24 July 2024

Book Freak 165: Amusing Ourselves to Death

Neil Postman's Prescient Warning About the Age of Digital Distraction

Get Amusing Ourselves to Death

Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death was a 1985 wake-up call we didn’t know we’d need forty years later. Postman (1931-2003), a media theorist and cultural critic, argued that television was not just changing what we watch, but how we think and communicate as a society. While Postman’s focus was on television, his insights have become even more relevant in our current digital age. In an era dominated by social media, smartphones, and an ever-expanding array of digital entertainment options, Postman’s warnings about the impact of media on critical thinking and public discourse have only grown more urgent.

Here are four excerpts that are about television but easily apply to social media today:


“Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and commercials.”


“We are presented not only with fragmented news but news without context, without consequences, without value, and therefore without essential seriousness; that is to say, news as pure entertainment.”


“Now … this” is commonly used on radio and television newscasts to indicate that what one has just heard or seen has no relevance to what one is about to hear or see, or possibly to anything one is ever likely to hear or see. The phrase is a means of acknowledging the fact that the world as mapped by the speeded-up electronic media has no order or meaning and is not to be taken seriously. There is no murder so brutal, no earthquake so devastating, no political blunder so costly—for that matter, no ball score so tantalizing or weather report so threatening—that it cannot be erased from our minds by a newscaster saying, “Now … this.” The newscaster means that you have thought long enough on the previous matter (approximately forty-five seconds), that you must not be morbidly preoccupied with it (let us say, for ninety seconds), and that you must now give your attention to another fragment of news or a commercial.


Entertainment is the supra-ideology of all discourse on television. No matter what is depicted or from what point of view, the overarching presumption is that it is there for our amusement and pleasure. That is why even on news shows which provide us daily with fragments of tragedy and barbarism, we are urged by the newscasters to “join them tomorrow.” What for? One would think that several minutes of murder and mayhem would suffice as material for a month of sleepless nights.


23 July 2024

Glasswork / Bakuman

Books That Belong On Paper Issue No. 24

Books That Belong On Paper first appeared on the web as Wink Books and was edited by Carla Sinclair. Sign up here to get the issues a week early in your inbox.


Lino Tagliapietra: Glasswork
by Lino Tagliapietra
2017, 172 pages, 8.5 x 0.7 x 11.9 inches, Hardcover

Buy on Amazon

In the world of glass art, Lino Tagliapietra is widely revered for the technical virtuosity and mind-boggling beauty of his work, which expresses itself through forms that range from muscular to delicate, exuberant to tightly controlled, sometimes all at once. At 82, the Murano-born Maestro has been a mentor to generations of glass artists around the world, a hero to every would-be gaffer who’s picked up a blowpipe for the first time, dipped it into a furnace of molten glass, and given it a quick puff.

It would be a shame, though, if only those who appreciated glass art were familiar with Tagliapietra, which is why I wish Lino Tagliapietra: Glasswork made more of an effort to connect Tagliapietra’s work to the era in which it blossomed — the middle of the 20th century. That’s not to take anything away from the inspiration Tagliapietra has provided to such exemplary glass artists as Dale Chihuly, Dan Daley, Richard Marquis, and Dante Marioni, each of who contributed a short statement to Glasswork in praise of the Maestro. But Tagliapietra’s connection to glass is obvious — he deserves a place next to Charles and Ray Eames, Hans Hofmann, and Eero Saarinen, for a start.

On the other hand, Tagliapietra’s Mid-Century Modern aesthetic doesn’t need to share any spotlights to announce its roots, as the glorious images in Glasswork show. From his clear, candy-wrapper shaped vases of the early 1960s to the lacy teardrops and sumptuous saucers of the past few years, Tagliapietra’s work is effortlessly confident, which is probably what makes it so cool. We sense its authenticity immediately, and for good reason — Tagliapietra is not riffing on MCM, he helped invent it.

– Ben Marks


Bakuman. Complete Box Set (Volumes 1-20 with premium)
by Tsugumi Ohba, Takeshi Obata (Illustrator)
2013, 3864 pages, 7.5 x 5.3 x 5.0 inches, Paperback

Buy on Amazon

“Is becoming a successful manga artist an achievable dream or just one big gamble?” The back cover of every Bakuman. poses this question, the central question to a series about the highs and lows of professional art, and the troubles an artist has to endure for their work. In Bakuman., two high school students named Mashiro and Takagi team up to create manga, taking on the roles of artist and writer, respectively. They have different and unique motivations for pursuing this path, Takagi doing it to avoid falling into the trap of a boring life, while Mashiro endeavors to impress the girl he loves. They’re both incredibly well developed characters that struggle, win, lose, and never accept defeat. Over the course of the 20 volumes in this set, we’re offered an in depth chronicle of their attempts at success.

Manga fans may recognize creators Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata as the team behind the popular Death Note. While Death Note was a high concept mystery, Bakuman. is a much more accessible “everyday life” kind of story that blends comedy and drama with ease. Now excuse me while I gush a little, because I think Bakuman. may be my favorite manga series. Any manga/comics fan should read it, but I cannot recommend it enough to anybody working in an artistic medium. Ohba & Obata use the simple plot to develop a complex reflection on the nature of creation. In their journey, Mashiro and Takagi have to confront the reality of achieving their dreams, struggling to discover if it was worth the struggle. They make sacrifices in the balance between art and commerce. They learn that life is what happens while you’re working towards your dreams, and that while it’s important to have a goal, it’s also important to appreciate where you are. There are no superpowers, no fights, no action scenes, just real character driven drama.

The complete set pictured here also includes a double-sided full color poster, and a bonus “issue” of Otter No. 11, a fictional comedy series produced within the main story of Bakuman. The box itself is of high quality, with gorgeous illustrations on every side, and a velcro flap that seals in the volumes. If you’re already a fan of Ohba & Obata, this is the best value for your money. New adopters should at least check out volume one, which introduces the boys on their first summer creating manga, racing to complete a demo work before school starts again. If you’re looking for a change of pace from your usual superhero or shonen fare, Bakuman. will not disappoint.

– Alex Strine


22 July 2024

Stretching & Massage

Tools for Possibilities: issue no. 96

Once a week we’ll send out a page from Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities. The tools might be outdated or obsolete, and the links to them may or may not work. We present these vintage recommendations as is because the possibilities they inspire are new. Sign up here to get Tools for Possibilities a week early in your inbox.

Most comprehensive stretching manual


I haven’t encountered any source on this subject as broad, accessible, and easily applied as Bob Anderson’s classic Stretching, a patient and friendly stand-in for my eight-grade P.E. teacher.

The 30th anniversary edition of this guidebook came out recently, with even more stretches and illustrations, and it’s easily the most comprehensive work on the subject. I love the activity-specific sections: cyclists, for instance, are shown stretches that not only address the muscle groups made tight and tense by our specific sport, but the stretches geared toward bike riders even include a bicycle to be utilized as a support. Activities from weightlifting to computer using get their own sections, too.

Organizationally, Stretching shines. Tight neck? Rigid shoulders? Thumb through to your prescribed routine and get to work. With minimal flexibility but a willingness to make an effort, almost anyone can use this book to become more limber, healthier. — Elon Schoenholz

  • Stretching feels good when done correctly. You do not have to push the limits or attempt to go further each day. It should not be a personal contest to see how far you can stretch. Stretching should be tailored to your particular muscular structure, flexibility, and varying tension levels. The key is regularity and relaxation. The object is to reduce muscular tension, thereby promoting freer movement—not to concentrate on attaining extreme flexibility, which often leads to overstretching and injury.
  • Who Should Stretch?
    Everyone can learn to stretch, regardless of age or flexibility. You do not need to be in top physical condition or have specific athletic skills. Whether you sit at a desk all day, dig ditches, do housework, stand at an assembly line, drive a truck or exercise regularly, the same techniques of stretching apply….if you are healthy, without any specific physical problems, you can learn how to stretch safely and enjoyably.
  • Why Stretch?
    – Reduce muscle tension and make the body feel more relaxed
    – Help coordination by allowing for freer and easier movement
    – Make strenuous activities like running, skiing, tennis, swimming, and cycling easier because it prepares you for activity; it’s a way of signaling the muscles that they are about to be used.

Unorthodox back pain philosophy

Mind Over Back Pain

Back pain is ubiquitous in developed countries. Yet the honest truth is that science is uncertain as to what causes it. Theories abound, as does a lot of pseudo-therapy. There are probably multiple origins and different varieties of lower back pain. However, one theory says a large portion of back pain starts with mental tension. If you have an inkling that your back pain is linked to stress, I strongly suggest you seek out this perennially-in-print book (since 1972). My speaking agent, who deals with hundreds of stressed-out type A’s and the consequential epidemic of back pain they carry with them, routinely hands out this book. It seems to be the one thing that helps them the most. It helped me. By adopting the view that lower back pain is a syndrome in large part fostered by the mind/body complex, I’ve been able to avoid surgery and painkillers and resume my life. Your mileage may vary, but it’s worth a read. — KK

  • The reason for this obsession with discs is that it does seem logical. There are those degenerating structures at the lower end of the spine, right where a lot of pain and spasms occur; there are lumbar and sacral nerves conveniently located so that they can be compressed by bulging or herniated discs; there is pain in the leg, proving that those nerves are compressed.
  • What these data confirm is that degenerative processes have nothing to do with most back pain. Degeneration is progressive and relentless; serial X rays as one ages document this fact. Yet back pain is far less common in the older age groups. According to the conventional diagnostic concepts, everyone over the age of sixty should have back pain.The bar graph in Figure 9 [above] gives the age by breakdown by decade. Seventy-seven percent of the group fell between the ages of thirty and fifty-nine. Note that there are fewer patients in their sixties than in their twenties! Since the majority of back pain syndromes are attributed to degenerative processes – for example, degenerative osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease – it is strange, indeed, that there were only thirteen patients aged sixty to sixty-nine, and seven in their seventies.

Professional massage assist

G5 Massager

The G5 is a professional-grade massage unit that has long been a staple of naturopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists, many of whom report still using their 40- or 50-year-old units on a daily basis. The G5 comes in dozen or so professional models for use in hospitals, physical therapy and similar clinics. Most pro sports teams (football, basketball, baseball, anyway) have a G5 in their training rooms. This is no Costco-type unit, but an unbelievably robust massage gun that will astonish you within seconds.

The larger professional units with stands and rollers go for about $1,200. The secret to their extraordinarily powerful and effective massage action is a coiled cable that turns and rotates the head, rather than pounding or vibrating as less durable units do. All of the G5s have changeable applicator heads for doing reflexology, exfoliation treatments, lymphatic drainage, cellulite reduction, Trigger Point therapy, therapeutic massage, or just plain old relaxation massage.

For home use I recommend the Pro-Power unit, which is sold as a portable travel version of the G5. It goes for about $350. Since I write and work at a desk a lot, I use mine almost daily, especially when doing big long projects. If you don’t want to take the time to schedule and pay for an $80 massage, anyone can use this on you without getting sore hands or wanting to quit. I actually own two! — Hakim Chishti


21 July 2024

Say What You See/Artists at work/Creative introduction

Recomendo - issue #419

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Say What You See

I use Midjourney to create AI illustrations of dream imagery, and to improve my skills in writing AI image prompts, I’ve been playing a Google Arts & Culture game called “Say What You See.” The gist of the game is to describe what you see and aim for at least a 50% match—or higher—to the original prompt. Warning: It can get very frustrating past level three. Thankfully, if you want to come back to it, you can skip the easier levels anytime. — CD

Artists at work

I love watching artists work in their studios. I really delight in seeing how they make their art, what tools and techniques they use, and their material approach to creation. Getting access to a studio is rare, but very easy to do via two YouTube channels. Art21 is a multi-season PBS show, available on YT, that features a contemporary American artist at work in their workshop or studio. Some artists even reveal their process in detail, which is  a plus. The other venue is Craft in America, another PBS show, which lets you watch how crafts people manifest their exquisite artifacts, such as a chair from a log, or a knitted coral reef. I am constantly inspired to make my own art after watching others create art from such raw ingredients. — KK

A creative way to introduce yourself in emails

I recently came across a clever idea in an email I received. At the bottom of the email, there was a link labeled “About me.” I clicked on it and was taken to the results of a Perplexity search about the sender. It was an ingenious way to provide a snapshot of who they are, and I found it so useful and creative that I decided to steal the idea myself. — MF

Cordless metal eater

If I had to re-assemble my workshop from scratch, one of the first tools I would buy would be a cordless angle grinder. I would not have guessed that a decade ago, but I use mine all the time now.  I’ve found that an angle grinder is the perfect tool for cutting through thick or thin metal. I can cut rebar, metal sheeting, chicken wire, hardware mesh, rusty nails, old hinges, stripped screw heads, welded parts, etc. It is the cheapest way cut metal. The cordless part (a little more expensive) makes it so easy to grab and go. Because they grind with grit instead of cutting with teeth, they aren’t as scary as a saw, too. You can find them for all battery types; mine is a Dewalt DCG 412. — KK

Peppermint spider repellent

The only active ingredient in this bottle of Mighty Mint spider repellent spray is peppermint oil. I spray it around the windows on the outside of our house, outdoor furniture, and potted plants, and it keeps them from building webs. The label says for best results use twice a week, but in my experience, once every couple of weeks seems to be frequent enough. — MF

35 Phrases To Set Boundaries

Here is something everyone should have in their communication toolkit: “35 Phrases To Set Boundaries Firmly and Fairly”. This article provides practical phrases and advice on how to assertively set boundaries without causing unnecessary conflict. These phrases work in a wide range of scenarios, from dealing with children and family to workplace dynamics. Here are a few examples: 

  • “I’m not available.” – Helps establish off-hours and personal time boundaries.
  • “I need you to help me.” – Encourages teamwork and shared responsibility.
  • “I don’t agree.” – Clearly states disagreement while remaining open to finding a mutual solution.
  • “I understand you need my help, but I cannot work on this right now.” – Balances empathy with personal limits.
  • “I prefer not to discuss this topic with you. It makes me feel uncomfortable.” – Protects emotional well-being by avoiding triggering subjects.

Note: Both of my recommendations this week were discovered in Matt Rutherford’s newsletter, 👓 Stuff—a weekly email crammed full of tips for a better life. If you love Recomendo, I highly recommend subscribing to Matt’s newsletter. — CD 


19 July 2024

Gar’s Tips & Tools – Issue #180

Weekly-ish (ish) access to tools, techniques, and shop tales from the worlds of DIY

Gar’s Tips, Tools, and Shop Tales is published by Cool Tools Lab. To receive the newsletter a week early, sign up here.

In Praise of Handwritten Notes

8-10 years of pocket notebooks.

In the early hours of the 21st century, I noticed something interesting. I was losing my ability to write longhand. I was exclusively using a keyboard and my handwriting was suffering as a result. In high school, I’d taken a mechanical drawing class with dreams of becoming an architect, engineer, graphic designer, or similar creative field, and I’d begun practicing an attractive technically inspired print writing style. That was all gone by the 21st century. I could barely write out my own name without making a mess. I could no longer read my own words and was struggling to form the letters. I decided to get a pack of Moleskine Cahiers pocket notebooks and write out all of my daily notes, ideas, sketches, writing research, etc. by hand. I’ve never looked back. Some 20 years on, I’m never without a notebook and a Varsity fountain pen in my pocket. I can’t say my handsome writing style has come back, but then, I haven’t really tried. I do love looking back on several dozen years of notebooks, seeing my thought process in, say 2012. Now, I’d love to get back to regularly drawing/sketching, another analog muscle that has long atrophied.

Designing a USB-C-based Breadboard Power Supply

I love this little USB-C-based breadboard power supply that Zach of Digi-Key’s Byte-Sized Engineer created. This is an update and improvement over an earlier breadboard power supply he built. This one uses a CYPD3177-24LQXQT power management IC, a custom-designed PCB, USB-C power, and a custom 2-color 3DP enclosure. Zach can select voltages between 3.3V, 5V, 9V, 12V, 15V, 20V on both rails of the board. By the time the project is over, he already has changes he wants to make on the next iteration. But as he points out, you need a version 1 to know what changes you want to make on version 2.

Refreshing Bit Driver Magnets

You don’t even have to watch the video to get the gist of this little repair job. If the magnets inside your bit holders get weak, you can add a new rare earth magnet with superglue, and your driver is good as new.

Getting Started in Non-Welding Metalwork

If you’ve ever flirted with the idea of getting into metalwork without having to know welding, this fantastic 38-minute video is a must-watch. In it, seasoned maker, YouTuber, and humorist, Wesley Treat takes you through the essentials of metalworking with aluminum—no welding required. He starts by poking fun at the competitive nature of welders, then quickly gets into the nitty-gritty of tools and techniques. You’ll learn how to cut aluminum using a variety of tools, from electric shears to jigsaws, each explained with tons of practical tips along the way. Deburring to remove rough edges and bending methods using everything from hand seamers to full-sized metal bending brakes are covered in detail. Drilling and fastening techniques, including the use of rivets and screws, are also discussed, providing a surprisingly comprehensive guide to working with aluminum. Wesley also shares valuable advice on sourcing materials and adding finishing touches to ensure your projects look professional. Along the way he also shares his favorite, like the DeWalt 20V Max XR jigsaw, the Harbor Fright horizontal bandsaw, and the Klein Tools Notcher. This vid is packed with insights and practical advice, making it perfect for both beginners and experienced makers looking to expand their skills.

Cleaning with Tub ‘o Towels

I’ve heard praises for Tub ‘o Towels before, the heavy-duty shop cleaning wipes. In this video, The Tool Bandit extols their virtues in cleaning up greasy, dirty tool handles.

Maker’s Muse

What’s that humming? Does anyone hear a hum?

Consider a Paid Subscription

Gar’s Tips & Tools is always free. But if you if you find ir truly useful to you, consider a paid subscription ($8/month). This keeps me in coffee and potato chips while I’m working on this labor of love. If you really want to show your patronage, consider becoming a Hero of the Realm. I will send custom packages of goodies (books, tools, zines, and more) to all my Heroes.

Thanks to all those who have already subscribed. You are the Kapton tape on my 3D print bed.


18 July 2024

Slow Travel Nomads/Least-visited Europe/Frozen Everest Garbage

Nomadico issue #113

A weekly newsletter with four quick bites, edited by Tim Leffel, author of A Better Life for Half the Price and The World’s Cheapest Destinations. See past editions here, where your like-minded friends can subscribe and join you.

I Could Live Here

An old friend and occasional freelance contributor of mine, Ellen Barone, has a book out called I Could Live Here. It’s detailed account of being a slow travel nomad for four years, spending roughly three months at a time in different places. Most of it was in Latin America, with a bit of Portugal and New Mexico in the mix. Unlike the wide-eyed collection of giddy adventures this would be in younger hands, her book is a more introspective look at what it feels like to be ungrounded, second-guessing, and forming fluid friendships on the road as an older traveling couple. Get it at Amazon here.

The Least-visited Countries in Europe

Looking to avoid the crowds? The majority of the least-visited countries in Europe are tiny ones. This article highlights the nations receiving the fewest annual visitors, though a few are really micro-states. They range from great values (Bosnia-Herzogovinia and Moldova) to playgrounds for the rich (Monaco). See the full rundown here.

My CityPASS Experiences

If you’re going to do a lot of sightseeing at one time, attraction passes can be a good way to bring the cost down. I recently used CityPASS in Atlanta and San Antonio and found the selection choices good, but not overwhelming. In Atlanta, our family of three visited the World of Coca Cola, The National Center for Civil and Human Rights, the Georgia Aquarium (maybe the best one I’ve been to anywhere), and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History for $94 per pass, a savings of $42 each and no lines to wait in. In (Europe, look for similar deals from Turbopass and others.)

The Great Mt. Everest Garbage Clean-up

The story that often gets lost when talking about Mt. Everest summits is how much garbage and human waste has collected there, in a landscape where it all stays frozen and preserved. This year a group of government-funded soldiers and Sherpas started cleaning it all up at South Sol Camp (altitude 8,000 meters) in a project that will probably take years. The AP says they’ve already processed 11 tons of trash and multiple dead bodies dug out of the ice. See more here.





Show and Tell #404: Adam Hill

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #403: Mia Coots

Picks and shownotes

Show and Tell #402: Josué Moreno

Picks and shownotes


Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

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We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

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