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)

Today on Offworld

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Today on Offworld we saw Rock Band's vocal pitch recognition get trumped by some ace theremin playing on Portal theme song Still Alive, and downloaded a new unofficial theme for the PlayStation 3 featuring gorgeous HD paintings of cult Genesis shooter Gunstar Heroes. We then got more musical and listened to an album composed on DS synth Korg DS-10, as well as a one-man gadget orchestra featuring two DSs, an iPod Touch, an iPhone and a Kaossilator, and watched LittleBigPlanet creator Alex Evans go back in time to its early prototype days from a recent Wired store event. Finally, we took a look behind the design of indie adventure Aquaria, tried to decipher the code behind Subversion, an as yet un-detailed game that hopes to generatively model everything from entire cities down to a pen lying on each office desk, saw one man's new wrap-around Patapon tattoo and a beautiful motion graphics piece on the history of games, and timed how long it would take for an autonomous Katamari to clean your living quarters, Roomba style.

The 2009 Nibbler Championship

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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

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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.

--Shawn

97 Year Old Botanical Art Maestro

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)

1970s humor mag predicts future

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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

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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

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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.

Steve

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"