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BBtv WORLD is our recently-launched series on Boing Boing tv featuring first-person views of life around the globe. This third episode in our series is the last of a three-part report I filed from a K'iche Maya community in Guatemala.
Few foreigners come to this village at 10,000 feet in the highlands. Most glimpses we have of remote indigenous communities like this are through the lenses of outsiders -- like myself. But how better to see their story than through the eyes of the people themselves?
Before I left the US for this pueblo a few weeks ago, we asked two companies that produce small, inexpensive, USB camcorders -- Pure Digital (makers of the Flip) and RCA (makers of the Small Wonder) -- to donate a few devices. I brought them to the village, so that some of the adults and young people here could explore what is possible with the tools of video storytelling in their own hands.
Today's BBtv WORLD is the result: stories shot by the K'iche people in this village. The world they see around them, through their own eyes and in their own language.
Some of what the children shot really surprised me. They caught on right away, faster even than the adults, and quickly taught each other how to record and play back video. Some of them seemed to transform into instant YouTube stars -- new alter-egos showed up out of nowhere. One boy we'd come to know as quiet and well-mannered over the course of many previous visits here shot himself throwing gang signs against the sunlight, like shadow puppets, while he walked a path that leads to a Mayan altar. Another girl who was very shy with us in person recorded video of herself making outrageous silly faces, and speaking in a boisterous, confident voice to her new handheld lens.
When I downloaded the footage from their devices, I felt as if I were seeing this place, and these people, for the first time.
Sponsorship note:The BBtv crew wishes to thank Microsoft for underwriting this episode, and generously supporting the launch of the "BBtv World" series. In this ongoing video series, we will be looking at the intersection of social causes & technology around the world from a number of perspectives. Through their new "i’m Initiative," Microsoft shares a portion of the program's advertising revenue with some of the world’s most important social causes when users email or IM with tools such as Windows Live™ Messenger and Windows Live Hotmail®. For more information, visit imtalkathon.com or im.live.com.
Tor and Expanded Books have released part two of the video interview/book trailer they shot with me and John Scalzi, talking about our new young adult novels -- my Little Brother and John's Zoe's Tale, which comes out in three weeks. The Expanded People really cut nice stuff -- I laughed even harder watching the video than I did when we were shooting it!
Sci-Fi Juggernauts Meet Up - Part 2
Mother Jones Magazine has outed a private spy named Mary Lou Sapone AKA Mary Lou McFate, who infiltrated various gun-control groups on behalf of the NRA, posing as a fiery activist, spying on her friends, and writing reports on them so that the NRA could undermine their work.
Hohlt recalled several recent episodes in which McFate maneuvered to place herself in the middle of issues important to the NRA and others in the gun lobby. One occurred this spring, when the London-based International Action Network on Small Arms was trying to persuade American gun control groups to attend a July meeting at the United Nations on small-arms control. (A 2001 UN conference ended up establishing a program weaker than gun control advocates had desired, thanks to the intervention of the Bush administration, which had been lobbied by the NRA.) States United to Prevent Gun Violence had never before been involved with international gun control issues. And to participate in the UN meeting, it had to apply for credentials. Hohlt says McFate pushed her to file for them. Hohlt did so, and McFate ended up being able to learn what the anti-gun forces were planning for the UN session–including the delegates they intended to lobby, and the arguments they would highlight.
McFate also took a keen interest in a gun matter currently under consideration by the Department of the Interior, Hohlt says. At the urging of the gun lobby, the agency has been mulling whether to change its regulations to allow people to carry loaded and concealed guns into national parks under certain circumstances. (At the moment, a gun carried into a national park must be unloaded and kept apart from ammunition.) The National Parks Conservation Association and current and former National Park Service officials have been fighting the proposed rule change. "When Mary heard about this," Hohlt recalls, "she immediately asked to be on the email list [of the opponents] and she also got on the phone calls. So she now knows the strategy of the people trying to fight this." Similarly, when Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a group organized by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, mounted a campaign against the NRA-backed Tiahrt amendment–legislation advanced by Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.) and first passed by Congress in 2003 that prevents the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives from sharing gun-tracing data–McFate, according to Hohlt, made certain to participate in conference calls during which strategy for beating back the bill was discussed. "Whenever an issue comes up, she manages to get on the email list," Hohlt says.
The good folks at Public Knowledge have produced a fantastic video explaining the MPAA's "Selectable Output Control" proposal -- the idea that a TV show should be able to disable parts of your home theater (for example, if MTV is worried that your Dolby sound outputs might be used to record the audio portion of music videos, they could shut down those outputs and only allow you to hear sound via the speakers in your TV).
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) has asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to engage in “selective output control” (SOC). If the FCC agrees, the MPAA and the movie studios it represents (Paramount, Sony, Fox, Universal, Disney, and Warner Brothers) would be able to “turn off” any output plug they choose, like those on the back of consumer electronics devices of an entertainment system, during special video-on-demand movies on cable television. Public Knowledge opposes SOC and along with Consumer Federation of America, Digital Freedom Campaign, Electronic Frontier Foundation, Media Access Project, New America Foundation, and U.S. PIRG, has filed comments urging the FCC to deny the MPAA’s request.
Jake von Slatt sez, "I am fortunate to work with someone who has been involved with ReaderCon, the annual literary science fiction convention in Massachusetts, and when he mentioned that there would be a Steampunk panel I begged for audio!
The podcast adds up to fifty minutes of intense, fun engagement with the movement."
Readercon is an annual, literary science fiction convention in Burlington, Massachusetts. This year, it included a panel on steampunk, recorded for podcast here.
The four panelists were:
Mary Robinette Kowal - a professional puppeteer who moonlights as a writer
Holly Black -- a bestselling author of contemporary fantasy novels for teens and children,
Liz Gorinsky - an editor at Tor Books
Sarah Micklem - a graphic designer and writer.
The description of their panel read:
Steampunk and Beyond: What Would a "Gibson Chair" Look Like? Steampunk, originally just an SF subgenre, is now also a burgeoning underground design movement. There's precedent for this: modernism was not only a literary movement, but had artistic, musical, architectural, and design wings as well.
Is the steampunk design movement an essentially fluky outgrowth of our fascination with all things retro? Or could other F&SF subgenres sprout their own design branches as well? Could the creation of actual, useful, physical objects lead to better-imagined literary art? How close is the relationship between the visually striking artifacts of steampunk and the literature that spawned them, anyway?)
However, in the usual way at Readercon, their fascinating discussion ranged far beyond the specific questions asked, touching on steampunk's predecessors and many aspects of its own past, present, and future. The audience asked many informed questions.
Bonnie sez, "When you’re at San Diego Comic-Con, it’s nearly impossible to walk more than a few feet and not run into a fan in costume. Every year the convention center is flooded with various versions of superheroes, video game characters, horror film icons, pirates, steampunk kids, vampires, werewolves, manga and anime favorites, food mascots and of course lots and lots of Star Wars characters. Even though it seemed the Joker costumes dominated the con, the 501st and Rebel Legion were out in full force, as were fans dressed as Yoda, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Jedi and even a couple of TIE Fighters.
Here’s a recap of some of the best costumes we spotted."
Comic-Con: Best Star Wars Costumes
BrookynTwang sez, "Check out this video for the Large Hadron Rap, by far the greatest physics rap of all time. The flow is halfway decent, and it accurately covers a lot of knowledge related to particle physics and the LHC. Its by AlpineKat, alter-ego of a science writer currently working at the LHC."
Oh that's fantastic! I got to tour Cern and the LHC last week and got a ton of great pics, and came away with the impression that if this thing causes the universe to wink out of existence, it'll have been worth it.
Large Hadron Rap, My photos from Cern
David Rees's Get Your War On -- absolutely my favorite political comic -- has been animated by 23/6, and it's an incredibly successful adaptation, keeping the low-fi look and feel while still doing more than presenting the individual panels as slides in an animated PowerPoint. This is the first episode, but they promise a series. Oh yes, thank you very much!
NASA confirms, beyond any earthly doubt, that water really really really does exist on Mars.
Laboratory tests aboard NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander have identified water in a soil sample. The lander's robotic arm delivered the sample Wednesday to an instrument that identifies vapors produced by the heating of samples.
"We have water," said William Boynton of the University of Arizona, lead scientist for the Thermal and Evolved-Gas Analyzer, or TEGA. "We've seen evidence for this water ice before in observations by the Mars Odyssey orbiter and in disappearing chunks observed by Phoenix last month, but this is the first time Martian water has been touched and tasted."
A retrospective art exhibition featuring art from BLAB! is opening tomorrow, August 1, at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art on the campus of Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. I wrote an essay for the show's catalogue about BLAB!'s creator, Monte Beauchamp.
The exhibition, organized by the Beach Museum of Art, will be on view through November 2, 2008. It is the first American museum exhibition devoted to the work of BLAB!, Monte Beauchamp’s periodic anthology of sequential and comic art, illustration, painting, and printmaking. The exhibition, which focuses on BLAB! #8-18 (1995-2007), features the work of forty-six artists and includes 150 objects from thirty-nine collections. All of the work in the exhibition has appeared in BLAB!.
Artists in the exhibition: Michael Bartalos, Gary Baseman, Richard Beards, Tim Biskup, Stéphane Blanquet, Calef Brown, Greg Clarke, The Clayton Brothers, Sue Coe, Don Colley, Brian Cronin, Nicolas Debon, Douglas Fraser, Charles Paul Freund, Drew Friedman, Geoffrey Grahn, Steven Guarnaccia, Ryan Heshka, Peter Hoey, Tom Huck, Teresa James, Jeffrey Kamberos, Nora Krug, Peter Kuper, Mark Landman, Laura Levine, MATS!? [Mats Stromberg], Walter Minus, Christian Northeast, John Pound, Archer Prewitt, Chris Pyle, Helge Reumann, Xavier Robel, Jonathon Rosen, Marc Rosenthal, Sergio Ruzzier, David Sandlin, Spain, Bob Staake, Fred Stonehouse, Mark Todd, Chris Ware, and Esther Pearl Watson.
The accompanying 128-page, full-color catalogue was designed by Monte Beauchamp and contains contributions by David A. Beronä, Mark Frauenfelder, Matt Dukes Jordan, and Bill North.
I went to Machine Project's fruit jam last year and it was a blast.
Sunday August 3rd from 12-3pm brings the return of our favorite summer ritual, jam making with Fallen Fruit. Jams will be based on the fruit that the participants provide. The fruit can be fresh or frozen. Fallen Fruit will bring public fruit. We are looking for radical and experimental jams as well, like basil guava or lemon pepper jelly. We'll discuss the basics of jam and jelly making, pectin and bindings, the aesthetics of sweetness, as well as the communal power of shared food and the liberation of public fruit. When the jam is done, it is spooned into small, hopefully recycled jars, and the participants take some of their own, leave some for others, and perhaps take a jar of another team's jam. Bring fruit, small glass jars, a willingness to share the goods and an enthusiasm for delicious jam chaos. Free.
In 1990, Rosalind Williams, MIT professor of history of science and technology, published a book titled Notes on the Underground: An Essay on Technology, Society, and the Imagination. The book explores both real and imaginary undergrounds, from the building of sewers and subways to archaeological digs to the writings of Jules Verne and HG Wells. This year, MIT Press has published a revised edition of Notes On The Underground. In honor of that, Cabinet magazine ran a fascinating interview with Williams about the meaning of "underground" and how it relates to science and culture. From Cabinet:
What is your definition of the underground in the book?
In the beginning, I had a straightforward definition: it was a mine, or a pit dug into the earth, or a subway, or a tunnel. As I was writing, however, I realized that one of the most interesting aspects of the world that humans have constructed on the surface of the earth is the creation of mock or artificial underworlds in the sense of places that are meant to exclude organic life, where everything is meant to be a creation of human artifice rather than given from the larger universe. A shopping mall, for example, can serve as a model of a technological environment (a term Mumford didn’t use, but that I find useful) even if it isn’t literally underground.
But most of all I try to expand the concept of the underground from the earth to the sky. I end the book by comparing environmental consciousness with subterranean consciousness, pointing out that the real surface of the planet is the upper edge of the atmosphere. Our earthly home is everything below the frigid and uninhabitable realm of outer space, and so in a sense we have always lived below the surface of the planet, in a closed, finite environment.
Loren says: "The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that their former MNDoT emergency response executive, who was fired for hanging out with her boyfriend in NYC instead of coming back to Minneapolis to deal with the 35W bridge collapse, has been hired by the TSA."
Sonia Pitt, the MnDOT emergency response executive fired for taking an unauthorized, state-paid trip to Washington during the Interstate 35W bridge disaster, is now working for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Pitt, 44, of Red Wing, confirmed Wednesday that she is working for Homeland Security's Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) at its headquarters in Arlington, Va. Her job title is "Transportation Security Specialist." Pitt declined to discuss her job responsibilities, her length of employment with the federal agency or her salary.
"All inquiries go through my attorney, same as always," Pitt said.
Despite wise warnings from the American embassy to avoid all large, possibly violent Serbian demonstrations, I was there today in Belgrade's Republic Square.
My American friend and I were sipping two beers to pay for our cafe table. I also noticed some lone men alertly drinking coffee there: they were undercover Belgrade police. Standing outside the cafe were strong, heavily armored lines of hyper-geared riot policemen. There were even riot policewomen on duty.
Last night I spoke to Dejan Anastasijevic, an expert on internal issues and a witness in Hague trial against Milosevic. We concluded that this grand public event was the swan song for the Radical Party, and for Radovan Karadzic, one of its founders: for the Radicals, tonight was now or never.
Well: the verdict is never. The ethnic holy-warrior Radovan Karadzic has lost out to the New Age guru Dabic: his other Jeckyll-and-Hyde personality for the last 13 years. Maybe 16,000 people trickled into Republic Square, a good-sized crowd for downtown Belgrade, but a fragment of the three million Radical voters, a full third of the Serbian population. Two months ago the Radicals were gleefully smashing foreign embassies over the Kosovo issue; today they are bewildered and crestfallen.
We recently interviewed Columbia professor of environmental health sciences and microbiology Dickson Despommier, the pioneering researcher responsible for bringing national attention to the idea of vertical farming. In light of your recent article on Professor Despommier's critical work on BoingBoing on July 15, ("Lettuce in the sky, with diamonds") I thought that you might be interested in his interview.
Klaus Pierre, a French/German actor-waiter-whatever, aspires against all odds to become America's next great action hero. In today's episode, he attempts to conquer the greatest challenge ever -- his first big Hollywood party. Drinks, hijinks, and embarassing dance moves ensue.
This image (three combined frames) shows the last total solar eclipse, March 29, 2006. The next one takes place tomorrow. The Exploratorium will Webcast the event live from China. From Science News:
This particular eclipse will sweep across the planet in a slim path that begins in Nunavut, a northern province of Canada, and ends in northern China. So people in parts of Canada, northern Greenland, the Arctic, central Russia, Mongolia and China will be able to witness the seconds-long blackout.
When the moon totally obscures the sun – the moment of totality – the sun’s outer atmosphere, called the solar corona, becomes visible. The solar corona reaches temperatures higher than a million degrees Celsius and extends farther than 620,000 miles from the star’s surface. Because the sun’s surface is brighter than its corona, a solar eclipse is the only opportunity to see the corona with the naked eye.
The Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona in Spain is now hosting the first museum exhibition devoted to the incredible writer JG Ballard, author of such works as Crash, Empire of the Sun, and Concrete Island. According to the museum, "This exhibition offers an itinerary through Ballard's creative universe: his times and obsessions, his dissection of the secret keys of the contemporary, the traces of his own life in his fictional body of work, his artistic and literary referents, and his precise, disenchanted intuitions of a future life governed by the concepts of aseptic dystopia and disaster." The show is appropriately titled "JG Ballard: Autopsy of the New Millennium." Sadly, I can't make it to Barcelona to experience the show in person. But over at the excellent Ballardian site, Rick McGrath contributed a written "tour" and photos of the exhibition.
JG Ballard exhibition review(Ballardian, thanks Simon Sellars!), JG Ballard exhibition page(CCCB)
This tiny alien in a jar is on display in the lobby of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. (Click image to see the full picture.) OK, it's not really an extraterrestrial. It's a shaved monkey from a UFO hoax fifty years ago. Two barbers and a butcher eventually confessed to slicing off the dead monkey's tail, removing its hair, and giving it a greenish tint. From the Associated Press:
Then they left the primate on an isolated road north of Atlanta in the pre-dawn hours of July 8, 1953, burning a circle into the pavement with a blowtorch before a police officer came around the curve in his patrol car.
"If we had been five minutes earlier, we would have caught 'em in the act," said Sherley Brown, the officer who happened on the scene.
The barbers, Edward Watters and Tom Wilson, and the butcher, Arnold "Buddy" Payne, told the policeman they came upon a red, saucer-shaped object in the road that night. They said several 2-foot-tall creatures were scurrying about and the trio hit one with their pickup before the other creatures jumped back in the saucer and blasted skyward – leaving the highway scorched.
Here's a three-minute youtube of two guys in zombie outfits reciting haiku (about zombiism) and blowing artistic sax notes -- while, in the background, zombie apocalypse unfolds. Thank you, zombie guys, for productively filling three minutes of my life!
Watch-Cufflinks is the webstore for Etsy seller Edmdesigns, whose work I've featured here before. There's some really lovely stuff here -- I'm partial to this wingéd watch movement badge. Makes me wish I had more shirts with French cuffs!
The Guardian's just published my latest column, "Illegal filesharing: A suicide note from the music industry" about the insanity of the latest record-company salvo in the copyright wars, a cozy deal with British ISPs that will have them spying on and degrading the connections of subscribers accused of infringing downloading:
So no, I don't think this is going to have any appreciable effect on filesharing. However, it will succeed in driving music-swapping even further underground, to encrypted protocols and offline hard-drive parties and private swapping networks. These are every bit as efficient at getting music into the hands of kids, but they're a lot harder to monitor and charge money for.
The original Napster had a fine proposition: they would charge their users for signing onto their network and write a cheque for as-many-billions-as-you-like to the record industry every quarter. After all, they had the fastest-growing technology in the history of the world at their disposal, 70 million internet users in 18 months, and they'd found that the average American user was willing to spend $15 a month for the service. The record industry sued them into a smoking hole instead, and out of the ashes of Napster arose dozens of new networking technologies. Each one was more hardened against monitoring and disconnection than the last.
These days, if you wanted to charge a flat fee for access to all music (something that consumers all over the world would be eager to accept), you'd have to do stuff that's a lot more complicated and funky to get anything like the clean reports we'd have gotten off of Napster 1.0.
And yet that's just what we're going to end up doing. It's historically inevitable: whenever technology makes it impossible to police a class of copyright use, we've solved the problem by creating blanket licences.
Raketentim sez, "The Halo Corpse Alphabet is a rather macabre project with the goal being to represent every letter of the alphabet by the twisted, curved, stretched, and otherwise dead Spartan and Elite bodies from Halo 3. The Halo community was clearly up for the challenge as they miraculously managed to capture every single letter, number, and even some punctuation in the form of screenshots."
Halo Corpse Alphabet
Some of Queen Victoria's giant and comical undergarments were up for auction, but we are not amused.
A pair of her bloomers, a chemise and a nightdress went under the hammer at Mackworth in Derby for 13,500 pounds ($27,000).
The cotton bloomers are monogrammed with a VR (Victoria Regina) and attracted bids from as far as Brazil, Russia, Hong Kong and New York. They finally went to a lady from Canada for 4,500 pounds, according to auctioneer Charles Hanson.
A London collector snapped up Queen Victoria's chemise for 3,800 pounds. Her nightdress sold for 5,200 pounds to an American collector.
Tim Wu's new NYT op-ed, "OPEC 2.0," explores the growing carteliztion of bandwidth and its consequences for America, where we already spend nearly as much on bandwidth as we do on heating oil. Tim's got a newish book out about this stuff called Who Controls the Internet?. I've only browsed it so far (way behind on my reading), but it looks like a classic to me.
Like energy, bandwidth is an essential economic input. You can’t run an engine without gas, or a cellphone without bandwidth. Both are also resources controlled by a tight group of producers, whether oil companies and Middle Eastern nations or communications companies like AT&T, Comcast and Vodafone. That’s why, as with energy, we need to develop alternative sources of bandwidth.
Wired connections to the home – cable and telephone lines – are the major way that Americans move information. In the United States and in most of the world, a monopoly or duopoly controls the pipes that supply homes with information. These companies, primarily phone and cable companies, have a natural interest in controlling supply to maintain price levels and extract maximum profit from their investments – similar to how OPEC sets production quotas to guarantee high prices.
But just as with oil, there are alternatives. Amsterdam and some cities in Utah have deployed their own fiber to carry bandwidth as a public utility. A future possibility is to buy your own fiber, the way you might buy a solar panel for your home.
Shane Glines found this funny and well-made chicken commercial on YouTube.
I was excited to find this rare commercial produced by José Luis Moro's "Estudios Moro". The studio, run by José and his brother Santiago from 1955 through 1970 produced many animated commercials in addition to the animated series The Cantinflas Show and La Familia Telerin.