my parents. If you want to give a gift to a coffee-lover, give that person an Aeropress. Seriously.
Brondell O2+ Balance Air PurifierI bought the Brondell Source in 2015 and it alleviated allergy symptoms; here's the latest model, adding a touchscreen, remote control and an adjustable air quality sensor. Rids the air of dust and dander and tiny particles you don’t need to be breathing—but also filters volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Three-stage advanced purifier system includes certified True HEPA and Granulated Carbon technology. Glowing light indicator tells you when it’s working. One time my dog farted a particularly noxious plume and this thing kicked into high gear with an emergency red glow. That’s when I knew I’d be giving it a five star recommendation in our gift guide.
8Bitdo's Desktop Arcade Joy StickThis is the single most gorgeous example of practical retromania I've seen all year, a weird and wonderful mashing together of American decades. Sadly, it's not clear if it's a product yet or just a prototype; rich players can drop creators 8bitdo a line and see what's possible in time for Christmas. For the rest of us, their other clever retro recreations are quite inexpensive.
Suck UK Bell Jar LightThere is literally nothing in the world that isn't made cooler by being displayed in a bell-jar, and the addition of a diffused white LED base to the traditional jar in the Suck UK jar is a genius move that is obvious in retrospect.
Arduino clone project kit loaded with componentsThe Elegoo UNO Project Super Starter Kit comes with a bunch of different components, including sensors, a servo motor, a stepper motor, a joystick, a breadboard, and lots more. Most of the reviewers say that the Elegoo UNO is a good Arduino Uno clone. The one thing people have complained about is the tutorials. They say they are poorly written. That's not a problem because there are lots of great Arduino books, and I have a video class on getting started with Arduino on Skillshare that is highly rated. At $32, the components alone are worth the price.
Shark Rocket Ultra-Light Upright Last year I recommended the larger, cheaper traditional upright, but the Shark Rocket is more compact and manoeverable. The wide, motorized head means it can handle a whole room, but it's a great gift that can be stashed in a desk drawer and whipped out for some vacuuming fun whenever the need arises.
All-New Kindle E-readerFor $50, the All-New Kindle E-reader (the entry-level unit) is priced right, and comes in black or white! This model has a 6” display and the battery lasts for ages between charges. If you want to get fancy, go for the Kindle Paperweight with a built-in reading light so you don't bug bedmates. Load it with free classic books from Project Gutenberg before gifting!
Real Wax Flameless Candles w/Auto Timer Warm, comforting, light flickers from these ombre flameless candles--now available in gold and rose gold, to go with your gadgets. Set up an auto-timer with the flick of a button, and they turn on and off automatically every day at the same time from that day on. Better than actual candles for three reasons: a thousand hours glow time per battery pair, you don’t have to go around your house and light each one, and you don't have to worry about accidentally burning your house down. Each wax candle has a soft ombre design that fades from dark to light. They smell faintly of vanilla, in the nicest way.
Japanese NES Classic MiniThe gift of 2016, Nintendo's reboot of its classic gaming console (complete with dozens of games) is hard to find at a decent price. Here's the Japanese model, which runs off USB power, looks awesome, and is a relatively reasonable $140.
The PacMan lunchboxPeople may sit farther away from you at lunch, as they suspect you have the fever.
Teenage Engineering Arcade Pocket Operator P0-20The Pocket Operators are fantastically simple, absolutely delightful, and quite powerful synthesizer modules and sequencers in the form factor of (you guessed it) a pocket calculator. The PO-20 model is all about creating the bleepy, bloopy beats you’d hear in a videogame arcade of yore.
Clear plastic padlock and a set of lock picking tools John Edgar Park introduced me to the gentle art of recreational lock-picking. It's fun and potentially useful to know how to tickle tumblers in the right way to open door locks and padlocks. This $17 set comes with a clear plastic padlock and a set of lock picking tools so you can see the effects of your probing and prodding. Once you get started on lock picking, you might become hooked.
1 oz Calavera and Oracle coinsThe Calaveras Coin sports a pile of skulls on one side, and a grinning skeleton in a sombrero on the other. The Oracle Coin features a "YES" on one side, and a "NO" on the other, and "has the uncanny ability to answer any yes/no question with remarkable (50%) accuracy."
Raspberry Pi 3The best $35 you can spend on a tony yet straightforward and accessible barebones computer, Raspberry's Pi is now in its third generation and lives atop a vast and growing ecosystem of accessories, cases and general craziness to have fun with. The latest flagchip model has a 1.2GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU with twice the Pi 2's performance, integrated WiFi and Bluetooth, and backward compatibility with earlier models.
Fermentation Crock with weightsA fantastic gift for the budding home fermentor! This 5L crock comes with a set of fitted weights to hold your kraut, or other fermentables, under the brine, and is designed to move condensed water away from the ferment, to help minimize badness. Give the gift of probiotics!
The WomanizerThe terrible name and the awful branding notwithstanding, this revolutionary sex-toy has changed the lives of many women since it was launched. Oh Joy Sex Toy's Erica Moen said "it forces your clit to get a raging erection without the usual arousal lead up, it's the closest I've ever empathized with having a spontaneous teenage boner." I wrote about it in November 2015 and have received many emails since from women who were delighted with their purchase and wanted to say thanks for my calling their attention to it.
The best automotive battery tenderHands down the best battery tenders I’ve ever had. I rotate two through my small fleet, and it keeps us spry. This pulsing, desulfating charger keeps the batteries in top share, and performing for years longer than normal use normally provides.
FryDaddyI've been using my FryDaddy electric deep fryer ($22 on Amazon) like crazy after buying it earlier this year. I fill it with coconut oil and fry Brussels sprout leaves, sweet potato slices, and butternut squash fries.
Lately I've been frying thinly cut slices of butternut squash. It's a bit tricky, because for five minutes it doesn't look like anything is happening, then suddenly the slices begin to brown, and about a minute later, they start to burn. There's a 30-second window where they are perfectly browned and on the edge of being crispy and chewy. With a little salt, they are one of the tastiest things I've ever eaten.
A Lotus C01 for the super hero who needs to look more badassI have no idea how this rides. The seated position looks painful. Tesla will probably have an electric, self driving version in a few years, thus ruining all motorsports forever.
RFID Blocking Leather Slim WalletI bought this leather wallet for $6 from Amazon a month ago. I liked it right away, and after having taken about eight flights since then, I have come to appreciate how great it is to be able to slide my driver license out of the clear plastic pocket (which has a hole so you can remove the card by sliding it with your thumb) and hand it to the friendly TSA officer at the security checkpoint.
The wallet shows no signs of wear, and the cards and cash are held tightly in the three different pockets (in addition to the driver license pocket) so they don't fall out. It's probably my favorite wallet, and the least expensive.
One of the pockets is advertised as RFID-blocking. I haven't tested it, nor am I concerned about it.
Raindrop Essential Oil DiffuserThis nebulizer/diffuser remains my pick as the best way to get scent from essential oils into the air, and the 2017 model now has a touch-sensor for controlling it with a swipe. Pure oils, no water needed: fantastic aromas throughout 800 sq. ft., with personal controls and timed cycles. Most diffusers are made of cheap plastic. This is glass and wood and looks beautiful.
Pokemon Pokeball weed grinderThe Pokemon Pokeball weed grinder is $8 on Amazon. Gotta catch it before Nintendo stops them.
Blue RaspberryUSB microphones are a maturing genre, and the Rasberry excels on several fronts: the audio quality is excellent in its class, it's much smaller than similarly good models such as the Rode NT-USB and Blue's own Spark, and it is absolutely zero-fuss, coming with a monitoring jack, mute button, detachable stand and even a lightning adapter for use with Apple mobiles.
Fagor LUX Multi Cooker, 6 quartI use my Fagor every day now, at least a couple times a day. This device is my primary cooking tool. Oats in the morning, beans or grains or veggie stew in maybe 10 minutes from scratch for lunch or dinner. Brisket, ribs, a whole chicken, whatever: total prep and cooking time for each under 30 minutes. Paleo bone broth in an hour or less. Experiment with molecular gastronomy techniques, rev up your Maillard reaction. Cook perfect rice. It's fantastic for travel or hot weather cooking, perhaps a student or someone who's moving (you don't have to heat up your kitchen, or have a kitchen at all).
Audio Technica AT-LP60Forget those vinyl-destroying, vintage-inspired all-in-one units. They're all crap. The Audio Technica AT-LP60 is a fantastic beginner (or revivalist) turntable for the price. Its built-in pre-amp means all you need to do is plug it any powered speakers with an audio input.You won't find a better turntable than this for under $100 unless you hit the second-hand market.
Datamancer Sojourner KeyboardThough Richard "Datamancer" Nagy died unexpectedly in 2013, his business partner and family continue to fabricate the extraordinary steampunk designs he pioneered.
Among the creations still available is his classic Sojourner keyboard, machined from brass and elegantly designed. I own one like this (bought from Richard himself around 2008) and wrote two novels on it -- For the Win and Rapture of the Nerds -- and it's a delight to write upon.
Magnetic phone mountI started using a magnetic phone mount for my car over a year ago, and I think it is the best way to secure my phone to the dashboard. I've tried lots of other kinds of mounts, and this is the most convenient. The only downside is that you have to apply a thin metal plate to the back of your phone or phone case so it will stick to the the magnet on the mount. But the plate is very thin and it's not a bother.
The magnetic mount attaches to an air vent on your car. This could be another downside, but since I live in Los Angeles, I'm almost always running the air conditioning so it keeps my phone from overheating when the sun is on it. That makes the air vent mount an upside for me. (With other mounts, the phone would get so hot that the safety shutdown would sometimes activate to prevent damage to the phone.)
Vintage Teasmade and Alarm ClockThe iconic UK Teasmade alarm-clocks (which automatically brew a cup of tea using an improbable, Wallace-and-Grommity/Heath Robinson set of mechanical actions) have been reissued in a model that runs on US current.
The Teasmade reboot sells for $80, and scores top marks with reviewers. The company kept the classic styling of one of the late-original models -- I'm sure I saw one that looked practically identical at the Victoria and Albert Museum -- and designed it for bedside use, so you don't even have to stagger into the kitchen to get your first readymade cup.
Elf ear earbudsTaobao offers prosthetic pointed ears with built-in earbuds, for elves who can't quit their record collection even for a moment. Sadly only available in lily white. They're cheap, at $15, but good luck figuring out ordering a pair from China!
Gerber ShardThis little blade-less multitool called the Shard is TSA safe (depending on the mood of the TSA behavior detection officer who is inspecting your baggage and scanning your brainwaves). It's got a pry bar (for opening paint cans and the like), a wire stripper, two flat blade screwdrivers, and one Phillips head screwdriver. And it's only $5, so if the TSA behavior detection officer determines you plan to use it to pry open the airplane window, crawl out, and unscrew the engines from the wing while the plane is aloft, he can take it from you without much damage to your net worth.
Who will get the Evel Knievel stunt cycle?How can you expect your kid to enjoy life without having had their very own Evel Knievel stunt cycle? There must be one awesome parent out there that knows the suspicious price of $419.99 is nothing compared to the AWESOME you’d introduce into your child’s development.
Smith Knowledge Turbo Fan OTG GogglesAs someone who wears glasses -- and not contacts -- there always comes a point at which I have to choose between being able to see and being warm. Whether it's having my nose/cheeks covered with my scarf (which blows my breath up over my goggles) or having my hat low over my forehead (which blocks the vents), I end up being miserable and half-blind. It's not just uncomfortable, either -- it's dangerous. Skiing without being able to see isn't a thrill, it's a terror.
I've tried every conceivable anti-fog solution, from waxes to sprays to special coatings to cloths, and none of them can deal with the brutal reality of subzero temperatures and my warm, foggy breath.
Finally, this year, I broke down and bought goggles with the dumbest-imaginable gimmick: a little fan built into them.
It actually worked. Really, really worked. The fan, which you turn on before you leave for the day and turn off when you get back, and which has a "turbo" mode for bad fog -- runs on a pair of AAA batteries that lasted for eight full days of skiing without flagging.
iRingThe iRING turns your mobile phone into jewelry. Sort of. It’s an ingenious little gadget for keeping your device secure in your hand. And it doubles as a stand for video viewing. This is a perfect little gift for clumsy people, especially those (like me) who have accidentally dropped their phone in the toilet.
Sport-Brella XLPortable wind, sun, and rain shelter that's easy to set up. Can you open an umbrella? Can you drive a couple stakes into the ground? You got this, then. Haul it to the beach, outdoor gatherings or events, camping, sports, and you feel like you have a little private room outdoors. Comes in 6 different colors. Provides UPF 50+ shade. Opens to 9 feet wide, has a metallic undercoating for additional sun protection, internal pockets for stakes, valuables, and gear, plus top wind vents and side zippered windows for efficient airflow. Water resistant, weighs only 11.5 pounds. I first saw someone else on our local beach use it, and asked them where they bought it. Amazonned one for myself. Now I use it nearly every weekend, and love it.
Make sous vide an every day technique with the ChefSteps Joule Sous vide is an amazing cooking technique, precisely cooking foods though immersion in a controlle temperature water bath. The results are always stellar, and ChefSteps Joule is thouhgtfully engineered to fit into even the smallest kitchen. With its brilliant-in-its-simplicity magnetic mount, and use of your smartphone or tablet as a display, this compact unit is the must have sous vide circulator.
Waring Pro WPM28 Kettle Popcorn MakerMy 7-year-old daughter is addicted to popcorn and this miniature movie theater-style popcorn maker was her favorite gift during the last holiday season. It makes perfect popcorn every single time. We still use it several times a week, in part because it’s super-easy and quick to clean. Popcorn pro tip from my daughter: Mix in a handful of M&Ms
Little Black Gun earringsEnreverie's $20 "Little Black Gun" earrings are studs made from shells have have been fired, affixed to surgical steel posts, nickel-plated and set with Swarovski crystals.
iPhone SE / Xperia X CompactSmall is beautiful. Apple's iPhone SE is its cheapest current model, the camera's almost as good as what you get on the twice-the-price iPhone 7, and the custom chipset means impeccably smooth performance. The equivalent Android is Sony's gorgeous Xperia X Compact; reviewers warn, though, that for all that's great about it, the camera app is slow to start.
Micron pens for drawingMy daughter introduced me to Micron pens. I loved using them. The ink is very dark and was perfect for practicing cross-hatching and the other rendering techniques. They are inexpensive, too. A set of six Micron Pens, with line widths ranging from 0.20mm to 0.50mm, costs $7 on Amazon.
Useless BoxA classic. Switch it on and it immediately switches itself off. That's all it does. And somehow, it's incredibly compelling. Build your own with this satisfying kit.
Hydro Flask Insulated Wide Mouth Stainless Steel Water BottleDon't drink from plastic bottles or disposable cups. You're ingesting who knows what chemicals with who knows what effect, over time. Carry your own water, tea, coffee, or whatever warm or cool or icy cold beverage you like in this BPA-free insulated metal bottle. Everyone on your list could use one, and they come in a bunch of nice colors, or brushed metal. Powder-coated matte finish exterior that never sweats. Lifetime warranty.
Dell XPS 13 & 15Put simply, Dell's XPS 13 and 15 are the most interesting and capable laptops going, the first to really make Apple's models look tired. Almost as sleek, but lighter and more powerful, the real joy is Dell's absolutely stunning edge-to-edge 4k display. The XPS 13 is somewhat limited performance-wise (somewhere between the 12" MacBook and the 13" MacBook Pro) but the 15 is beefier than anything Apple offers and is good for gaming too. And both are much cheaper.
Jason’s 2016 Most satisfying gift to give the 4-8 year old child of someone you hateNo horsing the fuck around here, kids! This air raid siren has a satisfying hand crank, so your young compadre will feel the power as they loose 110 decibels of terrifying alarm upon a neighborhood. Yes, a neighborhood. Even country folk with neighbors up to .5 mi distant will feel the spitefulness of your gifting ability.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of ColorblindnessMichelle Alexander and Dr. Cornel West's book directly challenged the notion that Barack Obama's election win represented a new era of colorblindness. The authors theories were proven correct with Trump's racist and successful campaign.
With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.
What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who'Ve Been ThereWritten by Ariel Waldman, creator of Spacehack, and illustrated by Brian Standeford, "What's It Like in Space? Stories from Astronauts Who'Ve Been There" is a fun collection of astronaut anecdotes about everything from sneezing and farting in zero gravity to weird frights and the necessity of Sriracha in space. A delightful gift for space geeks and science nerds of any age.
What an absolutely delightful read: the projects are nicely staged, moving from the very simple to the very ambitious, and always seasoned with clever suggestions for variations. Burton provides advice on setting up crafting parties with your friends, including suggested feminist holidays to celebrate (Joan of Arc's birthday; Ruth Bader Ginsburg's birthday; anniversary of Sojourner Truth's "Ain't I a Woman?" speech; Thargelia, Festival of the Goddess Artemis) all the way down to suggested playlists for the day.
Burton's provided us with a selection of the projects for your delectation: as you'll quickly see, these are the fun, potent defiant tonic that we all need in this season of fragile masculinity, rape culture, and Gamergating.
Down and Out in PurgatoryTim Powers has mastered mingling our present with elements of the fantastic, creating stories so immersive and believable I'm always disappointed when they end. Down and Out in Purgatory is a new, incredible example.Shasta DiMaio fell for the wrong guy, and it killed her. Her rejected lover Tom Holbrook still carries a torch, however. If Tom can't have Shasta he'll kill the man who took her heart, and her life, even if he's already dead. Powers has focused on ghosts, and had them as major characters in other works, but this novella gives us a glimpse into their world! His purgatory is a spinning, wild place where we learn a bit more about what death really means. While the characters are fun, the real joy of this was the mechanics, and lore Powers shares about the afterlife. If you loved his Fault Lines trilogy, you won't be disappointed.
Make: ElectronicsWhen Make: Electronics was published about five years ago, it was widely hailed as the greatest book about learning electronics ever written. With beautiful photos, easy-to-read schematics, clear, jargon-free text, and dozens and dozens of fun and educational projects, author/illustrator Charles Platt made a book that has ended up in every makerspace and library I've visited. A few weeks ago the Second Edition of Make: Electronics came out, and it's even better than the first edition. Charles rewrote the text, replaced the photos of breadboarded circuits with diagrams showing component placement, included new projects, added new photographs with a ruled background to indicate the scale of tools and components, and included a chapter on Arduino. This is the book to get if you want to learn electronics.
Stories of Your Life and OthersTed Chiang's writing is rare and precise, weaving threads of science fiction into something so haunting and humane I've woken up dreaming about it more than once. Here you can read most of his published work, including the novella that was recently filmed as Arrival and is currently in U.S. theaters. But my favorites are the Borgesian "Tower of Babel," about an engineer breaking through the vault of heaven, and "Division by Zero."
The Forager's Feast: How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild EdiblesIntended "as much for the cooking enthusiast as for the survivalist," Leda Meredith's book includes recipes that make weeds into gourmet meals.
Dandelion flowers become wine, Japanese knotweed becomes rhubarb-like compote and tangy sorbet, red clover blossoms give quick bread a delightfully spongy texture and hint of sweetness. 75 color photographs
England's Hidden Reverse: A Secret History of the Esoteric Underground by David KeenanFinally reprinted, this classic and rare tome about the fascinating 1980s British occult/art scene surrounding seminal industrial bands Coil, Nurse With Wound, and Current 93 who looked backwards for inspiration from the likes of Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, and Arthur Machen. Lovingly published by Strange Attractor Press, this new edition is illustrated with unseen photos and contains two fresh chapters pulling the fascinating thread of occultural transgression through to the present.
Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence Of Growth, Progress, Industry And Stuff"Radical ecology" has come to mean a kind of left-wing back-to-the-landism that throws off consumer culture and mass production for a pastoral low-tech lifestyle. But as the brilliant science journalist and Marxist Leigh Phillips writes in Austerity Ecology & the Collapse-Porn Addicts: A Defence Of Growth, Progress, Industry And Stuff, if the left has a future, it has to reclaim its Promethean commitment to elevating every human being to a condition of luxurious, material abundance and leisure through technological progress.
Phillips is a brilliant writer and an incisive scientific thinker with impeccable credentials in the science press. He's also an unapologetic Marxist. In this book -- which is one of the most entertaining and furious reads about politics and climate you're likely to read -- he rails against the "austerity ecology" movement that calls for more labor-intensive processes, an end to the drive to increase material production, and a "simpler" life that often contains demands for authoritarian, technocratic rule, massive depopulation, and a return to medieval drudgery.
It wasn't always thus. The left -- especially Marxist left -- has a long history of glorifying technological progress and proposing it as the solution to humanity's woes. Rather than blaming the machine for pollution, Marxists blame capitalism for being a system that demands that firms pollute to whatever extent they can, right up the point where the fines outweigh the savings.
The Interstellar Age: Inside the Forty-Year Voyager MissionIn 1977, NASA launched two twin spacecraft, Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond into the mysteries of interstellar space. Mounted to each of these spacecraft is a stunning golden phonograph record containing sounds and images to introduce our civilization to any extraterrestrials who might encounter them. Get ready for Voyager’s 40th anniversary next year with this marvelous, personal biography of the space probes and the brilliant people who made the mission happen. Author Jim Bell is a renowned planetary scientist at Arizona State University, Distinguished Visiting Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and president of the absolutely amazing Planetary Society, founded in 1980 by Carl Sagan, Bruce Murray, and Louis Friedman to "empower the world's citizens to advance space science and exploration."
Strange Fascination: The Definitive Story of David BowieBowie loved books more than he loved music, but he disliked biography and never produced an autobiography. In his wake, then, we're left with pictures and unauthorized, often tabloid-hinted exposes of a life largely kept private. The best of them is probably David Buckley's Strange Fascination, described as "the most complete account of Bowie's impact on pop culture." Buckley's enough of a fan to love the man and the work, but enough of a skeptic to make it count.
Martin Gardner's 'Science Magic,' fun tricks you can try at homeMartin Gardner's 'Science Magic: Tricks and Puzzles' teaches fun and easy experiments to demonstrate physics. I'm thrilled with the new tricks I'm learning! Gardner shares exciting, and generally simple, science experiments with engaging, sometimes astounding results. Play with the adhesion and cohesion of water, magnetism, volume and mass, friction, stiction, pressure, and tons of other fascinating scientific properties, to both learn and amaze. Some simple effects, like 'three jets' are pretty simple, where you drill holes in a milk carton at different levels to show changes in water pressure, however some are not for younger kids to try on their own. 'The electric pickle' is one that requires adult supervision. A glowing pickle is certainly cool, but spiking a cucumber, and plugging it into a wall socket via a cut extension cord, is something I'd prefer an adult be present for. My kid and I are having fun playing with 1-2 of these experiments each week. A few of the presentations may become magic tricks I use with friends.
Automate the boring stuff with PythonWhen I was a mechanical engineer in the late 1980s I used Microsoft QuickBASIC to write and create simple programs for work. I loved it. It was a compiled BASIC, too, so it was speedy. I used it to recreate a lot of the programs from Rudy Rucker's Chaos software from Autodesk. I got pretty good at writing programs in BASIC, just as I got pretty good at nodding my head when my smarter programmer friends would tell me that BASIC was not a real programming language.
I never learned any other languages, but recently I've started using Python and it is easy and fun. One thing I did with Python was write a nontransitive dice simulator to prove to myself that these confounding dice really worked as described. I just got my hands on a new book called Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners by Al Sweigart, and it looks like it is exactly what I need: a book for beginners and with lots of ideas for programs that are actually useful.
Examples:Search for text in a file or across multiple files Create, update, move, and rename files and folders Search the Web and download online content Update and format data in Excel spreadsheets of any size Split, merge, watermark, and encrypt PDFs Send reminder emails and text notifications Fill out online forms
The Underground RailroadColson Whitehead's National Book Award Winner and #1 New York Times bestseller is a “Magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South.”
Astro Noise: A Survival Guide for Living Under Total Surveillance Laura Poitras, whose 2014 Edward Snowden documentary Citizenfour won the Academy Award for best doc, has a show on at NYC's Whitney Museum called "Astro Noise," which attempts to capture the sense of overwhelming surveillance she's lived under since the US government targeted her while she was shooting a documentary in Iraq.
Poitras is an accomplished person: winner of the Macarthur "genius" grant and the Pulitzer in addition to her Oscar. She returned from exile in Germany last year, and edited a book, Astro Noise: A Survival Guide for Living Under Total Surveillance, to accompany the show. The book includes contributions from the likes of Dave Eggers and Ai Wei Wei, as well as an original, unauthorized Sherlock Holmes story I wrote based on new Snowden docs.
The best book of physics brain teasersI bought Thinking Physics, by Lewis C. Epstein in 1984. It's one of my favorite books of brain teasers. They are designed to help you gain a qualitative, intuitive sense of physics. The author stresses that after you read each of the many charmingly illustrated problems in the book, you should put the book away and take your time running a simulation of the problem in your head. This is great advice. The book is broken up into sections: Mechanics (kinematics, Newton's Law of Motion, momentum and energy, rotation, gravity), Fluids, Heat, Vibration, Light, Electricity and Magnetism, Relativity, and Quanta. If you've never seen this book before, you're in for a treat.
I’m BoredIf the Zap Comix collective hung out in Gary Larson's basement rolling numbers on psychedelic record covers while giggling about those motivational calendars where you tear off one earnest aphorism each day, and the internal awkwardness that all of us experience, the comix that emerge would likely fit into I'm Bored, the surreal and wonderful new book by illustrator Jess Rotter with a foreword by Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte. You likely recognize Jess's art from her inspired illustrations for vinyl and apparel projects from Rodriguez, the Grateful Dead, Yusuf/Cat Stevens, Best Coast, Light in the Attic Records, and her bimonthly "Songbird Stories" column for Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter. I'm Bored is Jess's first book and I'm already ready for the next trip.
The Birds in the SkyAll the Birds in the Sky is everything you could ask for in a debut novel -- a fresh look at science fiction's most cherished memes, ruthlessly shredded and lovingly reassembled.
It's odd to call Charlie Jane Anders, editor of IO9 and celebrated short-story writer and editor a "debut novelist," but All the Birds in the Sky is her first science fiction novel for adults, and it embodies all that's best about debut novels -- a lifetime's worth of creativity, frustrations and inspirations crammed into a single set of covers, bursting with wild promise.
Patricia is a witch. One day while hiding out in the woods from her dysfunctional family -- psychotic sister, dead-eyed overachiever parents -- she discovers that she can speak to animals, and finds herself in the presence of the Parliament of Birds, who ask her a riddle. She blacks out and awakens in her family house and facing punishment.
Laurence is a geek. He has successfully managed many of the serious challenges to attaining full geekdom -- building his own GNU/Linux box and successfully decoding the notoriously cryptic instructions for building a two-second time-machine, you know, one of those watches that makes you jump two seconds into the future? He is the goat of his school and a perennial disappointment to his violently normal parents.
Of course they become friends, and enemies. At their awful school, both are targeted for vicious bullying, and they try to have each other's backs, though they can't, exactly. Especially Laurence, who's a bit of a dick. It doesn't help that the school guidance counsellor is a psychotic assassin who's had a vision of Patricia and Laurence growing up to destroy the human race, and who is doing his best to kill them both, though the assassin's guild rules prohibit him personally slipping in the knife.
The Complete Elfquest Vol. 3Fresh out in November, this volume contains some of the most exquisite and touching episodes of Wendy and Richard Pini's Elfquest saga, a great alternative to genre fantasy and its grim 'n' gritty modern counterparts. One of America's best indie comics, it's illustrated by Wendy's wonderful artwork – even at its most lighthearted, unanswerable questions of identity, family and freedom lurk between the lines. (Newcomers should not feel they have to start at the beginning, but it sure helps.)
'Unhappenings' is a fantastic time travel novelEdward Aubry's Unhappenings is a smart and satisfying time travel novel. I love stories about paradox created by folks moving around in time, and this novel has it in spades. At age 14 Nigel Walden starts to experience the titular Unhappenings, mundane things in his life seem to random change. The color of his bicycle changes, and conversations he thought he had never occurred, but then his first girlfriend disappears as if she never existed. Every time Nigel gets close to someone, he seemingly causes a catastrophe that leaves the relationship never having happened. As he reaches college, Nigel realizes he must be involved in some sort of time travel. Things only get more complicated. Aubry's writing is clear, simple and telling. I felt Nigel's emotional traumas and the difficulty of growing up so different, the slower pace of this novel is well employed.
Jack Womack is an accomplished science fiction writer and part of the first wave of cyberpunks; he's also one of the world's foremost collectors of flying saucer ephemera: the zines, cheap paperbacks, and esoteric material associated with the saucer-craze, a virtually forgotten, decades-long global mania that features livestock mutilations, abductions, messages of intergalactic brotherhood, claims of both divine and satanic origins, and psychic phenomena.
Womack's collection has found a permanent home at Georgetown University's library, and Womack has lovingly curated a spectacular, 283-page anthology of the most fascinating material from the collection, accompanied by his notes and an introduction by William Gibson, whose own mother once saw a saucer.
Flying saucers are like hot sauce: whatever you love best, you might love it better with a few dashes of saucers. Womack's thematically organized collection traces how saucers worked their way into Christianity, Satanic panics, Red scares, belief in psi powers, military conspiracy theories, hollow Earth conspiracies, New Age reboots of Tibetan mysticism, conspiracies about Nazis (and Hitler), and, of course, radical, unhinged theories about Elvis Presley.
Womack presents his material with bone-dry wit -- if you've ever heard him speak, I guarantee you'll be able to hear his urbane, deadpan delivery in every sentence. He's not exactly making fun of his subjects. Oh, OK, sometimes he is, but just the most naked of hucksters and scammers -- but when it comes to the true believers, Womack has a mix of compassion and wonder at their ability to believe what they believe -- and convince others of their beliefs.
The Official ScratchJr BookYou're probably familiar with Scratch, the introductory programming language that allows kids (and adults) to create interactive stories, games, and animations. Scratch doesn't require lines of code to write programs. Instead, you build programs by snapping together colored blocks. (My book, Maker Dad, has an introduction to Scratch that shows how to make retro-style video games).
Scratch is perfect for kids 8 and up. Recently, MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten Lab announced the release of ScratchJr, an even simpler programming language for young children (ages 5-7) to create interactive stories and games. It's free and runs on iPads and Android tablets. Mitchel Resnick, who runs MIT Media Lab's Lifelong Kindergarten Lab, and Marina Umaschi Bers, a professor in the Computer Science Department at Tufts University, have a new book out called, The Official ScratchJr Book: Help Your Kids Learn to Code. The publisher sent me a copy, and it looks like a great way for parents to learn about ScratchJr so they can get their kids up to speed and let them go off on their own. With full color screenshots on every page, it provides a thorough overview of everything ScratchJr is capable of doing. More
Between the World and MeA master class on race from Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of America's most bold voices. Really all you need to know. Read it.
Signed Walkaway (pre-order)It took most of a week to sign all 2,800 "tip-in" sheets that are being bound into a special, limited-edition version of Walkaway, my first novel for adults since 2009, but it was worth it! You can pre-order one from the good fellows at Barnes and Noble.
Mary and Vincent Price's incredible recipe bookWandering through a used book store yesterday, I came across a book with an unremarkable title: A Treasury of Great Recipes. Normally this would not catch my attention, but the book's co-authors were Vincent and Mary Price. I had no idea that the horror film star and his wife were so amazing! In addition to both being world famous for their careers, thespian and costume designer respectively, they were also world travelers, collectors of art, and evidently lovers of fine food. Vincent and Mary are said to have begged, flattered and connived to acquire their favorite recipes from the the world's most famous restaurants. This book is as much an adventure as it is a collection of recipes. Vincent and Mary. Published in 1965, it contains personal stories from Vincent and Mary, and descriptions of the restaurants. It is also full of photographs of the couple and their friends enjoying the restaurants, reprints of the restaurant's menus, and a most importantly, a collection of recipes that Vincent and Mary used to recreate the dishes at home, for their guests. The written descriptions of each item show you just how awesome this couple was. Try this description of New England Clam Chowder, from Boston's famous Locke-Ober's: This is the true, the authentic clam chowder invented and relished by seagoing New Englanders, and a favorite there for generations. There is something called Manhattan Clam Chowder made with tomatoes and therefore a ruddy color, but your proper Bostonian will have nothing to do with that aberrant form. Locke-Ober's recipe is for the pale cream-colored soup to which you may add a dusting of paprika for color, no more. As far as flavor is concerned, it doesn't even need that. The voice throughout is direct, refined, and clearly reflects their passion for the subject at hand. This amazing collection is filled with gems: Breakfasts from the Super Chief, dinners from Rivoli in Mexico City, and fantastic German fare from Lüchow's in New York are but a few of the locations that grabbed my interest. I have big plans for this tome. I'm going to start having friends over for a series of Vincent and Mary Price meals. This Friday may include clam chowder. The cream-colored variety, of course. I found this book at my local used bookstore in wonderful shape for $35. Clearly the Amazon vendors want more. But it's worth acquiring, however you go about it, and whatever price you pay.
Discussions about big data's role in our society tends to focus on algorithms, but the algorithms for handling giant data sets are all well understood and work well. The real issue isn't algorithms, it's models. Models are what you get when you feed data to an algorithm and ask it to make predictions. As O'Neil puts it, "Models are opinions embedded in mathematics."
O'Neil calls these harmful models "Weapons of Math Destruction," and not all fault models qualify. For a model to be a WMD, it must be opaque to its subjects, harmful to their interests, and grow exponentially to run at huge scale.
These WMDs are now everywhere. The sleazy for-profit educational system has figured out how to use models to identify desperate people and sucker them into signing up for expensive, useless "educations" that are paid for with punitive student loans, backed by the federal government. That's how the University of Phoenix can be so profitable, even after spending upwards of $1B/year on marketing. They've built a WMD that brings students in at a steady clip despite the fact that they spend $2,225/student in marketing and only $892/student on instruction. Meanwhile, the high-efficacy, low-cost community colleges are all but invisible in the glare and roar of the University of Phoenix's marketing blitzkreig.
The Record Store of the MindJosh Rosenthal is the cratedigger and DIY musicologist behind such fantastic collections as the Grammy-nominated "He Is My Story: The Sanctified Soul of Arizona Dranes," "Work Hard, Play Hard, Pray Hard : Hard Time, Good Time & End Time Music : 1923-1936," and dozens of other fine releases on his own Tompkins Square Label. Rosenthal recently self-published a combination memoir and musical history, Record Store of the Mind, that tells his own personal story through the lens of the artists he loves and has championed, from 1950s country pioneer Charlie Louvin to Big Star's Alex Chilton to finger-picking folk guitar master John Fahey. It's a wonderful read and a great reminder that no music streaming service could ever replace the magical moment of visiting your local record store and flipping through the bins to uncover the music that moves you.
Too Like the Lightning (Terra Ignota)Ada Palmer's 25th century is in the midst of a long and carefully maintained peace, a peace that came only after the Church Wars, when religion nearly destroyed the world. Religions have been abolished, no grouping of more than three people may discuss religious subjects. The advent of ballistic, supersonic flying cars have eliminated space as a constraint on human grouping, all but abolishing nation-states in the process.
Humans belong to post-geographic affinity groups, some very large (Humanists, Utopians, Mitsubishi, Masons, and more), others much finer-grained: fans of a given sports-team, adherents to a philosophy, members of a trade guild or a hobbyist association. Every person is a minority of one, and majority has been abolished, taking with it the oppression of the many over the few. Even gender has ceased to be a meaningful category, though certain perverts insist on the use of gendered pronouns to describe themselves. Families are gone, replaced by group houses called bash'es, where child-rearing and other familial functions are shared by many adults and their children. Also all but gone is the penal system: instead of sending those who steal and murder to prison, they are turned into work-servants, "Servicers," whom any person may command, and who may only eat food given to them in return for their service.
Mycroft Canner, the book's protagonist and narrator, is one such criminal -- in fact, as we learn, he is a contender for the most notorious criminal of his age, whose brilliance and savagery has made him the confidant of every leader of every strat, and a trusted helper for the most important bash', the elite family who manage the flying cars whose smooth running is critical to the literal survival of 25th century society.
Palmer writes science fiction like a historian, maneuvering vast historical forces deftly, plunging effortlessly into their minutae and detail, zooming out to dizzying heights to show how they all fit together. Her acknowledgements cite Alfred Bester as an influence, and that's no surprise -- few writers can trump Bester for the sense of a world that contains within it all the other worlds of all its inhabitants. Palmer, though, may have exceeded the master.
The Totally Awesome 80s TV Trivia Book A great way to distract your family from talking about politics this holiday season!
Penny's story -- a novella from the Tor.com imprint -- is set in the last years of the 21st century, just as the very first ageless immortals are approaching their centenary. They are the beneficiaries of a drug that halts aging, a $100/day pill that you need to take every day -- a pill that revolutionizes the relationship of wealthy elites to the world. Once it's clear that the rich can live forever, patent law is immediately amended to provide for eternal royalties to the pharma company behind the drug, and climate change is suddenly a deadly serious business, with no expense spared for remediation. Inheritance laws and the relationship of rich children to their parents become very different indeed, and then there's the rest of us.
What if you don't have $400K/year to spare on anti-aging meds? Well, you could apply for a grant. The smartest scientists, the most successful artists, the people who amuse and assist the hyper-wealthy are all eligible for permanent, endless, lifetime supplies of the drugs. If you don't fit the bill, well, it's a meritocracy, isn't it? Try and raise some kids who amuse and entertain the super-wealthy and maybe they'll bud off a new immortal line. Follow your dreams, kids!
Penny's protagonists are a ragtag group of protesters, anarcho-syndicalist crustypunks who steal anti-aging meds from the rich students and dons of Oxford University and hand them out for free in the slums where the caretakers and janitors and waiters and sex-workers live. Unbeknownst to these resistors, one of their number is actually a police undercover agent, a snitch who's much older than he seems -- thanks to the anti-aging meds he receives as part of his compensation -- and who is sexually involved with one of them, besotted with her, planning to take her with him into a life everafter just before the police sweep in an take the rest of them into custody.
Art of AtariThis glorious hardcover celebrates the wonderful illustrations of the iconic videogame company's packaging, catalogs, and other artwork that, according to the book's introduction written by Ernest "Ready Player One" Cline, was "specially commissioned to enhance the Atari experience to further entice children and adults to embrace the new era of electronic entertainment." Speaking from personal experience, it totally worked. By Tim Lapetino.
Groovy Science: Knowledge, Innovation, and American Counterculture In the late 1960s and 1970s, the mind-expanding modus operandi of the counterculture spread into the realm of science, and shit got wonderfully weird. Neurophysiologist John Lilly tried to talk with dolphins. Physicist Peter Phillips launched a parapsychology lab at Washington University. Princeton physicist Gerard O'Neill became an evangelist for space colonies. Groovy Science: Knowledge, Innovation, and American Counterculture is a new book of essays about this heady time! The book was co-edited by MIT's David Kaiser, who wrote the fantastic 2011 book How the Hippies Saved Physics, and UC Santa Barbara historian W. Patrick McCray.
Hip Hop Family Tree Book 4Ed Piskor's comic history of Hip Hop debuted here at Boing Boing, but there's no substitute for print, especially given Fantagraphics' perfect execution of Ed's meticulous, retromaniacal layouts. The latest volume hits the mid-80s and success for Dr. Dre, Salt-N-Pepa and others; the mainstream media takes notice and starts getting thirsty. Ed's storytelling wizardry makes it impossible to stop.
Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity Steve Silberman's definitive book for better understanding autism, and the members of our human family who are different because of it.
NeuroTribes considers the idea that neurological differences such as autism, dyslexia, and ADHD are not errors of nature or products of the toxic modern world, but the result of natural variations in the human genome. This groundbreaking book will reshape our understanding of the history, meaning, function, and implications of neurodiversity in our world.
Astonish Yourself: 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday LifeIn his introduction, Droit says the purpose of the experiments is to "provoke tiny moments of awareness," and to "shake a certainty we had taken for granted: our own identity, say, or the stability of the outside world, or even the meanings of words." Most of the experiments require about 20 minutes to complete, and often involve nothing more than merely thinking about something.
Some of the experiments you'll probably want to try when you are alone at home (like calling your name repeatedly for 20 minutes, or repeating some other word to drain it of its meaning), but others can be performed anywhere (like imagining that the world was "created from nothing, just an instant ago" and will vanish "like a light going out" in 20 minutes). Some of the experiments you can't really plan in advance; they'll happen by accident, like when you wake up without knowing where you are -- a magical experience I love having, but Droit explains how to make the best use of this five-second-long "delicious lightness of a mystery without menace" the next time it happens: "What you do not know, for a tiny interval of time, is what the place is called, where it is, and you you are doing there.
But you're certain that you are somewhere, and will find out very soon... try not to lose hold of this rare moment of perfect suspension between doubt and confidence, certitude and ignorance, anxiety and satisfaction." One of the things I've learned from doing just a few of the exercises in this book is how hard it to stop being so busy and slow down enough to do the experiments. I don't want to stop sitting in front of my computer, playing games, reading a book, tending to chickens, tidying the house, or a million other things that tug at me, but a few minutes after getting started with one of Droit's exercises, I feel good about taking a break from those habitual behaviors. BUY SHARE
The Art of The Lord of the RingsThese are the drawings, maps, diagrams, and sketches that Tolkien drew to help him navigate Middle-earth, and the entire complex universe he created for his novels. Edited by Tolkien scholars Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull, the hardcover book contains nearly 200 images, the majority of which have never been published before. According to the editors, the “Inscriptions in runes and Elvish script, and ‘facsimile’ leaves from the burned and blood-stained Book of Mazarbul, support Tolkien’s pose as an ‘editor’ or ‘translator’ of ancient records.” So, the map is the territory after all.
Tales from the LoopSimon Stålenhag’s paintings are nostalgic yet unsettling, depicting futuristic technology looming over rural landscapes at some indistinct moment in the latter half of the twentieth century. Though superficially technical and straightforward, his style grows in atmosphere and depth the more you look at it; like a set of paded polaroids found in an old drawer, they expose a haunting sense of humanity and technological chaos. A follow-up, Tales from The Flood, just hit shelves.
The Complete EightballOf all the great comics from the late 1980s and early 1990s -- Love and Rockets, Weirdo, Hate, Acme Novelty Library, Optic Nerve, The Rocketeer -- my favorite is Daniel Clowes' Eightball. Each issue included one chapter of a serious graphic-novel-length story, and several pages of misanthropic, funny, bizarrely imaginative shorter comics. I loved both sections. One of long stories in Eightball ("Ghost World") and one of the shorter pieces ("Art School Confidential") were turned into movies, with Clowes writing the screenplays for both. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Eightball Fantagraphics released a slipcase 2-volume facsimile edition of Eightball that includes the first 18 issues of the comic book. It's stunningly gorgeous, and Fantagraphics went all out to create a package that will please people like me who read Eightball in its single issue format as well as people who are new to his early work.
The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks“To discover the true role of black women in the creation of American, and especially southern, cuisine, Toni Tipton-Martin has spent years amassing one of the world’s largest private collections of cookbooks published by African American authors, looking for evidence of their impact on American food, families, and communities and for ways we might use that knowledge to inspire community wellness of every kind.”
A collection of James P. Blaylock's short storiesI love reading James Blaylock's novels. His take on humanity, and the super natural, always thrill me. This collection of short stories made my rainy weekend. This collection of 16 stories is wonderful. Blaylock often tells tales where hope is covered in a dark sheen of barely contained evil, hiding in everyday California. I'm addicted! Included in this, his only collection of shorts, is Blaylock's award winning 13 Phantasms, the story of a man who follows an ad back into the golden age of science fiction. Steampunk, classic sci-fi, and a few new Langdon St. Ives adventures (one of Blaylock's best known characters,) are gripping!
The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy TalesWritten by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth in the 19th century and edited by Erika Eichenseer in the 21st century, this body of fairy tales surfaced only recently and can be encounted free of the Hollywood trappings that have long veiled more familiar folk stories. Fascinating, florid and "grimmer than Grimm," this book is a thoroughly Germanic fantasy landscape and far more entertaining than you probably expect it to be.
Lovecraft Country: A NovelHP Lovecraft, father of the Cthulhu mythos, was, even by the disgusting standard of his day, a scumbag racist pig. Seriously. Even Robert Howard couldn't let Lovecraft's vicious invective pass without comment. David Nickle's novel Eutopia pulled down Lovecraft's pants and showed us all his shame.
Lovecraft Country doesn't stop at the clothing.
The novel involves a large, extended, accomplished African-American family living in Jim Crow Chicago. These characters -- a young soldier, a radical printer, a grifter's daughter turned landlady, a travel agent, a budding comics creator, and many others -- don't need Elder Gods to experience horror. They live it in their daily lives, through harassment, violence, expropriation, and the legacy of slavery that is anything but ancient history for them.
Each character gets their own novella, a series of linked tales that both illustrates, at a visceral level, the terrors of the black American experience, and the family's relationship to another family, former enslavers who are Lovecraftian sorcerers, obsessed with the taming of ancient mysteries and sacrifices to unknowable Elder Gods from beyond our universe.
Z Burbia, a novel by Jake BibleThe first novel in Jake Bible's series Z Burbia hooked me. What appeared to be a jokey take on zombie fiction quickly develops some great characters and story. Jason "Long Pork" Stanford and his family live in a small community outside Asheville, NC. They've used the local geography and their HOA to secure the housing complex and have spent several years keeping things together. Their insular policies and strict adherence to the CC&Rs of Whispering Pines, their home, have kept them alive in the face of bandits, cannibals and of course hordes of zombies. Sadly, things are about to fall apart. I've enjoyed the characters, Bible has an ability to write little about folks, while not having them be cartoons. The plot, once you get past the condo association stuff, is rather standard Zombie fare, but I'm very much looking forward to the rest of his series. I got the first and second books via Kindle Unlimited.
A Book of Surrealist GamesHilarious and silly, A Book of Surrealist Games is a fantastic introduction to the surrealist mind-set. In addition to just being fun to peruse, this collection of written, visual and verbal games is great for exercising your mind, and staying creative. In addition to the games, this oddly organized book is packed with poems, illustrations and stories. While a bit dated, it is a wonderfully nostalgic tour of the spirit of surrealism. Some of the game directions are vague, and the images may not be the best, but I've had a lot of fun with this book over the years. Exquisite Corpse is one I'd expect to see our Boing Boing forums make good use of.
Livia LoneFormer CIA agent Barry Eisler's latest sexy cyber thriller follows Seattle PD sex-crimes detective Livia Lone, who knows the monsters she hunts. The heroine is Thai, and the story is riveting.
The WakePaul Kingsnorth's 2014 story of an 11th-century English rebel, opposing Norman occupiers, sounds like it could be a swashbuckling adventure. But The Wake's unhero is a smalltime insurgent, as romantic as an oxcart, becoming ever more enraged and fanatical as his world dies--a death not entirely the fault of French-speaking invaders. Written in an argot based on early English, it's alien yet close to home, a brew of English resentment, futility and self-destruction that tells us history is often prophecy. What better year to enjoy it again than 2016.
We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The Soundtrack of the Vietnam WarPenned by veteran Doug Bradley and Craig Werner, professor of Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, We Gotta Get Out of This place reveals soldiers' musical memories and the impact of James Brown, Eric Burdon, Country Joe McDonald, and other popular artists on the Vietnam experience and our understanding of it. The top three songs mentioned by the hundreds of soldiers they interviewed for the book are: “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” by The Animals, “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag” by Country Joe & The Fish, and “Leaving on a Jet Plane” by Peter, Paul and Mary.
John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China, Volume 1If you are anything like me, at all, you frequently wonder what happened next to Jack Burton and the rest of the Big Trouble in Little China gang? John Carpenter, Eric Powell, and Brian Churilla's Big Trouble in Little China graphic novels tell the tale! I've just started reading these BTiLC graphic novels, they pick up right where the movie left off. I could not be happier! The humor, the characters and the artwork are exactly what I'd have hoped for, if I had any idea these books were being published!
DisplacementI'm pretty bad at keeping up with new cartoonists. I'm stuck in the world of artists who emerged in the 80s and 90s: Daniel Clowes, Mary Fleener, Julie Doucet, Carol Tyler, Lynda Barry, Los Bros Hernandez, Jim Woodring, Roberta Gregory, Peter Bagge, Chris Ware, Dori Seda. Lucy Knisley is one of the rare younger cartoonists that I've gotten hooked on. (I interviewed Lucy on my podcast Gweek in 2013.)
I'm a fan of the "ligne claire" drawing style, which Lucy exemplifies, and her sense of page composition is clean but with the perfect whimsical touch. She also colors her drawings with watercolors, not Photoshop, so they have a nice texture. Her work is mostly autobiographical. Her 2008 book, French Milk, is an illustrated journal about living (and eating) in Paris with her mother. Her next book, Relish, is about growing up in the food industry. In 2015 she wrote Displacement, a comic book travelogue about taking her frail grandparents on an ocean cruise. Lucy does not have children, and was not familiar with taking care of dependent people, so she was stunned by how exhausting the "vacation" was. Her 91-year-old grandmother had dementia and didn't really know who Lucy was, and her 93-year-old grandfather had an incontinence problem that he didn't care about.
Lucy ended up having to wash his trousers every evening when she was able to convince him to take them off. In between the diary entries about things like waiting in line for 3 hours to board the ship, calling her father asking for help (he wasn't helpful), and putting up with the bossy ship's crew, Lucy included excerpts from her grandfather's WWII journal, which shows him to be an excellent, observant writer, much like Lucy herself. I felt sorry for Lucy because the trip was stressful and exhausting. She had to deal with vomit, soiled clothing, and lost grandparents on a daily basis. But she had a great sense of humor about her ordeal and her patient and sympathetic care for her grandparents was touching. Lucy entered a new level of adulthood on this trip, and her story of how is happened is fascinating.
We've been linking to Asha Dornfest's amazing Parent Hacks blog for more than a decade, and we loved her 2013 Minmalist Parenting. Dornfest's strength is her ability to choose "hacks" that are simultaneously useful and simple, a welcome contrast from the Martha Stewart-ish norm, which amounts to, "Given an entire free afternoon, here's something you can do to impress your friends (maybe)."
As you'll see from the samples below, Dornfest's picked out the best of these from her deep drawersful of great ideas, thematically grouping them for parenting's greatest daily challenges: pregnancy, sleeping, eating, bath time, travel, etc. At least one of them comes from me: using panty-liners (which airplanes and trains have spares of in the bathroom) to extend the life of a diaper (which you can't replenish in-flight!) when you're caught short.
With friendly, subject-sorted tips that can be used for easy reference, this is the perfect kind of parenting book: one you don't need to read from cover-to-cover while you're juggling your kid(s), but which you can turn to whenever you're in need.
The Longest Day of the FutureOn this Earth-like planet, only two corporations exist. One is represented by a pig mascot, the other by a rabbit. Each cult-like corporation produces everything a person could need or want – food, entertainment, housing, vehicles, employment, etc. One day, an alien spaceship crash lands on the planet, disrupting the barely-functioning balance between the rival corporate tribes. This Brazil-like story is told in the form of a wordless graphic novel by Argentine cartoonist and graphic designer Lucas Varela. The art is superb, bringing to mind Chris Ware. I read this twice, savoring every beautiful panel, filled with insanely weird and wonderful robots, buildings, vehicles, and creatures. I can't wait to see what Varela does next.
Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird StoriesBefore and after Lovecraft there will always be Blackwood, more sinister and skilful by far. Though written a century ago, the prose is often fast and well-crafted, even as it slowly builds in dread and force. The dangers here are not cosmic or hysterical, but elemental and insidious; it often feels like once could be accomodated by it rather than obliterated, if only an unspeakable choice were made. The Willows and The Wendigo are perhaps the best of the bunch, but this set's got plenty of great picks.
One Breath, a tragic tale of free divingFree diving holds a special terror for me. I've lost two friends to abalone diving, here in Northern California, and while strenuous and dangerous, it doesn't hold a candle to competitive free diving. Adam Skolnick's One Breath tells the tale of Nick Mevoli, a superstar whose death put the sport on trial. Mevoli in 2013 was a rising star in the world of competitive free diving. His entrance in Vertical Blue, free divings version of Mavericks, was highly anticipated. Mevoli was expected to shatter records, instead he died. Skolnick does an amazing job of showing you the forces, internally and externally, that drove Mevoli to his tragic end.
White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in AmericaNancy Isenberg's groundbreaking and bestselling history of the class system in America, with particular focus on the so-called “white trash,” who Trump successfully targeted in his presidential campaign.
World-famous artist and middle-school art teacher Christopher Locke has published a new drawing tutorial book, packed with lessons from his own classroom. Whether you're a 10-year-old aspiring artist, or an octogenarian with an art degree, you'll find exercises and activities that will help you build your skill and refine the way you see the world.
This isn't one of those old dried-up 'how to draw fifty battleships' books. It's a set of activities that progressively guide the reader from 'I can't draw' to 'handmade art for sale!' Along the way, each lesson is written out by a man who spends his days keeping tweens awake and smiling.
Maker DadI wrote this technology and craft project to have fun with my daughters. The book’s twenty-four unique projects include:
• Drawbot, a lively contraption that draws abstract patterns all by itself
• Ice Cream Sandwich Necklace
• Friendstrument, an electronic musical instrument girls can play with friends
• Antigravity Jar
• Silkscreened T-Shirt
• Retro Arcade Video Game
• Host a Podcast
• Lunchbox Guitar
• Kite Video Camera I think any child/adult combo will enjoy making the projects in Maker Dad.
Every Heart a DoorwayEleanor West's Home for Wayward Children is a boarding school for children -- almost all girls -- who've gone through a mysterious doorway and found themselves in some fantasy world: wicked worlds, playful worlds, nonsense worlds, brilliant worlds. These adventures these children lived in their worlds changed them forever, as years passed in the other realms and they grew to be people they'd never imagined being before they passed through the door.
And then, for reasons most of them will never understand, they were sent back to the world they'd come from. Our world. For their parents, they'd been gone for months, or maybe a few years in some extreme cases, and all those parents assume that their children were kidnapped, or ran away, or faced some terrible privation, and that's the reason they're full of obviously impossible tales of these other worlds. That's the reason they're so inconsolably, cripplingly sad to have been exiled from the realm of magic.
Eleanor West tells the parents that this is a rare but not unheard-of mental illness among girls on the verge of womanhood, and offers to treat their children at her rural boarding school, a Hogwarts for faerie's refugees. But Eleanor West is herself one of those girls who went to faerie, a High Nonsense realm whose door is open to her now, though she herself is too infected by our world's logic to survive there any longer. She operates the school as a kindness and a mission, to comfort her fellow refugees and offer them coping skills and the pooled knowledge of all those who've walked to other worlds (including those rare, lucky few who've been able to go back to their adopted homes after their exile in our reality).
Nancy has newly come to the school, from a "High Logic" world, an underworld kingdom where she served the lord of death, first as a statue who held so still that she could live on a few sips of pomegranate juice, then as an important courtier. Her lord has sent her back to reality so she can assure herself that she would freely choose the world of the dead forever, but now that she's here, she can't find the way back.
The Cancer-Fighting Kitchen: Nourishing, Big-Flavor Recipes for Cancer Treatment and Recovery, by Rebecca Katz I used this during cancer treatment and recommend it to anyone who's going through it, or caring for someone else who is. This is not a BS "how to prevent cancer with food" book. This is a bible on how to help cancer patients have the best possible odds at the best possible nutrition to help them survive and recover.
Arcology: The City in the Image of ManSoleri taught architecture at ASU, but his real classroom was Arcosanti: "an experimental town and molten bronze bell casting community" a few hours from Phoenix, which was supposed to have 5,000 residents by now, demonstrating "lean" city living in high-density complexes that combined super-efficient usage of space with stylized, naturalistic exteriors that made each building part of the landscape.
Soleri was a crank, a visionary, a mystic and a doomsayer. His arcologies -- "architecture" plus "ecology" -- were meant to head off the coming population bomb, which, combined with urban sprawl, would destroy the planet. Soleri conceived of a city as dense as Tokyo or New York, but with a pastoral sensibility that kept each of his titanic towers in synch with nature.
If this sounds familiar, it's because Soleri's ideas were far more successful with futurists than they were with the actual future. Arcologies appeared as staples of science fiction cover-art, and their descendants can be contemporary sf, including the great, interplanetary hollow asteroid craft plying the spacelanes in Kim Stanley Robinson's brilliant 2312. I think there was an arcology in ever single issue of OMNI. Judge Dredd's Mega City One was dense with towering arcologies. The victory condition in Sim City 2000? Your highrises turn into arcologies.
Soleri's arcologies are all in cutaway form, like a full-page Fantastic Four clubhouse diagram by Jack Kirby, ferociously detailed and aching with unfulfilled desire. Soleri wants these things to exist, and he uses his pen to show us how fucking cool it would be to live in the cities of his mind. Every one of these diagrams should be a poster.
Subscription to Teen VogueThe youth-oriented fashion magazine became the surprise hero of America's twisted election season, an unexpected island of conscience and spine amid rivers of journalistic drivel. And, unlike the New York Times, it's actually fun to read. A subscription is $5 a YEAR. No excuses!
My Life as a White Trash ZombieIn My Life as a White Trash Zombie, by Diana Rowland, Angel Crawford wakes up in the hospital with no memory of what happened the night before. The nurse tells her that she'd been found passed out and naked on the side of the road.
Angel is not surprised. She’s a beer-drinking, pill-popping, teenage delinquent with a rap sheet and a reputation for causing trouble. Passing out from booze and drugs isn’t anything new. She is surprised, however, by a package that’s been left for her in the hospital by a mysterious stranger. It includes a note telling her that she has a job waiting for her at the county morgue, and a few glass beverage bottles of odd-looking liquid. The note instructs her to drink a bottle every other day and report to work the next day, with a warning that if she doesn’t, the consequences will be dire.
She has no idea who gave her the note and bottles, but she reluctantly heeds the stranger’s instructions. Her new job entails driving bodies to the morgue and helping the coroner open up the bodies to determine the cause of death. It’s around this time that Angel discovers, much to her self-disgust, that she is tremendously hungry for the cadavers’ brains. In the days that follow, she learns that she is a zombie. Eventually, she meets up with other zombies, both good and bad, and tries to learn how she became a zombie, tries to keep herself well-fed with brains without actually killing anyone, tries to avoid getting beat-up by her alcoholic father, tries to rid herself of her heartless boyfriend, and tries to avoid getting decapitated by an unknown zombie hunter who has been picking off the town’s ghouls, one-by-one.
Zombies operate differently in Rowland’s universe. If they have eaten enough brains, they are indistinguishable from ordinary people. But when they go too long without feeding, they start to smell like rotting flesh, their appendages fall off, and they lose higher order brain functions. They become George Romero style zombies. Eating brains will return their personalities and regenerate their missing fingers and toes. My Life as a White Trash Zombie is lighter fare than most zombie books and movies I’ve consumed, but I thoroughly enjoyed following Angel around as she learned to handle old and new challenges. It was published in 2001, and since then, Rowland has written three other White Trash Zombies books, all highly-rated on Amazon.
Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden WondersBased on the essential travel site that treats the world as a wunderkammer, the Atlas Obscura book features more than 700 highly unusual places on this planet that you can visit. Even if you never leave your sofa, how can you not be intrigued by descriptions of Turkmenistan’s Gates of Hell, the glow worm caves of New Zealand, and a 19th-century machine that uses leeches to forecast the weather, still on view at, er, Barometer World in Merton, England. By Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras, and Ella Mortin.
MisreadingsThe great italian novelist, critic and semiotician died this year, leaving an intimidating body of work. He's famous for elaborate historical novels such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum, but the best entry point is Misreadings, a collection of short stories and funnies. Here is part of his summary of the Bible, presented as an internal memo at a publishing house written by an editor rejecting the manuscript:
I must say that the first few hundred pages of this manuscript really hooked me. Action-packed, they have everything today's reader wants in a good story. Sex (lots of it, including adultery, sodomy, incest), also murder, war, massacres, and so on... But as I kept on reading, I realized that this is actually an anthology, involving several writers, with many--too many--stretches of poetry, and passages that are downright mawkish and boring, and jeremiads that make no sense. The end result is a monster omnibus. It seems to have something for everybody, but ends up appealing to nobody.
The New Wildcrafted Cuisine: Exploring the Exotic Gastronomy of Local TerroirForaging master Pascal Baudar takes us on an exploration of local terroir and wildcrafted flavors, combining the research and knowledge of plants and landscape that chefs often lack with the fascinating and innovative techniques of a master food preserver and self-described “culinary alchemist.”
The Neverending StoryTAGS: stories, neverending, the, limahl.gif, religion, giorgio moroder, reading list, you may be tested on your knowledge, survival guides, howto, nothing, scratch right here.
When Bastian happens upon an old book called The Neverending Story, he's swept into the magical world of Fantastica, with an awesome luckdragon in it—so much that he finds he has actually become a character in the story, like the luckdragon. And when he realizes that this mysteriously enchanted world is in great danger, he also discovers that he is the one chosen to help the luckdragon save it. Can Bastian overcome the barrier between reality and his imagination in order to help the luckdragon save Fantastica?
Makey MakeyIt’s easier to understand what Makey Makey is by watching this video of it in action than by describing it, but I’ll give it a shot. Makey Makey is a printed circuit board that you connect to any computer with a USB cable (included). You don’t need to install any software. Your computer thinks Makey Makey is a keyboard. And it is a keyboard of sorts. But it doesn’t use standard keys. Instead, you connect wires from Makey Makey to anything that conducts electricity: a piece of fruit, a bowl of water, a cup of soup, a scrap of aluminum foil, blobs of Play-Doh. When you touch the object with your finger, your computer will think you are pressing a key on a standard keyboard. You can assign the object to be a spacebar key, an arrow key, or a letter key. And you can connect several objects to Makey Makey at the same time, so that you can create game controllers, musical interfaces, and other button-controlled devices.
It might not sound like much fun, but the possibilities are endless, and Makey Makey’s ease of use encourages quick-and-dirty experimentation. My 12-year-old was instantly transfixed by Makey Makey and she started making all sorts of things with it, including a drum machine triggered by apple slices, and a game controller out of a cardboard box and bits of foil.
Makey Makey also works with Scratch, the excellent kids’ software development platform. Check out the Makey Makey games people have created using Scratch.
A Silly Putty 6 pack6 Eggs of Silly Putty, just as you remember it. I almost bought a print newspaper to lift some comics, and then remembered it just ruins the stuff and isn’t so impressive.
3" Glass PyramidMade of "optically clear crystal" and three inches tall, Amlong's Crystal Pyramid is the best Crystal Pyramid. My bacon is fresh, my airspace dangerous, and my undertakings favored.
Welcome to Night Vale Creepy Baby OnesieThey say "Creepy" because they come from Night Vale, where "creepy" is a superlative.
A Rube Goldberg-ian good time for allFun for the whole family, Mouse Trap is a game that never gets old and rarely works as intended.
2016 LEGO Star Wars Advent CalendarThis years Star Wars Advent Calendar does not end on Wookie Life Day, but I like the minifigs.
Bulk Generic LegoYou can get 1000 random pieces of off-brand building bricks for $30, guaranteed to "fit tight
Wolf Crotch UnderwearWith a "convex design, large space and breathable," the 3D Wolf Head Crotch Underwear "make man looks sexy and wild" and can be yours for as little as five American dollars.
Beasts of BalanceKickstarted in 2016, Beasts of Balance is a smart-phone enable tabletop game that combines stacking/balancing (think Jenga) with smart, sensor-enabled blocks that talk to your mobile device as you play the game, creating fun and complex challenges.
Draft-Matic Mechanical PencilI worked as an engineering intern for a couple of summers when I was in college. I shared a cubicle with a draftsperson named Laura. She was obsessed with two things - being part of an outlaw motorcycle gang, and her drafting materials, especially her mechanical pencil. I liked her very much, but one time I made the mistake of borrowing her pencil while she was on a cigarette break. When she came back and discovered me using it she was so mad I thought she was going to stab me with it. I remember her describing the penc
I'm 99% percent sure the pencil she owned was an Alvin Draft-Matic 5mm.
Reflectacles: super-reflective glasses-frames that look amazingScott Urban's new Reflectacles glasses are Ray Ban-style frames that are embedded with the kind of retroreflective cat-eye materials used for highway markers, making them reflective at 500 yards at night, and nearly that visible by day. He's kickstarting them at an astoundingly cheap $85/pair, in seven colors.
Sea MonkeysI remember lonely days in my 20s when Sea Monkeys were my only pet. My roommate at the time was a 6’6” pre-frontally lobotomized, homophobic, anti-semitic, epileptic, children’s party clown. It was only through the love of my Sea Monkeys that I survived.
Loog electric 3-string guitarI love Loog 3-string guitars. They use open-tuning, which makes them very easy to play.
Seconds of excitement, by EstesRemember the anticipation? Stuffing RECOVERY WADDING in your rocket? Putting in the engine, fitting in the tiny matchhead sized ignitor? Running 15-20’ of wire out to your tiny launch control device! Hitting the button and fizz... Nothing happens! Three seconds later, just as you are standing up to approach “the rocket.” ZZZZZZZIIIIIIIP! You mostly miss seeing the launch, and the rocket is already tumbling back to earth. The parachute having a) popped to early, b) far too late, or c) in a ball of flame.
Monopoly Deal card gameMonopoly Deal is a $5 card game that takes 15-20 minutes to play and has lots of player interaction, and no mind numbing roll-and-move mechanic. Many of the 110 cards in the deck look familiar (money, properties, utilities). There are also action cards which can be used to collect rent, steal another players' property, cancel an action card, or used as money. Best of all, even the richest player is at risk of losing, so everyone stays interested in playing till the end.
Copper mugs for Moscow MulesI didn't know what a Moscow Mule was until I saw the Bali Hai episode of Better Call Saul. The drink, made from vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice, poured over ice, was served to Kim Wexler (my favorite character on the show, played by Rhea Seehorn) in a copper mug. Recently, I went on vacation with my wife, and she ordered a Moscow Mule at a restaurant. It was served in a copper mug. It turns out you are supposed to serve them that way.
The origins of the Moscow Mule are a bit murky, but it appears to have been invented in the early 1940s by the owner of a Hollywood pub on the Sunset Strip called the Cock 'n' Bull. The bartender wanted to clean out a slow-moving stockpile of Smirnoff's and bottled ginger beer that had been gathering dust on the shelves in the backroom, so he mixed them together and started serving them in copper mugs to the movie stars who frequented the pub. It became an instant hit, at least until McCarthyism scared people away from anything with the taint of Sovietism to it. But the Moscow Mule had a kick that people liked, and it made a comeback in the 1960s, which it enjoys today.
Tiffin Board GameMore than 250,000 of Mumbai's workers enjoy a home-cooked lunch every day thanks to the dabbawallas, who bring tiffins -- stacking lunchpails -- filled at each worker's family kitchen directly to their workplace, in a miracle of coordinated logistics that consistently beats Mumbai's legendary traffic jams and attains unheard-of accuracy despite the low levels of literacy among dabbawallas.
Tiffin is a new tabletop game from Rael Dornfest -- RSS pioneer; creator of the Blosxom blogging tool; technologist for Charity:Water; former chair of the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conferences; and husband of Asha "Parent Hacks" Dornfest -- that challenges you to match the dabbawallas' logistical skill by building delivery routes that minimize waste and maximize delivery efficiency.
Players compete to build more-efficient routes, while contending with slowdowns and flat tires, edging out the competition with short-cuts.
Titanium Quasi SporkThe Light My Fire spork isn't technically a spork, but rather a handle with a fork on one end and a spoon on the other. Call it a spork in front of your friends for a free nerdrage lecture.
Scorched Star Trek:TOS redshirtsThese full-sublimation Star Trek redshirts allow you to LARP an expendable security team-member who's met a horrible end, or a character in an existential John Scalzi comedy.
BloxelsMake pixel art in meatspace! Bloxels is a physical 13x13 art board with 320 blocks, which come with a free app to turn your creations into actual video game characters and levels: "When creating game rooms, each color in your design represents a different element, like green for terrain, blue for water or red for a hazard. When working on art, the color blocks represent the pixel art."
Mickey Mouse WatchI've always wanted a Mickey Mouse watch. This model is $23 on Amazon, and looks better than more expensive ones.
Bounce though the holidaysI went to my brother’s house a couple weeks back and was IMPRESSED. Rather than renting these from a party service, my brother just bought a bounce house for the kids. From age 2 to about 11, and then again from 19-35 or so, this’ll exhaust family and make every day kid management a lot easier. Tire them out!
Elenco 200-in-One Electronic Project Lab: A modern rebuild of the Radio Shack 150-in-One electronics kitElenco's highly rated 200-in-One Electronic Project Lab, which uses the same spring-wire and no-solder connectors as Radio Shack's classic, much-loved 150-in-One Electronics Kit, and adds a rack-mount chassis that lets your homebrew projects integrate with your home AV or networking gear.
There are 200 projects in the kit, including "Build your own Radio, AM Broadcast Station, Burglar Alarm, Electronic Game, Ohmmeter, Telegraph, Rain Detector and Sound effects tool."
Hand blown pink glass tentacleIf Peggy Olson had one of these hand blown pink glass tentacle massagers on her desk, it would go nicely with her Hokusai.
Eric Harshbarger diceEric Harshbarger's weird, laser-engraved dice are a tour-de-force: a pair of D6s for figuring out where to go for dinner in NYC; another D6 to figure out which die you should roll; an all-20s critical hit D20; Sicherman D6s that have different faces to a normal D6 pair, but the same probability distribution; punctuation mark dice (I've had students who were definitely using these); dice for indecisive people, and so on.
Caped Wonder Woman onesieThough the Dawn of Justice movie was a disappointment, the $45 Wonder Woman Dawn of Justice onesie (with cape!) (and gold foil tiara on the hood!) is not a bad consolation prize (and the cape zips off).
The Buddy Christ dashboard statuetteNo mid 70s sedan could possibly be complete without the Buddy Christ. I sort of thing my Vanagon needs one too.
MeaniesJust the sort of toys that kids love but parents would never get, Meanies are the perfect indiscreet gift for nieces, nephews, and other people's children. OG Meanie Splat the Roadkill Cat is "totally gross" but out of production.
Cthulhu ski masksWith more than a hundred positive reviews, Amurleopard's $4.23 Cthulhu ski mask seems to represent a kind of triumph in a narrow but important niche.
Tabasco packetsThe convenience of carrying your favorite hot-sauce in individual sachets -- think "McDonald's ketchup pouches" -- can't be overstated. It's a particularly great format if you're a frequent traveller, as TSA screeners don't recognize the shape as a "liquid" on their X-rays, meaning you can just stash them in your bags and pockets and not worry about getting them all out when you reach a checkpoint.
Crossbow pistolI bought this crossbow pistol because my family’s favorite character on The Walking Dead, Daryl Dixon, uses a crossbow to take out zombies, and we thought it would be fun for target practice. It was only about $25, and I didn’t expect it to be very powerful, but I was wrong. A bolt shot from this thing could kill someone. It easily penetrates plywood. I’m not sure if a bolt could go through someone’s skull, but it would definitely lodge itself in a leg, arm, abdomen, or neck.
If you buy this, give it the same respect you would a firearm. It’s not a toy, but it sure is fun. That said, I don't think anyone under the age of 18 should use it without adult supervision.
It doesn’t require a lot of effort to cock it, but a smaller kid would not be able to figure out how to do it. The safety automatically engages when you cock it, thankfully. The crossbow comes with three aluminum (very sharp) bolts. You can buy a pack of 36 additional bolts for $12.
There’s an unlimited wealth of useless USB gadgetry to be acquired, obviously, but something about the USB half-golfball with one USB port [Amazon] posted to Twitter by @foone (whose epic threads about subjects such as “possibly cursed USB adapters” are easily the best thing on Twitter right now) captures the very essence of the genre. […]
CutiePi is a tablet based on the Raspberry Pi: compact enough, but more open, versatile and hacker-friendly than mainstream models from Apple, Microsoft or the Google coprosperity sphere. CutiePi is a complete Raspberry Pi in a tablet form factor, minus the trouble of connecting monitor or power supply. It’s slimmer because of using Compute Module, […]
I am addicted to Thinkpads in large part because of the trackpoint (AKA "The Nipple") -- the little wiggly joystickbetween the G, H and B keys that allows me to control fine mouse-movements without bending my hand into the RSI-inducing trackpad position; between that and the amazing, best-in-class warranties, I am a committed Thinkpad user, […]
There’s no shortage of stories about the benefits of cannabidiol, that benign (and non-psychoactive) cousin of THC. Some have been using it for years to deal with pain, stress, and sleeplessness. And the more people use it, the more discussion there is about how to use it. While there’s no shortage of quality edibles on […]
Are we done with capsule coffee makers yet? Sure, they’re easy. But they are not so easy on the environment, and it’s debatable whether they actually make a better cup. Luckily, there’s never been a better time to switch back to the good old reliable drip method – especially when drip coffeemakers have quietly been […]
If there’s one thing that stayed consistent through the last decade or so of tech industry turmoil, it’s the love affair between techies and Linux. There’s just a ton you can do with the OS, and its open-source format means you can customize your rig from the ground up. Apparently not content with that level […]