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Understanding Islam Through Virtual Worlds launch in NYC, Jan 29

My pals Rita King and Josh Fouts have just completed an ambitious public diplomacy report on using virtual worlds to create understanding between Islamic and western societies. The book itself is presented in Understanding-Comics-style graphic novel format. They're holding a public launch in New York this month and I expect the report will hit the web around the same time.

After a year of research spanning four continents and interviews with dozens of people across the virtual world of the Internet Dancing Ink Productions is pleased to announce the release of our findings from the Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds project on Thursday, January 29 at 6 PM Eastern at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. Space is limited so please RSVP to attend the event.

The report will include a trilogy of deliverables, including formal public diplomacy policy recommendations for the Obama Administration; a broadcast-quality short machinima documentary; and a graphic book chronicling the people, places and findings of the project.

Understanding Islam through Virtual Worlds report to release January 29

JetBlue and TSA pay $240,000 to man refused boarding because of Arabic writing on shirt

JetBlue and the TSA have settled a lawsuit brought by a man who was refused boarding on an airplane because he was wearing a shirt with Arabic writing on it (the TSA said that this was like "wearing a T-shirt at a bank stating, 'I am a robber.'"). They've paid him $240,000.

Only 14 days until we get a change in administration. Maybe the new guys will appoint someone who understands that Arabic writing doesn't make airplanes fall out of the sky. Kudos to the ACLU for kicking ass and taking names on this one.

The lawsuit claimed Jarrar, 30, invoked the First Amendment but acquiesced after it became clear to him that he would not be allowed to fly if he did not cover his shirt with one given to him by JetBlue officials.

"All people in this country have the right to be free of discrimination and to express their own opinions," Jarrar wrote on his blog. "With this outcome, I am hopeful that TSA and airlines officials will think twice before practicing illegal discrimination and that other travelers will be spared the treatment I endured."

TSA, JetBlue Pay $240,000 to Settle Discrimination Suit

Screamin' Jay Hawkins: "I Put A Spell On You"

Here is an absolutely stupendous video of Screamin' Jay Hawkins in full witch doctor regalia performing "I Put A Spell On You". (Thanks, Kirsten Anderson!)

Gulnur Ozdaglar's PET Jellies

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I've always really liked jellyfish. I can spend hours zoning out at the jelly exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And I'm almost as enthralled with these jelly sculptures made out of plastic bottles by Gulnur Ozdaglar, which I discovered on Design Sponge. Ozdaglar makes all kinds of wonderful things out of PET bottles.

--Bruce (Thanks, Shawn, for getting me to add Design Sponge to my RSS reader in an attempt to make me just a bit stylish!)

tertium non data

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

The 2009 Nibbler Championship


Joshua Bearman wrote about the 2009 Nibbler Championship at the LA Weekly Blog. He says:

Why is this so awesome? Nibbler, as I mentioned in a brief aside in my Harper's piece on Billy Mitchell, was an arcade game made by the jukebox company Rock-Ola in the early 1980s. Nibbler is mostly forgotten other than its historical appeal as the sole arcade machine whose counter had enough digits to display 999,999,999 and therefore turn over at 000,000,000, or one billion points.

The game itself sucked -— “playing the thing is joyless,” says Dwayne Richard, the number two Nibbler contender of all time—but as the highest of all potential scores, the “billion on Nibbler” was a universal goal in the early 80s. Many tried and failed. Eventually, on January 15, 1984, Tim McVey from Oskaloosa came to Walter’s arcade and finally reached a billion after playing forty-four hours—except that instead of turning over to zeros, the counter kept going. Tim gave up at 1,000,042,270 when he realized the true milestone was ten billion points, another order of magnitude away, and sadly, well out of reach for him and all humanity. (Rock-Ola gave Tim a Nibbler machine, which he promptly traded to Walter Day's rival arcade down the street -- for $200! In tokens!)

Tim is back, playing against Dwayne Richard. I put up a fairly detailed post about, talking about how Nibbler represents how obsessive classic game competition is, for the players, just another facet of human achievement. Like climbing Everest. Or enumerating Pi. And to that end, I posted the first opening to my Harper's piece, which fell by the way side for editing reasons. But it tells the story of Robert Mruczek's marathon session on Star Wars at Fascination Arcade in New York in 1984, and sets the stage for the idea of this whole pursuit as part of the epic story of man versus machine, but more importantly, man versus self.

97-year-old Botanical Artist


I really enjoyed this interview with 97-year-old Chikabo Kumada, a botanical artist in Japan. His philosophy about life is every bit as lovely as his paintings. Here’s a snip:

Mr. Kumada, when did you start drawing illustrations of plants and insects?

I started to do it for work when I was twenty-six. I quit the graphic design company I’d been working at and switched careers without talking to my wife about it first. At that time, all the books had been burned in the war, and bunches of shoddy picture books had started coming in from the Kansai area and I thought, “This won’t do! I’ve got to draw some good picture books.” I love children. That’s why I started doing it. That was where my years of impoverishment began. (laughs)

Sadly, the PingMagMAKE site where the interview was posted seems to have gone on an extended hiatus. I was sorry to read this, as I've enjoyed perusing their articles.


97 Year Old Botanical Art Maestro

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

1970s humor mag predicts future


Jerry Beck of Cartoon Brew says:

I received several old issues of Cracked magazine over the holidays and noticed this article predicting life in the 21st Century had become surprisingly accurate.

"Today's Swinger is Tomorrow's Square," illustrated by John Severin, appeared in the 1974 annual Super Cracked (It was most likely a reprint from a 1970 issue). In it, the writer predicts that young people will embrace the "skinhead" look, home computers ("Electronic Home Teacher") and even the ipod: as "electronic brain stimulators" and a "musical computers" that young people are hooked on.

I've attached one image from it... but check the whole piece at Cartoon Brew.

Turning plastic crap into beautiful objects


An inspiring how-to for turning an ugly plastic clock into a nice-looking wood-cased object. Inspiring!

Turn a generic plastic gadget in to something a little more beautiful (Via MAKE blog)

Mall in China has McDnoald's and Bucksstar Coffee

Mcdnoalds Bucksstar

If you aren't in the mood for McDnoald's, how about Pizza Huh?

Fake brands shopping center set to open in China (Via Michael Dolan)

Letter from Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Posted to the Apple web site on January 5, 2009:
Letter from Apple CEO Steve Jobs

Dear Apple Community,

For the first time in a decade, I’m getting to spend the holiday season with my family, rather than intensely preparing for a Macworld keynote.

Unfortunately, my decision to have Phil deliver the Macworld keynote set off another flurry of rumors about my health, with some even publishing stories of me on my deathbed.

I’ve decided to share something very personal with the Apple community so that we can all relax and enjoy the show tomorrow.

As many of you know, I have been losing weight throughout 2008. The reason has been a mystery to me and my doctors. A few weeks ago, I decided that getting to the root cause of this and reversing it needed to become my #1 priority.

Fortunately, after further testing, my doctors think they have found the cause—a hormone imbalance that has been “robbing” me of the proteins my body needs to be healthy. Sophisticated blood tests have confirmed this diagnosis.

The remedy for this nutritional problem is relatively simple and straightforward, and I’ve already begun treatment. But, just like I didn’t lose this much weight and body mass in a week or a month, my doctors expect it will take me until late this Spring to regain it. I will continue as Apple’s CEO during my recovery.

I have given more than my all to Apple for the past 11 years now. I will be the first one to step up and tell our Board of Directors if I can no longer continue to fulfill my duties as Apple’s CEO. I hope the Apple community will support me in my recovery and know that I will always put what is best for Apple first.

So now I’ve said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this.


The Collins Kids -- "Hoy Hoy Hoy"

Good stuff from the Collins Kids. (via PCL Linkdump)

Split tongue video

Pierced and be-fanged woman demonstrates how she can wiggle her split tongue.

Kure Kure Takora - Amazing Japanese Kids Show from the '70s

Delightful sets, characters, and music in this 1970s Japanese kids' show, Kure Kure Takora.

From Wikipedia:

Kure Kure Takora (クレクレタコラ, Kure Kure Takora? unofficial translation: "Gimme Gimme Octopus") is a tokusatsu children's comedy show from Japan. Produced by Toho Company Ltd., the show aired on Fuji TV and its subsidiaries from October 1, 1973 to September 27, 1974 with a total of 260 episodes.

However, Episodes 223, 252 and 255 never materialised. The show was rebroadcast over CS digital satellite television, except for episode 220, which was censored due to problematic show content. The reason behind the censorship being that the main character, Takora is beaten by his neighbors to the point of being brain damaged, and it was considered much too violent to be rebroadcast. Laserdisc and VHS versions were sold, but currently only the DVD version (which includes episode 220) is on Japanese market.

It was a new type of program for children. TAKORA, a central character coveted for everything saying "KURE! (I want it)" all the time. Each episode was absurd, strange, violent, surreal, indescribable, and ran exactly 2 minutes and 41 seconds.

More excerpts available at Mt. Holly Mayor's Office: Kure Kure Takora - Amazing Japanese Kids Show from the '70s

UPDATE: Jack found banned episode #220. He said it "Looks like a cartoon version of COPS."

Plush skull from Lana Crooks

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Jeremy of ToyCyte writes:
As part of our custoMONDAY series, we're giving away a custom made toy. Today's feature is Lana Crooks, who has a gallery on TOR, and does cephalopods. (Her tentacled plushes have been on BoingBoing before.) She's giving away a large handmade plush skull to the reader who can come up with the best name for her series of skulls.
"Win a Custom Skull Plush by Lana Crooks"

Pre-chewed pencils

Concentrate sells pre-chewed pencils for £1.50 a pack. (via Michael Leddy's Orange Crate Art)

James Jean's sketchbooks

Phenomenal artist James Jean has posted a slew of scans from his 2008 Moleskine sketchbooks. Jean has a show of new work opening at Jonathan LeVine Gallery on January 10 and the paintings are truly mind-blowing. I'll link to the online gallery once the show opens. (Some of the sketchbook pages may be NSFW.) James Jean (via DRAWN!)

Two Appealing Alphabet Sets

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We like both of these ABC sets for very different reasons. The modern design deck by Jen Renninger is hip, modern, retro, and old school, all at the same time. Love it! And the Star Wars characters set by Michael Fleming appeals to our sci-fi, geek sensibilities.

Jen Renninger's Etsy Shop
Michael Fleming's Tweedlebop

(Modern Design Deck via Whorange)

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

Gadget orchestra

Jetdaisuke performs symphonies with a gadget orchestra consisting of a DS Lite, iPod Touch, iPhone, and other assorted bits of gear and software. Brandon has video over at Boing Boing Offworld. "Jetdaisuke conducts the gadget orchestra"

Shantytowns as inspiration for urban developments

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Architext Teddy Cruz is planning low-income housing developments in San Ysidro, San Diego, California and Hudson, New York that are inspired by shantytowns in Tijuana, Mexico. From GOOD:
Homes will be jammed together, with any leftover space commandeered by taco stands, market stalls, and gathering places...

Behind the precariousness of low-income communities, says Cruz, there is a sophisticated social collaboration: People share resources, make use of every last scrap, and look out for each other...

In collaboration with the nonprofit Casa Familiar, the San Ysidro development will include 30 housing units alongside spaces where residents can run small businesses. The model also accounts for sweat equity, allowing people who help with construction to gain rent credits for their work.
Shantytown, USA

Furry convention photos

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Furries are a fave on BB. We appreciate the fun these folks have dressing up like stuffed animals. Bizarre's Tom Broadbent attended RBW 2008, billed as the "largest furry convention in the UK," and returned with an excellent gallery of photos. From his photo essay:
There were loads of people there – from full fursuiters to tail-wearers. The selection of animals included fearsome wolves, big dogs, fuzzy foxes, a cool meerkat, a brilliant boar, a blinking dragon, an awesome lion and a few bears. It’s surreal being in a room full of oversized animals playing musical chairs. One of the best things about the day was getting loads of hugs from furry folk.
Furry Convention

Half-ton Rube Goldberg corkscrew

Over on Boing Boing Gadgets, our Joel's spotted this half-ton Rube Goldberg corkscrew by artist Rob Higgs:

Rob Higgs is an artist who makes extraordinarily convoluted machines – or at least one: the "Corkscrew", a self-cast monstrosity for gears and levers which does, unbelievably, actually work as a half-ton corkscrew for a bottle of wine.

I'll take two. (Which may be possible; as part of the One of a Hundred project, they may actually sell these things for lots and lots of money. But probably not.)

The Corkscrew by Rob Higgs Discuss this at Boing Boing Gadgets

National Geographic's International Photo Contest 2008

National Geographic posted the winners of its 2008 International Photography Contest. All of the images are breathtaking. The photo above, by Silvia Martinez Dominguez of Spain, is an honorable mention winner in the Nature category. From the caption:
Under a beautiful light, a monkey rests on the milennary stones of the Angkor temples, in Cambodia. The image talks about animal behavior, and about the very moving feeling of proximity between us and our nearest relatives in nature.
International Photography Contest 2008

Golf can be bad for hearing

Golfers using a certain kind of titanium clubs are apparently at risk of hearing loss. According to a study in the British Medical Journal, golfers using "thin-faced titanium drivers" should probably wear earplugs. The researchers from the Norfolks and Norwich University Hospital investigated the matter after seeing a patient whose hearing damage seems to have been caused by playing with one of the clubs three times a week for 18 months. The patient claims that when he hits the ball, it sounds "like a gun going off." Interestingly, the clubs may have be designed to produce the satisfying sonic boom. From the BBC News:
"There has been a tendency to make booming clubs for drivers," (said sports equiipment engineering expert Dr Martin Strangwood at the University of Birmingham.) But if this were a problem it would be easy to remedy by filling the head of the club with foam to reduce the sound."

He said wearing earplugs was another solution, but said players use the noise as feedback to assess how they are playing and how well their equipment is performing. "So it might not work for all."
"Playing golf can 'damage hearing'"

Thor scares off burglar

A man attempting to burglarize an Edinburgh, Scotland home fled when faced with Thor. The home belongs to Torvald Alexander, 38, who had returned from a New Year's party dressed as the Norse god of thunder and surprised the thief. From The Telegraph:
Thorrrrrr Mr Alexander said: "As soon as he saw me his eyes went wide with terror.

"He looked like he had had a few drinks and decided to do a late night break in, but he hadn't counted on the God of Thunder living here."

He added: "I had just got back from a fancy dress New Year's party and because I have a Norwegian name I decided to go as Thor.

"It took ages making the cape, helmet and breast plate, and I must admit it was a bit chilly walking home, but when I saw that guy I just went mad and charged at him, my cape flying behind me.
Burglar scared off by Thor (via Fortean Times)

Fables: War and Pieces -- a fitting resolution to a marvellous graphic novel series

Update:: OK, I'm an idiot. This sure seemed like the ending of the story, but apparently, they're only halfway through. Eek!

One of the most rewarding moments of my winter holiday was the morning I found to read the final installment in Fables, Bill Willingham (and company)'s long-running, brilliant graphic novel series.

Over 11 volumes (plus a few very fine spin-offs), Fables has treated us to a cracking story about the exiled community of mythological creatures living in secret in Manhattan -- a motley cadre of legendary figures who were chased from their homeland by an evil emporer bent on multiversal conquest. From Sleeping Beauty to Little Boy Blue and the Big Bad Wolf, the legends have lurked in our human society, mingling with us, sometimes acting as our friends and sometimes as our enemies.

Building from a series of clever little vignettes to an epic tale of war and betrayal, revolution and politics, Legends became one of my favorite graphic novel reads. The authors rarely strayed into the realm of the silly, playing their Big Idea as straight as a ruler, drawing me into the lives of these vividly realized, striving people who struggled to get along -- and get home. On the way, the authors fluidly change comic styles, flipping from simplistic children's comics to elaborate oil-paintings to stylized manga, choosing the style that suits the present storyline best.

With the final installment, the Fables go to war, and adopts the conventions of war comics. The story is big -- huge -- and the battles are nail-biters. Things don't go the way you'd expect, and the ending is... Well, it's just goddamned great, tying up the loose ends, resolving the emotional tension, honoring the years I'd put into following these adventures. I won't drop any spoilers here, but I will note that the resolution leaves things open for some additional spinoff books and storylines, which I'll be looking forward to.

In the meantime, if you're the kind of person who likes to banquet on a whole epic story in one setting, now's the time -- all the books are in print and available for your perusal. And if you, like me, have been following the story for years, rejoice for the end is at hand, and what an end it is.

Fables, Vol. 11: War and Pieces

List of all Fables collections

Free download of Fables 1

Free, legal downloads of every Beatles song

Oyvind sez, "Some weeks ago, NRK - Norwegian Broadcasting - signed a deal with music rights holder organisation TONO in Norway. The new deal gives NRK right to publish podcasts of all previously broadcasted radio- and tv-programs that contains less then 70% music. Podcast containing music may be up for four weeks, while our podcast without music stay up on our server forever. One result of this deal, is that we now can publish 'Vår daglige Beatles' - 'Our Daily Beatles' in English - as a podcast. In this series from 2001, journalists Finn Tokvam og Bård Ose tells the story of every single Beatles tracks ever made, chronologically. Each episode contains a 3 minute story about each track (sadly for our international visitors - in Norwegian) and the actual Beatles tune. This is - as far as we know - the first time you can download the Beatles’ music legally. Neither iTunes nor Amazon have The Beatles in their music stores." Last ned alt av “The Beatles” - og historien om hver enkelt låt (Thanks, Oyvind!)

Update: Aaaand they nuked it

Al Franken vs. Ann Coulter

Senator Al Franken zings the everloving crap out of Ann Coulter in this sweet little clip. Funniest 1:22 I've seen all day.

Ann Coulter and Al Franken at The Connecticut Forum (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Frozen soap bubbles

One intrepid experimenter with a good camera, a cold night and a soap-bubble-maker creates sheer joy in this gallery of frozen bubbles: "It's very cold tonight, so we played with bubbles. If you blow them upwards enough they have time to freeze on the way down."

freezebubbles (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)