Boing Boing 

Dance Dance Resurrection

Jesus-themed variant of DDR (of *course* it's a hoax). Update: BoingBoing reader Ross Payton says, "It was actually created by a member of the forums who goes by the name None More Negative. It's a few years old."
Link; other recent BoingBoing posts on DDR 1, 2, 3. (millegrazie, mi piccolo snoodilio, also on Geisha)

Ukuleles for MassGeneral Hospital for Children Healing Arts Program

flea ukulele Over at my other blog, Ukulelia (which gets way more visitors than Boing Boing does, btw), my co-editor (Gary Peare) and I have set up a fund to donate Flea ukuleles to the MassGeneral Hospital for Children's Healing Arts Program (Here's an article about the program from The Boston Globe.) We've collected $518.95 so far, and our goal is to come up with $1100 (enough for 12 Flea ukuleles). If you want to donate, Gary and I would be grateful. All funds received will go towards the purchase and postage costs of ukes for the hospitalized kids. Link (Look for PayPal donate button in middle column).

Old wireless tech wanted for cellphone museum

Sean Bonner, my co-curator in the SENT phonecam art project, says:
While watching a documentary from 93 last night where people were running around with giant brick cell phones I decided I need to start collecting these things and make some kind of archive of them. If you have one of these things sitting in the closet somewhere let me know. Actually, I'm expanding this to any kind of old school gadgetry - old pagers, original PDAs, but really old cell phones are going to be the focus.

NASA/DARPA "Robonaut" and Boba Fett -- separated at birth?

BoingBoing reader Noah says,
DARPA, the folks behind the creepy eye in the pyramid Total (now Terrorist) Information Awareness logo, and the short-lived terrorism futures market (FutureMAP), have been at work on a robot for NASA that looks suspiciously like Boba Fett from Star Wars! Could it be an Episode 3 tie-in?

Art of being cold

03012204 Amateur digital photographer R. Todd King has posted a set of startlingly gorgeous photos of the snow and ice festival in Harbin, China.
"The temperature in Harbin reaches forty below zero, both farenheit and centigrade, and stays below freezing nearly half the year.  The city is actually further north than notoriously cold Vladivostok, Russia, just 300 miles away. So what does one do here every winter?  Hold an outdoor festival, of course! Rather than suffer the cold, the residents of Harbin celebrate it, with an annual festival of snow and ice sculptures and competitions. The festival officially runs from January 5 through February 15, but often opens a week early and runs into March, since it's usually still cold enough. This is the amazing sculpture made of snow greeting visitors to the snow festival in 2003." Link (Thanks, Michael-Anne!)

Red Mars: a very belated appreciation

I'm pretty well-read in the modern sf canon, but there are some gaps in there that are almost embarrassing in scope. Take Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars. This doorstopper, clocking in at nearly 800 pages, is the first volume in a trilogy of comparably-sized companion volumes, each of which depicts a different vision of the [dis|u]topiian establishment of a permanent human settlement on Mars. When Red Mars first came out, I was working at Bakka Books, the science fiction bookstore in Toronto, and there was something else in my queue that month, and one of my co-workers had already dived into it and was writing the shelf review, and it seemed like such a commitment that, well, I just never got around to it. With the publication of Green Mars and Blue Mars, it just got worse: if I couldn't clear enough schedule to read volume one, volumes two and three were impossible.

It wasn't that I didn't like Robinson's books. Quite the contrary, I adore them. Pacific Edge -- a gripping, rollicking utopian novel whose plot hinges on a zoning debate over the placement of a baseball diamond -- is one of my all-time favorite books. When Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom came out and the reviewers compared it to John Varley for the technology stuff, I was honoured, but the few reviews that compared it to Pacific Edge sent me over the moon: if Robinson could disrupt his utopia with a zoning fight and make it into a gripping tale, could I do the same with a fight over the politics of Disney ride fandom and design?

Like Red Mars, Pacific Edge is one volume in a trilogy that approaches utopia from three different angles. I haven't read the other two books in the trilogy, and that's a keen regret that I intend to do something about post-haste.

Because now I've finally read Red Mars, and I am agog at what may be the finest sf novel I've ever read. Red Mars has all the hard-sf window-dressing that many of us imagine when we think of sf: great and accessible tours through speculative cog sci, geology, astronomy, rocketry, physics, biology, genetics, and so on, until the head swims with the sheer scope of the research task Robinson set himself in this book.

But the hard science is just the skin, and the meat of this book -- as with Pacific Edge -- is the "soft" science: the complex play of the community of his vast cast of characters as they set out to advance their competing agendas, writing the future of Mars.

Robinson doesn't just shine here: he glows. There is this hard question at the core of every story of violent social upheaval, which is, how does collective action materialize? How is it steered? How does it go off the rails? How, in short, does stuff get done? Can a speech change the world? Can a bomb? Who gets to construct the consensus reality, and how do you disrupt it?

This is the stuff of Robinson's books: big, social questions answered through skilful point-of-view switches, fantastic characterization and fearless exposition.

In the beginning, a lot of sf was just technocrat fantasy: here's a cool new technology I've thought of, with a minimal narrative around it as a kind of turntable so that it can be rotated 360' and you, the reader, can appreciate its cleverness from all sides.

Later, sf writers took on the more ambitious challenge of predicting the social upheaval that tech could create, an approach embodied in the cliche that "the job of the sf writer is to consider the car and the movie-palace and invent the drive-in."

But Robinson goes many steps beyond this: he extrapolates the drive-in, then the sexual revolution, then the Boomers' nostalgia for the drive-in where they lost their virginity, and finally, their grown childrens' disdain for that nostalgia. There's an eerie prescience to these books that tells you that what's being written here is a deep and broad tale of social reconstruction on the micro, macro, nano and mezzoscales.

I just finished Red Mars on a BA flight from Vienna, and I was bitterly disappointed not to find Blue and Green Marses on sale at Heathrow, but I'll have them in my possession by dusk. I can't wait to read them. Link

Colorful Canadian holidays, part umptybillion: National Masturbation Month

BoingBoing pal in France Jean-Luc alerts us to the breaking news that May is National Masturbation Month in Canada.
G-Rap unit Stink Mitt will give a concert tomorrow: May 29 in Montreal at Le Swimming. StinkMitt will also participate in the Masturbate-A-Thon to encourage right-thinking Canadians everywhere to "Come for a Cause". Funds raised will be going to sex worker rights organizations Stella (Montreal) and Maggie's (Toronto). you can find a poster of his concert here.

Update: BoingBoing reader Casey says, "We also celebrate in the USA! Check out for more info."

Movie bits you didn't get to see photoshopping

Today on Worth1000's photoshopping contest: "Movie scenes you didn't get to see." Lots of subtle funny stuff here. Link

Cory's Vienna photos

I had a killer day in Vienna today -- I am here to give a couple of talks at the LinuxWeek event in MuseumsQuartier. My hosts took me through Prater Park, a cool old amusement park, and then to a beer garden in the old Swiss World's Fair pavillion where I got an entire roast haunch of pig (!), then Monochrom staged a performance of the world's first "massively multiplayer thumbwrestling tournament." I shot a ton of pix -- here they are. Link

Toronto-set Bollywood movie

Ouchless sez, "My mother found this Bollywood-esque film "poster" completely by accident. The movie is titled 'Coxwell and Gerrard', which is the main intersection in Toronto's Little India." Link (Thanks, Ouchless!)

Airplane grounded by praying pentecostals

A pair of Pentecostal preachers grounded a plane when they panicked passengers and pilots, saying 9/11 was "a good reason to pray."
One preacher told fellow passengers as the Continental Airlines plane taxied down the runway, "Your last breath on earth is the first one in heaven as long as you are born again and have Jesus in your heart," according to FBI spokesman Paul Moskal. Passengers on the Wednesday flight to Newark, New Jersey told a flight attendant, who alerted the plane's captain, officials said. The captain turned the plane around. "They were sincere in their beliefs and were not malicious," Moskal said by telephone from Buffalo. "In the context of 9/11 it may not have been the best way to promote their religion."
Link (Thanks, Mike)

More RIAA lawsuits, more bizarre tales of unsuspecting defendants

I'm fresh out of snarky intros. Just too bizarre, and too wrong. As one reader on the pho mailing list quipped to this tale of a single mom defendant, "What's next -- breaking kneecaps?"
Tammy Lafky has a computer at home but said she doesn't use it. "I don't know how," the 41-year-old woman said, somewhat sheepishly. But her 15-year-old daughter, Cassandra, does. And what Cassandra may have done, like millions of other teenagers and adults around the world, landed Lafky in legal hot water this week that could cost her thousands of dollars.

Lafky, a sugar mill worker and single mother in Bird Island, a farming community 90 miles west of St. Paul, became the first Minnesotan sued by name by the recording industry this week for allegedly downloading copyrighted music illegally. The lawsuit has stunned Lafky, who earns $12 an hour and faces penalties that top $500,000. (...)

A record company attorney from Los Angeles contacted Lafky about a week ago, telling Lafky she could owe up to $540,000, but the companies would settle for $4,000. "I told her I don't have the money," Lafky said. "She told me to go talk to a lawyer and I told her I don't have no money to talk to a lawyer." Lafky said she clears $21,000 a year from her job and gets no child support.


The Rance Who Wasn't There

OK, no one really believes he's Owen Wilson, George Clooney, or Mister Potatohead anymore -- but we still don't know who Rance is. The true identity of the much-hyped Hollywood blogger is the subject of a Reuters story today. WhatEVER. I mean, "Who's Rance" is like, so Friday April 9, 2004. "Who's Defamer" is what I want to know. Link to "Hollywood mystery man has Internet abuzz."

OS X update has Bluetooth caller ID

Gadget Lab's Brian Lam sez: "I noticed that you covered bluephonemenu in the past, so figured I'd drop a line about the new os x panther update. I was just reading the update details and saw this :

"Dialog windows for incoming phone calls and SMS messages for a paired Bluetooth phone now appear in the foreground."

I just tested it. You have to pair your bluetooth phone in address book, and a little pop up comes up, like bluephonemenu. The dialog choices are: add card/log call, sms reply, hang up, answer.

Log call puts the time and date of the call in the address book entry

Unfortunately, the pop up box doesn't show an image of the person calling - that would be freakin' cool

For SMS, the pop-up box has the dialog choices: log sms, reply, and ok.

It's pretty good, and stable, but doesn't sit in the system tray like bluephonemenu. Link

Peter Orosz sez: "This feature was available in 10.3.0 and may have been available as far back as in 10.2.4. What actually makes it useful this time around is the caller-window-to-the-foreground feature. Previously, calls and sms's would still come in but remain lodged behind your other windows and you would find them hours after the call (since the address book is not usually your topmost window)."

Jack Black to star in movie adaptation of Rudy Rucker novel

Variety reports that Rudy Rucker's fantastic 1984 novel, Master of Space and Time (you can buy it used on Amazon for $0.01), is going to adapted into a movie. It'll be directed by Michel Gondry, who directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and will star Jack Black. Link (subscription required)

RFID: good or eeeeevil?

The online publication RFID News just published a fresh feature -- editor John Wehr interviewed representatives of several organizations about public perception of RFID technology, legislative efforts, and privacy best practices. Some thought-provoking stuff in here. Snip:
# "In most cases, asking how a company exploring item-level RFID tagging can protect their customers' privacy is like asking a fox how he can best ensure the safety of your chickens." -- Katherine Albrecht, CASPIAN
# "Businesses need to do more to educate the general public on the uses, benefits and issues about the use of RFID, fostering constructive solutions to their concerns." -- Dayna Fried, Hewlett-Packard
# "Much of the early work and publicity surrounding RFID was focused much too far into the future and on applications outside of the supply chain." -- Jack Grasso, EPCglobal US
# "[Auto-ID Center, now EPCglobal] documents detailed how such a campaign may unfold, citing the need for the development of a proactive plan that would 'neutralize opposition' and 'mitigate possible public backlash.'" -- Cedric Laurant, EPIC
Link (scroll down to bottom of page for "Interviews with the Experts)

Wi-fi lifeline for Yak farmers in Nepal

BBC story about a WiFi project in Nepal that allows yak farmers in remote Himalayan locations to keep in touch with their families back home. File under pretty frickin' amazing. Snip:

"They are taking advantage of a wi-fi network set up in a remote region of the mountain kingdom where there are no phones or other means of communication.

It is the result of a campaign led by local teacher Mahabir Pun, and backed by volunteers and donations, to bring the internet to an isolated part of the world.

So far, the Nepal Wireless Networking project has hooked up five villages in the area using wireless technology."

Flight-capable B52 plane model

This impressive model of a B52 airplane really flies.
Link, (Thanks, Mister Todd Lappin of Telstar Logistics!).

New interactive art from Flying Puppet

French interactive artists Jean-Jacques Birgé and Nicolas Clauss recently won a slew of awards, and have loaded two new pieces on the Flying Puppet website: Art Cage, a self-portrait, and Nocturne, an interactive painting (screen-grabbed here). Shockwave plug-in required.

Robodiscounts: sale on Evolution Robotics' ER1 parts

If you're a garage robot builder, this may be of interest: Evolution Robotics -- the guys who make the beer-totin' ER1 -- are having a Spring Sale on some ER1 accessories. The gripper and the IR Sensor Pack are half off right now, $125 and $100 respectively.
The gripper enables the ER1 to grab and carry objects, giving any ER1 project greater functionality. The IR Sensor Pack harnesses ER1's powerful obstacle avoidance capabilities, providing heightened navigation and awareness.


Bluegrass Radiohead cover band. People sometimes save actual Radiohead sound files on P2P networks under that faux band name to avoid detection, so this seems a particularly funny PoMo grass-chewin' homage. The MP3 file they posted is just one big tarball o' tribute, so there are no individual song titles. But if you can audialize what "Subterranean Homesick Critter" or "Thar, thar" might sound like -- you've pretty much got it. Link (Thanks, Sean)

Cartoonist Mark Bode interview

Mark Bode is the son of 1970's cartoonist Vaughn Bode, best known for his Cheech Wizard comics that appeared in National Lampoon. Vaughn died in the '70s, and Mark has taken over his father's work. Mark can draw and write in a way that's almost indistinguishable from his father's work. In this interview he talks about his 30-years-in the-making book, The Lizard of Oz, to be released by Fantagraphics.
BB: I know that, given a cursory glance, your and Vaughn's styles are incredibly similar. I was wondering, though, if you tried to more closely mimic his style -- whether in the actual drawing or the storytelling and design aspects of the page -- consciously or not?

MB: Before I knew what was reality here on this planet, my father, when I was 4 or 5 years old, led me to believe his characters were real. He said Cheech lived up the hill by the Projects near where we lived in Syracuse, NY. And we used to visit his laboratory, which was an old sewer hole cover. But Cheech never came out. I said, "Dad, why doesn't he come out?" He replied, "He is busy balling broads or doin' important wizard stuff, son." Thus, as my imagination and drawing abilities developed, I found it easy to draw and live in that world he created. No effort, what so ever. Although I have many other styles at my disposal, I am most happy when I'm in his, or our, style ...


Kit Reed's new sf novel

Thinner Than Thou is Kit Reed's latest science fiction novel, reviewed on by sf great Pamela Sargent.
Kit Reed's satirical targets in Thinner Than Thou -- eating disorders, obsessions with physical perfection, televangelists, religions in which salvation is based on material success in this world, and hypocrites of all kinds -- are rich in possibilities for potshots and savage humor. But along with her penetrating wit, Reed also has a talent for seeing below the surface.

Annie's self-imposed starvation and Kelly's gluttony are quests for independence and signs of an oddly admirable discipline as much as they are psychological problems. Danny's motivation for competitive eating, his desire for glory, and the discipline he brings to what he thinks of as his "training" aren't unlike those of any world-class athlete. The pornography of this body-worshipping society has a lot more to do with strong taboos involving food and obesity than with sex:

"Inside every thin person there's a fat one screaming. Millions of brown cells lying in wait. At the right moment these dormant fat cells will expand and the whole huge, suppressed person will spring into shape.

"It makes them feel dirty just thinking about it."

Link (Thanks, Mack!)

1940s telephone manual

"How to Make Friends By Telephone" is a 1940s instructional booklet on using the new telephonic device network. Here's a scanned version -- it's a hoot. Link (Thanks, Rich!)

Gore speech transcript

If you missed coverage of his NYU address yesterday, you can read the entire speech here. Link (Thanks, Patrick)

Robotic wheelchairs

BoingBoing reader Roland Piquepaille says,
Traditional wheelchairs used by the elderly and people with severe disabilities have some limited functions and flexibility. Their users often need help from nurses or relatives. Several teams are currently at work to develop robotic wheelchairs to overcome these limitations. For example, researchers from the University of Essex and the Institute of Automation at Beijing are developing the RoboChair.

RoboChair will be equipped with a vision system and a 3G wireless communication system. It will be able to avoid collisions and to plan a path. Meanwhile, Professor Ray Jarvis of Monash University's Intelligent Robotics Centre in Australia, is building another robotic wheelchair which will help people to travel off the beaten track (PDF format, 1 page, 131 KB). His prototype system combines robotic navigation with a four-wheel drive. It automatically adapts itself to the user's capabilities and takes control when needed. You'll find more details and a picture in this overview. Keep in mind that there are still major issues to solve, such as security and costs, before these robotic wheelchairs become available.


Weblog fest in Iran

Hossein Derakshan says, "There will be a big Weblog Festival held in Tehran from 8-10 June 2004. It is hosted by National Youth Organization of Iran and PersianBlog." Link

William Mitchell, an architect in the City of Bits

My latest article at is an interview with architect William J. Mitchell, director of MIT's Media Lab and author of three essential books about the spaces we inhabit, online and off:
"Increasingly, we are living our lives at the points where electronic information flows, mobile bodies, and physical places intersect in particularly useful and engaging ways," he writes. "These points are becoming the occasions for a characteristic new architecture of the twenty-first century." Link

Window Seat

40_lgGregory Dicum's book "Window Seat: Reading the Landscape from the Air" sounds like a brilliant idea:
"Broken down by region, this unusual guide features 70 aerial photographs; a fold-out map of North America showing major flight paths; profiles of each region covering its landforms, waterways, and cities; tips on spotting major sights, such as the Northern Lights, the Grand Canyon, and Disney World; tips on spotting not-so-major sights such as prisons, mines, and Interstates; and straightforward, friendly text on cloud shapes, weather patterns, the continent's history, and more."
Did you know that the patterns of the streets in subdivisions lets you know when they were built? Or that the round ponds all over Florida are sinkholes? With Window Seat at your side, you'll learn these things. Keep it to yourself though--the person sitting next to you doesn't want to hear it. Link (Thanks, Eric!)

SwissCom's WiFi is crap; its executives are thin-skinned

Esme Vos wrote a little blurb on her blog about the shitty experience she had with SwissCom's expensive, crappy WiFi service, and SwissCom's sales director wrote back (Internet Archive mirror) to tell her she was biased and basically a Bad Person for being publicly dissatisfied with what is, undoubtably, the worst pay-for-WiFi service in Europe (though the WiFi provided by the incumbent Spanish telco gives it a run for its money).

I mean, SwissCom's service is so crap that I actually worked it into my next novel, "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town," as a fictionalized account of my own experience with last September at a WIPO meeting in Geneva. I'm headed back to Geneva on June 6 for more WIPO stuff, and I'm already dreading using the rotten, stupid, horrendously expensive SwissCom setup. Check the link below for the whole scene.

"I can tell this is not going to work out, but I need to go through the motions. I go to the counter and ask for a seven-day card. He opens his cash-drawer and paws through a pile of cards, then smiles and shakes his head and says, sorry, all sold out. My girlfriend is probably through her second cup of coffee and reading brochures for nature walks in the Alps at this point, so I say, fine, give me a one-day card. He takes a moment to snicker at my French, then says, so sorry, sold out those, too. Two hours? Nope. Half an hour? Oh, those we got.

"Think about this for a second. I am sitting there with my laptop in hand, at six in the morning, on a Swiss street, connected to SwissCom's network, a credit-card in my other hand, wishing to give them some money in exchange for the use of their network, and instead, I have to go chasing up and down every hotel in Geneva for a card, which is not to be found. So I go to the origin of these cards, the SwissCom store, and they're sold out, too. This is not a t-shirt or a loaf of bread: there's no inherent scarcity in two-hour or seven-day cards. The cards are just a convenient place to print some numbers, and all you need to do to make more numbers is pull them out of thin air. They're just numbers. We have as many of them as we could possibly need. There's no sane, rational universe in which all the 'two hour' numbers sell out, leaving nothing behind but '30 minute' numbers.