The Hang Fire Books Blog

The rantings of a bookdealer in Brooklyn, New York.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Maker Faire

I've found that I'm fairly terrible at event coverage so here's a simple list of the cool things I caught at the New York Maker Faire hosted this past weekend at the New York Hall of Science.

FRC: First Robotics Competition
High school students participating in the FRC ("A varsity sport for the mind") showed off robots from the recent 2010 challenge, which was to build a soccer-playing robot. These students were among the most excited and outgoing presenters at the fair and managed to pull off the--inconceivable in my generation--coup of being in high school, a science geek and cool simultaneously. There will be a scrimmage this Saturday (October 2nd) at the Francis Lewis High School in Queens. Check it out if you're in the NYC area.

Frank DeFreitas of Holoworld demonstrated his approx $100 DIY garage kit for creating holograms; using a laser pointer, metal pipe, some bulldog clips, and a lens. Frank has been creating holograms and teaching the process since 1983. His website has details on his workshops and updates on new developments in the art.

Mustafa Bagdatli explained his high tech, interactive mood ring project called "Poker Face" which uses "a heart rate monitor and galvanic skin response" to provide real time and highly visible readings of a user's emotional state (mood changes are displayed via a color changing medallion). The coolest feature of this project to me was the ability to sync this data with something like Google calender so you can track exactly who/what makes you happy and edit your life accordingly. It also made me imagine the potentially amusing conversations with spouses when they ask something like "Why were you so happy between 1:30 and 1:35 last Tuesday afternoon?"

Well above my understanding level, but incredibly cool is the Orbotix hardware/software platform for turning your mobile phone into a remote control unit to command killer robots.

Proteus Gowanus (543 Union Street in Brooklyn) hosts a "Fixers' Collective" every Thursday night. A "social experiment in improvisational fixing and mending", participants bring in broken objects and the accumulated expertise and brain power of the room tries to diagnose and fix them. Looking forward to attending a few of these this winter. Unfortunately most of my broken electronics were sent off to the "Deconstruction Lab" organized by my lovely wife for one of NYHOS's own Maker Faire workshops. Guess I will have to break more things.

Lastly a mesmerizing kinetic sculpture by Brad Litwin:

The piece shown at the fair was even more complex than this as the entire sculpture spun and the balls were catapulted through small holes in two spinning sheets of plexiglass. I could have stared at this thing for days.

Also noteworthy the 3D printer pavilion, life-size Mousetrap, the Rubiks solving robot, and lots more.

All-in-all a great time. Check it out if it comes to your town.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Jim Linderman posted a fine testimonial to my store over on his Vintage Sleaze Blog:
He is a "value-added" bookseller...that is, he knows his material and he willingly shares the information. If a book like one of those above was written by a hungry REAL writer with a pseudonym, he'll tell you who he was. If a title affects him in a particular way, he will take the time while cataloging it for sale to tell you why.

William leans towards the unusual and curious, as any serious book hound should. His prices are low. His service is high. He will reasonably repair and restore your rare paperbacks...He has a fabulous set of links. He is honest and entertaining and his website/blog/bookstore is the same.
[Blushing] I must cop to the fact that I'm not as nice or as helpful as Jim describes but this at least gives me something to shoot for.

We may get stuck in a Mexican standoff of mutual appreciation but Mr. Linderman is an outstanding image-archaeologist who has compiled a shelf-ful of worthy and unique photographic histories. A few highlights:

Camera Club Girls captures the--somewhat--innocent early days of private pinup photography through the work of one artist who meticulously and beautifully hand-tinted his photos.

In Situ: American Folk Art in Place presents a beautiful collection of outsider art and roadside attractions mostly through the vanished medium of the real photo postcard.

And his Vintage Sleaze Blog regularly presents art and ephemera that is totally new to me and gets me salivating with acquisitiveness. Witness this Charles Mingus 7" with art by sleaze grandmaster Gene Bilbrew from his most recent post:

You can find a catalog of his book and blog projects here.

Thanks for the shoutout Jim!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bionic Books

A friend sent me a link to a French publisher with an interesting mission statement:
Les editions volumiques is a publishing house focusing on the paper book as a new computer platform, as well as a research lab on book, (computational) paper, reading and their relation to new technologies.... game interactivity sheds a new light [on] the potential of a story [and] the role of the reader.... We do not consider the e-book as the replacement of the paper book, but we wish to enrich the tangible...connection that paper brings with all the new dimensions of the digital world. Each of our projects explores a different face of this union of paper and computation.
Their flash-heavy site (with non-embeddable videos unfortunately) showcases some stunning and fascinating projects.

Several use the iphone's camera and touch sensitive screen to interact with game boards and artfully designed branching books. My favorite of this type "The Night of the Living Dead Pixels" is a multi-directional fold-out book imprinted with treated stills from NOTLD. The iphone camera picks up bar codes (that are cleverly blended into the high contrast b+w images) which trigger specific video clips on the iphone screen; transforming the book into a multiple-choice role-playing experience.

Another project is:
"A prototype of a paper video game using reative inks to makes shapes appear and disappear dynamically on the paper. A tiny joypad allows to play [sic] with the duck to open the door to the next page."
The video shows what appears to be a page torn from a children's book crazily trailing wires like witch's hair. A hand controls the movements of a small duck through an abstract city-scape. If this ever becomes practical/affordable it could be beautifully implemented in picture books (or pop-up books! Imagine a pop-up book made with this "reactive paper").

I really like the way this studio is going with their re-imagining of the book form. They're innovative, exciting and--perhaps best of all--unlike traditional ebooks they're collectible and resellable!

See all of their projects here.