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Brainiac's holiday gift ideas, part 1

Posted by Joshua Glenn  November 14, 2007 10:20 AM

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As The New York Times reported last month, the XO Laptop is "spillproof, rainproof, dustproof and drop-proof. It's fanless, it's silent and it weighs 3.2 pounds. One battery charge will power six hours of heavy activity, or 24 hours of reading. The laptop has a built-in video camera, microphone, memory-card slot, graphics tablet, game-pad controllers and a screen that rotates into a tablet configuration." And it only costs $200. That's right, it's the low-cost, high-potential, extra-rugged computer developed by One Laptop Per Child, the Cambridge-based nonprofit -- headed up by Nicholas Negroponte, founding director of the M.I.T. Media Laboratory -- that aims to get educationally underserved children in poor countries online. For the next 12 days, you can pay $400 to OLPC, and they'll send one laptop to a student in a poor country... and another to you, by December 25. The donated computer is a tax-deductible charitable contribution. So... act now!

Also, here are a couple of products that I've blogged about for Brainiac, this past year. More to follow in the coming weeks.


On January 31, my last day as a full-time employee of the Boston Globe (I'm a freelancer, now), I blogged about the Attack of the Mooninites. (The Boston Phoenix was kind enough to praise Brainiac as the best source of news on the topic.) So... Brainiac suggests that you buy your loved ones a Mooninite t-shirt. There are a whole bunch on eBay.


On February 16, I talked up "A Date with John Waters," an album of songs that the brilliant filmmaker believes would be the perfect soundtrack to any romantic outing. The CD includes Elton Motello's "Jet Boy Jet Girl," which the Globe's James Reed describes as "a frank paean to gay sex that shares a melody with Plastic Bertrand's new-wave classic 'Ca Plane Pour Moi.'"


On February 20, I mentioned "Songs of the Pogo," a CD version of a 1956 novelty album of songs written by "Pogo" creator Walt Kelly.


On March 12, I blogged about "Arf Forum," the third in a series of gorgeous and engaging books exploring -- with a scholar's thoroughness and a fanboy's passion -- the surprising ways in which comic books and strips have leaked into the wider culture, particularly high culture.

Illustration from "Beasts!"

On March 15, I premiered "Brainiac's bedside table," an irregular series of blog posts in which I mentioned books that I hadn't finished (or, in some cases, started), but which looked very promising. The books mentioned in that first entry included:

"Cultural Amnesia: Necessary Memories from History and the Arts," by Clive James (W.W. Norton), a massive collection of essays about 20th century celebrities, intellectuals, tyrants, and writers, organized from A to Z (Anna Akhmatova to Stefan Zweig).

"Divagations," by Stéphane Mallarmé, translated by Barbara Johnson (Harvard), a hodgepodge of texts: prose poems, anecdotes, short essays about the author's Symbolist contemporaries and antecedents collectively titled "volumes on my divan," music writing, news briefs, lecture excerpts, catalog prefaces, you name it.

"Beasts! A Pictorial Schedule of Traditional Hidden Creatures, from the Interest of 90 Modern Artisans," curated and designed by Jacob Covey (Fantagraphics), a bestiary -- an encyclopedia of "cryptozoology" or "fantastic zoology" -- by visual artists best known for their work in the spheres of comics, skateboarding graphics, rock posters, science fiction and fantasy illustration, children's books, commercial and fine art. It's excellent.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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