Boing Boing 

Roses are red, Frankenroses are blue.

The Japan Times reports that liquor distiller Suntory has successfully engineered a truly blue rose by inserting a gene from pansies. The company created a blue carnation using the same technology in 1995. Why'd they do it? Because they can. Link, with photos. (Thanks, Sid)

Thousands volunteer to spy on fellow citizens

Time has good news for nosy, racist jerks: the Dept. of Homeland Security is enlisting 400,000 people to report on suspicious behavior in public areas.
After the [training] session in Little Rock, two newly initiated Highway Watch members sat down for the catered barbecue lunch. The truckers, who haul hazardous material across 48 states, explained how easy it is to spot "Islamics" on the road: just look for their turbans. Quite a few of them are truck drivers, says William Westfall of Van Buren, Ark. "I'll be honest. They know they're not welcome at truck stops. There's still a lot of animosity toward Islamics." Eddie Dean of Fort Smith, Ark., also has little doubt about his ability to identify Muslims: "You can tell where they're from. You can hear their accents. They're not real clean people."

That kind of prejudice is hard to undo, but it's a shame Beatty's slide show did not mention that in the U.S., it's almost always Sikhs who wear turbans, not Muslims. Last year a Sikh truck driver who was wearing a turban was shot twice while standing near his tractor trailer in Phoenix, Ariz. He survived the attack, which police are investigating as a hate crime.


"Painters of Blight" show at Roq la Rue in Seattle

_Blanchard.Kinkade_72_dpi_ Chick.Ryan Seattle's Roq la Rue Gallery (2316 Second Avenue) is running a two-day exhibit on Friday, July 9, and Saturday, July 10, featuring the work of two dozen artists paying tribute to Thomas Kinkade and Jack T. Chick. (click on thumbnails for enlargements. Painting on left is by Jim Blanchard; painting on right is by Johnny Ryan).

As you probably know, Thomas Kinkade, the famous "Painter of Light," has made millions of dollars with his customized prints of day-glo cottages against backdrops of enchanted forests. He has a team of "Kinkade-trained Master Highlighters" who go over reproductions of his work with oil paint. For this show, artists Jim Blanchard, Kamala Dolphin-Kingsley, Robert Hardgrave, Claire Johnson, Charles Krafft, Pat Moriarity, Erin Norlin, Marion Peck, Benton Peugh, Robert Rini, Bonni Reid, Mark Ryden and Kipling West have highlighted pages from the Thomas Kinkade Painter of Light with Scripture: 2004 Deluxe Wall Calendar, in their own distinct styles.

And Jack T. Chick is the famous artist-publisher of a series of incendiary 3" x 5", 24-page religious comic book tracts. Loaded with scare tactics and jabs at "enemies" of Christianity, Chick's comics vividly depict the horrors of Hell for anyone who neglects to convert to Christianity. Since 1961 Chick has created 175 proselytizing tracts, which have had more than 500,000,000 copies published in over 100 languages worldwide. Artists Tom Bagley, David R. Drake, Jed Dunkerly, Nathan Eyring, Rod Filbrandt, Cliff Hare, David Lasky, Deborah F Lawrence, Eric Reynolds, Johnny Ryan and Kamilla White have each created work inspired by Chick. In contrast to the Kinkade artists, they worked with no specific assignment, and came up with equally diverse outcomes: David R. Drake reduced an entire tract to its minimum visual information, creating 23 individual tiles still closely correlated with the original, Eric Reynolds has painted an original portrait of the reclusive Jack T. Chick, and David Lasky will display the original art for an entire tract written by Jim Woodring intended to be traded for unwanted religious pamphlets.

No link, but you can find out more about Roq la Rue here.

True surround sound

Audio engineers at UC Davis have developed a new technology that delivers motion-tracked binaural sound (MTB). It's an update on conventional binaural recording which uses microphones embedded in a dummy head to capture the "location" of sound in a room. One problem with conventional binaural recording is that the sound doesn't change when you move your head. For example, if you hear a recording of someone behind you and turn your head to face them, it still sounds like they're behind you.
"The new method records through multiple microphones (eight for voice, 16 for music) spaced around a head-sized ball or cylinder. The sound is played back through headphones with a small tracking device attached to the top to follow head movements. As you turn your head while listening, the system mixes sound from different microphones, reproducing what you would hear if you were in the room."

ISPs not liable for royalties, says Canada's Supreme Court

Canada's highest court has just ruled that ISPs cannot be forced to pay royalties on music downloaded by users:
In a unanimous 9-0 decision, the court ruled that although ISPs provide the hardware and technology, they aren't responsible for what people download. The court ruled that companies providing wide access to the web are "intermediaries" who are not bound by federal copyright legislation.
Link (Thanks, Michael)

Shanghaied in Portland

My post about CIncinnati's abandoned subway reminded BB reader Colin Sheridan of Portland's Shanghai tunnels. During the 19th century, this was the real underbelly of the city. Sailors would get drunk, drugged, and dragged through the underground tunnels to the port where they'd be sold to a ship captain as slave labor. By the time the poor saps awoke, they were already at sea. These days, tours are available and, of course, there's even a Shanghai Tunnel bar. Link

Update: BB reader Mike says that Chuck Palahniuk's non-fiction book Fugitives and Refugees: A Walk in Portland, Oregon "covers the tunnels and a bunch of other cool stuff to be found in, around, and under Portland."

Update: BB reader Jeff says "several people have called the tunnel tour operators written about in Fugitives and Refugees, and the conclusion is that the tours are not currently in operation because the building they used to use to enter the tunnels has been renovated and bought by somebody tunnel-unfriendly. They're looking for a new entrance."

Art attack update

University of Buffalo professor Steve Kurtz, a member of the Critical Art Ensemble, was charged yesterday with mail and wire fraud. As you may recall, Kurtz has been under investigation after he awoke to find his wife dead and called the police who discovered some biological materials related to Kurtz's latest art project. (See this post for background.) Robert Ferrell, chair of the Department of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh's School of Public Health, was also charged for helping Kurtz obtain $256 worth of harmless bacteria. The absurdity continues. Link

John Shirley talks about his new Gurdjieff book in Los Angeles, July 1

Author John Shirley will be at the Bodhi Tree bookstore in Los Angeles at 8585 Melrose Ave this Thursday July 1 at 7:30 pm till 9-ish, to talk about his book Gurdjieff: An Introduction to His Life and Ideas (Tarcher/Penguin). Here's an essay about Gurdjieff that John wrote for Fringe Ware Review.  

Japan's rent-a-puppy business

Sid sez: "Babies can't be far behind ... in Tokyo you now can rent the cute little dogs that are all the rage. About $15 will get you an hour of canine bonding, and for a heftier fee you can take one home for the night. All puppy necessities included. These same dogs usually sell for about $3,000-$5,000."
In Tokyo alone, the number of shops registered to rent out pets grew to 115 as of March, up from 17 just three years earlier.

Each person who rents a dog by the hour is given a leash, some tissues and a plastic bag - in case the pooch has to answer the call of nature. They also get strict instructions not to let the dogs run free, to keep them in the shade on hot summer days and refrain from giving them snacks.


Annotatable UK ID Card consultation

Mark sez, "As you may know in the UK, ID cards are being debated again. A document with a draft Bill has been produced and the public consultation process is now underway. I have taken this document and converted it into a Moveable Type blog, pretty much every parachraph in the document is linkable, commentable and trackbackable." Link (Thanks, Mark!)

Flickr adds Creative Commons licenses, OS X uploader

Flickr (Ludicorp's amazing, witty, easy photo-sharing/community service) has just added two spiffy new features: an uploader for OS X that works with iPhoto and a tool for automatically adding Creative Commons licenses to the photos you upload and share. (Disclosure: I'm on Ludicorp's advisory board) Link

Down and Out wins Locus Award

This is so freaking cool: my novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom has won the Locus Award for Best First Novel of 2003. The Locus Award is based on a popular poll of readers of the trade mag, a larger group than even the Hugo voters, making it the largest beauty contest in the field. I couldn't be any happier: thanks everyone! Hope to see you at the World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, where the award will be presented. Link

Akihabara is geek sex paradise

The Japanese town of Akihabara has become a legendary gadget shopping destination. But this Japan Today story examines its odd brand of nerd sociology, in which fantasizing about sex is of far greater importance than actually having sex. Spotlight on girls named "Pudding," synthetic paramours, and the scarcity of 'no-pan' cafes -- in which miniskirted hottie waitresses going commando serve you rice cakes with a smile.
The area has undergone something of a makeover recently with posters and figures of animated beautiful girls plastered all over the place and the emergence of cafes and restaurants devoted to "cosplay," featuring girls dressed as animated heroes, maids, etc. Even a public area, such as the floor space of JR Akihabara station, has got into the act, with a 3-meter-round poster of the face of a beautiful girl appearing in an animation video. Kiichiro Morikawa, a professor at the Kuwasawa Design Research Institute, said, "An increasing number of animation goods and game shops have opened their doors and changed the area into an 'otaku' (geek) Mecca." Psychologists say these "otaku" or geeks are regressive, have poor social ability, and have never fully matured as adults. "Therefore, they are not good at communicating with others, cannot date real human beings, and instead adore an imaginary character," said one.
Link (Thanks, Steve)

iPod based foreign language phrasebook

Talking Panda is a new language translation app designed for the Apple iPod. Comes with over 300 common words and phrases of whichever language you want to speak. French, Spanish, and Japanese for $10 per language. RFID News editor John Wehr, who is helping out with the project, says "The fun thing is that the idea is so straightforward it could be used (or pre-installed?) with any portable player." Flash demo here, and website here.

"Fight Club"-branded office supplies, sort of

Weblogger Sean Bonner phonecammed a funny discovery in the laser-printable-label aisle at Staples today -- the "sample address" on the packaging for Avery #8293 is addressed to Brad Pitt's character in the movie Fight Club. Link

Five pounds of Silly Putty for $60

sillyputtyYou can buy five pound chubs of Silly Putty from Binney & Smith for $60 plus shipping. Egg not included. (But you can buy 144 glow in the dark plastic eggs from the Oriental Trading Company for $5.) Link

New Kevin Sites dispatch from Iraq: Under Steel Rain

A new weblog dispatch from NBC correspondent and blogger Kevin Sites, about life in the militarized zone with the distinction of having been mortared more than any other in Iraq -- 400 times in the last three months
[S]oldiers aren't the only ones in danger. Civilian employees of Kellog. Brown and Root -- which provide many of the civilian services on base -- are also at risk. Many of the food service employees, mostly foreign workers from poor nations like the Philippines, Pakistan and Bangladesh; say theyre very frightened by the mortars. One says he sleeps on the ground pulling sandbags around him, but while the mortars haven't got him yet, the sand fleas have. He shows me the red bites on arms.

Four Philippine workers were killed at the largest Army supply base in Iraq last April when insurgent rockets hit their living quarters at Camp Anaconda. But those inside the camp aren't completely surrounded by hostility. At dusk in Guard Tower 7, soldiers watch Iraqi boys play soccer not more than a hundred yards away. Some Iraqi civilians even live in shacks right next to the massive walls surrounding the base.

"Hi Nora," one of the soldiers says, waving to a shy ten year old Iraqi girl popping her head out from behind a sheet that covers the opening to the mud and clapboard shack. "Hi Michael," she says in a high-pitched voice, waving then quickly ducking back inside.


Photoblogging London's Tube strike

The bloggers at have been doing an admirable job of covering the subway strike in London. Link (Thanks, Sean)

Lucas Arts makes a Make-A-Wish kids-with-leukemia game

A kid with leukemia worked with the Make A Wish foundation and Lucas Arts to produce a leukemia-themed kids-game.
The game he created is about fighting cancer, and it reflects Ben's own battle with leukemia. It takes place inside the body, on a playfield of mutating cells. The hero, a boy on a hovering skateboard, uses high-tech weapons to destroy these cells by collecting the seven shields that protect against common side effects of chemotherapy.

It's not easy to get the shields -- they're in the hands of monsters that have to be zapped. FireMonster guards the fever shield and hurls molten lava. VampMonster guards the bleeding shield and sends out vampire bats. Robarf guards the vomit shield "with big smelly green globs." And QBall, guardian of the hair-loss shield, shoots out billiard balls.

Link (Thanks, Adam!)

SENT gallery show opens in LA July 10

The gallery show for SENT, the phonecam art project I'm co-curating with Sean Bonner and Caryn Coleman of sixspace, opens Saturday July 10 in LA. Images from 25 invited artists, filmmakers, and celebs will debut alongside digitally-displayed images submitted by the public.

The SENT exhibition takes place in the "Brunette" Meeting Room on the fourth floor of the Standard Hotel Downtown LA, 550 South Flower Street. SENT will debut for public viewing at a reception from 7-10 pm on Saturday, July 10. The exhibit will be open for public viewing from Sunday, July 11 through Saturday July 17 from 12pm to 5pm daily. Admission is free of charge, and the project is sponsored in part by Motorola. Oh! and did I mention that the Downtown Standard now offers free WiFi throughout the hotel? Come all ye bloggers.

Details here. At left, two phonecam photos submitted by anonymous public participants.

President Bush accidentally allowed to be interviewed by a real journalist

The President's handlers foolishly granted a Presidential interview (requires RealPlayer, interview starts about 20:40 into the stream) to a non-White House Press Corps journalist, Carole Coleman, the Washington correspondent for RTE, the Irish public national television network. When she asked him pointed, pertinent questions, he became upset when his stock answers failed to satisfy her. An aide to the President later complained that Coleman had "overstepped the bounds of politeness."
Coleman is a mainstream European journalist who has conducted interviews with top officials from a number of countries - her January interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell was apparently solid enough to merit posting on the State Department's Web site.

Unfortunately, it appears that Coleman failed to receive the memo informing reporters that they are supposed to treat this president with kid gloves. Instead, she confronted him as any serious journalist would a world leader.

She asked tough questions about the mounting death toll in Iraq, the failure of U.S. planning, and European opposition to the invasion and occupation. And when the president offered the sort of empty and listless "answers" that satisfy the White House press corps - at one point, he mumbled, "My job is to do my job" - she tried to get him focused by asking precise follow-up questions.

The president complained five times during the course of the interview about the pointed nature of Coleman's questions and follow-ups - "Please, please, please, for a minute, OK?" the hapless Bush pleaded at one point, as he demanded his questioner go easy on him.

Mark's note: I haven't been able to see the video interview, but I read the White House'stranscript of the interview, and I think the description above, by John Nichols of The Capital Times, is misleading. President Bush said more than just "My job is to do my job;" he said "My job is to do my job and make the decisions that I think are important for our country and for the world." And President Bush wasn't asking the interviewer to "go easy on him;" he was asking her to allow him to finish answering her questions. That said, Bush's answers weren't satisfactory. Link

Vidiot sez: The White House complained later that Coleman was disrespectful and didn't ask the "suggested question" about what Irish PM Ahern was wearing that day.

Coleman has responded to White House criticism, noting that she submitted her questions three days in advance.

Andrew sez: "Since I get on with RealPlayer about as well as a house on fire, I wasn't able to watch the link given. I have been pointed here, though; even assuming it's been, ah, tactfully clarified by a White House aide, the transcript is still pretty atrocious - the lines you quoted are still in.

The interview is also available as an MP3.

Fast Company's new linking policy still broken

Fast Company has amended its atrocious linking policy, but the one they've put in its place is only slightly better.
Fast Company permits links to the Web site. However, Fast Company reserves the right to withdraw permission for any link and requests that you not link for any impermissible purpose or in a manner that suggests that Fast Company promotes or endorses your Web site. does not allow framing of its Web site content.

The Web exists because there is no permission needed to create a link (and that includes a framing link). This is enshrined in the RFCs that defined the Web. It has been the guiding principle of the Web since the first page went online.

That permission-free world made the economy that Fast Company services possible. It is dangerous and irresponsible for Fast Company's lawyers to tell the lie to Fast Company's readers that there is a legitimate basis for asserting the right to control who may link to your website (you don't need a policy to tell people that links that create the fraudulent impression of an endorsement are illegal -- fraud is illegal even if you're not on notice about it).

This is a step in the right direction, but only a small one. The faxed-permission-form was ridiculous, but the real evil in it wasn't the ridiculousness, it was this damaging lie about permission being required for links.

I really hope that Fast Company acts like the heroes I know they can be here, changing their linking policy to something like:

The Web exists because no one has the right to grant or withhold permission for links. Fast Company exists because of the Web. Accordingly, we neither grant nor deny permission to link to our site, and urge you to do the same.
I would buy twenty FC subscriptions for twenty friends if they would do this. I'd settle for removing the linking policy entirely (but I wouldn't buy the subs). Link (Thanks, Fred!)

Disabling autorun in Windows yields bliss

Endgadet's Phillip Torrone sez: "By default Windows will automatically look for a file called Autorun.inf on any CD you pop in to your system, we’ve always known this is a big security issue as there are a lot of spyware and viruses distributed on CDs, you read about this every week. In fact, Microsoft is even disabling this in their next security focused service pack. Add to that, record companies are adding Autorun software which won't allow Windows users to make MP3s from the CDs they've purchased. So in an effort to protect people from Spyware, viruses and other nasty things we're suggesting everyone disables autorun." Link

Free MP3 of parrot-fronted deathmetal act HATEBEAK

Ladies, gentlemen, budgies: I present to you a free MP3 from the new album by HATEBEAK -- the world's only deathmetal band with an avian vocalist.

Link to Beak of Putrefaction MP3. Buy a clear vinyl 7" for $5 postage paid at this Link. (Thanks for hosting, Leonard Lin! And special thanks to Chris -- founder of Reptilian Records and manager of HATEBEAK's feathered frontman Waldo.)

Snapshots from the "other" Hollywood.

Here are the rest of the snapshots I took at a recent porn industry convention in Los Angeles. Shown here: an inflatable swimming pool full of disembodied plastic genitalia. This, by the way, was art. Link , and previous BoingBoing posts: 1, 2, 3

Supreme court rules web porn is free speech

Today, America's highest court ruled that a law intended to punish child pornographers is an unconstitutional restriction for online free speech.
The high court divided 5-to-4 over a law passed in 1998, signed by then-President Clinton and now backed by the Bush administration. The majority said a lower court was correct to block the law from taking effect because it likely violates the First Amendment. The American Civil Liberties Union and other critics of the law said that it would restrict far too much material that adults may legally see and buy, the court said. "Today's ruling from the court demonstrates that there are many less restrictive ways to protect children without sacrificing communication intended for adults," said ACLU associate litigation director Ann Beeson in a statement. Beeson argued the case before the court in 2001 and again last March.

Bayesian spam rumination: when word-frequency-histograms attack!

Ed Felten has posted an intriguing rumination on the possible failure modes of Bayesian spam-filtering -- filtering that uses word-frequency statistics to classify email as spam or ham. As Ed points out, Bayesian filters are trained by the spammers, who, by choosing the vocabulary of their messages carefully, can make messages containing certain words or phrases undeliverable on the Internet.
Now suppose a big spammer wanted to poison a particular word, so that messages containing that word would be (mis)classified as spam. The spammer could sprinkle the target word throughout the word salad in his outgoing spam messages. When users classified those messages as spam, the targeted word would develop a negative score in the users' Bayesian spam filters. Later, messages with the targeted word would likely be mistaken for spam.

This attack could even be carried out against a particular targeted user. By feeding that user a steady diet of spam (or pseudo-spam) containing the target word, a malicious person could build up a highly negative score for that word in the targeted user's filter.


BBC affirms Creative Archive in Charter Renewal plans

The BBC has submitted its Charter Renewal documents to the UK Government, outlining its plans for the next ten years. It's a long and comprehensive document, and most excitingly, it describes a free and open Creative Archive intended to provide Britons with access to the material in the BBC's vaults for free viewing, remixing and reuse.
Imagine being able to view and listen -- and even download and own -- extracts from the world's largest television and radio archive.

53% of internet users download content for their own compilations 55. For the first time, the BBC will open up its treasure chest of programmes to the public who own it and make its contents available to individuals and to families for learning, for creativity and for pleasure. Two-thirds of current and prospective broadband users say they are interested in the Creative Archive service.

The BBC Creative Archive will establish a pool of high-quality content which can be legally drawn on by collectors, enthusiasts, artists, musicians, students, teachers and many others, who can search and use this material non-commercially. And where exciting new works and products are made using this material, we will showcase them on BBC services.

Initially we will release factual material, beginning with extracts from natural history programmes. As demand grows, we are committed to extending the Creative Archive across all areas of our output.

1MB PDF Link

Update: Check out this quote from new BBC Director General Mark Thompson, from today's press conference: "We want to builld a digital world based on universal access, open standards and unencryption [sic?]. Encryption, subscription and other forms of digital exclusion lead to widespread welfare losses. They may have a role within the total broadcasting ecology, but the idea that they can successfully replace free-to-air public service broadcasting flies in the face both of economic theory and real-world experience." (Thanks, Adam!)

How Free Software won the hearts of hackers, capitalists, commies and academics

My friends Biella and Mako have written a good, short academic paper on how it is that "Free and Open Source Software" can be seen as tactically advantageous to big corporations, Starbucks-smashing anti-globalists, and liberal commons-oriented IP wonks.
While the money behind IBM's advertising machine makes their take on FOSS particularly visible, they hold no monopoly on the interpretation of FOSS's meaning and importance. This is evidenced by the extensive use of FOSS as an iconic tactic by leftist activists around the world. Also bearing a three letter acronym, the Independent Media Centers (IMC) are a socio-political project whose mission and spirit are completely contrary to the goals of a large corporation like IBM.
Link (Thanks, Biella!)

Scion of genius Imagineer posts on Slashdot?

Here's an amazing post on Slashdot from someone who claims his father designed many of the coolest widgets and gizmos in Disneyland:
Some of the Disneyland items he's made...

- Invented/installed the fireflys in Pirates of the Carribean

- Came up with putting the green-eyed rats at the end of Pirates as you go up back to ground level. We have a bunch of them at home and put them in windows and under the Christmas tree

- Invented the light flicker-ers that have been used at Dland for almost 30 years to make plain lightbulbs in opaque houseings look like they are flame

- Real-time population counter for Disneyland. Even went to the president's office and installed the LED display on his desk (prior to the popularization of "computer networks")