Moustetronaut is a lovely picture book by Mark Kelly, a former Space Shuttle pilot and husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. It tells the story of Meteor, an experimental NASA mouse who saves a shuttle mission by scurrying into a tight control-panel seam and retrieving a critical lost key. The story is very (very) loosely based on a true story -- there was a Meteor, but he never left his cage, but he did indeed display delight and aplomb in a microgravity environment. The whole rescue thing is a fiction, albeit an adorable one.
What really makes this book isn't its basis in "truth," but rather the amazing illustrations by CF Payne, who walks a very fine line between cute and grotesque, with just enough realism to capture the excitement of space and just enough caricature to make every spread instantly engaging. There's also a very admirable economy of words in the book itself (which neatly balances a multi-page afterword about the space program, with a good bibliography of kid-appropriate space websites and books for further reading). It's just the right blend of beautifully realized characters -- Meteor is particularly great -- and majestic illustrations of space and space vehicles.
Dietmar Eckell has traveled the world in pursuit of ruin. His portfolio is filled with mystifyingly beautiful pictures of abandoned buildings, forgotten military sites and decomposing cars. For his newest project, he tracked down 15 rotting airplane carcasses.
benrothke writes "When I first heard about the book The Death of the Internet, it had all the trappings of a second-rate book; a histrionic title and the fact that it had nearly 50 contributors. I have seen far too many books that are pasted together by myriad disparate authors, creating a jerry-rigged book with an ISBN, but little value or substance. The only negative thing about the book is the over the top title, which I think detracts from the important message that is pervasive in it. Other than that, the book is a fascinating read. Editor Markus Jakobsson (Principal Scientist for Consumer Security at PayPal) was able to take the collected wisdom from a large cross-section of expert researchers and engineers, from different countries and nationalities, academic and corporate environments, and create an invaluable and unique reference." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
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Like wearing shoes through security before Richard Reid's failed airplane bombing, setting up a telephoto lens at the end of an airport runway wasn't a big deal before 9/11. Photographer John Schabel did just that between 1994 and 1996 for ...
Last month, I blogged a fascinating profile of Apollo Robbins, a stage pickpocket with an almost supernatural facility for manipulating attention and vision to allow him to literally relieve you of your watch, eyeglasses, and the contents of your wallet without you even noticing it, even after you've been told that he's planning on doing exactly that.
The profile mentioned that Robbins had consulted on a book called Sleights of Mind, written by a pair of neuroscientists named Stephen L Macknick and Susana Martinez-Conde (a husband and wife team, who also hired science writer Sandra Blakeslee to help with the prose, to very good effect). Macknick and Martinez-Conde are working scientists who had a key insight: the way that magicians manipulate our blind spots, our attention, our awareness, our intuitions and our assumptions reveal an awful lot about our neurological functions. Indeed, conjurers, pickpockets, ventriloquists and other performers are essentially practicing applied neuroscience, working out ways to systematically fool our perceptions and make seemingly impossible things happen before our eyes.
The book is a marvellous read, a very well-balanced mix of summaries of published scientific insights into visual and attention systems; accounts of the meetings between illusionists and scientists that the authors organized; histories of magic tricks; exposure of psychic frauds and fakes; and a tale about the couple's quest to craft a neuroscience-based magic act that would gain them full membership to the exclusive Magic Castle in Los Angeles.
I really can't overstate the charm and delight of Sleights of Mind -- from the introduction to the extensive footnotes, it is a truly great popular science text on one of my favorite subjects. The accompanying website is full of supplemental videos, showing how illusions work as mechanical effects, scientific principles and bravura performances. The performers who assisted the authors -- James Randi, Penn and Teller, Derren Brown, and, of course, Apollo Robbins -- are all justly famed for their skill, and the book is worth a read just for the insight it provides into their work. But it goes so much farther, providing both a theoretical underpinning in the neuroscience of perception and consciousness, and practical advice on how to apply this to your everyday life.
One interesting note: the authors mention a book called The Official CIA Manual of Trickery and Deception, which reprints the secret (and long-lost) training documents that magician John Mulholland created for the Agency in 1952, which were used at the height of the Cold War by US spies to deceive their Soviet counterparts -- for example, details of how to use the "big move" of lighting a cigarette to disguise the "small move" of slipping drugs into a rival's drink. I haven't read this yet, but I've just ordered it.
Robert Bringhurst has issued the latest edition of what Hermann Zapf called the “Typographer’s Bible”. The news will surely be welcomed by his ardent followers, but does the book speak to a modern congregation?
In 1992, when the first edition of The Elements of Typographic Style was published, Bringhurst was already an accomplished poet and translator of poetry — most notably Haida poetry, but also Navajo, Greek, and Arabic — into English. He was also a self-trained and accomplished book designer, and Elements was his attempt to catalogue and summarize the best practices of book typography and design, loosely according to the model provided by the book’s namesake, The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E. B. White.
The book was a huge success. Four subsequent editions were published, labeled (somewhat incongruously, given Bringhurst’s approach to typography) versions 2.0, 3.0, 3.1, and 3.2. Now, on the book’s twentieth anniversary and eight years after the last release, a version 4.0 has appeared.
It’s hard to overstate the reputation Bringhurst and his book have gained in the typographic community. It didn’t hurt that Zapf blurbed the book’s first edition by calling for the book to become the “Typographer’s Bible”. More recently, Hoefler & Frere-Jones have called Elements “the finest book ever written about typography”. It appears on countless syllabi and reading lists, and is one of the “triumvirate” of type books still recommended to beginning typographers and designers, along with Alexander Lawson’s Anatomy of a Typeface (1990) and Walter Tracy’s Letters of Credit (1986).
What accounts for the lasting influence and popularity of Bringhurst’s book? Besides the handsomeness of the book itself — Bringhurst continues to enjoy the support of his publisher, Hartley & Marks, with his standards of book design and production — there are three reasons: the range and depth of his treatment, the quality of his writing, and the confidence and generosity of his tone.
Bringhurst’s scope is wide: the fundamentals and finer points of macro- and micro typography, type anatomy and classification; choosing typefaces and page formats; the use of diacritics and other analphabetic symbols (no doubt his experience as a translator of languages that rely on extensive diacritical support in the Latin alphabet has sensitized him to these matters); annotated lists of designers and foundries; glossaries of glyphs and terminology; and more. Besides distilling centuries of typographic expertise, his treatment of it is remarkably thorough: he doesn’t pretend that his book is an exhaustive account of typography, but his care and attention to detail is obvious (in places even overwhelming). And all of it is supported by well-made illustrations and diagrams. It would be hard to find another writer in English who commands as much knowledge about the use of writing and print to capture language as Bringhurst does, and that he can condense it into 398 pages (in this edition) that many people will read (once more) from half-title to colophon is impressive.
The quality of Bringhurst’s writing allows him to pull this off. Knowledge, experience, judgment, and enthusiasm are not always accompanied by writing skill, and like many academic and quasi-academic fields, typography is not flush with talented prose stylists. But the fact that Bringhurst came to book design and typography from poetry is evident on every page. He is a gifted author used to making every word tell, and his prose is (to borrow Robin Kinross’s description from Modern Typography) “serene and incantatory”. He finds words that capture — more completely than practically any of us can muster — why typography matters. This is most simply and succinctly evident in “first principles”: “Typography exists to honor content.”
Finally, Bringhurst’s writing is a perfect match for his tone. The Elements of Style is actually a poor model for advice and guidance of any sort: Strunk takes an important insight (that writing should be as considered and economical as possible and appropriate) and worries it into dozens of ponderous, crabby, and often questionable commandments. Fortunately the similarities between that book and Bringhurst’s end with the title and the numbered divisions. Even at his most direct, and despite the fact that the book does have the feel and structure of holy writ in places, Bringhurst’s tone is moderate and reflective. His confidence never drifts into arrogance, and his traditionalist roots don’t prevent him from acknowledging that contemporary themes, subjects, and standards call for contemporary type treatments and approaches. Conservative, yes, but conservative in the style of Edmund Burke: you change what you must to preserve what you can.
None of this will be news to most readers here. But all this being said, is the arrival of a fourth edition of Elements something we should celebrate?
Bringhurst has probably taken a book grounded in print typography as far as it can go. But it is, still, grounded in print. It’s hard to believe that a book revised five times in the last twenty years mentions the World Wide Web exactly twice (if you’re willing to accept a mention of “hypertext” for one of them). And don’t look in the index for those passages, because “World Wide Web”, “web”, “webfonts”, “online publishing”, “internet”, “HTML”, and “CSS” don’t appear there. “E-books” does have two entries. “Linotype machine”, by contrast and with apologies to Doug Wilson for saying so, appears twelve times. (“Monotype machine”, in case you wondered, appears four.)
This doesn’t mean Bringhurst’s book is obsolete. After all, there’s no mention of the web in Lawson’s or Tracy’s books, either. Nor will you find any in the books of Jost Hochuli, Willi Kunz, Hans Bosshard, Carl Gerstner, Emil Ruder, Helmut Schmid, Geoffrey Dowding, Nicolette Gray, Daniel Berkeley Updike, Stanley Morison, Beatrice Warde, Jan Tschichold, or Eric Gill. And Giambattista Bodoni didn’t mention the Linotype machine, or even electricity. That doesn’t mean we have nothing to learn from them, that they don’t belong on the bookshelves of an educated typophile. There are principles of good typography that transcend substrates and technologies.
But all these books are products of their times and contexts, and we must read them that way, Bringhurst’s book included. The only new section in version 4.0 of Elements is a two-page examination of metal type (pgs 300–301). “To think about type”, he tells us to introduce the section, “you have to think backwards and forwards at once.” Well, yes — if you’re setting metal type. But virtually all undergraduate designers and typographers presently in school will never do that — in quantity, anyway, if at all. (It’s actually more likely they’ll set wood type.) That’s not to say that it’s a good thing they won’t, or a bad thing, simply that it’s true. So why do we recommend to them as a central text, as so many teachers and type designers do, a book that, for all its qualities, has an easier time thinking backwards?
Of course, students in any field involving typography should read it — must read it — but not first, and certainly not by itself. And not just because it’s grounded in a world of print. Display typography, which surely demands the same care that book typography does, is also nearly completely absent from the text. Even his consideration of type on the screen, smart as it is, is limited to two pages and five paragraphs.
More importantly and generally, though, for all its range and depth, and for all the generosity and precision of its advice, Elements is far better at exploring the meaning of good typography, at describing outcomes, than explaining process. The debates that brought us to what we value in good typography, the questions that remain contested, the actual means of translating principles into practice for students, are not here. And shouldn’t necessarily be. Bringhurst is the unofficial poet of typography, and a great one at that. But what I learn from Robert Frost is the meaning of woodcutting, not necessarily how to fell a tree or stack a cord of firewood.
The book isn’t without practical advice and we are fortunate that it delivers what it does. But unless Bringhurst plans a considerably expanded version 5.0 that focuses as much on web, mobile, and display typography as it does on the world of books, he should let Elements be what it is: a wonderfully written and wise summary of the world of typography as he found it. Surely others inspired by the world his text reveals to us, the beauty of his writing, and the thoughtfulness of his approach, can take it from here.
I may be risking my 30-year friendship with John Kricfalusi by saying this, but Thad Komorowski’s new book, Sick Little Monkeys: The Unauthorized Ren & Stimpy Story, is a really great read. Beyond that, Thad went to great lengths – without the cooperation of John K or anyone at Nickelodeon – to research the history of the show and its participants, and to tell a compelling and cautionary tale of rags-to-riches cartoon success in contemporary Hollywood. The story is woven together through extensive interviews with key players including Bob Camp, Billy West, Bob Jaques and a dozen others – Komorowski also traces Spumco’s roots from John’s early days with Filmation and Bakshi, with extensive critiques of the Ren & Stimpy cartoons themselves (a complete episode guide is included in the appendix), through to the latter day excesses of the Spike shows. The whole story is here, meticulously researched, clearly justifying the show’s important role in the recent history of animation. There’s no question Spumco changed the face of television animation – and still influences series, students and independent animators today. Love it or hate it, this book explains how it all came to be – and for that, it’s a must-read.
The wonderful photographer and writer NK Guy writes,
As photographers and geeks we tend to obsess about the products we buy. Countless hours are spent poring over catalogues, reading reviews, arguing in forums. All to find the perfect camera. There's just one thing missing here: the /lens/ is also a key part in creating high-quality images. But learning about interchangeable camera lenses, and all the strange arcane terminology that goes with them, can be very difficult. Hence "The Lens: a Practical Guide for the Creative Photographer." It explains all the things you actually need to know about lenses, and why.
Why is a lens "fast" or "slow"? Why are seemingly similar lenses so different in price? Why is there alphabet soup printed on the side of the lens barrel? Every type of lens is described in practical terms, and there's even a section on breaking out of manufacturer-dictated choices - how to adapt and modify lenses to fit incompatible cameras!
The Lens [Photonotes.org]
Nehmen wir nur CourseSmart, den unangefochtenen Branchenführer bei Lehrbüchern und Unterrichtsmaterial in digitalisierter Form. Dieses Unternehmen, 2007 von Pearson und McGraw-Hill Education und anderen Verlagsgiganten gegründet, hat über zwanzigtausend elektronische Lehrbücher im Angebot, das sind etwa 90 Prozent aller in Nordamerika verwendeten Lehrbücher. Diese Texte können online und offline am Computer, auf Tablets oder Smartphones gelesen werden. CourseSmart verfolgt globale Ambitionen. Wie kürzlich bekanntgegeben wurde, expandiert das Unternehmen in den Nahen Osten und nach Afrika, so dass seine Produkte auch in Ländern wie Saudi-Arabien und Zimbabwe erhältlich sind. Anfang November wurde seine jüngste Innovation namens CourseSmart Analytics vorgestellt, ein Trackingsystem, mit dessen Hilfe verfolgt werden kann, wie lange sich Studenten auf jeder Seite eines elektronischen Buchs aufhalten, welche Kapitel sie überspringen, welche Passagen ihnen Mühe bereiten und so weiter. Aus all diesen Informationen wird für jeden Studenten ein „Engagement Score“ ermittelt, den Dozenten abrufen können.
eldavojohn writes "I kickstarted a project undertaken by Daniel Shiffman to write a book on what (at the time) seemed to be a very large knowledge space. What resulted is a good book (amazing by CC-BY-NC standards) available in both PDF and HTML versions. In addition to the book he maintains the source code for creating the book and of course the book examples. The Nature of Code starts off swimmingly but remains front heavy with a mere thirty five pages devoted to the final chapter on neural networks. This is an excellent book for Java and Processing developers that want to break into simulation and modeling of well, anything. It probably isn't a must-have title for very seasoned developers (unless you've never done simulation and modeling) but at zero cost why not?" Read below for the rest of eldavojohn's review.
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