• The Appreciation Effect is a social experiment to make people feel seen and valued

    While you're being grateful this week, why not start an appreciation campaign for someone who could use some love and recognition? The Appreciation Effect is here to help. You pick a worthy recipient and a start date, and then recruit other people to write nice things about them. The Appreciation Effect will then release the notes to them (via email) as a daily feed. It's free, and starts with as few as seven appreciative notes. This social experiment was started during the pandemic by Drew Schrader and Douglas Tsoi "out of interest in people's health and well-being." They hope to "have one million people feel appreciated and seen for their gifts."

    (Rusty's Electric Dreams)

    Thanks, LeBrie!

  • Charcuterie Chalets are like gingerbread houses but with meat, cheese, and other savory bits

    Move over sticky, candy-laden gingerbread houses, there's a new "edible architecture" in town and it's savory. The Charcuterie Chalet is constructed with walls of flatbread, windows of pretzels, and shingles of smoked salami. Instead of sugary frosting, fancy spreadable cheese is the glue that holds it all together. The snow surrounding the chalet? Parmesan cheese, of course. Sold as a $130 kit, you'll get enough charcuterie meat, cheeses, nuts, dried fruit, crackers and herbs to make one larger chalet, or two smaller homes, a chateau and an A-frame. It's the work of Avital Ungar, a food experience designer who offers foodie tours in New York and San Francisco.

    Thanks, Danielle!

  • Pee-wee's Playhouse actor John Paragon laid to rest in a fitting urn, a "Jambi the Genie" Box

    Long live Jambi. John Paragon, who passed in 2021, has been laid to his eternal rest. A small private service was held this week at Hollywood Forever Cemetery for the actor and comedian who, most famously, played "Jambi the Genie" in Pee-wee's Playhouse. His urn is a perfectly crafted depiction of the purple-and-gold Jambi Box.

    Two of his classmates from his Groundlings days, Paul Reubens (Pee-wee Herman) and Casssandra Peterson (Elvira), came up with the urn's concept, John's sister Mary Paragon Roberts shared with Boing Boing. To grant their "wish," Roberts used crowdsourced funds raised in 2021 specifically for his interment. Peterson then gathered the dream team that built the urn: Tweeterhead's Chad Colebank, Jack Matthews, Chie Izuma, Aaron McNaught, and Queenie Black.

    If you'd like pay your respects to the comic legend, you can find him at:

    Hollywood Forever Cemetery
    6000 Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90038
    Abbey Haven of Devotion, E-2 East wall, Niche D-3

    screengrab: CBS/Pee-wee's Playhouse

    Previously: Pee-wee's Playhouse "Jambi" actor John Paragon has died

  • 'Where the Wild Things Are' is Brooklyn Public Library's 'most borrowed' book

    The Brooklyn Public Library is celebrating its 125th birthday with a list of its 125 most checked-out books in its history. The countdown started on October 27 with #125, Judy Blume's Are you there God? It's me, Margaret, and concluded November 14 with Maurice Sendak's seminal work Where the Wild Things Are at number one.

    NPR:

    The library has 163 copies of Maurice Sendak's 1963 Caldecott Medal-winning book. The Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) considered multiple factors when coming up with its list, such as years since publication, bestseller lists and checkout and circulation data, it said in a news release.

    About Brooklyn Public Library:

    On November 30, 1896, the Brooklyn Common Council passed a resolution to establish Brooklyn Public Library to nurture "the minds of the people and lay the foundation of a better civilization for the future." The first branch, Bedford Library, opened in a former public school building and soon after Andrew Carnegie funded the construction of 21 more branches across the borough.

    Brooklyn Public Library continued to grow throughout the 20th century and into the 21st. There are now 61 BPL branches in every neighborhood across the borough and outreach sites in schools, homeless shelters, senior centers and jails.

    Happy birthday, BPL!

    Judy Blume sent her congratulations to the library in this video message.

    Brooklyn Public Library reveals its most borrowed book ever to celebrate 125 years

    125 Most Borrowed Books

  • Minnesota crowdsourced new snow plow names and they're as silly as you'd expect

    Joining Plowy McPlowFace are eight newly named snowplows. The names are the crowdsourced result of the Minnesota Department of Transportation's second annual Name a Snowplow contest.

    After 22,000 name ideas and 60,000 votes, it's finally official: Plowy McPlowFace has eight new friends! One new name will be assigned to each of MnDOT's eight districts later this month. The newly named trucks will join last years' favorites in the fleet.

    The winning names are inspired:

    image: Minnesota Department of Transportation

    Thanks, Brody!

  • Here's the emotional support plush man-bear you didn't know you needed

    Been looking for a giant stuffy with the "shape and size of a male human body" and the "head of a half-asleep bear"? Look no further, the Loving Bear Puffy ($144) is here! This somewhat creepy man-bear measures 5'7" and is said to replace "the need for physical presence." Also:

    He becomes part of the family and is always at home waiting for you. He doesn't snore, he doesn't sweat, and… :) he doesn't complain.

    Furthermore, he arrives naked, he IS a bear after all. But don't let that deter you from dressing him up for some holiday-time hugging.

    "He will soon be with you – cuddle him!"

    Are you ready to bring him home?
    Well, he's ready for YOU!

    Thanks, Dixie!

  • Emily Post's great-great grandchildren bring her book on etiquette up to today's more inclusive standards

    Ever have trouble getting someone's pronouns right? Or understanding the rules for hugging in a Covid/post-#MeToo world? Lizzie Post and Daniel Post Senning have got you covered. They are keeping the family business alive by giving their great-great grandmother's book a modern makeover. Under their hands, the centennial edition of Emily Post's Etiquette is a complete overhaul, and includes topics crowdsourced from callers to their Awesome Etiquette podcast.

    Lizzie told Associated Press, "I think mostly that it's really easy to paint etiquette and manners as tools for elitism, tools for secrecy, tools for exclusion. And when they are used that way, and they definitely can be, they are effectively useless. But when we're using etiquette and manners as a tool for self-reflection and awareness of others, I think we're really going to have a chance to make the world a nicer place."

    The book covers:

    Etiquette classics like table manners, gift-giving, thank-you notes, greetings and introductions, and everyday conversation

    How to be a good host and a good guest, from handling invitations and setting yourself up for success to plus-ones and dealing with mishaps

    Tech etiquette including video meetings, parties and classes, and how to politely handle devices, home security, and AI

    Managing hard times, from what to say (and what not to say), to the tradition of condolence notes and how to offer support following a death, miscarriage, or tragedy

    Tipping practices in the age of rideshares, tough times, and ever-prominent payment screens.

    Read more: Emily Post's etiquette tome overhauled for 21st century (Associated Press)

    (Town & Country)

  • Bigger is better: Artist Ari Bird supersizes ordinary objects to fantastic effect

    This is my long overdue appreciation post for Ari Bird. Her art supersizes ordinary objects—bread clips, cigarettes, trucker sunglasses, and, well, go look! Ari nails "giant novelty." I am a big fan (pun 1000% intended).

    When I was at Children's Fairyland in Oakland Ari and I worked together, though we didn't really see each other. I work from home and she is in park restoring art as painter. But we were both artists in Fairyland's recent Drawn Together live-art event and auction. My piece was well received but hers — giant "puffy stickers" of Fairyland icons — really knocked it out of the (theme) park!

    This past June, she was a featured artist on KQED:

    She's inspired by objects that are oddly satisfying, like the wonky graphics on a fruit-packing box, the texture of the perfectly packaged dollar-store toy, or notes and doodles scrawled on a piece of paper by a kid and then abandoned. "My expression is tactile and somatic," says the artist. "I tend to process my surroundings, emotions and behaviors in my body first. Before intellectualizing or visualizing things, I have the impulse to act or do."

    Read more:
    In Ari Bird's World, Oddly Satisfying Everyday Objects Become Oversized Art

    (Rusty's Electric Dreams)

  • Lunar eclipse beautifully captured in composite image

    Andrew McCarthy of Cosmic Background bought his first telescope in 2017. Now he is a full-time astrophotographer working out of his backyard in Arizona. On November 8, he captured this incredible composite image of the total lunar eclipse in stunning detail using two two telescopes and two cameras, noting that it was "a special opportunity to capture a little perspective about our place in the universe." He calls the image "Shadows and Sunsets."

    You can see more of his work and buy prints at his website. He also shares his work on Instagram.

    Every so often the moon passes right through Earth's shadow. When this happens, the moon is dimmed as the large circular shadow creeps across its surface. When completely obscured, the moon glows with a dull red, which is the reflected light from sunsets around the entire Earth. This is also one of the best times to capture the surrounding stars, as ordinarily the glow of the moon defeats the relatively faint stellar backdrop. 

    …The images were aligned based on the shadow of the Earth, to clearly demonstrate the size and shape of our planet.

    (Pee-wee Herman)

  • Mark Ryden designed some Barbie dolls and they're wild

    In a collaboration with Mattel, Pop Surrealist Mark Ryden has put his unmistakable signature on the most iconic of all the dolls, Barbie herself. I love all three of them (below) but Pink Pop's tiny meat purse really won me over.

    I mean.
    Pink Pop Barbie Mark Ryden x Barbie Doll, $350 (I spy Lincoln!)
    Mark Ryden x Barbie at the Surrealist Ball, $500
    Barbie Bee Mark Ryden x Barbie Doll, $150

    If you're in the Los Angeles area, there's going to be a "Pink Pop" exhibition featuring new paintings, sculptures and drawings by Ryden. It opens Friday, November 11, and runs through December 12, at Kasmin Gallery on 8382 Melrose Avenue.

    Ryden has placed the iconic Barbie doll at the center of his imaginary world, surrounded by enchanted landscapes that are interwoven with the artist's personal symbolism and enigmatic mythologies.

    images: Mattel Creations

  • Edward Gorey's macabre style penned on envelopes for annual art contest

    Would-be surrealists took inspiration from the distinctive aesthetic of Edward Gorey, mailing in original pieces on envelopes to a Cape Cod museum dedicated to the late artist. The Edward Gorey House in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts sent out the initial call in April for their annual all-ages Envelope Art Contest, offering the theme of "Act II/Scene I." The rules were simply stated: "Artists are invited to fill an envelope-shaped stage with a story of their own devising—and we're getting dropped into the middle of it." With a deadline of October 17, decorated entries have been arriving to the museum since.

    On their Facebook page, the museum has started showing off some of the deliciously dark pieces, many done by children. Here's a look:

    by Amara Kern, age 14
    by Shixin Zhuu, age 14
    by Grace Whitten, age 14
    by Krishna Majmudar, age 13
    by Sansita Nagapadman, age 14
    by Jennifer Johnston, adult
    by Ora Sizemore, age 9

    It should be noted that Gorey himself was known to bring his special brand of cross-hatched pen-and-ink magic to his personal correspondence.

    And, if you're ever on the Cape, a visit to the museum is a must! It's housed in what once was Gorey's home, a drafty old place built in 1820. It's only open April through December, so plan accordingly.

    images: Edward Gorey House / Facebook, used with permission

  • Soap that goes from happy to sad as it gets used

    Here's something fun: a bar of soap that starts off with a happy face and ends up with a sad one as it gets smaller from use. Sinking Feeling Soap is the creation of Toronto-based Art Director Dori of Wask Studio.

    At $30/bar, it's more like art than a way to simply wash your hands. Dori explains the concept behind it and why it's so expensive on her blog:

    This soap is a long time coming. It started with an idea a few years ago to create soap with words on it that would change as you use it, but words are so small and detailed and I realized it would probably have been impossible to make with soap. So I went with a visual route instead – smileys!

    …The soap consists of 6 layers of smileys… I was originally going to simply have 3 layers starting from the top: happy, neutral, and sad. But since most people will use a bar of soap by picking up the bar and rubbing it from all around, I realized the design has to work from the outwards into the middle. So that's why there are so many layers!

    The soap takes forever to make. It has SO many steps! I'm currently pricing it at $40 CAD which is actually greatly undervaluing my time per bar – and therefore in the near future I will have to decide to either raise the price or turn this into a limited edition item. So grab it while it's still a bargain!

    While the soap is pricey, the other products in her shop are reasonably priced, and super cool!

  • Bot reveals rejected vanity license plates and the real DMV notes on why they were flagged

    Many, many years ago I wanted a vanity license plate for my vintage International Travelall. As I remember it, the first one I tried for, WAGESLV, got rejected right away. But the second one, BORACHA (a take on the Spanish slang for drunkard: borracho), went through. I forget what story I told the DMV about what it meant but I thought it was hilarious that it didn't get flagged. I waited and waited for the personalized plate and eventually got a notice that it had been rejected after all. I ended up with 4BIGRIG, a nod to my zine at the time, Bigrig Industries Manifesto.

    So I was definitely tickled to learn about the California DMV Bot on Twitter. It randomly spits out real (and mostly) rejected personalized plates, the reasons people gave for wanting them, and the actual comments the DMV gave for accepting or denying them. It's my new favorite thing.

    KQED:

    The bot is the work of a Silicon Valley 15-year-old, going by "RJ," who recently discovered a trove of flagged DMV applications from 2015-2016 — the result of a public records request by journalist Samuel Braslow for a fascinating piece in Los Angeles Magazine. Without anything to do one weekend, and with "an insatiable curiosity of the inner workings of quite literally everything," RJ built the bot in one day.

    One month later, it now posts juvenile license plate attempts like "TRD FURY" and "ASSMNKY" to over 25,000 followers, 24 hours a day.

    Our tax dollars hard at work:

    This Bot Posts Rejected License Plates and It's Amazing

  • Deep Dive: a game to explore creativity, empathy, and connection

    As the name suggests, Deep Dive goes deep.

    I recently got the opportunity to play this cool new game with its creators, Aïcha Doucouré, Laura Turiano, and Richie Rhombus, who developed it during the height of the pandemic. When it was my turn, I played a "wild card" that instructed each of us to share a project we were working on and any help we needed with it. As we went around the table, I was reminded of how much I love making connections, and how hard it can be to ask for help. On the drive home, I was inspired to find a way to streamline collaboration between the readers of my inbox zine.

    The Deep Dive team: Aïcha Doucouré, Laura Turiano, and Richie Rhombus (shown l to r) photo: Rusty Blazenhoff

    Deep Dive is best played with three or four people. And, I'd add, these should be people you want to get to know better, and that you're willing to be vulnerable with. That being said, if you want to opt out during play for any reason, there's a card for that. I personally never felt the urge to use it. In fact, I found connecting deeply with other humans in person to be quite delightful.

    Deep Dive consists of 82 cards and a playing board. Using a combination of choice and chance, 3-4 players might answer questions, play improv games, or dive into personal challenges with support from the group. Every round is a unique experience of empathy and creativity.

    Want to play? The game, featuring Richie's beautiful art, is available for purchase now on their website. Plus, stay tuned: The team plans to offer IRL opportunities in the SF Bay Area to play in the future.

  • Queen unearths 'lost' 1988 track 'Face it Alone' featuring Freddie Mercury

    Queen has given something special to fans. Thirty-four years after it was recorded, they've released a never-before-heard track featuring Freddie Mercury on vocals called "Face it Alone." Out since last Thursday, it's already a top download on iTunes in 21 countries.

    'Face It Alone' was originally recorded during the band's historic 1988 sessions for that album, a prolific period which saw the band lay down around 30 tracks, many of which were never released, but remained among those that didn't make the final album cut. It was rediscovered when the band's production and archive team returned to those sessions to work on The Miracle box set reissue.

    "We'd kind of forgotten about this track," admits Roger Taylor, "but there it was, this little gem. It's wonderful, a real discovery. It's a very passionate piece".

  • Prohibition era 'Bulldog Bootleggers' honored with statue in NYC

    A new statue has popped up in New York City's Battery Park honoring Porkchop, the purported bulldog of "gentleman smuggler" William "Bill" McCoy.

    Sculptor Joseph Reginella of NYC Urban Legends, an organization that blurs the line between reality and fiction, is taking credit. You may remember their "Ed Koch being attacked by wolves" statue.

    In 1927, Battery Park was a hub for rum runners and organized crime to distribute whiskey and spirits throughout NYC. It's a little known fact that bulldogs were used to help make these deliveries to speakeasies all over the city. They are the unsung heroes of the Prohibition Era. Pioneered by Bill McCoy, an infamous bootlegger, who ran his yacht from Florida up to the Battery, he used his gang of bulldogs to deliver the goods. McCoy is actually the inspiration for the phrase "the real McCoy" meaning it's not "bathtub booze", it's the real deal; the good stuff…

    "Porkchop"
  • John Law talks Doggie Diner dog heads, urban exploration, Cacophony Society, and more in podcast

    Manny, Moe, and Jack, three giant Doggie Diner dog heads, have been on display in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park as part of Illuminate's The Golden Mile Project. This prompted an interview of living legend John Law, the steward of the dog heads for many years, on the Total SF podcast. It's a great listen that pulls in a lot of fun San Francisco history. You can catch it here.

    The history of Doggie Diner includes detours into Dan White and Jefferson Airplane, with more recent stories about the preservation of the heads. Historian, maker and Doggie Diner collector John Law joins hosts Peter Hartlaub and Heather Knight to talk about the heads and how they got to Golden Gate Park. Law also talks about the Suicide Club and Cacophony Society, two local urban exploration and pranking groups that influenced everything from Burning Man to SantaCon.

  • First look at 'Ralphie' star Peter Billingsley's returns for 'A Christmas Story' sequel

    A Christmas Story fans are getting an early holiday gift, and it's not a Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle. Middle-aged actor Peter Billingsley is returning as Ralphie, thick glasses and all, as you'll see in the short teaser trailer for A Christmas Story Christmas. This sequel to the 1983 classic movie will premiere November 17 on HBO Max. (This is not to be confused with the other sequel.)

    Previously: