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How is an IRC channel like a Caribbean street-corner?

My friend Biella, a tireless EFF volunteer who's also finishing a PhD in anthropology, studying hacker culture, has posted a really gnarly paper that she presented at the Digital Genres conference. The paper posits that IRC channels and Caribbean street-corners share a lot of conversational and behavioral norms, and are driven by much the same impetus. (The meaty stuff about IRC starts about halfway down -- search for "IRC and Caribbean" in the page).
IRC and Caribbean street talk, both a result of diasporic realities, are public spaces in which clever word play, performance, and stream of consciousness conversation predominate. In the Caribbean, the Diaspora was a historical moment in time that brought disparate peoples together as slaves and indentured laboreres. Forced over across the Atlantic with materially nothing, cultural elements were revived and refashioned though such avenues as music, language, food, and religion to produce the dynamic character that now stamps Caribbean culture. Language and linguistic word play became an important element given the constraints on bodies, spatial movement, and time that slavery forced upon people

The Caribbean man-of-words currently inhabits various public spaces such as the street corner, the town square, and the corner store both in the Caribbean and in transplanted communities in North America Street talk is a richly complex social and linguistic site for entertainment, performance, the fabrication of legends, the cementing of friendships, for learning and expressing masculine codes of behavior, building reputation, and for making and unmaking political and economic alliances (Abrahams 1983; Wilson 1973). Talk and creative word play are king in spaces where men casually drop in and out throughout the day, mixing gaming with very public loud group conversations with quieter more private conversations that might take place "off to the side." Personal gossip mixes freely with meta-commentary while talk beholds and enfolds a range of tones, emotions, and topics. Play mixes alongside work and argument as business and political deals are informally fleshed out. Found both in rural and urban settings one neighborhood might hold a number of competing public zones for street talk. Sometimes sweet, sometimes grotesquely humorous, and other times spiteful, play and cleverness that often borders on the fantastical mark this form of talk. Not particularly "emotionally supportive" or grounded in much else but talk, its authenticity as a real space for social life would never be questioned.

Link Discuss (via JOHO the Blog)

Theme park of the chariots of the Gods

The author of "Chariots of the Gods" has opened a theme-park in Switzerland. The park explores lots of woo-woo beliefs rendered in severe Swiss architecture, connected by tunnels.
The park is divided into seven themed pavilions:

Vimana -- space shuttles for ancient Indians.

Orient -- the construction of the great Cheops Pyramid.

Maya -- a tribe of ingenious astronomers.

MegaStones -- Stonehenge, a time machine for high priests.

Contact -- initial contact, culture shock or inspiration?

Nazca -- pictograms for the gods.

Challenge -- are we alone in the universe?

Link Discuss (Thanks, Henry!)

Brazilian swarm-muggers

Brazilian crooks are using stolen cellphones to coordinate the actions of underage crooks and create dead-end double-blinds that can't be traced by the cops. The crooks recruit a roper and hand him a parcel of stolen mobiles; then the roper recruits a gang of children and distributes the phones to them. The crook finds a target -- a tourist in a hotel -- and calls his roper, who deploys the children to swarm the tourist and rip him off, and then uses the cellphone to arrange for a dead-drop for the loot. If a kid is caught, he can only point to the roper; the roper only has a bogus cellphone number for the crook -- everyone gets off scott-free.
Xenky's sources say that similar uses of "swarm" architectures are becoming more common in online Web attacks, forming meeting times and exact locations for terrorists, and arranging narcotics transfers.

Law enforcement organizations in Brazil and elsewhere are facing more "social" crime that is enabled by wireless devices, network connections, and a highly-distributed approach to planning, executing, and sharing the "loot" from a crime.

Link Discuss (via Smart Mobs)

Welcome to our guest-guest-guestblogger!

Take a close look at Karen Marcelo's BoingBoing guestbar hijinks. Macki of just invented the nanoblog.

Matthew Barney vs. Donkey Kong: Cremaster deconstructed

In this month's Game Girl Advance feature, Wayne Bremser compares the plotlines, aesthetics, and characters of Donkey Kong with those of the Matthew Barney film Cremaster 3.
Donkey Kong's myth of a man fighting a giant ape on a skyscraper has its origin in the King Kong films. After being captured in the jungle and brought to the city by greedy men, the largest ape in the world climbs the tallest building in New York where he fights humans to the death. Cremaster 3 is based on the Masonic myth of Hiram Abiff, the architect of Solomon's Temple. Barney uses the Chrysler Building as a character to play the temple.

The construction worker Mario moves in pursuit of Pauline, while Barney's construction worker, the Entered Apprentice, climbs in pursuit of the architect, Hiram Abiff. Both workers are presented with a single facial expression, no dialogue and no significant character development except their determination to move ever upwards.

Link, Discuss (via Gawker)

A lazyweb with money

Paul Spinrad sez, "This 'Peer-Enforced Marketplace for New Ideas' lets people share and sell any quickly-describable ideas they come up with, while also protecting them with a combined legal, technical, and social infrastructure that's described in the site's FAQ. This is an experiment I've been working on for a while now, and I'm thrilled to pieces that it's finally ready to show!"
How does it work?

Read the contracts. There are two kinds of ideas on this site, Public and Private. Anyone can read the Public ideas-- they're just here because their authors want to put them out into the world. The Private ideas are accessible only to people signed in as members of the site, who may register free of charge, provided that they agree with all the contracts' terms. Members using the site can discuss any idea among themselves, and also see which other members have read the idea, and when. Furthermore, all members have a financial incentive to rat on any other member who has used and profited from idea taken from the site without its owners' consent, or who has leaked the idea directly or indirectly to someone who has done so.

The financial incentive is that any "bounty hunter" member who demonstrates a stolen idea's path from another member's reading it to its unauthorized use should split the proceeds of any resulting settlement with the idea's owner. Read the legal language here. The ideas posted on this site are inexpensive, and if you're interested in using one of them, you're better off if you come clean, pay for it out of petty cash, and give credit where credit is due, rather than having to watch your back and worry about all the bits of evidence you constantly leave as you browse through this site and communicate with others in violation of the contracts.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Paul!)

Comic-book grunts

The Unh project: colleted comic-panels with "guttural moans." Link Discuss (via The Adventures of AccordionGuy in the Twenty-First Century)

Star Wars Kid Strikes Back: sues those who put fan-video online

Adam sez:
The french-canadian Star Wars kid is suing the people who originally put his video on the net. It's unclear if he and his family decided to proceed or were approached by the lawyer trying to make some fast money. Many of the folks who contributed to his iPod fund are requesting refunds.
Link, Discuss


My friend Dave Thau, who used to work for The All Species Inventory, has been building an neat site about ants, called AntWeb. Link Discuss

Fired by SMS

British Amulet Group fired 2,500 employees via SMS today:
The message said, in part, "you are being made redundant with immediate effect".
Link Discuss

Immortality gene pinpointed, named after Network Operators Group

Researchers at the Institute for Stem Cell Research in Scotland have discovered a gene that turns ordinary cells into immortal stem-cells.
The gene found in mouse ESCs and some human equivalents appears to be the "master gene", co-ordinating other genes to allow stem cells to multiply limitlessly while still retaining their ability to differentiate. It has been christened Nanog after the land in Celtic myth called Tir nan Og, whose inhabitants remain forever young.

"Nanog seems to be a master gene that makes ESCs grow in the laboratory," says Ian Chambers, one of the team at the Institute for Stem Cell Research (ISCR), Edinburgh, Scotland. "In effect this makes stem cells immortal."

Link Discuss

Photos, Audio, Video: Clearchannel protests in SF

Lisa Rein points us to a gallery of video, audio, and stills on her blog from the protests in SF yesterday -- and says:
The one thing that stood out to me was the point people kept making that Clear Channel is already abusing existing regulations. Why on earth would the FCC ever relax them further when Clear Channel doesn't even respect them now? So the problem is not only what could happen if these rules are further relaxed. The problem exists now, with the rules the way they are. Clear Channel owns nine stations in the SF Bay Area market, for example, while the legal limit is eight.
Link Discuss

Photos: FCC/Clear Channel protest @ KFI in Los Angeles

Pho list co-founder John Parres points us to this online gallery of photos from yesterday's ClearChannel/FCC protests outside the offices of KFI AM 640 radio in Los Angeles. JP writes:
I went to the FCC media consolidation protest at KFI today. The Code Pink ladies were in full effect - some of whom appeared to be ex-Brown '92 alums in additon to a smattering of Heal The Bay'ers, supporters of Dennis Kucinich... The Kill Radio Black Bloc'r chick easily earned best slogan for the "Fuck Clear Channel" t-shirt. Besides the attempt to present a pink slip (in the garment sense) to the CEO of KFI, my favorite moment hands down was when one Code Pinker called out to the crowd and suggested that the protesters march around the block to the Dixie Chicks "Because they were right!" And in the photos I took you will see she is not holding the commercial album but instead a burnt CD-R! The march was a little scattered and fuzzy as they set forth but after rounding the block on Wilshire everyone hit their stride in unison:

"Who's airwaves are they?" "OURS!"

Link, Discuss

Web Zen: Translator

Bonus: Eric reminds us of the pornolizer. Yum.
Link, Discuss, (Thanks, Frank)

Damn, the Mills Brothers rock

I've been really digging the Mills Brothers lately. They're a vocal jazz group whose heyday was the 30s to the 50s, and they do a mix of uptempo originals and classic novelty tunes of the day. I'm particularily fond of "How'm I Doin', Hey-Hey," which is full of joyous tweeting and nose-trumpeting and other fun, high-speed noises. There're three Mills Brothers discs available on eMusic -- if you don't have a subscription, you can probably still download must of their tracks through a free trial. The link below goes to a swell little photo-history of the Mills Brothers. Link Discuss

British Government counts the Internet as one vote

The Stand, an activist site that helps Britons get in touch with their Members of Parliament, has been dealt a terrible blow by Beverley Hughes. Hughes is a Minister who is characterizing the 5,000 letters sent to Parliament through the Stand protesting the National ID Card plan as a single letter against, which doesn't stack up against the 2,000 letters sent in favor of the proposal. Danny O'Brien's written an open letter to Hughes:
In order to solicit opinions from a wider base than previously, we put together a link between the Web and your consultation email address (and, for good measure, let people contact their local MP on the matter). We publicised it in a few areas where people who are online a lot tend to gather.

We felt that most people using our service would be against the ID card - but not exclusively. We wanted people who felt that the ID card was a good idea should also have a say. Accordingly, we allowed people to write whatever they wanted using our system. And so, as far as we can gather, they did.

Now we hear that you are viewing all of those separately considered opinions as one collective petition.

Link Discuss

Fantagraphics needs you to spend money, like NOW

About 40 people suggested this link yesterday, so I'm not going to try to attribute it, but here goes: Fantagraphics Books, purveyors of fine funnybooks and graphic novels for 27 years, are on the brink of bankruptcy and need you to go buy stuff.
Our former and now bankrupt book trade distributor went out of business owing us over $70,000 -- which we will never see. (To add insult to injury, we learned that the owner is selling copies of our books that he should've returned on e-bay!) This unexpected shortfall necessitated taking out a couple loans which have now come due. In late 2001, our line was picked up by the W.W. NORTON COMPANY, who took over our bookstore distribution, and has done a magnificent job of providing us unprecedented access to the bookstore market. Inexperience with the book trade resulted in our erring on the side of overprinting our books too heavily throughout 2002, so that our anticipated profit is in fact sitting in our warehouse in the form of books. Loans must be paid in cash, not books. The only way to get out of this hole we've dug ourselves into is to sell those books. Which is where, we hope, you come in.
Link Discuss

Second carrier signs up to sell Danger

Danger has found a second carrier for the HipTop -- SunCom, a division of AT&T, is now offering a Danger device. The cost of the box is roughly comparable, but what's interesting is the increased flexibility in service-plans: a $29.95 data-only plan and a $24.95 data plan for those who already have SunCom voice. From the coverage map, it looks like there's a fair bit of overlap in SunCom and T-Mobile's coverage areas: I wonder if this new competition will drive T-Mobile to increase the flexibility of its plans. Presumably, stuff like this will be a lot more significant after next November 26, when number portability comes to cellular. Link Discuss

Audio and video from Lessig at SXSW

Here's the audio and video from Lessig's stirring, stunning address at this year's SXSW. Link Discuss

Original Sputnik for sale

An original Sputnik is up for sale on eBay -- the Buy It Now price is $29,500.
This is an original Sputnik from the '50s space program, named "model PS-1". Literally lost in space for the past 30 years, we discovered it hanging 20 feet above the ground in a science institute near Kiev. Nearly identical to the Sputnik that orbited the Earth. Constructed of a highly-polished metal alloy; 80 cm (31") in diameter and equipped with two, 3 m (10 ft) and two 1.5 m (5 ft) whip antennae. Weighing in at 30 kg (66 lbs.) Historians may note that this is lighter than the flown-craft, which weighed 83 kg (176 lbs.). This is because the once-top-secret radio transmitters and batteries were removed and destroyed, during the security conscious 1960s.
Link Discuss (Thanks, Phil!)

Get a leet PVR for the cost of parts

Raffi Krikorian, the hacker from the MIT Media Lab who wrote the TiVo Hacks book for O'Reilly, is now hot to build an Ur-PVR out of commodity PC parts. He's offering to do it if someone will put up the money ($1200) for parts, just for the experience.
for the grand total of $1200 i can probably assemble you a via epia m10000, 512 MB DDR RAM, 250 GB HD, CDRW/DVD, and two WinTV-PVR cards. armed with this, you can record two shows simultaneously, stream MPEGs off the PVR, play back DiVX on your television, play DVDs, record radio, burn VCDs, stream and play MP3s, use xmltv for program information -- all through the really spiffy mythtv interface. really - i'm not kidding. if you're interested in me building one (note, that the doesn't cover some cash for me), drop me a note. i think
Link Discuss

Selling carpet on the Internet, hundreds of lbs at a time

Merlin Mann recounts an hilarious story from the dawn of the Internet boom, getting contracted to build the world's premier air-dropped carpet website:
He explained that he was fortunate enough to sell a national brand of wall-to-wall carpeting that was so far superior to all other quote-unquote carpeting that—well—it truly did just sell itself. See, to call this just the "Rolls Royce" of wall-to-wall carpeting would diminish the scale of how comprehensively the quality of this product exceeded its nearest quote-unquote competition. I was directed repeatedly to feel samples of this carpeting, touching the deep-pile face of God in every sumptuous squarelet. "Meh," I thought to myself. "It's carpeting. Whatever." But, outwardly, I beamed and enthused along with him, declaring that this was truly a carpeting concept that needed to be made available on the globalinterweb with all dispatch. Which brought us to the details of how we would execute this world floor-covering coup.

The content of the site was to be provided entirely by a slim bifold brochure that he'd gotten from the manufacturer. We'd put up a site where people could read this information, then print out a form, which could be used to indicate the color of carpeting they'd like and, well, how much of it they'd need. This, I should warn you, is where the plan went from squirrelly and unworkable to completely insane.

Once this form had been filled out by the consumer and faxed to Carpet Boy, various wheels would begin turning, calls would be made, and before you knew it, a very large roll of the world's finest carpeting was being air-dropped to a regional airport where the happy customer would--well--presumably collect the several-hundred pound delivery, somehow get it into a large truck of some kind, and then locate someone in the area who could install it in their house for them. What a breeze. It literally sells itself.

Link Discuss

Study says: Handsome men have the best sperm

Scientists at the University of Valencia in Spain have released a study they believe proves a link between facial characteristics and reproductive quality.
The researchers showed that men with the healthiest, fastest sperm were rated as the most facially attractive by women.... Maria Sancho-Navarro, a team member at the University of Valencia, Spain, said that symmetrical faces were rated as more attractive by the women. And other studies have shown that people with more symmetrical features are less likely to suffer ill health.
Link, Discuss (via yeschaton list)

Seeds in Space

Cool NASA photos and streaming movies of plant experiments on the International Space Station:
One month ago, these peas were full of life and vivid green. Now they're brown and dry; they've "gone to seed." It happens in gardens on Earth all the time. These seeds are special, however, because they were grown in space, inside the Russian Lada greenhouse onboard the International Space Station (ISS). On May 16th, ISS commander Yuri Malenchenko took the brown plants (pictured above is just one of many) and stored them whole in ziplock bags filled with silica gel. Later they'll be taken out again, the seeds harvested and planted to grow a second generation of space-peas. If all goes well they'll become the first legumes to reproduce in Earth-orbit. This is the fifth "seed-to-seed" experiment conducted by Russian researchers. They've grown Arabidopsis onboard a Salyut spacecraft, turnip greens and wheat onboard Mir, and now peas on the International Space Station.
Link, Discuss

Code is law in gamespace, too?

Fascinating academic paper explores the way that gamers in MMORPGs are beginning to assert property and moral rights over the digital artifacts (including their own avatars) in gamespace.
Virtual worlds - online worlds where millions of people come to interact, play, and socialize - are a new type of social order. In this Article, we examine the implications of virtual worlds for our understanding of law, and demonstrate how law affects the interests of those within the world. After providing an extensive primer on virtual worlds, including their history and function, we examine two fundamental issues in detail.

First, we focus on property, and ask whether it is possible to say that virtual world users have real world property interests in virtual objects. Adopting economic accounts that demonstrate the real world value of these objects and the exchange mechanisms for trading these objects, we show that, descriptively, these types of objects are indistinguishable from real world property interests. Further, the normative justifications for property interests in the real world apply - sometimes more strongly - in the virtual worlds.

Second, we discuss whether avatars have enforceable legal and moral rights. Avatars, the user-controlled entities that interact with virtual worlds, are a persistent extension of their human users, and users identify with them so closely that the human-avatar being can be thought of as a cyborg. We examine the issue of cyborg rights within virtual worlds and whether they may have real world significance.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Greg!)

SARS digital folk art, exhibit "P": SARS-themed E3 schwag

Companies have been using sex to promote video games for as long as -- well, for as long as there have been video games. Why not death? Gamespy tapped into the SARS zeitgeist to create branded surgical masks that proto-blogger Justin Hall discovered during the recent E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles. Link to Justin's blog. Photo of Justin in SARS schwag by Jane. Discuss

(Earlier "SARS folk art" exhibits in this reader-contributed series: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O.)

Japanese P2P blog

My friend Yuichi Kawasaki, the founder of the Japanese P2P group Jnutella, has started a blog devoted to "P2P, i-mode, mobile gadget and game biz in Japan." Fascinating to get a Tokyo perspective on this stuff. Link Discuss

HaidaBucks versus Starbucks

Three Haida men in a 1500-person town on Queen Charlotte Island in northern BC opened a restaurant in a longhouse called HaidaBucks, because locals call the Haida men "Haida Bucks." Now they're being sued by Starbucks for trademark infringement.
Swanson says his restaurant has a longhouse facade and looks nothing like a Starbucks. HaidaBucks is a 60-seat full service restaurant offering everything from coffee to quesadillas to seafood specials.

Officials at the coffee conglomerate say they will take legal action to stop the "confusing variation" of their name.

"I couldn't see a StarBucks opening here for another 150's a pretty isolated place," Swanson says refering to the town of Masset, population 1,500.

Link Discuss (Thanks, Derryl!)

SARS digital folk art, exhibit "O": Surreal SARS snapshots from Beijing

From 27-year-old photoblogger Wen Ling, who lives in Beijing, China. Link to Wen Ling's Ziboy blog. One BoingBoing reader points us to this Google query for more info on the device shown in this photo -- an infrared thermometer, which the official appears to be using to detect whether or not these people have fevers (and therefore, whether or not they are likely to have SARS).

Discuss (Thanks, Josh) (Earlier "SARS folk art" exhibits in this reader-contributed series: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N.)

Harvey Birdman: Atty at Law -- venal toons

Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, is a new Cartoon Network show in the tradition of the classic Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, in which classic cartoon characters are reimagined as vicious, satirical criminals. This Salon piece on the show was intriguing enough that I've asked my TiVo to get me a Season Pass to it.
Like a shotgun blast, "Harvey Birdman" explodes outward into postmodern reconfigurations. "The Dabba Don," referenced above, embroils the cast of "The Flintstones" in a mobster universe. Even minor characters, such as the various creatures that mundanely function as household appliances, are called to the witness stand to testify against Fred's illicit gambling and "white slavery" empires; "You're dead to me, can opener!" Fred shouts at one poor dinosaur that rats him out. Birdman himself, pressured by organized crime to defend Flintstone, ends up with more than one severed head at the foot of his bed; only one of them (Hanna-Barbera's Quick Draw McGraw), however, is a horse. Meanwhile, in the fan favorite "Shaggy Busted," Scooby Doo and Shaggy are unmasked as stoners, nabbed at the beginning of the episode in a live-action "Cops"-like bust as they drive down dank streets in their smoky van (Cheech and Chong's "Up in Smoke" anyone?) while blasting the opening riffs to the Doobie Brothers' (get it?) "China Grove." And that's just the beginning segment. We haven't even gotten to Birdman's opposing counsel, Spyro, a literal drama queen who phrases most of his arguments in Shakespearean meter (his version of Shaggy and Scooby's pot bust is titled, "As You Smok't It"). Or Hanna-Barbera bit player Magilla Gorilla propositioning Birdman in prison. Or the heavy-lidded montage featuring Scooby and company's various pizza binges and herbal appreciations. Or the bizarre resurfacing of a decades-old Tab commercial spotlighting Birdman's more-than-platonic relationship with his favorite one-calorie soda.

Then there's "Death by Chocolate," an episode that would make even McCaffery (who argues that a "bleak, absurdist comedy permeates the epistemological skepticism" of postmodern enterprises in "The Metafictional Muse") blush, this time starring Yogi and BooBoo Bear. While the plot line confirms Richter's assertion that "Harvey Birdman" is interested in telling straightforward stories, the episode is one extended, hilarious hallucination. Yogi's trusty (and usually much brighter) companion has metamorphosed into a Ted Kaczynski-type radical called the UnaBooBoo, and is nabbed in a government sting reminiscent of the Waco and Elián González debacles. The Waco jab may be a sly one; the government gives BooBoo 10 seconds to come out -- before launching an explosive at the count of two. But the Elián jab is more like a haymaker, replicating Alan Diaz's famous Associated Press photo of the closet invasion, with Yogi and BooBoo in the starring roles.

Link Discuss