Giant DRM-free jazz download store launches

Mike sez, " has just launched a music download store that's 100% DRM-free. is the largest and most popular jazz site on the web. Every month we get over a million unique visitors and publish over 100 reviews, articles, and interviews." Link (Thanks, Mike!) Read the rest

Call Warner Music and complain about lawsuits and DRM

Jason sez, "Defective by Design launched a 'Wake up Call' campaign against Warner Music today. They've given us the names and numbers of many top execs at Warner--it's up to us to call them and ask them to drop DRM and stop suing their customers. I was able to speak to one exec and left messages for two others." Link Read the rest

Sony sacrifices goat for Playstation game

Sony recently staged a goat sacrifice in honor of their PlayStation 2 game, God Of War II, complete with fur outfits, topless women, blood, and entrails. Link to Daily Mail article | Link to Gizmodo article (Thanks, Jim!)

Reader comment:

Sony representatives did not decapitate the goat at the party. Instead, they purchased a pre-decapitated goat for the event. Read the rest

Portable Childhoods, sf stories by Ellen Klages - beautiful nostalgia

Ellen Klages is the kind of sf writer that comes along about once a decade -- a short-story-centered writer who produces just one or two brilliant stories a year, stories that end up on practically every awards-ballot in the field. Another in this mould is Ted Chiang, and, like Ted, Ellen is also such an all-fired mensch that it shines through in her work.

Portable Childhoods is Ellen's first book-length collection of short stories, a book that was a decade in the making. I remember many of these stories' initial publications, because Ellen Klages stories make an impression when you read them. They're the kind of stories that make you remember where you first encountered them, little life-changing events, like a Shuttle disaster or a major promotion.

Klages's stories are infused with Bradbury-like nostalgia, and her recurring young girl character is clearly some version of her own childhood, studious and funny, a little introverted and enchanted with the world. This is a Madeline L'Engle heroine, a Philip Pullman heroine, utterly likable, but also drawn with enough honesty that she's anything but a benign cherub.

These stories are mostly very short -- half the stories in the book run just a few pages -- and the very short ones have the feel of the best of the golden age of science fiction, like stories from Avram Davidson. They're funny and witty and have great skiffy conceits that'll turn your head around.

But the real treasures are the handful of longer stories. Read the rest

Kitchen of Tomorrow, from 1967

1999 AD is a short film produced in 1967 by the Philco-Ford Corporation about the world of 1999. In this short clip, they introduce the creeptacular kitchen of the future, in which drunken fathers and obnoxious sons harass mothers to push buttons fast to irradiate frozen, computer-inventoried pre-fab meals: "Split second lunches, color-keyed disposable dishes, all part of the instant society of tomorrow. A society rich in leisure and taken-for-granted comforts." Link Read the rest

London 2012 Olympics: We only buy security tech from sponsors

The London 2012 Olympics won't use security technology unless it's being provided by a major sponsor of the event. No matter how much safety your product would contribute to Londoners, there's no chance of it being used unless your company bribes the International Olympic Committee.
So who has bought their way into being the security experts of choice, and with whom our security and that of the visiting millions will rest? Visa. Oh whoopy-doo, I admit to feeling much more reassured now, after all these are the same people who do not suffer from any problems with identity and authentication and fraud and crime on a huge scale within their own business sector after all. Not...

Personally I find it beyond contempt that security decisions that will impact upon the whole country, and the billions watching around the world, come down to a money making opportunity for a sponsor rather than being a Government controlled process. Wyatt readily admits it is nothing to do with him, his committee or indeed the Government as the deals arrangements are between the IOC and their sponsors. He also readily admits he doesn’t see why the UK should have to foot the £1billion cost of security in that case.

Link (via Schneier) Read the rest

Hugo Gernsback explains gadgets, 1935

In February, 1935, Hugo Gernsback (who coined the term "science fiction," and for whom the Hugo Awards are named) published this Science and Mechanics article about the hot new phenomenon of "gadgets." Gernsback explains what a gadget is, and why you might want to get into business designing them.
YOU will not find the word “gadget” in many dictionaries; perhaps for the reason that most dictionary compilers consider the word to be slang. Yet, the word “gadget” is well known to everyone, and is used in everyday language in connection with some article that has a practical use and, usually, can be bought at a low price...

As I have said before, the market for gadgets in this country is really tremendous. There is constantly room for these novelties, and the public is always willing to buy them. There is, in fact, a sort of craze, that many people have, to be the first to have this or that new gadget to parade it proudly among their friends...

And let no one think that the gadget market in this country is apt to decline. With our advance in civilization, the chances are overwhelmingly in the opposite direction; since the more mechanized we become, the greater the demand for gadgets. We probably have not even scratched the surface, and in the years to come we may expect to see a flood of gadgets on the market that will dwarf anything we have seen so far.

Link Read the rest

Propellor-driven monorail from 1933

The June, 1933 issue of Popular Science covered this gorgeous "propeller-driven cars" that "hang from a monorail." This is what the future was supposed to be.
An improved airline cab, capable of 155 miles an hour, is the latest invention of the French engineer who developed the trench mortar used during the World War. Suspended on monorails, the cabs resemble airplane fuselages.

Update: Toby sez, "Here's some proper engineering from Scotland. It's some lovely footage of the Bennie Railplane, a glorious 'Metropolis'-style bullet which sped (briefly) through a twee bit of the Glasgow suburbs in 1930. It was designed to do 120mph, and to use adjustable aerodynamic 'planes' at each end to trim its lift/downforce. It's well-described here and here. Wouldn't it be fantastic to drive to the railplane terminal in your Leyat Helica?" Read the rest

Anti-piracy group pirates anti-piracy report

A reader writes, "The International Chamber of Commerce 'Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting And Piracy' initiative has been accused of pirating thousands of documents from anti-piracy tracking service Gieschen Consultancy. The documents apparently later reappeared in a slightly different format under the ICC's own brandname. Statement from the consultancy:"
"The ICC and BASCAP misrepresented themselves as a partner in 2006 and 2007, gained access to proprietary information and then took what they learned and incorporated it into their own product offerings.

Its functionality, user interface, presentation, method of classification, and delivery is clearly based on our designs and existing products. It is extraordinary that an organization committed to fighting counterfeiting and piracy would steal the intellectual property of another organization."

Link Read the rest

Coachella, pt. 3: plastic crunch, raver cruft, ghosts of desert past.

(Photos: crowd above, security chart below, by eecue of, more here, cc-licensed).

I've been posting Coachella notes (one, two) to BoingBoing between band sets, from inside my buddy Wayne's biodiesel tour bus.

I hear there are several temporary cell towers on-site while the event lasts, to keep the voice, data, and SMS service moving. So unlike other desert events (say, Burning Man), phones are everywhere at Coachella, in-hand.

People walk while txting, wandering from stage to stage with eyes fixed on display. Fans hold them up during night performances, to snap photos or video or pay tribute by beaming display-light back at the band.

Stepping between tight rows of cross-legged attendees, waiting for one act to go on, I smell weed. I glance down, looking for the source glow. But all I can make out are luminous Sidekicks, fingers punching out txts, blotting out glow in staccato code.

We watched one superstar techno headliner play earlier tonight, to a packed field under black sky. When the music ended and those tens of thousands of fans exited, a chorus of crinkly, plasticky sound rose from beneath all those feet. Stomp, crunch, crackle; flattened water bottles and brittle glowsticks on the grass.

"Raver cruft," said Wayne. "That's what we used to call this smushed-up trash carpet back in the day."

Hard to remember to pick up your junk when you're rolling on all that E.

Coachella organizers came up with a crafty way to encourage attendees to help recycle, though, and it does minimize the mess: Turn in 10 empty watter bottles, get a cold, fresh bottle of water, free. Read the rest

Richard Evans Schultes's Golden Guide to Hallucinogenic Plants

BB pal Vann Hall surprised me with news that in 1976, pioneering Harvard ethnobotanist Richard Evans Schultes wrote a Golden Guide. Appropriately, the subject of Schultes' Golden Guide was Hallucinogenic Plants. For those who don't know, the original Golden Guides were a fantastic series of profusely-illustrated educational books for elementary and high-school age students. Usually about nature or science, the books were most popular in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s and are now collectables, depending on the title. Copies of Hallucinogenic Plants are available on AbeBooks from around $50 for a paperback in fair condition to $500 for a scarce hardcover. Fortunately, Erowid has a scan of the entire book online. From Schultes's introduction:
Hallucinogenic plants have been used by man for thousands of years, probably since he began gathering plants for food. The hallucinogens have continued to receive the attention of civilized man through the ages. Recently, we have gone through a period during which sophisticated Western society has "discovered" hallucinogens, and some sectors of that society have taken up, for one reason or another, the use of such plants. This trend may be destined to continue. It is, therefore, important for us to learn as much as we can about hallucinogenic plants. A great body of scientific literature has been published about their uses and their effects, but the information is often locked away in technical journals. The interested layman has a right to sound information on which to base his opinions. This book has been written partly to provide that kind of information.
Read the rest

Coachella pt. 2: hipsters, robots, ravers, steampunk, 122 bands.

Photo: A child meets "Hotshot the Robot" at Coachella (Shot by Xeni, cc-licensed).

Above and below, two performances at the event. Photo above: Wu Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah. Photo below: DJ XXXL, MC Dino, and DJ Question Mark. (Shot by eecue of, more here, cc-licensed).

- - - - - - - - - -

I'm writing this post from the Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival in Indio, California. Specifically, from a pimped-out, wired-up, biodiesel tour bus driven by my friend Wayne Correia.

The gear you see further below at left is the guts of "Renegade Radio," a pirate station broadcasting on-site at the event. Between the deep house and experimental trance sets, we're hearing important public service announcements, like, "Things not okay to bring in to Coachella site: drugs, weapons, video cameras, bad vibes and DRAMA."

Some of the performances we caught bits of yesterday: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gotan Project, The Rapture, LCD Soundsystem, Ghostface Killah, and Blonde Redhead. I missed !!! (say: "chik chik chik") yesterday, but a friend says they destroyed.

Photo below: Wayne's pal Alfred Martinez stuck a Wintec GPS tracking device (Amazon product link) in his pocket when he, Wayne, and I walked around the Coachella grounds together on Saturday. This is the resulting tracking map, via Google Earth.

Alfred says, "There are some errors in the trail, since there were times when the we lost contact with the sat -- remember, that tiny unit was in my pocket -- but this should give you an idea of our walking tour."

Photo Below (Shot by Xeni): That same Wintec GPS device (in Alfred's hand), shown with cold bevvie, tortilla chips (in my hand), laptop, and seven-layer dip, for social context and physical attribute evaluation. Read the rest

Last Gasp's Ron Turner's tour of San Francisco

In today's San Francisco Chronicle, Ron Turner, founder of amazing and influential underground book publisher/distributor Last Gasp, provides a short tour of his favorite San Francisco spots. I've lived here for more than a dozen years and hadn't heard of a couple of these places. Fantastic! From the SF Chronicle:
Magical road trip. "Drive over to Potrero Hill and go down Vermont Street, the real crookedest street in the world, and then to Golden Gate Park, past 25th on JFK Drive. Park and walk next to the little brook. As you walk uphill, you will notice the water is also going uphill! Impossible, but follow it to a small waterfall that empties into the portals of the past." Tommy's Mexican Restaurant, 5929 Geary Blvd. "As long as you're near the Richmond District, go over to Tommy's Mexican Restaurant and pray that Julio, the world's greatest Tequilaologist, is in. He has 5,000 followers in his tequila school. Classes held nightly."
Link Read the rest

Cory's Little Brother reading

I've just podcasted a reading from my forthcoming young adult novel, "Little Brother," about San Francisco hacker kids who fight back against the Department of Homeland Security. Tor will publish it in May, 2008.

I really went to town on the samples and mixing in this one, hauling out Audacity, the free/open sound-editing program, and grabbing a boatload of samples from the Freesound project, and a little punk guitar from the Anchormen, a great Boston act.

As soon as we sat down, she unrolled her burrito and took a little bottle out of her purse. It was a little stainless-steel aerosol canister that looked for all the world like a pepper-spray self-defense unit. She aimed it at her burrito's exposed guts and misted them with a fine red oily spray. I caught a whiff of it and my throat closed and my eyes watered.

"What the hell are you doing to that poor, defenseless burrito?"

She gave me a wicked smile. "I'm a spicy food addict," she said. "This is capsaicin oil in a mister."

"Capsaicin --"

"Yeah, the stuff in pepper spray. This is like pepper spray but slightly more dilute. And way more delicious. Think of it as Spicy Cajun Visine if it helps."

My eyes burned just thinking of it.

"You're kidding," I said. "You are so not going to eat that."

Her eyebrows shot up. "That sounds like a challenge, sonny. You just watch me."

She rolled the burrito up as carefully as a stoner rolling up a joint, tucking the ends in, then re-wrapping it in tinfoil.

Read the rest

Coachella: Björk's wild sound machines, and report from the turf

(Photos, top image and first two in post, by eecue of, cc-licensed).

I'm at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival in Indio, California this weekend.

More around the web: Flickr "coachella" tagged photos, technorati, LA Times coverage, band lineup, Wikipedia entry.

I haven't been out here in a couple years. The event seems much larger now. The desert town where this takes place only has a population of about 70,000, but they're expecting another 60 - 70,000 200,000 to show up for the event this weekend. Profit estimates I'm hearing for the event's organizers are around $50 million.

I'm crashing on an airconditioned couch in my friend Wayne Correia's world-famous, geek-pimped, beWiFi'd bus on the event grounds. He has a better satellite 'net connection on this thing than my broadband in urban LA.

I'm listening to a low-power FM pirate radio station here at the event site: "Renegade Radio," at 103.3 FM if you're nearby. Paynie put the tracks together.

It's 108° F. outside, according to the gauge on Wayne's bus. When I drove in yesterday afternoon, there were mobile sprinklers all over the place to keep dust down. RVs, tour buses, and tent encampments stretch out as far as I can see in either direction right now.

More than 120 bands are on the lineup this year, and lots of robots, flamey stuff, and software-driven art installations, some of which might look familiar from Burning Man.

Coolest thing that isn't a band so far is the fully functional, but stationary, steam engine. Read the rest

Stumbling on Happiness: why we suck at being happy

Daniel Gilbert's Stumbling on Happiness is one of those pop-science books that delivers a serious a-ha punch at least once a chapter, a little insight into the way that the world works that stops you right where you are and makes you go back and reevaluate how you got there.

Gilbert is a Harvard Psych prof, and in this book, he doesn't seek to explain how to be happy -- in fact, the introduction specifically disclaims this intention -- but rather, how happiness happens. And why happiness is so elusive.

Happiness is certainly elusive. How many times have we chased some goal, some purchase, some strategy, sure that we needed it to be complete, only to discover later that we're no happier than we were when the whole steeplechase started? This is the crux of Gilbert's thesis: why are we so consistently bad at estimating how happy some course of action will make us?

For Gilbert, the answer lies in our faulty perceptions. We misremember how happy we've been in the past, we mispredict how happy we'll be in the future (his section on futurism should be mandatory reading for every science fiction writer and tech journalist). Citing study after study, Gilbert lays out the lucid and funny case for the idea that our brains aren't very good at measuring what's going on in our brains.

Gilbert's funny, conversational style reminds me of Freakonomics, as does his subject-matter. For happiness is at the core of more than psychology -- it's also at the heart of justice, economics, political science, ethics, and many other key organizing disciplines that set the Earth in motion. Read the rest

Coke skin-cream

Coca-Cola has teamed up with L'Oreal to make a skin cream neutraceutical beverage. Nice -- working both sides of the street. First they ruin your skin and health with toxic sludge, then they sell you medicated mayonnaise to make it all better again. Link

Update: Meg sez, "Coke's not making a skin cream, it is a 'nutraceutical' beverage to be called Lumae. They want to sell it at places like Saks apparently. " Read the rest

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