Articles in Rolling Stone and The Sunday Times this month introduce us to real life superheroes, basically vigilantes in spandex with names like Terrifica, Mr. Invisible, Master Legend, and The Ace. From Rolling Stone:
Although Master Legend was one of the first to call himself a Real Life Superhero, in recent years a growing network of similarly homespun caped crusaders has emerged across the country. Some were inspired by 9/11. If malevolent individuals can threaten the world, the argument goes, why can't other individuals step up to save it? "What is Osama bin Laden if not a supervillain, off in his cave, scheming to destroy us?" asks Green Scorpion, a masked avenger in Arizona. True to comic-book tradition, each superhero has his own aesthetic. Green Scorpion's name is derived from his desert home, from which he recently issued a proclamation to "the criminals of Arizona and beyond," warning that to continue illegal activities is to risk the "Sting of the Green Scorpion!"
From The Sunday Times:
In recent weeks, prompted by heady buzz words such as “active citizenry” during the Barack Obama campaign, the pace of enrolment has speeded up. Up to 20 new “Reals”, as they call themselves, have materialised in the past month.
The Real rules are simple. They must stand for unambiguous and unsponsored good. They must create their own Spandex and rubber costumes without infringing Marvel or DC Comics copyrights, but match them with exotic names – Green Scorpion in Arizona, Terrifica in New York, Mr Xtreme in San Diego and Mr Silent in Indianapolis.
They must shun guns or knives to avoid being arrested as vigilantes, even if their nemeses may be armed. Their best weapon is not muscle but the internet – an essential tool in their war on crime is a homepage stating the message of doom for super-villains.
Seen above is an original Gristleizer, the custom audio effects unit that helped define the industrial sound of Throbbing Gristle (TG) in the late 1970s. TG co-founder Chris Carter made the device in 1977 based on a design printed in Practical Electronics magazine and sold in kit form by Phonosonics. (Cloned Analog Gear posted a PDF of the article.) Apparently, Carter is a quintessential maker. From an interview with him at Planet Origo:
When I was about 12 years old I was given a "Young Scientist" electronics kit that included instructions and parts to build a basic radio, a small amp, a flashing lamp and so on. Which I really enjoyed making. I then subscribed to Practical Electronics magazine and spent my pocket money buying electronic components to build the monthly projects. By the late sixties I was building synth circuits such as oscillators, filters, amps etc. from scratch....
When I joined TG I built an effect unit called a Gristleizer for each of us. This (now infamous) box of tricks consisted of a smallish metal case containing an LFO, VCF, VCA, a pre-amp, various front panel controls and LEDs. Certain settings on the Gristleizers were very distinctive and it's often regarded as imparting one of TG's trademark sounds. We used them on almost everything: synth, guitar, bass, violin, tapes, rhythms and of course on Genesis (P-Orridge's) voice. The beauty of the Gristleizers was that its range of sounds was so extreme, which also meant it could sound completely different depending on the instrument. The sounds included slow modulated filtering, a metallic ring-modulation effect , clipped and fuzzed distortion and tremolo. At the time there was no other battery powered effect unit capable of such a wide and weird range of sounds. When TG finished I was constantly being asked by musicians to build more Gristleizers but it was something I only did for a few friends . Ultimately I built about 10 units in total but I know there are at least two (just about) working
Dig the psychedelic service provided by Apple Authorized Service centers back in the day. Far freakier than today's Genius Bars. Detail above. Joel posted the full painting over at Boing Boing Gadgets. Happy Authorized Boxing Day
This image of a threatening snowman is from a 1927 postcard. It was reproduced in a Smithsonian magazine feature about the history of the snowman in pop culture. From Smithsonian:
While no one knows for sure when exactly the snowman began smoking a pipe and drinking hard liquor, it may have started as early as 1890, based on a label from a bottle of whiskey from that year. An 1898 postcard shows a snowman carrying two bottles of champagne off to an office party. On holiday greeting cards from the 1900s through and on (up to the 1930s), the snowman often has a drink in one hand and a pipe in the other, mirroring our society’s changes and America’s fascination with smoking and drinking. This would eventually escalate to the snowman cavorting with women and offering drinks to minors. One could argue that these depictions were, in a way, humanizing, but seeing a tipsy snowman chasing a girl with a stick is disturbing at best.
By 1908, there was clear evidence of his partying ways were out of control. In the silent movie The Snowman by Wallace McCutcheon, a chain-smoking snowman is swigging whiskey and appears in the rest of the film sloshed, inspiring a flogging by the townspeople. This behavior would continue on film and media through magazines and postcards as a pickled, skirt-chasing, under-the-table lush. In other words, he had become a frozen W.C. Fields. By the ‘30s and ‘40s, there is no question, the two started to look alike, both wearing straw hats, putting on more weight and looking more round and sporting crimson noses. And both enjoyed prolific silent movie careers based on their reputations as charming drunks. It’s hard to say if either had copied from the other but they were both enhanced by the other’s notoriety. Ironically, W.C. Fields hated the holidays and passed away on Christmas Day, 1946.
UPDATE: In the comments, Bob Eckstein, the author of the Smithsonian article, points out that his book, The History of the Snowman, explains how snowmen developed their drinking problem. He says that his book is filled with many more fun images and deep insight into the secrets of snowmen. Bob also suggests we check out his Webzine, appropriately titled Today's Snowman.
Continuing in our lazy-time retrospective of favorite Boing Boing tv episodes from the past year, we revisit an animated music video gem by Kristofer Ström of Ljudbilden & Piloten, based in Sweden. Here's their blog. Snip from the original BBtv blog post:
This short work is a music video he created for the Swedish electronica band Minilogue. The track is "Animals," and the video features colorful critter-blobs wreaking hyperfun havoc all over an urban real-life-scape.
We asked Kristofer to tell us a little about how this came together, and he explains:
In late 2007 we (me and the band Minilogue) started talking about making a followup to the very popular "hitchhiker's choice" video. At the same time I was doing some VJ-ing for them and found that those little animations i made for that could be characters in their next video. So I started producing a lot of loops of creatures. I hooked up with bart yates, nicholas wakeham and erik buchholtz, and our first thought was to put them all in an animated world... but i didn't really feel it. Then Erik showed me a test of my characters motion-tracked onto some footage -- and there it was. So he went out shooting some spots, rough cuts without the creatures, then we added those little fellas in the footage. Voilá! A longer version will be found on the minilogue DVD, coming this fall, finally! The longer version of "hitchhiker's choice" will be on there too. Some other stuff can be found on our temporary web site: http://varelsen.com.
Link to Minilogue's YouTube features. (Special thanks to Claire Jones, and to Cocoon.)
Behold the Devil's armchair. Michael-Anne Rauback has been on a quest for weird chairs this week and this is the third fave find. The 1960s chair above, by Anthony Redmile, is made from malachite, bone, horn, and wood. If I ruled, this would be my throne. Anthony Redmile carved armchair
Over at Boing Boing Offworld, Margaret Robertson considers what a "childhood Christmas" exhibit might look like in a videogame museum. An excerpt from his delightful essay:
Part of my work this year has been helping with the launch of the UK’s National Videogame Archive, and it’s meant having a lot of interesting conversations with interesting people about what a game museum might look like. My favourite suggestion so far was that we recreate a childhood Christmas - that childhood Christmas, when whatever it was that changed your life arrived.
So you’d book your ticket, and pay your money, and there when you arrived - alongside the Big Trak or the Tracy Island or whatever it was your sister wanted - there’d be a box with your name on it, wrapped in that papery paper you don’t seem to get any more - and you’d be allowed to rip it open and turn it over and over and over and look at the pictures of Rygar or Pole Position or whatever it was, before taking a deep breath and letting rip on the flaps. At which point a security guard would probably escort you from the premises.
As an idea for a museum exhibit, I admit, it needs a little work, but I’d still love to do it. My big box - my big boxes - would have an ST and a monitor in them, and the tiny, shiny screenshot that I’d pour over would be of Ranarama...
Yesterday, I posted that oddity auction scout Michael-Anne Rauback has been seeking unusual vintage chairs this week (just for kicks, not to buy). Here is the second of her top three online finds: A chair fashioned from a child's drum, circa 1940s. Child's Drum Chair
This year, we included two additional elders in the foundation's Christmas festivities in the Guatemalan highlands, which brings the total number of participating elders in our Ancianos de Honor program to 22. Two of the most recently honored ancianos are blind. You can see them in the photograph below. They both completed their hundredth birthdays this month. They were brought to our foundation's center by some very caring young people.
Above, the elders receive their gifts from our local director in Sololá, Don Victoriano. It's the first time in the lives of these two new elders that they have received a gift or been honored in this way.
Upon receiving his gift, centenarian Don Juan expressed thanks to Ajaw (the Mayan creator god) and to the givers of the gift who had "the good conscience to remember the forgotten elders."
The Christmas gift baskets they are receiving typically include bread, dried pasta and rice, chocolate and candies, corn flour for making tortillas or tamales, dried beans, fruit, and household necessities. The local project directors, who are from the community themselves, make those arrangements and include things that are customary, and part of the local diet.
These elders are among the most at-risk and neglected members of the community, and often suffer malnutrition and health problems related to a lack of food, water, and protection from the elements.
They live literally on the fringes of the village, and fall through the cracks -- they become invisible.
Our foundation works to reach out to them, document their existence and their needs, and provide basic support, bringing them back into the center of the community where they belong, with honor and respect.
We are working toward establishing the same ongoing support system within the community for these elders that we are providing for the children of the village.
- Happy holidays to all of you from the people in our communities in Guatemala and Nima Mam Ajq'ij, Dr. M. X. Quetzalkanbalam, international executive director, and our international staff of directors: Anamaria de To and David To Quiñones, Guatemala; Jolon Bankey, Costa Rica; and Xeni Jardin, Mike Outmesguine, and Mar Doré, USA.
Happy holidays from Boing Boing tv! Continuing in our retrospective of favorite episodes from our first year:
Each year, David Silverman (director of the Simpsons Movie, and longtime director of the TV show) illustrates holiday cards for friends and family. Xeni visits him in his home studio for a re-enactment of the craziest years in holiday cheer, complete with tuba carols.
I just returned from a YouTube-induced time machine trip back to the cyberdelic 1990s. Somebody posted a 1996 episode of the long-gone TV program "Internet Cafe." That evening, the guests included RU Sirius, the late, great St. Jude, and, er, me talking about cyberpunk culture, online writing, and Web zines. Wearing my bOING bOING propeller beanie (not literally), I gave a quick tour of some of my favorite weird and wonderful Web destinations of the day, including bOING bOING founder Carla Sinclair's pioneering Net Chick Clubhouse. St. Jude is featured in part 1. The inimitable RU Sirius is the star of part 2. My segment starts at the end of part 2 and continues into part 3.
Max Impact is the Air Force's nu metal band. The frontman, Master Sergeant Ryan Carson, was a college student majoring in opera before enlisting. He begins each concert with the invocation: "We're going to rock your face off!" From the lyrics to the Max Impact tune "Locked and Loaded":
Arcades are dead. And rightfully so: American arcades never bothered to change with the times (despite a brief dalliance with the public spectacle of games like Dance Dance Revolution).
Not so in Japan, where arcades continue to evolve in surprising ways, in the stereotypical "bigger, crazier" Japanese method, as well as the more pedestrian. Case in point: Yuka Nakajima, queen of "Crane Games", those funny claw machines that are commonly ignored in department store vestibules in the States but big business in Japan. Nakajima is so adept at "UFO Catchers" (the Japanese moniker for all claw machines) that she has an entire room filled with the stuffed bears she has won and is the star of video tutorials included in the games themselves.
I learned about Nakajima in the new book Arcade Mania: The Turbo-charged World of Japan's Game Centers by Brian "The Sweetest Man in Games Journalism" Ashcraft and Jean "Pretty Sweet Himself" Snow. Ash is a pal, so I was a bit worried when I first got my copy; how interesting could a book about arcades be? Turns out I had nothing to fret about. There's a whole new set of human experience happening inside Japan's game centers and it's just as varied and weird and surprising as you could hope it would be.
I too often have an expectation, a caricature, in mind about Japan and its culture that occludes my perception of the people living and playing there. That's natural, of course, and perhaps even welcome: it makes a reading a book that supplants many of my preconceptions so effectively even more exciting.
Arcade Mania: The Turbo-charged World of Japan's Game Centers [Amazon]
The legendary James Thurber wrote the parody, "A Visit from Saint Nicholas in the Ernest Hemingway Manner" for the Christmas Eve edition of The New Yorker magazine in 1927. The poem's inventor, Clement C. Moore, will never be the same.
And other episodes of "BBtv WORLD" about Guatemala are here. But I also wanted to take this opportunity to share something else that means a lot to me. Last night, I scanned some of the hand-drawn Christmas cards from participants in an international non-profit I work with there, and uploaded them to Flickr. These were private cards, sent from folks in the pueblo to project participants in the US (in other words, they weren't for sale or anything, they were just heartfelt communication from one person to another).
I'm sharing some of them here with permission. They're beautiful and very meaningful to me.
Some of the cards refer to the old Mayan gods (for instance, references to "Ajaw", or "Tzaq'ol and Bit'ol", primordial entities who were present at the creation of all things), other cards refer to to Christianity. Some were created by children, others by adults, and the one with the Mayan house and the big Christmas tree and the volcano, thumbnail above? That man is considered the best painter and illustrator in the town. Every one of the cards, all in a stack next to me on my desk here right now, every one reflects soul, kindness, and hope.
To really appreciate them, click on "all sizes" and look at the larger size. The one I received personally read, "Feliz Navidad, y Paz a Todas Las Naciones Del Mundo." I know the woman who drew it, and she's survived so much.
On behalf of the Boing Boing tv team, and my colleagues in the nonprofit that works in that village, I extend that greeting to each of you who reads this blog post today. Friends we know, and friends we do not.
David Vaughan, aka PC Konk the clown, was made to strip down to his underwear at Birmingham Airport, England when his costume set off the metal detectors. He was booked to do an in-air charity show for disadvantaged children. Apparently, PC Konk was good humored about it. From The Guardian:
A piece of metal on his costume set off the security alarm, prompting security guards to confiscate his plastic handcuffs and order him to strip down to his shorts and T-shirt.
Staff also demanded he put the liquid for his plastic bubble-blowing saxophone into a clear sealed plastic bag.
"I'd made sure I'd bought plastic handcuffs and a plastic whistle but I hadn't realised that the costume had a metal band – I thought it was plastic," said Mr Vaughan, from Shard End, Birmingham.
This week, oddity auction scout Michael-Anne Rauback has been on the hunt for unusual vintage chairs, not to buy but just to... appreciate. She shared with me her three favorite finds, starting with this gorgeous Pedro Friedeberg Hand & Foot Chair from the 1960s. I'll post the others over the next two days. Pedro Friedeberg Hand & Foot Chair
Musicians and human rights group Reprieve launched a "silent protest" against the use of music for torture and interrogation. For example, the playlists at places like Guantanamo Bay and other US military prisons/bases has included such hot platters as Deicide's "Fuck Your God" and the theme song from Barney The Purple Dinosaur. Musicians like Trent Reznor want to stop the insanity. From Danger Room:
Chloe Davis, a researcher for Reprieve, told Danger Room the Zero dB campaign was planning to work with prominent musicians to lobby the incoming administration.
"It is really important that we seize the chance to alert Obama to this practice," she said. "... I think there will be people on the other side trying to catch Obama’s attention, saying we need to be tough. We’re trying to counter that message."
Here are live webcams of their OuterBay exhibit, Kelp Forest, Aviary, Otters, and others. Just remember there's no substitute for petting the head of a manta ray- softer than goofer feathers.
The MBA is a revelation compared the aquariums I visited as a child in the 60s... where you peered into a series of "boxes" with plant and marine life hiding around. With MBA, it's like the sky- or in this case, the ocean- opens up. The anchovies swirl over your head- yes, you read that right. The comb jellies, as seen above, seem to be sending you secret messages. The architects of MBA give as much thought to mind-blowing design as they do to science, and so it's no wonder the whole environment is a psychonaut's delight.
I'm not much of a Christmas music person. For me, Tchaikovsky and Guaraldi are pretty much the only things that don't make me hurl. Maybe because they're both a little melancholy.
I really like the YouTube video from a guy who calls himself "alabamaharpist" (aka Steven Todd Miller) above, doing a cover of "Christmastime is Here," my favorite Guaraldi / Charlie Brown Christmas song. The harp is like the unicorn of musical instruments. It's easy for people to make fun of, because it's so pure and innocent. And like the unicorn, it ends up in a lot of bad, cheesy art, and is the stuff of fantasy cons and filkfests. But so what. I think the harp is totally awesome, and Harpo was my favorite Marx brother by far, and Christmas is about the only time of year I'll let my guard down to admit any of this in public, and by the way shut up.
I love this, too, and I could listen to it all day on loop, at least 'til the soy-nog runs out.
So what's your favorite holiday music? Post some linkage in the comment thread here. Internet videos, internet radio channels (surely Soma FM's multiple holiday channels deserve some props), MP3 blogs? What are you eating fruitcake to? Or when you spin the dreidel, what do you spin on the vinyl? Talk to me. Link-discuss-hohoho.
TED2009 (Technology, Entertainment, Design) announced their speaker program. Above is a screen shot of the speakers whose last names begin with the letter M. You can click here then on the tab "Program" for detailed information about all the speakers.
I've attended last two TED events and they've been very inspiring and humbling. I'll be at the upcoming TED in Long Beach, California, too, liveblogging like I did last year and the year before!