Boing Boing 

Hybrid carp with "human faces"

A Korean newscast reports on a hybrid breed of carp with "human faces." Not exactly human, but helllp-meeee freaky Fly enough to give me the willies. Link (via Neatorama)

Heart-shaped teacups

These heart-shaped tea-cups from Bits and Piece run $13 each ($10 in quantity). I wonder if they're a little sloppy to drink out of? Link (via Cribcandy)

Disneyland themed quilt

LiveJournal user Phogg painstakingly created this fantastic Disneyland quilt -- "Keep in mind that short of a single mickey head patch on each panel, the moon in the center and Pooh's balloon in Critter Country, everything started out as white cotton. EVERYTHING was either painted directly onto the panel or painted onto a separate piece of white cotton then appliqued by hand using good old fashioned blind stitching onto the panel. All the lettering was done by hand too." Link (Thanks, Batty!)

Mountain of puzzle-pieces

Today in my ongoing series of photos from my travels: an enormous mountain of assorted puzzle pieces, from the entranceway to the main hall for this year's Picnic conference in Amsterdam. Link

Flying Spaghetti Monster cookies!

Show your religious fervor by baking Flying Spaghetti Monster cookies this year! Link (via Plasticbag)

Hello Kitty for men

Sanrio is launching a line of Hello Kitty stuff for men. Wait, those little pencil-boxes weren't unisex?

An Sanrio Co. employee shows Hello Kitty products targeted at young men at the company's headquarters in Tokyo Friday, Dec. 28, 2007. The cuddly white cat, usually seen on toys and jewelry for young females, will soon adorn T-shirts, bags, watches and other products targeting young men, company spokesman Kazuo Tohmatsu said Friday. The feline for-men products will go on sale in Japan next month, and will be sold soon in the U.S. and other Asian nations, according to Sanrio. (AP Photo)
Link (via Tokyo Mango)

Irreverant Disneyland insider tees

An anonymous ex-Disneyland cast-member is selling irreverent, insider-jokey t-shirts (good looking ones, too!) under the naughty name of "Cryogenically Frozen." Link (via The Disney Blog)

Music producers mixing for MP3

In a fascinating article about trends in sound engineering, Rolling Stone notes that producers are now specifically mixing tracks to compensate for the failings in MP3 -- it seems to me that as a society, we're happy to sacrifice fidelity for ease of use, flexibility and low-cost (see, for example, the trend from landlines to cordless phones to mobile phones to Skype). Designing for that, as opposed to lamenting it -- is a damned good and realistic thing to do.
Producers also now alter the way they mix albums to compensate for the limitations of MP3 sound. "You have to be aware of how people will hear music, and pretty much everyone is listening to MP3," says producer Butch Vig, a member of Garbage and the producer of Nirvana's Never- mind. "Some of the effects get lost. So you sometimes have to over-exaggerate things." Other producers believe that intensely compressed CDs make for better MP3s, since the loudness of the music will compensate for the flatness of the digital format.
Link (via /.)

More scandals surface inside Smithsonian

Carl Malamud says,
For the past 18 months, Jacqueline Trescott and James V. Grimaldi of the Washington Post have covered the never-ending scandals that have plagued the Smithsonian, reporting for which they deserve the Pulitzer Prize. They've broken the story of the resignation in disgrace of the previous Secretary, the subsequent resignation in disgrace of the previous Deputy Secretary, and then the resignation in disgrace of the "CEO" of Smithsonian Business Ventures. Enough for one year? Not on your life!

Today, they bring us the story of W. Richard West, Jr., who as head of the National Museum of the American Indian, felt that the taxpayers should foot the bill for $250,000 in "first-class transportation and plush lodging in hotels around the world, including more than a dozen trips to Paris." (Paris being noted as one of the centers of American Indian culture!)

What struck me particularly hard was a quote from West buried deep inside the story. When asked about his $292,000 salary and his outrageous expenses, all West could manage to say was:

"I am grateful for at least the past year to have been the highest-paid director of a museum in the Smithsonian. Even at that status I have yet to earn even two-thirds of what I earned as a private attorney in my last year in private practice."

Jeez. What is amazing is not that one greedy lawyer tried to bilk the taxpayers, what is amazing is that the Regents of the Smithsonian (which includes 6 members of Congress, the Vice President, and the Chief Justice) let him get away with it without objection. It shows how deeply institutional the problems are in our attic.


The Sex Singularity: When Machines Surpass Human Hotness

Related to today's earlier post about an interview with author of Love & Sex With Robots, my friend Paul Spinrad wrote this excellent short story called "The Sex Singularity: When Machines Surpass Human Hotness."

Following the Supermod Doll's success, Pygmalion introduces Supermod Series II, a line of sexbots with motion-triggered vocalization -- moans, screams, and dirty talk. The bot also has "Inheat Inside," a new behavior engine designed by a leading primate biologist, which makes the bots' movements, expressions, and iris dilations even more powerfully seductive. Demand for the bots grows, but their high price continues to limit sales.

Later in the year, Pygmalion introduces the Supermod Pornstar line, in a cross-marketing and licensing partnership with adult video producer Digital Playground. The new line of sexbots are realistic, laser-scanned replicas of Jesse Jane and other leading porn actresses. Tagline: "You've watched me; now fuck me."

A reclusive bot-owner commits "double-suicide" at his home in Los Angeles, hacking his bot to pieces with an axe, then shooting himself in the heart. The story makes national headlines and draws attention to the high suicide rate among sexbot users.

Botboy, a successful chain of Japanese doll clubs, opens 15 branches in the U.S. and Canada. The company also launches Botboy magazine, a monthly celebration of sexbots and the botboy lifestyle that features lavish erotic photography, plus fantasy fiction, sexbot advice and maintenance tips, and the latest in sexbot technology. The magazine is a hit, and proves to be a popular ìgatewayî for non bot-users.

The 1st annual International Interdisciplinary Conference on Sexbots and Social Upheaval takes place in Rome, Italy.


Previously on Boing Boing:
Interview with author of Love & Sex With Robots
Real people who have (un)real relationships with Real Dolls
One slightly used RealDoll for sale
Real Doll sex toy maker has an anime doll
Real Doll photography "Science" experiment: sex with a RealDoll
Video of ultra creepy animated dentist training robot
Japorn anime cosplay and living-doll erotica, part two: Kigurumi
Supreme Court denies Alabama women mechanically induced orgasms

RIP: Netscape Navigator (1994-2008)

Netscape Navigator, once the de rigeur browser for more than 90% of web users, will no longer be supported by current owner AOL after February 2008. Link. Post your ode to this code in the comments. Extra points if you can manage to refer to yourself as a "netizen" with a straight face. (thanks Bill)

Boing Boing Pirates "toddler" toy

Genius babies sells a toy called "Boing, Boing, Pop'n Pirates" -- "Pirates will delight toddlers who are fascinated by cause-and-effect play. Three wooden pirates (each with a patch on his eye) fit into three slots in a sturdy red ship, then pop up and down on springs when pushed by little fingers." Delight toddlers? Hot damn -- this thing delights me! Link (Thanks, Justin!)

Inside the 1962 Sears Christmas Catalog


This comes too late for Christmas -- 45 years too late. But the 1962 Sears Christmas catalog is still a treat.

Inspired by the fact that several friends of this Internet weblog recently forwarded us the same excerpts from a 1977 JC Penny catalog, Telstar Logistics reached into our vast corporate archive and emerged clutching a pristine copy of the 1962 Sears Christmas Book.

As you browse the Sears catalog, keep in mind that, according to the Inflation Calculator, $1 in 1962 was equivalent to $6.51 in 2006 dollars. Conversely, $1 in 2006 was equivalent to $0.15 in 1962.


Video of accordion player from Minority Orchestra

200712281150 I enjoyed this video of 19-year-old Koharu playing accordion. She's in the Japanese street brass band Minority Orchestra, shown here (video of Minority Orchestra). Link

Electroplankton inventor's new musical instrument

200712281113My favorite Nintendo DS title is Electroplankton, a music synthesizer that lets anyone create pleasant music.

The creator of Electroplankton, Toshio Iwai, made a standalone synthesizer for Yamaha called the Tenori-On, and Chris Pirillo reviewed it on his video program. He loves the $1200 instrument. I can't wait for the price to drop to about $250. Link

Communist monuments of Yugoslavia


Jan Kempenaers took these spectacular images of monuments erected in communist Yugoslavia. Link

Blackwater wishes you a very mercenary Christmas

Danger Room has scanned a copy of the holiday card sent out by Blackwater Worldwide: Link to larger-rez scans. Hey, this eggnog tastes like blood.

New Jersey to block sex offenders from internet, computer use

A new law in New Jersey gives authorities the right to take away computer and internet access from convicted sex offenders, regardless of whether computers or the internet played a role in their crime. Snip from Ars Technica:
According to one of the law's backers, state Senator John Girgenti, the law makes it easier for sex offenders to stay on the straight and narrow, "reducing the risk of them being tempted to be a repeat offender."

Bill S1979 gives the state broad authority to regulate a sex offender's computer and Internet usage so long as the person remains on parole. And the law is tough: anyone who uses a computer to help commit sex crimes will be prohibited from using computers or the Internet at all. The State Parole Board may also impose restrictions at its discretion on offenders even if they did not use computers to plan their crimes.

Link (Thanks, Glyn)

Interview with author of Love & Sex With Robots

David Levy, author of Love & Sex With Robots, was interviewed by Jeff Simmermon.

Simmerman: Would you personally use one of these robots?

Levy: I would certainly experiment with one, to find out what it was like – how much like the real thing.

Simmermon:Would your wife? Probably not – she is not interested in anything of a technological nature.

Simmermon:Would she mind if you used one? Surely you’ve talked about it by now …

Levy: Actually, no, because it is purely hypothetical since they do not yet exist.

Simmermon:I ask because I was talking about this with my girlfriend, who, had she found one of these in my closet in the early stages of our relationship, would have hailed a cab and never seen me again.

Levy: She says that, but why? Has she never used a vibrator? And if she has, why does she think that you shouldn’t have left her immediately you found out?


Priests brawl at Jesus' birthplace

At a Bethlehem church built over the manger where Jesus was alleged to have been born, two groups of "robed and bearded" Greek Orthodox priests and Armenian priests fought each other for over an hour "using fists, brooms and iron rods as weapons." Seven people were injured in the brawl.
200712280924 The brawl apparently began when Greek Orthodox priests set up ladders to clean the walls and ceilings of their part of the church after the Christmas Day celebrations.

Armenian priests claimed that the ladders encroached on their portion of the church, which led the two sects to exchange angry words which quickly turned to blows.

Photographers who came to document the annual cleaning ceremony instead recorded the entire event.

Link (Thanks, jjasper!)

TSA's new forbidden item: >2 gm lithium batteries

Picture 4-26
The TSA has discovered that on January 1st, 2008 lithium batteries are going to become more dangerous than they were on December 31, 2007. Thankfully, they've taken action by forbidding them beginning in 2008.

Lithium Metal Battery, Spare or Installed (over 2 grams lithium):
In checked bag? Forbidden
Carry-on? Forbidden

The Department of Transportation's web site doesn't say why they're forbidden. They just are. Link

(Thanks, Andy!)

Terminus -- award winning short film from Canada

Picture 3-31 A silent concrete monster follows a nervous businessman through Montreal in Terminus, an eerie and darkly funny short film directed by Trevor Cawood. Link (Thanks, Kevin!)

Drunken Xmas brawl at South Pole

Doran says:
Two men working at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station got into a "drunken Christmas punch-up." One man, an unidentified Raytheon employee, was injured so badly he couldn't be treated at nearby McMurdo station and required an emergency medical evacuation to a New Zealand hospital. The other man was flown back to the US.

Free-fall "zero-g dance" to be performed this weekend, inspired by Hugo-winning novel "Stardance"

This Sunday, Jeanne Robinson, co-author of the Hugo-award winning novel Stardance, will perform the first piece of zero-gravity choreography onboard a "vomit-comet" free-fall jet, and the result will be filmed for Imax:

Wherever humans go, we bring our arts–and in zero-gravity, we will create amazing new forms of art never before seen, as our imaginations are set free by weightlessness.

Stardance combines artistic and humanistic themes with the backdrop of science and space exploration–exemplifying the grandeur, intrigue and promise of space, through the grace of dance unhindered by gravity.

The Stardance Experience is slated to be produced and presented in the 70/15 “Large Format” pioneered by the IMAX corporation. The film will push the boundaries of the medium, combining live action and digital FX to create an emotional and visceral connection with the audience.

The Stardance Experience intends to reignite humanity’s fire to return to space - to reach ordinary people and communicate the majesty, beauty, mystery and transcendence that await us all, just above our heads: the bliss of the stars. Only from that perspective can we hope to create futures that exemplify the best in humanity.

Our birthright is the propensity to dream, dance, and evolve.

Jeanne's husband and co-author, Spider Robinson, is blogging all week in the runup to the flight, and has podcast a lengthy excerpt from Stardance as well. Link (Thanks, Spider!)

Painted gaming miniatures

Today in my series of photos from my travels: a collection of painted underwear-pervert miniatures on a game-dealer's table at last year's ComicCon in San Diego. I love painting miniatures -- when I was a teenaged D&D player, it was my absolute top favorite part of the game. I ruined more shirts, tables and carpets with my hobby! There's a great gaming shop in Covent Garden, The Orc's Nest (awesome name, too!) where they always have a window-full of painted intricate miniatures, usually on sale for just a little more than the unassembled, unpainted versions (and charmingly, the finished ones are glued to tuppence coins as bases). I've never guessed, but I've always just assumed that the reason that these finished pieces -- which must have hours of labour in them -- are available for just a pound or two more than the unfinished ones is that the painter is an obsessive like I was, whose living and working space is completely jammed with painted minis, leaving quick sales as the only way to practice the hobby without drowning in figs. Link

Update Whoops! I stand corrected! These are "HeroClix" miniatures and they come pre-painted. Man -- stop playing tabletop games for twenty years and they get all pre-packaged on ya!

HOWTO make a Senior Remote with only five big, friendly buttons

Unknownuser2007 has posted a great little HOWTO on Instructables -- a "senior remote" for a TV with only five buttons. I'd love one of these, but I'd also add a Play/Pause button (a few years ago I would have needed "mute" -- but with everything coming through a PVR, pause works even better when the phone rings).

My mom was born in 1931. She is from the generation of radio and WWII. Her eyesight is failing and she isn't good with anything electronic. TV remotes confuse her. This mod came to me after she called me one day, claiming her TV remote stopped working. It turns out, she inadvertently hit the button that activated the VCR functions. She didn't know or couldn't see the button to reactivate the TV functions. So I decided to "dumb" down the remote to only three functions: On/Off, Channel and Volume.
Link (via Wonderland)

Semacode QRCode needlepoint scans as "pillow"

Flickr user Tikaro made this needlepoint semacode QR code (a kind of two-dimensional barcode) -- it scans to the Semapedia URL for "pillow". Link (via Wonderland)

(Image: Downsized crop from P1060816.JPG, appearing in tikaro's Flickr stream, used here for commentary, under the aegis of fair use)

Logo trends of 2007

Logo Lounge has a good piece on logo trends from 2007:

Charlie the Tuna and the Jolly Green Giant, these are not. Advertising characters have danced the line between logos and mascot for years. Even the Cingular Jack was a bit of a hybrid with a personality that animation played out beyond the printed page. Urban vinyl is a subculture that is starting to cross over into logo design. These small vinyl characters are ubiquitous shelf clutter, enshrined in nearly every designerís desk collection.

First made popular in Hong Kong by Michael Lau in the 90's, these imaginative imps have become highly collectable and have entire stores, KidRobot and magazines, Super 7, dedicated to their notoriety. The art of Tim Biskup may start on canvas but it soon translates to designer vinyl characters. Usually they can be as mundane as fire breathers to as outlandish as slimy cyclops ghost aliens. Though not a serious influence on Fortune 500 identities, urban vinyl has its place in pop culture, and that has translated to two-dimensional applications in logo design.

Link (via Kottke)

Resigning from Napster takes more than 30 minutes

Buoyed by the news that three of the four labels are now making music available as DRM-free MP3s, Wired's digital music columnist Eliot Van Buskirk has resigned from all the DRM-based subscription services he had subscribed to: Yahoo, Napster and Rhapsody. In a fascinating piece, he recounts the process of resigning from each one. Yahoo only took one minute, but check out the rigmarole Napster puts you through!
What a pain. There's no way to cancel online, so I called the cancellation number (800.839.4210) and waited on hold for about 20 minutes listening to messages like "Did you know that your Napster subscription lets you access over 5 million tracks? Please hold, and a customer service representative will be with you shortly."

A woman came on the line and asked me a bunch of questions (Was this my first call? Could I confirm my email? Is there a phone number on which she could call me back in case something goes wrong with the call? Can I hold again?). Granted, this is two days after Christmas, but still, I wasn't too happy at how long this was taking.

When she took me off hold again, I told her I wanted to cancel because 2007 was the year 3 of the major labels started selling music without DRM. Back on hold.

She came back -- presumably after consulting a manager or the internet to find out what DRM is -- and then responded, "I don't understand, because all of our music contains DRM." Back on hold. This time, I told her I wanted to cancel because the files were DRMed, and she finally canceled my subscription.

Total time for cancellation: 30 minutes and 32 seconds

(Emphasis mine) Link

Warner to sell no-DRM MP3s on Amazon

Warner Music has announced that it will begin to sell non-DRM'ed MP3 music files on Amazon, making it the third (of four) major labels to sign up for DRM-free distribution of their music, Universal and EMI being the other two. Only Sony BMG have held out -- and that's the same label that gave us the infamous Sony Rootkit, a dangerous hacker-tool that Sony infected millions of PCs with in a failed bid to prevent copying of its music.

Warner will not sell its music in DRM-free form on iTunes, which is in keeping with the general tenor of the move to DRM-free music. Apple's dominance in online music sales has been reinforced by the fact that nearly all the music it has sold is locked to Apple's players with a DRM scheme called FairPlay. Thanks to laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it's illegal for competitors of Apple to break this DRM and offer competing products that will play the music you bought from Apple. This lock-in gives Apple a Wal-Mart-like degree of control over the business-practices of the labels, since Apple customers who make a substantial investment in iTunes music face the prospect of losing their money should they switch to competing players.

The only way to maneuver around this is by offering DRM-free MP3 tracks, which can be played on iPods and their competitors. Apple CEO Steve Jobs called on the labels to deliver DRM-free music last year, even as several European nations were considering legislation, regulation or court action to force Apple to open up its DRM to competitors.

Warner's move to sell its music in the superior DRM-free form only through Apple's competitors seems like petty gamesmanship, since MP3s are MP3s, no matter where you buy them, and an Apple customer who buys an MP3 in the iTunes Store is every bit as able to shop somewhere else for music and players as is someone who buys music from Amazon. This is a move that pits Warner's long-term corporate strategy -- punishing Apple to reduce its market power -- against the needs of its artists, who benefit from having the largest possible pool of retail outlets for their music in its most superior form.

Of course, the labels -- Warner included -- already shamelessly steal from their artists in the realm of digital downloads, through a crooked accounting process. Here's how it works: artists are generally entitled to a seven percent royalty on "sales," but are contractually guaranteed a fifty percent royalty on "licensing." When the labels "sell" you a song online, they actually claim that they're only giving you a license to the music (and that's why they can attach all kinds of unreasonable conditions to the transaction -- see next paragraph for more). If you're only getting a license -- rather than making a purchase -- then 49.5 cents from every $0.99 track should go straight to the artist. Instead, they get a measly seven cents.

What kind of unreasonable conditions are attached to the "license" you get when you buy online music? Well, of course Sony made you "agree" to let them install spyware and a rootkit on your computer in order to listen to your music. But they're hardly alone -- Amazon's "license agreement" tells you you're not allowed to loan, re-sell, or make other uses of your music that would be consistent with a sale. If you buy a CD from Amazon, they not only don't try to stop you from selling it used -- they encourage you to do so, and will even broker the transaction. But if you "buy" (sorry, license) the same album from Amazon as a download -- often at a higher cost than the used CD will run you -- they make you "agree" that you won't even loan it to your kid brother, or give it away to the school library when you get tired of it.

A music distribution startup founder emailed me last week and asked what kind of terms and conditions I would consider reasonable for digital music sales. The answer was easy: "Don't violate copyright law." Anything more than that is just picking your customers' pockets by confiscating the rights that copyright law grants them -- the right to loan, sell, give away, format-shift, time-shift, etc.

But it's still good news that Warner has joined the war on DRM, even if they're screwing their artists (and the rest of us) to do so. At this rate, all four labels will go DRM-free by 2008, and by 2010, they'll finally start offering us a fair shake on their products, just as the last music fan and the last new artist defects to P2P, convinced that buying or selling music through the labels only gets you screwed, one way or another. Link (Thanks, Adam!)