Congo: Condition Critical

Over at's XX Factor blog, Susannah Breslin writes:

Not long ago, I was contacted by a representative from Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, who pointed me to Condition: Critical, an online project that seeks to give voice to victims of violence in Congo. I've written about the situation in Congo here previously; New York Times East Africa bureau chief Jeffrey Gettleman has done an amazing job of chronicling the atrocities and their aftermath in a civil war-torn country where rape is used as a war tactic. "According to the United Nations," Gettleman reported, "27,000 sexual assaults were reported in 2006 in South Kivu Province alone, and that may be just a fraction of the total number across the country."

Condition: Critical looks to bridge the gap between Congo and the outside world with testimonies, videos, and photographs focusing on Congolese women who are victims of sexual violence, who emerge from the jungle after being kidnapped, raped, and enslaved by soldiers, who in some cases are unable to speak. Gettleman: "Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair."

The entire post is here, and includes graphic and disturbing personal testimony from survivors. Above, a brief clip from the feature-length documentary "Condition Critical: Voices From the War in Congo," which you can watch in entirety online here.

You can follow Susannah's work here, and she posts brief items to Twitter and Tumblr, too. Read the rest

Jasmina Tešanović: 10 years after NATO bombings of Serbia

(Ed. Note: The following guest essay was written by Jasmina Tešanović. Full text of essay continues after the jump, along with links to previous works by her shared on Boing Boing. I'm sorry that I'm posting this one a few days late, was on the road last week and mostly off the blog other than our live video broadcast marathon from SF -- but didn't want to let this go unblogged. XJ)

La vita e' bella

Even though I wrote this ten years ago, even though I am not a futurist or a pessimist, I did not expect this kind of development of events: after all this time, after such an experience, history does not, unfortunately, walk with big steps as Zoran Djindjic, our killed president, hoped...

On 24 March, 1999, NATO begin air strikes on Yugoslavia.

26 March 1999, 5.p.m.

I hope we all survive this war, the bombs: the Serbs , the Albanians, the bad and the good guys, those who took up the arms, those who deserted, refugees going around the Kosovo woods and Belgrade’s refugees going around the streets with their children in arms, looking for non existing shelters, when the alarm for bombing sets off. I hope that NATO pilots don’t leave behind wives and children whom I saw crying on CNN as their husbands were taking off for military targets in Serbia. I hope we all survive but not this world as it is. I hope we manage to break it down: call it democracy call it dictatorship. Read the rest

Family of Crawdaddy's Paul Williams needs help

Jonathan Lethem sez,
Paul Williams, the legendary creator of Crawdaddy! Magazine, fell off his bicycle in 1995 and suffered a traumatic brain injury, which has led to early onset Alzheimer's. His family's having difficulties with his care, and so a few of Paul's friend have set up a website both as a tribute to his life and work and in order to make an appeal for help.

Apart from being a true Founding Father of 'rock writing', and Philip K. Dick's literary executor, Paul should be of special interest to Boing Boing readers for his place at the crossroads where the science fiction fanzines of the '50's gave rise to an empowered and self-aware music-fan subculture -- and helped create what we now know as 'the '60's'. For anyone with a curiosity about the formation of world-changing subcultures through grassroots media, Paul was there when blogging was a twinkle in a mimeograph eye.

The difficulties Paul's wife, the singer Cindy Lee Berryhill, and his son Alexander, now face due to Paul's need for full-time care are an opportunity for crowd-sourcing at its best. This is a rotten time to be hitting anyone up for contributions for anything, but it is simply the case that if everyone who acknowledged how Paul changed their life by his music-writing and editing -- or by his efforts propagating the writings of Phil Dick back into prominence -- were to give even five or ten dollars it would transform a very unfortunate situation. (If everyone whose life had been changed by Paul's work but didn't even know his name were to contribute, they'd build his family a castle.)

Short of donating, just visit the website and glimpse some of Paul's many cultural legacies.

Read the rest

Global hacker ring exposed -- what it means

The CBC's SearchEngine podcast delved into the GhostNet story that broke yesterday, in which the University of Toronto's CitizenLab discovered and revealed a spy-ring (apparently of Chinese origin) that was gathering intelligence from sensitive government, military and NGO computers in over 100 countries. CitizenLab's researchers managed to gain access to the control server for these spy-trojans, and got an unprecedented look at the extent to which these machines were compromised (for example, they saw the spymasters activating the cameras on compromised machines and watching meetings and other sensitive communications).

SearchEngine and CitizenLab went well beyond the news coverage and had a fascinating discussion about what this means: how it signals a turning point in the ongoing militarization of cyberspace, and whether this demands a comparable peace movement for the Internet. It was one of the most fascinating things I've heard said about the Net this year, and I think I'll be listening to it again, just to get a good crack at it.

Podcast #27: exposing the world's biggest cyberspy ring

MP3 Link Read the rest

Adventures in Cartooning: wit and instruction for kids who want to learn cartooning

Adventures in Cartooning is a comic that tells the story of an elf who teaches a kid how to draw comics -- a kind of Understanding Comics for kids. It's incredibly charming and full of sly wit, and the combination of the story (and there is a real story here) and the instruction is perfect inasmuch as the story illuminates the techniques in the construction. Taking kids through the basics of layout, dialog, and doodling, Adventures in Cartooning is an inspiring text for any kid who loves comics, regardless of artistic abilty.

Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics

Online preview of the book Read the rest

When it comes to the Kindle, authors are focused on the wrong risk

My latest Guardian column, "Authors have lost the plot in Kindle battle," argues that the Authors' Guild is nuts to focus on the text-to-speech feature, and should really be paying attention to the fact that it's apparently possible to remotely disable features in the ebook reader.
Maybe I'm right and maybe I'm wrong, but the important thing is, we don't need new theories about copyright law to test the proposition. The existing, totally non-controversial aspect of copyright law that says, "Amazon can't publish and sell my book without my permission" covers the territory nicely.

But while we were all running our mouths about the plausibility of the singularity emerging from Amazon's text-to-speech R&D, a much juicier issue was escaping our notice: it is technically possible for Amazon to switch off the text-to-speech feature for some or all books.

That's a hell of a thing, isn't it? Now that Amazon has agreed with the Authors Guild that text-to-speech will only be switched on for authors who sign a contract permitting it, we should all be goggling in amazement at the idea that this can be accomplished.

Authors have lost the plot in Kindle battle Previously:Wil Wheaton vs. Authors' Guild vs. Kindle - Boing Boing Amazon Kindle: the Web makes Amazon go bad crazy - Boing Boing In the age of ebooks, you don't own your library - Boing Boing Why hardware ebook readers are a dead end (for now, anyway ... Read the rest

Bank pushing 120% APR loans

The Dynamics of Cats blogger has noticed something fishy at a "large west coast bank, relatively well known including for some recent financial games with the Feds" -- tellers are pushing "direct deposit advances" that let you access deposited checks in real time for the low-low APR of 120%:
This time, the nice lady at the counter asked me if I needed immediate access to the deposit? Huh? Said I. Looking at the payeee - "I think the check will clear..."

Oh, it is not that, said she, it is just that some people need immediate access to their deposits, like same day, or tomorrow, and if you did we can expedite it.

Oh, that's nice, thought I, and said "no thanks, got enough balance to cover any outstanding transactions thanks, but been there..." so, I wandered off, and suddenly though - well was prompted by my better half to think - "expedited? at what price?"

So, I checked online - there is nothing about expedited access to deposits, rather a guarantee that deposits before 4pm are available same day... or next day. Unless: several reasons, none of which apply to me, nor, I sincerely hope, the payee.

But, there is "direct deposit advance". Interesting:

"The Finance Charge is a one-time transaction charge and is not dependent upon the length of time the advance is outstanding. The Finance Charge is $2.00 for every $20 that is advanced, which equates to an Annual Percentage Rate (APR) of 120%."

120% APR Read the rest

DRM should be disclosed on game-boxes

Ars Technica has a report from the FTC's hearings on DRM, where Hal Halpin from the Entertainment Consumers Association proposed that game manufacturers should be required to disclose what kind of DRM they're using prior to purchase ("WARNING: World of Warcraft contains spyware called Warden to stop you from cheating -- it checks files and registry settings here and here, hides itself from the process manager, etc") and to stick to a set of standard EULA terms that everyday people can understand.
That's why DRM information needs to be front and center. "Disclosure is of paramount importance. People need to know what it is they're buying! We were joking before about information on food [Editors note: we referred to the proposed labels on gaming as "nutritional information" in a previous discussion] but some DRM is so invasive that you're buying a product and you need to know what's inside it, what impact it's going to have and how it may or may not be limiting the rights you believe you have, because there's now way to return it. That's the basis on which the FTC and your readers agree: disclosure, first and foremost."

This is important issue, and I asked Halpin if there are any other goods you can buy, not knowing what the product may do to other goods (your computer) when you use it, and that you can't return. "Not that I can think of. Anything else, if it's defective you can return it." That doesn't work at most retailers, where the employees won't take returns simply because of invasive DRM, if they even know what that term means.

Read the rest

Malthus: vampire slayer

Vampires can't be real or they'd be everywhere -- Laura McLay's ground-breaking research into vampire population dynamics demonstrate a dismal Mathusian character in vamp-growth that put the lie to the sucker:
This argument becomes even more overwhelming if you model a vampire population as a branching process or birth-death process and assume that each vampire in the population has probability Pj of producing j offspring (with j=0,1,2,… ). The vampire population would either explode or die out, depending on the expected number of offspring per vampire. But if you take into account the fact that vampires live many, many generations (they’re virtually immortal) and may create thousands of offspring, the population explodes (if you assume that each vampire creates at least one vampire, on average, before it dies). With those numbers, vampires would not be living under the radar–they would be everywhere!
on vampires and stochastic processes (via Futurismic)

(Image: Vampires are real, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike image from Eyelash_divided's Flickr stream) Read the rest

Hackerspaces around the world

Wired's Dylan Tweney has a great piece up on the world's burgeoning crop of Hacker Spaces -- clubhouses where members pitch in to share the rent in exchange for a role in governing a collectively managed collection of hacking kit: workbenches, tools, and components. I've visited hacker lofts in Vienna, San Diego, Los Angeles and elsewhere, and they always have a fantastic vibe, that palpable buzz you get from gathering a lot of smart, passionate, creative people inside each others' spheres of attention and set them to work, a cross-pollinated vigor.
At the center of this community are hacker spaces like Noisebridge, where like-minded geeks gather to work on personal projects, learn from each other and hang out in a nerd-friendly atmosphere. Like artist collectives in the '60s and '70s, hacker spaces are springing up all over.

There are now 96 known active hacker spaces worldwide, with 29 in the United States, according to Another 27 U.S. spaces are in the planning or building stage.

Located in rented studios, lofts or semi-commercial spaces, hacker spaces tend to be loosely organized, governed by consensus, and infused with an almost utopian spirit of cooperation and sharing.

"It's almost a Fight Club for nerds," says Nick Bilton of his hacker space, NYC Resistor in Brooklyn, New York. Bilton is an editor in The New York Times R&D lab and a board member of NYC Resistor. Bilton says NYC Resistor has attracted "a pretty wide variety of people, but definitely all geeks. Not Dungeons & Dragons–type geeks, but more professional, working-type geeks."

For many members, the spaces have become a major focus of their evening and weekend social lives.

Read the rest

Star Wars considered as an episode of Dallas

Bonnie sez, "After watching this fan-made Dallas-style intro of Star Wars, I'm beginning to wonder if J.R. and Darth Vader were one in the same."

Star Wars / Dallas opening (Thanks, Bonnie) Read the rest

Max Barry's new novel,MACHINE MAN, serialized online

Matthew sez, "Max Barry, author of Jennifer Government (and a seriously funny guy if you ever get a chance to see him talk in person), is publishing his next book, Machine Man, in serial form, one page a day. You can get it via e-mail, RSS, or just on the web site. Eventually there may be some sort of payment scheme, but that doesn't seem to be particularly thought out at this point. So far, it's 9 pages in and I'm enjoying it already."
One Tuesday afternoon my left leg was severed. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. Well, it was. It was agonizing. There was a lot of screaming and flopping around and trying to tear my shirt into pieces to stem the bleeding. While I was busy with this, my co-workers stared through two-inch polycarbonate security glass and beat on the door. They couldn’t get in. It was sealed for their safety. I had to apply my own tourniquet and try not to pass out for eight minutes. While I lay there, waiting for the time-release, I could see the top of what used to be my leg poking out from between two thick slabs of steel, gently dripping blood to the floor. I felt sorry for it. My leg hadn’t asked for this. It had been a good leg. A faithful leg. And now look at it.

But in the weeks afterward, as I lay in my hospital bed, I came to see the bright side. I remembered that expression: A setback is just an opportunity in disguise.

Read the rest

Dramatic readings of message-board posts about atheism from Christian fundamentalist message boards

If Atheists Ruled the World -- four minutes of dramatic readings from choice selections in various fundamentalist Christian online forums (see here for more).

If Atheists Ruled the World Read the rest

Mark Ryden's first toy, photographed by Brian McCarty

Seen here is a Brian McCarty's splendid photograph of Mark Ryden's first ever toy, titled YHWH, on its way this summer from Long Gone John's Necessaries Toy Foundation. The figure stands 16" tall and keeps a constant vigil with its acrylic eyes. Brian's photo will grace the back cover of the forthcoming eleventh issue of Hi-Fructose magazine. Click the image to see it larger. Read the rest

Yuri's Night "global space parties" happen from April 4-12.

( Image above: Aaron Muszalski, shot by Scott Beale, at Yuri's night 2007.)

The annual celebration of space travel known as the "Yuri's Night World Space Parties" happens this year on Saturday April 4, 2009.

The events, which take place in cities around the world each April, celebrate humanity's achievements in space. The parties mark the anniversary of cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin's orbital spaceflight, which was the human race's first foray into space (on April 12, 1961) and the first space Shuttle flight (on April 12, 1981). More than 150 events will take place this year on planet Earth.

I co-hosted one of the parties in Dallas, Texas, once, as the pic at left documents. Drunken cosmomauts (no, they were not drinking cosmopolitans) branded me with the head of Yuri Gagarin.

More about the Washington, DC edition of this event, from Yuri's Night global organizer Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides, the lovely and brilliant space diva who will be hosting that particular location's festivities:

The party this year at Goddard features live music from regional music stars Middle Distance Runner. Listen to multi-layered, indie-pop sounds through exploded views of galaxies and NASA exhibits. Dance next to the rocket garden to beats infused by DJ Scientific. A series of activities are guaranteed to entertain including NASA heavy hitters guiding you though space in the Science on a Sphere theater. Galactic attire is encouraged, silver, antennae, glow in the dark, sci-fi. Participants must be at least 21 years old and bring a valid ID.
Read the rest

Elvis jams with Jimmy Page, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Keith Moon

Richard Metzger is the current Boing Boing guest blogger. Read the rest

Poor Timothy Geithner

Good Ol' Charlie Brown Timothy Geithner, as illustrated by the inimitable Drew Friedman for the New Republic. Previously:Drew Friedman draws the new Godfather - Boing Boing Drew Friedman: Obama portrait for The New Yorker - Boing Boing Drew Friedman: McCain/Obama as Kirk/Spock - Boing Boing Drew Friedman: Barack Obama portrait - Boing Boing Read the rest

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