, an illuminating and informative guide to designing magical experiences, has finally been published in English! Written by my pal and Boing Boing contributor Ferdinando Buscema
and inventive designer/writer Mariano Tomatis
("L'arte Di Stupire" in Italian) is not a book of tricks but rather a primer on "thinking like a magician." Here is what I said about Amaze
when I first read the translation:
Buscema and Tomatis are modern day mystics who move seamlessly between the realms of science, art, and magic, seeking wonder at every turn. They delight in inspiring us all to cultivate curiosity and embrace astonishment in our daily lives. This brilliant book is an empowering grimoire for hacking reality and giving the gift of magical experiences to others.
Congratulations Ferdinando and Mariano!
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Unhinged Trump tweets in three, two, one...
A judge on Monday released Mary L. Trump, PhD from a gag order. Read the rest
In 2012, I was given the privilege of performing my high school ska-punk hit song "Adam Wants A Blowjob" during a performance of Mortified in Brookline, Massachusetts. Mortified is a gloriously hilarious and cathartic evening of performance, wherein people perform excerpts from their actual, real-life high school and college journaling and other writing. It's embarrassing; it's touching; and it's utterly delightful. In the years since then, I've had the privilege of performing my absolute worst high school pop-punk songs — some of which are so bad that it physically hurts me to play them — for sold-out audiences in Boston, New York, and Portland, Maine.
Over these years, I've gotten to know Mortified producer Sara Faith Alterman. Besides being a generally wonderful person, Alterman has a knack for figuring out the best way to present your most embarrassing high school material in the most enjoyable and emotionally impactful ways; I've worked with her enough that I can genuinely say that her curatorial eye is a true and rare talent.
And it's that unique talent that she's channelled perfectly into her new memoir, Let's Never Talk About This Again. I had glimpsed pieces of the story over the years — through Mortified performances, and through social media — but reading it all compiled with Alterman's trademark wit was a wonderful experience.
Given all that context, let me just pause for a moment to give you the official synopsis:
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Twelve-year-old Sara enjoyed an G-rated existence in suburban New England, filled with over-the-top birthday cakes, Revolutionary War reenactments, and nerdy word games invented by her prudish father, Ira.
The Kent District Library in Grand Rapids, Michigan is imploring its patrons to please not attempt to disinfect borrowed books by putting them in the microwave. The books contain metal RFID tags that will burn the pages and potentially cause a fire. From KIRO7
“I don’t know if it was something that they saw on the news — that they thought maybe the heat would kill COVID-19,” Kozlowicz told The Detroit Free Press.
The library said it uses U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines to ensure safety for using library materials. It also keeps all materials in quarantine for at least 72 hours.
For more on libraries' sanitization practices: "Do libraries fumigate books to disinfect them?" (Boing Boing)
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Every year, adventurous (and oft-unprepared) hikers who are fans of Jon Krakauer's book "Into the Wild" (1996) or the move based upon it have attempted the treacherous 20 mile trek on Alaska's Stampede Trail to the abandoned bus where Chris McCandless found refuge (until his death) in 1992. And frequently, hikers making the pilgrimage have had to be rescued. Two people have died during their trips to see the bus. From the New York Times:
The tourist trap is now gone though. Last week, the Alaska Army National Guard used a Chinook helicopter to airlift the bus out of its remote resting spot to an undisclosed location. State officials say they are considering putting it on public display.
The crew also removed a suitcase from the bus that held sentimental value to the McCandless family, according to the Alaska Army National Guard.
Carine McCandless, Mr. McCandless’s youngest sister, said the suitcase did not belong to her brother, but may have contained journals she and others had left behind on their own journeys to the bus.[...]
“Though I am saddened by the news, the decision made by Alaska D.N.R. was with good intentions toward public safety, and it was certainly their decision to make,” Ms. McCandless wrote in an email. “Bus 142 did not belong to Chris, and it doesn’t belong to his family. As for those that followed in his footsteps to where it rested, at the end of the day, their journey wasn’t about a bus.”
More from US Army: "Alaska Guard airlifts 'Into the Wild' bus from Stampede Trail"
image: Alaska National Guard
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In 2018, legendary Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward wrote Fear: Trump in the White House, a brutal look at the current administration. As we know, the story was just beginning. In September, we'll get the follow-up, now listed on Amazon without a title or cover but described as "Bob Woodward’s second work of nonfiction on the Trump presidency." From CNN:
In January, Trump announced in an interview with Fox News' Laura Ingraham that he had sat down with Woodward for the upcoming book. Trump's admission came as a surprise after he was openly critical of "Fear," despite being offered an opportunity to be interviewed.
"I was interviewed by a very, very good writer, reporter," Trump said. "I can say Bob Woodward. He said he's doing something and this time I said, 'maybe I'll sit down.'"
image: detail of Fear book jacket
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• Trump did not know Britain was a nuclear power, asked if Finland was part of Russia, Bolton writes.
• Intelligence briefings were a waste of time, “since much of the time was spent listening to Trump, rather than Trump listening to the briefers.”
• During Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to John Bolton's book, Sec State Mike Pompeo slipped Bolton a little note dissing the president: “He is so full of shit.” Read the rest
"New York Times Best-selling author" is a one of those highly treasured accolades to which most writers aspire. It's the kind of recognition that can make or break a writer's career — even though the numbers are not curated in a plain and simple way. Consider the way that Donald Trump Jr. hacked his way to the top of the list by buying up copies of his own book, in order to become a "New York Times Best-selling author," thus guaranteeing higher sales for his book.
(Full disclosure: I do work for a company that is owned by the New York Times, a fact which does not impact my perspectives either way.)
Over on Medium, a user calling themself "John the Correlator" has compiled all of the publicly-available data related to the Times' best-seller list, and crunched the numbers to analyze the demographic diversity of the authors represented by the list. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it's not very representative of the US population:
There's a lot more specific data broken down in the blog post, titled, "We Need To Talk About The List." And I suspect that we'll be seeing more from John the Correlator soon. But needless to say, it all supports the thesis: we need to talk about the list.
We Need To Talk About The List [John the Correlator / Medium]
Image: Public Domain via U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Hailey Haux Read the rest
AskSmithsonian always has a fascinating and eclectic collection of reader questions and answers from Smithsonian Institutions experts on topics ranging from scientific phenomena to art history to pop culture. (What exactly is duck sauce? Has anyone ever run for president from prison? How does a hippopotamus swim so fast?) In the current issue, a reader asks if libraries fumigate books to disinfect them. Here's the answer:
That practice was used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when book-borrowing was seen as a possible disease vector. Today, collections use nonchemical methods, like freezing, to treat mold and insect infestations. The observation that the coronavirus can survive on paper and cardboard for up to one day is leading libraries to disinfect nonporous surfaces and quarantine recently circulated materials for 24 hours, says Vanessa Haight Smith, the head of the Smithsonian Libraries’ Preservation Services Department.
image: David Flores/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
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Have you ever wanted to find a book, but you don't know the title? This video and article from Make Use Of has some ideas that could help. Suggestions include using Google Book Search, BookFinder, WorldCat, The Library of Congress, and Ask a Librarian.
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If you're in the market for book recommendations to fill up your stay-at-home hours, here's a short list of favorites from Bill Gates. Check out his longer list on his blog, GatesNotes blog. Read the rest
I'm honored that in the latest issue of The Burning Shore, Erik Davis, scholar of West Coast counterculture, reviewed The Family Acid: California, Roger Steffens's far-out photo album I published with my Ozma Records partner Tim Daly! Erik's excellent essay is a double review, also focusing on the Anthology Editions reprint of Dennis Stock's striking California Trip book from 1968.
From Erik Davis's The Burning Shore:
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Steffens’s use of multiple exposures is perhaps the key gesture here. The decision to re-expose film is a dice throw, an act of faith in the playfulness of multiple perspectives and the value of subjecting an already captured image to the serendipity of leaps through time. Such images are also, of course, hallucinatory, and some of Steffens’ are trippy as shit. They not only recall the formal and symbolic palimpsests of psychedelic vision, but loop the question of the photographic object back into the eye of the beholder: seeing these impossible scenes, we glimpse our own seeing, our own congealing of reality from the virtual.
Other Family Acid images feature artifacts like diffraction spikes, iridescent orbs, and weird lensing effects. (Check out the cover shot up top, which juxtaposes the classic clerestory light of redwood groves with a mandalic UFO flare.) These are special effects, my friends, evidence of that hippie will to hack media tech in the quest for unusual experiences. They also recall the more sacred lights you can only chance upon, in the strangest of places if you look at em right, those wink-wink psychedelic glimmers that occasionally illuminate parking lots, or crumpled beer cans, or goofball commercial signage—Phil Dick’s “trash stratum,” temporarily kindled into something high and holy and wholly profane.[...]
Nicholas Love's Penguin Classics cover generator lets you upload an image and set type in humorous imitation of the label. It can also do the similar but inverted Oxford World Classics look. But sadly not the classic classics look.
Many excellent designs in this twitter thread; embedded here is my contribution. Read the rest
Wizarding World has launched a new Harry Potter at Home
hub with crafts, articles, quizzes, and other fun activities for witches, wizards, and muggles alike. As part of the fun, they've invited actors, musicians, athletes and other celebrities to read chapters of the 1997 book that started it all, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
. See below for the teaser video. The first chapter is now available read by none other than Daniel Radcliffe who played Harry in the films. Listen on Spotify
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Journalist and novelist Sally Quinn's bestselling 1991 novel of romance and intrigue, Happy Endings, is about fictional presidential widow Sadie Grey who falls for a sexy medical researcher working for the National Institutes of Health on a new AIDS treatment. Yes, the alluring government scientist with the "low, melodious, sexy, almost hypnotic” voice, as Quinn described the character, is none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci. From Benjamin Wofford's article in Washingtonian:
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Part searing romance, part roman à clef, “Happy Endings” made the bestseller list during a year when HIV-related deaths were then the highest ever recorded in the United States. By then, Fauci was the government scientist best known for combatting the virus’s spread as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
It was around this time that Quinn first encountered the real-life Fauci, at a Washington function where the two were paired as dinner partners. With his tie askew and from behind enormous glasses, Fauci left an impression of earnest brilliance, enough to inspire the main character of Quinn’s upcoming novel.
“I just fell in love with him,” Quinn told me recently, recalling their evening together. “Usually those dinners, you make polite conversation, and that’s it. But we had this intense conversation, personal conversation. I though, ‘Wow, this guy is amazing.'”
“He was so different from most Washington people, because he’s so self-effacing. He’s not in it for the glory or the name recognition,” Quinn recalled. She decided to have Grey “fall in love with this doctor who does this amazing work, and doesn’t get a lot of publicity.”
My friend Joshua Glenn is a voracious reader of adventure novels. He's turned me onto tons of great books, and he recently compiled a list of 250 great adventure novels from the 20th century. Many of these books are available on project Gutenberg and other public domain book and audiobook websites. I really appreciate that josh found cover art from early editions of the books, rather than the usually terrible art found on contemporary editions. I want to read them all, starting with Black Magic: a Tale of the Rise and Fall of the Antichrist! (audiobook | e-book)
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Marjorie Bowen’s supernatural fantasy adventure Black Magic (1909). In medieval Flanders, Dirk Renswoude, a lonely craftsman of noble birth, meets Thierry, a young scholar who shares Dirk’s fascination with the black arts. Against a background of violent storms, mysterious comets, and a Walpole-esque mood of gothic horror, the two experiment with mystic circles, arcane incantations, and the summoning of demonic visions. Although Thierry is afraid of blasphemy, Dirk is ambitious — and has sworn allegiance to the Devil in return for worldly power. In fact, Dirk aims to become the Antichrist and Satanic Pope! Nevertheless, Dirk is not entirely villainous — he risks everything for Thierry, with whom he has fallen in love… and his backstory reveals a surprise twist that makes us sympathetic to his desire for the agency and independence denied to him by his family. Ysabeau, a cold-blooded schemer and murderess character, also becomes a sympathetic and even heroic figure; and Jacobea, the novel’s tormented heroine, is also well-portrayed.
I enjoyed learning about statistics, probability, zero, infinity, number sequences, and more in this heavily illustrated kids’ book called How to Be a Math Genius, by Mike Goldsmith. But would my then-11-year daughter like it as much? I handed it to her after school and she become absorbed in it until called for dinner. She took it to the dinner table and read it while we ate. The next day, she asked for the book so she could finish it. Loaded with fun exercises (like cutting a hole through a sheet of paper so you can walk through it), How to Be a Math Genius will show kids (and adults) that math is often complicated, but doesn’t need to be boring. Now my daughter is 16 and she devours math books. I'm not sure this is the book that kicked off her interest in math, but I'm sure it didn't hurt! Read the rest