Boing Boing 

UK village posts "Ignore sat-nav" signs

Darren Barefoot sez, "Apparently sat-nav systems are hazardous to the health of British (and visiting) drivers:"
Vale of Glamorgan Council in South Wales is the first in the UK to use visual signs warning drivers not to believe sat-nav advice after once peaceful villages were reduced to bedlam when heavy-goods lorries got stuck in tiny country lanes.

Now a sign aimed largely at foreign drivers has been put up on the outskirts of the village of St Hilary.

"The proliferation of satellite navigation aids used in heavy goods vehicles, and their over-reliance, especially by overseas drivers, has presented itself as a problem within the Vale of Glamorgan," a spokesman for the council's highways department said.

Link (Thanks, Darren!)

Podcast on future of technology, copyright and science fiction

Last night at the World Science Fiction Convention in Yokohama, Japan, I sat down for an interview with Patrick Nielsen Hayden, the editor who runs the largest science fiction line in the world for Tor Books. Patrick is my editor and a friend, and we had a rollicking, quick discussion about copyright, technology and the future of science fiction. It's live now on the Tor podcast, for your listening pleasure. MP3 link, Link to Tor podcast homepage, Link to podcast feed

Anatomical knee-socks

Loving these anatomically correct knee-socks -- they remind me of Grade Six Hallowe'en skeleton costumes. Link (via Neatorama)

See also: Detailed anatomical t-shirts here's a roundup of recent goodies

  • In the Year 2000: Gargantuan, Trans-Oceanic Ground Effect Wingship
  • Kokoro Scan: Finally, a Game That Will Cause Actual Real Life Violence
  • Fashion & Technology Student Projects from Malmö U
  • Marines Using Biometric Scanning to Cordon Fallujah
  • GM Dashboard and Key Fob Concepts
  • FUTR WRLD: Tomorrow's Retro-Future Today
  • Ashley Wood's "Bertie" Robot Sculpture
  • "Stunning Ring" Conceals Pepper Spray
  • Philips Power2Go: Wall Warts with Batteries
  • Ultimate Ears UE-11 Pro Headphones Reviewed (Verdict: Painful!)

  • Blowing Out the Dust: Morning Edition
  • BIO: Fold Your Own Office Products
  • Irony, Thy Name is Amazon
  • USC Team Creates 360° Holographic Display with Mirrors, Perhaps Smoke
  • Estes Digital Video Rocket
  • Grid Sequencers Coming Soon: Tenori-On and Monome
  • Casio Prototype Camera Shoots 60 FPS
  • In the Year 2000: Syd Mead Spacesuits (and More)
  • A Strange One: Sony Rolly
  • Plastic Litters Our Oceans
  • Morning Tech Deals Highlights

  • UN sends 10,000 food aid SMSes to Iraqi refugees in Syria

    The United Nations today sent about 10,000 text messages to help inform Iraqi refugees in Syria, via their cellphones, that an international food distribution for them will start tomorrow. Snip from Bloomberg item:
    The UN Refugee Agency and the World Food Program will initially distribute enough rations to feed 33,000 Iraqis in Syria and about 50,000 by the end of the year, the UN said today in a statement. The UN agencies have pledged about $4.14 million to provide food for the next four months.

    Syria has struggled to keep up with the surge of refugees from neighboring Iraq since violence increased there in May 2006, said World Food Program spokeswoman Brenda Barton. "There are refugees that used to cross, but host families were able to take care of them," Barton said in a telephone interview from Rome. While the UN began providing some refugee food aid in Syria in March, the program that begins tomorrow will feed "significantly more" Iraqis than before, she said.

    Link (thanks, Cyrus Farivar)

    Premature Man Burning: not the first Black Rock City prankage

    Scott Beale says,
    Many people are very upset about Tuesday’s premature burning of Burning Man, but others consider it to be the ultimate Burning Man prank. For years the joke on the Playa was to set the man on fire early and in the mid 90’s Bigrig Industries used to hand out match packs printed with the words “Burn The Man Early”.

    Burning Man has a long history of prankster activity which is largely due to it’s association with the The Cacophony Society during the late 1980’s to mid 1990’s. Burning Man 1990, the first event on the Black Rock Desert was a collaboration with The Cacophony Society as part of their event “Bad Day At Black Rock (Zone Trip #4)”.

    One of the most infamous Burning Man pranks took place during the 1996 event (the year of the HELCO theme) when a giant neon smiley face was installed inside the head of the Burning Man sculpture.


    Previously on Boing Boing:

  • More on The Man who Burned The Man at Burning Man
  • Burning Man set on fire early
  • Suicide at Burning Man
  • Burning Man 2007: GPS data files, maps, and "Xeni Cup."
  • Greening Burning Man: how-to guide and best of overview
  • Amazon to launch DRM-free iTunes competitor

    Site is slated to launch in September. Link to NY Post article, where news broke, Link to somewhat more sober account over on Gizmodo.

    LA Weekly on the Source Family Sunset Strip love cult

    In the most recent LA Weekly, Doug Harvey has an excellent article about The Source Family love cult, which operated The Source vegetarian restaurant on Sunset Blvd in the 1960s and 1970s.

    (For an in depth history of The Source Family, I highly recommend The Source: The Untold Story of Father Yod, Ya Ho Wa 13, and The Source Family, published by Process Books.

    200708311133Things started getting freaky early in 1969, when Baker opened his third restaurant – the Source – and became a devotee of Sikh kundalini master Yogi Bhajan. Baker began speaking and directing meditation sessions in the restaurant, and – though still a follower of the yogi – channeling a new synthesis of traditional and original esoteric teachings. Attendance soared, and soon Baker and his growing group of followers were dressing in white cotton robes and turbans, living communally in the Chandler mansion (a.k.a. the Mother House) and following a rigorous program of spiritual practices involving elaborate breathing techniques (beginning with a single six-second hit of sacred herb at 3 a.m.), cold showers, radical shifts in gender roles, yoga, chanting the Tetragrammaton, natural home birth, magickal visualizations, Aleister Crowleyian ego-suppressing rituals and tantric sex.

    During this period, the Source Family was one of the most high-profile and unusual of the many new religious movements proliferating in Los Angeles, not least because of their uncommonly high standards of grooming and cleanliness, their economic self-sufficiency and work ethic, and the fact that they didn’t openly proselytize. Potential members, in fact, were obliged to undergo a period of sexual abstinence and cross-examination as well as surrender all their material possessions to the group, washing dishes (or other chores) at the restaurant and taking a vow of confidentiality in order to partake of the spiritual teachings.


    Midwest Teen Sex Show: comedy podcast on teen sexuality

    Cory Silverberg, guide, tells BoingBoing: "I thought you might be charmed by this new pseudo-sex-education video podcast that's short and full of potential (not to mention cute midwest girls crawling in the fields)."

    Each episode is sort of a parody of a given sex-ed topic (birth control methods, the ethics of dating much-older men, and so on) -- but presented in a deadpan, internet-funny fashion. May or may not be work-safe (explicit subject matter) but it's not pornography by any means. Just sharp sarcasm that rings true, with good advice.

    Link to Midwest Teen Sex Show home page, blogged here by Cory Silverberg at Subscribe via iTunes. The "older boyfriends" episode was my first fave.

    The Week's briefing on the NSA

    The excellent news weekly, The Week, has a a good one-pager about the National Security Agency, which now has the Congressionally-approved power to conduct warrantless wiretaps.
    200708311114 A system called Echelon screens the flood of information for targeted phrases, names, phone numbers, and addresses, and alerts agents to any matches. In 2003, the NSA had flagged 10 different cell phones used by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. When his voice matched with one of the numbers, the agency used satellites to triangulate his position and grab him. Ninety-five percent of the raw material collected by the NSA is never translated into intelligible language. But raw data can also be useful. The NSA practices “data mining”: analyzing communications for patterns–such as phone numbers being frequently connected with other numbers–that can be revealing even if the content of conversations is not known. Information from the NSA makes up about 75 percent of the president’s daily intelligence briefing.

    Safe toys you can make


    Natalie of CRAFT says: "With al the recent scary news of the toy recall, now more than ever is the time to take back our children's safety in our own hands and have fun in the process by crafting our own toys! To get you started, here's a roundup of some great toy projects you can make." Link

    Confessions of a College Callgirl

    This blog, penned by a pseudonymous author identified as a female sex worker, is always an interesting read -- but never so much as in her most recent post, "The Price." Snip:
    It’s not easy to write about prostitution in a totally honest way because it is painful. Painful like being fat growing up and having people yell lardass at you out car windows and strangers approaching you on the street to tell you to lose weight. Painful like being a 13-year-old girl saving her virginity for marriage and being held down and robbed of that. I am embarrassed to talk about my pain, about the times I have been hurt. Especially when the road there was tricky and circuitous and partially of my own design. It’s hard for me to sift through the detritus, much easier to poke fun, to glam it up, to be some badass character. You guys don’t come to this blog to be depressed and there is plenty to write about that isn’t depressing. But when I get these letters, I see the danger in that approach.

    I want to be very clear that I recommend this lifestyle for no one. It is easy enough to cross the line because the line is invisible. Much harder still to go back, to return to a time when you shared no piece of yourself with strange men, men you don’t like, even men who don’t like you. I detached myself completely from the work I was doing and felt that I was getting off scot-free with minimal psychological impact. I was having fun at first; I felt beautiful and confident and adored and I was financially secure for the first time ever. But those nights found their way underneath my skin. They just burrowed down deep under the folds of my subconscious like a rat nestled at the bottom of a shopping bag.


    Image: "She thought sex would be the best way to feel that you are still alive," 2005, by Iris Schieferstein. Aludibond, dry prepared animals and acrylic.

    (thanks, Susannah Breslin)

    Apple, NBC can't agree on iTunes pricing for TV shows

    And as a result, Battlestar Galactica, the best show in this galaxy or any other, may disappear from iTunes. Frak! Link to NYT story. (thanks, George Ruiz) Update: Apple strikes back. Link.

    Web Zen: Music Viddy Zen

    * stronger
    * jan pehechaan ho
    * are friends electric
    * killing floor
    * beggin
    * war photographer
    * herr bar
    * colonel blimp

    previously on web zen...
    * music viddy zen 2004

    Web Zen Home and Archives, Store (Thanks Frank!)

    Image: The epic Bollywood dance number "Jan Pehechaan Ho," via WFMU. See also this Primus vs. Jan Pehechaan Ho mashup vid: Link.

    How voters are susceptible to politicians who can manipulate their fear of death

    The New Republic has an article called "Death Grip: How Political Psychology Explains Bush's Ghastly Success." It reports on the research of psychologists Sheldon Solomon, Jeff Greenberg, and Tom Pyszczynsk, who believe "a fear of our own mortality guides many of our political choices without our ever realizing it."
    200708311030 Their first experiment was published in 1989. To test the hypothesis that recognition of mortality evokes "worldview defense" -- their term for the range of emotions, from intolerance to religi- osity to a preference for law and order, that they believe thoughts of death can trigger -- they assembled 22 Tucson municipal court judges. They told the judges they wanted to test the relationship between personality traits and bail decisions, but, for one group, they inserted in the middle of the personality questionnaire two exercises meant to evoke awareness of their mortality. One asked the judges to "briefly describe the emotions that the thought of your own death arouses in you"; the other required them to "jot down, as specifically as you can, what you think will happen to you physically as you die and once you are physically dead." They then asked the judges to set bail in the hypothetical case of a prostitute whom the prosecutor claimed was a flight risk. The judges who did the mortality exercises set an average bail of $455. The control group that did not do the exercises set it at an average of $50. The psychologists knew they were onto something.

    Over the next decade, the three performed similar experiments to illustrate how awareness of death could provoke worldview defense. They showed that what they now called "mortality salience" affected people's view of other races, religions, and nations. When they had students at a Christian college evaluate essays by what they were told were a Christian and a Jewish author, the group that did the mortality exercises expressed a far more negative view of the essay by the Jewish author than the control group did. (German psychologists would find a similar reaction among German subjects toward Turks.) They also conducted numerous experiments to show that mortality exercises evoked patriotic responses. The subjects who did the exercises took a far more negative view of an essay critical of the United States than the control group did and also expressed greater veneration for cultural icons like the flag. The three even devised an experiment to show that, after doing the mortality exercises, conservatives took a much harsher view of liberals, and vice versa.


    Sigur Rós documentary film: Heima

    Speaking of alt-music documentaries, check out the lush trailer for Heima, which follows the Icelandic hometown hijinx of Sigur Rós: Link. Ganked (like the other blogged today) from Souris Hong-Porretta, who says, most correctly: "You ain't human if SR don't make you weep."

    Roger Lextrait: Eight years alone on South Pacific island

    The Private Islands blog has a story about Roger Lextrait, who lived practically alone on a small island in the South Pacific atoll of Palmyra for eight years.
    200708311002Each day he woke promptly at 5AM, to the calling of a hundred thousand birds. Nowhere else on the planet do these creatures gather in such numbers. After fixing himself a Palmyra Cocktail (1 part Rum, 1 part Red Wine, 1 part Tang), he called up his radio contacts in Tahiti and Honolulu. A shower on the beach in his makeshift bathing system and he was ready for the day. The bath and latrine systems Roger built are still used today by the current research teams that visit the atoll for brief expeditions.

    Roger had a variety of things to keep him busy. Not least of which were his 3 dogs TouTou, Blackie, and Padou. He trained them to hunt sharks, helping to keep the predators population under control. Always near were his 2 cats Tiger and DouDouche, and the 2 birds he raised from hatchlings, lovingly named Felix and Oscar.

    Experience made him an excellent fisherman, using only a diving knife, fishing net, and spear gun. This was dangerous work as the reef contained a number of less than friendly creatures. Roger had his share of run-ins with everything from sharks to stingrays, but never suffered any serious injuries.

    Singing, playing his guitar, and drumming on an old wheel barrel helped him pass the time and keep the loneliness at bay. Despite his best efforts, Roger still describes experiencing intense feelings of depression and despair. “It (Palmyra) is so secluded, so isolate,” he says.


    Article about conspiracies at Denver International Airport

    Picture 6-25 Denver International Airport is in the middle of nowhere. It's been dubbed "America's Most Inconvenient Airport." It's also the airport of choice for conspiracies theorists, who say that deep beneath the airport exists a massive complex of buildings six stories underground designed to house a cultish shadow government and the super-rich elite in case of natural or man-made disaster. The airport's colorful and undeniably creepy diptych murals depicting things such as a gas-mask wearing Gestapo officer impaling a dove with his saber, and three dead women in coffins, don't help quell the rumors that DIA is some kind of grand mystic lodge for the reptilian overlords who secretly run everything.

    The latest issue of Westword has a long article about DIA and the many competing conspiracies surrounding it.

    And not all these theorists are Unabomber-like crackpots uploading their hallucinations from basement lairs. Former BBC media personality David Icke, for example, has written twenty books in his quest to prove that the world is controlled by an elite group of reptilian aliens known as the Babylonian Brotherhood, whose ranks include George W. Bush, Queen Elizabeth II, the Jews and Kris Kristofferson. In various writings, lectures and interviews, he has long argued that DIA is one of many home bases for the otherworldly creatures, a fact revealed in the lizard/alien-faced military figure shown in Tanguma's murals.

    "Denver is scheduled to be the Western headquarters of the US New World Order during martial law take over," Icke wrote in his 1999 book, The Biggest Secret. "Other contacts who have been underground at the Denver Airport claim that there are large numbers of human slaves, many of them children, working there under the control of the reptilians."

    Link (Thanks, Vann!)

    New biopic on Joy Division, Ian Curtis: Control

    Out mid-October: a biopic on Ian Curtis, the lead singer of Joy Division, shot in luscious black and white by renowned photographer and music video director Anton Corbijn. Pulling in some great reviews, and looks awesome. Hope the film lives up to the tease and does not induce PTSD (Promising-Trailer-Syndrome-of-Disappointment), because the trailer sure is lovely. Link to website with trailer, gnargghhh, wish they hadn't built it in such a fat Flash interface, takes to load on the EVDO card I'm using right now in a car repair waiting room. (Spotted in Souris Hong-Porretta's tweetstream)

    Update: oooh, the soundtrack tracklist has leaked -- Link.

    Pepper spray ring -- Boing Boing Gadgets

     Gimages Goldring
    When I was in Aspen a few years ago, an antiques dealer there showed me a handsome gentleman's ring that was also a single-shot gun. The dealer swore it was custom made for the mob. If I had a few grand, I would have bought the curious contraption right then. Less deadly is the "Stunning Ring" that Joel posts about on our new BB Gadgets blog. Hitting the hidden trigger produces a nice little blast of pepper spray. Link, Discuss at BB Gadgets

    Ray Charles in Post-It Notes

    David Alvarez, 19, of Leavenworth, Washington used more than 2,000 Post-it Notes to create a 10-foot image of Ray Charles. Alvarez, and art student at Washington's Wenatchee Valley College, says the idea came to him while playing with a mosaic effect in Photoshop. The finished piece took three months. From CNN:
     Images 2007-08 Ray-Charles-Post-It-Dave-Alvarez"It's something so simple. You can still see the flaps sticking out on some of them," he said. "Naturally the Post-it Note just sort of flaps out..."

    Originally, the Post-it Notes stayed in this unique format only by virtue of their manufactured stickiness, which does not hold up as well as glue, Alvarez found. When he displayed his work at (an area art) show, he monitored the project for 14 hours, continuously replacing notes that were falling off.

    The aspiring art teacher now uses glue to hold the notes in place.
    Link (via Neatorama)

    Previously on BB:
    • Jaguar covered in stickie notes Link

    Kako Ueda's cut paper art

    Kako Ueda creates incredibly intricate and beautiful artworks from cut paper. Seen here, a work-in-progress titled "Memento Mori" (site specific wall relief), cut black paper, 50" x 50". From Ueda's artist statement:
    Cut paper exists in many cultures and is normally perceived as a craft medium. In Japan where I was born, this medium is used for stencil making -- a way to make patterns for kimono wear. I became attracted to the medium because of its history as well as its process of cutting to make images. Cut paper piece has a look of a drawing at the same time has its own physicality.

    I am interested in organic beings -- insects, animals, and human bodies -- how they are born out of nature byut constantly influenced and modified by culture.
    Link (via Juxtapoz)

    Joyce Johnson: Jack Kerouac and the 50th anniversary of On The Road

    September marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of On The Road, Jack Kerouac's iconic novel that defined the Beat generation. To celebrate, Smithsonian magazine published a personal essay about Kerouac written by his friend Joyce Johnson, author of Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir. Johnson first met Kerouac on a blind date orchestrated by Allen Ginsberg nine months before On The Road hit shelves. From Smithsonian:
     Wikipedia En D De Ondaroad The astonishingly handsome, road-weary man sitting beside me at the Howard Johnson's counter seemed larger than life but strangely unexcited about the forthcoming publication of his second novel, On the Road, years after he had composed it at white heat on a 120-foot-long, taped-together scroll of drafting paper. He told me he was hoping the book would bring him a little money and some recognition in literary circles for what he called his "spontaneous bop prose." Numerous publishers had rejected it, and even Viking Press had kept it on ice for two years, fearful of lawsuits as well as the consequences of bringing it out at a time when the novels of Henry Miller and D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover were banned in the United States. The date Viking had finally selected was September 1957, fifty years ago this month. For all their caution, Jack's editors were as unprepared as he was for the book's profound and immediate impact. Who could have predicted that an essentially plotless novel about the relationship between two rootless young men who seemed constitutionally unable to settle down was about to kick off a culture war that is still being fought to this day?...

    Dean Moriarty, sexual athlete, car thief, autodidact, marathon talker and Sal Paradise's spiritual guide, slowed down from time to time to mistakenly marry various women. Sal, more introverted and reflective, and the narrator of the novel, claimed to be looking for the perfect girl but was actually on a much stranger search–a spiritual one–for "the father we never found." (The father figures in the novel, whether Dean's hobo father or God, always remained out of reach just around the next corner.) When Sal earnestly asks a rather pathetic girl in the Midwest what she wants out of life, he feels sad that she cannot envision anything beyond the mundane life she already has. Although feminists would later condemn the way Kerouac's male characters exploited women without taking the least responsibility for them, when I first read On the Road in the summer of 1957, I felt that its liberating message was addressed to me as well as to men–a view that many other young women would come to share.
    Link to Smithsonian, Link to buy On The Road: 50th Anniversary Edition, Link to buy Minor Characters: A Beat Memoir

    Previously on BB:
    • Steve Allen interviews Jack Kerouac Link
    • Kerouac curator invents copyright laws to keep photographers away Link
    • Unedited On The Road to be published Link

    Amount of caffeine in soft drink brands

    Auburn University researchers analyzed a slew of carbonated soft drink brands to measure the actual caffeine content. They report their data on more than 100 beverages in the current issue of the Journal of Food Science. The table below is excerpted from a summary of the research published by Science News.

    From the Science News article:
    Although colas have a reputation for their nerve-jolting caffeine, citrus-flavored drinks actually offered substantially more of the stimulant. Diet and regular colas typically delivered 30 to 34 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce (0.35-liter) serving, whereas regular and diet citrus drinks provided an average of 50 and 55 mg, respectively. The soft drinks richest in caffeine in the entire survey were both citrus beverages: Vault Zero at 74 mg per serving and Diet SunDrop at 71.5 mg...

    Because few soft drink labels report how much caffeine a beverage contains, the researchers recommend that manufacturers start reporting – and posting – these values prominently so that consumers can look for drinks that will offer the amount of caffeine they seek.

    Vatican airlines passengers must dump holy water

    The Vatican launched its chartered air service for pilgrims headed to Lourdes this week, but travelers on the way back had to dump their precious bottles of holy water. The headrests may be emblazoned with the Latin words for "I search for your face, oh Lord," but even those on a mission for God can't carry more than 100ml of liquid, holy or not, onto the plane. From The Telegraph:
    Many hoped to ferry the water back to sick relatives.

    Instead, dozens of plastic containers in the shape of the Madonna were left at security, while one man decided to drink all of his.

    One passenger drank all of his holy water rather than discard it...

    Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, the official on board from the Vatican’s travel agency, did not even try to argue with the rules, to the dismay of the pilgrims.

    Many passengers asked the police how they could be foolhardy enough to throw away the miraculous water, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper.

    Science Fiction Writers of America abuses the DMCA

    The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to fraudulently remove numerous non-infringing works from Scribd, a site that allows the general public to share text files with one another in much the same way that Flickr allows its users to share pictures.

    Included in the takedown were: a junior high teacher's bibliography of works that will excite children about reading sf, the back-catalog of a magazine called Ray Gun Revival, books by other authors who have never authorized SFWA to act on their behalf, such as Bruce Sterling, and my own Creative Commons-licensed novel, "Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom."

    The list of works to be removed was sent by "" on August 17, described as works by Isaac Asimov and Robert Silverberg that had been uploaded without permission and were infringing on copyright. In a followup email on August 23, SFWA Vice President Andrew Burt noted that the August 17 list wasn't "idle musing, but a DMCA notice."

    The 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows copyright holders to use "notices" to force ISPs to remove material from the Internet on a mere say-so. In the real world, you couldn't get a book taken out of a bookstore or an article removed from the newspaper without going to court and presenting evidence of infringement to a judge, but the DMCA only requires that you promise that the work you're complaining about infringes, and ISPs have to remove the material or face liability for hosting it.

    As a result of SFWA's takedown notice, hundreds of works were taken offline -- including several that had not been written by Asimov or Silverberg. It appears that the list was compiled by searching out every single file that contained the word "Asimov" or "Silverberg" and assuming that these files necessarily infringed on Silverberg and Asimov's copyrights.

    This implies that Robert Silverberg and the Asimov estate have asked SFWA to police their copyrights for them, but it's important to note that many of the other authors whose work was listed in the August 17 email did not nominate SFWA to represent them. Indeed, I have told Vice President Burt on multiple occasions that he may not represent me as a rightsholder in negotiations with Amazon, and other electronic publishing venues.

    More importantly, many of the works that were listed in the takedown were written by the people who'd posted them to Scribd -- these people have been maligned and harmed by SFWA, who have accused them of being copyright violators and have caused their material to be taken offline. These people made the mistake of talking about and promoting science fiction -- by compiling a bibliography of good works to turn kids onto science fiction, by writing critical or personal essays that quoted science fiction novels, or by discussing science fiction. SFWA -- whose business is to promote science fiction reading -- has turned readers into collateral damage in a campaign to make Scribd change its upload procedures.

    Specifically, in the Aug 23 email, SFWA Vice President Andrew Burt demands that Scribd require its uploaders to swear on pain of perjury that the works they are uploading do not infringe copyright. SFWA has taken it upon itself to require legal oaths of people who want to publish any kind of thought, document, letter, jeremiad, story or rant on Scribd. Not just "pirates." Not just people writing about science fiction, or posting material by SFWA members -- SFWA is asking that anyone writing anything for publication on Scribd take this oath of SFWA's devising.

    Ironically, by sending a DMCA notice to Scribd, SFWA has perjured itself by swearing that every work on that list infringed a copyright that it represented.

    Since this is not the case, SFWA has exposed itself to tremendous legal liability. The DMCA grants copyright holders the power to demand the removal of works without showing any evidence that these works infringe copyright, a right that can amount to de facto censorship when exercised without due care or with malice. The courts have begun to recognize this, and there's a burgeoning body of precedent for large judgements against careless, malicious or fraudulent DMCA notices -- for example, Diebold was ordered to pay $150,000 125,000 for abusing the DMCA takedown process.

    I am a former Director of SFWA, and can recall many instances in which concern over legal liability for the organization swayed our decision-making process. By sending out this indiscriminate dragnet, SFWA has been exposed to potential lawsuits from all the authors whose works they do not represent, from the Scribd users whose original works were taken offline, and from Scribd itself.

    In addition to the legal risks, SFWA's actions have exposed it and its members to professional risk. For example, the page that used to host my book, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom now reads, "The document 'Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom' has been removed from Scribd. This content has been removed at the request of copyright agent Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America." Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom was the first novel released under a Creative Commons license, and I've spent the past four years exhorting fans to copy my work and share it. Now I've started to hear from readers who've seen this notice and concluded that I am a hypocrite who uses SFWA to send out legal threats to people who heeded my exhortation.

    In discussing this with my agent, Russell Galen, I was made aware of another potential problem: Scribd does end up hosting infringing works (just like Flickr, Blogger, LiveJournal and any other site that lets users upload their own files) that writers and their agents can remove by sending in legitimate DMCA notices (Russ tells me that he's sent Scribd notices on behalf of the Philip K Dick estate, another of his clients). When SFWA begins to muddy the waters by asserting that the organization is its members' representative for copyright, they make it harder for actual copyright enforcement agents to do their job -- how much harder will it be for Russ to convince Scribd that he is Dick's representative now that they've been burned by SFWA?

    There's no excuse for this. Even a naive Internet user should be able to understand that if you compile a list of every file online that has the word "Asimov" in it, you'll get a lot of works that weren't written by Isaac Asimov included in the search results. In the case of Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, the file included a blurb from Gardner Dozois, former longtime editor of Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine -- and it was that "Asimov" in "Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine" that triggered the takedown.

    Even a naive user should know better -- and SFWA Vice President Andrew Burt (who got his position through an uncontested ballot) is a computer scientist and programmer with experience in this field. Indeed, he previously created a system called "Shades of Grey" that is supposed to ruin the ebook downloading experience by poisoning the Internet with corrupted copies of ebooks. He convinced SFWA to appropriate funds from its operating capital to patent this idea, on the basis that publishers would pay SFWA to use it to make science fiction ebooks less attractive to readers (I don't understand the logic of this either). During the last SFWA election, he promised to pay this money back.

    SFWA's copyright campaigns have been increasingly troublesome. In recent years, they've created a snitch line where they encourage sf lovers to fink on each other for copying books, created a loyalty oath for members in the guise of a "code of conduct" in which we are supposed to pledge to "not plagiarize, pirate, or otherwise infringe intellectual property rights (copyright, patent, and trademark) or encourage others to do so." What business SFWA has in telling its members how to think about, say, pharmaceutical patents, database copyrights, or trademark reform is beyond me. In 2005, SFWA sent out a push-poll to its members trying to scare members off of giving permission to Amazon to make the full text of their books searchable online.

    All of this is pretty bad, but this month's campaign against Scribd takes the cake. I'm a dues-paying SFWA member and past volunteer who relies on the free distribution of my books to sell printed books and earn my living. By fraudulently removing my works from Scribd, SFWA is taking money out of my pocket -- it's the online equivalent of sending fake legal threats to bookstores demanding that they take my books off their shelves.

    Update: SFWA President Michael Capobianco writes,

    Dear Cory,

    I want to personally apologize for the mistake that caused your work to be pulled from It should not have happened and it will not happen again.

    I've asked Andrew Burt to notify of this mistake so your work can be restored as quickly as possible.

    I want to respond to the flurry of activity that has resulted from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) mistakenly identifying several works as infringing copyright. First, some background. There have been discussions within SFWA for several months regarding websites that allow users to upload documents of all sorts for other users to download and share. Many hundreds of copyrighted texts have been put online at these sites, and the number is growing quickly. Some SFWA members complained about the pirating of their works to SFWA's e-Piracy Committee and authorized the committee to do something about it. SFWA contacted, one of these sites, about removing these authors' works and generated a list of infringing works to be removed.

    Unfortunately, this list was flawed and the results were not checked. At least three works tagged as copyright infringements were nothing of the sort. I have personally apologized to the writers and editors of those works. If you are a creator who has had material removed and has not yet been contacted, please email me at

    SFWA's intention was to remove from only works copyrighted by SFWA members who had authorized SFWA to act on their behalf. This kind of error will not happen again.

    Michael Capobianco
    President, SFWA

    Exhibit of cartoonist Basil Wolverton's work


    Stephen says:

    The first exhibit of artwork by the insanely great cartoonist Basil Wolverton is taking place at the Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana. The opening reception is scheduled to take place on September 1st and the show runs through November 11th.

    The Original Art of Basil Wolverton
    from the Collection of Glenn Bray
    September 1 - November 11, 2007
    Opening Reception: September 1, 7-10 p.m.
    Grand Central Art Center
    125 N. Broadway,
    Santa Ana, CA 92701
    General Phone: 714.567.7233

    In honor of the exhibit, I'm posting an article Wolverton wrote in 1947 for the Daily Oregonian on the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive blog. It's titled "Acoustics in the Comics" and it deals with Wolverton's struggles to find just the right sound-word to describe such cartoony situations as a person skidding on a stove with bare feet or a beaver biting into a wooden leg.

    Acoustics in the Comics by Basil Wolverton

    You can also find a complete Powerhouse Pepper story by Wolverton here.


    Previously on Boing Boing:
    • Lotsa Basil Wolverton links on Boing Boing here.

    Collection of creepy looking farm equipment.


    Our pal Iowahawk took a bunch of photos of his father's collection of scary-looking old farming implements. (Above: "Pity the poor apple skinned alive by the fiendish cast iron Kleen Kutter.")

    After 42 years farming a handsome little square mile of western Iowa, my old man hung up his clodhoppers a few years ago for a well-deserved rest. Like a lot of retirees, Hawkdad decided to take up collecting, with a focus on primative farm equipment and toys. Since then he has amassed an impressive collection of unique agricultural objects; unusual hand tools, planter lids and tractor seats, turn-of-the-century advertising signage, antique toy tractors and horses. It's all interesting, but some of it is "interesting" in the same way an H.R. Giger painting is interesting: cool, mechanical, but indescribably creepy. Hooterville steampunk meets the Tower of London. Rather than try to describe it, here are some pictures I took during a recent visit.

    Photos of signs in Colorado

    Here are some interesting signs I came across on a recent visit to my home state of Colorado. Link

    Insanely complex watches

    OObject has a great roundup of insanely complicated wristwatches, including this Vulcania. I am such a sucker for proliferating dials. Link (via EvHead)