Boing Boing 

MIT makes Jack Valenti look like an idiot

MIT's The Tech interviews the MPAA's outgoing spokesmonster Jack Valenti, with hilarious results. It's not often that a slickster as teflon coated as Jack gets made to look an utter fool (though I'd welcome a round onstage with him in front of a university audience) so bravo and bravo again to The Tech's Keith J. Winstein, who ran circles around Valenti.
TT: Indeed, but are you doing that when you rent a movie from Blockbuster and you watch it at home? ... I run Linux on my computer. There’s no product I can buy that’s licensed to watch [DVDs]. If I go to Blockbuster and rent a movie and watch it, am I a bad person? Is that bad?

JV: No, you’re not a bad person. But you don’t have any right.

TT: But I rented the movie. Why should it be illegal?

JV: Well then, you have to get a machine that’s licensed to show it.

TT: Here’s one of these machines; it’s just not licensed.

[Winstein shows Valenti his six-line “qrpff” DVD descrambler.]

TT: If you type that in, it’ll let you watch movies.

JV: You designed this?

TT: Yes.

JV: Un-fucking-believable.

Link (via Joi)

Erotic art photography censored in Norway

An anti-obscenity statute sparked an online controversy in Norway recently, when the Norwegian online erotic magazine Cupido published some explicit, autobiographical art-porn shots from Brooklyn-based photographer Siege. The specific issue in question is not currently online in entirety, but you can see one of the offending shots here (upper right-hand corner). Some of the work was also recently blogged on BoingBoing, here. Cupido editor Cecilie Kjensli in Norway sent the following e-mail to the banned-in-Norway photographer:
"You know what. Something stupid has happened. Cupido har been sensuratet for first time during 20 years because of your pictures :) I have told you before that we are not aloud to print pictures with genital touhing. Our law system sais you cant show pictures that can offend people, so i thougt that no boddy would be offended of this in an erotic magazine. I understand if they were printed in a newspaper or a womans magazin, but not ours.

"Our distributor dissagred with me the way they understand the law, so they put a black spot in the face of the girls sukking you, I belive. So I told the press. That you are a trendy New York phothografer with a girlfriend and that you have a good appetite for sex and that you like taking pictures of you doing it. I read this on I think. Hope you'r not angry at me for this. I was wear of that something like this could happen, so when it did, I tipsed one of the biggest and best tabloid newspaper in Norway, and they made a huge reportage on it telling people that you actually can take off the black spot. And it showed the stupid porn-law, as we call it, from a good perspectiv. Here is the link to the reportage in the newspaper. I'm the one with the dildoes."

Link to Norwegian Newsmagazine Dagbladet's story about the "stupid porn law" (contains sexually explicit images, and lots of little black censorship circles) (also seen on Fleshbot, where you will also find this link to the best porn news headline EVER.)

Random, April-fresh obscenities hidden in XML file on deodorant website

Says Fleshbot:
Someone at b3ta found this XML list of obscenities on a website for women's deodorant (wtf?) and recommends that "any ambitious young swearers out there study it thoroughly"; we plan on using the term "chutney ferret" as much as possible from now on.
Link to deodorant ad webpage, Link to the offending XML.

update: BoingBoing readers Dan and Aaron each wrote to point out that the XML list appears to be banned words -- the site offers a "make your own personalized t-shirt" thing. Dan says, "Try clicking on 'Prizes,' and then 'Design mantra T-shirt'. If you attempt to design a shirt with one of the phrases or words in the XML list, you will be chastized for using disallowed language. And how!"

New guestblogger -- Russ Kick of The Memory Hole and Disinformation

russ-kick-statue First, thanks to our outgoing guestblogger Alan Graham, for holding down the right hand column this past month.

Next: A warm welcome to our new guestblogger, Russ Kick, the author of several books, including The Disinformation Book of Lists: Subversive Facts and Hidden Information in Rapid-Fire Format and 50 Things You're Not Supposed to Know. Mr. Kick is also the editor of many anthologies, such as Everything You Know Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Secrets and Lies; You Are Being Lied To: The Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes and Cultural Myths; and Abuse Your Illusions: The Disinformation Guide to Media Mirages and Establishment Lies. He has also written articles and a column for the Village Voice.

The Memory Hole, a website devoted to rescuing knowledge and freeing information, is his labor of love. Russ first made the front page of the New York Times when he digitally uncensored a heavily-redacted Justice Department report. In April 2004, he posted 288 previously unseen photos of military coffins coming back from Iraq, which he had pried loose from the Air Force. This set off a worldwide media frenzy leading to the front pages of most major newspapers, heavy rotation on CNN, the lead story on network newscasts, and interviews on Good Morning America and CBS Evening News. You can browse through some of that extensive media coverage here, via Google News search. Yesterday, the Memory Hole published these graphic and disturbing screen captures from video footage documenting abuse and torture of Iraqi prisoners by US military personnel. Related news here.

I have no doubt that Russ will indeed Kick it on the BoingBoing guestblog. Welcome!

Snapshots from Hell, Singapore-style

Following up on this earlier post about museums in Asia that depict Buddhist Hell, BoingBoing reader Heng-Cheong sends us more photos of the Hell exhibit in Singapore's Tiger Balm Gardens, better known locally as Haw Par Villa. Shown here, the Filthy Blood Pond, part of a special section in Hell reserved for sinners who have (begin quote)

* kidnapped little boys [Ed. note: AHEM, cough cough]
* claimed to have lost somebody's deposit (probably an estate agent)
* are an incompetent physician or
* are a matchmaker

"For this, you are slapped with extreme thirst and hunger, soaked in ice, dipped in volcano, or forced to bathe in filthy blood."

Wireless real-space gaming -- NetAttack

BoingBoing reader Roland Piquepaille says:
When you play a computer game, you interact with what is on your monitor, even if you're outside playing on a mobile phone. You don't interact with your physical environment. Now, computer scientists from Fraunhofer FIT want you to play outside, sharing the outdoor experience offered by children's games. NetAttack "is a new type of indoor/outdoor Augmented Reality game that makes the actual physical environment an inherent part of the game itself." In this game, two teams are fighting to destroy the central database of a virtual big company. Both teams have indoor players, who control the game from their laptop computers, and outdoor players, equipped with GPS receivers, trackers, sensors and video cameras.

Web Zen: Dining Zen

cypher's foodlog
project denny's
taco world
casa bonita
late night dining guide
menu database
el bocadillo del diablo
email lunchboxes
final meals
web zen home, web zen store, (Thanks, Frank).

interview with Sealand designer

Etoy Zak says:
i just compiled some conversations with Daniel van der Velden, an interesting graphic designer who initiated the conceptual (and hypothetical) identity proposal "Meta Haven: Sealand Identity Project". I think his work is one model for critical/smart graphic design... while also being fucking cool..

Battelle on Google's S-1

John Battelle's analysis of Google's S-1 filing -- and particularily, the charming-but-stilted founders' letter -- is fascinating and insightful:
The letter states, among other things, that 1. We don't need to do this for the money; 2. We have no plans to run our business to satisfy Wall Street's need for smooth earnings predictability; 3. We plan to give no earnings guidance, not at least as it's understood on Wall St.; 4. Don't ask us to do so, we'll simply decline the request; 5. We'll do odd things that you won' t understand; 6. We will make big bets on things that may not work out; 7. We run the company as a triumvirate, so there will not be clear leadership from one person like most other companies; 8. We bridge the media and tech industries (interesting), which are in flux, so we've chosen a two-class stock structure similar to the NYT, WashPost, and NYT that helps us avoid being taken over by those forces; 9. We plan using an auction model, as it feels fairer and we understand auctions from AdWords; 10. Don't invest in us if this scares you at all, or the price feels too high; 11. Don't even think about asking us to cut expenses with regard to our employees; 12. We believe in the idea of Don't Be Evil; 13. It's evil to pay for placement or inclusion (a swipe at Yahoo); 14. We hope to bridge the digital divide through Gmail type free services and a foundation with at least 1% of profits and equity to help make the world a better place; 17. Betting on Google is a bet on Sergey and Larry (this was said multiple times, making me wonder if there wasn't some odd future blame being assigned here by the VCs or bankers); 18. This letter is our way of answering the questions we can't answer in the coming months due to the IPO quiet period.

1981 computer catalogue scanned and posted

I swear, the scans out of this 1981 computer catalogue are more fascinating than all the patent medicines in a 19th-century Sears-Roebuck. Link (via /.)

Stross's future-rant

Tomorrow, I'll be interviewing Charlie Stross at Plokta.con, a con in Newbury, UK. He's the Guest-of-Honour, and he's written up a corker of a GoH contribution for the programme book.
Eusocial animals like ants, termites, bees, or naked mole rats, exhibit curious behaviour; their societies are stratified by role, with workers, warriors, and reproductive castes that may differ morphologically from one another. Humans aren't so obviously specialized, but if you consider our machines as part of our extended phenotype, it begins to look that way: if our machines become intentionally driven, and they're tailored to play different roles in our society, then you could argue that we occupy some kind of privileged position in a hive-relationship with tools that require our continued safety and comfort in order to further their own reproduction. There's nobody here in this hive but us queens, and the living machines we so carelessly manufacture as conveniences for our own comfort. Individual ants or other eusocial insect species all share the same genetic code, but different castes express radically different phenotypic traits, and indeed most ants are sterile workers who can only further their genetic traits by ensuring that their cousin, aunt or mother the hive-queen succeeds. Our machines don't share our genome (yet), but they share parts of the vast haze of information that has gathered around the genome, and they can only reproduce through us.

Sterling's new novel is out -- catch the book-tour!

Bruce Sterling's new novel, The Zenith Angle, is out now. To give you an idea of how much I liked this book -- a technothriller about post-9/11 hacker-entrepreneurs, and the military-industrial complex -- here's the blurb I wrote:
Sterling has his fingers on about a hundred different pulses in this book, which vibrates with fantastic in-jokes and insights from Bollywood to dot-bomb, from mil-spec gear-pigs to earnest cybercops. The story rockets along like a hijacked airliner heading straight at you, like a flash-worm compromising every unpatched Windows box on the net at once. I read it in one sitting, and I'll read it again before the month is out. Lots of books are called "thrillers" but very few are this thrilling.
Bruce is going on a ten-city US book tour -- check here for dates! Link

Apple's new DRM reneges on your purchase conditions, picks your pocket

The new iTunes has stricter DRM than the last version, limiting the number of times you can burn your playlists to seven (it used to be ten), and detecting and blocking similar playlists. Jason Schultz has some good ranty analysis about what this means:
So after one year and 70 million songs, $0.99 now buys you less rather than more -- seven hard burns instead of ten soft ones. What will Apple "allow" us to do with the music we "buy" next year? three burns? one? zero?

And what about the songs you've already bought? Don't we get to keep the rights we had before the change?

Well, Apple has conveniently reserved its rights to make changes -- unilaterially -- to its DRM and your ability to make fair use via its Terms of Service and Terms of Sale pretty much anytime it pleases, without even having to give you notice.


Using a game to describe all the images on the net

ESP Game (reg required, cypherpunks/cypherpunks works) is a game whose objective is to incent English-speaking net users to keyword-label every image on the Internet. The game throws up an image in a Java applet, then asks you and an anonymous "partner" elsewhere on the net to type in keywords until both of you have a word in common -- IOW, until you and a stranger can agree on a good label for the picture. Presumably, this is being added to a metadata database for the purpose of cataloguing all the images on the net. Neat idea. Link (Thanks, Jed!)

Free mall WiFi on the rise

Shopping malls across the US are adding free WiFi:
A very small number of the 1,130 malls in the United States have wireless access. But, she said, an increasing number are thinking of installing the capability.

For instance, Westfield America Trust said most of its 62 regional and super regional shopping centers will soon offer the service. Taubman, which owns or manages 31 malls, began offering Wi-Fi services yesterday at its The Shops at Willow Bend in Plano, Texas.

"If you look at malls in general, you are really seeing owners bring in things that allow for more people to come do a variety of things at the center," Duker said. "The mall has become more than a place to shop."

Link (via WiFiNetNews)

Steampunk/dead media photoshopping contest

Today's Worth1000 photoshopping contest is "Vintage Products" -- lots of nice steampunk and dead-media licks here. Link

Man-and-Robot standup comedy in Japan

BoingBoing pal Steve Portigal points us to "a demo of Japanese speaking robot technology, presented as a duo-standup routine featuring one of Japan's well-known comics. The robot is called PaPeJiro. So, if the robot kills - does that violate [Isaac Asimov's] Three Laws [of Robotics]?" Link

LayerOne Technology Conference in LA June 12-13

BoingBoing buddy boogah says:
A few of us have been working overtime to get a little technology conference together in Los Angeles. We've tried to make LayerOne an event for both the geek set and the suit in IT and our roster of speakers can back those claims up. In fact, here's a sampling of four of our dozen speakers:

- Danny O'Brien will be rehashing his talk from Emerging Tech 2004 [a crowd favorite] about the work habits of alpha geeks.
- Jason Schultz from the EFF talking about the DMCA and how it's stifling innovation.
- USC professor Douglas Thomas covering the politics of code.
- Dan Kaminsky, author of network toolset Paketto Keiretsu cranking out some more code/theory that's bound to marvel and frighten.

Not bad, eh? There's eight more talks where those four came from. We're currently in the middle of early bird registration - where we're shaving $10 off the $50 door price. That's a weekend's worth of talks and a free beer social on Saturday night for $40.


Third porn actor tests positive for HIV -- Jessica Dee

Fleshbot says:
[A] third adult performer, Jessica Dee, has also tested positive for HIV. Unlike Lara Roxx, who was just entering the business, Jessica has considerable video and photo experience under her belt. A search for her name at Ask Jolene turns up at least one photoset which seems to match the thumbnail photo of her in the AVN article; you can look that one up yourself if you're as morbidly curious as we were.

"Another Woman Who Worked with Darren James Tests HIV-Positive" (AVN)
"Jessica Dee Identified as Third HIV-Positive Performer" (AVN)
Jessica Dee (videography @ Search Extreme)


Bob Moog documentary looks great

The video clips from the new Bob Moog (inventor of the Moog synthesizer) documentary (titled "moog") are very exciting. Can't wait to see it. He says inventing things is a combination of "discovering and witnessing." (As an aside, isn't "Moog" a great name. It has that mod 60s sound that's perfect for a synthesizer. I don't think it would have been as popular had his last name been anything else.) Link

BBC TV channel offers programming for pets

From the Guardian: Pet TV "is being billed by the BBC as an attempt to find out what sort of TV programmes, sounds and images animals respond to. The interactive TV service will consist of a looped series of images and sounds, including clips of snooker balls rolling across the green baize, frisbees flying through the air, cat toys and cartoon characters such as Top Cat." Link (Registration required, unless you use the wonderful (Thanks, Carlo!)

Patriot Act designed to protect Patriot Act by preventing challenges to it to be made public

Great headline from the Washington Post: "Patriot Act Suppresses News Of Challenge to Patriot Act." It has to do with the ACLU filing a lawsuit challenging something in the Patriot Act, but a different provision in the Patriot Act made it illegal for the ACLU to reveal the lawsuit. Neat! Link

Russian MP3 site sells music for about five cents a song

The Sydney Morning Herald spoke to a lawyer about, the Russian company that sells tons of online music by the gigabyte, and he said it is not likely that anyone who buys music from the site could get in trouble.
We sought some advice from a Melbourne barrister and contributor to these pages, Simon Minahan, who practises in the area of intellectual property. His opinion: "There's probably nothing to stop the individual from downloading this material for private use. For end users, the issue is a basic question relevant to acquiring a reproduction of any copyright work: has the rights owner consented?" Even if's asserted licence is bogus, says Minahan, "the end user would seem to have a good basis to argue that he is an innocent infringer, which would mean he isn't liable to damages, although he would still be liable to an order requiring him to destroy or deliver up any copies and an order requiring him to refrain from doing it again."
Link (Thanks, JNelsonW!)

Googie landmark threatened with demolition

parasolSeal Beach, California's UFO-shaped Parasol diner, which is kept in pristine 1967 original condition by its owner, is scheduled to be torn down by a shopping mall developer in May. This site has more Parasol pictures, articles, and a link to an online petition. Link (Thanks, Todd!)

Mod a disposable cam into a stun-gun

TechTV has a HOWTO for modifying a disposable camera into a stun-gun:
These disposable cameras (about $5 dollars a pop) have a capacitor that can store up to 600 volts of stopping power. When the capacitor discharges those volts, it delivers an amperage comparable to stun guns. Perfect for our shocking device.
Link (Thanks, LVX23!)

Howard Stern has a secret blog?

Our friends at Gawker mutter into their Xantinis:
America's public enemy #1, radio-dude Howard Stern, made an off-hand remark on this morning's show -- he claims he writes a secret weblog. Stern said he writes as "another character" and that only "about 4 people are in on the joke." OK, he's almost certainly not Rance, who repeatedly claims to be an actor and not a fat guy eating Twinkies in his basement, laughing at a credulous, gossip-starved public.

If anyone out there has candidates for what might be Stern's secret blog, let us know -- if the blogger brags about hurling prosciutto at a stripper's ass, that might be a tip-off.

Link, And see also this previous Boingboing entry about mystery celeblogger "Rance" (George Clooney? Owen Wilson? Jimmy Hoffa? Alf?), Link

E-Girl: Hack Your Way to Hollywood

In Wired News today, a story I filed about Heather Robinson -- also known as E-Girl. Her dark tale of following databases to Hollywood dreams broke first in the book Hollywood, Interrupted by Andrew Breitbart and Mark Ebner.
An America Online customer service rep illicitly surfs the company's customer database, ferrets out private data on celebrity members and then hunts them down online under a false identity, seeking fame and fortune in Hollywood.

Sound like a prelude to prison? Not in the case of Heather Robinson. The former AOL employee managed to parlay privacy violations into useful contacts in Hollywood. With the help of those contacts, Robinson, 25, landed a movie deal, and she's using her toehold in the industry to advance another.

Later this week, Universal Pictures will start filming Robinson's first movie, The Perfect Man, a romantic comedy staring Hillary Duff and Heather Locklear. The film is about a teenage daughter who tries to create a "nonexistent boyfriend for her dejected mother," Robinson said. The story is based on another of her youthful indiscretions when she was 16 -- this one involving a stolen credit card and thousands of dollars of purchases.

Some would say it takes Robinson's level of moxie to succeed in Hollywood. In fact, the favorite legend in the movie business is that of a hard-working kid who starts in the mail room and through ambition, flexible ethical standards and political skill becomes a mogul. Judging by her exploits so far, Robinson is well on her way.


Reality-TV human baby giveaway, pissed-off Uri Geller claims trademark breach

The ABC-TV program 20/20 will air a contest between five couples on the show this Friday -- the winners get to adopt a real-live, pooping, crying baby. So, let me get this straight. You can't say "fuck," but you can broadcast a raffle for a human being? Snip from SJ Merc story:
"What's that? You say the program and host Barbara Walters have gone too far this time? What do you know about television? ABC knows a winner when it sees it and this is Nielsen gold, my friend. A reality show with a human life on the line -- all disguised as news programming.

Let the other shows have half-naked people betraying each other on a deserted island. Give them the half-naked people eating buckets of bug eyes. And the half-naked people putting up with Donald Trump. And the half-naked people trying to get other half-naked people to marry them."

Link to SJ Merc story, Link to NY Post story (Thanks to several BB readers who pointed to this, including Iain Cooper)

UPDATE: Stop press! The real scandal here? Celebrity spoon-bending psychic Uri Geller is outraged at news of the 20/20 baby giveaway episode. He's planning legal action, and claims he owns a worldwide patent on any reality TV show that involves winning a baby. "I will speak to my patent attorney," says Geller, "I own the idea." Whatever, dear BoingBoing readers, but let me set the record straight: I own the patent on any reality-TV show involving live mudwrestling smackdowns between Uri Geller and Barbara Walters, and I will personally bend the spoon of anyone who forgets it. Link to Reuters story.

UPDATE 2: BoingBoing reader Kevin T. Keith says: "As a matter of fact, Uri Geller does hold a patent for a reality TV show that involves competing to adopt a baby. You can view the patent by going to the Patent and Trademark Office's Applications search page here and entering the phrase "in/geller-uri" (without quotation marks) in the large search window. The world gets weirder and weirder."

UPDATE 3: BoingBoing reader Marc Ascolese, who is a patent attorney, says -- more or less -- not so fast, mister spoonbender:

The link included above takes you to the search site for published U.S. patent applications (not issued patents). This does not mean that a U.S. Patent has been granted. Under certain circumstances, the USPTO requires applications to be published. In fact, if you go here, and enter the application number for Geller's patent application (09/757609) you can see some current status information. Basically, the application has not been examined yet. Because this application has been classified in U.S. Class 705, we can expect that it will be examined pretty rigorously. It may be a long time before Geller has an issued U.S. Patent he can enforce. Class 705 is where most "business method" type applications end up. For more about that, look here. Who said being a patent attorney was dull!

Look like a film noir babe

Online clothing boutique Danger Dame offers some super-cool retro styles for wannabe vixens. Lace up, slink over to a barstool, and pretend you're in a Raymond Chandler novel with a tragic ending.
Link to Danger Dame shop. See also this lush new Taschen book, FILM NOIR.

Mathematical patterns in African-American hairstyles

What is the mathematical, fractal relationship between shapes found in beehive honeycombs, a pineapple, tesselating hexagons, and African-American hair braiding? Dr. Gloria Gilmer, founding president of the International Study Group on Ethnomathematics, is glad you asked.
Link (Thanks, Siege)