Boing Boing 

Riding Out the Credit Crisis

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There seems to be some appetite on BoingBoing for a more comprehensive but quick-to-grok analysis of the credit crisis and what to do about it. While "I told you so's" are fun in a sick sort of way, I'm passing on this link to my last spring's Arthur Magazine columns(if Dreamhost is still unable to meet the demand for links on that page or here, then see the whole piece in the extended post, below). I'm sharing it as a way to review the steps that led to our current fiasco, explain it in the greater context of centralized currency, and help people not feel so very terrible about it all. (I also mean to introduce you to Arthur magazine, a free coffee-shop distribution I'm proud to write for alongside folks including Erik Davis, Thurston Moore, and Peter Lamborn Wilson - who all write for free, like me.)

...Bush’s tax cuts and other measures favoring the rich led to the biggest redistribution of wealth from poor to rich in American history. The result was that the wealthy–the investment class–had more money to invest, or lend, than there were people and businesses looking to borrow.

The easiest way to bring more borrowers into the system–and to create more of a market for money–was to promote homeownership in America. This is precisely what the Bush administration did, touting home ownership as an American right. Of course, they weren’t talking about home ownership at all, but rather pushing people to borrow money tied to the value of a house. If people could be persuaded to take mortgages on homes, real estate values would go up for those already invested (like land trusts and real estate funds) and banks would have a market for the excess money they had accumulated.

In short, there was a surplus of credit in the system. Americans were encouraged to borrow in the form of mortgages, which created demand for the credit banks wanted to sell. In many cases the credit itself wasn’t even real, but leveraged off some other inflated commodity that the bank or investor may have owned.

Banks and mortgage companies invented some really shady and difficult-to-understand mortgage contracts, designed to get people to borrow more money than they could . Banks didn’t care so much about lending money to people who wouldn’t be able to pay it back, because that’s not how they were going to earn their money, anyway. They provided the money for mortgage companies to lend, and in return won the rights to underwrite the loans when they were packaged and sold to other people and institutions.

Read the rest

Terry Pratchett's NATION: moving and sweet young adult novel about science, superstition and decency

Terry Pratchett's latest novel is Nation and it's like nothing else he's ever written -- except that like many of his books, it is fantastic and brilliant.

Nation is the story of two children: Ermintrude may just be the Queen of England now that a plague has struck down most of the royal family. Mau is the last survivor of the Nation, a tribal people living on a south-seas island that has been destroyed by a tsunami. They are both lost and adrift in the wake of terrible tragedy, flung together on the island of Nation. They both are blessed with doubt about the theologies of their ancestors -- and denied its succour. Together, they discover science, and use it to weld together their people and save them from despair and evil external forces.

Nation is an absolutely sweet book, a story that is part Lord of the Flies and part Treasure Island, with strong and likable characters who are forced to their limits by circumstances. The action is well-paced, the philosophy and science are deftly handled, and there is humor and fear in equal measures.

This isn't a Discworld novel or a Truckers novel -- it's not Good Omens. It's a complete departure for Pratchett and yet is recognizably him, on every page, writing with the same grace and wit we know from his other work. Highly recommended (and would make brilliant bedtime reading, too). Nation (US), Nation (UK)

New Yorker Film Festival: The 5 Scariest Movies Ever?


Ben Greenman of the New Yorker presents his list of the five scariest movies of all time. They are:

1. “Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” Tobe Hooper (1974)

2. “The Silence of the Lambs,” Jonathan Demme (1991)

3. “The Body Snatcher,” Robert Wise (1945)

4. “Night of the Hunter,” Charles Laughton (1955)

5. “Mulholland Drive,” David Lynch (2001)

David Lynch is the master of the eerie, which has also been called the uncanny, and his strongest films successfully deliver shock-horror at the conclusion of scenes that are either comically mundane or traditionally suspenseful. Many filmgoers remember “Mulholland Drive” mainly for Robert Blake’s creepy performance or for the lesbian subplot with Laura Elena Harring and Naomi Watts, but the film’s signal moment comes in the Winkie’s scene, which uses a highly traditional location (a diner) and traditional suspense tricks (P.O.V. shots, menacing background music) as prelude to one horrible moment. One respondent to the in-office survey put it this way:

I have seen the movie many times, and every time my chest tightens up and it occurs to me that I might actually die.

He’s not alone. Retrocrush.com selected this scene as the scariest moment in the history of film.

Mulholland Drive is a great movie, but as far as I recall Robert Blake was in Lost Highway, not Mulholland Drive.

The 5 Scariest Movies Ever?

Olympics reach a new low: trademarking the Canadian national anthem and threatening lawsuits over competing uses

The International Olympic Committee has trademarked a line from the Canadian national anthem, "with glowing hearts," and is threatening to sue anyone who uses the line in Canada, as part of the Vancouver Games.

This is par for the course. The IOC is a corrupt, bullying, greedy, hypocritical organization that uses trademark laws to limit the free speech and commerce of people who have the misfortune to attend or live near the games -- for example, in Athens, they forced people to take off or cover up t-shirts that had logos for companies that hadn't paid to sponsor the Olympics; and in Washington, they attacked decades-old businesses named after nearby Mount Olympia.

The Olympics cloak themselves in the rhetoric of international cooperation and development, but everything they touch turns to garbage: totalitarian surveillance camps where corporate greed rules all. The Canadian IOC ought to be disbanded over this -- it's an affront to the entire nation.

Parliament should undo its special legislation that allowed the IOC to assert trademarks over words like "Winter" as well -- our language is not property, it is freely usable by all of us.

. VANOC would only challenge the commercial use of the mottoes if a business began using them to create a specific, unauthorized commercial association with the 2010 Winter Games, said the statement.

O Canada is over 100 years old and, according to the Department of Canadian Heritage, is in the public domain so may be used without permission from the government.

The committee is so serious about protecting the Olympic brand it managed to get a landmark piece of legislation passed in the House of Commons last year that made using certain phrases related to the Games a violation of law.

The list includes the number 2010 and the word "winter," phrases that normally couldn't be trademarked because they are so general.

Olympic mottoes borrow lines from O Canada (Thanks, Dan!)

Presidential Debate Tweets, Analyzed


Twitter's Biz Stone blogs:

This graph illustrates tweet volume for specific terms mentioned during the course of last week's presidential debate. For example, how many updates per minute contained the word "Iran." Of the terms in this graph, the most twittered word in a one minute time span was "Iraq" at nearly 300 just after McCain's assertion that Obama did not visit the area for 900 days. We've annotated a few of the spikes with what the candidates were saying at the time.
The Debate: A Twitter Play-by-Play. Am I the only one who finds the words "iran iraq pork" presented together randomly in this manner to be funny? Probably. Sorry. (Twitter Blog, via @biz)

Indie Band Survival Guide, now in book form!

Thomas sez,
Randy Chertkow and Jason Feehan just recently published through St. Martin's Griffin the print edition of their wonderful handbook for indie musicians, The Indie Band Survival Guide. They started the book as a CC-licensed PDF and quickly drew attention from the likes of Billboard magazine, the Associated Press and even Professor Lawrence Lessig (who blurbed the print edition). The dead tree version is considerably expanded and now has a wonderful companion site on which they guys work very hard to add new, free material and keep it up to date and relevant to their fellow indies.

I've talked to Randy and Jason repeatedly on my podcast. They are true do-it-yourselfers and truly grok how giving away their music, and now their book, helps them reach new fans and get their music heard. They strongly embody the same spirit for which musicians like Jonathan Coulton and Brad Sucks are know (both of whom the interviewed extensively for the new book). They've effectively produced a take-along, dog-earable handbook so anyone can follow in these well tread footsteps.

Indie Band Survival Guide (Thanks, Thomas!)

Philip Pullman on the futility and evil of banning books

Just in time for Banned Books Week, here's Philip "Golden Compass" Pullman on why book bans -- especially religiously inspired book bans -- are so futile and wrong:
Because they never learn. The inevitable result of trying to ban something – book, film, play, pop song, whatever – is that far more people want to get hold of it than would ever have done if it were left alone. Why don't the censors realise this?...

In fact, when it comes to banning books, religion is the worst reason of the lot. Religion, uncontaminated by power, can be the source of a great deal of private solace, artistic inspiration, and moral wisdom. But when it gets its hands on the levers of political or social authority, it goes rotten very quickly indeed. The rank stench of oppression wafts from every authoritarian church, chapel, temple, mosque, or synagogue – from every place of worship where the priests have the power to meddle in the social and intellectual lives of their flocks, from every presidential palace or prime ministerial office where civil leaders have to pander to religious ones...

My basic objection to religion is not that it isn't true; I like plenty of things that aren't true. It's that religion grants its adherents malign, intoxicating and morally corrosive sensations. Destroying intellectual freedom is always evil, but only religion makes doing evil feel quite so good.

The censor's dark materials (via Futurismic)

Mysterious cargo on Iranian tanker kills Somali pirates

Somali pirates who hijacked an Iranian shipping vessel said to be carrying either "minerals" or "small arms and chemical weapons" have, en masse, fallen ill with a mysterious disease. The head of the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme has been threatened with a lawsuit by the Iranian government for issuing spooky statements to the press to the effect that there was some kind of evil "chemicals" on the ship.
He told one news publication, The Long War Journal, that during the six days he had negotiated with the pirates, a number of them had become sick and died.

“That ship is unusual,” he was quoted as saying. “It is not carrying a normal shipment.”

The pirates did reveal that they had tried to inspect the ship’s cargo containers when some of them fell sick – but the containers were locked.

Osman’s delegation spoke to the ship’s captain and its engineer by cellphone, demanding to know more about the cargo.

Initially it was claimed the cargo contained “crude oil”; later it was said to be “minerals”.

And Mwangura has added: “Our sources say it contains chemicals, dangerous chemicals.”

But IRISL has denied that – and threatened legal action against Mwangura. The company has reportedly paid the pirates 200000 – the first of several “ransom instalments”, but that, too, has been denied.

Pirates die strangely after taking Iranian ship (Thanks, Bill!)

Shava Nerad on The Epic Fail: it's the (information) economy, stupid.

Shava Nerad shares a new essay, below, about the current economic crisis:
Accounting methods really haven't been updated to keep up with the changes as service and information economy overlays have changed the game. We have no way to account for our greatest assets in the modern economy -- talent, staff loyalty, team productivity in innovation, effective communication of information through media and business channels, and so on. These are all without accounting value in our current systems.

Today, value is added by shifting assets through complex smoke-and-mirror complexities in the financial markets. Or, value is created by applying talent (our largest intangible) stabilized by loyalty and passion to task (our least quantified intangibles, and the root of real innovation and productivity) in the information economy.

Tangible industries -- heavy industries, retail,... -- have been transformed by supply chain innovations, but even globalized, are well enough understood.

But a huge amount of the wealth creation since the invention of the transistor is intangible, and since we have no way to quantify and account for innovation, creativity, excellent records of technical teams, and so on, the market has tried to find tricks to value them, mostly through the stocks of information economy firms.

Since so few people really understand tech, PR, marketing and flim-flam have become the greatest influence on the value of any technical or informationally complex company.

Iconoclasm: Wall Street -- the chickens come home to roost (gather.com)

Celebrate Banned Books Week!

John's written a great omnibus post pointing to several worthy celebrations of Banned Books Week all around the net:
Banned Books Week is really about two different, but related, things. The first of these, the focus of sites like Amnesty’s and the “Books Suppressed or Censored by Legal Authorities” section of my exhibit, deals with attempts to restrict who is allowed to speak about what matters to them. And in a lot of the world, the right to speak out is severely and violently repressed. The other day I added to my online books collection a number of titles from Human Rights Watch, which has many books, press releases, and other publications about grave threats to freedom of the press and freedom to protest in places like Burma, Chile, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Turkey, Venezuela, various Middle Eastern and African countries, former Soviet republics, and many other places around the world.

Americans enjoy a country with a much freer press than the countries above (and indeed, a freer press than we had in my grandparents’ day). We’re not perfect; our legal system does sometimes suppress legitimate expression, for a time at least, in the name of security, copyright, or “the children”. (And sometimes the threat of criminal violence can suppress books when the law does not.) It is worth remembering the important books that can be published thanks to the free press, and not to take them for granted.

Why Banned Books Week matters (Thanks, John!)

Petition to give Congress 72 hours to read the bailout bill before voting

Gabriela from the Sunlight Foundation sez,
Today, the Sunlight Foundation is calling on Congress to exercise restraint, and give lawmakers and the public time to read and respond to the proposed bailout legislation.

We believe all legislation should posted online for at 72 hours before a vote to give lawmakers and citizens sufficient time to review and debate it, and this bill is no exception.

That's why we just created a petition that urges Congress to wait until October 1, 2008 before voting on the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. (That would be 72 hours since it was first posted online.)

This isn't a bill to rename a few courthouses; this bill is Congress's biggest intervention in the economy in decades. This important legislation deserves more time for public scrutiny. You can review and comment on the bill on PublicMarkup.org, too.

Congress: Read the Bill First! (Thanks, Gabriela!)

Strange Hats With Antennae

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My pal and BB eBay oddity scout Michael-Anne Rauback crochets these strangely appealing hats. Mark says they remind him of something Dr. Seuss's Cindy Lou Who might wear. As Michael-Anne says, they are "not for the timid." She sells them for $30 to $40 on Etsy. Her awesome Starfleet Academy t-shirt is not included. Michael-Anne's Hats

Rene Cigler Obit

Meghan Bachman wrote an obituary about our friend, René J. Cigler, who died in August. She will be missed.

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PORTLAND, OR -- René J. Cigler, died August 4, 2008

Born December 16, 1966, Cleveland, OH. René's childhood sounded like a happy one, she was a tomboy and had a penchant for adventure and making things with her hands. In reading the notes posted to an online memorial page for her, there were a many from people who knew her as a child, all recalling memories of her artwork. After high school she went to the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. This led to a successful career in creating characters and art for companies like American Greetings, Mattel Toys, Hasbro/Oddzon, managing toy development for feature films and animation for Star Wars, Nickelodeon, Grinch, Godzilla, Scooby Doo, Harry Potter, and many more. boston-globe.jpg

Since 1989 René exhibited her work at galleries and museums including at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art; Power House Gallery, Cleveland; Four Color Image Gallery, NYC; Dead Horse Gallery, Cleveland, to name a few. Her adornment sculptures were featured at fashion shows at the Limelight in NYC in 1991, The Metropolis Club, Cleveland in 1993, The Theater Artaud, San Francisco in 1993 and the Yerba Buena Center for Cultural Arts, San Francisco, in 1992. These new works, combining aluminum, metal, rubber, wire, washers, screws and found objects, were seen by tens of thousands when they were worn onstage by René's dancers as visual suport for the band Ministry during the Lollapalooza tour in 1992. In 1994 her wearable sculptures were worn by the lead actress as well as supporting actors in the MGM feature film, Tank Girl. Her work was also featured in the 1993 Warner Brothers feature film, Demolition Man. Her sculptures and wearable art were also featured in videos for Nine Inch Nails, The Melvins, Alice Cooper, Filter and the Eels.

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Many first heard of René through a feature article written about her in 1992 in Heavy Metal magazine. The article was 6 pages long featuring sculptures and costumes that she made. Through the years René often met fans of her work who had held onto that issue of Heavy Metal for upwards of 16 years. Not only did her work speak to a common theme many were feeling in the early '90s – the attraction to industrial culture and dreams of a post-apacalytpic utopia – but it was inspirational in it's juxtaposition of beautiful things and decaying things, sharp metal dangerous looking things and soft plush pliable things. Her wearable art was also featured in a 6-page layout in Penthouse magazine. Her long list of media credits also include Cleveland Magazine, bOING bOING, Axcess Magazine, Quick Japan, Bonesaw, Net Chick and Gothic Beauty Magazine.

René started her own company Inkmonster in 2000 with partner Cameron Smith. Inkmonster is a design house that creates graphic brands and characters and licenses them to manufacturers to put them on products such as apparel, stationery, greeting cards etc. Character lines that René has generated are Sugar Hiccup, Lil She Creatures, Ultra Vixen, Miss Kitty, and Bone Kitty. Then in 2003 came the creation of Strange Monster, René and Cameron's apparel company. A definitive success, Strange Monster apparel and products are sold at hundreds of stores worldwide.

René's professional and artistic achievements are striking – she never sat still, always using her brain, making art, designing, running her business as well as making time to support local artists, bands and clubs. As a friend, she was ever-supportive and encouraging, pushing people around her to be better people, to excel and achieve. Naturally inquisitive, René took the time to know everything about a person, her excitement and enthusiasm were contagious. Sweet and gentle, lively and beautiful, just being near her, privy to her thoughts and ideas, was infusive and inspiring.

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Life is short, and shortly it will end... René lived her life as if each day was new and exciting, she was still the tomboy of her childhood, looking out through the eyes of an inquisitive little girl with blond pigtails. Her sketches, sculptures and designs were like memento mori, reminding us all that death will come, but to have fun while still among the living.

Surviving are her long-time partner-in-crime and love, Cameron Smith ( and kitty Sashimi), her mother and father Evelyn and Robert Cigler and her sister Barbara Zivitch. René has left a considerable mark in the hearts of so many people – friends and family who loved her dearly, and all the people who were ever touched by her work, and who have yet to be.

Private services were held in Ohio August 11th. Memorial date in Portland TBA.

More of her artwork is up here.

Charles Platt on Akihabara, the Week Before the Massacre

My friend Charles Platt is one of the smartest people I know. Besides being a novelist, editor, and author of many non-fiction books, he's also a fine photographer, designer, and an astonishingly versatile maker of all manner of things. When he offered to write a monthly column for Boing Boing, I was overjoyed. His first piece is about a recent trip he took to Tokyo's Akihabara district.


Lost in Trancelation

Akihabara, the Week Before the Massacre

by Charles Platt

On a sunny Sunday, Tokyo’s Akihabara district hosts an unrehearsed, ad-hoc street festival for fashion rebels and role-playing fantasists. Conventionally dressed shoppers outnumber the costumed exhibitionists by a significant factor, but the misfits make up for their minority status with their flamboyance. If you ever harbored a secret yearning to be a Victorian schoolgirl, a male transvestite, a French maid, or maybe a Japanese Elvis impersonator . . . or if you simply like the idea of looking strange among a subculture which will not only tolerate it, but celebrate it . . . here is a nurturing sanctuary. It’s like a sunnier version of the Halloween festival in New York City, or a richer variant of London’s Portobello Road. On the main drag of Chuo-doori, anyone with a secret self-identity can unwrap it for public display.

I’m here with two women: Erico, my Japanese-born significant other, and her female friend who is our guide for the afternoon and prefers to be referred to as “Kay” in this account. Intensely intellectual yet slyly playful, Kay is a sociologist who specializes in popular culture. She seems to relish the opportunity to show us how naughty the Japanese can allow themselves to be. “Which would you like to see first?” she asks with a bright smile. “Consumer electronics or porno stores?”


Servicing the needs of erotic costume play, this store also sells rice cookers.

Porno, of course–although Kay confuses us by leading us into a place that looks more like a U. S. drug store. We walk past utilitarian items such as band-aids and electric shavers before we come to a big section entirely devoted to clothing for cosplay, meaning costume play. As if by accident, almost all the costumes seem to have sex-fetish connotations, and I’m not just talking about trashy bedroom lingerie of the type that you can buy from Frederick’s of Hollywood. It’s a one-stop source for every clicheed female role in a sex video, from schoolgirls to nurses to maids. In fact, I find more maid costumes than all other categories put together. The cheaper ones are boxed, while hand-made items are on hangers.


Cheap frills: Packaged costumes for less than $40 apiece. Since the contents are not pornographic per-se, there seems to be no lower age limit for the model on the box.

Read the rest

Taibbi: Scariest thing about Palin isn't how unqualified... it's what candidacy says about America.


Snip from a blog post by Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi on the media phenomenon surrounding Republical vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin:

Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she's a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power.

Not only is Sarah Palin a fraud, she's the tawdriest, most half-assed fraud imaginable, 20 floors below the lowest common denominator, a character too dumb even for daytime TV -and this country is going to eat her up, cheering her every step of the way. All because most Americans no longer have the energy to do anything but lie back and allow ourselves to be jacked off by the calculating thieves who run this grasping consumer paradise we call a nation.

(...) The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions; they simply consume them as media entertainment, rooting for or against them according to the reflexive prejudices of their demographic, as they would for reality-show contestants or sitcom characters.

The scariest thing about Sarah Palin isn't how unqualified she is - it's what her candidacy says about America (Smirking Chimp -- thanks, friends list)

Above, the infamous 2005 blessing of Palin by Thomas Muthee, a witch-hunting evangelical minister from Kenya. In this ceremony, he and others lay hands on Palin, while Muthee prays she will succeed in government, calling on believers to seek positions of influence in government, education and business, because...

If we have that in our schools we will not have kids being taught how to worship Buddha, how to worship (Prophet) Mohammed. We will not have in the curriculum, witchcraft and sorcery," Muthee said.
(thanks, Emeka Okafor)

Bail In or Bail Out?

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As I write this, the DowJones is down 600 points, largely in reaction to the House defeating the federal bailout of the credit industry.

What should we think and do about this?

If you've got no money and no debt, then just go about your business normally. I think the smartest long-term positioning is to begin looking at the goods and services you can provide to other people in your community without involving long distance transport or complex supply chains involving multiple creditors and borrowers. In other words, try to make what you do as real as possible.

If you do have money, well, either sit tight through the "capitulation" or do some bottom feeding of favorite underpriced stocks in industries that provide real goods or services to real people, and that don't need to borrow lots of money to do it. If you've got more than 100k in a single bank account, you might spread it out.

The reality of the (failed) bailout plan is so very different from the way people are thinking about it, though, that I thought I might offer some clarity. (I'm sure some of you will interpret this as additional obscurity, so ymmv.)

The main point of the original plan was for the federal government to buy distressed assets - like mortgages - from banks and other institutions. "Distressed" doesn't necessarily mean these are bad assets, or that the mortgages won't be paid back. It simply means these are debts that are selling way way below their longterm value. No one wants to pick up anyone's mortgages because housing prices are going down, foreclosures are going up, and shareholders of banks don't want them on the books.

So a package of mortgages that might be worth a million bucks in the long term if they're all paid back is only getting, say, $200,000 on the market. That's what's shrinking the credit markets. So the Federal government wanted to buy all this credit at a higher rate, bail out the creditors, and take on the mortgages. In the best of worlds, the Treasury would have made money off all this. They'd be using what government has over business (time) to purchase depressed investments and wait out the decades it takes for them to earn out.

The deal almost went through until McCain made his highly publicized drop in to DC, accidentally highlighted the leftist underpinnings of any government intervention, and polarized the parties involved. He left, but the damage was done. (It may have failed without McCain's help, but I enjoy blaming him.) America now saw the bill as an anti-populist bail out of banks. Call it socialism if you like but it was really just business. Democrats compromised by turning the investments into loan guarantees, but conservatives saw the whole plan as much too much like the way FDR got America out of the Depression last time: namely, socialism.

The bigger fact, though, is that even with a short-term bailout, the underlying mega-economy is in the dumps. Government can help lubricate the gears of the economy by utilizing its capacity to engage in longterm investing, as with the failed bailout bill. But this entire effort was really just a balance sheet adjustment. Unless we are also investing our time, energy, and remaining money in productive industries, education, and renewable resources, we will not have changed the real economy at all.

John Oliver On Apocalypse Literature


In this JBooks.com video, The Daily Show writer John Oliver gives a quick survey of apocalypse literature, from the Old Testament's Book of Daniel to Cormac McCarthy's The Road to Rob Kutner's Apocalypse How.

John Oliver's Literature Rodeo: Apocalypse Edition (Thanks, Kenneth Gordon!)

Kevin Mack's art on exhibit

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Kevin Mack is a talented special effects artist (I profiled him years ago in Wired). Several of his pieces, along with other pieces of fine art by film industry artists, will be in the Visual Amalgam art gallery event on Sunday, October 5th, 5pm-9pm, at the James Gray Gallery, at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica. Art of Kevin Mack

BBtv: Russell Porter with "folk-n-roll" band Rachel Unthank & The Winterset (music)


We're kicking off the week at Boing Boing tv with a visit from our London-based music correspondent Russell Porter, who sits down with Rachel Unthank & The Winterset, a experimental folk-roots ensemble from Northumberland, UK.

Rachel and Becky Unthank are sisters, and Russell caught up with them at this year's Nationwide Mercury Prize, where they are up for high honors.

In his "best albums of 2007" review, Paul Morley of Observer Music Magazine described the band's work as "tough as it is gentle, as ancient as it is modern, and as coldly desolate as it is achingly intimate. They might not end up being the best-selling British all-girl group of all time, but they're well on their way to being the most charismatic and imaginative."


Link to Boing Boing tv blog post with downloadable video and instructions on subscribing to the BBtv daily video podcast.


The girls are currently on tour throughout the United States and Europe. Their 2007 album The Bairns is lovely, and you can pick it up at Amazon, iTunes, and elsewhere around the web.

Interview With Crafter/Toy Designer Amy Jenkins

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I've posted before about extreme crafter and talented toy designer Amy Jenkins's robot plushies and the other fun handmade creations she sells at amybean.etsy.com. Bazaar Bizarre posted a terrific interview with Amy where she talks about her crafty roots, the way she works, and her ongoing fascination with robots, cryptids, and luchadors. From Bazaar Bizarre:
How did you get your start in toy design?
While on tour with Survival Research Laboratories in 1992, I met a defunkt French circus called Archaos. Some of the stragglers were hired as our assistants, and those people inspired me to create action figures based on real people. I studied up on circus archetypes, and messed around in my studio for a few years with designing a collection of “non-combat-oriented action figures”. The idea was for a time traveling circus with a human ringleader and runaway domestic robots as performers.
Interview With Amy From Cozy Rampage

Previously on BB:
Robot superhero plushies
Cryptid baby onesies

Dollar bill origami animals

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Joe Dolce sent me a bunch of dollar bill origami animal photos. I like the way the designs on the bill were used to make faces. The Art Of Moneygami

Personal Tent For Airports

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The MiniMotel is a tent built for camping out in an airport. I think the manufacturers should hire Mehran Karimi Nasseri as the spokesman. Joel has more on this brilliantly impractical product over at BB Gadgets. MiniMotel makes airport campouts possible, still awkward

Woman's Eyes Randomly Shut For Days

Natalie Adler, 21, of Australia, has a bizarre and mysterious medical condition that cause her eyes to swell shut for several days each week. Physicians at the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital have no idea what's causing the condition that has affected Adler since she was 17. The doctors had temporary success treating her with Botox. Their next step is to try electrical stimulation. From ABC News:
"She's a one-off and we don't have a diagnosis," said Professor Justin O'Day of the hospital's neuro-ophthalmology department...

Ms Adler plans her life around her condition, but still misses some important dates.

"On my 18th birthday, my eyes were closed, but on my 21st they were open, so I had a party," she said.

"Not being able to go to the football or seeing my friends as much is what I miss the most."
"Woman unable to open eyes 3 days a week" (via Fortean Times)

Julian Barnes On His Favorite Wunderkammer

More Intelligent Life has a new feature titled "Authors on Museums," launching with a piece by famed contemporary UK novelist Julian Barnes. Barnes is fascinated with the Cefalu, Sicily's tiny Museo Mandralisca. It houses the remains of 19th century Baron Enrico Piraino's cabinet of curiosity, the foundation of which was his collection 20,000 sea shells. From More Intelligent Life:
 Files Porcupines2 There is also an extensive display of coins which you can match against a map showing all the different Graeco-Sicilian mints the island once contained. There is a line-up of those earthenware oil lamps, so necessary in the Ancient World, whose subtle differences are nowadays lost on amateur observers. There are 19th-century Cefalu cabinets with naively naughty painted glass panels of loafing, half-clad gods and goddesses. There are a number of rather ordinary pictures. And there is a whole roomful of stuffed animals and birds, many of them long hunted to death on this island. At least, you occasionally find yourself reflecting, the baron didn't collect stone arrowheads.

So why, you might ask, am I recommending this place? Partly for the feel of it, for a sense of the mind of the man who assembled it all, and also a sense of the period when such omnivorous collecting was the natural behaviour of an enlightened person. But mainly because, here and there, it contains items which rise above the general level--and beyond that, two great masterpieces. You might think, for instance, that the stuffed-animal room, in which dozens of less than sprightly looking specimens are displayed against fading painted backdrops, might be a bit of a downer. It is, until you spot three animals which for some reason are not confined behind glass, but casually placed on top of the cabinets: a hedgehog and a pair of porcupines (pictured). The latter are lined up nose to nose, as if in friendship or confrontation (who can tell with a porcupine, especially when stuffed?). Their natural sleekness is enhanced by a doubtless inauthentic glaze which has been applied to their prickliness, and there is something about them--no doubt something rather low and anthropomorphising--which inevitably puts a goofy smile on your face. In the same way, the monotony of massed seashells on display will be suddenly broken by examples of such an eerie elegance that they seem the result of modern high-tech design.
"Julian Barnes Is Very Fond Of An 'Unknown Man'" (More Intelligent Life, thanks John Alderman!)

Ponoko's Photomake Turns Your Drawings Into Objects


Ponoko has a very cool new service called Photomake. You draw something with pencil and paper and upload it to Ponoko, and they will turn it into a "real life product."

This means you do not need to use graphics software to make something. This significantly lowers the entry barrier for all creative people who can hand draw using pen and paper but do not know how to use design software.

The first 100 Boing Boing readers to make something using Photomake will go into the draw to get their product made and delivered for free. To qualify they just need to enter “BoingBoing” in the Special Delivery Instructions text box on their way through the checkout.

Photomake

BLOG08 in Amsterdam October 24

Ernst-Jan Pfauth of the BLOG08 conference is offering a discount for Boing Boing readers. He says:
blog08rrgv.jpg Blogging is no longer the domain of the geeky kid. With easy-to-use blog software, everybody can start their own publishing platform. Millions of people do so. Together these bloggers are changing the world, one post at a time. They are the rockstars of the web.

A rockstar without a stage is like… well, a rockstar without a stage. With BLOG08, Dutchmen Edial Dekker and Ernst-Jan Pfauth are offering a stage for some of the most inspiring bloggers around the world. Like Pete Cashmore from Mashable. Or Hugh MacLeod from Gapingvoid. And you – since the program contains a lot of interactive sessions.

The most exciting part of the Interactivity program, is the BLOG08 book. Send in your best blog post plus the story behind it, and maybe it will be part of the 20 stories that will make the BLOG08 (printed by Blurb).

Join this raving crowd of bloggers on October the 24th for an awesome gig in Amsterdam, complete with live music. So stop washing yourself and stay away from fancy hairdressers for a while, because you're invited to one rocking blog conference.

Get a 45 euros discount when registering with promocode "boingboing" before October 10th.

BLOG08

Solenoid Symphony

Solenoiddddd This maker wired up a slew of solenoids, electro-magnetic switches, so that when they're switched on they tap a variety of metal things, like a window frame or a coffee can. A computer controls the triggering sequence resulting in a wonderfully percussive solenoid symphony.
Solenoid Symphony (LiveLeak, thanks Mark Pescovitz!)

Vintage Poison Labels

 Poison Eye-Oval-Label  Poison Sugar-Of-Lead
Over at the delightful "Spook Shows" Halloween site, Richard Miller posted a zip file of vintage poison labels. Miller writes, "One year I put them on the cocktail glasses at my Halloween party." Vintage Poison Labels (spookshows.com, thanks Kirsten Anderson!)

Video: "Make Porn Safe For Work"

Reargunnnnn

Inspired by Something Awful articles and forums where folks used Photoshop to transform porn photos into images that are hilariously "safe for work," the brand Diesel put together an entire video of SFW XXX. I'm not sure that the result is, in fact, SFW, but it certainly is a hoot. Diesel SFW XXX (somethingawful.com, thanks Vann Hall!)

Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch recruiting videos

VSL went combing through the smoldering remains of financial companies and found humor in the recruitment videos still available for viewing on their websites.
bidnesspyg.jpg Over at Lehman Brothers, the website is all that remains. Skip past the risqué-sounding “Inside Internships: Conversations With European Interns,” head straight for “Are You Ready?” and watch the company’s top headhunter, Larry Band, give you the hard sell. As it turns out, Lehman was looking to hire individuals who were “adaptable, flexible, and collaborative.” All qualities that might have come in handy the other week.
Imperfect pitch