Boing Boing 

Why Lost doesn't work

In New York magazine, Adam Sternbergh's piece about the decline of Lost captures my sentiments exactly. The show is getting worse and worse because the creators are forbidden from ever solving the central mystery in order to keep it running for as many seasons as possible. So when some smaller mystery does get explained, it never helps explain what's really going on.
200611111910 There is, however, a simple solution: Change the format, or at least reimagine it. When it so-called arc shows, we need something between a mini-series and an open-ended run. We need the TV equivalent of a novella: the limited-run show. Series driven by a central mystery (Twin Peaks, The X-Files) peter out precisely because they have indefinite life spans. The writers are forced to serve up red herrings until the shows choke on their own plot twists. (Whereas 24 works because it’s more cliff-hanger than puzzle—though Jack Bauer is surely the unluckiest man alive.)

I am in thy library, executing a grammatical procedure of great destructive force against thy lexicon.


Link, see also this post from earlier this week (thanks, Lenore!).

Reader comment: stAllio! says,

Here is my contribution to the "in ur X Ying ur Zs" meme... this one seemed so obvious i was surprised nobody else had done it yet: Link. i also did this one, which i don't think is quite as funny: Link.
Aaron Wicks says,
Here are a lot more cats verbing nouns (peepee in the pants funny by midway thru): Link.

Clint Dunham says,

More harbl cats. I dunno why but the mountain bike forum I frequent has one of the best threads about this. Lots of images collected here: Link.
Kerne Fahey says,
I think the page at shackspace is derivative of this one: Link.
BoingBoing reader Rob offers what I promise will be the last gag (for the next five minutes) in this already-too-long string of visual jokes.

Anonymous harbl strokr says,

The cat posts (Link) are something that comes up every Caturday... umm, saturday on 's random forum (if there is a site less safe for work than this one i wanna see it.) Having seen these memes travel round the board for well over a year (since i first foundit desu) I assumed that they originated here... is this true. /b/ is pretty much a board of memes (and porn, and raids and abuse and sometimes... love). To the point i say... it would be interesting to find where these memes came from, for the same reasons as The Game tracking site.

Web Zen: spam

bloody vikings

Web Zen Home, Store (Thanks Frank!)

Burning Man audio: two classic radio scanner excerpts

Safety teams who patrol the Black Rock desert sands during Burning Man use two-way radios to coordinate.'s Rusty Hodge was recently reviewing some radio scanner audio from an earlier year's edition of the annual festival, and came accross two truly awesome clips. They are here:

(1) MP3 LINK.
Excerpt: "Can you confirm the large, cataclysmic flames and smoke as being an art project?"

(2) MP3 LINK.
Excerpt: "We are not here to keep people from being stupid. Once they are stupid, we will pick up the pieces."

Next time someone asks you to explain Burning Man, roll your eyes, keep your mouth shut, and click these links.

Image: (by me, in 2003). Dirty naked hippies being hosed off next to a giant Spanish Galleon. Hey, guess where I took this photo.

See also this NYT story: Link to "Burning Man Spreads Its Flame" (Thanks, Wayne Correia)

Speaking of SomaFM, their annual holiday music streams are now live! The 128k MP3 stream is here. The 56k MP3 stream is here. And for you modem users, the 24k MP3 stream is here. Also, the recent song playing info is here.

Reader comment: Fingertips says,

Great plug for the excellent SomaFM, but why not mention the support page where you can donate to keep their excellent stations on the air? They even give you a cool T-Shirt if you donate $50 or more!

Women and guns in America

Laura Browder, author of a new book called "Her Best Shot: Women and Guns in America," has just published a flash-based website with lots of historical information and images. Required reading for anyone who believes that the phenomenon of women gun-owners in this country is a new one. Snip from the book intro:

The gun-toting woman holds enormous symbolic significance in American culture. For over two centuries, women who pick up guns have interrupted the popular association of guns and masculinity, spurring debates about women's capabilities for violence as well as their capacity for full citizenship. In Her Best Shot, Laura Browder examines the relationship between women and guns and the ways in which the figure of the armed woman has served as a lightning rod for cultural issues from the American Revolution to the present.
Link to website, and here's an Amazon link to the book.

Reader comment: Chris Jeffries-Dowling says,

I just read your post about women and guns and was reminded of a gun I once saw in my father in law's pawn shop called "The Ladies Home Companion". It was a .410, pistol with a 12 round drum and is often referred to as a "mini street sweeper" . From what I can remember of the manual, this was supposed to be a one handed weapon but I'll be damned if I couldn't hold the thing up unloaded for more than a few seconds. I did some searching and managed to find this picture: Link. And this auction: Link. But alas, no scans of the owners manual, which was stylized to resemble the 19th century magazine of the same name. Perhaps some other intrepid BB reader will have better luck.
And here's one of my favorite contemporary images on the topic. Clayton James Cubitt explains: "My mom with her Mossberg, just after Katrina." Link.

Jasmina Tesanovic: dispatch from Amsterdam.

Essay by Jasmina Tesanovic follows. Photos by Bruce Sterling. See also this related AP report: Link.
This is not The Hague, this is Amsterdam. This is not a juvenile emigrants' prison but a designer hotel, one of the most extravagant in Europe. Every sleeping room is different. The public space is amazing: a Kakfaesque designer labyrinth.

The Lloyd Hotel is quite literally a redesigned prison. It once held teenage boys, foreigners, under a notoriously harsh regime. My room resembles the prison cell that my indicted ex president Milosevic had in The Hague's war crimes tribunal. It features thick bare walls, a shower barely exposed right in the middle of the room, and a toilet as a hermetic cabin. The room's fourth wall is open glass, exposed to the world, or, rather, the opened spaces and uncurtained windows of Dutch tower blocks.

Read the rest

Jokes made for robots by robots

From McSweeneys' "Jokes Made by Robots, for Robots," by J. Alex Boyd:

What's a robot's favorite cereal?
(Note: Rob-os are made of the tears of human children.)

Little Susie tosses a clock out the window. A robot inquires, "Why did you do that?" She replies, "I wanted to see time fly!" The robot says, "Ah ... A perfect subject for elimination," and shoots her with a laser beam through the face.

Why did the robot order a milkshake?
To blend in with the general human population, making it easier to infiltrate society and–in time–conquer it.

Link (Thanks, Charlie).

IMAGE: by Dan Coulter. "The band "Robot Attack" only recorded one live song because after the first song, "You're All Going To Die", they fullfilled their promise. Fortunately, they uploaded an mp3 of the song so that you can hear it." Download it here: Link, more pix here.

Speaking of robot jokes, Q: How many robots does it take to play the bagpipes? A: One! HahahahAHAHAHAH! Link to "McBlare," the bagpipe-playing Robot, created by robotics researchers at Carnegie Mellon University including Ben Brown, Garth Zeglin, and Roger Dannenberg. (Thanks, Andy Yang)

Reader comment: Bill Simmon says,

Regarding your robot post today, see also this album of music made by robots for robots: Link. From the web page:
"The album I have produced is a collection of songs gathered from the robot communities of North America. Few were aware of these remnants of our future; those who were had only questions: did they hate us, envy us, disdain us? Did they see the toaster as an appliance or as a brother? Had they inherited our lust for destruction, or did they seethe with the righteous anger of the oppressed?"
(Ed. note: Frackin' toasters.) BB reader Brian says,
Captured! By Robots is a "band" where this guy has built robots to play the instruments, and well, I'll just paste some of what they have to say on the site:

"Let me (DRMBOT 0110) tell you. JBOT played in a couple of ska bands, Skankin' Pickle and the Blue Meanies for years and was very unlikable. Everybody got sick of him (I don't blame them). JBOT thought that if he made a band of robots to play with everything would be okay. HE WAS WRONG! He built GTRBOT666 and myself and the idiotic Ape Which Hath No Name. After he built us, I decided that he was the antibot and must be punished. We installed a Biocerebral Chip in his CPU and now force him to humiliate himself in front of his peers. " Link.

Marshall Clark from the truly excellent radio program and podcast This Week in Science, which is incidentally a popular favorite among Cylons, says:
Check out Chris Taylor’s musical love letter to future robot captors “Robots Are Great” (MP3 Link) from our 2006 Science Music Compilation. TWIS Loves BB.
Can't forget Flight of the Conchords - Humans are Dead!! Link.
El Chavo says,
If you'd rather stay away from all the middle class robot music and want to hear what a working class,ghetto robot might have on its boom box, then check out 8 bit (Link), a Highland Park based team of Robots in exile from their own planet. Their normal site is down, most likely due to human error. You can check this MP3 link for a fine example of robo-rap.
Douglas Repetto of artbots says,
We're doing the last day of a mini-ArtBots show tomorrow (Sunday) in NYC: Link. We've got a couple musical bots (Misericordiam and Ill-Tempered Clangier) as well as six other strange/fun ones!
Brad Steuernagel says,
CHRIS the Robot is the hottest Robot comedian out there! Link.
Dave says,
Link to YouTube clip of industrial assembly line robots being harassed by the products they make. The various products launch into such robo-insults as "is it really true that your mommy is a blender?" and the robots retort with threats to tighten the appliance's fan belt.
Ken says,
I can't believe no one's suggested THE KILLER ROBOTS!! They are very large, intimidating robots who have a rock group AND star in fumettis from Abnormal Fun Comics. Personally, I like the one in the Laser Tag helmet.

Also, don't miss out on Optimus Rhyme for all your Transformers-themed nerdcore rap. They're straight off the streets of Cybertron, yo.

Reporters think back about covering cultural divide in Iraq

Snip from the Columbia Journalism Review's compilation of first-hand observations from journalists who have covered the war in Iraq:

* Borzou Daragahi / Los Angeles Times
I know how religious the people in Iraq are, how traditional they are with regard to gender relations and stuff like that. I would see certain stuff and I would just cringe and want to say [to U.S. soldiers], “You guys are really, really making a bad name for yourself here by storming into this guy’s house with your shoes on. This guy’s done nothing and yet you’re going to make an enemy out of him because he’s gonna talk about you guys for the rest of his life, and that day when they came storming into my house with their shoes on – nobody walks into my house with their shoes on!”

* Elizabeth Palmer / CBS
I've been struck by how essentially humane a lot of the soliders are, with a very strong sense of right and wrong, which I think comes with growing up in America. And how ill-equipped they were to apply that to a situation like Iraq, without enough historical or geographical or cultural knowledge to actually – unless they were under the command of a very gifted officer, and there are some who are extremely well-equipped, but a lot of them are not – to apply that sort of fairness to Iraqi society. I feel that a huge majority of them are good men trapped in an impossible situation and have not really understood where they are historically, as well as culturally and physically. I think they’re hostages of a terrible situation as well; it’s given me enormous sympathy for them, and certainly a new appreciation for how ill-prepared they were for the mission, at least in the early days.

* Nir Rosen / Freelance Writer
The daily things the Iraqis endure – and those that I experienced just because I looked Iraqi and then because I was a male, and a so-called “male of fighting age.” My [new Iraqi] friends would ask me, “Why do Americans say ‘fuck’ so much, what’s this word ‘fuck?’” I heard that a few times. “Why do Americans spit so much?” They didn’t know about chewing dip – the tobacco thing. So they see Americans spitting all the time; they’re going into a house on a raid, and in order to stay awake they chew dip and they’re spitting constantly, spitting all over people’s yards, things like that. Having to deal with the barbed wire everywhere, the tanks and Humvees blocking traffic in your roads, pointing their guns at you, firing into the air, shouting at you. It was constant humiliation and constant fear, because they control your life. They have these huge guns and you can’t even communicate with them adequately.

Link to Columbia Journalism Review article, which is part of this series on covering the war in Iraq: Link to "Into the Abyss." Image: Christoph Bangert (CJR) (Thanks, Susannah Breslin)

World Changing on wind power cards

My friend, Jon Lebkowsky (an editor for the print version of bOING bOING) wrote a piece for World Changing about Renewable Choice's Wind Energy Cards, which I wrote about last week.
200611111302 One of our readers was concerned about Renewable Choice Energy's Wind Power cards, which are sold in Whole Foods Market and have proved to be controversial, at least in some parts of the blogosphere. Mark Frauenfelder at bOING bOING posted that the cards are "useless.... When you buy a card, you don't get any wind-generated electricity delivered to your home however. In fact, all you get is a card that doubles as a refrigerator magnet. Actually, you don't even get any credits, it's just a word they use to give you a sense of getting something from your money." However I think Mark misunderstands the concept of offsetting, which is what the cards are about.

If we take climate change seriously (and we should), we need to start to figure out how to reduce our overall energy use, get as much of the energy we use as possible through renewables, and remedy the remainder of our energy use in other ways.

We should all buy green energy. But sometimes, even if a utility has sources of green power, that source may be limited. Consider my local utility, Austin Energy. Even though their Green Choice program is considered one of the best green power programs in the USA, it can only handle a limited number of subscribers.

So what do you do if you can't connect directly to a provider of green power? One thing you can do is pay someone else to use renewable energy.


To do in LA tonight: Cut and Paste design contest

Like "Iron Chef" for graphic designers. The Cut&Paste Los Angeles design tournament takes place this evening in Echo Park, at the retro and restored Jensen's Recreation Center. $10, starts at 7, festivities continue through 2AM. Live Ninjatunes DJ Blockhead, and judges including

Buff Monster - Famed Street Artist and Designer
Emit - Famed Graffiti Artist of the DF Crew; Co-Founder of The Firm Graphics
Eric Nakamura - Co-Publisher of Giant Robot Magazine
Andy Mueller , The Quiet Life
Roger Gastman - Editor-in-Chief, Swindle Magazine
Infoz: Link. (Thanks, Chris O'Malley)

The Freedom Writers

BoingBoing reader Nathan McKenzie in Austin, TX says,

I saw a pre-screening here in Austin last night for a movie called "The Freedom Writers," based on a novel and true story about a teacher (Erin Gruwell, played by Hilary Swank). She inspired urban school kids in Long Beach, CA to succeed in school by introducing them to writings of Anne Frank and Zlata Filopvic, and by encouraging them to keep journals. The book is comprised of the student's real, bone-chilling journal accounts of violence and negative life. It is extremely inspiring given today's decrepit public educational system here in the US.

After the movie, the real Erin Gruwell and a student came out and met each of us in the audience. I asked her to sign my copy of her book and dedicate it to BoingBoing because i see a parallel between what you guys do and what she did to inspire people. I really hope you can publish this (or these pics) on boingboing and get the nation to feel the power of this story. It is a truly amazing work for our times. The movie will be released in January, 2007. Thank you and keep up the good fight.

Movie info: Link, and here's the book: Amazon link. Enlarge Nathan's pics: cover, inside with dedication. Thank you, Nathan, and thank you, Erin Gruwell.

Attaboy's Fuzzy Axtrx

Picture 2-20 My daughter and I are fighting over Attaboy's Fuzzy Axtrx toy, which has a variety of Mister Potato Head-style plug in mouths. Link

Cory's "Power Punctuation!" podcast

I've just posted part one of the three-part podcast of my story Power Punctuation!, originally published in Starlight 3 in 2001. It's a funny Pygmalion story about a corporate distopia, secure shredding, and conspiracy theories.
Wow, you won't believe what happened today. First of all, I was nearly late for work because my new roommate is worried about the electrical and he pulled out all the plugs last night, even my alarm clock! His name is Tony, and I think he is either weird or crazy, or maybe both! He keeps saying that the Company uses the plugs to listen to our minds! He unplugged all the electricals and put tape over them in the middle of the night. When I woke up this morning, my room was totally black! I had my flashlight from work on the chair near my bed, and I used that to find the living room. Tony was sitting in his shorts on the sofa, in the dark, watching the plug behind the TV. Hey, I said, you watch the television, not the plug, and then he said some bad words and told me that he didn't want me plugging in _anything_. He is skinny like Jimmy got when he had the AIDS, but he is not sick, he is hyperkinetic, like Manny was when he went to the special school. That is why he is management and I still work on a truck. If I have to be skinny and crazy to be management, I'll take the truck all day long!
Link, Podcast feed link

Fly with rubber band ball, go to jail, forced blood test

A traveller who had a rubber-band ball in his bag was pulled over by the TSA. They insisted that the ball had something metal at the center (it didn't), then concluded he was on drugs. They put him in jail, forced a blood-sample from him, and continued to hold him after they cut open the ball and finished testing his blood.

I hear the cholocate ration is going up to 10 grammes next week.

So the LEO grabbed my bag and he, myself, the TSA "boss," and a TSA agent went behind a curtain. They dug through my stuff and took the rubber band ball away for further screening. They came back with the rubber band ball and told the "TSA boss" that it was positive for flammable residue and that it had something metal at the core. He started up at me accusing me of wrongdoing and saying things about it being a "precursor" or a "trigger." I told him to "quit running at the mouth" and that it was "nothing of the sort." I explained that it had been in the trunk of my car for a long time and probably picked up a bit of oil or gas or something from that. I also told him that there was nothing at the core and that it was 100% rubber bands...

The cop then switched tactics and asked, "are you smuggling drugs?" I told him that was "outrageous" and produced my SIDA badge and my airline ID. I asked him if his question was serious. He started asking why I didn't have any checked luggage to which I replied, "Dude, I load bags all day. I know better than to check them." He again accused me of "smuggling something."

Link (Thanks, Wombat!)

PATRIOT scares Canadian unis off US servers

Debcha sez, "There's an article in today's Globe and Mail about how Canadian universities are switching their RefWorks accounts from a US server to one at the University of Toronto in order to avoid having research information flagged by the Patriot Act. RefWorks is a reference and citation management tool, which university libraries subscribe to and users have personal accounts on. There's concern among scholars that they could be identified and flagged if they are doing research on sensitive areas (North Korea, terrorism, nuclear weapons). The Dalhousie librarian they quote points out that there is no way of knowing if your data has been searched under the Patriot Act, and 'it is still possible for the RCMP and CSIS to probe the Ontario server, but in Canada there is at least judicial oversight.'"
Mr. Maes said the Halifax-based university has been using RefWorks for two years now, but strengthened privacy legislation in Nova Scotia coupled with the Patriot Act drove Dalhousie, as well as other Atlantic institutions, to move to the Ontario server this academic year.

Universities still have access to RefWorks, but now the personal information of professors and students is stored in Ontario. The U of T server, managed on behalf of the Ontario Council of University Libraries, was created four years ago to give the province's institutions more control over how research information is managed.

Link (Thanks, Debcha!)

Katamari Damacy Hallowe'en costume

Marissa sez, "Here are some photos of The Prince costume I made from Katamari Damacy that I thought you might like to see. I know it's a little late for Halloween but I worked really hard on the costume and thought you all would appreciate it." Link (Thanks, Marissa!)

RIP Jack Williamson, sf grand master

Stefan sez, "SF Grand Master Jack Williamson, whose first story was published in 1928 and whose last novel (The Stonehenge Gate) was published just last year, died today at age 98."
Williamson's granddaughter, Betty Williamson, says her grandfather would often say --quote --"I have lived a wonderful life and I will die with no regrets."
Link (Thanks, Stefan!)

BarCamp LA starts tonight

BarCamp LA -- an unconference run off a wiki -- kicks off tonight. Jason sez, "Among the weekend's activities are plenty of geeky talks, a Web 1.0 swag fashion show and maybe even a yoga class. It ought to be loads of fun. Hope to see some of y'all there!" Link (Thanks, Jason!)

Print your own missiles

DefenseTech has an article on the potential of "portable factories" that print out custom-machined metal components for military use, but the real money-shot is the last paragraph: what happens when anyone can print a firearm or missile?
In the CNC world, proliferation becomes a matter of design, software, and materials, rather than finished systems. What happens when North Korea or Iran starts selling missiles as digital files rather than on ships which can be intercepted? When private designers and companies create designs which anyone can produce? Two words: Watch out.
Link (via Futurismic)

Word Suicide Letter wizard

The Suicide Letter Wizard for Word for Windows: and art project to help you create slick and compelling suicide notes.
Description: Suicide Letter Wizard for Microsoft Word helps you to create a suicide letter according to your preferences.

Use professional design. Choose from a variety of styles. Make your letter look great.

Link (via Beyond the Beyond)

Doctors should use Google

Australian medical researchers have concluded that doctors would be well-served by searching Google prior to making a tricky diagnosis -- entering symptoms produced a correct diagnosis more than half the time.
They said doctors would get much better results than patients, who may not be as capable of accurately describing their symptoms or evaluating which search results were most reliable. The doctors concluded that: "In difficult diagnostic cases, it is often useful. Web-based search engines such as Google are becoming the latest tools in clinical medicine, and doctors in training need to become proficient in their use."
Link (via Consumerist)