• Flipping Out Over Handheld Movies, a Century Before Smartphones When artist Ben Zurawski sits down at his light table to create a palm-size flip book designed to deliver about 15 seconds of animated action to one viewer at a time, he typically unwraps a fresh pack of 100-pound index cards, places 60 or so before him, picks up a mechanical pencil, and begins to draw. From start to finish, including storyboarding, penciling, rubbing out mistakes with a wadded-up…
  • The Art of Making People Go Away You probably don't think much about "Do Not Disturb" signs at hotels, unless the maid rudely barges in as you sleep. Then you think, "Hey, didn't you see the door hanger? What happened to that?" But when you look through Edoardo Flores' collection of just over 8,700 Do Not Disturb signs from 190 countries around the world—which he documents on Flickr—you'll find they can be quite beautiful and rev…
  • Kaboom! 10 Facts About Firecrackers That Will Blow You Away Firecrackers are essentially un-American, even though we associate them with our most deeply patriotic celebration, the Fourth of July. The fact is that firecrackers are foreign-born novelties, and have been as long as Americans have lit them for a noisy salute to the nation's birth. As it turns out, firecracker history is as colorful and complicated as the lithographed artwork used to sell them. …
  • A Visit To the Prelinger Library When you walk into the Prelinger Library, the first things you notice are the three long aisles that run down the length of the space. Ten banks of shelves, each 10 shelves high, flank each aisle, creating six rows of books. There are 30,000 or so volumes here, plus another 30,000 or so pieces of ephemera, from road maps to cell-phone instruction manuals. What you won’t find are card catalogs o…