wizzywig review

Nightwork: the extraordinary, exuberant history of rulebreaking at MIT

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

Statistics Done Wrong: The Woefully Complete Guide

From a brilliant Web-rant to an indispensable guide to the perils of statistics and their remedies, Alex Reinhart's Statistics Gone Wrong is a spotter's guide to arrant nonsense cloaked in mathematical respectability.

How to Teach Adults: Get a Job; Plan Your Class; Teach Your Students; Change the World

Dan Spalding's How to Teach Adults (free download) is an extraordinary document that mixes the practical and the philosophical, a book that explains how to be a better teacher, and how better teachers make a better world.

Humble Ebook Bundle: name-your-price comics & books with Gaiman, GRRM, Goodkind, Moore, Piskor, and more

The fourth Humble Ebooks Bundle is up and running, and it's a name-your-own-price, DRM-free, comics-heavy doozy, including our own Ed Piskor's brilliant Wizzywig (review); graphic civil rights history March; the Lovecraft's Monsters anthology (with Neil Gaiman); George RR Martin's Sword and Sorcery anthology, Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell's From Hell; Terry Goodkind's Wizard's First Rule; Paolo Bacigalupi's The Alchemist; Tobias Buckell's The Executioness; and Yahtzee Crosshaw's Jam. And there's more books coming in week two (good ones -- I've had a sneaky preview!). Read the rest

The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation, a nuanced and moving history of race, slavery and the Civil War

The Gettysburg Address: A Graphic Adaptation sat in my pile for too long, and it shouldn't have. I loved The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation, the previous effort by Jonathan Hennessey and Aaron McConnell, so I should have anticipated how good this new one would be. Having (belatedly) gotten around to it, I can finally tell you that this is an extraordinary, nuanced history of the issues of race and slavery in America, weaving together disparate threads of military, geopolitical, technological, legal, Constitutional, geographic and historical factors that came together to make the Civil War happen at the moment when it occurred, that brought it to an end, and that left African Americans with so little justice in its wake. Read the rest

It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens (must, MUST read)

Sociologist danah boyd's long-awaited first book, It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, hits shelves today. boyd is one of the preeminent scholars of the way young people -- especially marginalized young people of diverse economic and racial backgrounds, as well as diverse gender and sexual orientation -- use the Internet, and her work has been cited here regularly for her sharp observations and her overwhelming empathy for her subjects.

It's Complicated is a passionate, scholarly, and vividly described account of the reality of young peoples' use of networked technologies in America today. Painstakingly researched through interviews and close study for more than a decade, boyd's book is the most important analysis of networked culture I've yet to read. Read the rest

Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun!

Kevin C Pyle and Scott Cunningham's non-fiction, book-length comic Bad for You: Exposing the War on Fun! is a marvellous and infuriating history of censorship, zero-tolerance, helicopter parenting, and the war on kids.

The comics form turns out to be just perfect for presenting this material. The book opens with a history of the fight over comics publishing in America, where the liar Frederic Wertham and his Seduction of the Innocents hoax led to a harsh regime of comics censorship, book banning, book burning, and decades of pseudoscientific vilification and dismissal of artists and the young people who loved their work. Presenting this story in a comics form only drives home how wrong Wertham and the Comics Code Authority were. Read the rest

Cartoon Introduction to Statistics: perfect way to get excited about stats

The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics is a new book by Grady Klein and Alan Dabney that is a top-notch introductory grounding in statistical concepts told through a series of witty, funny cartoons that relate stats to everything from fish populations to alien opinion surveys. This is a very introductory text, and it assumes that you know nothing about stats -- not even why you'd want to know more about the subject. The book tackles both the task of providing a grounding in statistical concepts (mean/median, standard deviation, null hypothesis, random sampling, confidence intervals, etc) and explaining in clear and exciting ways why you'd care about any of this stuff.

The authors do a great job of conveying the source material in clear, stepwise fashion, and made the wise decision to put the equations at the back of the book in an appendix called "The Math Cave." They don't delve deeply into any intermediate subjects like assessing correlation (for this, I highly recommend 1993's The Cartoon Guide to Statistics by Larry Gonick and Woollcott Smith, about which I can't say enough great and enthusiastic things), but that's probably a wise tactical decision. Confining the material to basics makes the whole work into an unqualified success.

The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics Read the rest

Law of Superheroes: law-school seen through comic-book heroes' lens

In the The Law of Superheroes two lawyers called James Daily and Ryan Davidson do a magnificent job overview of the US legal system that manages to be extremely informative and incredibly entertaining, because, as the title implies, they tour the legal system as it would apply to comic-book superheroes.

This is much better than most of those "Physics of Science Fiction"-type books, since the legal hypotheticals that superheroes give rise to, while speculative, are actually just extreme macrocosms for the normal business of the real-world legal system. What better way to illustrate the rules of evidence than to explore whether (and why) things that Professor Xavier read in your mind would be admissible in court and whether Spider Man could testify in his mask? What better way to explore the "functional/informative" split in trademark law than to ask whether Captain America's round shield might be the subject of a trademark, or just the design on its face? What better way to explore corporate law than to explore the sort of legal entity the Fantastic Four and the Justice League of America should look to form in order to minimize liability and streamline their decision-making process?

I've read lots of popular law books, and spent a lot of time hanging around lawyers, and these kinds of hypotheticals are the best way I know of to turn a dry, detail-oriented subject into something fun and engrossing. It helps that the authors are very imaginative and have a seemingly encylopedic knowledge of comics, which leads ask whether Superman's torture at Lex Luthor's hands are assault or cruelty to animals, to investigate the tax implications of immortality, and to find a loophole by which Batman can operate Wayne Enterprise's vehicles in public without compromising his company's ability to file for patents on them (spoiler: he needs to sell them to the military). Read the rest

Ed Piskor's hacker history comix Wizzywig, the book trailer

Our own Ed Piskor's Wizzywig -- a graphic novel that is a fictionalized account of a Kevin Mitnick-type hacker and his run-ins with the law -- will shortly be available as a beautiful hardcover from the good folks at Top Shelf Comix, who put together the excellent book trailer you see above. Here are my reviews of the original single-chapter volumes:

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the first two volumes of Ed Piskor's comic-book historical hacker drama, Wizzywig. Wizzywig is the story of Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle, a fictional hacker who's part Mitnick, part Poulsen, and part mythological. Boingthump is a preternaturally bright, badly socialized kid who discovers a facility for technology that's egged on by his only pal, "Winston Smith," a would-be Abbie Hoffman who is obsessed with the potential to use Boingthump's discoveries to monkeywrench the machine.

But soon enough, their roles are reversed, as Kevin's relentless pursuit of knowledge and power scares Winston so much that he tries (without success) to put the brakes on Boingthump's crazy ride through the phone system and the nascent Internet. The story blends fiction and fact, dropping in a Blue Box-selling Jobs and Wozniak (Boingthump picks the trunk-lock on their car and steals a Blue Box) and Cap'n Crunch, along with plenty of fictional BBS scenesters and grumpy computer-store owners. The backgrounds are filled with nostalgia PCs -- Atari 400s, Apple ///s -- and old Bellcore manuals.

The illustration and storytelling style reminds me a lot of Harvey Pekar (with whom he's collaborated on American Splendor), jumping backwards and forwards in time, switching points of view, going inside and outside of the characters' heads.

Read the rest

Wizzywig 3: "Fugitive" -- hacker history comic turns up the heat

Over the weekend, I had the extremely pleasurable experience of reading the third volume of Ed Piskor's kick-ass hacker-history comic WIZZYWIG, entitled "Fugitive." Piskor's series tells the fictional story of Kevin "Boingthumb" Phenicle, a hacker kid who becomes the center of a nationwide manhunt after a hysterical press and a crackdown on hackers brands him the most dangerous man in America.

In "Fugitive," Kevin goes underground, and Piskor does a wonderful job of fictionalizing the techniques used by fugitives to forge and maintain secret identities, as well as the difficulties they face in maintaining their cover while running from the law.

Piskor really keeps the heat up in this volume, pulling off a gripping story with lots of good, meaty forbidden knowledge and insight into the hacker mindset. Ed publishes and sells the series himself, and the first two volumes are also online as free PDFs. They're well-made books, and cracking good reads, a fictionalized rendition of Bruce Sterling's Hacker Crackdown crossed with Steven Levy's Hackers.

WIZZYWIG VOLUME 3: FUGITIVE

(Thanks to Ed Piskor for sending me a review copy of "Fugitive"!)

Previously: Wizzywig: nostalgia hacker comic - Boing Boing Phreak/hacker history comic now a free download Boing Boing Read the rest

Phreak/hacker history comic now a free download

The first two volumes of Wizzywig, Ed Piskor's wonderful graphic memoir of the early days of the BBS/hacking/phreaking scene, have been posted online. Mark and I both reviewed Ed's comics last year, and we both really enjoyed them -- great to have them online now, and Ed tells me there's a third volume in the mail to me. I'll post a review here once I get a chance to read it.

Wizzywig is the story of Kevin "Boingthump" Phenicle, a fictional hacker who's part Mitnick, part Poulsen, and part mythological. Boingthump is a preternaturally bright, badly socialized kid who discovers a facility for technology that's egged on by his only pal, "Winston Smith," a would-be Abbie Hoffman who is obsessed with the potential to use Boingthump's discoveries to monkeywrench the machine.

But soon enough, their roles are reversed, as Kevin's relentless pursuit of knowledge and power scares Winston so much that he tries (without success) to put the brakes on Boingthump's crazy ride through the phone system and the nascent Internet. The story blends fiction and fact, dropping in a Blue Box-selling Jobs and Wozniak (Boingthump picks the trunk-lock on their car and steals a Blue Box) and Cap'n Crunch, along with plenty of fictional BBS scenesters and grumpy computer-store owners. The backgrounds are filled with nostalgia PCs -- Atari 400s, Apple ///s -- and old Bellcore manuals.

The illustration and storytelling style reminds me a lot of Harvey Pekar (with whom he's collaborated on American Splendor), jumping backwards and forwards in time, switching points of view, going inside and outside of the characters' heads.

Read the rest

:)