Lynda Barry's "Making Comics" is one of the best, most practical books ever written about creativity

I've been a fan of cartoonist, novelist and memoirist Lynda Barry for decades, long before she was declared a certified genius; Barry's latest book, Making Comics is an intensely practical, incredibly inspiring curriculum for finding, honing and realizing your creativity through drawing and writing.

The First Scarfolk Annual: a mysterious artifact from a curiously familiar eternal grimdark 1970s

Since 2013, Richard Littler has been publishing Scarfolk, a darkly comic series of brilliantly photoshopped artifacts from a dark and brutal English town trapped in a loop between 1969 and 1979; Littler published his first Scarfolk book in 2014, a pretty straight-ahead best-of anthology that was a sheer delight, and since then, he's taken a brilliant detour into animation, while still keeping up on Scarfolk, which has now spawned its second -- and even better -- book: The Scarfolk Annual.

Kindness and Wonder: Mr Rogers biography is a study in empathy and a deep, genuine love for children

History has been kind to Fred Rogers' legacy; the beloved children's entertainer does not have the intergenerational staying power of Sesame Street (thanks in large part to Rogers' relentless focus on making programming aimed exclusively at small children, without any pretense to entertaining their grownups), but touchstones like his Congressional testimony on public TV funding, his remarks after 9/11 and his look for the helpers speech continue to bring a smile and a tear to all who see them, whether for the first time or the five hundredth; Mr Rogers was exactly what he appeared to be, incredibly, and the riddle of how someone could be so sincere and loving has sent rumormongers off to the land of conspiracy looking for an answer. But the real Mr Rogers story -- as chronicled in Gavin Edwards' new book, Kindness and Wonder: Why Mister Rogers Matters Now More Than Ever -- is both more mundane and more amazing than any outlandish story.

Review / Control

Remedy Entertainment's Control is a masterpiece of weird architecture and bold design, but a tiring shooter.

Margaret Atwood's "The Testaments": a long-awaited Handmaid's Tale sequel fulfills its promise

When Margaret Atwood published "The Handmaid's Tale" back in 1985, it was at the dawn of the Reagan era, when the gains made by feminism and other liberation movements trembled before an all-out assault mounted by a bizarre coalition of the super-rich and the (historically apolitical) evangelical movement; 35 years later, even more ground has been lost and in many ways it's hard to imagine a more apt moment for Atwood to have published a sequel: The Testaments.

Medallion Status: comparison is the thief of joy, and John Hodgman is the thief-taker

John Hodgman's last book, Vacationland, was a kind of absurdist memoir of a weird kid who'd grown up to the kind of self-aware grownup who really wanted to dig into how he got to where he was, with bone-dry wit and real heart (I compared it to Steve Martin's Cruel Shoes, but for adults who'd outgrown it); in his new book, Medallion Status: True Stories from Secret Rooms, Hodgman offers something much more uncomfortable (if no less funny), a series of vignettes that explore the hollowness of privilege, the toxicity of comparison, and the melancholy of accomplishment. Read the rest

Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang bring Paper Girls in for a perfect landing

Paper Girls is Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang's outstanding, Stranger Things-esque all-girl time-travel adventure comic, and after four years, the pair have completed the story, tying up the increasingly complicated braided timelines of their tale in a fantastically satisfying bow. Read the rest

Jonathan Lethem on Edward Snowden's "Permanent Record"

Science fiction writer, essayist, and Macarthur "genius" Jonathan Lethem (previously) has excellent bona fides to write about Edward Snowden: not only has he helped make a short film about the Snowden leaks, he's also spent years on the right side of the fights over surveillance and free expression (and it doesn't hurt that he's an outstanding essayist). Read the rest

Void Golf, an unexpectedly atmospheric physics game

Void Golf is a free browser game by Cactusmancer. You fire rocks into black holes on a 2D starfield—think Asteroids meets Desert Golf— contending with (and exploiting) the gravitational attraction of celestial bodies in the way. It's simple, habitforming fun, imparted a relaxing vibe by its muted pixel art, spacey music and careful attention to detail. There's even a custom font by Eeve Somepx.

The billiard-ball physics are the point, and it offers an abundance of the merciless satisfaction that such games offer. Pocketing a tough one after a dozen hapless attempts is incredibly rewarding. That said, it's always too hard to precisely power shots and sometimes too easy to avoid the "puzzle" of each level. It doesn't save your progress, either, so familiarity comes quickly.

Void Golf [itch.io] Read the rest

Annalee Newitz's "Future of Another Timeline": like Handmaid's Tale meets Hitchhiker's Guide

Annalee Newitz (previously) just published her second novel, The Future of Another Timeline, a madcap feminist time-travel novel that pits incel extremists who are trying to snuff out feminism before it can get started against a secret liberation army of feminists inspired by the (alternate history) Senator Harriett Tubman. Read the rest

Stargazing: Jen Wang's semi-autobiographical graphic novel for young readers is a complex tale of identity, talent, and loyalty

Jen Wang (previously) is several kinds of excellent comics person: from her debut graphic novel Koko Be Good (a complex and heartfelt take on "manic pixie dream girls") to her award-winning, bestselling, brilliant genderqueer fairy tale The Prince and the Dressmaker, to In Real Life, the middle-grades comic she adapted from my story Anda's Game to the unmissably fantastic annual comics fair she started in LA, she is versatile, smart, compassionate and immensely talented. Now, in her latest, Stargazing, a semi-autobiographical graphic novel for young readers, she brings the action closer to home than ever, and yields up a tale of friendship, identity, talent and loyalty like no other. Read the rest

Permanent Record: Edward Snowden and the making of a whistleblower

I will never forget the moment on June 9, 2013, when I watched a video of a skinny, serious, unshaven man named Edward Snowden introduce himself to the world as the source of a series of blockbuster revelations about US spy agencies' illegal surveillance of the global internet. Please, I thought, be safe. And Please, don't turn out to be an asshole. Read the rest

Sarah Pinsker's "Song for a New Day": outstanding dystopian rock-and-roll novel of rebellion and redemption

Since her stories started appearing in 2013, Sarah Pinsker (previously) has been a writer to watch, winning prestigious awards from the Nebula to the Sturgeon; now, in her debut novel, A Song For a New Day, Pinsker shows that she can write long-form work that's every bit as compelling, wrenching, sweet and angry as the stories that launched her career. Read the rest

On Fire: Naomi Klein's book is a time-series of the shift from climate denial to nihilism to Green New Deal hope

My latest LA Times book review is for Naomi Klein's new essay collection, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, which traces more than a decade of Klein's outstanding, on-the-ground reports from the pivotal struggle to begin the transformational work needed to save our species and the rest of the Earth's living things from a devastating, eminently foreseeable, and ultimately avoidable climate catastrophe. Read the rest

Republic of Lies: the rise of conspiratorial thinking and the actual conspiracies that fuel it

Anna Merlan has made a distinguished journalistic career out of covering conspiracy theories, particularly far-right ones, for Gizmodo Media; her book-length account of conspiratorial thinking, Republic of Lies: American Conspiracy Theorists and Their Surprising Rise to Power, is a superb tour not just through the conspiracies that have taken hold in American public discourse, but also in the real, often traumatic conspiracies that give these false beliefs a terrible ring of plausibility. Read the rest

The Babysitter's Coven

Esme Pearl has a shitty life: she's seventeen, has only one real friend in the world, lives in a small Kansas town (and hates it), goes to high school, and is being raised by her traumatized father who can't bring himself to talk about the mental illness that has landed her mother in a locked psych ward since Esme was a little girl. Read the rest

Amazon reviewers note: "This is a lot of cheese."

This short set of Amazon reviews had me laughing out loud! Check out Amazon's bulk Cheez Whiz offer.

After the top rated review, the remarks purchasers make about their 39 POUNDS of Cheez Whiz are pretty great. I guess folks are surprised at just how much Cheez Whiz 39 pounds really is.

Top rated reviewer is a humorist, however Amazon does list him as a verified purchaser so ENJOY YOUR WHIZ, SIR!

Also, Cheez Whiz is not cheese, but it does include it. Read the rest

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