Boing Boing 

Judge orders woman to return two library books or go to jail


A judge has ordered JoAn Karkos of Lewiston, Maine to return two copies of It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex and Sexual Health, which she checked out the Lewiston and Auburn public libraries last year.

In September, Karkos sent letters to the libraries, including checks to pay for the cost of the books. The letters said, in part, “I have been sufficiently horrified of the illustrations and sexually graphic, amoral, abnormal contents. I will not be returning the books.”

The judge has ordered Karkos, who is being held in contempt of court, to return the books and pay a $100 fine by Friday at 4pm. If she doesn't comply, she'll be arrested.

In 2007, NPR reported on the incident, providing several links, including a link to a letter Karkos wrote to the Sun Journal.

Lewiston Woman Facing Jail Over Book

Night Vision: night photos of urban ruins from the creator of Lost America

Troy Paiva's Night Vision: The Art of Urban Exploration is a stunning collection of "light-painted" night photography from a variety of modern ruins: ghost towns, abandoned mass-transit stations, an airplane graveyard and others. Paiva places dramatic colored lights in the scene to bring out its essential spookiness, something that is often missing from photos of glorious old ruins. The book includes an intro from BLDGBLOG's Geoff Manaugh and copious notes on the different sites ("TOADS" -- temporary, obsolete, abandoned and derelict spaces) that Paiva and his fellow urban explorers visited (Paiva also includes colorful, curmudgeonly grumps about the damned film location and set people who sex up his ruins by adding extra graffiti and so on). You can see more of Paiva's work on his site, Lost America, which chronicles his serious nighttime infiltration habit. Night Vision: The Art of Urban Exploration

See also: Book: Night Visions: The Art of Urban Exploration

Winged cats discovered in western China

Winged cats have been known to exist since the 19th century, but only a handful of people have actually seen–let alone owned–one. This woman in Sichuan province watched as her beloved kitty grew angel wings on his back last summer after a bunch of female cats tried to mate with him. "Many female cats in heat came to harass him, and then the wings started to grow," she said.

Geneticists have a less romantic theory. They believe it could be a genetic defect, a skin condition, or the result of poor grooming.

Link (Thanks, Annalee!)

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.)

Time lapse video of slime mold and mushrooms

Time lapse video of unusual looking molds and mushrooms erupting. Be sure to check out the related mushroom videos, too. (Via Grow-A-Brain)

Love and Rockets: New Stories, Vol 1


National treasures Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez have relaunched Love and Rockets with a new format and a new approach. I can hardly wait.

Love and Rockets: New Stories #1 reboots the beloved ongoing "Love and Rockets" comic into a fat, all-new annual graphic novel length package.

Jaime launches the new format with a story that's unusual even for him... A full-on, pulse-pounding super-hero yarn! Maggie's longtime friend Penny Century has finally realized her longtime dream of acquiring super-powers, but at a terrible personal cost. Now she rampages through the galaxy, half mad with grief, and a motley group of super-heroes assembles to try to stop her -- led by Maggie's girlfriend Angel and her mysterious neighbor Alarma, and involving a number of characters longtime Love and Rockets fans will delight in recognizing.

The epic-length 50-page story (only the first half of the saga!) combines Jaime's razor sharp characterization and superlative art with wildly inventive, Kirby-style slam-bang super-hero action.

Then Gilbert Hernandez explodes with a similarly generous helping of his fantastically creative one-shot short stories: "Tamanny" (rookie cop vs. demonic drug users); "Papa" (a turn-of-the-century story involving a traveling businessman); "The New Adventures of Duke and Sammy" (super-powered Martin and Lewis impostors in outer space); "The Tender Room" (Into the Wild as re-imagined by Beto); "Chiro el Indio" (written by third brother Mario Hernandez); and "Never Say Never" (a kangaroo gets lucky in Las Vegas).

One hundred pages of Jaime, Gilbert and Mario Hernandez at the peak of their powers: this is a major graphic-novel event!

Love and Rockets: New Stories #1

Small gallery of old comic book ads


Datajunkie has a small galley of choice comic book ads from the days of yore. If you like these, you should get a copy of Hey Skinny! Great Advertisements from the Golden Age of Comic Books. Old comic book ads

How to create a super shiny pencil icon in Photoshop


Eren Göksel wrote a tutorial that anyone can follow to create a drawing of a pencil in Photoshop.

The Pencil is one of the visual metaphors most used to express creativity. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to draw a pencil icon. We'll have a look at gradients, selection tools, and basic transform operations. Let's have some fun with this.
I'd love to see Boing Boing readers' variations on this. If you create one, please link to it in the comments section.

How to create a super shiny pencil icon in Photoshop

Photographing the science museum

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Photographer Meera Sethi has written a nice essay about taking photos in science museums. Sethi is part of Utata, a collective of photographers who met via Flickr. Indeed, be sure to check out Sethi's "Muse" science museum photo set on Flickr. (Seen here, "Together Forever," taken at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.) From "Photographing the Science Museum":
Is there anyone who doesn't feel a certain frisson of excitement when they see something organic preserved in a glass jar? I don't know exactly what it is, but I suspect it might have something to do with certain cultural associations we all carry around in our heads, some strange common currency that comes from years of watching mad scientist movies late at night.That might be me in there, I find myself thinking. If some other intellectually curious species with opposable thumbs and access to the secrets of chemistry had come to dominate the planet instead of my own, that might be my shriveled body all scrunched up in there–my brain at whose familiar whorls some creature with a purple exoskeleton would now be leering through the glass, wondering how on earth it could be so very...grey.

Mostly, though, what I love about standing in front of these heavy jars is how much easier they make it to observe the world I love so much, in close detail. Time pauses, temporarily. The barriers between me and the mysteries of this earth fall, temporarily. Nothing else matters except looking, and everything about the place where I am is designed to make it easier to look–and to see. I see that this barnacle has claws like a dragon's. I see that these spiders have legs like sharp needles. I see that this frog has approximately six times as many organs inside its torso as I would have thought it had room for. I try to look as much as I can, and when I have looked until I have seen, I take out my camera.
Photographing the Science Museum (Utata, via Eastern Blot)

A quick and dirty Japanese humor tutorial

Japanese humor is slowly but surely infiltrating mainstream media in the US. Fake Japanese game shows on ABC, human Tetris on Fox, the YouTube video of the guy that shoots out of a toilet stall into a ski slope... as someone who grew up in Tokyo watching Japanese variety shows every night, though, I have to say that the US adaptations don't really get it.

Previously, I explained why I thought I Survived a Japanese Game Show doesn't work on my blog. I also wrote this little blurb explaining why:

The host of a real Japanese game show is a politically incorrect, sarcastic man who revels in mild forms of torture and isn't afraid to smack a woman on the head. (The feminist in me battles the light-hearted Japanese humoree every time I watch one.) The contestants are stoic, and driven by the determination not to make a fool of themselves and the desire to win money and/or fame. The show's creators are constantly upping the ante, forcing contestants into grueling, sometimes life-threatening situations. A panel of yappy celebrity commentators and on-screen subtitles emphasize LOL moments and onomatopoeia. And, perhaps most importantly, the show can't be overproduced–it's the barebones "variety"-style set-up that has allowed the Japanese game show to survive and thrive for decades.

(In one famously controversial show, an aspiring comedian named Nasubi was locked naked in an empty apartment and forced to live on winnings from magazine sweepstakes until he earned $10,000. When he finally reached his goal 14 months later, the show's producers gave him some clothes, blindfolded him, and took him on a surprise vacation to South Korea, where he was locked in yet another apartment until he won enough money to buy a plane ticket home. While some vehemently opposed the show, most watched it religiously with delightful horror and amusement. Nasubi wrote a best-selling book about his experience and later became a successful stage actor.)

It's the type of comedy that only works in a culture where lawsuits don't take precedent over a nationwide commitment to make fun and have fun. 

In a nutshell, a real funny Japanese TV show will have you thinking, over and over:

This is embarrassing to watch.
This is so wrong.
I'm so glad that's not me.
This is f-ing hilarious.

The above clip is from one of iconic 80s comedian Ken Shimura's many variety shows. Every Japanese person over the age of 25 probably knows it.

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.)

Human waste as fertilizer and irrigation in developing regions

According to a new report, 200 million farmers use human shit as fertilizer for 49 million acres of land. The study, published by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), details how ten percent of the population, mostly in developing nations, eat grains and vegetables harvested from fields irrigated and fertilized with raw sewage. Traditional fertilizer and clean water is too expensive or simply unavailable in many places. From National Geographic:
The report focused on poor urban areas, where farms in or near cities supply relatively inexpensive food. Most of these operations draw irrigation water from local rivers or lakes. Unlike developed cities, however, these areas lack advanced water-treatment facilities, and rivers effectively become sewers. When this water is used for agricultural irrigation, farmers risk absorbing disease-causing bacteria, as do consumers who eat the produce raw and unwashed. Nearly 2.2 million people die each year because of diarrhea-related diseases, including cholera, according to WHO statistics. More than 80 percent of those cases can be attributed to contact with contaminated water and a lack of proper sanitation. But Pay Drechsel, an IWMI environmental scientist, argues that the social and economic benefits of using untreated human waste to grow food outweigh the health risks....

In most cases, the excrement is used on cereal or grain crops, which are eventually cooked, minimizing the risk of transmitting water-borne pathogens and diseases, IWMI's Drechsel noted.
Human Waste Used By 200 Million Farmers (National Geographic)

Sea urchin-inspired art made from pencils

Sculptress Jennifer Maestre makes colorful abstract and plant-like pieces using colored pencils. She turns each colored pencil into beads by cutting them into inch-long sections and then drilling a hole in the base, then sharpens and sews hundreds of them together using the peyote stitch. She loves prickly things like sea urchins–they're what inspired her to work in this unusual medium in the first place.

Link (via Moco Loco)

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.)

Comic bio of Jack Parsons, rocket scientist and magician

Jack Parsons (1914-1952) was a pioneering rocket scientist and co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). He was also a deep devotee of Aleister Crowley and worked some heavy duty occult rituals with none-other than L. Run Hubbard. Parsons had an amazingly strange life that writer Richard Carbonneau and artist Robin Simon are now translating into comic form. "The Marvel: A Biography of Jack Parsons" is now online as a serialized Web comic. I hope it eventually gets published as a graphic novel! The Marvel: A Biography of Jack Parsons (Webcomics Nation via Damn Data)

Previously on BB:
Book review: Strange Angel, a Jack Parsons biography

Guitar Praise: Christianized Guitar Hero

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Guitar Praise is an, er, Christian knock-off of Guitar Hero. "Grab the guitar and play along with top Christian bands! Shred those riffs or blast the bass…you add a unique sound to the solid Christian rock." Seriously. Brownlee has more over at Boing Boing Gadgets. Guitar Praise: Guitar Hero for Christians (BB Gadgets)

Best of BBtv - Omega Recoil: Electricity as Art

The Boing Boing tv crew is taking this end-of-summer week off from production, so we're revisiting some of our favorite episodes from the last couple of months -- fun stuff you may have missed.

Today: John Behrens and "Omega Recoil" build giant Tesla Coils. Their work explores how electronic fields can be excited in the environment, and their creations become the centerpieces of interactive public art performances.

Some of the tinkerers and performers in this SF Bay Area-based collective were previously associated with Dr. Megavolt, an electrical art project which...

[featured] a person in a metal mesh suit interacting with artificially generated lighting. The Doctor sets objects on fire with electricity originating from large Tesla coils, spars with the electric arcs and exhorts the audience to worship the elemental force of electricity.

Boy Proof, a compassionate young adult novel about a weird, smart, angry girl

I've just read Cecil Castellucci's 2005 debut novel Boy Proof and it's delightful to discover that she's every bit as talented a novelist as she is a graphic novel writer (The Plain Janes, the first volume in the outstanding Minx graphic novel series) and a rock musician (Nerdy Girl/Bite).

Boy Proof is the story of "Egg" (AKA Victoria), a self-made outcast in Melrose Prep, who is smart as anything about everything, except herself. She's an overachieving loner, a weirdo, and a science fiction geek, and she's alienated from both of her driven, entertainment-industry parents. She is a perpetual half-rage, but never really sure why, and she can't help but see the world as a hostile and foul place.

As the novel unfolds (and we get a tour of Egg's many deep fascinations and the people in her life who like her no matter what) she learns, by inches, to let go of some of the anger and figure out how to be happy as well as smart and driven.

Smart and miserable seem to go together so often, especially for kids, and Castellucci's clearly been there. The book brims with affection for Egg and her crummy attitude, and it's easy to empathize with her even as you hope for her to find a way free. This is the perfect hopeful and compassionate book for the sharp weirdo in your life. Boy Proof

What's worth more, a pound of grass or a pound of peacock feathers? Or a pound of human blood?

The Evil Mad Scientist Labs folks have conducted exhaustive investigation into the value of objects relative to their weight, starting with coins and bills and working through commodities like flour, and thence to exotics like human blood and antimatter. This is extremely useful information if you're ever trying to get a lot of valuta through a narrow aperture.

People have been saying that the new industrial grade swimsuits like the LZR Racer are worth their weight in gold. As you can see, this is clearly inaccurate. But such a suit is worth its weight in marijuana or industrial diamonds.

At the high end of this graph is gold (the only thing worth exactly its own weight in gold!), right next to the cost of launching a pound of stuff to low earth orbit on the ISS. Putting that into perspective here: You might as well build your whole spaceship out of $20 bills-- it still would cost less than putting it up there. It could almost be made of solid gold for that price.

The monetary density of things

Chinese people discovering fortune cookies

Here's a funny short video of Chinese people being exposed to fortune cookies (an American invention) for the first time:

Americans find high emotional attachment to the slips inside their cookies, looking to them for winning lottery numbers and becoming upset when the fortunes inside are unfortunate. The Chinese, on the other hand, would often tell me after trying the curved vanilla-flavored wafers, “Americans are so strange, why are they putting pieces of paper in their cookies?”
Introducing Fortune Cookies to China (Thanks, Tim!)

Steroid abuser's horrific chest-acne

The photos of this steroid abuser's violent chest-acne (and the subsequent scarring) ought to be posted in the changing room at every gym in the world. Before you complain about how gross the photos on the click-through below are, just be thankful they didn't photograph his shrivelled, damaged testicles, too.
He was a constant user of anabolic-androgenic steroids, of which acne is a side effect -- as is damaged sperm and shrunken testicles, both of which he also possessed.

Doctors ordered the patient to quit steroids and start taking antibiotics. Two months later, the acne was gone. So was the muscle. Only gruesome scarring remained -- and as his doctors wrote last week in the Lancet, that "is likely to remain with the young man for the rest of his life."

Graphic Evidence Against Steroid Abuse

Teddy Bear USB drive is a headless horror

The Teddy Bear USB drive does a really nice job of switching from sickly sweet to just sickening -- just rip its head off and plug its neck into your computer and it looks like you've crushed a little anthropomorphic bear's noggin and forced it into a tiny, little USB port. Teddy Bear USB Drive (via Oh Gizmo)

Neuros OSD gets a free/open web-browser for your TV

Hackers continue to add improvements to the Neuros OSD open set-top box -- now you can download a Web browser for it. Neuros leads the pack in providing a wide-open platform for your TV set, encouraging users to invent their own software and features for the device.

If you're like me, your first reaction to hearing that the web is available on your TV is "why?" The answer is quite a bit different than you might think. The answer is not that you want you want your TV to go out to the web to browse content, which is by and large not the most inspiring concept. The answer is that you want web content brought to your TV. In other words, the Web and all the interactive web 2.0 tools are tools that are well suited to bring rich content to your TV.
The Web on Your TV: Why it Makes Sense

See also: Neuros OSD: a set-top box that treats you like an owner

TELUS Canada royally hoses its wireless broadband subscribers

TELUS, one of the large Canadian phone companies, is playing really scummy tricks on its wireless broadband subscribers. A Slashdot post has the dirt:
"Canadian telco TELUS sold a bunch of (expensive) Unlimited EV-DO aircard accounts last winter and are now summarily canceling them or forcing people to switch to much less valuable plans. TELUS is citing 'Violations,' but their Terms Of Service (see #5) are utterly vague and self-contradictory. The TELUS plans were marketed as being unlimited, without the soft/hard caps that the other providers had at the time. They were purchased by a lot of rural Canadians who had no other choice except dialup. Now TELUS is forcing everyone to switch from a $75 Unlimited plan to a $65 1GB plan, and canceling those who won't switch. Have a look at the thread at Howardforums, a discussion of the TELUS ToS (in red at the bottom), an EV-DO blogger who's been a victim, a post at Electronista, and of course Verizon getting fined for doing the same thing! Michael Geist has taken an interest as well."
You know, for a developed nation, Canada has some amazingly crappy broadband providers with decidedly medieval ideas about the Internet. TELUS Forcing Customers Off Unlimited Plans

DHS contractor threatens woman with arrest for wearing "" tee on federal property

Security guards contracted by the DHS threw a woman out of a Social Security office in Van Nuys for wearing a t-shirt that read "" He claimed that "The Rules and Regulations Governing Conduct on Federal Property" gave him the right to throw her out for wearing a t-shirt with the word "lesbian" on it.
As she headed for a line to pick up a Social Security card for her son, Gilbert was stopped by a guard who said her T-shirt, naming an educational and resource Web site for gay women, was offensive.

She said the guard, who works for a private company hired by the Department of Homeland Security, demanded that she leave the building or face arrest.

T-shirt gets Van Nuys woman kicked out of federal building (via Neatorama)

(Image: Hans Gutknecht)

English is a user-modifiable technology

Here's a stirring Boston Globe op-ed from master lexicographer Erin McKean, presenting the humane case for a dynamic English language in which speakers are allowed to coin neologisms and new usages without grammar tightasses insisting that language is not a user-modifiable technology .
Whenever I see "not a real word" used to stigmatize what is (usually) a perfectly cromulent word, I wonder why the writer felt the need to hang a big sign reading "I am not confident about my writing" on it. What do they imagine the penalty is for using an "unreal" word? A ticket from the Dictionary Police? The revocation (as the joke goes) of your poetic license? A public shaming by William Safire? The irony is that most of these words, without the disclaimer, would pass unnoticed by the majority of readers. (In case you noticed cromulent, that was invented in the 1990s for "The Simpsons.") Writers who hedge their use of unfamiliar, infrequent, or informal words with "I know that's not a real word," hoping to distance themselves from criticism, run the risk of creating doubt where perhaps none would have naturally arisen.
Chillax (via Oblomovka)

Make announces American Maker competition


Dale Dougherty says:

On September 20th at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, the editors of Make will present a "show-and-tell" program called American Maker. The goal of American Maker is to showcase grassroots innovation from Chicago-area makers. We're looking for makers who are are working on cool projects and whose work has the potential to benefit others. We believe that makers are a leading force in grassroots innovation -- where individuals see a need to create something new.

American Maker is a friendly competition and the winner will be awarded a $500 cash prize plus publication in a future issue of Make.

If you'd like to participate and show what you make at this event, you can register here.

You are also welcome to come on September 20th and join us in the audience. American Maker is part of Lab Fest, which kicks off Science Chicago at the Museum of Science and Industry. American Maker will run from 10am to 4pm on September 20th. Admission to the museum is free on that day.

American Maker

Stanford Prison Experiment researcher's new study about everyday heroism


Matt Langdon says: "At the end of February you liveblogged Phil Zimbardo's TED speech that had a lot to do with the banality of evil, but I'm glad you noticed that he finished with his solution -- heroism. I'm working with him on getting those hero ideas to spread and we were wondering if you would be able to help get word out on a survey we're conducting online."

You may know him from the Stanford Prison experiment. Maybe you used his “Psychology and Life” text book in college or saw his “Discovery Psychology” TV series on PBS. Or perhaps you’ve read his recent book, “The Lucifer Effect”. Now Phil Zimbardo needs you.

Dr. Philip Zimbardo, with a team of researchers, is beginning a new study concerning helpful behavior. The goal is to discover how individuals perceive the behavior of helpfulness.

The first step is to conduct a survey with as many participants as possible. That’s where you come in. The survey takes about 30 minutes and can be found at

Phil Zimbardo's study of how individuals perceive the behavior of helpfulness

Burning Man art build video

Kai says: "I thought you would like this video Current just produced on the creation of a number of projects at Black Rock this year"

Every year thousands of people descend onto Black Rock to build a city in the desert from scratch. And for many of the artists and engineers, the period of set-up before the gates actually open has become the most important part of this yearly event. We talk to the founder of Burning Man, Larry Harvey, as well as the masterminds behind the art installations Temple, Elevation, Babylon, Mutopia, and of course, the team behind the building of The Man, as they share their views and show us the art that embodies this year's theme: The American Dream.
Burning Man Art Build 08

Raisin Brahms (excellent pro-Art-ed video PSA)

YouTube link. GUTEN TAAAAG! Starring Tom Konkle of daveandtom, directed by Marcus McCollum. (Thanks, John Walsh!!!)

Tibet: "Beijing 10" return to USA; new Tibet docu "Leaving Fear Behind."

Image above: bloggers, artists, and pro-Tibet activists James Powderly, Tom Grant, Mike Liss, Jeremy Wells and John Watterberg arriving at LAX airport. They and others were held in jail in China for having participated in pro-Tibetan sovereignty demonstrations during the Olympics. More here. (via natdefreitas)

Below, Leaving Fear Behind (in Tibetan: ‘Jigdrel’), a truly incredible documentary film shot by Dhondup Wangchen and other ethnic Tibetans from inside Tibet, about bringing Tibetan voices to the Beijing Olympic Games. This really is an amazing piece of filmmaking. Wangchen was jailed by authorities in China for making this film. Snip:

With the global spotlight on China as it rises to host the XXIX Olympics, Tibetans wish to tell the world of their plight and their heartfelt grievances against Chinese rule. The footage was smuggled out of Tibet under extraordinary circumstances. The filmmakers were detained soon after sending their tapes out, and remain in detention today.

Previously on Boing Boing blog:
* UPDATE: US citizens detained in Beijing over Tibet protests are released, returning home.
* Beijing and Tibet: GRL's James Powderly, Brian of "Alive in Baghdad, 4 other US citizens receive 10-day jail sentence
* Beijing update: New detentions, 6 US protesters missing, Tibetan protesters in Tibet reportedly shot dead.
* Beijing: "Alive in Baghdad" videoblogger among US citizens detained in pro-Tibet protests
* Beijing: Five US activists detained after lighting up "Free Tibet" LED Throwies banner near Olympics site
* GRL's James Powderly detained in Beijing for planning pro-Tibet "L.A.S.E.R. Stencil" art protest

Related episodes of Boing Boing tv:
* BBtv (Beijing): interview with pro-Tibet videobloggers in hiding.
* BBtv WORLD (Tibet): Inside Lhasa
* Vlog (Xeni): Tibet report - monks forced to participate in staged videos.
* Vlog (Xeni): Tibet's uprising and the internet

Cool book: Havana before Castro


Top: The Riviera lobby in 1957, Bottom: The same view in 2007

Peter Moruzzi sent me a copy of his gorgeous new book, called Havana Before Castro. It's loaded with photos of the beautiful mid-century architecture of Havana's resorts, casinos, and restaurants. On his website for the book, Moruzzi has added some “then and now” images to his Havana site.

Chris Nichols says: "It’s really the most freakish time machine place I’ve ever seen. I mean...the art! the chairs! The silverware! It’s all still there. So weird and wonderful."

Havana before Castro

Today on TokyoMango

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Today on TokyoMango, I wrote about the Gallympics, a mock sporting event where hot girls compete in Twister and limbo; Lolita pop art by one of Takashi Murakami's cohorts; USB drives that make me hungry; and a cool photo exhibit by famed photographer Terry Richardson's former assistant.

( Lisa Katayama is a guest blogger.)